Disclaimer

This blog ran for more than two years with no graphics--and it received about 50 page views. I was advised to add graphics; after seeing the huge public that followed blogs dedicated to homoerotic images, I decided to use that kind. The result was a dramatically increased number of monthly page views, and the number has remained fairly steady. Most of the images were found on the internet; although they are assumed to be in the public domain, they are identified as far as possible. They are exhibited under the "Fair Use" protections of United States copyright law: their function is simply to attract readers to the poems--I receive no economic benefit from them or from the blog. Nevertheless, they will be removed if they are copyrighted and the owner so desires.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

A TÍ, MISTERIO




A tí, misterio, he de llegar,
y en tu santuario penetrar,
como en sueños el viajero
que atraviesa un páramo
encuentra un templo monumental,
y demorando ensimismado
entre las columnas
de mármol cremoso,
divisa la puerta oscura,
y se acerca,
y empuña la llave recia,
y empuje, y abre, y poco a poco
avanza, y a tientas
se entraña en tu negrura.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

(UNTITLED)

 
The conclusion that I have not been able to avoid is that none of the passers-by sees either this pool or me.  No one ever seems to stop by the low, round curb; nobody, as far as I can tell, even glances this way. 

One can’t blame them—it’s not the sort of thing that calls attention to itself; it is, one would almost say, non-descript.  Neither large nor small (although its width does not permit one to reach across it), apparently it is not wide enough to allow the formation of ripples; none is ever seen.

Within the low circle of bricks around its rim, the water is almost as invisible as if the pool were empty.  No light is reflected from the surface; nor, if I should lean over it, would I ever see my own reflection.  It reflects nothing.

I don’t know how deep it is, or where the water comes from—if, after all, the liquid in the pool be water.  It is not unlike ether or alcohol in its lack of density, except that it has no properties or effects, not even that of annulling sensations.  It is perfectly colorless, absolutely odorless and tasteless. 

I do not wish to be here, but I cannot move away, unable to decide; I cannot stop dipping my hand to drink, never feeling either thirsty or satisfied.  
    





Sunday, July 15, 2018

EL HUERTO


En un ángulo de los muros
bajo el Alcázar de Toledo,
en frente de un postigo oscuro,
me saludó un anciano tuerto:

—¡Bienvenido! Este es mi huerto,
del que tanto ha hablado la gente.
Tengo aquí mis manzanas crujientes,
de carne blanca teñida de rosa,
melocotones de néctar espeso,
naranjas esféricas y esponjosas,
cuyo jugo es como jarabe, y otras        
especies, de los más raros injertos:
peras rojas, blandas y empalagosas 
por sudar chorros de su propio almíbar, 
más uvas negras en racimos densos, 
que rezuman gotas de miel y azúcar...
—Mas cuando yo intenté pasar,
se sonrió, dulce.

                                         Ay, disculpa,
yo te he detenido en la entrada,
y ¡ahora mismo voy a cerrar!

                            —Mientras hablaba,
me encontré en la calle temblando
entre esparcidos copos blancos. 
Ya había empezado a nevar. 


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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

ON THE CONCEPT OF GOD

The kingdom of God is within you.    Luke 17:21 


In our time, the world powers characterized by the monotheistic “Abrahamic” religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), as well as Russian and Chinese atheism, are waging a war to the death among themselves for supremacy over human minds and for control of the resources of the earth.  Because the consequences of this struggle may include the destruction of most of humanity, it seems worthwhile to analyze their common, though mutually exclusive, claims of supremacy.  For the present, I will focus on the belief in one God because we are all born believers and because monotheistic beliefs, although they lack inner logical consistency,  have marginalized all others; whereas atheism does not lack consistency, and therefore may not be susceptible to modification.

In relation to the idea of God, two things are almost universal: first, our tendency to produce or figure to ourselves images of at least one overwhelmingly powerful supernatural personality (God) who is, at least in the Abrahamic religions, called perfect: omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent; and second (because from birth we depend on others), the human need to believe in that power as a source of things that we cannot obtain for ourselves, and as an explanation for why things happen beyond our control and expectations.  (These things include the origin of the world as well as accidents, tragedies and the suffering caused by evil people.)  Human beings cannot prevent themselves from asking “Why?” and in the absence of any clear natural explanation, they resort to a supernatural one: it is God's will, which must not be questioned. 

That is why all cultures have practiced religions: a religion is the set of beliefs, values and practices through which an individual or a group relates to its god or gods.  Throughout history, different social groups have espoused different religions, and every society has believed that only it possesses the one true religion.  This belief is especially characteristic of the monotheistic religions, each of which has attempted repeatedly to eradicate all other religions and to exterminate their adherents, in obedience to a supposed divine command.  (The polytheistic Greeks and Romans of Antiquity were exceptions to the rule of exclusivity—on a few occasions they welcomed foreign cults.)    

But the fact of multiple exclusive religions presents a problem: If there were only one God, what reason would this divinity have for allowing many disparate concepts of Him/Her/Itself to exist?  Necessarily, if one of these concepts is true, then all the other concepts must be false.  Why would the one true divinity allow numerous false concepts about itself to exist?  And yet they do exist. 

If there were only one real, objectively existing God, wouldn't there be only one religion that correctly worshiped the one true deity?  Wouldn't all human beings share that same religion?  What reason would the one true God have for creating or permitting mutually hostile religions, only one of which could be true and acceptable, and for setting social groups against each other and fomenting cruel “holy wars” throughout human history, like those that we see emanating from the Middle East today?  What would an all-wise and all-powerful God gain by causing such conflict?  Unless God were a perverse, sadistic power that wanted to cause conflict, and enjoyed the suffering that results from it, wouldn’t all people share the same religion?  But we don't.   

Therefore, given the almost universal religious conflicts throughout the last three thousand years or more, with their persecutions, enslavements, massacres and genocides, we are faced with a dilemma: either there is no single all-powerful, benevolent God who is to be worshiped in the only one correct way—or the one existing true God desires that humanity suffer the internecine conflicts, the destruction and the physical and emotional pain that historically it has suffered.  In the absence of any factual evidence except human suffering, which alternative is more probable or believable?  

The traditional attempt to deny God’s responsibility for human destruction and suffering claims that an evil entity, Satan or the Devil (assisted by his subordinate spirits, the demons), causes them either directly or through his manipulation of gullible and self-centered people; but this is to advance an idea that contradicts the doctrines that God is all-powerful and all-good.  If the Devil causes human suffering without the consent of God, then the Devil’s power defies that of  God—that means that God has little or no power over the Devil—and therefore God is not all-powerful.  It could even mean that in effect we have not one God, but two, for the Devil would be a powerful evil god, as in Manichaeism or as hinted at in late Zoroastrianism.    

On the other hand, if God is omnipotent, then the Devil (if there is one) operates only with God’s permission, as in the Book of Job.  And if God gives permission to cause destruction and suffering, then God is not completely and exclusively benevolent; God is not all-good.  This is the conclusion at which the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung arrived, as explained in his  Answer to Jobalthough as a scientist, to avoid scandal, he referred only to “the God-image in the human psyche.”  It is not surprising, because Jung was descended from a family of clergymen of the Calvinist Swiss Reformed Church; and his conclusion is what Calvinism simultaneously implies and denies.  (Logically, if the word “good” is to have any meaning at all, a God   
that creates sentient beings while depriving them of the power to choose good over evil, afterafter!having already foredoomed them to eternal torment in Hell for not choosing good over evil, is a God” who is not quite “Good.”)  

A typical theological attempt to evade Jung’s conclusion claims that God wants to “test” us through our suffering—but that claim involves a denial of the doctrine that God is omniscient as well as the one that God is all-good: a person is tested when the tester does not know something, and needs to use the test to obtain information.  If God tests us, that means that God does not know something, and in that case, God is not all-knowing.  

A clever apologist might try to evade the latter conclusion by claiming that God tests us in order to make us find out something about ourselves—but God’s tests involve severe suffering, emotional as well as physical.  And this suffering is inflicted also on persons other than the person who is being tested: family members, loved ones, by-standers. . . .  Why would a benevolent God require and inflict such suffering?  Furthermore, an all-powerful God could achieve anything simply by willing it.  Why would an all-powerful and benevolent God desire to go to this extremeOnce again, God would have demonstrated that God is not all-good.  And tanswer that “there is no other way,” is to admit that God is not all-powerful.  

There is another possible solution to the dilemma, although I hesitate to mention it, because to do so in areas of the world accessible to fanatics of the Abrahamic religions is to increase one’s risk of being slaughtered by savages: I refer to polytheism, the idea that there are many gods, not just one.  Many ancient religions worshiped more than one god, and Hinduism and a number of other Asian and African religions, like those that gave rise to Voodoo and Candomblé, still do.  The existence of numerous divinities, each with its own nature, preferences and aims, would explain perfectly the existence of the many conflicting religions and the other conflicts in the world.  I am not proposing polytheism as the true explanation, but I ask: Which theology, of all those proposed above, is the most probable or believable?  

Perhaps none of them are.  In that case, how can these questions be answered?  How can these logical objections be met?  How can religious belief be justified?  What follows here is the best that I can do; if anyone has a better answer that can be demonstrated, I would like to know it.  

Perhaps the solution to the problem is to be sought not in a primitively superstitious and casuistically over-elaborated theology, but in the study of the human mind.  At present this is dominated by two schools of psychology; one, Freudian psychoanalysis, is frankly atheistic, locating the source of all human behavior in the sexual instinct, and of all human problems specifically in early sexual trauma or sexual frustration.  The other school, the analytical or “depth” psychology of Carl Gustav Jung, posits a drive toward self-realization, called “individuation.”  This involves a progressive reconciliation and integration of the various conflicting impulses that move us.  In relation to the idea of God, Jungian psychology seems more believable, since it embraces more than the simple biological urge.       

In numerous books and papers, Jung disseminated his evolving concepts of the psyche—among them the collective unconscious, the archetypes, the complexes, and the tendency to produce or perceive spontaneous visual and other manifestations.  As I understand it, the word “psyche” is Jung’s term for the total human cognitive (mental) and affective (emotional) functioning, comprising an individual’s consciousness (everything that one is aware of at a given moment), the personal unconscious (everything a person has forgotten) and the collective unconscious (literally everything that is not in the individual consciousness or the personal unconscious, but is the result of the evolution of the human race: all the ideas and behaviors that it is possible for people to have, all the forms of energy that determine the ways in which the human race functions).  An archetype is the potential and propensity for the human mind to function in a particular way, the psychic equivalent or aspect of an instinct—as impossible to ignore or escape as the seven colors of the spectrum and the scale of audible vibrations that humans perceive, and innate like the faculty of human language and the spontaneous and irresistible sexual instinct.  

These concepts are relevant to religious belief in the following way:  Jung warned that it is impossible to make valid, verifiable statements about the objective existence of God, the God of the theologians and believers; the only thing that we know, he claimed, is that we perceive spontaneously-produced images, symbols of the central, dominant archetype of the collective unconscious—the archetype that he called “the Self.”  They may appear as images in the conscious mind in dreams, visions, fantasies, and hallucinations; they may also be manifested as voices or other physical sensations, as in kundalini yoga.  Jung said that he was following the earliest Christian theologians when he called these things “the God-image in the human psyche.”  

I do not make the same distinction as Jung, although what I write here is based on a few of his ideas.  I present my reasons below.   

To say that an archetype is all that we know of God is to say that what we call “God” is a factor or a function of the human psyche.  One corollary of this is that we cannot avoid thinking of God as a personality; we see and hear people doing this all around us every day.  For example, the fact that we pray and do good deeds in order to deserve rewards (good things, grace and ultimately Heaven) and to avoid punishment (bad things, misfortunes and ultimately Hell), demonstrates that we conceive of the deity as a personality that can be moved by our actions.  

In spite of the fact that we define “God” as an omnipotent, omniscient and exclusively benevolent supernatural entity (at least in Judaism, Christianity and Islam), this divinity is perceived or imagined as a personality like ours: we ascribe to it a sense of identity (I Am Who Am), various desires (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”), sympathies and antipathies, irritability, feelings that can be offended or pleased (“I Thy God am a jealous God”), and vengefulness (which we call “punishment for sin” or Divine Justice”).  As a description of the supposed all-wise, all-powerful, transcendent creator of the universe, that is a very limited and anthropomorphic conception.  (Strangely, both the description and the fulsomeness of the approved formulae for addressing the Deity seem to suggest the attitude that an abused child is forced to adopt toward its abusive parent.)  And yet that is how we conceive of God.  

But this personality can be recognized as a special case of our evident archetypal tendency to personify almost everything: as children we personify dolls; we recognize our pets as personalities; as adults we give personal names to boats, ships, airplanes, other vehicles, and even to weapons; we create “smily faces” (yellow circles that are interpreted as human faces because they contain two dots above a short curved line) and we personify cartoon animals (Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck) and stuffed cloth animals (Teddy bears, Easter bunnies, Winnie the Pooh), and even topographic features (the “Old Man of the Mountain,” or the “Sleeping Giant” of so many landscapes; the Lorelei; the “face” on Mars); and many Christians claim to see Jesus or the Virgin Mary in clouds, tree trunks, walls and screen doors.  And of course the apparitions at Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima, and Medjugorje have all appeared as persons, as have angels.  

This idea is suggested even by the phenomenon of ghosts—under certain circumstances that evoke fear, suggestibility or belief, images and sensations arise in the minds of susceptible people, from the tendency of the unconscious mind to produce personalities.  If ghosts were an objective, external phenomenon, everyone would see the same ones in the same places.  In reality, they don’t.  For example, of the hundreds of thousands of tourists who troop through the Tower of London every year, very few claim to have seen that old stand-by, the ghost of Anne Boleyn.  We read or hear the same half-dozen stories over and over in books, magazines and online websites, but no one comes forward with a personal assertion of a new sighting of the ghost.  And this is true of all ghost stories.  It is logical, therefore, to conclude that ghosts are mainly subjective psychic phenomena perceived as personalities.  

All this means that we cannot avoid being confronted with non-ego personalities that emerge from the unconscious; this fact is the origin of the life-like characters in novels and plays as well as in bedtime and campfire stories—personalities, each with its own definite traits.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that we recognize other people as persons only through the faculty of personifying.  The archetype is inside us.  

It may be that what we call “God” is a result of this tendency of the unconscious to produce something, some energy that the conscious mind perceives as personalities, or images of personalities, and is ultimately a result of our evolution as social animals with fathers and mothers on whom, as infants, we helplessly depend.  The phenomenon would be analogous to that of “imprinting” among the young of many species: the first living thing or simulacrum that the new-born sees is taken as the parent and model, and unquestioningly bonded with.

This idea is supported by the fact that the structure of the mythological divine family around a patriarchal figure and a matriarchal figure is almost universal, although the descriptions of these figures vary greatly from culture to culture. Obviously, this is easier to demonstrate in the polytheistic religions.  Something of the variety of versions is suggested by the following:  For the ancient Egyptians, the god Amon-Ra created the universe by ejaculating his semen into the void—a quite literal fathering.  The Greeks called their patriarchal god “All-Fathering Zeus” or “Zeus, Father of Gods and Men.”  Readers of Greek myths are familiar with the ups and downs (no pun intended) of his relationship with his sister-wife-queen, the goddess Hera.  And even among the monotheistic religions, Jesus claimed to be sent from his Father in Heaven, and taught his disciples to address Yaweh in prayer as “Abba,” the equivalent in Aramaic of “Papa” or “Daddy.”  

In some polytheistic religions, the matriarchal figure may be subordinate, and in others she may be dominant, reflecting the social structure in which she arises; 
there are many examples among the many goddesses of the Hindu religion.  In classical Antiquity, she appears in the various avatars of the Greek goddess Artemis as well as the Diana of the Ephesians, and was even imported from Asia Minor as the Great Mother Goddess, Cybele.

In monotheistic religions she is revered though denied divine status (the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus in Catholicism’s “Holy Family” and, in fact, all the Marian apparitions; and one or two of the Prophet Muhammed’s wives in Islam), or she is reduced to a metaphysical or mystical metaphor (the Holy Wisdom in some strains of Christian mysticism and in the Kabbalah of Judaism, or the Immaculate Conception in Catholicism).   An educated Westerner has only to think of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Norse and Hindu myths as well as Christianity; the basic pattern exists in myths all over the world.  Again, which of the possibilities mentioned above is the more believable?  

For me the most credible existing religion is Buddhism, which (strictly speaking) believes in no objective transcendent Godhead personality, but does have an idea of the universe that is both more logical and more compatible with contemporary astronomy and astrophysics than are the creation fables of the Abrahamic religions.  It is also more compatible with our understanding of our daily needs and desires.  (Think of the many taboos of the Abrahamic religions—dietary taboos, sexual taboos, taboos on dress, taboos that prohibit freedom of thought, of expression, of association, and even of movement.)  Other than Buddhism, my answer to the question of credibility is, “None.”  

Unfortunately for us, every one of our social groups (except perhaps the Buddhists) believes that it must impose its own religion on the rest of the human race, even if that means subjugating, torturing and slaughtering masses of people simply because the beliefs and religious practices of one group differ from those of another.  I trace this characteristic to the “Us-against-Them” instinct or archetype in humanity, a result of the need to belong to a group in order to survive, because we are born into a food chain as predators who are individually weak,  and therefore need the group to dominate those around us and exploit them before they can dominate and exploit us.  Among religions, the drive to dominate and exploit is especially true of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, each of which justifies its violence and cruelty as obedience to a supposed divine command to reduce the world to conformity with its god.  I have read that it was also true of the ancient Egyptians; this is a reasonable idea, given that the Egyptians and the ancient Hebrews clashed and interacted with each other; and given the claims of some historians that the Hebrews’ monotheism was inspired by that of the Egyptian pharoah Akhenaton.    
The line of reasoning followed here constitutes, for me, sufficient evidence that the God of the Abrahamic theologians is the personification of an internal psychic factor—it is not an externally objective, non-psychic, transcendent entity.  The conclusion is based on demonstrable reality—that human beings cannot resist personifying things, and cannot avoid interpreting the personified images and symbols of the great archetype, the “Self,” as an objectively existing (and demanding) God.  (And, of course, if God is an internal psychic factor, then the Devil is one too.  The Devil is also inside us.)  

Failure to understand this has caused, and continues to cause, horrible suffering.  Conversely, if every group and individual could understand this, there would be much less conflict and suffering in the world. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

DAFNIS EN EL LAUREL


No debí huirte, Apolo,
el roce de tus dedos
en mi espalda, el vaho fantasmal
de tu aliento sobre mi pecho, tus manos
eléctricas entre mis muslos sueltos...

Me pasmaba el relámpago de tus ojos,
el zumbido de tu voz 
en mis oídos me espantaba,
tu presencia invisible me bañaba 
en sagrado horror.

No debí eludirte entre la hojarasca
del bosque,
ni esconderme dentro de la áspera
corteza de los árboles.

Tendida la carne cobarde
contra la dura fibra,
me desgarra el potro de tormento
de la naturaleza dividida—
como a un brote de enebro
en un peñon batido por el viento—
por el sol abrasado de día,
de noche agachado bajo las estrellas frías.

Libérame, Señor Apolo,
de la guerra encarnizada
de cielo y tierra; libérame
de los terremotos y las granizadas,
de las tormentas repentinas y las sequías sofocantes.

Libérame, sobre todo, de los hombres, 
que andan con filos largos,
buscando cualquier cosa que puedan derribar.

Fresno me llaman, hecho para talar;
cedro me nombran, fácil de tallar;
ciprés me dicen, o pino o roble,            
leña para romper y quemar.
Así me acechan todos
sin siquiera saber mi verdadero nombre.











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