Sunday, December 26, 2010

Power Animals

From an interview with poet M. S Merwyn in the Buddhist magazine "tricycle"


The paintings in the Paleolithic caves? Those aren't art; they weren't there for an audience. Except the great halls, which were initiation places. But the tiny figures that were 25 feet up inside a cleft where nobody could ever see them, an animal that someone built in there? Those animals are part of the person who put them there, and that person came down knowing something, and this is the ultimate vision quest. And it didnt even begin with Cro-magnon man. We found five years ago in Southwest France a place quite near Lascaux with a history of it's own that has never been published because the scientist who discovered them- the government of France would not let him go on with his excavations. So he said "ok well I won' t publish my findings, then." And he hasn't. He's kept them going for years, and I talk to him on the telephone. What he found sixty feet down was a burial. It was not Cro-magnon. It was Neanderthal. It was probably, he thinks, 19,000 years older than Lascaux. (It) was a Neanderthal skeleton and beside it the skeleton of a bear. And the bear's legs and the mans legs were exchanged so that the man had bears legs and the bear had mans legs. And they were surrounded by fossil pollen. It was a ritual burial. That's a great scoop, and it hasn't even been published yet. But the reason i'm telling you this, is that this is already saying that the link between the imagination-which to me is the great pinnacle of humanity, the imagination that makes the arts and makes compassion- is in our species and goes way back. And it's never been separate. And when you get any aspect of the culture that tries to separate it, it's destructive and suicidal.

Take them away, names like Buddhism. I'm impatient with them. There's something beyond all that, beneath all that, they all share, they all come from. They are branches from a single root. And that's what one has to pay attention to. And of course the words in The Diamond Sutra that grabbed me were, when Tathagata (the Buddha) says, "boddi, does the Tathagata have a teaching to teach?" And Bodhisattva says," no, lord, Tathagata has no teaching to teach." At that point I got chills right down my spine.

And Tathagata says, " because there is no teaching to teach, it is the teaching." I thought this is it, you know. Here we go. I think that goes as far back as shamanism. I mean, what did those guys find up in those clefts? In the caves? There was no teaching to teach. They knew something, but they knew it from then on. And it was something distinct, and it was something to do with connection, with following, with what came before and after, and they couldn't express it in any other terms. But they were obviously guides to their people after that. Because you know, the animals that they were depicting were not the animals. I mean, they may have eaten a few of them. But that was not what it was about. It was about following, it was about the fact that these were the elders. They knew where they were going. The humans did not know where they were going.

2 comments:

Gardenia said...

Fascinating post.
I love vision quests. Sometimes have them in my study - in the night - or perhaps a journey - I found that one can make a vision quest - assemble a trip, a destination, the travel and a spiritual discovery. A psychedelic. I love it. I was once given a turtle in a dream as a totem. The past 3 -4 years the spirit of Raven is my companion - his icon sits over my easel, and his image resides on my leg. I don't know what it means entirely - but there is a kinship. My dog and I have unspoken communication. But I feel the same way about trees, putting my feet on the beach, or the side of a mountain, or standing on a cliff letting the wind blast in my face and push my body back like I'm going to fly any minute.....I'm wrapped up many times thinking of the whole symphony of creation and I wonder why everyone else can't see that symphony.
There are marvelous mysteries to be discovered yet! Ancient and those to come.

Candy Minx said...

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