In December 1963 I had a spontaneous series of altered states that lasted for about three weeks. In the center of it was an ecstatic conversion experience much like what had happened to me at age 14. Most people have no idea that such an experience is even possible. Those who do know about it think that it is always a conversion from one set of beliefs or faith community to another. In my case, and I think in many historical cases, it was a conversion from ignorance to knowledge. Belief became unnecessary; I know what I felt. I thus am and since age 14 have been fundamentally a Gnostic. The writings of the Church Fathers and of the Gnostics themselves seem transparently clear to me. Almost everything I have done in life has been part of a search for adequate ways to articulate and manifest that knowledge.
A prose description of the 1963 experiences was thoroughly inadequate. I spent the next five years working on the raw materials of the following poem. It was completed during the year that our huge friendship group was creating the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn. It can be read as 22 separate poems, of course, but it is a single poem with an overarching structure, in which the many portmanteau words are necessary elements. Read the title in light of Alice’s conversation with the White Knight.
Shiny pieces Found in the Ruens of a Mythology
(A Catechlysm in Dialectical Sonata Form,
Which Suite Accompanies a Miracle Play):
Exploration of an Inscape by Meditation on the Tarot
1. The Juggler
I wonder what these ruens
Whirr good for, but only when
I wander out hear for my recreations
Of a hypersphear on afternoons
I could be duing sumthing else.
Hear’s a pretty peace. I wonder
How it worked. It’s nicely wayted,
Good for tossing up and down,
A skipping stone.
Maybe it will grow again
When enjinns clear the ruens away.
Sometimes I juggle catnip mice
Or make history mosaics
Of pieces I like. Someone’s throne
The picture box away, and mixed up
Fra Angelico with Hearonymus Bosh.
But it passes the evening,
Or is it dawn? Ben, was that sun
On the back of the Precedent’s chair
In Philadelphia going up, or down?
2. The Word: Jove Reversed
And I Am says “Hippopotamus,”
And there (oops!) is a hippopotamus,
And I Am sees that it (surprise!) is good.
And the Prince of Light
Says, “Lord, why do you
Call that a hippopotamus?”
And I Am says, “Because
It looks like a hippopotamus.”
And after a wile
The Prince of light says, “Lord,
Were you trying to be funny?”
And I Am sighs and says, “Yes, Prince.”
So the Prince of Light goes off
To think about that, and I Am
Looks at the hippopotamus and says,
“The trouble with him is
He ain’t got no senza hyumah.”
But the hippopotamus
Is too busy getting up
A petition for a female
Hippopotamus to care about
Anybody else’s hangups.
Anyway, the word
Creates the thing
It names. Birds
Are sferic inklings.
3. Escapement: The Wheel
History: I think
About it all
The time, about
How it tries
To say it all, but
As millennia clock’s
And manespring cities
Tickle a million
A second, patterns
Huge or close escape
The involving eye
That must implode
To see how each
Shapes itself upon us.
4. The Tower
I am working at my desk, the same
Wooden desk I’ve told yew about time
And time again.
Denied, the mind minding itself,
Leafing an iron-vine-spiraled fence,
Not painted green,
Between inside and outside.
My fingers pass, repass,
Tracing the invisibell
Blewprints of our age, the secret
Tradition all vision has sung:
To storm the gates of Second Eden.
“Poet, this battle hasn’t yet begun.
Prepare the Quaker canon,
The Gandhi-dancing gun.”
And playing the Ninth Symphony,
Of a sudden breaks a cloud, unknowing,
For Beethoven, realing all that dumb
Schillering, sings the same Coming:
“Joy, Godspark, Blyzelandsdatter,”
Even in the tower
The golden shower
“Steps us up firedrunk to havenhome”
In rarified air
The Danaed discharge
“Spells, heals all custom sunders”
From cloud to earth
A human history
“Featherbrushes all brotherness”:
The record ends: and Anna desceands
From our Attic bed to hold me,
Abstracted from my head,
Heartswollen in torrents of molten gold,
Weeping for the organic city
Unsundered by epicycles;
Crying, “If historians were poets,
They’d run naked in the streets,
Screaming, `Abolish history!
Destroy all the clocks!’”