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..:: Poetry ::..


Alan Schneider


           In today’s Post Modern, data-oriented world culture, the emphasis on communication has become directed solely toward the transmission of the greatest quantity of information possible, without much regard for the quality of either the information itself, or of the medium of expression used.  In times gone by, and perhaps not so distantly at that, the total expression of the communication was often much more present in the focus of consciousness, both for the sender and receiver of the message.  This essay explores some of the most esthetic, graceful communication of distant cultures, and ponders ways in which these qualities might be reinvested in the bleak mechanism of modern parlance. 

            In both the East, and the West, ancient cultures tended, at least among the learned classes, to support the poetic means of communication through the construction of rhymed, metered content that was frequently accompanied by tonal recitation – chanting or singing as the mediums of transmission.  This was the exclusive means of transmission of the Vedas (and, later, the Upanishads) for countless generations even before the written tradition of Sanskrit was developed by the Vedic Seers and Rishis. The content of the texts was arranged into verses and sung from father to son as the means of transmission, frequently of great volumes of text that were nonetheless memorized in this fashion by generation after generation.  In the west, the ancient Hebrew scholars did much the same thing, a tradition that is still seen in the practices of many Conservative and  Orthodox Jewish households, in which the father sings the verses of the Torah before meals, and at other spiritually significant occasions, and the sons are expected to learn the verses themselves to carry forth the tradition, and Rabbis also will sing the Torah during Temple services. Some phases of Western opera also continue to pay homage to this esthetic, through the voices of actors, and the frequently poetic meter of the written content, although this activity is heavily slanted toward the learned and wealthy patrons present in society’s upper strata. 

            When the written text of both Sanskrit and Post-Babylonian Hebrew was introduced as the means of recording the spiritual insights contained in the ancient poetic communications, something was gained in terms of the universal availability of what was offered through written content, but lost in terms of the lyrical beauty of what was given vocally to the intended recipients. To read, even in the ancient symbol systems, what is contained in a spiritual message is not even closely expressed in comparison to being in the presence of an Ascended Master, a devoted Rabbi, or even a loving parent, who is singing or chanting the spiritual essence of the teaching in person.  Sanskrit as a written language has some forty characters (as opposed to modern English, with twenty six), making it a functionally perfect language in the opinion of most linguistic scholars, having a character corresponding to virtually every sound of which the human vocal apparatus is capable. And the character design of classical Sanskrit is also most esthetically appealing, being both pleasant of graceful in form, however, the removal of the verbal and lyrical context leaves behind what is essentially an archeological artifact – useful as a mechanism of recording, but lifeless as an expression love, grace, and joy. Even the dedicated efforts of Ezra (the Hebrew Babylonian scribe who so impressed Cyrus the Great of Persia that he was given both the funds and political support to reestablish the ancient Hebrew city of Judea) to recreate the Hebrew written and spoken language in the modern Aramaic/Assyrian characters still in use, resulted in another system of artifacts. These subtle concepts can only really be personally transmitted from the living to the living in the poetic, lyrical context to genuinely experience what they imply for our human consciousness as paths of spiritual development.  By all means, yes, do read the ancient wisdom, in whatever language you may be capable of understanding, and if in the original, so much the better, but know that much is still absent. 

            The few examples cited here are, of course, only this author’s choices among many present in ancient, and not so ancient, history. The modern world has produced literally tons of popular songs of all kinds as well, but most of these do not concern themselves with spiritual subject matter per se. It is the specific story-telling of extended spiritual texts in esthetically heightened form that is our focus here. Such epics as the ancient Greek Iliad and Odyssey of the poet Homer, or the Asian Kublai Khan simply do not seem to be produced any longer in contemporary society, musicals like West Side Story or The Sound of Music notwithstanding.  

            The trend toward mechanization and automation in society began with the advent of the Machine Age, arguably placed approximately two hundred years ago with the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney.  The financial advantages to the Southern cotton plantation owners of such a device were rapidly appreciated, and spurred investigation of other mass-production oriented possibilities.  It would seem that there resides within the human consciousness a deep-seated dissatisfaction with any form of status quo situation – we must continue to forge ahead and develop all the avenues of involvement available to us. Certainly, the blind greed and ignorance associated with the unsophisticated ego serve to drive this condition, but I feel there is more to the picture than that.  Even when we turn away from ego involvement in such Eastern esthetic practices as meditation, and successfully attain the peak experiences known to be resident in such techniques, the restlessness referred to here remains. It appears that there is an inherent drive to discovery that is endemic to the human organism, although displayed to different extents on an individual basis. When we came to know ourselves, we simultaneously came to know our dissatisfactions with ourselves.  

            When science, and the scientific method of investigation, were incorporated in the burgeoning Machine Age, the trend toward the rote mechanization of human awareness was drastically accelerated, enabling the vast populations currently in evidence around the world to survive and procreate, and this despite two World Wars, and countless other military actions and social calamities in recent history. As is frequently the case, increase in literal quantity has been accompanied by functional decrease in esthetic quality – although we how live longer, and superficially better, we have largely lost the sense of who and what we are that can only be provided by spiritual, esthetic practice, investigation, and, most importantly, celebration.  That we have come this far as a conscious species should be celebrated, and not only at the upper levels of culture, but everywhere.  The question is how to advocate and practice this observance – through superficial material frivolity, or through the renewal of the kind of deep personal contact of Cabalist and Hindu antiquity. 

            What we need is the reconstruction of spiritual rite and ritual at the grass roots of society – father to son, mother to daughter, spiritual mentor to aspirant – at the most personal level attainable.  What we need is the revitalization of Post Modern culture through the reconstitution of our bond with higher consciousness and the Truth of Consciousness – the reaffirmation that we are all One Being manifest in many expressions – from the essence of nature and the natural world to the Soul and the Logos. The creation of contemporary rites of affirmation and celebration are the keys to this transformation of consciousness. And these rites need by far to be esthetic as the first measure of their content – beautiful, graceful, poetic statements of the highest sentiments that we can intuitively grasp and communicate. To a very large extent, the nineteen-sixties media philosopher, Marshall McClewan, was correct when he said “The medium is the message!”, because the means of transmission accounts for so much of message perception by the receiver.  The higher the vibration of the medium, the higher will be the vibration of the message.  

            For those of us working in English, as opposed to the beauty of Ezra’s Post-Babylonian Hebrew, or the descriptive potency of Classical Sanskrit, this poses a challenge.  English is a purposefully functional language developed over the centuries for the description of general categories of information – technical, legal, cultural, educational, and financial – but it is not particularly esthetic per se, and written English script certainly is not.  This is one reason why so much is lost in translation from Sanskrit to English – the twenty-six letter English alphabet is simply not up to the descriptive task of rendering the often subtle and sublime concepts of the Sanskrit Visionaries into equivalent terms. The best that can be hoped for is a crude translation that approximates the original meanings and intent.  The use of Old English of various derivatives helps somewhat, as in the case of Sir Edwin Arnold’s translation of the Bhagavad-Gita directly from the original Sanskrit text, but still falls short of the mark. Even a simple Sanskrit term like Dharma first, loses some sense of its meaning when written in English characters, then, confronts the individual who has managed to acquire a valid sense of the full implication of this expansive spiritual concept with the need to write paragraphs of English information to faithfully convey that implication to an English-trained reader.  Yet, this is the script that I must use, by dint of my personal limitations, to communicate to everyone. This has been a challenge!  

            The old adage “One picture is worth a thousand words!” is frequently very helpful in confronting verbal and written communication barriers. The visual portrayal of  content can often transcend the limitations of mere language. One needs no better example of this than the well-known visual representations of the Hindu Chakras or the Cabalistic Tree of Life. These beautiful diagrams of the developmental map of consciousness convey so much more than the words needed to elucidate their meanings! And when they are augmented with either the Hebrew or English script labels, the full meaning of the visual symbols present bursts forth in brilliant clarity. 

            Perhaps what we need most at this time in history is a New Temple of Consciousness for the emerging spirit of humanity, one that incorporates the full esthetics of all of the human senses in its form and manifestation. Not merely a building, or grounds, but a living message of Truth from the point of first contact onward – a repository of beauty and grace, both in the external material sense, and in the internal spiritual expression of the Adytum – Paul Foster Case’s term for the Inner Temple of the Heart and Soul of humanity.  

            In my humble way, and within the woeful limitations of written English, I have begun this process with A Prayer for Grace, the frontispiece of these newsletters, and if it is not poetry per se, it represents at least a trend in the right direction:


“O Thou Who Art Eternally Manifest As Divine Light, Perfect Love, and Limitless  

Wisdom, Guide me from Above, Protect me from Below, And Grant that all my

 Thoughts, Words, and Deeds Will Serve Thy Wondrous Design Forever!”


                                                                                - With Love, Alan -

                                                              (Copyright 2009, by Alan Schneider)


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