Brian George, Uroboros and Pyramid, 2003
One morning, when I was four years old, I was sitting on the third floor
back porch of my family's three-decker. It was 1958, and Worcester,
Massachusetts, was still regarded as the industrial heart of New England.
Looking out, I could see smoke puffing from tall smokestacks, a freight
-yard and a railroad bridge, hills with houses perched on them that rolled
into the distance, and a few miles off, on one of the highest hills, the gothic
architecture of Holy Cross College. How wonderful the day was! I could not
have asked for a more perfect moment. My grandmother had given me a
large chunk of clay. And then, I was no longer looking out over Worcester;
no, I was hovering above the Amazon, making snakes, canoes, and villagers
out of the substance in my hands.
As I worked, however, I became frustrated. It occurred to me that I had
succumbed to a creative block. I grew angry. I could not believe what I was
seeing. My hands were small. My mind just barely worked. My imagination
seemed like a blunt instrument. I remembered what it was like to create
real snakes and villagers.
Since that morning, I have explored a variety of methods to get from the
place where my feet were planted to the larger space that surrounded me,
which was not, of course, mine in any personal sense. The path has been a
labyrinthine one. My raids on the inexpressible have imposed many
contradictory demands. Scholarship and meditation have opened onto
vision, onto a mode of knowledge as intimate as it is vast. An ocean, of a
sort, boiled, and I could feel the enormous pressure on my skin. Convulsing
on the current, I was thrown here and there. Over time, the heat of vision
has given way to a much cooler sense of transparency. Now the years no
longer turn in any one direction. Space, the magician, stops to show how
the trick is done, as I reach for the child playing with clay on his back
porch. But always, there are gaps, which demand that I let go of any sense
of certainty, which also ask that the reader should play a more active role.
Without gaps being left, my raids on the inexpressible would serve as no
more than travelogues. My goal is to take the reader to a space that will
pose a subtle challenge, a challenge that may, upon reflection, turn into a
threat. The reader must then return to his own coast. He must do his best
to convince himself that no shift in his perception has occurred.
Salvador Dali, Splitting the Atom
(Dematerialization Under the Nose of Nero), 1947
In a critique of my essay "The Stranger Face of the Friend," Dave Hanson
So as you step in and out of the implicate order I can only suggest
looking at your intention, honing your control, looking for
opportunities to heal others, and seriously questioning everything you
experience on the journey. I would like your writing more if it was
simpler and more direct, but that is me. I don't know that just because
something comes to us from "the spirits" it is any more meaningful
than the sound of the toilet flushing. I'm surrounded by people who
"see things." I don't understand the underlying meanings of most of it,
so I plant more vegetables.
My dog died. I miss him. I can feel his body under my hand. My wife is
working too hard and worries too much. I have a broken ankle and hate
crutches. I can't do what I love to do and when I'm back on my feet I'll
waste precious time. A Native American spirit showed me a painting I
am supposed to do, over twenty years ago, and I haven't done it…Can
your visions help heal another? That's all there is.
I responded: As regards "healing," my small role as a healer has to do with
the reclamation of collective memory. In my explorations, bits and pieces
of lost history become clear, "as if lit for the first time by a brilliant star," as
de Chirico would say. For whatever it is worth, I then attempt to tell others
what I see. For me, healing has to do with the discovery of our wholeness,
which exists, to some extent, beyond us. This challenge is like the real
gesture that we make with our artificial hand. There is water in a cup. It
waits for centuries for us to drink it. Yet, though broken, we have never
ceased to be whole.
Upon birth, having exited from the All beneath the stern gaze of Necessity,
we are only allowed to bring a few meaningless details with us. One by one,
the pages vanish from the book, as earlier, our footprints had vanished
from the ocean. Only mist marks the biodomes of the cities that we left. A
buoy clangs, in the distance, somewhere. We have forgotten more than
even the omnipotent are aware of, far more than they know themselves.
Trauma locks the doors to the dark theatre of the body. We Are What We
Eat: the bread of dreams, the sewage of the dead. The rest is junk DNA—or
so our controllers would prefer us to believe. A strange presence guards the
other half of each symbol.
I would speak truth to the powers that oppress us, who, if they are
monsters, are not quite as unrelated to us as we think. As we breathe out,
they breathe in, and vice versa. It is our pose of wide-eyed innocence that
has tempted them to act badly. Our stealth has been impeccable. It has,
perhaps, been too impeccable, by a factor of 10,000. We have shown few
"Who are we? Where do we come from? What are we here for? Where are
we going?" These are the questions that the artist has been hoodwinked by
society into asking. Such questions are stupid. We should know better. It is
possible that they constitute a crime against the Soul. In the stomach of
each reader, I would plant and tend the acorn of Omphalos, the one
intersection, in order to make the asking of such questions obsolete.
Adolph Gottlieb, The Voyager's Return, 1946
You have asked, "Can your visions heal another?" I tend to view myself
more as a catalyst than a healer—a role that has a higher percentage of the
energy of the trickster—but the two roles are related. The term "shaman" is
used somewhat ironically in the essay. I would make no claim to be one,
any more than I would speak casually about world transformation, as so
many do. There are more than enough snake-oil salesmen. Preferring to
learn from real snakes, I would reverse engineer the most dangerous of
In 1988, I had a dream in which a green figure took me by the hand. He led
me layer by layer through an underground megalithic complex. We came to
a door with a corbel arch and then entered a great hall, at whose center was
a mass of writhing snakes, lashing this way and that, copulating, and tying
themselves into knots. Moving closer, it became apparent that the snakes
were all made from rubber. Thinking, "There is nothing to be scared of," I
reached down to pick one up—and then immediately felt it sink its fangs
into my hand. My guide said, "We always mix in a few real ones for effect!"
The pain in my hand was sharp. Even now, I can feel the impact of the
Like the rubber snake that bites, I would pierce the reader's psyche. My
vision is meant to wound, not heal. Any healing may or may not happen
later on. A cosmology is embedded in the cross-weave of the text, in the
toxin of the snake, in the body of the reader, a cosmology that even now
exists in its first and final form. What heals and what harms are in no way
antithetical. Good habits may, in fact, be symptoms. Hidden energies may
disturb us. We have infinitely far to travel to reach the space in which we
breathe. What the snakes do not know, the birds may be willing to
volunteer, so long as one is open to the removal of one's head. From long
before Gobekli Tepe had been built, such birds have been looking for new
spheres with which to juggle. They may or may not choose to return their
playthings to each owner. Neither snakes nor birds see safety as important.
As goes the head, so goes the year from which it comes.
Brian George, Snake, Bird, Pot, and Lotus, 1990
Jasun Horsley once pointed out that whenever I would go to write "2012" it
would always come out "2112"—a kind of metaphysical Freudian slip. There
are cycles within cycles. We should not jump to any conclusions when we
place ourselves within them. We are, at a minimum, a thousand years out
of practice. Can one individual be healthy if the world died long ago? As I
probe my wounds, I am hesitant to give others the peace of mind that I do
not allow to myself. Shock at one's corpse-like decrepitude can be viewed
as a big plus. Vision and healing may not always coincide.
Since the end of the Paleolithic Era, it is possible that we have been riding a
long curve of descent, in which all things once transparent have become
more and more opaque. We do not remember what our hands are for. Our
speech is inert. Our intelligence cannot exit from the top part of the skull, a
door whose key has been broken off in its keyhole, an aperture that lacks
oil. Once, our story had been written on the leaves of a great tree. The
leaves have been torn off. The glyphs on them are illegible, and that tree is
now a stump. Preprogrammed from beyond the clockwork of the stars, the
decline we have experienced does not appear as such; no, some trick of
perspective causes us to hallucinate an ascent.
Archetypes break like toys, left over from a childhood that never did exist.
We discard them. We ask, "Why is it so difficult for us to see into the
cosmos?" We speak loudly. We do not hear the response. The cultures we
dismembered have been sucked into a cloud. Their outcries circle, and then
fall like rain. The last civic structures are consumed by a decentralized
plutocracy. "Who put you in charge?" we demand. "Do you have any vision
at all?" Our overseers then announce the launch of the next generation
iPhone. The Guardians of the Homepage tweak our algorithm. "May you
live in interesting times," goes the Chinese curse. We do, for better or for
worse, live in "interesting times," in which we must reconfigure all
traditionally fixed roles. At the age of 64, I am just beginning to figure out
what my public role might be.
Mimmo Paladino, Alhambra, 2006
A role is a social construct, with a set of rules attached. Society can make no
rules that the Self is obligated to obey. Why should space concern itself
with the shoe size of its mouthpiece? To point people towards what they
know but have chosen to forget may be no more than an exercise in futility.
Some types of exercise are almost certainly good, others, not so much. To
serve is to press Soma for the gods, to show others how to do so, to save
some reasonable portion for oneself. What a waste of Soma! How sad the
situation is! Why does the public not follow your instructions to the letter?
Even now, my knees creaky, I still find myself at a perpetual beginning as I
test the strength of my lineage, tongue-tied, a bit nervous, as naked as a
child who has just stepped from the womb. And here I had pretended to
have the answers to each question! "Do I contradict myself? Very well then,
I contradict myself," as Whitman said.
For such is the prerogative of the preexistent Voice, and of its vehicle: WE.
All periods cohere in the one moment of my Memory. With a shock, one
notes that the old becomes new. By the power of my austerities I have
vacuumed up all of the water from the ocean. Cities shine there. I am
Death—the Shatterer of Worlds. My weapon liberates multitudes.