Tag Archives: Virgin Mary

Some Deep Spiritual Common Sense that Pervades the Universe

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My drawing of the Virgin Mary

Why Is Poetry So Respectable an Itch?

Why is poetry so respectable an itch
And not so, beer
Or worse, whiskey which,
Too, provides rye verse, a peer

Perverse for its reputation only?
For from the spell of lonely
I cast or dwell in
With my poem I fell in

More with booze than muse:
I did but choose
To while in idle dream
My time away from seem.

The mood, once written, is broken
Just as Ginboy’s smitten token
Leaves ache and aching pain
When morning comes breaking again.

But it’s some consolation
From angels or some flower:
Last night’s lines were exhalation
Still redolent of power.

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:

“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

Gentle Readers,

I want to speak briefly of my poetry and how (and the fact that) I use it to clarify issues important to me, as a Sufi.

Of course as a Sufi (particularly my personal sort, these days*) I am quite free to decide things on my own, using my imagination and my own conception of religion a la Mohammed. That is, for instance, instead of following a catechism or other schism in the religious community, cleaving to one over another, I am free to pick and choose, inventing my own religion**

But I don’t want to veer off the main message of this post, which is how does my poetry fit in with my “Sufism?”

First thing that must be said (or admitted) is that my poetry is my Sunday School. It keeps me in line. You see, the thing with the poem is two-fold; one I am full of gratitude not just for saving me from the ignominy of writer’s block (there is always a new theme or better said, a descant on a familiar one (Was it Solomon or Goethe; I forget which, that said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”)

The second thing is it is tailormade for me who perhaps has only one principal virtue (I am like Oscasr Wilde and temptation***) which is by God there is one “shit I will not eat.” **** Which is I will not be a hypocrite. If an idea comes to me in a poem suchwise I proclaim it as if I were a prophet (a proper thing according to Emerson; See his Self Reliance essay) well then I am honor bound to be bound by the wisdom of it. It’s interesting how easy one finds it to obey what is prompted by a grateful heart.

And it’s not just gratitude for no writer’s block; no, it is the appreciation of the honor of having been invited by something divine whispering what to write in my ear. It makes one humble to the point of tears. And you can imagine then how less difficult it is to reorient oneself towards a new conception of the light. (Like any well behaved plant would do)

It is also a meditation, and a true meditation on anything is a relaxing thing.

That’s what I liked many years back when I first hit Guatemala and started studying art. Just the intense focus on the drawing came out as a meditation. And again I was grateful. Of course I hadn’t thought I could do art worth a damn and it turned out if you just focus right, the spirit comes through like my principal chez d’ouevre, my drawing of the Virgin Mary***** (funny I just typed her as the virgin memory! Must be a lesson there somewhere). See above drawing for that. Sabes que it made me a professional artist? I sold it for $150 dollars! True it was to my best friend’s wife but Kebi never buys what she doesn’t want.

Anyway I was astonished how well it came out. Even Ralph (the best friend) and his usually Eric-deprecating daughter averred it showed “an amazing sensitivity.”

And what’s a corollary to this latter? (and ladder!) It’s this: all God (or angels, or some deep spiritual common sense that pervades the universe) comes to your aid when you are on the right road.

And so my main point is, I use my poetry largely as a meditation and a vehicle to clarify issues of importance to me. Issues such as what are the most useful metaphors for God?  Or in my case since God is inherently unknowable by the finite mind (yo!), it makes more sense to me to think of “God” in terms of His or Her ambassador. As in Kindness is God’s ambassador. As in tolerance and humility is God’s ambassador. As in whatever whichever quality that moves the heart is God’s ambassador.

But my mainest point here is I had been hearing all my Sufi life about the importance of meditation and breathing exercises.  But I struggled with both of these. Now the above-mentioned is how I substituted a to me miraculous meditation. But alas, I have never gotten the hang of breath exercises, which Inayat Khan (see above stuff just below my drawing) places an embarrassing emphasis on. See the ****** below and I will tell you an example of my moron status when it comes to breathing exercises. But I at least have “solved” the meditation problem. A shame about the breathing exercises. (probably why I can’t levitate) But one out of two ain’t bad. Looks pretty good; in fact in baseball . . . But I digress, which is a sign it’s time to sign off for this time.

God be with you,

Eric Halliwell

*As opposed to days of old, when I was an official (read “mureed” accepted by a bonified murshid, or guru in lay terms, and of course previous to my ignominious boot from the order (yes thereby hangs an interesting tale you can read about here: https://rumi-nations.com/2021/01/28/what-they-do-to-33-year-old-carpenters-3/)

**referring to: “Every man has his own religion.”

–Mohammed (as cited by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

***  “I can resist anything, except temptation.”

          –Oscar Wilde

****The reference is to E. E. Cummings’ poem panegyric to the pacifist (“I sing of Olaf”)

***** Interestingly there is a subsect of Sufis in Turkey’s Anatolian Plateau that evinces an intense interest in the Virgin Mary.

****** Go fiqir!  We Sufis were taught a trick for deciding an important life issue. It was called “fiqir.” In that, one imagines the breath as a playground swing with inhaling and exhaling at opposite ends of the described arc. We were told to keep that in mind while thinking of the important decision. And if while contemplating the proposed course of action the breath faltered, then that was a sign it was not a desirable thing.  And here’s the humiliating part: I couldn’t even maintain the swinging. My perverse mind would step in and immobilize it and I’d be stuck motionless at the bottom of the arc!

Eric, Who Believes in Jesus

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My drawing of the Virgin Mary

*(see footnote below)

 

 

New Start—271

Jesus and My Bicycle Hiawatha

When I was eight
I went out for little league
The first day when it was my turn at bat

I couldn’t see the ball
Could and couldn’t
Because for something I couldn’t see

It sure was scary
Steerike one!
Steerike two!

Steerike three!
Yer out!
(You pathetic little wimp)

But when I played Lucy in right field
He went too far
He called me sleeping Jesus

I could no longer feel insulted
I was a Jesus fan
Jesus and my bicycle Hiawatha

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

When I left off last time (in this series of biographical sketches) I was with my three brothers back with our father and his second wife. He’d never had a lot of independent desire to live with us (e. g. never fought for custody when my mother was having us declared wards of the court, on our way to orphanages and stuff like that) But later he married a couple of Aunt Pollys who were determined to civilize us.

The first time was better than the second.

Barbara was the first, an impressive lady who had the presence of Lauren Bacall. She was a bigshot in the Campfire Girls organization and every summer we were with them (two or three? My father had a high burn rate wife-wise.) we went with her to their deserted High Sierra camp Waswaygon. Or so it sounded phonetically. It was an old Indian name. I forget what for.

We didn’t get to meet any girls though. But Barbara did post in the dining hall a group photo of us volunteer boys shoring up a log bridge across a creek.

The principal trouble with Barbara was she had baggage. She had a son named Robby about Robin’s age (two years younger than I). He was spoiled rotten.**

Back to Barbara. She still took naked baths with Robby. ‘Nuff said.

Except for the time when we were to be punished from one of Robby’s lies, and so she took Robby out to dinner leaving our dad instructions that we were not to have any.

So when she left, we said to Dad, “You know don’t you that Robby is lying?”

He allowed that to be so.

So next question what’s there to eat in the fridge? And he said no he was honor bound to enforce Barbara’s rule.

But he wouldn’t have any either.

But he probably snuck down in the wee hors d’oeuvres hours and raided the fridge. Just like he had done with my tootsie roll from a neighbor lady when I was four.

Perhaps you are sensing a lack of filial respect. Yes, my father was hard to like. In this particular time, living with Barbara, one episode stands out as a reason for my filial distance.

Jim at this time was fifteen and only two years short of being a starting lineman for a league champion football team.

And Jim never jumped through anyone’s hoops (I could tell you such school stories!) and so when he refused to obey my father, the latter, soon finding the idea of a belt laughable, was reduced to fists. (And my father when he was seventy could still do one handed push-ups.)

So it was like two people in a prolonged attempt to murder someone with fists.

Call me old fashioned, but I say if punishment has to go that far the game isn’t worth the candle.

I adored Jim.

Not sure that I ever forgave my father.

I think that fight was the death knell of our stay there. And indeed, the stars had gone dark in the skies of his wife’s eyes. And we got tired of these wives as well, especially the next one, the Nazi wife (not an exaggeration. I mean fire breathing John Bircher stuff). Stay tuned.

So after a year or so it was time to move on.

Fortunately by then Mom had hooked up with a Mormon lesbian lady***who was really into family and talked Mom into wanting us back. It IS interesting is it not, those times when just when you need it an earlier barred door opens, and leads on to a chain of adventures, the latest chapter of which leaves you smiling? Or at least, engrossed in interesting analysis. At least on a good day.

I call my life that, and in spades.

But can you imagine a good adventure story without danger and the struggle for hope?
 
 

It was a strange and not well remembered transition from friendly popular boy (I was class president in fifth grade) to chip on my shoulder atheist at age twelvish on. I would go up to people and ask if they believed in God and if they said yes, I would ridicule them mercilessly. Belittle their bird brains. Stuff like that. And I was pretty good at it. So good no one in high school ever crossed me, though I looked the nerd out of central casting.****

And just two years earlier I was begging my brothers to type me out stuff that Jesus had said in the bible and could they please use the red ink just like the bible did, for Jesus’ words?

You must remember these older brothers (three and four years older) were then my only friends. Especially if you define a friend as someone you might call to chat with after school, etc.

Nope.

No friends.

You know they say that military kids who are always moving from one fort to another, soon give up; they know any friends they make will soon rip their heart out again . . .

It used to drive me nuts every time I applied for a college (and I was fickle!) they would all want to know the dates and duration of every school I had ever attended. So I know. We moved just about every six months. At least between the orphanage and Grandma Dorothy (in high school)

So then atheist brothers start looking good. And it was a good mystical lesson, because it taught me a taste for challenge. I mean let’s see you try to keep the respect of older brothers who were eloquent and wielding rapiers of wit and they kept making fun of “Eric, who believes in Jesus.”

Funny I can’t remember the transition to atheism.

Or the transition from being nice.

Here’s my theory: betrayal and unkindness is just too ugly to look at. At least at first.

So it got it repressed.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I wanted to put up an illustration on a Jesus theme, and Sufi-self-servingly I chose a photo of my drawing of the Virgin Mary. I say Sufi-servinglyn because the Anatolian Sufis (albeit from Muslim extraction) were noted for their fierce regard for Jesus’ mother.

**My mother always denied any lesbian connections, though she lived for years (sleeping in the same bed) with a six foot tall 200 pound woman with a mustache. And I once had found a box of lesbian novels in the garage. But I had naively never thought of that, though years later I was talking to my debate partner best friend Ralph, saying as a champion debater (We won the Los Angeles tournament) he could make a case for anything. Like I bet he could make a case that my mother was a lesbian. How so, what was the evidence? I told him about the large lady friend and the box of novels and also the butch other friends that never came with men. Rough ladies with names like “Hoxie.” Ralph’s response? Sarcasm. “Oh you think I might make a case, do you?”

*****Just like Donald Lee in the orphanage, who would follow me and shove a sharpened shovel down just behind my bare heels (in the orphanage they didn’t always issue you shoes). Just like in the westerns when the baddies shoot at your feet yelling, “Dance!” Of course I was older and bigger and so I punched him out but predictably he then went crying to Mrs. Hunt the Wagnerian shotgun wielder, his Catherine the Great grandmother saying that I had hit him and when he was only being polite. And so I was sent to bed without Disneyland, the most feared punishment in those days.

But as you can see I have forgiven and forgotten.

****My mother worked in a sanitarium for rich people, working as a masseuse and all purpose what not. One of her clients was a rich widow who, hearing she had sons, gave her her husband’s antique tuxedo. The old fashioned kind with tails and a top hat. And a black ribbon down the outsides of the legs. The top was for a guy with a pinched-in chest, but the pants fit me perfectly. I proudly wore them to school thinking that was high class. (I had enough sense not to wear the hat)

Now ordinarily a guy who dressed like that in school would be the object of ridicule. But nobody dared make fun of me or attack me in any way. I was a verbal attack dog. I would give them a nickname that would haunt them in the halls. As I have hinted at, in this atheist period, I wasn’t very nice.

The Brass Tacks of Simple Truth

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Joan of Arc by Mathieu Stern

Joan of Arc by Mathieu Stern

PR3–53

A Shy God Pinned Down

“Your faith was strong, but you needed proof.”
–Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah)

Scientists demanding evidence
Of God’s existence may be good at a lot
But they’re not so keen on irony:
Even in their favorite realm of observation

Their own guy Heisenberg
Famously showed that just the observing
Compromises the variables sending
Such a thing to beyond any certainty

And yet they expect to nail God down
Wings extended like insect specimens
Why if God were a mere atom
As we’ve seen they still would fail yet

They expect a shy God pinned down would
Not just haul out a Houdini of some pin-wheeled
Galaxy escape leaving the learned gentlefolk
Clutching either air or ether

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle readers,

Last post (December 5, as I recall) was dedicated to a binary fusion of two issues, the first being the passing of the Buddhist Leonard Cohen, a favorite musician and songwriter. This was juxtaposed with the issue of the existence of God and disputes or speculations about that, facilitated by the Buddhist comparison in that Buddha never suggested there was a God. But (forgive me if I am oversimplifying this even to the point of erroneous opinions, and if so, I plead ignorance). And I mentioned how I thought it was probably because Buddha saw this as superfluous to the necessary understanding, and fraught with misinterpretations (e. g. the crusades, the Spanish inquisition, etc). Not to mention hypocrisy.

God is a good and golden thing, and can be suitably focused on by as Jesus would say, His fruits, as opposed to actually naming Him. Or Her, though obviously any God worth his ether would be beyond sexuality which is a form of duality, and God by definition is infinite, and thus has no opposite. But I say Him for convenience sake.

But I digress. (I should scrawl lipstick on a mirror saying stop me before I digress again!)

So good-bye to Leonard Cohen. You will be remembered.

And now, back to what was originally intended to be the main issue, proofs of the existence of God.

A favorite writer of mine is C. S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Perelandra trilogy, umpteen essays on metaphysics, and a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, of Lord of the Rings fame.

One of the main reasons I like him so much is he has presented a convincing proof of the existence of God. Which is a neat trick if indeed God would rather leave the matter up in the air. * It was read many years back, and so I can’t remember the exact work. I suspect either his God in the Dock, or The Case for Christianity. Though as I recall it wasn’t necessarily Christian-specific. (Which is a good thing, since though I tend to adore Lewis, I am put off by his Christian chauvinism. Especially annoying to a Sufi, Sufism having as it does, largely Islamic roots. I expect Lewis had no problem with Dante’s having put Mohammed in the innermost circle of hell. Which is ironic, because I heard a Sufi give a talk that claimed that in fact the Divine Comedy was largely lifted–read plagiarized–from a work of the Sufi poet Ibn Arabi, who of course, had placed Mohammed in Paradise.)

But as usual, I digress.

Of course Lewis’ proof was necessarily a matter of circumstantial evidence. I imagine not least because in all honesty I am having trouble imagining what God could offer (even if God unaccountably felt some necessity to kowtow to our presumptuously demanding, judging egos) to definitively prove the matter, a la in a court of law.

Eye witnesses? Not likely. God is famously invisible. Except of course by Joan of Arc,
(for a wonderful Leonard Cohen song about her, see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtwUyDPXROQ)

and that was merely the Virgin Mary. (and even that was never explicitly declared to be her identity) And why? A hint is in the bible, in Exodus, “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” **

That is usually taken to mean the sight would stop your heart. Stuff like that. As if God is scary looking. Inayat Khan of course refers to the ego as the referred-to thing living. In other words you must lose your ego to see God.

But more to the practical point, the very demand for a proof that is of this world, falsely presupposes that God is of this world.*** Or at least is at all restricted by this world, and as such any physical etc. sort of proof, would be perforce highly misleading, and would from God’s point of view, who wishes to emphasize His love aspect, highly beside the point, and dangerously confusing the issue of love with a power which can only persuade via a shock and awe more reminiscent of fireworks dancing in the air, or levitating pianos, the irony of which is this: these things even if vouchsafed would be nothing compared alongside the stupendous circus tent of the night sky, just for instance. And we don’t seem to be convinced on account of that.

And so, no, this incredible spectacle is not enough for the skeptics who want cheap tricks instead. Voltaire was the wiser one, an honest-to-God skeptic, by inclination, who nevertheless famously said, referring to the universe, “I cannot believe there can be a watch, but no watchmaker.”

To be continued, next post.
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

* Which is an interesting business. Because these naysayers and skeptics have forgotten one thing. What if God WANTS to keep people guessing, having a choice in whether to believe or not? What if God is leaving clues about which believers (like me) can and often do, point to. But always leaving some plausible deniability to satisfy skeptics if they were so inclined. Let’s put it this way. If we posit the existence of an all-powerful but modest God who wants to be seen only by those He can trust, don’t you think He could obfuscate the matter? Many clever criminals can cover their tracks, so isn’t it obvious a supremely clever God could cloud up all the evidence, leaving only the tell-tale smell of a divine rose? Something that would never stand up in a court whose judge was the left brain (as opposed to the heart)? Indeed, this was the point made by the Indian (Parsi, para precisar) mystic Meher Baba, in his interesting short essay, “God Is Shy of Strangers.”

**You can find this here: Exodus 33:20. But I believe in a sense this is true, and what inspired this poem (one of my most popular, apparently):

PR4–228
A Game God, Likes to Play

God reveals Himself out of the corner of your eye
Then when you turn and look
He’s gone

It’s a game God likes to play
Of plausible deniability
A game of stay away

Because if love could hurt it would not be love
And it’s not good for your eyes
To look into a welding torch

It’s not good for your body
To be in the center of the sun
It’s this distance that proves God’s love

And the sneaky game of teasing then disappearing?
It’s because God can’t help cheating a little
It hurts to be so far from one you love

***My favorite mystic, Meher Baba, (If you want to see why, read the About section at the top of my main page, which is accompanied by other choices, such as Poems–all mine, Stories, and Quotes) said that to expect to understand God with your mind is like expecting to see with your ears. The apt instrument for that, Baba said, is the heart.