(Dragon Painting II)
: is an ancient Christian practice for observing the inner processes of one's self. It requires a sober watchfulness in Prayer. One must WAKE UP. It is a practice from the Hesychasm in conversation with Buddhist meditation, Zen of the Far East- all spiritual practices that explore, sometimes transcend, the inner landscapes of the Mind and Body, Heart and Spirit. Here, it is also the title of my 'life' project. )
Warning: Form and Style in NEPSIS shift from the usual academic norms- As you proceed in your review of this nearly ineffable material, you will begin to see why I make these deviations, I hope. This might be size of type face or footnotes that are longer then the texts they reference- as in BRILLIANT PASSAGES, used to indicate vast sub-texts or latent currents of importance. Or, repetition indicates the importance of something, as in the Tai Chi Long Form. Or, lists of episodic statements rather than compositions of organized thought. Or, absolute abuse of the lowly hyphen- for example. Like every religion as it developes its own vocabulary and system of other symbols to inscribe the ineffable, this flexible format uses any opportunity to suggest its commentary on expressive Perception and the elusive Spiritual experience itself.
I write now from this splendid solitude that you have provided for me to affirm a spiritual path of periodic withdrawal to contemplate the mysteries of Being as well as the issues of one's life. It doesn't offer much opportunity to do a lot about such in itself. But, 'realization' [see painting 166. [#95] is the first step in the cycles of stillness and action that characterize reality. One also has the opportunity to notice one's fault as well as virtue.
It is about such that I first wrote your predecessor as follows. This began an exchange that eventually increased in me a sense of 'abandon' which in turn produced the four communiques titled just above as literary fiction. Here's what prompted this series 'TO A BISHOP.'
(The balance of this letter describing certain problems with Church and World can be found attached to #1 of the endnotes below.) This letter explores both an authoritarian neurosis in myself and the Church- As well as child molestation and a system of Catholic education that supports rather than opposes the real effects of the Fall. (Perhaps, "Shift" would be the better term.) Since the concerns of this letter from 1986 remain largely unresolved, let me 'begin again,' but from the other end of this Nepsis process.
Central to my perspective is "God's sacrifice" (See "Brilliant Passages.") Our "dignity" consists in returning the favor by working to make our experience of the world 'sacred.' Art, Mysticism and Science are primal, inextricable, functions in such a world view. (Compassion emotes from real mystical experience- is a suggestive experience of 'something more.' Theories of individual worth and communal viability abound, but both remain on the 'endangered list.')
To explore, and develop such perspective, at its core in NEPSIS, I treat some aspects of ‘religious, sexual and aesthetic initiation'- the genius loci and ‘a curious effect of the feminine on the masculine psyche.’ Much has been said about this unusual complex of themes due to the public nature of some of my work.
Letter to a Bishop, “Memo to a Bishop,” etc. are a literary construct. The ‘Bishop’ in these works and the ‘Priest’ trying to explain himself, became fictional characters to express and research the following cultural and personal patterns.
Everything here assumes the veracity of core religions insights- the Extraordinary Magisterium of the Church would be an example- and a broad liberal education. I address a post-sectarian mindset by embracing all true religious emotion and discipline:
Even today, hopeful lip service is paid to the Divine Presence, but just enough to get back to the real business of running highly monetized institutions. Spirituality becomes a convivial grease for the skids of Big Business- even small business- the real interest that dominates contemporary consciousness. So much is sacrificed for the ‘bottom line.’ -Including the very environment and climate that gives us a place to be. Its wanton destruction continues, without taking the time to notice its significance in the construction of ‘who and how we are.’
But Mysticism, like Abstract Art, refuses to die. Re-discovering its wonders, and core requirements, is the Nepsis task.
The impact on me from a few teachers teachers of Art and English Literature in high school and college was to become a serious student by the time I was 19. I graduated from college satisfied that I could make effective poems and paintings- less satisfied with prose. I applied to a Claremont Graduate School after our return from South America, fall 1973- was accepted, but was attracted to and baptized in a Roman Catholic Monastery- Valyermo, California, 1975. Mystical Asceticism/Yoga became an object of my focused interest as did the Church, Buddhism, Shamanism...
Seebelow examples for the art with captions and annotations and a few poems just to tickle your fancy:
[99.] Seven Paintings, A-G:
In a meeting in Dharamsala with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, c 1993, we discussed among other things the nature of the inner life in terms of a silent battle- the themes in these seven paintings. He inscribed a book I had with me with this blessing for the Nepsis Project:
That kindness was in the middle of this research. Here at the end, I hope, dear Bishop, I will also have your blessing of this project.
An example of 'transliteration' in religious experience:
247. Grandmother Spider
"Art is the lie that tells the truth."
The “Satisfaction” essays recast the dissertation conclusions.
None-the-less, beyond one’s own curious drives, there are undeniably poignant implications here for Church and Culture.
So, I went to great trouble over several decades to reanimate this perceptive organ that was already vigorously active in me. All moral and charitable impulses spin off from this nearly secret core.
(Hallucinogens are not required. Sacred plants are another question in the Encyclopedia of Religion.)
That being said, I do not consider the essential perspectives of the Church to be irrational on any level. Though one needs a broad canvas to depict that. I am about something else here.
For example, a curiously important spiritual figure in religion is the Berdashe or Divine Androgen. Too often for various reasons we have joined popular prejudice in the torture of the very people God provides for our salvation- which should be a precious resource. (I understand the complexity of this issue for the Church, none-the-less...) 'How Dionysus Saves His Mother From Hell*' as a reference and novel here provides considerable insight. (See Fictions Section.)
Or, “Sin” as a concept might be re-thought. Not that the real theologies of Sin are inadequate, but that the application in praxis is misleading. Anything less that perfection is ‘sin.’ One might venture that usually, in the popular mind, when one mentions Sin, sex comes to mind.
Though central in any biological consideration, this is a small part of the whole I have tried to address- sexual attitudes take point in some of my work- in my quest for a “New Innocence.” And the universe is like a great organic computer with an in-depth motherboard responsive only to the truths of such Innocence!
A New Innocence
Oil on Canvas 12' x 8' 1996-99
When Adam and Eve are found hiding from God in the Garden of Eden, God replies to Adam’s complaint about being naked with the above query. "Who told you you were naked?" Before the Resurrection and after the creation of Adam and Eve, this question might be the most important moment described in the Bible. How do we lose our innocence, i.e. our natural relationship with the divine spirit… and everything else? This painting in combination with #93, #43, (and #84-88), comment upon the ‘answer’ to the problem of the Fall in Genesis--The Christos, or our christic identity—or as Panikkar would have it, a "New Innocence." The old innocence is lost. It cannot be reclaimed by modernity. But there is the possibility of a "new" state that comes from the influence all the "wisdom traditions" of the past and the altruistic intentions of our own secular age. In relationship to the "New Innocence" is the ancient Church teaching about Theopoeisis, the ‘Rhythm of God,’ or the grace of the divine spirit in creation. This refers to an early, predominant teaching, or spiritual method, in the Church concerning how such original innocence is rediscovered in one’s life. To live life according to the Rhythm of God, is to discover one’s true identity, and the ‘sacred’ as the completion of nature. ...
Some will always think I fell. 'If I talk about it so much, there must be something going on- 'where there's smoke, there's fire.''
Others are willing to at least entertain the possibility that a priest, this priest- subject as he is to an artistic muse and other spiritual agents; might have, as a once highly disciplined academic, and seasoned religious practitioner, the detachment at least of say, a gynecologist, or any other critical researcher to pursue the truths of a topic. (Though, the knacks of a Don Juan Matus, or the Wizard of the Four Winds have been hard to pin down...) Said priest, as any other human, might be able to discern truths, in spite of whatever personal feelings emote.
Art or image making is a metaphysical function at the core of religion- before it got involved in such mystical spin-offs as institutional social work and politics. Not that these are not of great merit, especially now in this mono-dimensional, pragmatic era.
-What is the core mystery of biological life?
-Why does the topic of sexuality cause so much trouble? Such delight? (Eagle Rock, Memo to a Bishop.)
-Celibate chastity is an ascetical yoga- in a spectrum of possible choices of great power and influence in the formation of personality, culture and the world.
[It should be noted that for the rare individuals who might be capable of learning and practicing the Tantric genital yogas, it usually means foregoing sexual climax. (Popular interest drops like Ice Age temperatures upon realization of this fact.) One might rouse all those energies associated with the prime biological imperative in the propagation of species, but at the point of climax and ejaculation, a male practitioner would have developed the capacity to stop! Then, at this most poignant moment, turn the energies back up (rather than out of) the mystical central nervous system (Sushumna, Ida, Pingala- etc.) to seek union with the other major centers in the psychic body, especially the Crown Chakra at the top of the head for purposes of Enlightenment, resolution of duality, completion- in those highly nuanced systems of Asia. There are other uses sometimes made of these re-directed energies, (sex magic) but these are practiced only with the most severe warnings about self and other destruction. This is an activity for the most dedicated and disciplined practitioner. This requires the purest of intentions. This is not a refuge for hedonists. dilettantes, or the merely self-indulgent.]
Given such depth of prayer, we should be the most secure, the least reactionary, most honest, of populations. And given the antique Christian wisdoms of the Nepsis processes, we should be so rife with self-knowledge- (at least, as to emit calm humor in the face of challenge.)
Certainly, such firm ground offers perfect freedom to explore not only the most important personal things, but such salient and poignant themes as stir the passions of whole cultures, indeed, provide the binding guarantees of civilization. Thus. I felt the liberty to take up the Nepsis task as a priest.
This loss is in favor of an economic order, a tragic loss for religion.
Rather, Bishop, to protect our populations, properties and accounts, we lose more than we gain conforming to the demands of a litigious mood in this age of business and technology. Thus, I wrote the letter, fully quoted above to your predecessor that Reverend Doctor Panikkar had placed in the Vatican Archive.
SEXUALITY AND COSMOLOGY:
Sexuality must be open to theological analysis beyond the categories of abstinence, marriage or sin, or scientific bias. From a theist perspective, God made all things innocent, including sexuality. Our essential, original or primal experience of it is always pre moral. That is not to say that sexuality cannot be considered as sacred, mysterious, powerful or culturally volatile such that our participation in biology does not benefit from guides and parameters of religion. (See in this regard, Mural of the Resurrection, #93a, and the mural painted for Sonoma State University, CA. Newman Hall, "Theopoeisis: Who Told You You Were Naked" #94.)
Art, Tantra, and Mystical Physiology: In ART, MY ART AND RELIGIOUS AESTHETICS, I claim the theology of the Christian Sacraments as basic Art Theory. How? Because of it’s high mystical and philosophical developments and its Indian roots. The word ‘art’ comes from Sanskrit ‘ars’ (An Indo-European sensibility) and means the ‘bridge’ –between this world and the ‘other’ world of Spirit. It references millennia of mysticism and many symbolic systems that engage from various world views, even to the point of 'metaphor without reference' since our topic is the ineffable.
My mother and I visited this place of energies, shortly after the summer solstice, 1996. We arrived at night. This place, we call it Eagle Rock, can be approached by car along a dirt road to within about 500 yards. I drove slowly, looking for a place off the dirt road to stop. In the summer, this place is all dust and scrubby sage. But, the twilight moments of dawn and dusk are precious and the place radiates a peculiarly pure, psychic energy at that time. As I rolled to a stop, a bright light flashed from the outcrop of rocks that is the center of these energies. The brief flash of light in the night was as tall as a house. I stopped the car pointed towards the rocks. We were anxious about who might be at this forsaken place this time of night to make such a light. Local Indian shamans? There is a reservation nearby. And I'm told that such bright flashes of light can be Shamanistic phenomenon. Hostile Skin Walkers? The Holy Ones? Serial killer deadbeats? As I considered this, my companion said, "The car is moving." "No, it's not," I replied, thinking that she meant that the brake wasn't on or something. Moments passed. "The car is moving." "No, it's not," somewhat impatiently.
Then, I noticed that the car was moving. Sliding back and forth. Front to back. Without the benefit of gravity! The overwhelming sensation was that of the other world. This was as clear as any other sensation might be: Fear, love, joy, who can calculate its measure or prove the experience except by the consensus of witnesses. This time, someone was with me and shared a significant paranormal event. This had not been the case in the past. Though, the sensation of the moment was powerful indeed, great power and otherness. We decided that perhaps we did not need to be there. In fact, should not be there. We were intruding somehow. So, we backed out and drove slowly away.
We became very anxious to be away from there. Away from that power that seemed so strong and unfamiliar.
About ten miles back on that dirt road, there is a farmstead. We both felt that if we could get past that point, back in human surroundings, we would be OK. But, then, as we drove along, I heard a strong hissing noise. It became louder and louder. I stopped the car to investigate. I had a flat. I had to change the tire. As I did so, it began to rain. We were in the Nevada desert in July. Rain is not impossible there at that time, but not likely. Now it poured down. At that anxious moment! The tire fixed, we continued our escape. We focused on looking for the farm, after which there is another ten miles to the paved road.
Then, all of a sudden, we were at the intersection with the paved highway. We did not pass the farm. We arrived at the pavement much too soon. And as soon as we got there, the rain stopped. Both of us had been looking for the farm. You can't miss it, since the road goes right through the barnyard. It has the only light in that vast desert area.
Trans-temporal-spatial-relocation? Both of us would not have missed such an obvious landmark as the farmyard. Install one gate there and the way becomes impassable.
It seemed as if some spirit or deity laughed in the night.
On another, earlier occasion, I perceived in my mind's eye, that the "spirit" of Eagle Rock looked like a series of vertical serpentine rods of golden white light. Like the Seraphim, perhaps. But on that earlier occasion, they simply hovered above the rocky crag, approving the one I brought there for initiation into these "mysteries." At the conclusion of that initiation, I clapped my hands above his chthonic chakras as he lay across those rocks. Simultaneously, lightening ignited the mountainous horizon in the distance, followed immediately by thunder.
Now, it was as if the seraphs hovered majestically for hundreds of square miles above the valley, easily filling that vast emptiness, they "sing the glory of God in creation."
Dear Bishop, my mind begins to wander (after more than 25 years with this series) and moves on to other issues. Perhaps yours does as well. Enough said. Find below some further stray thoughts. Above is enough, I think, for you to recognize my course- Though some of what follows will also affect you, if any of this does.
- One is an Epic Poem that describes the Nepsis task: NEPSIS FOUNDATION: POEM OF VOICES, and a Book of Poems.
- Another is the Art Catalog with it captions that annotate a similar progress: NEPSIS FOUNDATION: VISUAL ARTS CATALOG
- Finally, the integration of it all, a tome also in 3 Cycles:
Find here the balance of the actual, original letter to a Bishop describing the problem with Church and World:
- a. What happens when the institutions of the Body of Christ make accommodations to reactionary values in our culture rather than reforming those values with salvific courage and insight? Though there are local examples of this (Fr. Chris' case was never presented truthfully in court or press), one significant national illustration is that the National Catholic Conference of Bishops threatens to laisize priests found guilty of such charges. This response not only misses the deeper issue but it sets the tone of accommodation to public hysteria and illogical reaction more in tune with an opportunist press than the healing power of Jesus Christ or the eternal nature of the Catholic priesthood. To threaten a person trapped in such pathology with punishment is similar to telling masochists that you will hurt them if they misbehave. It is counterproductive. It does not address an issue that might have a mostly cultural and psychological root as well as a moral context. I believe this situation results from a soul-sick consumer culture (world-wide) consumed by its own pathology of appetites. This is a contagious disease of material, psychological and spiritual imbalance that produces a variety of related diseases. Molestation is only one. If we do not act boldly and well in this, there will be more than one bankrupt diocese in this country because the real issue remains unopposed. If we are unable to focus such fundamental issues, then the spiritual bankruptcy in the Church is staggering. I have seen little or no adequate leadership as to the cultural and spiritual roots of this issue or other related issues of sexuality and therefore human identity. Just saying "no" is not enough. There are alternatives.
- b. Is Fr. Chris in reality now dismissed? Should not he be here where he may be embraced by the Body of Christ that raised him? Where is he that we may help heal him? Are we a church of sinners inclusive of such or will Fr. Chris in effect be cut off? Is this not a rejection of the Spirit?
 Visionary Consciousness***** See: “the Lamb whose Light casts no Shadow” from the Gospel. “Clear Light Realization” from Tantric Buddhism.
 Golden Flower paintings, 2012- and the Flat Earth landscapes within- See first page of "Memo to a Bishop" and 2012 Art Inventory, towards the end.
 See Text Menu www.nepsis.com.
 For a number of years now, I have threatened, promised and suggested the imminent arrival of my passing- a list of doctors agree, in fact suggest it regularly. The best I can say about that is we live and die in the presence of Eternity... I am, of course, sorry for any disappointments, or wasted enthusiasm in this regard.
This "New Innocence" as described above is required as cultural shifts create to different religious influences- The third largest group of religious people in the world now can be described as "decline to state."
 Shift from Hunter/Gatherer to Agriculture/Civilization- Empire and War.
 In addition to the three references above- ibid #1, one should also consider these:
 I was thus informed. I've never seen it there or been otherwise notified of its inclusion in any other archive than on this site and in that of the Diocese to whose Bishop it was addressed.