Category Archives: Universality

From the Moon, together, we can see it…

My Great-Uncle Bill in India

My Great-Uncle Bill in India

I’ve been asked, “Your love and associations with Indian religion and continent is realized…any particular reason Frederick…!”

A flood of memories come back. Too many for a short reply. So I’ve decide to answer the question here on my blog.

Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill

My earliest memory of India is when as a very young boy, somewhere probably between six to seven years old, playing in my Grandmother Glaysher’s basement, I became aware of a modest bedroom in the corner, with little more than a bed and nightstand with some books on it, a few of which I came to understand later were by Albert Schweitzer. It was the bedroom of my Great-Uncle Bill who served in Her Majesty’s Army in India. He never married and in old age, dying of cancer, doubtlessly from too many cigarettes, spent his last days with his brother’s family, living in their basement. He died  in 1956, before I was old enough to have any memories of him. But everyone spoke of him with awe and love. He had served Her Majesty in India. For my English people, that still meant something and they passed it on to me, especially my Aunt Amy who never lost her English accent and used to love to tell me stories of Uncle Bill and England while making me English milk tea with biscuits, pouring into me awe for both England and India.

In sixth grade, about eleven or twelve years old, I stood up and fervently recited a poem for the first time in my life, in Mr. Bird’s classroom, for an English assignment. It was Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”  Though set in the Crimea, not in India, I mention it because I know that at the same time I was reading Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and “Gunga Din.”

“Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin’ of ‘Er Majesty the Queen…

You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”

It was only much later, in my early twenties, after having read a few of Albert Schweitzer’s books, having matured eventually beyond, that I began to understand what Colonialism was and the complexity of those issues. But for that young boy standing up in class, he was thrilled at all that heroism under fire, poured his heart into it, like Uncle Bill who served in Her Majesty’s Army. Mr. Bird defended me against the jibes of school mates, and I felt he treated me a little differently after that. It was one of the first experiences that I had ever had that there were men in the world who respected and thought highly of poetry.

A major threshold in my life came late in high school in a class in world religions. The text book was the old warhorse of instruction, The World Bible (Viking 1944 ed.), a selection of scriptures from all of the major religions. I did all the reading, including from the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Buddhist Dhammapada which have stayed with me all my life as standards and touchstones. Not all the nihilism of modernity can stand up to the wisdom and spiritual depth of such scripture. My understanding of India deepened significantly during that semester, making me want to study and learn more, which I did, before long, in an undergraduate college level course in world religions and a class in Non-Western History, which included a survey of Indian history from the great Emperor Ashoka through all of the Mughals up to the arrival of the British. It was the first time that I had heard of Emperor Akbar to whom I was immediately and strangely attracted, never forgetting him, but mulling over his importance, year after year, sensing there was something there in his history that was incredibly important for me and my writing. I found myself many times during the rest of my life going back to Emperor Akbar, and what he meant to me, as in my book-length narrative poem, The Bower of Nil, drawing on Tennyson’s poem “Akbar’s Dream,” only coming to fruition in my epic poem. Akbar’s great-grandson Dara Shikoh and his book The Mingling of Two Oceans became very powerful influences on my thinking too. I feel it is unfortunate that India has somewhat forgotten Dara Shikoh and his book.

I should mention that in high school I had a part-time job in a store where I actually met for the first time someone from the Indian sub-continent, a young Buddhist woman from Sri Lanka studying at a local college. As I saw her a few times a week for nearly a year, since I had the duty of fetching supplies for her, she and I became friends and often joked like younger brother with older sister, sometimes talking about her life back home. Knowing her was a very real experience, on a human level, of a person who believed in some of the things I was already reading about. In the almost entirely white suburban world of the early 1970s, in Rochester, Michigan, she was a breath of fresh air, a delightful person. She always wore, of course, the most beautiful saris, which were very exotic for that time. As I was wont to say with other friends, “There’s life outside Rottenchester.” I was soon lighting out to find it. Rochester has now become enriched with people from all over the world, including India. Witnessing that change taking place over the decades, as I would return to visit family, and then eventually return to care for my elderly mother and raise my own children here, has been very important to my understanding of modern life.

As a student at the University of Michigan, I chose to live for a semester at the The Ecumenical Center, a church-operated residence building for international students. By chance, my roommates were two Indians and an African, the last from Nigeria. Looking backing, it was a further excellent introduction on a human level. One of my Indian roommates was a Christian named Bagavandoss from then Madras, and the other a Hindu who regularly read from the Upanishads. As they mildly held, from time to time, different opinions on various issues, I developed a sense of the complexity of life in India, that there was a wide variety of outlook, as in the USA and elsewhere, not simplistically the “mystic East.” Much of that kind of dynamic I try to evoke in my essay on Indian literature, traditional and modern, “India’s Kali Yuga,” in my book The Grove of the Eumenides (2007), where I also mention Uncle Bill.

Somewhere in my experience I should mention reading the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore for many years, beginning in the early 1970s, eventually writing two essays on him in my book The Myth of the Enlightenment (2014); developing and teaching a course in Non-Western Literature during the early 1990s, including the major Indian classics; while in 1995 I was a National Endowment for the Humanities scholar on India for eight weeks at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, where I read further into Indian literature and culture, focusing on the turmoil then taking place in Ayodhya, as well as Chishti Sufism and traditional culture and modernity.

I should include a few years of participation with a local interfaith group in which Indians from the nearby Bharatiya Temple, Jains, and Sikhs were very active, as well as people of other persuasions, while I was writing my epic poem.

Much of this is a rough sketch but I would like to think that all of this and more came together for me somehow in my epic poem.

Frederick Glaysher

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Lake Huron, Half Way Up the Thumb of Michigan

Frederick Glaysher. November 5, 2010.

Between working on drafts of my epic poem, clearing out my head with a little contemplation of eternity… on Lake Huron, half way up the thumb of Michigan.

Lake Huron, half way up the thumb of Michigan

Lake Huron, half way up the thumb of Michigan

 

Michigan November overcast… all the gloom of the soul made manifest. Life on this rock as it is lived… Nature… She speaks to us, if we will listen. And can heal us.

 I am but ephemera like aught else on this planet… the rock itself. 

Frederick Glaysher

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Facebook Posts During January 2015

Galaxy NGC 6822

Galaxy NGC 6822

Facebook Posts During January 2015

(Somewhat chronological, but in no particular order)

We need a new vision of life on this planet, a new attitude about what it means to be a human being in our time, to bring us together, across our many divides, to unify humankind.

Nothing is impossible for the Imagination with which humanity is endowed… From time to time, we human beings need to look afresh at what we’re doing, who and what we are, I believe, and I hope that my epic poem might help all of us around the globe do just that, reflecting on our human fragility a little more, and what we have in common, before the mystery of life in this cosmos, a quarter million miles away, from Tranquility Base. I hope you’ll consider taking a flight to the Moon…

We need to take the next step toward a new vision of life on this planet, a new attitude about what it means to be a human being in our time, to bring us together, across our many divides, to unify humankind.

I believe an Imaginative story, like John Lennon’s Imaginative song, can help do just that… hope you’ll read it! …make the Journey.

John Lennon showed that an Imaginative song can bring the world together around the globe; I believe an Imaginative epic song, a tale about humanity’s Journey through time and space, can help us see the great Image of Mother Earth as never before… feel again our common humanity in the depths of our souls.

However unlikely it might seem, I invite you to consider that one of the best responses to the terrorism we now face around the world might indeed be a trip to the Moon…

What’s needed is a new work of literature that revives and teaches the value of the humanities to people in all walks of life… including those in the university. Then, all will understand why the humanities are so important to the health of the individual and the community–global now.

A New Global, Universal Vision of Life on this Planet…
2012 to 2014 > 20 reviews in 7 countries–Ghana, Africa (1), Australia (1), Bangladesh (2), Canada (3), India (1), United Kingdom (3), and the USA (9). Excerpts from all of them now on Amazon USA, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, Amazon France, and Amazon India. Search The Parliament of Poets.
Help me DOUBLE that to 40 reviews in 14 countries by… June 30th? December?

If you want it, all of the great cultural divides can now be healed… Catholicism and Protestantism, Sunni and Shia, Muslim and Hindu, science and religion, religious and secular, Marxism and Capitalism, East and West, North and South… The alternative to healing these divides is more reactionary nostalgia and violence… global now.

In all the great religions and indigenous wisdom traditions, duality and exclusivism ultimately resolve and clarify into Unity. One of the marks of Enlightenment thinking is the loss of that realization and its replacement with the meta-narrative of its own myth. With nihilism now a global myth, it can now be overturned, East and West, through mimesis, from a universal perspective, driven back like a scapegoat into the wilderness or substratum, as from the Moon… an Imaginative realm and act of the soul, as in Dante, achieved through sacrifice.

Both nihilism and the modern reactions to it can in this way be resolved, as well as through lived life, which continues, leading to a higher resolution of the traditional conflicts that have absorbed humanity for most of the last 500 years.

The Myth of the Enlightenment: Essays explains all this and more in detail, often through the lives and writings of John Milton, Tolstoy, Tagore, Saul Bellow, and other writers and cultural critics, for example, Julien Benda and Jacque Barzun.

Given the horrendous events in Paris, I’d like to mention that I have studied Islam all my adult life, with course work back in the 1970s at the University of Michigan, including with one scholar from Al-Azhar University of Cairo. Both of my recent books respond to the dire nature of the threat that faces world civilization around the globe, especially in the essay “Decadence, East and West.”

My fullest response to Islam and modernity is in my epic poem, however unlikely that might seem to some in our culture today, addressing, from the Moon, our current dilemmas… A couple of cantos in my epic poem are specifically about Islam, attempting to evoke and explore a new way forward for Muslims, as well as the rest of humanity… to come together in peace.

The Myth of the Enlightenment: Essays

The Myth of the Enlightenment: Essays
Hardcover. ISBN: 9780982677834. Earthrise Press, September 2014. 230 pages.

From “Decadence, East and West,” in The Myth of the Enlightenment: Essays:

“The Quran (9:29) says,

“Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya [tax] with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.” (King Fahd Holy Qur’an)

“There are many other similar verses. They’re well known to anyone who actually reads the Quran. For the fanatics, and some moderate Muslims, that’s Islam. And it cannot be soft-pedaled. Nothing discredits Islam more than its reduction to a political power symbol, as Ibn Khaldun recognized, and the use of violence and terrorism in an attempt to install it. The great jurists who developed and practiced the principles of “ijtihad,” a moderately balanced interpretation of the Quran, did, have, and would condemn such violence, lack of compassion, and a sense of the historical moment. Their sense of the fullness of the text of the Quran would note, “Let there be no compulsion in religion”; “Unto you your religion, unto me my religion”; “God has respited the People of the Book”; “If God had pleased, He would have made you all one people. But He has done otherwise.” Hearing only one part of the voice of God in the Quran turns it into an idol, and the individual into a decadent fanatic, seeking through pride and violence to impose his distorted interpretation on others.”

What the world cannot but ask > Are the apologies taqiyya?
I.e., lying to infidels. How can we know but by the *actions* of Muslims?
Words aren’t good enough… East and West, we need to reform ourselves.
“By their fruits ye shall know them.” –Matthew 7:20 KJV

Is ijtihad (moderate interpretation) a solution or partial solution? The emphasis on universality by Sufi and Indian poets, indeed world poets, on tawhid, the spiritual unity and oneness of God? Is it too naively hopeful to think that most Muslims at least can come together with others from such a spiritual perspective, be energized by it?

All the old visions are shot to hell…
We need a new vision of life on this planet.
Gazing from the moon, we see one Earth, without borders,
Mother Earth, her embrace encircling one people, humankind.

John Lennon sang an Imaginative song that brought the world together… I believe an Imaginative epic song, a tale about humanity’s Journey through time and space, can help us to see the great Image of Mother Earth as never before… our common humanity, before the cosmos, find our way to peace on Earth… helping to change life on this planet!!

Few read the traditional works of literature and myth, around the world. As in Japan and probably Korea, many young people are more interested in Anime and popular culture. So they really don’t have the depth of knowledge to think deeply with the full wealth of culture, East and/or West. It’s an extremely serious problem because it leads to very shallow thinking about the perennial problems of human nature.

Unfortunately, the trivial culture of modernity, with few reading the great traditional works of literature, poetry, and myth, around the world, leaves many young people unprepared for the profundity and complexity of life.

Many of their elders are to be blamed for bringing about this situation, in our now extremely, extremely fragmented culture, which endangers us all, at exactly the time when we need the most the great visions of human struggle, endurance, tragedy and triumph from the past, the great tales of what it means to be human.

The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem

The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem

My epic poem addresses and resolves precisely the problems at the core of the conflict between Islam and the rest of the world, modernity broadly, as attested by two Muslim scholars:

“The purpose of the spiritual journey of the Poet of the Moon is to seek deliverance of the modern human from the captivity of nothingness, nihilism and atheism, and from the resulting chaos and chasm of soul. From the versatile he gets scores of life-affirming lessons, yet the core meaning of all is that the Supreme Being as well as the earth is one, and so human beings are one nation irrespective of their clan, class, color, race, religion and gender. In this earth human beings are part of the Great Mystery’s creation and their duty is to keep the balance and harmony of the universe, to achieve union, to choose sacrifice, and to be self-controlled. In this manner Glaysher sings the song of ‘one Earth, without borders, Mother Earth, her embrace encircling one people, humankind’ (19)…. The lucid and placid feet of the language moves deftly and smoothly from the beginning up to the last line of the poem. Bravo to the Poet for this toilsome but brilliant endeavour.”
Umme Salma, International Islamic University, Department of English Language and Literature, Chittagong, Bangladesh, in Transnational Literature Vol. 7 no. 1, November 2014, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
https://dspace.flinders.edu.au/jspui/bitstream/2328/35084/1/Salma_Parliament.pdf

“The review has evocatively summed up the stylistic and thematic magnificence of ‘The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem.’ A contemporary classic! Highly recommended for reading.”
Nishat Haider, Associate Professor, Lucknow University, Lucknow, India

Though many are waving their arms about and shouting at one another, eager to climb the barricades, a trip together to the Moon… is what is actually needed, and the only thing that will help bring us together on this planet in peace.

Muslims cannot alone reform Islam. It has become a global problem and needs the help of the entire world. We are all human beings on this planet. We must help one another.

We human beings, we’re in a mess… The Emperor is bare naked, and the peasants are starving, half of them out of their minds. There are a lot of rocks in this universe with no life on them, as far as we can tell. We might want to hold on to this one…

I have an idea, as a poet, I think, let’s sing them a tale, take their minds off killing one another for a while, at least, lull them with song, and then work on rearranging their soul into something more human… before they notice it, and start killing one another again in the aisles… but, it seems, few of the barbarians any longer know how to read, or want to read, a serious book on an adult level… Thoughts of a new Dark Age, shake them off.

I refuse to give up, being a fool, Shakespearean!!! …in a tragic tale. Perhaps a little catharsis will help, especially from the Moon, from where the entire pageant play can be seen. Worth a try…

Idealism is the only truly realistic position, as has often been said. It can recognize that the heart of the human being harbors great evil, but also great good. Those like Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, and the whole modern pantheon of cynics have taken civilization in the wrong direction… The influence of the great German writers were in the hearts and minds, in the pen of Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Isaiah Berlin, and many others, from all walks of life, who opposed, as best they could, the fascists, triumphed against them, as Mann did in Dr. Faustus. They definitely were not in the work of Heidegger and Paul de Mann and other fascists who brought the dregs of their relativism, nihilism, and despair into American culture through Deconstruction and its sundry sophistries that have corrupted the writing of many since the 1970s.

W. H. Auden’s stricture that poetry makes nothing happen is false, as is all of its derivations. Poetry does make something happen–civilization, by elevating the thinking of the people. Without it, without the real thing, there is nothing but bestiality and despair. Idealism *affirms* what is best in the human being in order to call it into being, as Julian Benda wisely observed in The Treason of the Clerks. I *choose* to affirm what is best in human nature because I have experienced it, know its reality, as well as the bestiality and banality that result without it. No ideology could more perfectly dovetail with the greed of the mega-wealthy and the lust for power of politicians than nihilism. Idealism has always whipped them out of the temple and treated them with unmitigated contempt that they deserve.

The Moon reflects the Light of the Sun… without the Sun, it is dark, as dark as men’s minds without the love of God.

“Without vision, the people perish.” An ancient adage that still holds a perennial truth. I have nothing against atheists or anyone else. In our extremely, extremely fragmented cultural landscape, it has become almost impossible to conceive of the Unity that all cultures independently enjoyed at their best. Together, from the Moon, we can see it, global and universal… expanded now to the entire planet.

A modern Journey to the Simorg…

We ourselves have to change in order to save life on this planet…

This is now basically much of the trouble around the globe… so, I said to myself, long ago, perhaps a poet’s shaman tale of a Journey to the Moon… might help the world heal:

“It happens sometimes that I must say to an older patient: “Your picture of God or your idea of immortality is atrophied, consequently your psychic metabolism is out of gear.” ~Carl Jung, CW 8, Pages 399-403.

It is now possible to move beyond modern Nihilism and recover Unity of Being… global now.

Islam, too, is an interpretation of life predicated on exclusivism… with a call to *return* to it, or “ascend” to it. Then everything will be Peace on Earth…

The human being is the most blood-thirsty animal on Earth. From the Moon, we can see there is a way to tame him…

Tolstoy’s Green Stick, on the Moon… upon which is written the secret of how all men may live as brothers.

Frederick Glaysher

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The Gospel of Thomas, from The Nag Hammadi Scriptures

Cygnus Loop supernova

Cygnus Loop supernova

Excerpts from The Gospel of Thomas, from The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, ed. Marvin Meyer, 2007 

“Jesus said, ‘I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all has come forth, and to me all has reached. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.'”

“Jesus said, ‘I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all has come forth, and to me all has reached. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.'”

“Jesus said, ‘If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you will kill you.'”

“Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who are alone and chosen, for you will find the kingdom. For you have come from it, and you will return there again.'”* (Footnote #91: “Or ‘solitary’ (Coptic monakhos).”)

“Jesus said, ‘Be passersby.'” (Footnote #79: “Cf. an Arabic inscription at the site of a mosque at Fatehpur Sikri, India…”)

“Jesus said, ‘If they say to you, ‘Where have you come from?’ say to them, ‘We have come from the light, from the place where the light came into being by itself, established itself, and appeared in their image.'”

“Jesus said, ‘One who seeks will find; for one who knocks it will be opened.'”

“Jesus said, ‘When you make the two into one, you will become children of humanity, and when you say, ‘Mountain, move from here, it will move.'” (Footnote #184: “Or ‘sons of man.'”)

“Jesus said, ‘Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me. I myself shall become that person, and the hidden things will be revealed to that person.'”

“Jesus said, ‘Woe to the flesh that depends on the soul. Woe to the soul that depends on the flesh.'”

“His disciples said to him, ‘When will the kingdom come?’ ‘It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘Look, there it is.’ Rather, the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it.'”

***

“I and my Father are one.” –Jesus Christ, Gospel of John (KJV) 10:30

“Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, Ye are gods?'” John 10:34; Pslam 82 

“The Father is in me and I am in the Father.” John 10:38

***

Jesus Christ did not create denominations. Neither the Christianity of consubstantiation nor the Christianity of transubstantiation.

Is it any wonder that the Council of Nicaea sought to destroy the teachings of Christ, as Dostoevsky understood so well in his chapter on The Grand Inquisitor, and Tolstoy when he condemned the doctrines of the Russian Orthodox Church as “sorcery”? Little did Constantine and the bishops know that quantum physics would restore them…

Frederick Glaysher

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