Gurus Enough


Its not that there aren't gurus anymore. There are always plenty--or just enough to go around, perhaps. But now as the traditions say, we are in the Kali Yuga, the fourth of the great sequence, in which things speed up (ancient Pali symbol shown above). And so there is time enough to learn from gurus only for those who already have been able to extricate themselves from the centripetal pull of the vortex, as in the corruption at the center of cities, for those who are disengaged enough to pay full price for their teachings, that is in paying full attention, what must always be paid by those of us who cannot find comfort in the wishful thinking of an expectation of receiving total enlightenment by the agency of grace alone. And so we do not choose to learn by living at the feet of the master much anymore.

For many of us indeed we no longer think we have that which must customarily be given: some twenty years or so of totally giving the time of day, in a sense of prerequisite, enabling one to initiate a program of study in which it is to our advantage to pay attention--as it were, we must first give so as to be allowed to pay. It is the nature of formal systems (of reckoning or of instruction, of calculi or of construction): that which is not allowed is forbidden. We may not presume to use that which has not yet been formally introduced into the system. Only thus, in formal systems, are we able to keep track of what we imagine Ourselves to be doing.

If we were to go into the Swordsman's kitchen, would we not be dismayed to find the sharp boning knife cast into a pool of murky dishwater? A bread-slicer abandoned on the cuttingboard, smeared not with the blood of a victim who dared pique the samurai's wrath, but with blackberry jam--probably of the kind rendered seedless by Mary (a cup to a cup) Ellen and her crew in Salinas? The ten inch chef's knife, handle protruding, carbon steel point stuck down in the silverware strainer in the dish rack? No, no, no. For what would this say about the master and the way the master kept his house, transmitting in his daily being the sense of being ab­sorbed into the spirit of the sword, the fine edge, the sixty-three folds of forged steel forming the many layered metal, the spirit of elegant distinction?


One of the motives behind the Aeneid was the setting into the marked state an awareness of the proportions of the so-called Golden Section (above). This Professor Duckworth was to show by drawing attention to the mathematics underlying the construction of the poem. A demonstration, as an obvious m.o., objective and countable, and so a case to challenge the erstwhile bias against granting that the ancients had very much of an interest in or knowledge of mathematics. For alas, if we do not embody it, and make it real in the living, then we have missed the point. But the very denseness of our most immediate surroundings, the opacity of the real world adjacent baffles our radiance in all directions save inward.

The situation then comes about of one James Keys giving a manuscript to the printer with a clear set of indications on how the text is to appear when set into the form of type to be printed on the page. And the old problem of the pages in military manuals with the words in parentheses at the bottom of the page


which is, of course, self evidently false, whether it is descriptive or injunctive. And there comes a time when, in order to get on with it, we sacrifice our continuous watchfulness over faith to the form. Its not as though just any old type‑face would do--but at such a level of self-reference even the extraordinarily circumspect author kisses off the idea of perfection: realizing the thing made, such as the work of art, made all the way through. Whaddya gunna doo, ennyweigh?

California's Pomo were particularly adept at complex and highly artistic basket weaving.

California's Pomo were particularly adept at complex and highly artistic basket weaving.

Among the biases: the assumptions that primitive humankind was so long short on language. Well, ok, Greek was written down, put as it were into the marked state, about B.C. 650. And until Millman Parry came along everyone thought it must have just sprung full-blown into being as a formal language at that time, like "Here we are, and so what shall we call ourselves...I know, how about GREEKS?" "Then the way that we are speaking to each other must be in the Greek language!" But aha, there must have been centuries in which those particular formulae, those names of gods, those epithets, those rhythms became set--and when once written down, invention of a sort ceased. So too, Parry, with one of the first recording devices used in the field sought out the last of the Slavic bards, in the poignant irony of Edward S. Curtis among the Indians with his camera, or Levy-Strauss in the Tristes Tropiques. Just as civilization develops the awareness of what vestigial remnants of once integral cultures have managed to keep alive, together with some means of making a record, the last practitioners find that there are no more young people in the tribe interested in receiving the transmission of the teachings. The children of the potential lineage want to drive away in pickup trucks instead of learning Pomo basketry from the last living mistress of the craft--until she, in desperation turns to the renegade white who have sought her out.

If we go far enough back in imaginary time, inspecting the writings about the evidence for the very earliest examples of humanity, Lucy of East Africa and her epigone--where in all the pages written by the diggers, all the subtle analyses of carbon dating, pollen counts, potassium functions and the niceties of paleontology, where do we hear the clue that vibrates like vocal chords, the idea that these beings had some sort of spoken language? The hard-nosed speculate its probabilities based upon cranial capacity: maybe when the order of complexity reached between 600-900 cc.? Or how many brains did it take, since there are chimps today with as many words in their vocabularies as cc.s in their skulls?

Lucy (so named) was a hominid living about 3.14 million years ago.

Lucy (so named) was a hominid living about 3.14 million years ago.

Not so long ago it was taken cavalierly for granted that the Egyptians could not possibly have had a conscious knowledge of the mathematical principles the archeological evidence of their building actually demonstrates. Preposterous ethnocentricity, doubtless conditioned by a few thousand years of dogmatic teachings in the churches of the West, contrary to the reason, tradition and real experience of human beings and programmed into a deep substratum of its collective psyche as illustrated in myth and folklore, language and art, held that the development of the abstract intellect was a lineal product of temporality, a boon from the demon of progress intrinsically imperceptible by heathen, savage, barbarian--as one who lived outside the walls of cities built in historical time--itself reckoned as having commenced with the creation (Creation) in B.C. 4004, according to literalist interpretation of Scripture.

The etched lines in the Ishango Bone are considered by some to show the roots of mathematics.

The etched lines in the Ishango Bone are considered by some to show the roots of mathematics.

In such ways has the printed power of the word imprisoned our native understanding. Certainly there was a knowledge of the stars, of the night sky, of sophistication and precision, as Alexander Marshack has shown, with the very early, minute, systematic markings on the Ishango bone. The Kalahari Bushmen and the animistic Dogon perhaps share claim to the title of worlds' greatest speculative philosophers. It can no longer surprize us that they do such without "benefit" of computers, pickup trucks, cameras, tape recorders or the printed word.