35. DREAMS/ VISIONS:
Copyright Marco Abrar
In The Baha’i Holy Year 1992-1993 I began to collect my dream experiences. That Holy Year was, as the Universal House of Justice stated, "an opportunity…for inner reflection on the part of the soul." My dreams before 1992 had virtually disappeared from my memory except for perhaps six major dreams and dream sequences going back to the beginning of my Baha'i life when I was fifteen. In 1992 I also started collecting notes and photocopies from various sources, various commentators on dreams, that were relevant to the search into my dreams and their meaning. Now, after nine years of recording some of my dreams, keeping notes on dreams and providing a succinct summary of the previous thirty-three years of my dream life(1959-1992), I have established a base of understanding, a base for the integration of my dreams into my autobiography. What I will actually do with this base, though, is another question. Perhaps I have made a start with some of my poems that allude as they do to dreams and my dream life. Three of these poems can be found below.
I wrote the following 'statement' as an introduction to my personal file on 'dreams' on April 25th 2001:
Freud says dreams are the royal road to one’s inner life, but there is a tangle of thought and feeling in dreams. Jung said he was helped to overcome the egotism inherent in autobiography by the dream process. He also felt dreams helped us contact the shadow self or, what Adler saw as, the antithesis of common sense and reality. Alfred Adler also saw dreams as the arch-enemies of common sense and reality. Our life-style is vulnerable from reality and common sense and dreams lessen our contact with this reality. Scientifically-minded people seldom dream it is said. This hard-nosed realism, as an approach to dreams, stands as a sharp contrast to many of the other interpretations that see dreams as glimpses of immortality, fragments of a fable, an archtype, et cetera. For that reason I find it attractive as an interpretive system or non-system.
Brian Finney says that dreams arouse "expectations of significance that remain unfulfilled because of their private and indirect nature." 1 The following pages2 will reveal some of these expectations and some of my radical departures from common sense and reality, throwing light, I trust, on this autobiography. I find, too, many of the quotations from various sources relevant to my understanding and experience of dreams. I read them from time to time when I am trying to sort out a dream and its meaning. In these first nine years of description, comment and analysis it would seem I do not often plunge into my dream world with my pen in hand, only when some leftover affect stays in my mind on waking, perhaps two or three times a year on average. So, although I am told that I dream every night, my remembered-dream-life is not a busy one. And when I do remember a dream I often, if not usually, do not record it in my file.
I hope this material, some of my thoughts, now in a file marked Dreams, will be of use to whomever comes upon it. It is certainly of use to me periodically as I begin these years of retirement in late middle-age. It provides a pleasurable resource from time to time as I play with the stuff of my dreams as it slips into my waking life from REM and non-REM s
2 The following pages of my 'file on dreams.'
3REM sleep was discovered in 1953. This was the first empirical breakthrough in dream science. (John Holt, "Does Sleep Make Sense?" The Australian, 19 January 2000, p.29)
1Brian Finney, The Inner I: British Literary Autobiography in the Twentieth Century, p.206.
Dostoevski: Wrote and published a diary for two years in 1876-7. One of many writers to keep a diary. My own diary, now in four volumes, is not on this webpage. It is unlikely that I will publish it in my lifetime.
In Hamlet we have the personification of human nature, namely Hamlet himself, brooding over its own weaknesses and corruptions, endless suggestiveness, nothing wholly explicable, the utterance of thought in solitude moving slowly in verse, the timidity which we all experience in the many corners of our life. For we are all Hamlet, at least some of the time. We are presented with vivid intellectual activity and inert conduct juxtaposed. Ron Price with thanks to Claude Williamson, compiler, Readings on the Character of Hamlet, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1950.
It is in desire, clearly defined
and strongly felt,
the exercise of power
derived from a connection
with the chord of divine reality,
the shout of Ya Baha'u'l-Abha
and so much more
that we overcome the dichotomy
of the active and the contemplative sides,
the irregularities and unexpected turns
in the gorgeous and not-so-gorgeous
oriels of many coloured thought.
Melancholy comes and, God-willing,
its antidote humour. And for some,
a poet's soul, dreams paint thought
with wonder and mystery,
the unexplained and inexplicable
singularities in all of existence.
16 November 1997
OPENING THE HUSHED CASKET OF MY SOUL
Fame....dotes the more upon a heart at ease-
She is a Gipsey (and) will not speak to those
Who have not learned to be content without her
-John Keats, "On Fame" in Selected Letters of John Keats, editor, Robert Pack,
Signet Books, NY, 1974, p. 164.
When I open that hushed Casket of my soul1
and seek the shelter of Thy protecting wing;
and that forgetfulness divine slips silently
into morning’s early story,
its memory of sweet emptiness,
a disappearance like some magic act,
where some foundation, instrument,
some obscure yet orienting revelation,
token, has taken place,
I seek the day, the good of this world
and the next, some illumination of my inner being,
some grace amidst the darkness,
content without fame’s voice,
turning the pages of life’s book,
a lake unmuddied, unclouded,
by some vexing gloom,
a temperate blood, a clear,
a limpid pool
surrounded by those trees of wondrous glory.2
24 May 1997
1John Keats expression from his poem about sleeping, idem.
2"Trees of wondrous glory" is Baha’u’llah’s expression for the result in our lives of possessing a certain attitude in human lives. It is found in His Hidden Word: Know ye not why We created you all from the same substance......
STAGGERING TO MY DEATH IN DREAM'S LABYRINTH
The approximately eight hours of sleep, getting to sleep, getting up, waking up, the rise-and-shine are a world in themselves. This poem is about the most common of occurences: getting up and going to the toilet. I see it as a metaphor for death: the human being, drunken on life, staggers to peaceful oblivion, back to a world, often inhabited by the dream. There are many views of the dream. I have surveyed some of them in a file I keep on dreams, a record of my dreams over a lifetime. In sum they seem, as Shakespeare said, "as thin of substance as the air", but a strange intimation of another life, of eternity. --Ron Price with thanks to Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene IV, line 99.
I get up at night like a man half drunk,
half dead, staggering to relieve himself
from midnight's collection,
dark night, dark side, blackness
and I hustle back to bed
where I can slip into oblivion
in a dark emptiness of my mind,
sweet death in all its aloneness,
profoundest solitude, silence, peace
and dreams, product of vain fantasy,
some magnificent apparatus
which forces the infinite into my brain.
18 October 1998
OLD DREAMS DIE AND NEW ONES ARE BORN
As I watch the Arc being completed in the year 2000 and 2001, I am reminded of the words of Winston Churchill when assessing the prospects of WWII for England and the western allies after the battle of El Alamein: ‘This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. This is only the end of the beginning.’ -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000.
As the dream of modernity1 collapsed,
its ghost exorcised; as its most devout,
vigorous and gallant champion,
pious to the point of simplicity;
as its grand design became unstuck
and its kingdom of reason and haromny
demonstrated that it had never been thus;
the past, the decades, descended
to their grave in disgrace.
One could see the workings
of an Invisible and not-so-invisible Hand
in this dark passage of the Age of Transition.
1See Zygmunt Bauman, Intimations of Postmodernity, Routledge, London, 1992, p. 180.
20 January 2000
Yes, Roger, this liquid rushing world often overwhelms me and this equilibrium where my heart’s frail craft coasts unperturbed. I try to deflect life’s dips and swings that from time to time threaten to fling me uncontrolled to perilous brinks. And here at this Baha’i World Centre I see some of what I chose long ago, unbeknownst: this shrine, these gardens, this pen, this comb, this world of beauty—and this wringing of the spirit, this remorse. I have spent seven days with pilgrims who have traversed, only partly consciously, a tumultuous rapids in their nine day greed. Yes, Roger, there is a storm of tenderness that threatens to sweep them out to sea, beyond the boats, where with their full consent they would drown. But they would not speak of it. -Ron Price with thanks to Roger White, "Sightseeing," The Witness of Pebbles, pp. 74-75, 11 June 2000.
There is so much that pulls us,
holds us onto the shore,
holds us high up on this hill,
firmly planted on terra cognita,
that will keep us from dreaming
on this hot summer afternoon.
This liquid rushing world
and our heart’s frail craft
are kept so busy with each other,
with the everyday, the quotidian
simplicities and complexities
that any threat of drowning,
any thought of sinking in the sea,
any incipient committed rapture
is kept within appropriate bounds.
For dedication, especially dedication,
has its limits for the heart, the mind;
and the tongue can only speak so far
and tell of its love and its feverish dreams.
11 June 2000
The technical perfecting of a poem is an act of at-one-ment, a setting at one, a bringing into concord, a reconciling, a uniting in harmony. Yeats said that a poem comes right with a click like a closing box. Eliot said that when poets found the best arrangement for their words they might experience exhaustion, appeasement, absolution, something near annihilation, something indescribable. -Ron Price with thanks to Geoffrey Hill in The Force of Poetry, Christopher Ricks, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1984, p. 319.
There are too many experiences for me to say
that getting a poem just right feels like ‘this’
or ‘that’ or ‘the other’. Sometimes it is like
getting dressed, getting your clothes on, snug
and ready for another day. Sometimes it’s like
tidying-up the true or the beautiful,
translating a feeling into an experience, into meaning;
it’s like bringing all my faculties into play and then
I stop at some point, some word, some thought,
which feels right from convenience,
some indefineable rightness,
or some defineable rightness
that would take too long to define.
For a short time in this place by the fire
I both get outside of myself and inside myself
in a journey down a road of words playing with my dreams.
12 June 1996
DREAMS: AN INTRODUCTION
One day I will integrate my dream experiences into my autobiography. Dreams have their own language and are, as Freud put it, a royal road into one’s inner life. But the process is not simply and easy. There is a certain tangle of dream experience which is difficult to untangle. Dreams helped Jung overcome the egotism inherent in the autobiographical act They help us contact what Jung calls the shadow self or what Frued cals the unconscious. I’m not so such what they help us contact but they certainly give us a taste of the afterlife, of the eternal. Inner vision sometimes can explode into the outer world and the writer tries to give it meaning. Dreams offer glints of immortality, fragments of a fable, a myth, which is never fully revealed. I would argue the fullness of the revelation of the modern myth for modern man lies in the metaphorical nature of both physical reality and Baha’i history and here, rather than in dreams, lies the fullness of vision we look for.`
Dreams offer for some a type of access to the child, to some kind of lost harmony, some immortality, some wholeness that consciousness separates. But my inclination, though, is to place dreams on the perifery of my autiobiography due to their powerful emotive content, a content which can unbalance the reader and arouse "expectations of significance that remain unfullfilled because of their private and indirect nature."(The Inner I: British Literary Autobiography in the Twentieth Century, Brian Finney,. p.206)
But I would not want to ignore the dream life because there is significance there. There is a connection with some eternal, universal man and the experiences simply enrich the story, hopefully meaningfully.
SETTING AFLAME THE WORLD
You can do anything in poetry you want to. -Robert Frost in Their Ancient Glittering Eyes: Remembering Poets and More Poets, Donald Hall, Tichnor and Fields, N Y, 1992, p.40.
A writer holds his reader by his temperament. -Ford Maddox Ford in Alan Judd, Ford Maddox Ford, Collins, 1990, p.4.
To unite or not to unite: that is the question.
In this intricately complex world of endless
slings and arrows what will be our source
of order? And when we die will there be a
dream beyond that hole where we speak no
more, beyond this mortal coil? And what of
dreams in these multifarious states? What of visions?
The native hue of will and resolution is fatigued
with pale thought and action’s name is sullied
by the poisonous winds of greed. Will our
universe be darkened with the dust of death
forever? Will these desolate lands see
no rain of grace? Will it grow green again?
So few are the champions to kindle these veins
and set aflame the world, but it will be done;
it will be done.
5 October 1995
TESTING THE BEST
The Book of Daniel was composed about the year 165 BC. Chapter VII was one of the earliest visions or dreams of an apocalyptic nature, composed during the Maccabean revolt of the Jews against the Greeks. There are four beasts in the vision, symbolic of four world powers who would rule in Israel until the time of the end: Seleucid-Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Western.-With thanks to Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Granada Publishing Co., 1970(1957), London, for a helpful overview of millennarianism over two millennia.
All these biblical verses are so arguable,
aren’t they Norman? The four beasts
have been given such different names
as men have sought the millenium,
the time of the end, a golden age,
a messianic kingdom, the last days.
He would come, it said in Daniel,
with the clouds of heaven,
and to the Ancient of Days...
And there was given him
dominion, and glory,
a kingdom, that all peoples,
nations and languages
should serve him.*
This is no phantasy
some obscure revolutionary
it has been since 165 BC-
this is the New Jerusalem,
the kingdom of the saints,
the beginning of the kingdom
of God on earth,
millennarianism’s true home,
after such a tortured road,
most people got lost by the wayside.
Absorbed in some tradition or heresy,
cult, sect, ism or wasm:
self-immolating, peasant revolt,
urban insurrection, all elaborating,
the apocalyptic lore to transform
and save history, in cataclysm,
in quasi-religious salvationism,
deviant medieval mysticism,
self-divinization and anarchism
in secular dress: it is not surprising
you missed it since it grew up quietly
in an orgy of violence and complexity
that would test the best as it still is doing.
26 September 1995
*The Bible, Book of Daniel, Chapter VII, verses 2 to 14.
THE EARLY BUDS ARE OUT
If this unearthly Love has power to make
my life immortal and to shake ambition
into some fitting portal where I brim
my measure of contentment and with merest whim
search, poorly, after fame, then ‘tis a Love
that I shall keep ‘til the call from above-
-With thanks to John Keats, Endymion, lines 843-47.
These things of beauty will be joys forever
and their loveliness will increase far down
the centuries and ages. Eras will not see these
wonders pass into nothingness. Dreams and
quiet places sweet and still will fill these
marbled-flower gardens binding us to
primal points of holy seat made for our searching.
Such beauty moves us far beyond incipient sadness;
takes this young sprouting freshness canalized
in energy-lamps everywhere in the vineyard.
Such grandeur cools in the hot season and
sprinkles our air with musk-rose blooms,
strengthening our loins in submissive worship.
And such wonder, too, for and with the dead
who have entered the garden of happiness
and now circle ‘round us in mystic intercourse.
It is all so dear, now, all that circles here;
even the moon which haunts then cheers as light
and seems to bind our very souls clear and tight.
This place, I prefer it have no name, its music
brings a joy to valley, mountain, plain.
The early buds are out now, milk in pails
is coming down the lane while lush juicy
fruits are being brought in by sail
in little boats-I’ve got one-I steer
in many quiet hours down deeper streams
where I hear bees hum in globes of clover.
Autumn brings its universal tinge of sober gold
to this world on mountain side wherein I hold
such thought that can only be described as bliss.
The trumpets have already blown and, now, my path
is dressed in green, in flowers, indeed a marble bath.
Those assembled ‘round the shrines had looks of veneration,
‘twould be here for many years to come, each generation
would have its awed face, companions in a mountain chase.
I therefore reveal unto thee sacred and resplendent tokens
from the planes of glory to attract thee into the court of
holiness and nearness and beauty, and draw thee to a station...
And I had been drawn into gardens of such fruit, such orient lights.
For here is the heavenly abode in the Centre of earthly realities
and here I am, as if led by some midnight spirit nurse of
happy changes toward some magic sleep, toward some
soaring bird easing upward over the troubled sea of man.
The words found here sound a strange minstrelsy, have
tumbling waves in echoing caves: a silvery enchantment
is to be found in this mazy world with its new song,
its upfurled wings which renovate our lives. Try them!
You may open your eyelids with a healthier brain.
Some influence rare goes spiritual through this Damsel’s hand;
it runs quick, invisible strings all over the land.
26 May 1995
...The full dimensions of his being were not to be found even in private...dreams were too unreliable, too sporadic and uncontrolled. -Thoreau, Journal, Vol.1 in Dark Thoreau, Richard Bridgman, U. Of Nebraska, Lincohn, 1982, p.3.
I saw him run away so clear,
way off across a field.
The field was white; he had a gun.
He did not like what I had said.
He disagreed most violently,
but in a dream, ‘twas done.
I wondered long what it had meant,
but could come up with no answer.
So much of life is like this dream,
like some mirage in a desert.
You wish it water fresh and pure
but all it is is vapour.
There is no need to chase it far
across the white snow down there.
No need to worry about that gun;
it has no power to hurt you.
‘Tis only a fleeting shadow in your mind,
more like some illusion.
So I put the dream down on the sheet
and wonder if one day it shall tell me
something deep and meaningful:
right now it seems like not.
The memory is there; I won’t forget.
Perhaps one day it will reveal
some sweet insight on this desert;
and perhaps it will remain as is
some vaporous illusion.
11 June 1995
Part of my purpose here is to resolve the tension between the trivial and the serious, the light-hearted, facile optimism that denies tragedy and the heavy-souled realism that knows tragedy and searches out an appropriate spirituality. Part of the resolution is in the comic, the self-mocking, a necessary detachment; part is in a poetic vitality and variety. Part is in my vocation, my avocation, my solitude and my community. For it is in these places that I dwell with my dreams, test out their substance, attempt to resolve those tensions that are resolvable and accept the unresolvable. -Ron Price with thanks to Peter Raby, Oscar Wilde, Cambridge University Press, NY, 1988.
The mind bites on with a familiar fatigue:
been this way before it says knowingly.
A thousand times I’ve sat there giving
it my best shot and still missing the target.
How many times do you keep going on
trying, always trying? Forever, with the comic
and the necessary trivia, the self-mocking
wearing the ego down, keeping it down,
learning that detachment through a series of
infinite steps, largely unseen. Here, here are
my dreams and their acid test, the tensions,
resolved and unresolved. Do I have
the wisdom to know the difference?
24 February 1996
PRISONS: OLD AND NEW
The metaphor of imprisonment haunts Australian literature. -Randolph Stow, West Australian Novelist.
We’re used to being ill-at-ease,
we in Canada and Australia,
in our garrisons and prisons1
from sea to sea, wall-to-wall,
fated by our history, preoccupied
un-beknownst with distant echoes,
resounding into the present,
in our strategic locations,
especially the pioneer, archtype,
putting down roots,
roots that go all over a continent,
in a new prison
of our coursings through east and west.2
You don’t escape the prison of the past
that easily even in these days of tourism,
candy-floss, take-aways and endless engines.
It’s fitting really: a new prison
can now be found across this land,
this hall of mirrors and vapours in the desert,
far from those old prisons and forts,
far from those Indians, the indigenies,
who were hardly-not even-human,
from exile and expulsion, here on the verandah,
here where new dreams are born,
where strangeness is removed from the heart
and laid with gold,
brought by a loyal lover’s caravan.
And around this house, its intimate space,
place of dreams, sign of new spirituality,
home for a new Revelation, no darksome well,
but place of burning desire, hazardous, tortuous,
narrow: no facile pop-psychology here,
no pseudo-political jargon--
one level above the ordinary
with the lover seated in the heart3
and one level below the ordinary
where we court restlessness, failure, difficulty,
more and more urgency and eagerness,
quicksilver-like, astir, aflame.
2 November 1996
1Gillian Whitlock compares the early history of Canada and its garrisons to Australia and its prisons. She goes on to compare the Arctic to the Outback. See Australian/Canadian Literatures in English, Russell McDougall and Gillian Whitlock, editors, Methuen, Melbourne, 1987, pp. 49-67.
2‘Abdu’l-Baha in Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Haifa, 1978, p.236.
3’Abdu’l-Baha in Four on an Island, Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, George Ronald, Oxford, 1983, p.67.
ACID RAIN AND A RAVISHING VINE
Price's quiet commitment to his own search for understanding and expressing the realities of his experience and the experience of his coreligionists; his own need for solitude, privacy and detachment in creating his poetry which would seem to be for the few, at least in the short term; his frequent alternation between inadequacy, humility and understatement on the one hand and a feeling of exaltation, glory and overstatement on the other; his assurance, his sense of the inevitability of the achievement of peace, order and world harmony contrasting with his personal feeling of frequent exhaustion, a desolation of hope and a quiet sorrow; his poetry which seeks to contain all that poetry can contain but which is often not seen as poetic in traditional thought: all of this must be seen as a backdrop of themes, realities and sources for the tone, the content and the philosophy behind his poetic expression. -Ron Price with thanks to Rebecca J. West, Eugenio Montale: Poet on the Edge, Harvard UP, Cambridge, Mass, 1981. My own poetry is not much like Montale's at all, but Rebecca West's analysis stimulated my own attempt, one of many in the last several years, to place my poetry in a general perspective and analyse my own efforts. In the words of E.M. Forster: how do I know what I think until I see what I've said?
I said I would not serve today
after five years as secretary. I
got rubbed raw, bone dry, paper-thin,
had it up-to-here, you've been there?
You know what I mean? Retiring for
awhile, a year, or more, who knows?
No more letters-in-and-out, agendas,
minutes, phone calls, remembering the
new address of Mrs. F. Briggs and her
daughter Harriet, just turned fifteen
and in need of a youth reaffirmation card.
Noone to check my spelling, grammar,
what has not been done, left out, avoided,
forgotten, done so many times that the
fingers found paper itself like some kind
of disease, plague, illness, catch-a-cold,
a virus, part of the rag-and-bone shop of the
heart's desert where the soul feeds insatiably
on a thin soil now barren of life.
But, ah, life renews itself under the warm
blue sky and floating clouds; it springs up
intractably like those wildflowers here in
this vast estate at the end of this spiritual axis*
after a burning summer with temperatures
soaring and frying those eggs forever, knowing
each person cannot do everything and all persons
cannot do the same thing**, while love rapaciously
makes its season in my fevered dreams and I taste
its wet leaves on my tongue, so young and new.
Love and joy thrive in this desert and the acid rain
falling on my finger tips from the 304th set of minutes
and their attendant paraphrenalia is neutralized in a water,
a ravishing vine and its green and wily succulence. Where
next will despair's bleached skull find a socket of emptiness?
21 April 1996
* Western Australia
**Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 1990, p.5.
Note: I have tried in the above to convey as accurately and honestly as I could the experience I had of being relieved of secretarial duties on an LSA after declining to serve as an officer.
FIN DE SIECLE
We are now in a period of decadence growing steadily more and more acute. The old gods are falling about us; there is little to raise our hearts and minds to. In literature it is called the Decadent Movement. Verlaine(1844-1896) was its inventor in verse. Many saw it as a fin de siecle disease. -Ron Price from The Symbolist Poem: The Development of the English Tradition, Edward Engelberg, editor, E.P. Dutton and Co., NY, 1967, pp.195-197.
Another fin de siecle, a spiritual
celebration, deep reflection, solemn
consciousness, thankful gladness,
dazzling prospects, immense challenges,
radiant years, accelerating forces from
His revolutionizing mission, transforming
social and political forms, arousing my
delight. That most precious Being ever to
draw breath inspires my dreams and stirs
my expectations as I walk this long, slippery
and tortuous path through this dark heart of
an Age of Transition, in this fin de siecle, in
these years of dynamic synchronization as we
search for contexts to examine fundamentals.
19 October 1996
A lava of images poured out of his deepest self, his past experience, his education, to overheat and exhaust him by end of day. His ego was carried away, exploded. He had no fear of madness because he had known madness, his own variety, often enough. This was no madness. These images were the essence of sanity, nowhere near madness. This was controlled, though obsessive, creative life. Exhaustion, daily, late in the evening, was but a pause, necessary for further work. -Ron Price with appreciation to Jacques Catteau, Dostoyevski and the Process of Literary Creation, Cambridge UP, NY, 1989,pp.15-16.
The perilous visions of entire worlds are
not my gifts, nor magical luxuriant gardens,
whole towns being born and dieing before my eyes,
nor dreams taking on flesh, bone and body.
But simple thoughts, abstract notions
act on me like some potions to set afire
a line of thought where trees burn in the
night sky, legacies, trustee that I am of a
culture of learning, a massive heritage, a
unified vision of man and society, foundation
for a global civilization, synthesis uniting people
of genius everywhere, now and in history, whose
rivers run through me now, then, tomorrow,
searching for an inner man who is changing.
17 April 1996
In Hamlet we have the personification of human nature brooding over its own weaknesses and corruptions, endless suggestiveness, nothing wholly explicable, the utterance of thought in solitude moving slowly in verse, the timidity which we all experience in the many corners of our life. For we are all Hamlet-or at least some of us. We are presented with vivid intellectual activity and inert conduct juxtaposed. -Ron Price with thanks to Claude Williamson, compiler, Readings on the Character of Hamlet, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1950.
It is in desire, clearly defined,
strongly felt, the exercise of power
derived from a connection with
the chord of divine reality,
the shout of Ya Baha'u'l-Abha,
that we overcome the dichotomy
of the active and the contemplative
sides of life, the irregularities
and unexpected turns
in the gorgeous and not-so-gorgeous
oriels of many coloured thought.
Melancholy comes and, God-willing,
its antidote humour.
And for some, a poet's soul,
dreams paint thought
with wonder and mystery,
the unexplained and inexplicable
singularities in all of existence.
16 November 1997
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness.
-T.S. Eliot, quoted in The Composition of Four Quartets, Helen Gardner, Faber and Faber, London, 1978, p.29.
I’ve fallen in love with a thousand
women, beauties they were, of youthful
freshness, right to my heart, at least my
eyes—like the one this morning whose
long brown hair fell on her breasts and
stole my eyes discreetly a thousand times.
I married her during our animated
conversation and contorted comfortably,
passionately, on satin sheets. She was one
I would not let go, free and unencumbered
at last, making it at last, making it at last.
Fantasy’s dream, she shook my hand and
I gazed into her eyes beyond colour, her
soft lips that had moved for three hours
with such vivacity, dancing over curves
that slipped into the dazzling daylight—
divorced and into oblivion, never to be
seen again, for such is the nature of
love’s fascination, empty, bearing the
mere semblance of reality, the thirsty
dreams as water and calls it love.
1 October 1997
FLOODING THE WORLD WITH LIGHT
In some obvious and explicit ways the movement that we call modern art begins with Turner. By 1844, his fascination with light, his purely personal and intuitive approach to painting, his aim to create sweeping movements and general atmospheres, to imply rather than describe, his increasingly idiosyncratic style became a source of ridicule by some of his contemporaries. To modern eyes his work, over twenty-thousand pieces, is seen as great, as prescient. -Ron Price with thanks to Bruce Cole and Adelheid Gealt, Art of the Western World: From Ancient Greece to Post-Modernism, Summit Books, NY, 1989, pp.227-228.
Where did all that light come from in the
evening of your1 life as your art, your form,
your world, dissolved, flooding with radiance,
lifting beyond sense, past doubt and why and
how into a bright Presence; and His2 light arose
unraveling perplexing mysteries from that chamber
bedecked with flowers redolent of the loveliest
perfumes, so overpowering was the sense of delight
and so subtle the ray of light that fell upon that lap
that the world’s fleeting vanities continued to beguile
the many; and dreams and wonders richly impregnated
with sweet savours of holiness drew close the few. A new
world of indescribable impressions flooded existence linking
humankind with the mystic bond of the spirit in an ocean of light.3
7 July 1997
1Joseph William Turner(1775-1851), English painter.
3Some of the references from lines six to fourteen come from Nabil’s Dawnbreakers, pp. 19-52.
HERE IS THE REVOLUTION
History is taking place at a velocity that is unbearable. Tremendous movements begin and end in a year or two, or even a week or two. The revolution in Russia in 1917 gave hope for, what, at least twenty-five years; the hope in China lasted from 1949 until, say, 1966; there was the Spanish Civil War, Viet Nam. If you go back in time to 1688, 1775 or 1789, you find revolutionary movements that gave history a mileage in hope for many decades, even centuries. For millions, now, hope and promise have been sucked out of them by repeated dissillusionments and by the chaos of fury and confusion that bears the signs of universal anarchy. -Ron Price with thanks to Arthur Miller in a 1980 interview in Conversations With Arthur Miller, editor, Matthew Roudane, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1987, p. 317.
Here is a revolution that you could say
goes back to 1793 when Shaykh Ahmad,
filled with dreams and visions and a
crushing sense of responsibility, came out
of Bahrayn; today, there are thousands,
millions, with that same sense, with
irrepressible yearnings: over 200 years
of the slow growth of a prophetic force
that has only in the last few years stuck
its head above the ground, no saviour-
in-a-hurry, but a vital role to play in
bringing about a consensus gentium
in a world that is bursting at the seams;
where hope is renewed softly in its garden
of existence with a fragrance as gentle as the
good trees which grow slowly for the eyes
of men, giving off their fruits of consecrated joy,
as unobtrusively as my quiet back yard garden
where the Japanese Pepper Tree gracefully grows.
14 January 1997
There was a crisis at the heart of the American soul in which millions of Americans suspected that their dreams of the good life were founded on false circumstances. The 1960s make hardly any sense without an understanding of the preceding years. -Ron Price, a paraphrase of Charles Lemert's "Goffman" in The Goffman Reader, Blackwell Pub., Oxford, 1997, p.xxiii.
The American Baha'i community stands at a most critical juncture in its history. The country of which it forms a part is passing through a crisis of extreme seriousness, a crisis which the superficial observer dangerously underestimates.
-Ron Price, a paraphrase of Shoghi Effendi's "American Baha'is in the Time of World Peril" in Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965, p.124.
We laid a foundation back then,
in those unobtrusive fifties, on an
architectural form and institutional
matrix, crowded with events and
exploits, stirring and momentous,1
one that noone really saw, or just
about noone. Well, I saw and my
folks saw, in that home of immense
religious conservatism2 and the crisis
which noone then could put words to,
except men like him,3 gradually became
an open sore of spiritual, moral, social
and political darkness on a road of hard
stone, tortuous twists and turns in our time.
16 December 1997
1Shoghi Effendi's comment on the years 1894-1954 of Baha'i experience.
2Will van den Hoonaard, The Origins of the Baha'i Community of Canada, Wilfred Laurier University Press, Waterloo, 1996, p. 278.
3Shoghi Effendi saw the crisis and analsysed it in many of his letters, not just to America but to other countries. His 22,000 letters make an interesting base of analysis in terms of this theme.
VISION AMIDST COMPLEXITY
In the visionary poetry of the west since the early 1950s, say since 1953 when the Baha’is say the Kingdom of God on earth began, there has been a thoroughgoing rejection of contemporary society; there has been a search for a new non-culturally dominated vision with an emphasis on personal meaning. "Dreams press us on all sides" said Robert Bly, but for many of the so-called visionary poets it was not the wide socio-political world around them where the vision found its chief expression. It was with the dying self, its inner sensations and fears, with withdrawal, with private experience that their vision was incarnated.
As the Shrine of the Bab and the Mother Temple of the West were finally completed in the early 1950s; as the Guardian continued to expatiate on his vision of both our present society and its future; and as the Baha’i community expanded significantly in those same 1950s, the vision took on greater and greater specificity. By the 1990s, after three decades of visionary exegisis by the Universal House of Justice; after a burgeoning publishing thrust that established a massive literature filled with an increasingly elaborated vision; after magnificent architectural constructions, an unfolding splendour from Mt. Carmel and the confluence of continents to the mid-most heart of the ocean; and after the continued and steady growth of the community, the vision that stood before the believers and the seekers among their contemporaries was enthralling. -Ron Price with thanks to Hyatt H. Waggoner, " Prospects", American Visionary Poetry, Louisiana State UP, Baton Rouge, 1982, pp. 200-207.
Amidst a staggering complexity,
fragmentation, division, multipicity,
eclecticism, globalization, sensory
explosion, knowledge bubble-baths,
strains and stresses of incredible
magnitude, post-traditional experiment,
absurdity, brain heat, white-hot, blackness,
dark heart of mysterious transitions, post-
modernism, poststructuralism, pentapolar
political orientations, impoverished psycho-
emotional mental sets in a plurality of
conceptual perspectives: phenomonology,
hermeneutics, psychanalysis and critical theory:
mutually contradictory, mutually exclusive,
complementary, independent, beyond arbitrary
mixing, varying temperaments, problems with
deep intellectual shafts that cannot be settled—
all of this lies behind and above this vision
which has been growing so unobtrusively in our
midst and now stands before us like a dream: so new,
so various, so dazzling, so alive, amidst this tumultuous
transition—going forward now as never before. 24/8/97.
Shakespeare's Hamlet contains themes which are particularly useful to relate to the global enterprise that the Baha'i community has been undertaking since 1937. Hamlet's soliloquy in Act III Scene I, "To be or not to be..." is especially relevant in providing a context for the analysis of the teaching function so paramount in the everyday life of the Baha'i. In Hamlet chaste constancy is pictured at the centre of reality. In a world of appearances, only what endures is real. Teaching the Cause is intimately connected with what endures, with what is real for the Baha'i. -Ron Price with thanks to Marilyn French, "Chaste Constancy in 'Hamlet'", Hamlet, editor, Martin Coyle, MacMillan, 1992 , p.106.
To teach, or not to teach-that is not the question.
For teaching is the passion of our lives as we suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and so
by testing be tested. One day we die and sleep no
more and so end the heartache and the thousand
natural shocks that flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
devoutly to be wished. For in that day of a trillion days
we will dream the dream that was our life when we did
teach amidst the storm and strife before we shuffled off
this mortal coil to that undiscovered country from which
noone returns. Now we seek to teach in these enterprises
of great pitch and moment so that our minutes, days, our life
will not lose the name of action, be sicklied over with the pale
cast of thought and give those future dreams much substance.
14 June 1998