I am ecstatic to welcome on board to the Poetry Pilgrim Project an official philosopher/spiritual advisor, Carolyn Elliott from Awesome Your Life. Last week we met to discuss the project and swap tales of our respective creative/spiritual struggles post-2012. The conversation quickly turned to our attempting to find consensus on the role of poetry in the human spirit and how we, as individuals not yet free from the restraints of a civilization bent on obscuring that role, can assist others in its creation. The following morning she sent me a list of aphorisms on poetry which are strikingly beautiful and heart-achingly honest.
Aphorisms on Poetry
by Carolyn Elliott
1. Poetry makes the soul. The soul is the aetheric body. We are all born with the beginnings of a soul, but to become fully formed it must be cultivated, made.
2. The energies of desire and aggression commonly arise from and support delusive ignorance. Tantra, or alchemy, is the subtle art of using the energies of desire and aggression to destroy delusive ignorance rather than to support it.
3. Poetry is an essentially tantric enterprise. It seeks to take in the physical world with its pleasures and violences and to transmute those into awakening symbol. As Rilke said, “we are the bees of the invisible.” Through our physical sense perception we collect the pollen of beauty and terror. Then we must make these into the honey of truth.
4. Poetry is the union of compassion and emptiness enacted in language. Language is the house of being, as Heidegger noted.
5. The Institution of the literary academy and academic creative writing exists to inoculate us against the radically transformative powers of already-existing great poetry by pretending to study and promote it. One can suppress something far more effectively by pretending to love it and creating warped doctrines regarding it than by countering it outright. The academy bears the same relationship to poetry that the Church of St. Paul bears to the radical teachings of Jesus Christ. As Nietzsche observed, St. Paul was the anti-Christ because he taught a way of relating to Jesus Christ that actually obscures what Christ revealed. The academy is the anti-poetry.
6. One can develop the aetheric body in a wholesome fashion by carefully cultivating and opening the chakras through the practice of altruistic attitudes and actions. This process was outlined by Rudolf Steiner in Higher Worlds and How to Know Them and is also present (among many other places) in Buddhist teachings on the Noble Eightfold Path (which develops the throat chakra) and the Six Paramitas (which develop the heart chakra) and the Vajrayana. There may be other wholesome ways of making the aetheric body of which we are not presently aware.
7. One can develop the aetheric body in an unwholesome fashion through esoteric technologies of concentration and visualization practiced in the absence of altruistic intention and action. This kind of unwholesome development might be likened to the genetic engineering of fruits to suit human commodity convenience – such fruits are edible, but they are also monstrous and harmful.
8. Poetry is language used in the service of joining together love and wisdom, world and dream, Christ and Sophia.
9. Technology, or techne, is at its best not when used to serve avarice and violence but rather when used to skillfully aid phusis, or fruiting. The highest goal of technology / techne is the wholesome fruiting of the aether body. Poetry is techne joined with phusis.
10. Pharmakons like Ecstasy and acid can serve the same purpose in our modern world that mindstream empowerments from awakened masters served in ancient Tibet: they act as initiating glimpses of the awake aether body and world. These glimpses can then inspire and guide the dedicated practice necessary to cultivate hearty lotus flowers (chakras) of our own.
11. Tantric texts (i.e., great poetry) can also serve as pharmakons, offering this initiatory function of temporary arousal and awakening that points the way for independent development.
12. Poetry without movement-towards-infinite-compassion is not poetry, it’s vain scribble with fancy line breaks.
13. Poetry without movement-towards-infinite-dreamliness-fluidity is not poetry, it’s vain scribble with fancy line breaks.
14. Great poets are people with wholesomely developed aetheric bodies and cultivated spiritual sense organs (lotus-flowers, chakras).
Many of my conversations as of late have been somehow dealing with the issue of what good/real poetry is and what function it serves. My friend Margaret Bashaar and I recently recorded a conversation as we trudged through the snow-laden woods and fields of my parent’s farm about poetry, the act of seeing, and how we are capable of and responsible for creating and destroying our own universes while simultaneously giving up any hope of controlling how it manifests in consensual reality. While Carolyn’s aphorisms utilize Buddhist and Christian metaphors, mine and Margaret’s conversation was constructed with symbols from the natural world we were passing through and theoretical physics (a topic in which we are both interested but lack sophistication). However, I feel that we are all viewing the same higher reality that poetry points towards and striving for the same state of openness to communication with our divine/higher vibrational selves which poetry has effected since the time of Enheduanna (the first known poet and author). Come back in the next couple of days for Part II of the Quest for a mini-essay composed of our findings and some words from Enheduanna, the high priestess of Sumer and avant-garde Christ-like mystic Simone Weil.