Sunday, June 22, 2008

Drawings from the Old Notebooks







Snippets from the Old Notebooks


Browsing through my old notebooks, I gathered together the following snippets:

And what if we were to shine our thoughts through a prism?

He would spend an entire afternoon trying to achieve a body posture that precisely reflected the thought patterns flitting through his mind.

Time was defeated, drained out some hole in the sky, where alternatively the void of space was allowed to seep in.

The broadening of the innerscape

The open sky left the earth unprotected.

That vague, endless imperceptibility.

He maintained an interstellar proclivity.

His insides shifted harmoniously with the slowly rotating superstorms of Jupiter. He peered at his earthly surroundings like a secret agent of the galaxy, his purpose long forgotten.

Dissolution Harmonics

And the child opens its arms to embrace the world, expecting the world to embrace it back.

I have destroyed the ground beneath my feet in order to discipline myself to learn how to fly. [Speaking of the Hurricane Period.]

Androgynous associations

Space-man Acrobat

Now squint at life as at a blaring sun!

I am strength, and I am weakness, simultaneously.

[Post-Hurricane Period:]There is nowhere to turn but backwards towards infancy, despite my continuous longing to march forward. When I finally let go, I feel innocent bliss. I look up to everyone with love and happiness, as if each stranger would offer me a piece of candy. At times, the joy makes it hard to breathe and I sigh an infant's ecstasy. But, where are my parents? The playground is still filled with monsters. The embrace, which every child needs so much, comes from the flicker of a candle's flame, from a ray of sunshine, or the water lapping in the bathtub. And with every embrace, I am pulled back still further towards infancy. It feels as if, in this manner, I can ultimately negate my birth.

It will take me a year perhaps to understand my new personality.

As a rule, there are no bones,
for bones are too rigid.
As a rule, there is no flesh,
for flesh is containment.
As a rule, there are no lies,
for lies cannot span
the stretch of infinity.

Lit candle after candle after candle to proliferate an abundance of light and shadow in the room, the radiant dance of multiplicity.

Beauty coiled about itself and produced Harmony

To find the mark of divinity in a simple act of understanding.

I like to set a limit to the number of buckets of blood I shed for the sake of art.

One must endure pain without suffering.

What is it about Time which holds Wisdom back till it feeds it ripe?

Alternating between the Lion's Roar, a sweet child, fear, and a softly crumbling death by sadness.

A cloudless sky, a looming void over the inhabitants of the city. The rhythms of nature only expressed themselves in soft gusts of invisible wind, derelict air gasping for permanence.

I am drinking in a bar. It is the vessel of a ship which is sinking. It does not matter that the exit leads right out into the street. We are submerged, and we are sinking with ever increasing speed. Tomorrow, when I awake, I will have lost yet another self to the water's depths.

"Do your figures lose body?"
"No," I said. But, he did not seem to react to the answer, upon noticing that he had become a little transparent. In sensing his embarrassment, I averted my eyes.

The ocean tells me I am a lie.

The need to huddle up in a narrow alley, a fissure in the mind.

Time became resonant.

I have kept over two hundred diaries, all in parallel, with zero entries each.

Woke up dancing to the waltz of a dream.

I am a weak yet monstrous creature who sits cuddled about itself in the farthest proximity of a corner, hoping that the walls would let in a little further. And if I were to use my sharp claws to defend myself, I would only resolve, in mid-swing, to puncture my own flesh, and moreover to reopen the freshest wound.

"I do not understand." If only the night air would accept these words and absorb them. Instead, they bounce back lifeless and empty.

At times, a feeling of great sadness overtakes me right before it begins to rain. It is similar to the enormous psychological pressures I sometimes experience just before the break of dawn. The sensitivity of the artist lends no mercy.

It is difficult to live wisely because wisdom tells you that Truth is bound to movement.

Wisdom has found me superfluous and thus fled.

When even a plain white wall has character, looks at you, smiles at you, then you know life has a lot to offer.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

So Spoke the Eye - A Collection of Photographs and Artwork

The picture above has always been especially enigmatic to me. I took the picture without paying too much attention during one of my nocturnal wanderings through the city. I am not sure if the furry figure was indeed a dog or just some furry, inanimate object. The ambiguity creates an internal oscillation between two vastly contrasting interpretations of the image, one of a dog, with all the meaning and life that a dog represents, and the other a non-descript object of abstract form.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Prelude to a Coincidentia Oppositorum - A Mandatory Scribble

I felt somehow obliged to publish a post of the notes below that I jotted down last night. Their relationship to the previous post, in the way one references the other but as if from a different dimension, is not dis-similar to the relationship between a dream and an associated waking experience, although both posts have dream-like qualities. Is the relationship to the previous post truly meaningful and harbors the potential for knowledge, or am I seeing too much into it? Well, this sounds like the dilemma one typically experiences when interpreting a dream, and how we feel more and more out of touch with a dream the further we psychologically travel back into our waking lives...

Out with a friend.

"Ah yes, Kafka. A great beginning."

The remark withdrew into a crack in the wall.

(And so the fire subsided.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Withdrawal

A child sat before a pond.

The mountain - its dark, barren rock painted white by snow in patches, its massive bulk majestic against the backdrop of a deep, deep clear sky blue - could not be seen except as a reflection in the pond.

The child gazed fixedly at the mountain, and without removing its gaze, slowly stood up, walked toward the pond, and in one swift motion dove in, back first, having twisted gracefully in the air.

The world now inside out, the child suddenly found itself standing upright and straight, on the other side of the interface.

Its body elongated with a ripple, its head towered above the mountain, the neck swayed back and forth, the legs like tall trees danced slowly in the wind. It peered down far, far below at its feet, which were still immersed in the water of the pond at the toes.

Slowly the child retreated; it withdrew further and further away from the pond and as the final drops of water dripped off its skin, its entire body grew more and more gigantic. The mountain was now like a tiny crevice in the ground.

The child took one step forward and plummeted outward from the earth, growing till it became everything and thus altogether disappeared.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Writer's Sketchbook - April - June '08

Just as a painter's sketches are at times especially appealing due to their playful spontaneity, so can a writer's marginal notes possess a raw vitality that beckons exploration. The following collection of disparate notes are the byproduct of writing a number of essays and short stories over the last few months. While most of these snippets are simply islands of thought that could not find their place in my larger projects, some are the coming to a form of closure on difficult concepts through the soft precision of poetics. Others are like tiny portals to new avenues of thought that will most likely materialize over the next few weeks, months, or even years.

Her features were thrown asunder. Her smile propagated, began to revolve around the room.

Within the circumstance, there is only enlightenment. But, we are always standing on the outside peering in.

To mimic life is to bestill it.

Find the question to this answer:
"Because your body cannot speak this form of wind."


I sit at the interface between two worlds. Pondering the reflections.

I ponder the thought of pondering only to find the thought in the shadow of itself.

The thought in the shadow of itself.
The thought in the shadow of itself.

Reflections like a tide.

I live within a tiny speck on the magnifying glass.

Earth Diminutive

Always, always, always, there is the melancholy before the birth.

The deep blue of dusk permeates the house.

And I have withdrawn into a vague siren that threads through the night.

The Distribution of a Progression

Always to return to the bookstore, to leaf through the books, only to find nothing, to feel the rising sense of despair, to begin searching frantically, and then finally to let go and give up, for it is my own book that I seek.

A dream can indeed be interpreted, but the heart of its mystery can never be plumbed. So is the case with a synchronicity.

An enigma opens a gateway, presents a passageway which ever deepens till depth loses meaning.

And were my wings to be clipped would I not simply fall upwards?

The logician says:
For the sake of happiness - for is happiness not important? - let Truth come more slowly so that one is not devoured by it.

The artist says:
The magician speaks with the speed of lightning. It is like the worshiping of the winds.

Enigma is a cloak of protection.

Enigma is the artist's avenue towards mysticism. The artist who crafts an enigma potentiates a mystical experience in his work, to be actualized by an audience through psychological resonance and abandoning the self to an uncritical appreciation of the work.

I am now imperceptible.

The spiral is a booming trumpet.

Perhaps. Perhaps, the intellect would be adequate were it omni-articulate.

An alternative introduction to Kafka, Enigma, and Mysticism:
This post is at once an essay and a homage to Kafka. Similar to how his two most prominent novels The Trial and The Castle were left unfinished when he died, this work is also presented in its incomplete form, not out of a desire to emulate Kafka but because I arrived at the inevitable conclusion that any analysis of his work cannot, and is even obliged not to be, complete. Otherwise, the reader is falsely lead to a sense of closure about his writing. Thus, the more fragmented and even self-contradictory my writing is presented, the more I remain true to my admiration of his writing. Indeed, just as the greatest responses to Zen koans have been equally enigmatic and defiant of reason, I believe there is no way to truly talk about Kafka than in responding to his fiction with more fiction. "Logic Dies, I am Sorry" is a short story I wrote while struggling with this post. It is perhaps my real essay.

For, to stumble upon myself in the darkness...there is nothing more frightening.

I would expect my fiction to be taken seriously, although there can be found no answers therein, and my essays and their "answers" to be taken with a grain of salt, if not immediately mutilated in order to see if they withstand the test.

And then the nighttime lay dusk on its shoulder.

The shadow playing on the wall is your great-grandfather pleading to come to your aid!

How I would have loved to declare the following to my boss:
"To me, what I worry about are the archetypal patterns at play in this endeavour."

An often overlooked, yet significant, aspect of spiritual advancement is the reaching towards a finer granularity of one's insights.

One can view the positive path (of unconditional love and acceptance) from a purely mechanical perspective. You may have every excuse in the world to be pissed off at someone. But, it doesn't matter. The negativity will still weigh you down. "The sin is forgiven before it is committed", such an attitude is inevitable.

Tidbits of thought, merrily blows the night air.
Marginal to be sure, almost parenthetical, yet varied in scope, like the outstretched arms of Atlas.

In enigma craftsmanship, the avenue to infinity must be setup and protected. There should be no dead end closure to any idea.

Always utilize life in its entirety!

I appreciate everything.

...And so the tears may suffice. So the tears may suffice...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Were I to Finally Arrive...

Were I to finally arrive at the temple to meet with the Zen master, I would most likely drop to the floor and fall asleep at the very instant our familiar smiles greeted each other. There I would lay huddled for many days and nights till the curvature of my body resembled perfectly the special roundness of the moon. Upon awakening, I would stand up slowly, my eyes faded inward and gray, the fingers of my two hands interlocked behind my back forevermore. Thus I would be lifted by the monks to a tower balcony, to dissolve into the night by the break of dawn...And I shall resurface briefly as the nameless gestures of a thousand-folk unconsciously moving in unison. The fleeting breeze of life whistles its esoteric tune.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Enigmantra

Many years ago, in me sparked the desire to write a book, a novel. The characters and scenarios began unfolding in my head. But, as I busied myself writing paragraph after paragraph, I started feeling the need to write in a more terse manner. I saw my work shrink and over time the entire book was reduced to the following two words: "Ocean Ghost". My work was complete, the book was finished. In no way could I add a single word.

Over the years, most of my fiction of the poetic kind would go through a similar diminution, a compaction that prompted me to call this type of writing "crystallized literature", which is also befitting for, just as one handles a crystal, it is well to closely (but not analytically) scrutinize these tiny, literary parcels of thought, and to shine the light through them from various angles. The term still applies but the style of writing has for me taken on more meaning.

I found that concentrating on these small phrases that I constructed helped me reach higher states of mind and thus I now playfully call them "enigmantras". Similar to zen koans, they are typically not meant to be decipherable by the intellect and yet they can be intriguing. In addition, they are either poetically enigmatic or they simply possess the power of sparking the imagination in a way that evokes a sense of beauty, sacredness, and/or ethereality.

I present some of these "enigmantras" below. The sequence is unimportant, although they can play off each other. I recommend not trying to analyze their meanings, but living with the words in your intuitive realms.

Twilight Absorption

The Embrace of a Cosmic Flux

A Spectrum Discharged

The Luminous Floods

The Voyage Behind a Nameless Gesture

To Conjugate Existence

The Color of Twilight Supercedes the Eye

The Sudden Illumination of an Inner Metropolis

Obscured by a Windscape

Poignant Light

Jovial Heartbeat

An Undefined Sunrise

Time's Condensation

Where Shadows Shine

The Visual Matrix of a Capsized Dream

Burst Meadow

The Holographic Pivot

The Immeasurable Distance of Shadow

Archetypal Flora

Reduction Symphonic

Color Reversal Anatomy

Motion Wings Distributed

What is enigmatic to one person may not even be slightly interesting to another. I would be interested to see if anyone else out there resonates with the above words like I do. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated, as always...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Kafka, Enigma, and Mysticism

Those who have embarked on a spiritual path may or may not recognize specific individuals who have helped them jump start their inner adventure. My early spirituality was not at all influenced by Eastern philosophy or New Age writings, at least not directly. Instead, it was solidly rooted in the realm of modern art, music, and literature, with the idea firmly planted within me from a young age that I will be climbing up "the other side of the mountain."

My first spiritual guru was not a figure like Krishnamurti or the Buddha; it was Franz Kafka. He was what I would call one of the godfathers of enigma craftsmanship. Some of my earliest and most memorable altered states of consciousness came as a result of dream-wading my way through the mystery corridors of his writing. The enigmas he presented, coupled with the sense of purity and human warmth in his writing - or perhaps just his highlighting the beautiful and mysterious aspects of being human and accentuating them to the nth degree - opened doors that eventually led me down the path towards my mystical experiences.

Since Kafka's time, there have been quite a number of artists of many mediums that focused on the enigmatic side of creativity. Names such as Harold Pinter, David Lynch, the Brothers Quay, and Francis Bacon are but a few. One can argue that they've gone to far greater lengths than Kafka in this regard. And yet, as is usually the case, the early pioneers of a specific style or genre tend to breathe an unusually strong sense of life into it, with a purity that remains memorable and worthy of exploration throughout many generations.

To be profoundly moved by a mystery which can neither be explained nor scrutinized by the intellect, this is the proper form of an enigma. Some enigmas point to insights which lie just beyond the horizon of conscious understanding, and poetics can also come in such a form. Yet, the true enigma stubbornly shies away from conscious analysis while retaining its intense sense of profundity. One can circle about it with ideas, but to plumb and articulate its depths is not possible. One is moved, deeply moved, yet without knowing exactly why.

What does enigma have to do with spiritual awakening? It kindles the spirit to life with wonder. A powerful enigma is a slingshot into the Unknowable. There, with our eyes closed and our hearts fully observant, we behold the touch of infinity. Beckoned by awe and wonder, the yearning to grow and evolve unfolds. We return to our daily lives feeling enriched, albeit in a vague way, having briefly visited with the mystic inside of us.

The Art of Enigma Craftsmanship

Kafka's writing, in its more magical moments, typically held a certain level of fidelity to poetic obscurity, so that the intellect had nothing to which it could cling too strongly when it came to the enigmatic parts of the story. The conscious, analyzing self is put to rest to a large degree and mysteries are crafted into being with a sense of unapproachable purity. Today, nearly a century after his death, one commonly finds a written summary of his work which states that much of his writing was open to endless interpretation. From my perspective, this is the essential mark of Kafka's genius; that his tales forever escape the slice and dice and the compartmentalization of logic.

In a similar manner to how the intellect can only circle around an enigma and can never penetrate its depths, the main character in the Castle, in his endless attempts to approach the castle in the middle of the city, finds the act to be ever more difficult. Likewise, K. in The Trial can never get to the heart of the Law in order to resolve his case, whose details are never explained. Both books mirror the reader's own inability to find a concrete interpretation of the mysteries they present. While it seems like metaphors are at play, so that whatever seems out of the ordinary becomes a beckoning riddle, and while at times it feels like the deepest wisdom is being communicated, one can at most describe the tales as dream-like and any further interpretation usually comes with the feeling of having explained too much.1

In a letter from Kafka to the publisher of Metamorphosis, the story of a man whose body had transformed into that of a giant insect, he wrote about his concerns over the book's cover: "the insect itself is not to be drawn. It is not even to be seen from a distance." Why? Such a statement suggests his concern over retaining a handle on what is to be rendered concrete and what is to remain obscure and ambiguous.

If one compares the art of writing fiction with the art of making a film, one of the essential differences is that a writer has the advantageous ability to describe, and thus render concrete, only those details which s/he finds necessary to communicate, leaving the rest up to the reader's imagination. A film, on the other hand, typically has little choice but to present a character or a scene in its entirety. As soon as a character's face is shown on the screen, the ears, the mouth, the eyes, the nose, the cheekbones, the hair, all is presented at once. In writing a story, the writer begins with a blank slate, the world is a mystery, and every word is carefully chosen to gradually construct the scene. In this manner, much of the elements of the story are held ambiguated until they are described, if they are described at all.

In crafting an enigma through writing, this negative space is purposefully utilized to keep that part of the story which is mysterious vague and undefined, as much as it needs to be for the enigma to be presented with full force and for the subtleties to come forth unclouded by unnecessary distractions that the intellect is bound to latch onto.

There is a balancing act between defining too much and keeping too much obscure, and this balance is superbly demonstrated in Kafka's writing. While obscurity is useful to keep the intellect at rest and encourages an enigma to be appreciated in the intuitive realms, the true master of enigma does not purposefully obfuscate her/his ideas just to be obscure. This would violate the laws of reason. Obscurity without meaning creates confusion and is relatively fruitless. There is no reason for enigma to contradict the natural order of conscious thought; reason and enigma can live harmoniously in parallel. In this area Kafka shone, for his writing would always tread that fine line between falling over the edge of obscurity and retaining the purity of the enigmatic aspects of his stories.

Being aware of this fine line is not easy and what makes it even more difficult is the varying reactions different people have towards the type of mystery which is unapproachable. Several people who have watched David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, for example, told me that they felt Lynch was simply messing with their heads in the final (dreamy) section of the movie. I personally do not agree, but this highlights the potential downsides of presenting an enigma to an audience. The intellect, as soon as it distrusts a work's integrity with respect to meaning and worth, works overtime to demystify the enigma being presented rather than letting go and appreciating the enigma in the intuitive realms.2

Similarly, many have brushed away Kafka's books because they were "too difficult to read" and, again, this is because the intellect wants to make things concrete and to get to the bottom of the mystery, when in reality the value of Kafka's work is that it expresses the "unfathomable depths", as Kafka himself once described portions of his writings (found in "The Stoker").3

Intersection Point - Enigma in the Creative Arts and Koans in Zen

A koan is a concentration device used by students of Zen Buddhism which typically comes in the form of a story, question, or statement that defies or perplexes rational understanding. Koans are meant to be concentrated upon for long periods of time and they can sometimes be understood through intuition. Concentrating on a koan can lead one to an awakening or a state of enlightenment. According to D.T. Suzuki, "the idea is to unfold the Zen psychology in the mind of the uninitiated, and to reproduce that state of consciousness of which the statements are an expression."

An example of a koan that defies logic: "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Other examples can be enigmatic, such as "Not thinking of good, not thinking of evil - tell me, what was your original face before your mother and father were born?"

James H. Austin is a neuro-scientist who wrote a book titled "Zen and the Brain". He describes his experiences in Kyoto, Japan, in Zen meditation and his interactions with a roshi, a Zen master. He was given a koan to ponder by the roshi and after a number of months when he had to leave Japan, he confessed his disappointment in his lack of progress. The roshi replied: "Stay with the koan itself. Break down through the where of the koan, and it will open up."

He illustrates. He points down and in, extending both arms into a long V. But at the bottom, he leaves a gap of three inches or so between the tips of his outstretched fingers on both sides. "A deep valley of the mind will open up like this," he explains. "Once you've gone through one of the experiences, a valley is cut in the mind, and it will stay open. Go into that opening...Keep on going like a train in a tunnel, and you will finally reach the daylight at the other end."

In earlier posts, including "Black Holes and the Art of Transformation", I discussed how the letter "X" can be interpreted as a symbol of transformation. I first became interested in exploring this symbol when I started hallucinating it on a regular basis whenever I closed my eyes beginning around a decade ago. By that time, my life was centered largely upon the mechanics of reaching higher states of mind and the object of the game seemed to revolve around going up through the center of the "X", from the bottom middle part through the tiny center and out the top. When I read Austin's book, I was startled at how similar was the roshi's description of coming to an understanding of the koan as going into a valley of the mind in the shape of a V and reaching enlightenment on the other side.

How does this valley of the mind come into being? Through meditation, one can clear the clutter of conscious thought so that there is no ripple in the pond of consciousness. The stillness spells regularization and concentrating upon a single point of focus causes a regularized bending of the mind towards that point of singularity just as a black hole warps the space-time around it inviting all neighboring objects to get pulled in.

With respect to working with a koan, the combination of concentrating on a koan and the baffling of conscious thought into a meditative quietude due to the koan's contradictory nature produces a single-pointed state of mind with a high degree of regularization. In this manner, transformation occurs; as a valley of the mind opens up, it is my theory that the movement in consciousness through this tunnel becomes at some point automatic, just as how the warping of space-time around a black hole generates the gravity effect that pulls all objects into its center. (There are many parallels between the nature of space-time and the way consciousness moves over time (see earlier posts) and this is but one of them.)

Similar to the act of probing a koan, an audience appreciating an enigmatic work of art or literature opens up a valley in the mind. The profundity of an enigma produces a yearning to understand the mystery behind it and this serves to accentuate one's purity of concentration. The impossibility of conscious understanding, outweighed by the intrigue and the yearning to understand, stills the intellect, especially if the rest of the work surrounding the enigma is kept vague in poetic obscurity. One's state of mind becomes empty of the intellect's distracting thoughts just as during meditation. A regularized bending of the mind towards the enigma produces movement in consciousness through what I like to call the "Enigma Chute". If the intensity of the transformation experience is high, one finds oneself in the mystery-realm of the Unknowable, the world alive and full of wonder.

Addendum - Kafka Koans

While there is no evidence that Kafka studied Zen, he has some quotes which possess a remarkable level of similarity with koans. I am currently in the middle of writing another post that explores this topic, in addition to his relationship with the Coincidentia Oppositorum found in the Kabbalah. In the meantime, here are some examples of "Kafka koans":

"My life is a hesitation before birth."

"The history of mankind is the instant between two strides taken by a traveler."

"The Messiah will not come until he is no longer necessary; he will not come until one day after his arrival"

"It is comforting to reflect that the disproportion of things in the world seems to be only arithmetical."


1. Of all the essays on this blog, this one has been the most difficult to write. I have been working on this essay for over a month now and the closer I got to (understanding) Kafka, the more difficult it was to write about his work from an intellectual perspective. I was tempted time and time again to stop trying, for the fiction writer in me had surfaced instead. Indeed, the only way one can write about Kafka and do his work justice is through fiction, just as some of the best documented responses to koans themselves defy reason. "Logic Dies, I am Sorry" is a story I wrote as a result of laboring on this essay, and it initially surfaced in my mind as some kind of sequel to "The Castle", where the Distinguished Gentleman is an heir of the land surveyor position, only he is depicted as a lecturer instead. The "sphere of noise" in the story threatens to destroy the ideas in this very essay and as I type these very words now I feel my inner being in a state of revolt. As Kafka himself once said: "No more psychology!"

2. I find it unfortunate that while David Lynch has proven to be remarkably talented and influential in depicting dream-like and unapproachably enigmatic states on film, his use of fear and other related elements of negative orientation render the effects of his film rather weak when it comes to positive spiritual transformations in the audience. His talent, as he has especially proven in "Inland Empire" is quite remarkable and were he to devote his work more to the light instead of the darkness, he will most likely introduce the experience of enlightenment to many of his viewers, and thus he holds a great potential power in his hands. As it stands, the mystical experience simply does not jive with the dark side, except perhaps for those whose evolution has taken them very far in the negatively oriented direction. Same goes for Francis Bacon before him.

3. Interesting stories of Kafka that demonstrate enigma craftsmanship include "Before the Law", "The Knock at the Manor Gate", "The Cell", "The Spring", and the last chapter of "The Trial", amongst many others, including Kafka's diaries, which can be quite exceptional.