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Geoff’s Giftings for August 2023
Dear Poetry of Nature Friends,
This day is a gift.
I want to revisit a topic I wrote about in a letter to last year’s PON group: the vast range of perceptual modes we people experience. It’s unexplored territory that poets and mystics have always made forays into.
How many senses do we actually have? Only five?
I’ve learned from experience that recognizing more of these modes and attuning to them can heighten our awareness of self and world and inspire us to respond more fully and creatively to the individual and collective challenges we face.
My friend the spiritual teacher and author David Spangler has offered one model of our perceptual fields. As he sees it, in the material realm, we have sight, hearing, smell and taste and an array of somatic senses: touch (pressure, vibration), thermoception (temperature), nociception (pain), proprioception (position) and balance (vestibular).
In the less materially dense “psychic” realm, David lists these sense operating: clairvoyance, clairaudience, empathy (or one might use Frederic W.H. Myers’ term, telempathy), telepathy, energy awareness, clairsentience (perception of things not normally perceived) and I would add claircognizance (intuitive knowing).
In this psychic realm of consciousness there tends to be less of felt sense of separation between subject/perceiver and the object perceived than in the more physical, material realm.
Finally, in what David Spangler terms the even less dense Subtle Worlds, there is no sense of fundamental separation but rather holoception, or perception through participation and oneness.
This three part model is one I’ve found helpful. It’s extended my awareness of how my perception works, and allowed me to recognize, articulate and enhance some of the subtler sensitivities or capacities of our human equipment, our total perceptual field.
I ask you to make an inventory of your own experience of these three perceptual modes. Cultivating greater awareness of them can enrich your future experience and your poetry. As an optional prompt for this month and going forward, feel free to write about, and from, such experiences.
Here are a few poems of transformed perception, to help jump-start your own poetic process. They’re part of an immense work of great mystical depth and rapture, Thomas Traherne’s "Centuries of Meditations":
Thomas Traherne (1636 or 1637 – c. 27 September 1674) was an English metaphysical poet and Anglican clergyman. He is best known today for his poems and the prose poem "Centuries of Meditations", first published in 1908 after having been rediscovered in manuscript a decade earlier. This collection of short paragraphs celebrates how the light of the Spirit shines through all creation. I see similarities in Traherne’s work to the angelic poet William Blake. His love for the natural world evokes Romanticism two centuries before Blake and the Romantic movement.
The original 1908 edition of Thomas Traherne’s "Centuries of Meditations"
can be read at this link: www.ccel.org
Here are a few excerpts that reflect transformed or refined perception:
From the First Century:
29. You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.
30. Till your spirit filleth the whole world, and the stars are your jewels; till you are as familiar with the ways of God in all Ages as with your walk and table: till you are intimately acquainted with that shady nothing out of which the world was made: till you love men so as to desire their happiness, with a thirst equal to the zeal of your own: till you delight in God for being good to all: you never enjoy the world. Till you more feel it than your private estate, and are more present in the hemisphere, considering the glories and the beauties there, than in your own house: Till you remember how lately you were made, and how wonderful it was when you came into it: and more rejoice in the palace of your glory, than if it had been made but to-day morning.
Reading "Centuries of Meditation", it’s crystal clear that Traherne was a rare natural mystic who lived in a nondual condition of bliss-awareness from infancy on. In the Third Century, Traherne describes his state:
1. WILL you see the infancy of this sublime and celestial greatness? Those pure and virgin apprehensions I had from the womb, and that divine light wherewith I was born are the best unto this day, wherein I can see the Universe. By the Gift of God they attended me into the world, and by His special favour I remember them till now. Verily they seem the greatest gifts His wisdom could bestow, for without them all other gifts had been dead and vain. They are unattainable by book, and therefore I will teach them by experience. Pray for them earnestly: for they will make you angelical, and wholly celestial. Certainly Adam in Paradise had not more sweet and curious apprehensions of the world, than I when I was a child.
2. All appeared new, and strange at first, inexpressibly rare and delightful and beautiful. I was a little stranger, which at my entrance into the world was saluted and surrounded with innumerable joys. My knowledge was Divine. I knew by intuition those things which since my Apostasy, I collected again by the highest reason. My very ignorance was advantageous. I seemed as one brought into the Estate of Innocence. All things were spotless and pure and glorious: yea, and infinitely mine, and joyful and precious, I knew not that there were any sins, or complaints or laws. I dreamed not of poverties, contentions or vices. All tears and quarrels were hidden from mine eyes. Everything was at rest, free and immortal. I knew nothing of sickness or death or rents or exaction, either for tribute or bread. In the absence of these I was entertained like an Angel with the works of God in their splendour and glory, I saw all in the peace of Eden; Heaven and Earth did sing my Creator’s praises, and could not make more melody to Adam, than to me: All Time was Eternity, and a perpetual Sabbath. Is it not strange, that an infant should be heir of the whole World, and see those mysteries which the books of the learned never unfold?
3. The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold: the gates were at first the end of the world. The green trees when I saw them first through one of the gates transported and ravished me, their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things: The Men! O what venerable and reverend creatures did the aged seem! Immortal Cherubims! And young men glittering and sparkling Angels, and maids strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty! Boys and girls tumbling in the street, and playing, were moving jewels. I knew not that they were born or should die; But all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places. Eternity was manifest in the Light of the Day, and something infinite behind everything appeared which talked with my expectation and moved my desire. The city seemed to stand in Eden, or to be built in Heaven. The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people were mine, their clothes and gold and silver were mine, as much as their sparkling eyes, fair skins and ruddy faces. The skies were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the World was mine; and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it. I knew no churlish proprieties, nor bounds, nor divisions: but all proprieties* and divisions were mine: all treasures and the possessors of them. So that with much ado I was corrupted, and made to learn the dirty devices of this world. Which now I unlearn, and become, as it were, a little child again that I may enter into the Kingdom of God.
The next poem describes an experience of heightened awareness at a time of extreme danger. We're now at a time of great environmental danger. Like Muir in this poem below, we have a steep and slippery slope to climb to make it to the safety and stability of a more enlightened time.
John Muir on Mt. Ritter
After scanning its face again and again,
I began to scale it, picking my holds
With intense caution. About half-way
To the top, I was suddenly brought to
A dead stop, with arms outspread
Clinging close to the face of the rock
Unable to move hand or foot
Either up or down. My doom
Appeared fixed. I MUST fall.
There would be a moment of
Bewilderment, and then,
A lifeless rumble down the cliff
To the glacier below.
My mind seemed to fill with a
Stifling smoke. This terrible eclipse
Lasted only a moment, when life blazed
Forth again with preternatural clearness.
I seemed suddenly to become possessed
Of a new sense. My trembling muscles
Became firm again, every rift and flaw in
The rock was seen as through a microscope,
My limbs moved with a positiveness and precision
With which I seemed to have
Nothing at all to do.
~ Gary Snyder from "Myths and Texts"
Here’s a serene gem of awareness, from the poem “Rules and Lessons” by English Metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan (1621-95) :
Walk with thy fellow-creatures; note the hush
And whispers amongst them. There’s not a spring
Or leaf but hath his morning hymn; each bush
And oak doth know I AM. Canst thou not sing?
O leave thy cares and follies! go this way,
And thou art sure to prosper all the day.
Finally, here is one of my poems that describes a peaceful subtle experience of the Earth I had one night in the Oklahoma Panhandle. It’s superimposed on a photograph by my wife Leslie:
May this month bring you a broad vivid spectrum of sensory and subtle perceptions of your place on earth, the poetry of nature and most fundamentally of your own true nature. May you see and feel deep down in yourself what comes, what goes and what peacefully remains. It’s all sacred energy.
Please Touch the Earth with Love,