Beaten By Bigger And Bigger Angels

Jacob wrestling the angel by Edward Knippers. Beaten by bigger and bigger angels.

I consider unfulfilled expectations to be part of the experience of following a spiritual path. Steps to Knowledge is the book of spiritual practice of the New Message from God. Each of its 365 steps contain instructions for practice.

Beaten by bigger and bigger angels

Sometimes I follow the directions, and beautiful things happen. I get some kind of experience related to the step. I get some kind of insight, a thought I hadn’t thought before. But there are other times when I follow the directions and nothing happens. The heavens are as brass, and the earth is as iron. But maybe that’s part of the plan. Maybe it cultivates emotional intelligence to not get what we want right away.

Beaten by bigger and bigger angels. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote the poem “The Man Watching” (“Der Schauende”) sometime between 1899 and 1902. It was one of the poems in The Book of Images. I consider Rilke to be one of my companions in my Steps to Knowledge journey. He takes poetic licence with the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis 32. This is Robert Bly’s translation.

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great.
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

Beaten by bigger and bigger angels. That might not be so bad.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

My Sentence Was A Thousand Years Of Joy

Robert Bly. My sentence was a thousand years of joy.I remember purchasing the Robert Bly poetry book “My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy” in the summer of 2005. Robert Bly had me at the title of the book. The exclamation point of the book is the poem “Stealing Sugar from the Castle.” The title of that poem would later become the title of the book of Robert Bly’s poetic life of 63 years.

My sentence was a thousand years of joy

Robert Bly has not only written many poems over his long career, but he has translated poems from a number of different cultures and languages. “Stealing sugar from the castle” is his image for his efforts at poetic translation. I share this poem as a valentine to those who are translating the New Message from God from its original language of English, to the languages of the world.

We are poor students who stay after school to study joy.
We are like those birds in the India mountains.
I am a widow whose child is her only joy.

The only thing I hold in my ant-like head
Is the builder’s plan of the castle of sugar.
just to steal one grain of sugar is a joy!

Like a bird, we fly out of darkness into the hall,
Which is lit with singing, then fly out again.
Being shut out of the warm hall is also a joy.

I am a laggard, a loafer, and an idiot. But I love
To read about those who caught one glimpse
Of the Face, and died twenty years later in joy.

I don’t mind your saying I will die soon.
Even in the sound of the word soon, I hear
The word you which begins every sentence of joy.

“You’re a thief!” the judge said. “Let’s see
Your hands!” I showed my callused hands in court.
My sentence was a thousand years of joy.

 

Normally I would recite this poem, but I have something even better, Robert Bly’s recitation of his poem, accompanied by music and video provided by filmmaker DJ Kadagian.

The translators currently do their work in relative obscurity. But I believe that one day, they too will say, like Robert Bly, “My sentence was a thousand years of joy.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Don’t Let Me Forget

Rabindranath Tagore. Don't let me forgetI recalled this poem by Rabindranath Tagore as I contemplated Step 95 “How can I possibly fulfill myself?” of Steps to Knowledge. Here is the portion of Step 95 which sparked a memory:

“Only in fantasy and imagination can you possibly even entertain the idea of fulfilling yourself. There is no fulfillment here, only increasing confusion. As the years progress, you will feel a growing darkness within you, as if a great opportunity has been lost. Do not lose this opportunity to realize life as it truly exists and to receive fulfillment as it is truly offered to you.”

Don’t let me forget

I recall Step 95 having a significant impact on me when I did it in October of 2011. I consider this another step to be addressed in a series of posts, like Step 26, “My errors give birth to my Knowledge,” and Step 51, “Let me recognize my fears so that I may see beyond them.” I am letting Rabindranath Tagore open the discussion. This is a slightly modernized version provided by Robert Bly. The original version is here.

If I am not to meet you again in this life then I want to feel that I have missed the meeting, don’t let me forget, let me feel the pain of it in my dreams and while awake.

As the time passes in the black dust of the body, and I get fat with money, I want to feel that I have gotten nothing out of it all — don’t let me forget, I want to feel the slivers of pain in my dreams and while awake.

When I walk up the steps, exhausted and tense after a long trip, or when I climb into some lonely bed, I want to feel that the long trip is still ahead of me — don’t let me forget, I want to feel the pain in my legs both while asleep and while awake.

When my house is all cleaned, and drinks are set here and there, and I hear people laughing, I want to feel that I haven’t invited you to my house — don’t let me forget, I want to feel the pain of that grief both while asleep and while awake.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

My Inner Life Imitates, Drinking In Silence

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1900 My inner life imitates, drinking in silenceThis is another literary experiment. There are already two perfectly good English translations of the poem “Ich habe viele Brüder in Soutanen” from The Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke. One translation is by Robert Bly, and another translation is by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Here is the original German:

Ich habe viele Brüder in Soutanen
im Süden, wo in Klöstern Lorbeer steht.
Ich weiß, wie menschlich sie Madonnen planen
und träume oft von jungen Tizianen,
durch die der Gott in Gluten geht.

Doch wie ich mich auch in mich selber neige:
Mein Gott ist dunkel und wie ein Gewebe
von hundert Wurzeln, welche schweigsam trinken.
Nur, dass ich mich aus seiner Wärme hebe,
mehr weiß ich nicht, weil alle meine Zweige
tief unten ruhn und nur im Winde winken.

My inner life imitates, drinking in silence

Barrows and Macy suggest that the Madonnas Rilke is talking about in this poem are the Madonnas of Sandro Botticelli, like this one:

Madonna and Child by Sandro Botticelli. My inner life imitates, drinking in silenceand this one:

Madonna of the Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli. My inner life imitates, drinking in silenceI read the existing translations, and I think to myself “I know that’s what he said, but that’s not what I think he meant.” And since I’ve already railed against complaining, I have to do something about it instead. So I did. It’s definitely not an exact translation, but it says what I think he meant.

I have many brothers, in holy brown robes
In the south, laurels in monastery gardens.
The way they imagine the Madonna – so human
As I often dream of Titians
Through whom God walks as fire.

Though I dig into the rich, dark earth of myself,
My God is still deeper
My inner life imitates, drinking in silence

The life you see springs from his abundance,
More than that is a mystery to me.

I am pleased with myself for following in Robert Bly’s footsteps, stealing a grain of sugar from the castle of sugar which is the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Sometimes I Forget Completely

Rumi wrote a poem "Sometimes I forget completely"

Coleman Barks translated Rumi's poem "Sometimes I forget completely" into English

It took six hundred years, give or take a few, for Rumi’s poetry to appear in English. R. A. Nicholson (1868-1945) gave us the first complete English translation of the Mathnawi. A. J. Arberry (1905-1969) followed in Nicholson’s footsteps, translating Fihi ma fihi (translated as Discourses of Rumi) and many Rumi poems. I believe these men felt like the man in the gospels who discovered the treasure buried in the field, or the merchant of pearls who discovered the pearl of great price.

In 1976, poet Robert Bly showed Coleman Barks some of Arberry’s Rumi translations. Bly suggested to Barks that he make a more modern poetic translation, saying, “Release these (poems) from their scholarly cages.” Oh, what gratitude I have for the human bucket-brigade of A. J. Arberry, Robert Bly, and Coleman Barks, carriers of the celestial nectar!

Sometimes I forget completely

Sometimes I forget completely
what companionship is.
Unconscious and insane, I spill sad
energy everywhere. My story
gets told in various ways: a romance,
a dirty joke, a war, a vacancy.

Divide up my forgetfulness to any number,
it will go around.
These dark suggestions that I follow,
are they part of some plan?
Friends, be careful. Don’t come near me
out of curiosity, or sympathy.

I was inspired by recent events to share this poem. Sometimes I forget completely that I’m not alone, and it drives me mad, as it is a violent violation of one of the great truths of the universe. Please help me to remember, but from a distance.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

I Will Let Love Rule Today

This is the second in a series of three posts regarding the Step 70 review of Steps to Knowledge. In this review, three weeks worth of practice, from Step 50 to Step 69.  The first post in the series covered the Step 70 review of Steps 50 through 55. Step 56 was a review. This post will examine my Step 70 review of Steps 57 through 62, with some commentary.

I will let love rule today

Step 57 – “Freedom is with me today” – “I was not very good on hourly practice in this or any of the steps before Step 70 requiring hourly practice.” In my Step 63 review of this Step, I wrote “Freedom is doing what I know, being my True Self. Slavery is to follow my surface thoughts, the surface thoughts of others.” Between then and now, I’ve gotten more consistent at hourly practice by using my cell phone as an hourly alarm.

Step 58 – “Knowledge is with me” – “It is encouraging to even contemplate the possibility that Knowledge knows I’m approaching it, and likes it.” In my Step 63 review of this Step, I wrote “Knowledge desires to enfold my little self in itself. Someone on the inside has heard about it. My little efforts of my little part has caught the attention of Knowledge, my True Self, the God Seed within me. That is a comforting and encouraging thought.” The line “Someone on the inside has heard about it” comes from Minnesota poet Robert Bly, describing the experience of someone starting on a spiritual path.

Step 59 – “Today I will learn patience” – “Observe me without judgment. Observe the world without judgment. Repeat until eternity.” In my Step 63 review of this Step, I wrote “I am so impatient! I want half of America to change its beliefs right now! I damn myself for not going straight toward Knowledge right now! Time and time again I am told to observe without judgment.” I was much more politically opinionated when I did this Step than I am now. Is this a good thing? Maybe. I know I am suffering less about the things politicians say and do. Am I being more patient with politicians? Maybe.

Step 60 – “I will not judge the world today” – “See above. [the commentary on the previous step]” In my Step 63 review of this Step, I wrote “My standard m. o. [modus operandi, way of doing things when left to my own devices] is to judge, judge, judge. When I think that this is the world I have come to serve, I hear the voice of Timon in The Lion King saying ‘Whoa! Talk about your fixer upper!’ Every so often I hear ‘America is in need of the New Message’ not judging America as it plunges toward ruin.”

Step 61 – “Love gives of itself through me” – “Not judging is letting love rule, express itself.” I’m not a big Lenny Kravitz fan, but this song got me. If I don’t judge today, I will let love rule today.

Step 62 – “Today I will learn to listen to life” – “Being present is not judging is letting love rule.” If I am present with others, I will let love rule today.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Music by Kabir, Translated by Robert Bly

Kabir Weaving

Kabir is the one doing the weaving in this picture.  We know he was raised by a Muslim family who worked as weavers in the Indian city of Varanasi (also called Benares).

Robert Bly

Robert Bly translated 44 of Kabir’s poems in 1993.

Have you heard the music no fingers enter into?
Far inside the house
entangled music –
What is the sense of leaving your house?

Suppose you scrub your ethical skin
until it shines –
but inside there is no music,
then what?

Mohammad’s son pores over words,
and points out this
and that
but if his chest is not soaked dark with love,
then what?

The Yogi comes along in his famous orange,
But if inside he is colorless,
then what?

Kabir says: Every instant that the sun is risen,
if I stand in the temple, or on a balcony,
in the hot fields, or in a walled garden,
my own Lord is making love with me.

 

I read this poem, and I cry out “Let the music play within me!”  I read this poem, and I cry out “Let my chest be soaked dark with love!”  I read this poem, and I cry out, “Let me be as colorful on the inside as the Yogi is on the outside!”

This poem can be found in The Kabir Book

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

What Is This Great Truth?

Dissatisfaction

From time to time, I am not pleased with my study of a step in Steps to Knowledge.  I have an unhappiness that there is something there I’m supposed to realize or experience, that I’m not experiencing.  I feel that way about Step 25 “I am at one with the greatest truth in life” these days.  But instead of trying to analyze it further, I’m going to share something which approaches the step from another direction.

I have already shared the poem “Last Night, As I Was Sleeping” by Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly.  I have had a desire to find music that goes with this lovely poem.  The details can be found here, but to say it succinctly, the music is composed by J. S. Bach, arranged for classical guitar by Rick Foster, and performed by David Franzen.

People seem to have taken a certain degree of enjoyment in this.  And as I think on this, I think that maybe the great truth to which Step 25 is referring is “my true self is not apart from life, my true self wishes to intensely participate in life.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Last Night, As I Was Sleeping by Antonio Machado, Translated by Robert Bly

There are two reasons I am sharing this poem.

First, I recalled this poem when I read the New Message teaching “The Gift of a New Life.” Here is a taste of that teaching.

God does not have to figure out your situation. The Lord of the universe is not focused on your life. But God has put Knowledge within you, and it holds your purpose and direction. It will find the people you must find. It will bring correction, harmony and balance to your life if you are able to discern it and to follow it and to apply it, wherever that is necessary.

This is what creates a new life—not an old life with a few enhancements; not an old life with a new belief system; not an old life with a new set of clothes or a fancy religious explanation for everything; not a tragic person dressed up for success; not a lonely, isolated person who has now become socially acceptable because you say and do all the right things.

Second, I had about an hour to redeem between the time I got to the gate at Denver International Airport, and time my flight would take off for St. Paul.  On the outside, I was just one of many people casually strolling around the terminal area.  But on the inside, my arms were outstretched, and I was crying out with a loud voice, “Soon you will be in a new place.  But if you have the same old life in that place, then what?”

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night, as I slept,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

I would normally have put a recitation of this poem here, but Robert Bly already has a great recitation, with gorgeous nature imagery to go along with it.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.