"Each individual," write Joseph Campbell, "is the centre of a mythology of his own, of which his own intelligble character is the Incarnate God, so to say, whom his empirically questing consciousness is to find."1 For Baha'is, it seems to me, this Incarnate God is the God within "mighty, powerful and self-subsistent." It is the "know thyself," from Delphi. This centre of mythology is also an unfolding of convictions derived from the effects and expression of experience, the imprintings of infancy and our peculiar and private worlds. This is what Campbell calls our "mythogenic zone." It is our interior life and its communication with others. The poem below explores the negative side of the process across our global society. -Ron Price with thanks to Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology, Viking Press, 1968, p. 93.
This poetic writing aims
to let the Word resound
behind words1 seemingly
endless words where
my mythogenic zone
is especially informed
by the metaphorical nature
of all of physical reality,
Baha'i history no less
and lived experience.
My innermost need
to express has its place
in my shaping of self
in my particular form
And a growing impoverishment
of symbols, spiritual poverty,
symbol-lessness fills the land,
liquidating our past,
with bleak substitutes.
A bland barrenness reaches
all the way to the stars
and history becomes a nightmare
of complex, anarchic confusion,
uninterpreted, unassimilated, alien,
and: a Waste Land fills their place.
1 ibid.,p. 93.
2 Frederick Neitzsche wrote that "for art to exist there is a physiological prerequisite: intoxication." Twilight of the Idols, quoted in Campbell, p.355.
10 February 2002
(updated for eHealth Forum
Myth works when you know what it is about, when it says something to you because it says something about you. We must become mythic as a species if we are to survive. The great individuation of cultures each based on their historic and for the most part religiously oriented myths must lead, through an emphasis on their similarities, to a planetization of mankind. For all things are one; the hero has a thousand faces, a unity in diversity. Myth is like a force field; it unfolds and calls forth our own special genius and is the basis of our understanding of our world, ourselves and our own transformation through lifeâs inevitable trials and tribulations.-Robert Siegel discussing Joseph Campbell on "The Spirit of Things", ABC Radio National, 17 January 1999, 6:05-7:00 pm.
You popularized an attitude, an understanding,
of myth with a remarkable consistency with that
universal myth that has captured my heart-mind
in this post-war world. (1) I have been redesigning,
retooling this protean self and losing myself, giving
myself, expanding myself around this mythic base,
this essence, this core,where a yearning, pathos,
has produced a sweetness,dulce, settling in, an
abundance scooped up, an updraft, scooped up,
with a bliss quotient that is inestimable, indefinable.
But there is always the work, the giving, always
more, a doubling of effort, a fatigue, a mystery,
a sadness, a tension, a working out of the myth
in my own life, in its individuality-collective identity.
17 January 1999
1 Joseph Campbell is the great popularizer of myth in the post-war period, beginning with his first book The Hero With a Thousand Faces(1949). There are many similarities between Campbell and the Bahaâi concept of myth, certainly a great deal that has been useful to me.
From 1959 to 1968, in the first nine years I was a Baha'i, Joseph Campbell published his four volume study of mythology "The Masks of God." He said he found the process a richly rewarding enterprise and it confirmed his long entertained view that there was a unity to the human race. He said this unity has unfolded in the manner of a single symphony and that it is now advancing to some kind of mighty climax out of which the next great movement will emerge.
He wrote that the study of myth inspired poetry, that is helped people see their lives as a poem and themselves as participants in that poem. Twenty years later, in the late 1980s, a book and a six hour series of interviews with Joseph Campbell was produced for television on "the power of myth." I have tried to convey some of Campbell's ideas in the following poem, a vahid. My own poetic opus draws on Campbell's study of myth and a multitude of other sources.-Ron Price with thanks to Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Frontpage.
To find the point of wisdom
is, for each of us,the prime
question of our time. From
then on its an adventure
following a road map to and
in the inner life where His word,
His myth, His history as metaphor,
will help us to take the greatest leap
forward ever, with an experience of
meaning, an inner meaning to outer
events that will blast the stone that
is our lives so strongly that it will be
as smooth as glass and like limpid
water will produce a coll and ease
filled life within which we can WORK.
For it is all one great meditation,
one great connection with the planet
in these dark times where the eye
has begun to see, eternity unfolds
in front of us in His sweet-scented
streams and our souls rise up like
the evening star and will one day
join all the other stars in a blaze
of glory far beyond the black holes.
Here is another road map from the Beat poet Kerouac of the 1950s and 1960s....Ron in Tasmania
In the 1950s and 1960s there were evolving etymologies for the word beat. In "The Origins of the Beat Generation," originally published in Playboy magazine in 1959, the year I joined the BahÃÂ¡'ÃÂ Faith, the beat poet Jack Kerouac wrote that the word beat originally meant poor, down and out, deadbeat, on the bum, sad and sleeping in subways. He further noted that the word had gained an extended meaning connoting people who "have a certain new gesture, or attitude.Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½(1) Kerouac suffused the label with positive connotations, a move he later extended into giving "beat" a religious significance. The Beats were for a time, in this evolving etymology, saints in the making who were walking the Earth doing good deeds in the name of sanctitude, holiness and the beatific. There was certainly an element of this in the BahÃÂ¡'ÃÂ ethos of the Ten Year Crusade of 1953-1963.
Kerouac had at one stage claimed that "beat" was the second religiousness in Western Civilization that the historian Oswald Spengler had prophesized in his Decline of the West in 1918.(2) But, by 1965, he had changed this view of the beats, the beatniks, the counter-culture and, in fact, strongly denounced its entire ethos. By the mid-soaring sixties he had come to see that generation of dissent and dissenters as the very opposite of SpenglerÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½s second-religiousness. He called it Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½a soaring hysteria.Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½(3) -Ron Price with thanks to (1) Jack Kerouac, "The Origins of the Beat Generation," in Don Allen, ed., Good Blonde and Others Grey Fox Press, San Francisco, 1994, p. 61; (2) ibid., p.66 and (3) Ann Charters, ed., Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969, Penguin Books, NY, 1999, p. 464.
Your notion of Beat as a Spenglerian
second coming ended in a very bitter
whose apocalypse just never arrived.
You denied all political---collectivist
implications for the beats & beatniks.
You had used the term back in 1951 to
describe guys who ran around the land
and country in cars looking for jobs and
girlfriends, kicks and fun.You remained
an on-again off-again beat.....throughout
your life, flirting with many religions but
always infusing them with a dose of your
Catholicism to which you ultimately went
back for its order, tenderness and piety as
you put in in one of your many letters.....
The word "beat" had extended to cover
all of America by the end of the sixties
and most of the world..youngsters used
your On the Road as a search-roadmap.(1)
But you abdicated your status as King of
the Road as well as King of the Beats.(2)
(1) Jack Kerouac(1922-1969), On the Road, 1957.
(2) I thank Bent SÃÂ¸rensen for his: Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½An On & Off Beat: Kerouac's Beat Etymologies,Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½ in philament: An Online Journal of Arts and Culture, April, 2004.
2 January 2010
FIRING A POETRY INDUSTRY
My conception of poetry in my teens and twenties changed as I got into my thirties and when I came across the poetry of Roger White at the age of thirty-five I found something which I could completely connect with. It was a rejuvenating experience. I had known poetry which was so obscure as to be quite indecipherable; I had known poetry which bored me to death; I had known poetry that for many years seemed to have the ultimate effect of turning me right off the genre. I began writing poetry in my late teens and early twenties and into my mid-thirties, but not until my late forties did the experience really come alive for me. Much of my poetic writing had the style of improvisation. I wrote with my voice; for the most part there was an ease, a flow. I was what Robert Pinsky called an improvisatory poet.
There was an intensity in my poetry, in my philosophy, a poetry based on the cauldron of experience and the search for vivid fragments that would open doors of perception and conception. Perhaps this intensity was born in the shadow of the bomb, the cold war, in the fifties and sixties: the beats, Kerouac, Ginsberg, etc. when I was growing up, part of those times, those decades; perhaps it came from belonging to a religion which was nothing if it was not intense; perhaps it came from my relatively peripatetic existence which collected towns and people, that fired the cauldron of experience with enough vivid fragments to fertilize a poetry industry. -Ron Price with thanks to John Tranter, "An Interview with C.K. Tower," Riding the Meridian, The Internet, 18 November 2001.
I remember those strange lines,
shorter than most of the others,
so often obscure, quite beyond
my figuring them out and then,
in high school, the wet arm pits
and the anxiety over what does
it all mean, whatever does it mean?
It seemed to be a world beyond,
strange, unattractive, completely
without purpose, at least any
purpose I could connect with.
And then, after my brain got
and Roger White's verse
came into my life,
the whole picture changed.
Gradually, slowly, poetry
became a dominant force
in my life, a conduit
for my thought, my emotions,
my religion and all that was my life.
20 November 2001
Belated apologies for the above post which, for some readers, will be far too long for their internet, their literary, sensibilities. I will make an effort to post shorter posts in the future. I also tried to edit some of the words with apostrophies, but was not able to do so.--Ron Price, Tasmania