Paracelsus, 15th century visionary
So tonight I’m re-reading Peter Ackroyd’s Blake, A Biography, and, in doing so, feel a kind of healing. Ackroyd writes,
“The especial mystery revealed by the 15th century visionary came in his belief that ‘Man is compacted of all bodies and created things.’ So ‘it is a great truth, which you should seriously consider, that there is nothing in heaven or upon the earth which does not also exist in man, and God who is in heaven exists also in man, and the two are but One… Man is a sun and a moon and a heaven filled with stars; the world is a man and the light of the sun and the stars is his body… The human body is vapour materialized by sunshine mixed with the life of the stars. Four elements are in the world, and man consists out of four, and that which exists visibly in man exists invisibly in the ether pervading the world.’
“The poetic imgination, as Blake now began to understand it through the work of Paracelsus, can discern the spiritual outline of all created things because it contains them; with the spirit reborn, the poet may see with the eyes of eternity into himself and thus into the universe. That is why Blake is able to equate the ‘Poetic Genius’ with the ‘Spirit of Prophecy’, and why in the last months of his life he proclaimed ‘The Imagination which Liveth for Ever…'”
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Keeping your heart open in hell
So far as I know, Dad never read Blake. Dr. Sward is the subject of Rosicrucian in the Basement; Heavenly Sex; a portion of The Collected Poems; and God is in the Cracks. Father father father. Jesus… and I still hear the voice. And what I hear in the voice is, well, echoes of Blake.
“There’s a huge cargo of emotion,” someone said of the father poems.
“You need to know how to get through the night. This is what you need to know in life.”
He’d say things like that. And 20+ years after he’s dead… they come back… so,
I make it through the night and in the morning walk walk walk. Then eat eat eat. Some people get depressed and they eat, they can’t stop eating. That’s me. Others can’t eat at all, lose their taste for food. And the medication, Lexapro… water water water… incessant thirst and, like a dog, sprinkle sprinkle sprinkle… I think of Muktananda and those years in and out of his ashram and how, he said, if you spoke untruthfully or gossiped, you’d wander about, thirsty thirsty thirsty, a ghost, one of the undead. And I never said nothin’ bad about him, anyway, well, mention him in a poem or two, but something else set off this melancholia.
Sometimes I’d swim. [I read this aloud to my wife, a former kindergarten teacher. Something in this writing reminds her of a 5-year-old, she says.]
It’s difficult to swim, I find, unless you have an imagination. You need an inner life I find in order to do anything. And some things make clear your emptiness more than others. Swimming. Meditating. Watching television. Making love. Eating eating eating. Drinking water drinking water drinking water. And the inability to read. And the inability to write. And the inability to really be with my daughter, though we walked and talked and dined together.
Truth be told, I was prepared, there were times I thought about drowning. Drown the mind, drown the body. Drown the mind, drown the body. All the time swimming, lap after lap… still, for much it, lap after lap, this that and the other thing after this that and the other thing, I felt I was in hell, but my heart was open… some of the time… you’re never entirely in hell, it seems, when your heart is open. Go to hell, go to hell, but keep your heart open. You don’t entirely abandon hope.
You can lose your soul, but you still have a heart. Hollowed out, you see, there’s still a remnant of ‘something.’ And the imagination, I discovered, permeates, is everywhere in your body… not just in the head.
“…there is nothing in heaven or upon the earth which does not also exist in man, and God who is in heaven exists also in man, and the two are but One… Man is a sun and a moon and a heaven filled with stars; the world is a man and the light of the sun and the stars is his body…”
Of course it turns out the heart has four chambers, but it’s still hollow. And how pleased I was also to learn the heart is a muscle.
Where does poetry lie in the body? Maybe in the feet.