The Kundalini Elevator

Richard and Judith present:

Richard writes—

What came to mind for the internal structure of The Shrine of Amaterasu is the ancient Vedic conception of the energy centers of the body—the chakra system of visualizing how we conceptualize seven energy centers in our bodies. Experts in the old Vedic ritual boasted skills in linguistics, geometry, anatomy, astronomy and poetry, and they had been observing the forces of nature for centuries.  As a dedicated meditator (since 1967) I feel these centers as a force of habit in my daily practice. So, I began the process of making these energy nodes to fit inside the Shrine.

There is always a grave danger in cultural appropriation; borrowing Hindu conceptions of reality can feel like some old hippie is at the fun-house ride again. Wafts of patchouli smoke drifting about. Misunderstandings can abound. Closer to my own (Jewish) roots would be the Sefirot, the Kabbalistic conception of the body’s center’s of energy. Frankly, I was looking for something simpler. The Sefirot has 10 centers and is linked to specific sounds as is the Chakra system. Sanskrit letters and letters in Hebrew, as thought letters, hold power in themselves. I have no empirical data to verify this, and the truth is, I was never able to visualize the Sephirot as I was the Chakra system. So? “Sue me for living”, as my grandma Ida was fond of saying, or (Yiddish) Hak Mir Nisht Keyn Tschaynik…don’t hit me in the tea kettle. And, so? I’ll go with what seems to be coming through in my 3 AM reveries. Sue me for living.

Spiritual teaching and spiritual teachers give me the willies. Talk about reification! Power trippers cashing in on hungry souls. As I understand reification; the commodification of spirit. Something precious turned to base substance. This is Golden Calf territory. Jeff Koons’ golden “Balloon Dog” sold for $58.4 million at auction. You all remember the Golden Calf from Exodus? The Hebrews were getting restless for Moses’ return (oh Moses you old hippie, when are you going to give us the word of the Lord?) So, they built a Golden Calf to worship. What do we worship? Wealth is a good thing but it must be turned to help our dying burning planet. Any spiritual, political, economic, educational program that doesn’t teach the most crucial concept of do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is against our survival. Not do unto others before they do unto you. We are hereby announcing a new political partyh—The Golden Rule Party. Membership is renewed every waking minute. For us, meditating on the stack of nodes in the shrine is good for Mind Body Spirit continuum. If you don’t feel this to be true, make your own connections, but do connect to something beyond yourself, you were born to it, it helps all of us. Go ahead, paint a picture, weave a rug, make a delicious meal, write a check. Whatever it is, do it every day, it takes minutes, Judith and Richard love you.

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog —More fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Here at AMP we’re just trying for something true. As a conception of original sin, we’ve found the Garden of Eden story to have a deep truth and is instructive. The real Fall from the Garden would have come at the end of the last great Ice Age when agriculture took humans into “civilization” and the idea of reification took hold. Those Ice Age creatures were spiritualized deep in the caves as Art. When Civilization took hold, those creatures came out of the Holy Cave to became “MY COW” and that is “MY FIELD”. Who owns the world?

This isn’t our first go at talking about the Kundalini Chakra system. Our shower has mirrors lined up Chakra style, in the 90’s I made a piece called the Kundalini Elevator (Fleming Family Collection) which began with a carefully rendered drawing of a lizard wearing a jokey ball cap reading: “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go every where”. (Why is it so much of our humor comes from the 1st and 2nd Chakras? (sex and shit) Remembering and restating the obvious, I have no claim on true wisdom here, Vedic or otherwise. I only respond to what occurs to me as I gather objects to go into the shrine, and take notes as my 3 AM reveries spin. Objects for the most part, are found objects. They have no intrinsic meaning. They are simply place keepers as a meditation focus. We’re just trying at a bit of fun at this mindfulness—whatever that might mean.

The 1st. Starting bottom up, the base Chakra, the bottom of the body, the anus and the sex centers. Our barn (C. 1917) on this property when first occupied functioned as a machine shop. Digging around we have found many metal pieces from a by-gone era. Gears, wheels, even the starter crank from a Model T. It seemed right the base would have weight. The cast iron wheels filled the bill for the weight felt as sexual longing. The heavy bowel feeling of a full rectum goes right along with that feeling of weight.

The 2nd.The sexual center of the body. Sexual longing can feel like a bowl that wants to empty out. Think of the jelly fish displays, often a center of interest at an aquarium, floating, pulsing. When the neuron first appeared, it was a great evolutionary leap when these neurons formed a ring to create the first proto-brain forming the entrance and exit of the gut. Some have said, jellies look like they are in an endless orgasmic revery. At the Montery Bay Aquarium, dreamy music is piped into their room so you can float along in their pleasure ride.

The 3rd is an authentic Samurai sword, once Judith’s father’s, he picked during his Navy Service, standing as an image of personal power. This is a longer report on a moment when the sword was drawn and flourished: It came when I was in graduate school. That third chakra is the personal power plant.

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At a family dinner party, home for a holiday break from Grad school where I was an MFA sculpture candidate, I was talking up what I felt were the wonders of conceptual art; that the mind, the brain, was as important to understanding contemporary art as the eye. Contemporary Art and much of the Modern Art canon was a great confusion to the Babbitt’s (Sinclair Lewis 1921) of my home town. I was using Christo/Jeanne-Claude’s pieces to illustrate. Their team was in the process of proposing, at the time (1972, I was 24), Running Fence, 24+ miles of fabric fence,18 feet high stretching through the rolling fields of Marin County ending by diving into the Pacific Ocean. Their talks with the ranchers and County authorities to gain permission were well documented and as an important element as the piece itself. That is the essence of conceptual art. The Running Fence would exist for two weeks. At that dinner was the president of the Women’s Club of Kankakee, IL, my home town. She said my description of the project would make a great lecture for the club. The eighteen months interim would give me plenty of time to prepare. The honorarium would be $175. ($1250. in 2022 $’s). YOU BET I’ll do it, even though I had scant public speaking under my belt.

As the time drew near, every time I thought of my “lecture” my skin shrank two sizes. Oh! Hubris! (My goad and carrot). I wrote the whole talk out. I would just read and flee. I sure did want that dough. I had an 18-month old to tend and feed, kids are expen$$ive. The Kankakee Daily Journal printed a story about my coming talk, complete with my picture in hippie hair, letting my freak flag fly. Freak? It was proving to portend a side-show extravaganza. The night before the talk, at dinner with my Uncle Buck’s family, (Uncle Buck who had landed at Normandy, an orthopedic surgeon of consummate skill, was seated at the opposite end of the table from me) I was practicing my talk. As I went on with the explications of “high art”, Buck mouthed in a silent but in a very pointed way, the words B U L L shit. What was I thinking? I was imagining being shouted down by the likes of Uncle Buck.

OK, show time! The local TV news is there…yikes! But something happened inside, a grace filled me. I became sure and a comedian to boot, and I wielded my sword. I was unassailable in my love of Art. They laughed, asked good questions, they clapped. I had graduated to a bigger self. Talk about the 3rd chakra! My sword had struck, and the check cleared..

With my new-found confidence I wanted to leave Kankakee with a conceptual gesture of my own, gathering a group of HS buddies and accomplishing this pyramid. No funding from the NEA was required, only my purchase of quarts of Prima beer, 4 for $1.09. How many??

The 4th is the heart. It can be a confusion tangled up with Romantic Love, but one true aspect of falling in love is the sense that, for a moment, the world is washed clean of it’s usual confusions. There is purity and clairity of purpose, the central attribute linking all the nodes of the chakras. My grandfather whenever he greeted his grandkids hooked pinkies and whispered, “endless chain” in a lasting gesture of filial piety. The bonds of family love show up in the colored glass gathered in a family moment on the island of Murono in Venice, pictured in the drawing from 1996. When you find a moment of common purpose as a family, a bond emerges of a happy kind of love. We toted a 30 pound bag of glass throughout our trip, it finally landed on the dome in 2020. The dome rings when struck.

Noah, Amelia and Eli, picking up beached glass on Murano Island, Venice. Notebook sketch made, c.1995 while waiting for the water taxi
Beached Murano glass applied in 2021 to the 17 inch glass hemisphere
found on Kehoe Beach c.2004

We had a beloved house keeper, Narkita who told a story of waking in the night with a burglar in her house. She fed him breakfast, saying there wasn’t nothin’ in her house for him but Jesus’ love. Narkita, who would rub our backs until we were asleep. We would find notes tucked into our clothes…”Narkita loves you…”

The 5th is made from a Russian aluminum fishing float, now with myriad twinkling lights inside. I see it as the voice of the shrine. That float was retrieved from Kehoe Beach by Shirley Saltzman, a woman we met at a dinner party who hearing about our beach gleaning, gave us this precious thing. The 5th can be thought of as the finding of YOUR voice. A thing artists of all stripes talk about. Finding an authentic voice can feel sparkly like this. Maybe like grabbing a rope-tow on an old-timey ski slope. Woosh and you are moving uphill against gravity as your body is pulled along by the desires of your own enthusiasms.

The 6th is a wooden lightbulb I had made from a drawing and is a non-found object in the Kundalini stack. Written, etched with a wood burning tool, are “thoughts”. This is the mind chakra. Included in the thoughts are some significant equations that changed our thinking: The Higgs equation, of recent fame at the Large Hadron Collider, the entropy equation of Ludwig Boltzman both made it onto the “bulb.” Wittgenstein’s famous: “The meaning is in the use” aphorism and for range I’ve included a thought from Charles Schultz “Happiness is a warm puppy.” Cormac McCarthy’s lines “scared money don’t win” and “a worried man can’t love” are ideas I’ve found useful over the years. This is the essence of the rational mind ably parsed out for us in Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker’s books Enlightenment NOW and Rationality.

The swing between rationality and the imaginal life can be felt dualistically as in this fortune cookie phrase—Swinging between two Poles: Chopin and Copernicus. A supreme romantic musician and a supreme scientific classicist, the one who gave us the Heliocentric Solar System the other Nocturns lighting up the darkness of the cranial theatre.. Or maybe better, two rashers of Bacon. Both Francises, one the inventor of scientific reasoning the other an unsettled and unsettling expressionist painter. Can you say Apollo and Dionysus in the same breath? I have to say, after a bout with strange doings in the ole bod, I’ll go with the rationalists any day. Brain surgery to fix my nerve troubles? Yes, please.

The 7th, the topmost chakra, the crown, this is the connection to the eternal. Have you ever felt not just great, but completely OK? Like there was no room for improvement, no need for improvement. Happy beyond it’s opposite? This state is no special place, and that’s what makes it so special—not above anything else. As poet Robert Duncan says…

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow 

as if it were a given property of the mind 

that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,

everlasting omen of what is.

The Vedic conception has a very specific liturgy, but I choose to allow instructions to come through into the “observatory”; open most nights at 3 AM. My hope is that I haven’t stepped on toes in my appropriative hunger, but I truly feel when my instructions come through they are a true thing.

This completes the Shrine. It’s useful when meditating to internalize the sculptures as you practice your breathing exercises. As you sit in a quiet spot, breathe, thinking of each of the chakras with each breath. Don’t have any interest in meditation? You will, as the vicissitudes make life troubling, or a tough relationship issue roars up, or a jerky boss or problems with substances, or you just can’t stop buying shit you don’t want or need on Amazon, or the politics of lies gets you down, or maybe some ill-health blues is on repeat-play. Meditation won’t cure any of that, but it sure helps when it comes time to change the channel, to step away for a different perspective. I use a reducing lens, the opposite of a magnifier to look at a painting I’m working on. Different perspective. Meditation is my mental reducing lens. Do yourself a favor. I come from very practical people, refugees from murderous anti-semitic thugs—meditation is no salvation, but in the face of trouble it can be one practical step back for a wide-angle view.

This morning as the rising sun shone through the Oak branches, a ray of light, a gift from the goddess herself.

Just this AM 2/4/22, Amaterasu broke through the Oaks to accomplish THIS at 7:45 AM

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