Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Case For Religion



Begin, again








9. [7] Strider
(Dragon Painting II)
Oil on Canvas 5' x 4' 1974

The ‘dragon’ theme in these works is a reference to nature and our metaphysical, technological relationships with nature. From a Greek name, St. George (Gk.=earth worker) of dragon slaying fame is anthropologically the agriculturist or farmer who tamed nature by developing agriculture. He/She represents a major technological step in the human project. My interest in George, from the other end of a spectrum, is our understanding of our own powers and purpose in relationship to our natural and spiritual origin.  My 'dragon' usage derives from an all night vigil above Assisi, Italy to honor the Great Saint.  At one point in the night, a voice in my mind said "If you turn around you will see them."  I did, and that was the beginning of my fascination with 'energy places.' GENIUS LOCI.  Assisi has many dragon motif decorations.  The two blended in my imagination to describe the fascination for many years.
The title, "Strider", is from the ‘motion’ of this nature painting that reminds me of the movement of a Water Strider, the long legged, lightweight insect that flickers across woodland ponds and streams. Yet, as well, the painting still suggests a more cosmic ambiance--and a plain character of royal significance in literature.  Though my interest in dragons has nothing to do with fantasy novels. It is associated with experiences of the ‘genius loci’ described in the pilgrimages of LETTER TO A BISHOP in the NEPSIS FOUNDATION.




A CASE FOR RELIGION
(& Issues of Purity?)

[All Nepsis Project references herein- narratives, art, essays, research notes, et al- can be found at http://www8080.nepsis.com:8080/]

(Nepsis:  Nepsis 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.


So Bishop[1], this is a wrap-  The 4th in a series that operates beneath certain theological overtones and addressed to an Authority with expertise regarding the souls of Humankind- its spiritual life.  The first was LETTER TO A BISHOP.  Then, MEMO TO A BISHOP, BRILLIANT PASSAGES, and now this CASE FOR RELIGION.  The captions of the paintings above and just below, indicate the 'beginning' after college and proceed to this conclusion.  

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.'


Corpus Christi [1986] 

Dear Bishop,

I begin this letter on a positive note. Since most of the contents herein are dealing with problems, I do not want you to think that these characterize my ministry in the Church. I am very happy in the Church. I am very happy with the people of my parish. My appreciation continues to grow for the parish community and the sacraments that I am privileged to celebrate with them. In short, I am devoted to what I do as a priest. This work has been good for me and I believe that I do it well.

The following reference will introduce the topic.

In the May '87 issue of Smithsonian Magazine an article credits the Biblical account of the Garden of Eden with historical veracity in the sense that it depicts poetically an anthropological reality, a human shift from the relatively natural innocence of more primitive "hunters and gatherers" to the "technological" development of agricultural methods and other "civilized" crafts. If we entertain this scenario for a moment we can extrapolate by noting that we are at the other end of the spectrum of human history. If the Fall in Genesis described the human urge to power, to be in control of environment (agriculture), of good and evil (morals), of life itself; if the Fall described the human urge to reject, or rather to claim the efficacy of the divine, then we are at the other end of the spectrum of human history, since now, with the advent of science, we have the powers not only to improve the world materially but also to destroy it.

To illustrate how this is effecting the local church, let me give you four examples, two personal and two public.   ...

(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.')  In the Idea of the Son of God, Godhead reveals itself as inextricably, intimately in union with Creation.  Life provides the 'way.' 

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.’[2]  Much has been said about this unusual complex of themes due to the public nature of some of my work.[3]  


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:   

Existence, Life itself, like “God,” is self-justifying.  “Godhead” made creation from itself.  There was nothing else.  Such cannot be explained or understood ultimately but by their own example, which includes the Divine Condition. 

The re-urbanization of Europe in the late Middle Ages, pushes God further and further away into a distant Heaven to be obtained by an obscure moral and/or devotional perfectionism that is only satisfied by death.  The Renaissance, Commercial interests, soon joined by the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution, slowly replace spiritual immediacy of high Medieval mysticism. 

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.’

There are many who have resisted this trend- with mixed results.  As well, there are great accomplishments, beside the dominance of gross materialism, in this new age that I admire and in which I participate.  

But Mysticism, like Abstract Art, refuses to die.  Re-discovering its wonders, and core requirements, is the Nepsis task. 


Bishop,  please remember,  as I said to your predecessor almost 30 years ago, I speak to you, but it is the universal congregation I would address- as in a Wedding:





8. [6.]
Dragon Womb
Oil on Canvas 6' x 2.5' 1974

Painting #6 represents a series of many works that stretches over several years. The main formal elements here are amorphic color and space in counterpoint relationship with hard edge, linear and geometric embellishments. It is about the relationship between the general context of being and specific experience as open and luminous. This subject might also be likened to the Sipahpuni (Hopi), the point of emergence from mythic underworlds as well as the physical and psychic womb, to levels of increasing realization. Thus, this painting indicates secondly, a poignant moment of transition in physical and personal evolution guided by what I might have called back then, the Dragon Lord, i.e., a salvific, catalytic function of Spirit in Nature; God, if you like, or Grace. (I skirt here the word, "destiny", purposely because of its static, fatalistic implication.)


Agree with my perspectives and method or not[4], the intuition of the Nepsis Project(s) is to live and explore a deeper way of being in this world and to experience certain core practices and states of awareness to re-animate an immediacy of Mystical Union. 

My articulation of these topics comes slowly, and my personality is easily distracted/influenced under certain conditions...  Sorting the inspiration of this process from various powerful influences, it took me a long time to understand, to evaluate, to glean its values.  But the data is vast.  One can only inculcate it intuitively, abstractly. It’s taken 40 years for these issues to clear.  

Even those are 'light boats sailing a sunny, afternoon sea.'  Reflections- The ocean depths are the potential of human perception.  Dear God, I am not a remarkable personality, but I have observed wonderful things.  Here is what I have come to consider essential in the Spiritual task.

(Reader, see for yourself what happened.  Decide for yourself, better informed, how you want to be in this world.)
___________________________


[#23]

Recently, from NEPSIS RATIONALE V,  "This body of works- the Nepsis opus, that includes the NEPSIS CORE [aka Berkeley Core] treats--Religious and Aesthetic Initiation... 


In truth, Nepsis is a bundle of related themes that progress a philosophical/theological perspective- a developing worldview.  One might say that it's issues begin to emerge around 1970, come to a head 2005 but really climax 2010 with an ongoing consideration of some of its more challenging issues.  In collage, it was Nature and Person, Person and persons, biology and persons, Person(s) and Culture(s).  Also, I was one of the few in my art department in the early 1970s fascinated by God...  I was mostly trained by the well-known, mature students of Abstract Expressionists who respected my work- or came to respect it before I left school.  We learned to draw from still-lifes, nature, the nude figure as was done since the Renaissance.    We started with charcoal, pen and ink, pencil for thousands of hours.  Then, continued with color and paint.  For literature, we started over with grammar, syntax and semantics- etymology... Dostoevsky, Joyce, Proust, and "'Anyone lived in a pretty how town, with up so floating many bells down...'"


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...


INITIATION!  


After 6 years of fascination with studio art and literature in college, I had 5 years of monastic immersion and study, then 5 more years of systematic theology, scripture, pastoral focus in St. John's Seminary, Camarillo California followed by ordination into the Roman Catholic priesthood.  It was a great and light filled moment for me- and others I hope.  While at the seminary, I was also introduced to Raimundo Panikkar, a world famous scholar and spiritual leader.  He's well known as a Gifford Lecturer along with Niels Bohr and Albert Schweitzer, et al.  He was a peritus at Vatican II, fluent in 12 languages, published in 6 and until he died last year, was friend and true spiritual guide.  During my last visit to his home in the eastern Pyrenees, I saw a letter from His Holiness Benedict XVI complimenting Raimun on a recent publication.  Raimun was beyond right or left wing politics.  While at the seminary, I visited India for the first time, inspired by Panikkar and others, to research Nyingma Buddhist practices as an independent study.  


Many such journeys, which usually involved hitchhiking long distances, form the heart of my spiritual practice as a "Holy Lander."  I.e., one who seeks to go to the Holy Land.  That is, the Holy Land of the Heart- the uniate indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each 'moment' and place of creation. These practices took on the general format of the Mass, avoiding its authoritarian, patriarchal language and attitude.  


I suppose the stumbling block here is that all of this takes so long...  So, its not popular these days.  But what else is there to compare- anything better?  No-thing.  


Long emphasis on 'conversion of heart', 'entering the stream of the nobles', methods there of, in various semantics, are to be found among Christians, Buddhists, Sufis, so many others.  Also, Shamanistic healing resonates deeply and Sorcery shimmers with greeting for Spirit and Machine in the New Age of militant technocracy.  Holy Lander... Pilgrimage of the heart, mind and body... to a point beyond names... and virtue without reference.  


Serious, Critical Scripture Study is well worth the time spent.  Theology is a wonder.  Service is a worthy dedication.  The sacramental vision of the Church is radiant.  Praxis (of religion in the Church) is another question- mixed, like most human endeavors.  Occasionally, its the best.  Aesthetics and ethics are still the necessary paragons of pastimes...  if we are to have time to pass.


The Land:  The Genius Loci gives life to inert matter and competition to Real Estate Associations and Chambers of Commerce-  Thus hostility to old religion.  Its not rejected because its not true.


Sexuality from the perspectives of Celibacy and Tantra studies pursued with 'detachment of a gynecologist' of course were revealing. Possible?  See Memo To A Bishop. and painting caption #230[158].


Point of convergence for all interests:  Environment, Spirituality and Ecology, Over-population- Pro-life Politics and War Economies.

'The core of Steve Frost’s work is a counter point between ideas and images, experience and inner actualization.  That is, his abstraction has reference in his experience.  In fact, often it is his painting that explains his experience to him- according to his own extensive writings hosted through UC Berkeley at ecai.org/NEPSIS. 



Or one can go directly to the major and conclusive work on the Nepsis site map at UCB- 
THE NEPSIS FOUNDATION AND THE ORACLE OF XIBALBA- in three cycles:



Cycle One:  The Letter to a Bishop


Cycle Two: Oracle of Xibalba


Cycle Three:  Resolution



Cycle One tells a reasonable story of spiritual awakening with poems and paintings.  Cycle II 'mixes it all up' in the form of stories, essays, poems, fiction that ignite a spiritual revolution- though perhaps it's only personal- perhaps not.  Cycle III resolves the issues raised earlier- though allegorically.  One may not actually touch God unless God chooses to be touched.  Here the Oracle is most fully engaged and the golem is loosed. 



Steve Frost has exhibited in museum or gallery showcases since early in his career and his work can be found at www.nepsis.com.  



As simple as a memo, or as byzantine as an oracle, Nepsis at first impersonates the spiritual task, then 'opens a window' to the 'other world.'  



The story is told four times in four vehicles:  Paintings (with captions), Poems, Prose Narratives (fiction, non-fiction), and essays about the metaphysical practice of Pilgrimage.  See Cycle One above for the first attempt at integration.  See all three Cycles for the effects of the whole.'



See below examples for the art with captions and annotations and a few poems just to tickle your fancy:




Church murals backed by works of personal interest at Sonoma State Newman:    The Battle 


While painting the murals for the Newman Hall at Sonoma State University 1995-99,  #165-167 [94-96], I also painted eight others, Area 99, then forgot about them for over a decade.  


Two examples from: 

[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:  


"May Stephen Frost’s noble Foundation accomplish as per its wish!

With my prayers,

The Shakya monk (or  a monk of  Shakya)
Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso"


_________________



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.



Now, from NEPSIS RATIONALE I:


NEPSIS PROJECT-
 A Rationale for its Organization and Thematic Complex
(About1000 Words, or, 2 pages)

We will start with the most recent art, working back chronologically and thematically.  The entire NEPSIS opus includes paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, poems, prose- fiction and non-fiction, essays, and the beginnings of a functioning Oracle.  -Paintings and poems, I'll go though each suite and period.  -Studies and Fiction are of a die.  So I think a single comment will handle them and their function in the larger picture; they, at great length, explain themselves.  -The 'grim' is another story altogether and blends with the paintings and poems in the end.

This work began in the fall of 1973 and extends through 2013 with its ‘final’ configuration indicated in its site map online. This is ‘final’ in the sense that it links to all the art and musing of the NEPSISproject (so named c. 1980) that began in 1973 ...

“Finishing” the major body of this work does not mean there won’t be the creation of new ‘portals of entry’ or new art.  It simply is the intuition that with this new front page at www.nepsis.com, this organic being, this golem of light, is born and projected into the world complete and whole- 2013.  TOPIC: Spiritual Birth, Initiation, Practice- An Interpretation of ancient material for a different age.  (AND with a dynamic, personal  example: SAVE THE WORLD!  Compassion/Justice- Engage Archetypes- Gen Loci/Gen Mundi, i.e. Run with the Gods. Openness to Symbols of Deity.  Suspend unbelief, at least for a while, long enough- then judgment...)

For those new to the project, I usually recommend first the Abstract and Menu Page of the ECAI/UCB Site and The Berkeley Core.  And/or, Paean’s Song.  But these really are just a beginning.

I also highly recommend, if you have access to a MAC, download Matt DeFano’s remarkable reconstruction, NEPSIS FOUNDATION.


I graduated from college, spring 1973, confident in the fact that I had become a serious student and that I had learned to make paintings and poems.  I also had an interest in prose fiction, but what gifts I have, seem to flow most strongly in the creation of images.  The Graven Image does seem to be the thing that only human beings do, and is my strongest hand.  Some of the poems are good.   The “Poem of Voices" does what it claims at 99 pages.  Abstraction and a trained intuition have served me well.  I also tried my hand at short fiction, novella and novel forms; all of which produced an ‘anti-novel,’ 

Nepsis is a New Testament Greek term that implies sobriety, certain kinds of preparation, as in asceticism or yoga.  Nepsis implies serious observation of one’s inner spiritual processes.  Nepsis also implies being spiritually awake...



ART & RELIGION of NEPSIS: 

   PAINTING/POETRY (See Below)
  STUDIES (Essays, Thesis, Dissertation)
• FICTION- Short, Long, Abandoned (See Anti-Novel). Fall Series
  THE GRIMM-  NEPSIS NARRATIVES: Pilgrim Chapters- Non-fiction (i.e., Pilgrim’s picaresque account of travel phenomena?  Grimoire, Witch’s spell book?  Jottings of a Thaumaturge?  These record the NEPSIS experience and my personal speculations about them.  Or is Letter To A Bishop, an apology?)
___________________


The complexity of the NEPSIS project is byzantine.  (1) Perhaps because it took more than 40 year to complete what organically started in 1973, climaxed in 2005 with a denouement that extends into 2013.  (2) Perhaps because I wanted it to be so intricate for the sake of those dedicated souls- students, aficionados, who are truly interested, who like a challenge- there is much to explore. If not my work, then the sources themselves.

But most likely the first, its longevity, is just the result of the huge, complex reality treated- And the second is just a passing mood or flair for the esoteric.  Most likely is that it’s just so hard, and takes so long to willfully uncover truth, goodness or beauty- or even to understand that which has been already excavated by others- often very great others. 

Sexuality is going to be essential to any consideration that involves the biosphere.  It’s easy to sensationalize and to abuse. Hard to be honest about it.  As a vowed celibate, disciplines and theologies about sexuality are an important part of my life.  As well, a large part of my formal studies for my dissertation was Buddhist Tantra in which sexual imagry is openly used to symbolize ultimate and universal Union- for individuals and all reality.  Also we touched on Shamanism which offers a wide spectrum of insights about sexuality.  I have personally believed the Church’s teaching about states of prayer transcendent of something so natural as coital arousal, but doubted it in fact.  I’ve since experienced such states for myself and am confirmed to believe fully in the Origin of Life precedent to biology and the rest of physics as well. 

I’ve tried, intuitively, to grasp the core or sense of the last 50,000 years of human spiritual and cultural awareness.  It’s an absurd ambition.  Bound to fail and be humiliated for such pretention!  Except that I possess an artist’s knack for the intuitive and abstract- and I had in this the advantage of world-class scholars, monks, priests and secular experts to critique my intuitive and scholarly choices.  Finally, the art- the paintings and the ritual pilgrimages guided me.  I didn’t know that was my ambition at the time.  But I believe that’s what’s happened to produce 5000 pages of peer-examined prose, extensive formal studies, about 100 poems, 300 paintings, et al, and 20 years of hitch-hiking pilgrimages that are the content of the NEPSIS project.  Maybe after all, these are just some nice paintings, poems, and stories.  Some adventure. And I’m just a nice man who took care of his mother ‘til she died- you judge. If you can...

I’d settle for that.  Except for a couple of things.  That witch.  A good witch?  Or is there a wider spectrum to consider- like Dark Energy/Matter and Light?  And that saint?  Did she really die screaming? 




***

NEPSIS RATIONALE II

PAINTINGS/POEMS/NARRATIVES-(PICARO or PILGRIM?) 


A 50,000 year embrace of spiritual sensibilities besides being suggestive of something metaphoric conjures trans-temporal memories of shamanistic ecstasy and is based on a reality found in the stories of EAGLE ROCK and the means to access that reality described in MEMO TO A BISHOPWhat was met in the Great Basin, Nevada where what we called Eagle Rock is located (because raptors hunted there) and how that was found in MEMO describes the embrace and is a human capacity.  

How the paintings contribute has to be charted work by work, caption by caption.



All of these different sections or regions of paintings participate in, or find reference in THE BERKELEY CORE and PAEAN’S SONGwhich are both about the essence of



The largest division of Frost Art is schoolwork and post-college work, labeled BEFORE BOLIVIAAFTER BOLIVIA.  (My college roommate and I took buses from Tijuana to Bolivia the summer of 1973 just after we graduated from college.)


That was a great turning point for me in my work- all developing from strongly Lyric, Abstract Expressionist sources.  The “First Series” was about 100 paintings and dominates my work for several years, 1973-1979, along with poems and prose fleshing out the context.  The paintings, in open areas of free flowing color and space live in counter point to more specific embellishments of hard edge, geometric shapes-  Absolute to Specific. There were several later variations. 

In 1975, came the influence of the Church, Icons-Greek/Roman Painting, Asceticism, Monks, Yoga, Priests, Theology, -[Religious Studies, Panikkar, India, Ordination (Diocese of Orange, CA, 1984), Berkeley, Martial Arts, Korea, India again and again and again, (PhD/Berkeley, 1995) Georgia/Sonoma- Huachuca 2005, Oklahoma, New Mexico 2012.  Now, 2013, Orange Co. CA. again. (Dear God...)] Human Figures for a time took the place of the geometric counterpoint to the space and color context.  Then, slowly I just started painting anew when I was in the seminary and given space to work and continued from there.  I had by then lived two years in monasteries and been accepted in the seminary, met Panikkar, been to India, become a "Holy Lander"  -The hitch-hiking 'quests' became 'pilgrimage' quite sincerely.  For this, the Holy Land is the 'Indwelling of the Holy Spirit' in one's heart.  Though my practice has as much in common with Animist and Shamanistic traditions in Nepsis.  Panikkar became my 'spiritual director' and friend until he died in 2010- still I hope.

I often paint in series, the members of which should be kept together as much as possible- as if they were one painting.  They provoke prayerful considerations and as well, are left over, mystical objects in the sense that as products of my psyche more than anything else, the objects of religious ritual as priest and mystic.  This, since I seldom engage in specific ritual alterations of consciousness any longer- I’m not sure why not-  when I try, I find that I interrupt something already in process... 
____________________
I believe its because one can inculcate the contents of the ritual, including the Mass, so that one lives in the midst of those contents- and spontaneously 'transliterates' different symbol systems of the "Tremendum."  

An example of 'transliteration' in religious experience:


From my journal:

“February, 2006.  I started from Morro Bay, on California’s middle coast.  I first just took a drive east over those beautiful hills between the sea and California’s San Joaquin (Central) Valley.   Then, I decided to stay over-night near Button Willow in the Valley. Then, for reasons beyond my ken, I continued through Bakersfield, where I saw a young Harvey Canady walking down the street- a college friend of great intimacy.  He’d been dead for several years...

But I felt driven on in mourning- my mother, Georgia and brother died the previous fall. 

... as I approach Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly, northeast Arizona, I am in tears of mourning for the deaths of my mother, and brother the previous fall.  I’d had a worrisome dream that previous Christmas morning about my mother doing poorly in the afterlife.  I’d made little offerings in the past at this place because Grandmother Spider, a creator deity in the Native American pantheon, is reputed to live there.  I’m a believing Roman Catholic Priest, but I’m still reverent of other insights, personalities and symbols.  Symbols of Deity.  I'd made many visits in the past wherein nothing had happened.... 

This time, Grandmother Spider took over my consciousness, and took pity on me in such sadness.  She clearly indicated I should look up the right hand canyon (Canyon de Chelly splits just there at Spider Rock).  I did so.  And there benevolent Changing Woman, also a Navajo deity, appeared standing behind my mother.  My deceased mother was protected (saved) by these two representatives of feminine deity.  Georgia was holding a box with golden light inside.  She was well.  

This story is interesting to me in that a believing Catholic can experience a complete transliteration of a salvific moment.  That is, my mind and heart spontaneously translated a salvific intuition through another religion's symbols and divinities.  Rather like St. Bernadette did with the translation of Immaculate Conception from the "Beautiful Woman" of her original vision at Lourdes!  I suppose this is possible because these are sets of symbols that refer to our experience of ineffable realities... -Combination of spiritual 'Presence,' plus a human mechanism that immediately interprets spiritual encounters into familiar images and ideas??

Psyche of nature: Genius Loci = Gens loci, Gens mundi... or as one theology professor put to me years ago- 'a localization of Grace.'


Homage
to
Grandmother Spider and Changing Woman.

Symbols of Deity... 





247. Grandmother Spider
Acrylic on Canvas 30” x  30” 2012
From the collection of Hayden and Lein Sequeira
Started in proximity to Changing Woman’s “Mother Mountain” in northern New Mexico.  It became a comment on urban skylines in Bay Area, but then shifted back in homage to The Great Lady herself in the artist’s psyche- a precarious journey!



248.CHANGING WOMAN
Acrylic on Canvas 30” x  36” 2012
From the collection of Matthew and Margot DeFano
Also started in proximity to Changing Woman’s “Mother Mountain” in northern New Mexico. Color out of White Painting:  Simple Horizon/Vertical Figure, Primary colors- Something more, a presencean influence, suggested...



***

The original accounts of study and spiritual experience were completely sincere, factual.  (See “NEPSIS NARRATIVES: Pilgrim Chapters”) The first letters to ‘a bishop’ were formal, proper- free from artifice or deceit; proceeding from genuine feeling and experience.  (See “Introduction: Letter to a Bishop” UCB copy.)  But after that relationship achieved a plaintive quality as described in that “Introduction,” these communiqu├ęs became literary exercises- Some hundreds- thousands of pages, if you count the Fiction experiments.[5] 

"Art is the lie that tells the truth."

It is from this combination of perspectives/disciplines, that I have ‘ground a lens’ to examine so many emotions and themes herein- these as diverse as cosmology and molestation! 

“Eagle Rock,” “Memo to a Bishop,”  “Brilliant Passages,” “Paean’s Song,” and now this “Case for Religion” top off LETTER TO A BISHOP, the whole Nepsis project, with both ecclesial and secular projections, including paranormal phenomena and the usual critical constraints of reason.

The “Satisfaction” essays recast the dissertation conclusions.

Where I still wondered intellectually, I finally turned to the works of my teacher, Raimon Panikkar, as a recognized peritus ecclesia et mundi.  Such critical reflections are but one avenue- his were open to everything.[6] 

My interests include our place in nature, the real Order of things and certain biological and spiritual imperatives.[7]  Sexuality is unavoidable as we reconsider the human predicament, of course, but more- an entire context is needed: Environmental, Cultural. Psychic. Spiritual. Economic...  I rarely deal with ecclesium per se.

None-the-less, beyond one’s own curious drives, there are undeniably poignant implications here for Church and Culture. 
The Church as a private organization and independent state has the right to organize itself according to its own lights.  I experience very much the inner radiance generated by the sacramental vision and experience of the Church- the ‘divine energy’ of self-justifying Deity itself.  

However, it is the formal aesthetic and spiritual quality of one's inner vision- states of consciousness,

not one's doctrine primarily, or system of symbols, that makes the difference to me- as remarkable as some of these are.  The 'image forming' and 'idea generating' capacities of the human mind express this best as they attempt a reunion of perceptive elements. This real “visionary consciousness,”[8] the most satisfying of human capacities, is not just a matter of ethics or moral character.  It is a real organ of human perception, nearly atrophied in our times.  I understand the problem of verifying such phenomena, but the point remains.  

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.

As I mentioned in an email to friends a few days ago, “The inner landscape that I tie to the Muladhara[9], the root or earth chakra- this 'vision' is developed ontologically with an increasing sense of Divine Presence. I hope this will effect our ultimate intentions.”

I offer this elusive visionary theme as worth more than any material object of pleasure, or other satisfaction, charity, or game[10]  - personal and universal- But from a different perspective.  

(Hallucinogens are not required.  Sacred plants are another question in the Encyclopedia of Religion.)

This current within the flood of those intentions re the Muladhara themes is of course central to any biosphere as I announced in “Memo to a Bishop.”  It’s a serious problem in our litigious age- for good reason.  The psychic secrets of creation smile there- express themselves in the character of those very states mentioned above.  

A friend wrote recently, 

“... the Buddhist idea of endlessness and what it implies. Everything is statistically possible in endlessness... or at least 99%... I don't know about probability...You are looking at something which spans all of this and even informs it.”

Or, as Panikkar put it in his ‘response’ my work: 

Steve Frost, like a bee, drinks very selectively from here and there, in order to put forward his thesis that there is more in reality than what our human reason is capable of 'digesting'.”

I am talking about a human capacity separate from its own dogmas, sutras, or tantras- though these should be helpful to its realization. 

I don’t have extra energy left for the external functions of religious or academic institutions, or any other for that matter.  This is not denial- Just an admission of age and other personal limitations.  But before the end that my mercurial health portends, I want to be clear about certain important issues- to ‘wrap up,’ so to speak.[11]  

I make a case for religion.  But I consider it to be pre-ecclesial or extra-ecclesial and largely detached from my personal choices in that regard.  

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.

I have abandoned this project repeatedly for something more ‘normal.’  But, I have been repeatedly brought back by the ‘inspiration,’ original intuition, that roused it from the beginning- until finally I have to admit that it is my life’s work.

I am suggesting different levels of initiation, spiritual accomplishment and responsibility as a norm of expectation that allows for normal physical, psychological and spiritual growth.  This implies a world-view that includes everything, excludes nothing in a creation informed from a Divine matrix.  

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.)




* In an alternative version of a Greek myth, Dionysus must submit ‘like a woman to a phallus made from an olive or fig tree’ to accomplish this salvific task.  This might derive from nearly universal Shamanistic initiation rites. (See Eliade’s Introduction to his authoritative Shamanism.)  There are echoes in some Yogic practice associated with the 'Earth Chakra.'
___________________________

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. 

In that regard I propose, when free of malice and/or betrayal, general selfishness, sexual activity can be part of a normal learning curve.  The emphasis we place on abstinence is a yogic, ascetical virtue with pedagogic value.  

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.”[12]  And the universe is like a great organic computer with an in-depth motherboard responsive only to the truths of such Innocence!

All of that seems at this moment to be research for this “Wrap” that I provide for you since you are new here. You seem interested and capable. 




“Who Told You You Were Naked?”
Theopoeisis
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. ...

This painting is the seventh in a series of nudes, or semi-nudes- as this one is clothed in the knowledge of light and shadow- starting with the 40 foot mural, [#93], at first overtly sexual in the practice of an ancient sex magic—the most powerful and dangerous of magics.  Working through issues of sexual identity, one comes to a NEW INNOCENCE, with sexuality a discreet mystery—even abstinent, certainly Chaste.  See also:  #s [48, 49. 71,80, 93, 93c, 94, 58…]

***
To say I have run along a precipice might seem a little melodramatic, but at times talking about sexuality openly as a priest is precarious in this litigious age- I learned from hard experience, speaking of 'innocence.'  

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.  

From early Nepsis title pages:



NEPSIS


Nepsis:New Testament Greek: ...to be spiritually awake, sober, watchful.

Matt 25: 1-13

___________________________

"...it takes a priest to see the problem, it takes a sorcerer to solve it"

(I Ching #57)


NEPSIS is a late 20th Century exploration of consciousness. It is a personal encounter with: Art, Shamanism, Buddhism (Yoga), the Hesychasm (Christianity), Contemporary Critical Thought (PhD., Berkeley, 1995); and with interstate Hitchhikers in an age of Free Agent, Business Warriors riding their Steeds along the Precipice of Eternity. Rock shards fly, also free(?), as the war parties pass –sparked blithely, we slip clueless into the Abyss

FIRST STATES

NEPSIS is a query about person(s) and world(s) and the proper intercourse between them. It records the original and spontaneous, sometimes paranormal, pacific rim experiences that set this project in motion…

Here flows the adventure of the road and the kindness of God…

       elements coalesce, converge, climax,

dissipate

leave behind the receding wave

brilliant storms

and

insightful artifacts –


then

INTERSTATES

       a black dragon’s unabridged history of the world 

continues

in violence, sensuality and darkness, working its way, no doubt, to “a light that casts no shadow.” The ways of scientific discovery and moral right alone, so modestly, authentically, and honestly, somehow, continue to fail in a valiant effort to save [us] from our arrival at this viciously dangerous, historical moment.

Until

GREATER STATES

emerge

.
.
.





I wrote an ‘Apology’ (See A Priest's Confession in NEPSIS Section III) in which I explained (complained?) that due to my identity as a Catholic priest, I could not explore more freely, with my usual experiential method, some of the ancient practices of our core biological identity.

But as the Head Geshe at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives taught while I studied the Tibetan Mandala with him in Dharamsala, India, monks (dedicated celibates) have to explore this in their imaginations!

-And there are two sides to this tale:  A shamanic practitioner must deal with both the light and the dark as well as nuances of grey and a whole 3 dimensional spectrum of ‘subtle’ colors.  Perception is complex and reality is verified from multiple vantages. 

-A mature Aesthetic is required- Symbolism, and the ancient play of Semantics and Sacred Drama understood.  A real relationship with the living spirit of Art must be included- separate from mere craft or ‘techne.’ Or the propaganda of mere illustrations...

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.

-Abstract Expressionism and Raimon Panikkar:  Art, Metaphysical exercise and Intellect.  This constructs the ring for this corrida, about which I make this presentation to you.

-A list of pertinent definitions can be found on the UCB site map.

-Generally, one should also remember that once the adulterous idea arises, the sin is already manifest.  So, issues of purity are not only about what is known or affected.  It is also what can be imagined.  There are states of being in which sin does not even come to mind much less occur materially. This is real.  Nothing at all like that exaggerated nonsense about virgins purisima.  

-So, if Genesis indicates something true in the story about the Fall[13]- a poetic observation about the shift from the relative 'innocence' of  Hunter-gather to Agriculture/civilization, Empire/War Economies- how do we find a ‘new innocence’ having lost the old?

-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. 


38. Sacrifice: How does one make the world Sacred?



Trouble or delight, the Nepsis[14] accounts describe the matrix with the paintings and poetry; the associated studies and experience of artist and priest. 

[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.]

I contend that the experience of the Church in prayer has debated and explored these topics for 20 centuries.  It has incorporated previous experience of the human quest and turned it to the 'service of God.'  

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.

The roots of ‘identity’ are not easily dug up.  There is resistance from every level to explore ‘who we are.’  And I’m afraid that we begin to lose some of our deeper identity patterns, ‘who we are,' as a truly religious people with roots in the Divine intention and the evolution of creation- especially the last 10,000 years.  See Memo. 

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.[15] 
_________________
Since issues of sexuality have cost the Church billions of dollars and I have been criticized for talking too openly about these topics, let’s take the bull by its horns and vault upon its back for the ride of one’s life. Abstinence is also a sexual practice:



133 [71.]
Tree of Life, Psychic Axis of Worlds
Oil on Canvas 5’ X 3.5’ 1988
See INTERSTATES, THE NOVEL Under HOW DIONYSIUS SAVED HIS MOTHER FROM HELL On The NEPSIS FOUNDATION Site Map.


SEXUALITY AND COSMOLOGY: 




[72.] (Detail from Tree of Life)
  Rooted in the Tree of Life, i.e. Biology, -who we are, how we perceive.  In some of the Nepsis fiction, the eggs of the dragons of biology are allegorically gestating amidst the roots of the Great Tree.  The protagonist in this fiction on a quest of saving the world, is illuminated by the discovery of these eggs of perception as well as meeting his 'patron' Grandmother Spider and the 'curious affect of the feminine on the masculine psyche.'  Thus, the image above...

From Nepsis Foundation's “Index of Themes”:

"Nepsis considers sexual issues from several perspectives. One is from the perspective and experience of a Catholic priest. Then, a complex of heterosexuality, homosexuality (and abstinence) is considered from a 'chi' point of view. That is, the flow and intent of psychic energies in the human body and the world. This is at least part of the basis of several major worldviews, such as Taoism and Buddhism—See the "Cemetery Circle" in any Tibetan "Uncommon Protective Mandala." Sexuality takes on a completely different meaning in this context than it would in a more Occidental, clinical or critical evaluation.

In the Church, 'celibacy' is a technical term for the ‘unmarried state’- one of two options: Marriage and Celibacy.  'Abstinence' is a 'yogic' or 'ascetic's' practice—largely monastic in origin in the West. In part, at least, abstinence is used to obtain certain "clear light" states of consciousness of great beauty and perhaps is necessary for 'satisfactions,' or salvation, otherwise unobtainable. 'Chastity' is the over-arching condition or 'gift' of vast beauty and spiritual power enjoined as a meta-characteristic that is at once the goal and means of access for the spiritual life. Chastity is the rule of Love enjoined upon all aspects of experience for the initiate. (See NEPSIS Site map for Nepsis Review August 22, 26, Sept 9th--and 11th, 2001!) It is possible, according to the Christ and others, that motivations such as lust, sensuality, adultery, or even ordinary biological drives, may not arise as one is engulfed by these other states of consciousness, prayer or awareness- A rare, ideal condition seldom obtained, perhaps. But according to the pertinent lore, it is available and necessary to all.

This area of general interest and critical concern is also treated under such topical headings in NEPSIS as "Aborigines and the Nude" in the SATISFACTION essays of NEPSIS Section II, "Sex and Magic" of LETTER TO A BISHOP, NEPSIS, Section II, and as an anthropological imperative of initiation, also in the essays of "Satisfaction", NEPSIS table of contents, Section III- to be found at the bottom of the UCB Nepsis site map

The secular and scientific worlds do not 'own' sexuality-- no one suspects a gynecologist of depravity, or crime in the normal pursuit their particular, rather narrow, 'search for the real' -in the science of their discipline.  Religion, which is the cohesive matrix that by its very nature includes everything, must also be free to explore and thus discover the truth of things, all things, including the nuances and powers of sexuality. That has not been my experience, however. 

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.)

It is primarily in the novels of NEPSIS: Section II that I deal with issues of the spirit and the flesh. But this complex of topics also has been treated in such works as the Introduction to LETTER TO A BISHOP, "Memo to a Bishop," "Interstate Reflection III" and in the conclusive prose poem HOW DIONYSUS SAVED HIS MOTHER FROM HELL: Book III. (See NEPSIS: Section III, #8.)

The primal format one finds in study of shamanism usually divides the subject into two parts: Initiation and Practice. I believe that format still provides the best organization for the topics of interest here. In fact, most of the material here could fall under the heading of 'Initiation.' There are also depicted here the beginnings of a 'practice' that at once describes actual events, as well as creating a liturgical metaphor for the wide spectrum of human activity, history and identity.



158. 


ECSTASIS: FLORA, FAUNA, SPIRIT- 7’8” X 3’ 7” -Acrylic on Canvas- (2007) 2009.  After meeting a seminarian from Italy:


"It was your unusual name (Natale Albino, White Christmas) that was suggestive for me.  Mine is as well in reference to Christmas, but your's is more to the point.  The great Winter Solstice celebrations that used to mark those dates were in part fertility celebrations, but as well warmth and light at the darkest moments of the year.  We also celebrate warmth in the darkness.  Hope at the coldest moments.  The barren or virginal womb is, of course, the great symbol in the Scriptures of this impossible Void that is the source of all things-- I.e. God, Godhead, or the ineffable ground of being.  Our lives as celibates are also the opportunity for impossible goodness to erupt from barren lives.  My interest explores and acknowledges the whole body of such observance."

An actual spiritual presence of creative fecundity, ecstatic propagation has been inculcated and here revealed.  Ecstasis unlies the whole of Creation, certainly the Bioshere.






70

Goddess Rising

Oil on Canvas 42" x 30" 1987



This painting is intended to carry some of the experience of a curious effect of the feminine on the masculine psyche. From NEPSIS FOUNDATION Table of Contents, SECTION III: EAGLE ROCK:



“When I first visited this place that we later named Eagle Rock, I was with my friend and partner. She is a very beautiful woman and rare for me in that she is one of the few for whom I might have preferred marriage to celibacy. We remain platonic friends. My mother accompanied me on this subsequent visit about to be described. This is an important change of characters for two reasons. One is that my mother, nearly eighty years old, is not so interested in religion or paranormal phenomena. She prefers politics and history. Therefore, she is detached from enthusiasm about religious, psychic and other paracritical phenomena. The second reason is that an archetype showed itself here. The archetype is, I believe, a catalyst for the paranormal seed of this story. The archetype is that of mother and son/goddess and hero. (It amuses me, and others, to think of myself as a hero, but even the least among us have moments of glory. Rather than this being an exercise in self-glorification, I merely point out an archetype that has been glorified in the past. Heracles="the glory of Hera," Hero/priest sacrificed in communication with the divine. Jesus and Mary, Theotokos, is another example. This important dynamic, largely ridiculed in modern culture, is essential to creativity, mysticism and much traditional lore... (See The White Goddess, Robert Graves, p. 124. Also see, The Cyclical Serpent, Paul Halpern, for how Dionysius saves his mother from Hell. Think of mythic Grendel and his poor Mother in the face of patriarchal Beowolf propaganda… or a few rogue Catholic priests whose scandalous abuse of young people is used to defame thousands of innocent priests, celibacy and the whole Church with its devotion to the Blessed Mother.)



...This "old dispensation" includes a Shamanism that reaches out from Paleolithic times into our own because there are people who still live a stone age existence to some degree and because Shamanism is a trans-temporal function of human personality. This old dispensation also includes the priesthood. This topical reference might start with the sacrificial priesthood of the Great Goddess from around the Mediterranean wherein the hero/sacred king/priest/son/consort is adulated for a time, then sacrificed to become divine. His initiates would often eat his flesh and blood in communion with their deity. This function of the mediatory priesthood, hieros or hierophant, extends to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, in the order of mythic "Melquizedek of old." [See, First Eucharistic Prayer from the Order of the Mass for Melquizedek reference.] These realizations lead to "Memo to a Bishop" that heads up the conclusions to this project. See NEPSIS Section III for "Memo" and "Eagle Rock" in the same section, for 'the story'… Also see paintings #44 and #80.”





31
Artificer
Oil on Canvas 5' x 3' 1987

One who creates and recreates... the one who searches between worlds... Such a shaman/artist/priest/poet/(warrior) explored here is a primordial figure(s) whose personality and cultural function attempts mediation of the affairs of this world with the intentions of the divine spirit or non-temporal world. This figure fights the battle for sentient being.



And from #139. [80] 
Oil on Canvas 18" x 15" 1987-  Before an embryo differentiates into male or female, the sex organs are the same. This painting reflects upon the capacity for coitus and the ecstatic drives that propagate species...



From "Satisfaction":

"This interdisciplinary methodology of art making and theory, critical analysis, as well as, long courted religious experience and practice, seemed necessary to examine the otherwise ineffable and pervasive nature of the subject of the Spiritual Life.  This subject engages all of the agencies of human perception and judgment.  This is a subject that seems to revel in ritual and liturgy, art and the most gestalt experiential religious gestures: Simple compassion…  Brave, solitary missions...  Relentless aspirations to Goodness, Beauty and Truth(s)… Catharsis, kenosis and a nearly tangible sense of the divine presence in the natural world.  This subject seems to resist the shackles of merely conceptual, critical treatment, or superfluous, popular enthusiasm.  But it exalts in a clear, incisive, poetic depiction of wisdom and affection.


This is not a sectarian issue though. It is the issue of human identity and power; it is the religious question. "Who is it that climbs up on the Cross?" Why? Or who is the Buddha, for that matter; (Who is it that can help themselves or anyone)? What is a Shaman? Saint? Sorcerer? Poet? Artist? Scientist? What spell is cast to fulfill the human capacity? And who casts it? 25 God? Ourselves? To what end? What is the Warrior (the Artist?) and what does he do? This, Bishop, is what I intend to discover and display for you.

_____________________________
THE CAVE: Once, in one of those monasteries mentioned above, during a walk with the leader of the monastery, the topic of 'the cave' was being discussed. That is, the life of the hermit, its purpose and justification. Withdrawal. Non-judgment. Witness to the Holy.  The inner life pursued in its simplest and most intense format found in both Christianity and Buddhism with its roots deep in the Stone Age and its touch still energizing the Modern Age: States of consciousness, states of awareness examined; the examination of self until self is transcended. Nothing in my secular life prepared me for exposure to this. I was fascinated, charmed, enthralled by the topic. Though completely nebulous at the time, these and all related topics intrigued me and somehow seemed to fulfill and extend my humanity just by the questions evoked. I asked the leader of that group of monks, what was supposed to happen in the 'cave.'  He, formerly a chemical engineer, years before he entered religious life, replied in a challenging, somewhat acerbic tone, "try it and find out."


There are many means of access to the 'inner world' of the psyche or the Spirit in addition to complete withdrawal idealized in the hermitage. The life of a monk or hermit, it seems, is a highly specialized and rare vocation--even in monasteries. So, I determined that I would make it my life's project to 'find out' one way or another. I have pursued the topic of this encounter between worlds as a form of spiritual initiation. 

... 

Finally, it is the spinning of the web, that tendency of human beings and cultures to compose ontonomic systems, that is examined, experienced, expressed in the overall construction of this Internet site, as well as in the construct of its various contents. The very fact that the expression of such integration is attempted in a contemporary technological organ of electronic 'mixed media' is itself a commentary upon our topic, as is discussed in the last pages of "Memo to a Bishop." 


Raimon Panikkar, one of the great minds of the Twentieth Century, whose expertise in the History of Religion and the Philosophy of Science was awarded the Gifford Lectures in 1989--among many such major awards--comments as follows about Nepsis methodology and themes in his "Response" to Nepsis: 


"...And here is where I ask myself whether we should not enlarge our habitual categories in order to do justice to his [Frost's] overall intuition. I see it as a challenge. The eye of the beholder is part and parcel of a work of art, and empathy is a hermeneutical key--although not the only one. Mendeleev's periodic table was rejected by the British Academy; one of Einstein's first papers was once 'failed'... 

...My standpoint is not whether I agree or disagree with some of the ideas exposed in the Dissertation, but whether I judge the Candidate capable of putting forward an important point of contemporary research, and in this sense I consider it a pioneer's work..."

...The Dissertation is unusual both in its contents and in its style. I have followed its progress, evolution ('involution' as well)... "We" have not succeeded in bringing the Candidate fully into "our" parameters, hard and gently as "we" tried. I consider this fact, seen from the other side, as academic initiation. He has accommodated as much as he could, and yet he has not yielded the main thrust of this work. I consider this as a victory for both him and Academia-- specially for him. Then, in recent times Academia has opened up to such more personal and artistic approaches, even on the field of philosophy. The least academic attitude is to dictate once and for all what "academic' means. And yet, there are some criteria we should maintain: coherence, seriousness, accuracy, honesty, and any dissertation should be an original contribution to the field of knowledge. I feel that Frost's investigation meets those criteria. 


The work is serious. Steve has painstakingly taken the pulse of our modern times and has tried to mediate between the rational and the irrational, the theoretical and the artistic. And this he has done from a perspective that stands middle way between the two... R.P. 1995.


***


“Memo to a Bishop:”  ‘Memo’ includes some helpful insights as it presents my research about cosmology (ontonomy) and sexuality in religion and culture. There are two main points. One advises  a greater philosophic detachment in the topic of sexuality- i.e., try to understand the validity of other interpretations of how we are and have been biologically.   For instance, Gay Rights are a popular cause now gaining ascendancy in 2013 USA.  This was not the case when Memo was first written.  I found important and ancient cultural patterns that integrated cosmological and cultural orders in which such issues were considered in a more positive vein than in our own.  My interest remains the same in the discovery of root activities, some now illegal, and like the Scriptures that treat those same topics, might be misinterpreted.  Second, there a primacy of individual satisfactions in our age of relationships opposed to group identity patterns. This does not mean that I don’t acknowledge humane norms that are part of our age.  I usually defend the Church when attacked.  But I don’t operate entirely from a defensive stance as is often the case in the Church.

I was exploring spiritual consciousness that goes back to the Stone Age.  I was looking for situations in which these strains might still hold sway, or individual moments of insight or revelation that might be helpful.  It is noted in Memo that there are contemporary conditions that influence ancient Church norms.  My fear is that the culture is forming the character of the Church rather than the other way around- in fact puts us in a straight jacket about certain vital issues.  Yet, it reinforces the corporate business model as a mode of operation for us.  Corporations, international or not, are not the same as Corpus Christi.  Important aspects of our humanity are lost. And many of our leaders jump at the chance out of an excessive need to conform either socially or legally. 

The warning in Memo remains the same, and is not primarily personal. Though it is a close observation of one’s own attitudes -NEPSIS- that critiques both personal and cultural behavior at once. 

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.



 



 #[84 -88]



Mandala: India V
Nature is the first Mandala, the human person is the second.

Oil on Canvas 5' x 5' 1990

Paintings #84-87 were painted upon my return from India in1990. I had journeyed to India to study Tibetan Buddhism (1980): in particular, Tibetan Mandalas, (1990). Paintings #88 and #94 continue the influence of this study and practice- depict parts of a personal mandala. (Painting #30, 1980, reflects an early interest in this complex of themes.) The Mandala in Tantric Yoga, like the Christian Icon and its theologies, is the Great Art of Divine/Mundane union, the Symbolon. This practice and product requires the reconfiguration of intellect, emotion, imagination and physicality of the practitioner for re-creation of the whole human person in its 'true' or 'divine' image. In other words, this attempts full, true 'conversion.' That is the intention for both the practitioner and for the world. Thus, an actual mandala or madalesque (truly iconic) art carries that same intention: the ‘salvation’ or ‘realization’ of individual and world by seeking and telling—being—this truth. This is the touchstone for the whole of NEPSIS. 

***


Other concluding works in the Nepsis cycles:

BRILLIANT PASSAGES: the third in this "To a Bishop" series is another literary construct in which the principal footnote is pages longer than the text in which it falls about the middle.  The format uses the footnote (of which I have done thousands- as any academic  student does) as the voice of an important sub-text or con-text in which the action of the main text takes place.  

SATISFACTION:  Not being completely satisfied with my dissertation statement, I reconsidered the issues most important there in a three part essay, “Satisfaction.” It concluded with what seemed astute to me at the time. My opinion about such grand issues has changed.  Now, I suspect that Satisfaction is constituted from 'sacrifice.'  That is our ability to make our lives and thus the world sacred- it is the 'dignity of our being. ' We cannot do this alone.  God must participate.  Godhead created the Universe from Itself.  There was nothing else.  So everything we do must take that into consideration- though this recognition might be a single minded dedication to scientific discovery, or any critical recognition of some truth or reality. 


EAGLE ROCK:  Genius Loci-  As mentioned in the first painting caption above, the experience of the gen loci and the proposal that this very real experience from 'Stone Age' to 'Now' as a real phenomenon.  It gives me a sense of the inner life of our evolution for millenia.  It qualifies our relationship with nature, the definition of Person, and the issue of spiritual agents, i.e.,  Spirits, Gods, Archetypes, Angels and Demons if you like... "If you turn around you will see them" and I did in hills above Assisi.    See "NEPSIS NARRATIVES: Pilgrim Chapters" (5 and 6) in the LETTER A BISHOP.  The "Eagle Rock" narrative in Part III Addendum culminates the Nepsis story of such paranormal phenomena.  It certainly is not the last or greatest maybe, but will do to illustrate the issue:

"We discovered this place more than fifteen years ago. A friend and I were researching the phenomenon of 'holy places' that occur and reoccur in the annals of sacred literature. These are places on the earth reputed to have some special "energy" or "spiritual presence." Lourdes or Fatima or Kailash, would be famous examples of such places, but there are many others mentioned in the sacred texts, or that simply exist without mention. My friend and I located such a place in the Great Basin region of Nevada, through an erring process. We wandered aimlessly for several days in the wastelands of Nevada and California until we spotted it. Rather, it seemed to present itself. Over the years, and in many subsequent visits, this place displayed various natural and supernatural characteristics. However, it was two visits in particular that make the point about art and perception that I intend to clarify here.

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."





176... #[107 - 109]
Seraphim I...
Colored Pencil on Paper 40" x 22" 2001
From the encounter described in RESOLUTION, NEPSIS FOUNDATION—ORACLE, et al, as EAGLE ROCK in North West Great Basin of Nevada. THE MOST POIGNANT INTIMACY AND THE TRANSPERSONAL GRANDURE OF THE SPIRIT IN NATURE.  -The Seraphim have been described as 'vertical, snake like, emanations of light.'  That was how my mind's eye pictured this paranormal phenomena of the Eagle Rock experience, thus the title.




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.




Steve Frost, 1993, exhausted after climbing Kala Pattar, 18,000ft, across a valley from the southern base of Mount Everest, a sacred mountain, The great Holy Mother Mountain of the World.  I was operating under the notion that one should meditate on sacred things, or make offerings of affection and respect, not intend conquest.  (Issues of capacity, attention and sacrifice are related conversations.)  This project thus is a meditation on that other great mountain and mother,
Art and Religion- The Church and her Heirs

___________________________________________________________________________



VARIA:


BLOGS:

BERKELEY CORE:  Describes core what was accomplished at Berkeley in terms of the LETTER write up, supportive studies, some progress in the art- having two large studios there.  Finally, “Eagle Rock,” “Memo,” “Satisfaction,” as amended here conclude the Berkeley Suite more that the conclusions found in the PhD Dissertation.


NEPSIS RATIONALE I-V:  Charts its Organization and Thematic Complex.  We start with the most recent, and work back chronologically and thematically- (See List below.)  The entire NEPSIS opus includes paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, poems, prose- fiction and non-fiction, essays, and the beginnings of a functioning Oracle.  Paintings and poems, I'll go though each suite and period.  Pilgrimage, Studies and Fiction are of a die.  So I think a single comment will handle them and their function in the larger picture- (they, at great length, explain themselves).  The 'grim' is another story altogether and blends with the paintings and poems in the end.

The work charted in “Rationale” mostly began in the fall of 1973 and extends through 2013 with its ‘final’ configuration indicated in an online site map. This is ‘final’ in the sense that it links to all the art and musing of the NEPSIS project (so named c. 1980) began in 1973 including significant works not counted in the 2010 UC Berkeley upload.  There was no way to know at that time when or if I would finish the project. 

PAEAN’S SONG:  A Diagnosis for what ails the Gods- i.e. ‘the powers that be’ here.

ANNOTATIONS:  My contribution to an ECAI, UC Berkeley project, so far unfinished.  My art- paintings, drawings, sculpture especially, cannot be separated from its thematic context described in the NEPSIS FOUNDATION.

CLEAR LIGHT MISSILES,  A Fall Series:  Explores aesthetic method in Nepsis- “Re-member, reader/viewer, remember the sensations you have viewing the image, reading the poem, and the more popular format of adventure/fantasy fiction that will follow in this Fall Series.  Then let your unconscious re-member it-  Re-compose image, poem, history to tell its real story, to have its real effect on you- you will do anyway!  (From titillation to tragedy, the human heart rages, raves and roves in its search for true identity and peace.)”

SO BISHOP, IT’S A WRAP- A Case for Religion:  Exactly

End commentary on the 'Blogs.'
___________________________




“Finishing” the major body of this work does not mean there won’t be the creation of new ‘portals of entry’ or new art.  It simply is the intuition that with this new front page at www.nepsis.com, this organic being, this golem of light, is born and projected into the world complete and whole- 2013.  TOPIC: Spiritual Birth, Initiation, Practice- An Interpretation of ancient material for a different age.  (AND with a dynamic, personal example: SAVE THE WORLD!  Compassion/Justice- Engage Archetypes- Gen Loci/Gen Mundi, i.e. Run with the Gods. Openness to Symbols of Deity.  Suspend unbelief, at least for a while, long enough- then judgment...)

For those new to the project, I usually recommend first the Abstract and Menu Page of the ECAI/UCB Site and The Berkeley Core.  And/or, Paean’s Song.  But these really are just the beginning.

I also recommend, if you have an computer or iPad, Matt DeFano’s remarkable reconstruction in an Apple iBook, NEPSIS FOUNDATION.

***

I graduated from college, spring 1973, confident in the fact that I had learned to make paintings and poems.  AND HAVE SINCE VERIFIED THE VALIDITY OF THAT ACCOMPLISHMENT.  I also had an interest in prose fiction, but what gifts I have, seem to flow most strongly in the creation of images.  The Graven Image does seem to be the one thing that only human beings do, and is my strongest hand.  Some of the poems are good.   The “Poem of Voices” does what it claims at 99 pages.  Abstraction and a trained intuition have served me well.  I also tried my hand at short fiction, novella and novel forms; this produced an ‘anti-novel,’ The Nepsis Foundation and the Oracle of Xibalba
which has construed itself more in the direction of an oracle than a novel- see for yourself.


***

The complexity of the NEPSIS project is byzantine.  (1) Perhaps because it took more than 40 year to complete what organically started in 1973, climaxed in 2005 with a denouement that extends into 2013.  (2) Perhaps because I wanted it to be so intricate for the sake of those dedicated souls- students, aficionados, who are truly interested, who like a challenge- there is much to explore- If not my work, then the sources themselves.

But most likely re the first, its longevity, is just the result of the huge, complex reality treated- And the second is just a passing mood or flair for the esoteric.  Most likely is that it’s just so hard, and takes so long to willfully uncover truth, goodness or beauty- or even to understand that which has been already excavated by others- often very great others. 

Sexuality is going to be essential to any consideration that involves the biosphere.  It’s easy to sensationalize and to abuse. Hard to be honest about it.  As a vowed celibate, disciplines and theologies about sexuality are an important part of my life.  As well, a large part of my formal studies for my dissertation was Buddhist Tantra in which sexual imagery is openly used to symbolize ultimate and universal Union- for individuals and all reality.  Also we touched on Shamanism, which offers a wide spectrum of insights about sexuality.  I have personally believed the Church’s teaching about states of prayer transcendent of something so natural as coital arousal, but doubted it in fact.  I’ve since experienced such states for myself and am confirmed to believe fully in the Origin of Life precedent to biology and the rest of physics as well. 

I’ve tried, intuitively, to grasp the core or sense of the last 50,000 years of human spiritual and cultural awareness.  It’s an absurd ambition.  Bound to fail and be humiliated for such pretension!  Except that I possess an artist’s knack for the intuitive and abstract- and I had in this the advantage of world-class scholars, monks, priests and secular experts to critique my intuitive and scholarly choices.  Finally, the art- the paintings and the ritual pilgrimages guided me.  I didn’t know that was my ambition at the time.  But I believe that’s what’s happened to produce 5000 pages of peer-examined prose, extensive formal studies, about 100 poems, 300 paintings, et al, and 20 years of hitch-hiking pilgrimages that are the content of the NEPSIS project.  Maybe after all, these are just some nice paintings, poems, and stories.  Some adventure. And I’m just a nice man who took care of his mother ‘til she died- you judge. If you can...

I’d settle for that.  Except for a couple of things.  That witch.  A good witch?  Or is there a wider spectrum to consider- like Dark Energy and Light?  And that saint?  Did she really die screaming? 

My first attempt to combine paintings, poems and picaresque narratives was my master’s project at St. John’s Seminary around 1980-85 in California.  That developed into one of 6 elements in my PhD Comprehensives in Berkeley under the title, LETTER TO A BISHOP.  Part One of that was non-fiction.  Part Two was a series of experiments in fiction starting with short fiction- See “What Georgia Did.”  The attempt at something novel, subsequently was titled INTERSTATES (The Narrator) A Novel, about 85,000 words, still had paintings like LETTER...., ADAM’S WAY (The Priest) A Novella about 50,000 words, CHRIS AND STEPHANIE (The Woman) about 42,000 words, HOW DIONYSUS SAVED HIS MOTHER FROM HELL And thus saved the world…, was the shortest. The pictures got lost in ADAM’S WAY, I believe.  I published the last two together under the title INDIAN WITCHES to little acclaim.

The point being that perception is formed by both facts and fiction, history and myths or symbols and parables   Not the same as a lie!  Further: re the old idiom ‘art is the lie that tells the truth’  -Art is artifice.  Nature is not. But high art tells the truth about nature.  Nature can’t lie- humans lie.  Further: Art heals what is cloven, especially matter and spirit.

“Interstates,” was also part of the title of my dissertation and of the art catalog associated with it.  These were produced about the same time as the first novel, Interstates.  All was that confusing at the time, but it was also interwoven studies, paintings, peregrinations, poems, prose and rituals made explicit.  ‘Interstates’ is the place of the shaman.  He works between worlds mediating the things of this world the ‘other’ one...  It is also important to a discussion of prayer and states of awareness.

Part Three of the NEPSIS NARRATIVES is just the very allegorical conclusion of those recorded pilgrimages.  But by then, ECAI at UC Berkeley had engaged to upload NEPSIS permanently on its huge computers.  Their brilliant techs attempted to provide windows of entry with Menu Page, Site Map, Abstract.  Such windows continue to be constructed with blogs and other such media as in the “Berkeley Core,” “Paean’s Song,”...

There are four principal works on the Site Map of the UCB site.  Primary is the Table of Contents wherein the whole of the Project first ordered itself in 2005.  This is at the bottom of the Site Map page and is a must to understand the construct and meaning of the project.  Then there are three other works or areas. 






  • Finally, the integration of it all, a tome also in 3 Cycles: 
ANTI-NOVEL
About 300.000 Words With Numerous Images.


The first Cycle is an abridged version of Letter to a Bishop, combining pilgrimage narrative, paintings, poems, episcopal letters, spiritual quest, similar to the earlier Letter.  Also, unlike the earlier letter Part Two, here Cycle II is filled with fiction, more pilgrimage, essays, poems arranged in a composition they seemed to demand.  Rather than a literary work one is advised to approach this work as an oracle to obtain its fuller communication, for its only by entering the nameless, sightless realms of the ‘other’ world that one may know some of the most important things.  The allegorical, highly symbolic, but non-fiction form of Cycle III are all that was available to the artist to express the experience he wanted to be expressed.



The Artist of NEPSIS PAINTINGS/POEMS/NARRATIVES: PILGRIM or PICARO? Judge for yourself.)  A 50,000 year embrace of spiritual sensibilities besides being suggestive of something metaphoric conjures trans-temporal memories of shamanistic ecstasy and is based on a reality found in the stories of EAGLE ROCK and some access to that reality described in MEMO TO A BISHOP.  What was met in the Great Basin where what we called Eagle Rock is located (because raptors hunted there) and how that was found in MEMO describes the embrace and is a human capacity.  

How the paintings contribute has to be charted work by work, caption by caption.

The largest division of Frost Art is schoolwork and post-college work, labeled BEFORE BOLIVIA, AFTER BOLIVIA.  (My college roommate and I took buses from Tijuana to Bolivia the summer of 1973 just after we graduated from college.)

That was a great turning point for me in my work- all developing from strongly Lyric, Abstract Expressionist sources.  The “First Series” was about 100 paintings and dominates my work for several years along with poems and prose describing the provenance of that period.  In these open areas of free flowing color and space live in counter point to more specific embellishments of hard edge, geometric shapes-  Absolute to Specific or Particular. There were several later variations. In 1975, came the influence of the Church, Icons-Greek/Roman Painting, [Asceticism, Monks, Yoga, Priests, Theology, Religious Studies, Panikkar, India, Ordination 1984 (Diocese of Orange, CA), doctoral studies in Berkeley, Martial Arts, Korea, India again and again, (PhD/Berkeley, 1995) Georgia/Sonoma- Huachuca 2005, Oklahoma, New Mexico 2012.  Now, 2013, Orange Co. CA. again. (Dear God...)]  Human Figures for a time took the place of the geometric counterpoint to the space and color context.  Then, slowly I just started painting again when I was in the seminary and given space to work and continued from there. 

I often paint in series, which should be kept together as much as possible- as if they were one painting.  They are left over, mystical objects in the sense that as products of my psyche more than anything else, the objects of religious ritual as priest and mystic, since I seldom engage in specific ritual alterations of consciousness any longer- I’m not sure why not-  when I try, I find that I interrupt something already in process... 
____________________
From my journal:

“February, 2006.  I started from Morro Bay, on California’s middle coast.  I first just took a drive east over those beautiful hills between the sea and California’s San Joaquin (Central) Valley.   Then, I decided to stay over-night near Button Willow in the Valley.  Then, for reasons beyond my ken, I continued through Bakersfield, where I saw a young Harvey Canady walking down the street- a college friend of great intimacy.  He’d been dead for several years...

But I felt driven on in mourning- my mother, Georgia and brother died the previous fall. 

... as I approach Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly, northeast Arizona, I am in tears of mourning for the deaths of my mother, and brother the previous fall.  I’d had a worrisome dream that previous Christmas morning about my mother in the afterlife.  I’d made little offerings at this place because Grandmother Spider, a creator deity in the Native American pantheon, is reputed to live there.  I’m a believing Roman Catholic Priest, but I’m still reverent of the other insights, personalities and symbols.  Symbols of Deity.  I had made many visits in the past wherein nothing had happened.... 

This time, Grandmother Spider took over my consciousness, and took pity on me in my sadness.  She clearly indicated I should look up the right hand canyon (Canyon de Chelly splits just there at Spider Rock).  I did so.  And there benevolent Changing Woman, also a Navajo deity, appeared standing behind my mother.  My deceased mother was protected (saved) in the other world by these two representatives of feminine deity.  Georgia was holding a box with golden light inside.  She was well.  This was a completely spontaneous experience.

This story is interesting to me in that a believing Catholic can experience a complete transliteration of a salvific moment.  That is, my mind and heart spontaneously translated a salvific intuition through another religion's symbols and divinities.  Rather like St. Bernadette did with the translation of Immaculate Conception from the Beautiful Woman of her original vision at Lourdes!  I suppose this is possible because these are sets of symbols that refer to ineffable realities. 

Psyche of nature: Combination of spiritual Presence a human mechanism that immediately?? interprets spiritual encounters into familiar images and ideas- Christian, Buddhist, Animist, Moslem, Secular. (Yes, even non-members are filled with faithful prejudice, denial, reactionary interpretations.)  The inquisitors from a time when everyone was Christian in Europe are now free to do their mischief without religious justification or restraint.  



NARRATIVES of NEPSIS: PICARESQUES, Pilgrim's Journal?...- An Anti-Novel.  It is not in reaction against the Modern Era that I finally rejected the novel and short story forms among others. It’s because the material world has no discernible plot, nor characters, nor moral message. Wisdom, Compassion, Caritas and like/related phenomena, I suspect, derive from a different vale entirely. I returned to mythic, even surreal cycles of short fiction, research, image and picaresque narrative, dream-like in composition as a more accurate means of discovery and expression for this research and expression-- and is closer to my pertinent interests than sophisticated cultural constructs, novel from a dark enlightenment, current for the last 500 years in the West.


ISSUES OF DISCRETION:

To understand my interest here, one must consider the mystical physiology of Asia and many other parts of the world in antiquity.  Various agencies of the American ‘establishment’ recognizes such in that it recognizes as effective and pays for Acupressure and Acupuncture therapies which depend on these psychic systems. The “Root Chakra” is located just above the perineum and is the foundation of this mystical or psychic physiology in the human body. It’s also known as the “Earth Chakra” or the Muladhara.   It is associated especially with the generative organs, including the prostate and testicles in men.  Remarkably, it is associated with feminine deity!  For one, the goddess Kundalini rests there- until she is awakened by natural, supernatural or yogic stimulation.  Then, the Universe comes into being, or is somehow changed in goodness, truth and or beauty.  Many examples of feminine deity exemplify the full spectrum of existence, from the terrors of Kali (Painting #s130 [44], 235) to the absolute benevolence of Changing Woman (See painting #s 89 [36], 127 [41], 128 [42], 134 [70]).  Grandmother Spider, as a creator deity, needs the full spectrum of lights and darks to deal with creation...

In this exploration of the feminine or ‘yin’ energies, archetypes and deities become a means of organizing perception. (Art as a vehicle of discovery itself, when compared to mechanics of various disciplines from physics to actual mechanics, is generally considered feminine)- I was impressed by the feminine/was chosen by it, early, and intuitively, as a vehicle of great power and truth, perhaps the greatest.  (This is especially remarkable for many heterosexuals who don’t seem to be able to get on without their women.  Homosexuals also seem committed to such worship- to the point of ‘impersonation.’) 

‘Impersonation of deity’ is an ancient ritual practice of great importance in terms of what it says about the plasticity in the formation of a human person.  Its exercise is found in most parts of the world though history in the festal cycles of various cultures.  It’s a practice accompanied often by months or years of arduous preparation and is a root of drama and theater when these were/are 'sacred arts.'  (I think they still are sacred when these perform the aesthetic purpose of revealing goodness, truth or beauty, bridging in that a pernicious separation of World from Spirit.  The human capacity to be able to change personas so convincingly seems to me remarkable.  Its exercise in the Modern era is even more remarkable set loose as it is from its own ontology- to what effect?   






So, Bishop, I can pipe this tune from this splendid solitude that you provide me.  You have to deal with the tempest day by day.  May God give you Peace. 




Te Deum ‘13
________________________________




[95.]

Road to Emmaus  “REALIZATION”

Oil on Canvas 8' x 6' 1996-99


        




[96.]
Mother of Consolations
Oil on Canvas 8' x 6' 1996-99







[1] The Divine Condition is a part of reality and needs thus to be critically considered from many perspectives including Physics. See “Brilliant Passages” for a reason why.  See “Priest” section of the Table of Contents on the UCB site map, or “Points of Entry” here. 

Find here the balance of the actual, original letter to a Bishop describing the problem with Church and World:


1. Last summer I wrote to Bishop..., may he rest in peace, regarding my grave concern about the issue of child molestation charges brought against one of our priests, Fr. Chris, especially in light of the hysterical response of the media and some people, how the Church hierarchy handles such situations and how many of us priests know, like and respect Fr. Chris. [Beside the paramount issue of real victims, my concern for this issue was then and is now ecclesial and twofold:

  • 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?

I understand the difficulty of this situation and sympathize with those who must deal with it officially. But the issues are greater than personalities. Our culture does not allow us to be Christian without the threat of great material loss. The deeper loss is greater without such sacrifice.

2. This next example is difficult for me to write about. It would be easier, even more discreet, to talk about it privately with you. But I believe it to have a more universal application than just my life.
Since coming to the Diocese of... in 1978 and being sponsored in the seminary, 1979-84, by Bishop... may he rest in peace, I have had a disturbing mix of reactions to my presence. Let me describe how I see it. I believe that I did well at the seminary. I received a unanimous vote for advancement to Orders from the seminary faculty. I was the first student to be elected twice to the General Seminary Committee, the faculty policy- making committee to which three students were elected annually by the student body at large. So, I had also the confidence of my peers. I completed a Master's thesis that was guided by one of the world's top theologians who was then teaching at U.C. Santa Barbara. I had a very good relationship with the former Vocation director, Fr. Richard...  However, the Vocation Director that replaced him did not react so well with me. We had several confrontations and eventually, six weeks before my diaconate ordination, he recommended that I not be ordained. The seminary maintained their positive recommendation and six months later I was ordained deacon, then four months later, a priest with my class by Bishop ....
Regardless of the normal hopes for a successful first assignment, it did not work out. Neither that first rectory nor the second has been a happy circumstance. The unfortunate dynamic has been the same in both. I have a good, sometimes excellent, relationship with the people and staff, and an ever deepening devotion to the sacramental life, but my relationships with both pastors have been terrible. Though both men have many virtues that I admire, our virtues have not been the problem. Let me clarify.

After a recent (and, for me, again abusive) interview with my current pastor, I realized something about my situation that reveals a flaw in my own approach. Perhaps it also points out problems of significance in the Church. It dawned on me that both my pastors since I was ordained as well as the second Vocation Director mentioned above had some important and problematic similarities with my father.

My father was a very good man, even a gifted and spiritually insightful man who cared for his family deeply. He was also emotionally very insecure and frustrated over many life issues, I think partly as a result of certain attitudes about masculine and intellectual domination and partly due to the difficult strength of his personality. (Is this the result of genetics or an overly aggressive, scientific, commercial culture as well?) In any case, he handled parental authority in an abusive, manipulative way. In some respects he died last Fall, a broken man because he never resolved these issues. I lived through that for the first twenty years of my life. Even though the underlying love was unshakable, I swore that I would never be trapped in such a situation again. But that is exactly the situation in which I find myself. When I first realized this I felt caught in a situation similar to that experienced by the children of alcoholic parents who unconsciously choose an alcoholic spouse. I have espoused not only the Church but institutions of the Church often manned by personalities suffering similar emotional dysfunction. Is this accurate? Is this inherent in any bureaucracy? Is this only my perception? Is it only my bad luck to run into relatively many such problems in my life as a Catholic Religious? Or is this situation more general, even epidemic? If so, is it the culture? Is it the church? Is it a church overly accommodated to its culture?

Reflection on this matter might be worth the consideration. I recognize some of the problem as my own but it is not the sort of problem that surfaces without the necessary dysfunctional environment. (I have not had problems with all my superiors.) If we deny it as a serious and general level of dysfunction and it is true, then maybe we are denying what, if healed, could empower the priesthood of our age with the full charisma that the celibate gift offers: that is, a clergy with the courage and clarity of spirit adequate to face the challenges of a world in its most desperate hour. Perhaps there are ways to avoid the occasion of such dysfunction. Perhaps this is an appeal for all of us that we not be abandoned when trouble comes or that we not be left trapped in our own dysfunction.

Dealing with my situation until recently has often been like re-living a terrible dream in which one is unable to focus the source of angst or to resolve the problem. It has taken years of difficult searching to get even to this point of clarity, though there is something in me that still rebels against abuse, perhaps too strongly. Has this only been a personal purgatory or as a priest does not my life experience, successfully resolved, offer something to my community?

Due to the effect of these experiences, some recent family tragedy and resultant responsibilities, and the continuing need to fulfill other vocational interests, I have come to feel that perhaps I need an alternative environment in which to mediate God's love as a priest. Perhaps there are alternatives that will address all the above as well as allow me to stay in the Diocese of Orange where there has been much that is good for me. (see cover letter). I hope for your patience, guidance, and sympathetic attention in this matter.

3. A third and related issue regards the expenditure of Catholic resources on the questionable forms of education. Public education generally has become not so much the ground of forming human personality according to the dignity of our divine inheritance, but rather is a training ground for the technocratic/commercial complex that now dominates, and which I believe is destroying the world. [Witness the wanton destruction of wilderness and natural resources, traditional cultures and peoples (see attached reference).] Practical Catholic teaching in the form of elementary and secondary education is not opposing this evil but contributing to it by its necessary conformation to public school standards and values.

If all the "innovation and progress" of our time were not an assault on the very soul and life of God's creation I would be impressed with such wonders as are most others, and encourage such education. But this direction is not only unbalanced and destructive - I believe it to be evil. Technology has not saved us from the evils of the world, it has amplified them. Our education system benignly and actively contributes to the effect.

4. We live in a part of the world that is a center of armament production. Our economy depends largely on defense spending. Is this industry solely for justifiable defense, or profit? Former President Eisenhower warned in the 1950s against the military-industrial complex. His prophecy has come to pass. In Southern California we live in the "belly of the beast." Many of our people are dependent upon this industry. Must we not stand against such evil...

Bishop, these examples are only symptoms of particular virulence that indicate the greater evil that must be recognized and challenged with our resources and our lives. I began to suspect that there was another side to the "blessings of progress" when I saw the charitable efforts of good people being contributed to an evil situation. An example is the use of education and science to "save" and "improve" lives in the Third world. Result: Exploding populations. Result: Destruction of traditional values, cultures, and natural balances. Result: Violent political and social tension as in El Salvador, Calcutta, Mexico City, Cairo, and many other places.
The very genius of human intellect and technological accomplishment has brought us to the brink of hell either in the form of nuclear holocaust or environmental and cultural self-destruction.* Original Sin provides the motive and technology provides the weapon.

The problem is fundamentally spiritual.

This seems to me to be the proper concern for the priesthood, if that priesthood is to evoke and tend the divine fire of God's concern for his creation. The compassion of our charities are good but not enough. As in the Crucifixion of our Lord the salvific insight and action necessary to transform the world must be struck. To gather the resources necessary to effect that salvific liturgy we must search deeply as pilgrims into the soul and sacredness of Being itself. We have that capacity. We must find a way to catalyze that salvation for our times.

I hope that you will be able to help me and to properly guide me in these concerns.

Sincerely yours, ... 
_______
*100,000,000 were killed in the economic wars of this century - 17,000,000 currently in refugee camps or 500,000,000 who live on the bleak edge of starvation. 5,000 acres of rain forest destroyed per day for instance.



[2] Painting [#70] its caption about Asian mystical physiology and the paranormal...
[3] Original letter to the Bishop ....  Mural of Resurrection, UCB site, Blogs...
[4] I debate this more fully in the 'content and forms' of Letter to a Bishop series including:  Introduction to Letter..., Memo to a Bishop, Brilliant Passages, all of the Fiction page including the Anti novel, The Nepsis Foundation and the Oracle of Xibalba on the UCB site map.
[5] Five (finished) short fictions, four novels, one anti-novel, one blog series to date explore these themes in particular.
[6] See Panikkar’s CV and Bibliography at www.nepsis.com or Google him...
[7] (See nature paintings- Really everything from late student work the be found in the Before- and After Bolivia Albums. -BTW, brackets indicate the 2010 UC Berkeley art count.  The plain numbers indicate the 2012 Inventory in which an extra 100 works are included that had recently been discovered to have survived.  Negative numbers indicate Before Bolivia, i.e., student work.
[8] Visionary Consciousness***** See: “the Lamb whose Light casts no Shadow” from the Gospel.  “Clear Light Realization” from Tantric Buddhism. 
[9] 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.
[10] See Text Menu www.nepsis.com.
[11] 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.
[12]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."
[13] Shift from Hunter/Gatherer to Agriculture/Civilization- Empire and War.
[14] In addition to the three references above- ibid #1, one should also consider these:
[15] 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.