Gregg Newsom

Harry Crosby - Prophet of the Sun

I'm reposting this in honor of Harry's Birthday this year. ~G

Harry Crosby, Prophet of the Sun

A collection of poems by Harry Crosby. Limited to 100 copies. Complied and designed by Gregg A. Newsom II. Edited by Sara Sowers. In 1991, when traveling through Austin, an associate of mine gave me a tattered sheet that held 3 nearly unreadable Crosby poems. They transfixed me. I traveled the country copying poems from libraries and rare bookstores and eventually moved to Carbondale, IL. to gain access to the Caresse Crosby papers at Southern Illinois University. I created this online edition to commemorate the 2011 anniversary of Harry Crosby's death. The project gave me a chance to look at Crosby with fresh eyes. I've always cringed at Harry's contradictions and train-wreck levels of drama. His misanthropy, worship/objectification of women and perception of non-Europeans as savage are considerable blocks to the potential of his inspired 'life as art/politic' rebellion against the wealthy Boston Brahmins and his creative quest for spiritual liberation. ~Gregg, Detroit Evolution


Manifesto of the BLACK THORN LEAGUE, Hakim Bey

I'm posting this Hakim Bey piece here, St. Patrick's Day 2016, due to the hermetic.com page being shifted to all white txt which is unreadable. I typically post this every St. Patrick's Day to remind me that "DNA counts for something, but soul for a great deal more. "Every man & woman their own vine & fig tree" (one of NDA's slogans) is not a matter of fate but of character, not of birth but of choice." ~G

Manifesto of the
BLACK THORN LEAGUE

  1. According to orally-transmitted teachings of Noble Drew Ali, founder & Prophet of the Moorish Science Temple of America: -- Ireland was once part of the Moorish Empire; that is, the celts were Moslems, & there were black moors from N. Africa also present in Ireland. But the moors were expelled by militant Christianity -- this event is disguised in the legend of St. Patrick's expelling the snakes - for which reason the MST celebrates St. Patrick's Day, in a mood of irony perhaps, in expectation of an eventual Return.
  2. In Noble Drew Ali's system, celts are considered an "Asiatic race", & thus potential converts to Moorish Science. We consider NDA's theories to be racial but not racist, because (again according to oral tradition) they were based (at least in part) on spiritual affinity. "Europeans" who wished to Join the MST (including some of the later founders of the Moorish Orthodox Church) were declared to be really celts or "Persians" -- (which may have something to do with the oft-remarked similarity of Eiran and Iran).
  3. NDA's hidden history of Ireland may be taken as an esoteric metaphor -but it is supported in some surprising ways by archaeology & even "official" history. In the first place, the celts are an Asiatic race, or at least the most recent arrivals in the west from the mysterious "Hyperborean" heartland of the Aryans -- last of those nomadic migrations which settled India, Persia & Greece.
  4. Second: What is one to make of those early Celtic crosses inscribed with the bismillah ("In the Name of God", opening words of the Koran) in kufic Arabic, found in Ireland? The Celtic Church, before its destruction by the Roman hierarchy, maintained a close connection with the desert hermit-monks of Egypt. Is it possible this connection persisted past the 7th/8th centuries, & that the role of the monks was taken up by Moslems? by Sufis? in contact with a still-surviving underground Celtic Church, now become completely heretical, & willing to syncretize Islamic esotericism with its own Nature-oriented & poetic Faith?
  5. Such a syncresis was certainly performed centuries later by the Templars & the Assassins (Nizari Ismailis). When the Temple was suppressed by Rome & its leaders burned at the stake, Ireland provided refuge for many incognito Templars. According to The Temple & The Lodge, these Templars later reorganized as a rogue Irish branch of Freemasonry, which (in the early 18th century) would resist amalgamation with the London Grand Lodge. The Islamic connection with masonry is quite clear, both in the Templar & the Rosicrucian traditions, but Irish masonry may have inherited an even earlier Islamic link -- memorialized in those enigmatic crosses!
  6. It's interesting to note that Noble Drew Ali's Masonic initiations may not have been limited to Prince Hall or black Shriner transmissions, but may also have included some hidden lines connected to Irish masonry, & dating back to Revolutionary days in American history. It is known that many common soldiers in the British Colonial Army were masons affiliated with the Irish rather than the London Grand Lodge. This "class" difference -was reflected in the American Revolutionary Army, whose officers were "official" masons but whose private ranks tended to be "Irish".
  7. Historians sometimes forget that in the 18th century, in America, the Irish were generally considered "no better than Negroes". In 1741 on St. Patrick's Day in New York a riot broke out, involving a conspiracy which included Irish, African, & Native American men & women -- naturally "of the meanest sort." Some Irish conspirators were overheard to swear they'd kill as many "white people" as possible. The uprising failed & the plotters were executed. As the bodies of two hanged in the open air decayed in an Iron gibbet, "observers noticed a gruesome, yet instructive, transformation. The corpse of an Irishman turned black & his hair curly while the corpse of Caesar the African, bleached white. It was accounted a 'wondrous phenomenon'" (Linebaugh & Rediker, "The Many-Headed Hydra").
  8. Clearly the Celt & African were linked not only in the gaze of the oppressor class, but also in their own world-view -- as comrades, as somehow the same -- in a solidarity which extended to Indians & to other "Europeans" who fell beneath the level of the "respectable poor" into the category of slaves & outcasts. Racist feelings did not divide the 18th century poor & marginalized -- as would become the case under later Capitalism. Rather the marginalized of all races constituted an underclass & moreover, an underclass with some awareness of itself, hence with a certain power (the power of the "strong victim"). This consciousness might well have been developed in part by Irish-black "masonry" of some sort. And Noble Drew Ali might have known of this tradition, which he masked (or perhaps unveiled) in his parable of the snakes - & celebration of March 17th.
  9. In another interpretation of St. Patrick's anti-reptilism, the "snakes" he banished were in fact "druids", i.e. Celtic pagans. The snake may have been an emblem of the Old Faith, as it is for many forms of paganism, including African (Damballah) & Indian (the Nagas) -- & even for the Ophite Christianity of Egypt (Christ himself depicted as a crucified snake).
  10. Celtic pagan lore was embedded in the Romance traditions especially in the Arthurian material -- & here once again. we find ourselves in the world of the Arabo-Celtic crosses. For the romances are permeated with "Islamic" consciousness. In Malory's Morte dArthur & Eschenbach's Parzifal many Saracen (i.e. Moslem/Moorish) knights are depicted not as enemies but allies of the Celts -- & in the latter book the entire story is attributed to Moorish sources (which are now lost). Saracens, Christians, & crypto-pagans are united in a mystical cult of chivalry which transcends outward religious forms, & is emblematized not only in pagan symbols like the Grail & the Questing Beast, but even in such cultural borrowings as the lute (al-'ud in Arabic), or indeed the cult of romantic/chivalric love, transmitted from Islam to the west by Sufis in Spain.
  11. Ireland's contacts with Spain certainly extend back into the Islamic period, & the so-called "Black Irish" may have as many Moorish as castillian genes. Medieval Irish monks probably absorbed Sufism & Islamic philosophy along with the art of the illuminated manuscript -- witness the extraordinary stylistic resonance between the Book of Eells & the Kufic Korans of Omayyad Spain. If St. Francis could visit N. Africa & come back to Italy wearing a Sufi's patched cloak, so the Irish might easily borrow from Egypt & al-Andalus.
  12. All speculation aside, the Moorish Orthodox Church entertains its own esoteric interpretation of NDA's teachings on these matters. We heartily endorse his "elective affinity" theory of affiliation with a greater spiritual Celto-Asiatic "race". DNA counts for something, but soul for a great deal more. "Every man & woman their own vine & fig tree" (one of NDA's slogans) is not a matter of fate but of character, not of birth but of choice.
  13. In our historical/imaginative exegesis & unfolding of NDA's parable, we have uncovered a complex of heretical Islamic & Moorish cultural strands linking Celtic neo-paganism, esoteric Christianity, & the Arthurian cycle, thru Sufism & masonry, to the perennial libertarian struggle of the marginalized & oppressed peoples of the "Atlantic" world.
  14. We propose to embody this poetic complex in a popular chivalric order, devoted symbolically to the cause of "bringing the snakes back to Ireland" - that is, of uniting all these mystical strands into one patterned weave, which will restore the power of its synergistic or syncretistic power to the hearts of those who respond to the particular "taste" of its mix. We have borrowed this slogan from contemporary neo-pagans in order to symbolize the special mission our order will undertake toward Celtic-Moorish friendship. The BLACK THORN LEAGUE will be open to all, regardless of whether they are MOC members or not, providing only that they support this particular goal.
  15. "Black" in our title signifies not only the black banners of the moors but also the black flag of anarchy. "Blackthorn", because the tree symbolizes druid Irelands & is used to make cudgels. "League", in honor of the various Irish rebel groups which have organized as such. Other organizational models include such Masonic-revolutionary groups as the Carbonari, or Proudhon's anarchist "Holy Vehm", or Bakunin's Revolutionary Brotherhood. We also emulate certain anarcho-Taoist Chinese tongs (such as the Chaos Society)~~ & hope to evolve the kind of informal mutual aid webworks they developed.
  16. The League will bestow the Order of the Black Thorn as title & honor, & will hold an annual conclave & banquet on St. Patrick's Day in memory both of Noble Drew Ali's vision, & of those rioters of 1741 who conspired in low taverns to overthrow the State.

Bring The Snakes Back To Ireland!


Lunar Based Pranayama: Encouraging Exploration of Breath and Moon Cycles by Gregg Newsom

Lunar Based Pranayama:
Encouraging Exploration of Breath and Moon Cycles
Gregg Newsom
(2008, Detroit)

Those who aspire to the state of yoga should seek the Self in inner solitude through meditation. With body and mind controlled they should constantly practice one-pointedness, free from expectations and attachment to material possessions. ~Bhagavad Gita 6:10

No matter what your experience in the art and science of yoga, you know that it is all about the breath. Whether we’ve practiced Yin or Ashtanga, our teachers have reminded us time and time again to focus on the breath. The problem is that there is SO much going on while we are practicing we are easily distracted. We’re distracted by our thoughts, our judgments, the intensity or lack thereof in the class, our neighbors, that little spot on the floor, and even by trying to understand or anticipate our teacher’s sequence. There is a great deal going on within the body, the mind and the environment around us! Keeping one’s mind fully upon the breath is a challenge ancient sages and living masters alike have faced. Pranayama[i], one of the eight limbs of yoga, is a detailed study and practice of breath, energy flow, and meditation.

Creating a pranayama practice can greatly assist us to connect to the breath in our asana practice. Our ability to focus upon the breath increases our ability to oxygenate the body. This oxygenation, more than increased flexibility or muscle toning, is the greatest benefit received from yoga. Even the most gentle of asana move flesh and muscle and this motion releases toxins built up over time at rest into the blood stream. Oxygenation along with proper hydration flushes these toxins from the body[ii]. This is the key to the healing properties of yoga that many of us have read about and some have experienced.

Finding Time for Pranayama

 Practice and all is coming. ~Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Making time to include a focused pranayama session into our busy lives can be one of the greatest challenges. We’ve all had that “ah-ha” moment where we realize that days when we make the time for asana practice go much more smoothly than those when we don’t. I’m sure that a great many of us have also realized that our practice miraculously seems to create enough energy and focus that we actually have more free time available! Taking the extra effort to engage in a pranayama practice tends to amplify this. Finding a bit more time in your schedule to develop a connection to pranayama will deepen your regular asana practice and greatly increase the cleansing and healing properties of yoga within you.

While we would benefit from a deep hour-long pranayama practice, the fact is the majority of us are better suited for a five-minute pranayama practice at this stage. I’ve practiced pranayama for 20 years and have just recently began to explore long sessions. Unfortunately, many of us in the West have lost our connection to the breath and need to be reminded how to breathe. Breath is a great indicator of the overall health of a culture. We tend live our lives from our heads and our hearts, which from an overarching view is an incredible feat. Humans have developed the ability to reason and emote at levels that can only be expressed as divine. But in this process we have let go of our connection to the earth. We rarely breathe below our solar plexus these days, let alone down to our core, which is where our connection to the earth and the physical plane is expressed.

With this in mind, the silver lining is, you don’t need to find another hour! Striving towards fifteen minutes every other day is challenging and admirable. An easy way to get in your pranayama is to connect it to your asana practice. If you practice at home just set the alarm a little early. If you take a class ask your teacher if they mind if you arrive early to work on pranayama before class. (They’ll probably be beside themselves with joy!) When you arrive, roll out your mat and find a comfortable yet erect position to settle into. If there are distractions they will become our greatest teachers as we learn to turn our focus within. Your decision to take this extra time will also be visible to your instructor and your fellow students and may create opportunities for further exploration into other limbs of yoga in your community and satsang[iii].

The First Breath

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important. ~Bertrand Russell

There are many suggestions as to the best introductory techniques to pranayama. I will share a few here to begin the process but again refer back to your teacher who will most likely have the best suggestions as they know the current expression of breath during your asana practice. I find the best mindset to approach pranayama from is a mixture of exploration and play. I often consider my awareness to be like Lewis and Clark, mindfully skirting the edges of a new frontier. We need to be extremely gentle with ourselves as well. Yoga is a lifelong practice and the more subtle aspect of pranayama will meet overzealous determination with equal resistance. Practice of pranayama without judgment and especially without frustration seems to be requisite for advancement. Again, the spirit of play and exploration are recommended.

There are probably as many breathing techniques in pranayama as there are asana! The victorious nasal Ujjayi breath common to most hatha yoga is a suitable breath for our initial dip into pranayama[iv]. Padmasana, crossed legs, an erect spine and a slightly tucked chin, is an excellent position to begin with, but any will do. The hands are placed wherever they are comfortable, but as your explorations develop it is energetically sound to place the hands upon the knees and possibly even take a mudra[v] with the hands. Again, different traditions have different expressions here. This process is one way in that, as we deepen our connection to yoga, the importance of teachers and sat-gurus comes to light.

As we enter into our pranayama, sitting straight, engaging in Ujjayi breath, and striving to weave together the breath and the awareness we will meet many opportunities. The first, mentioned above, will most likely be external distractions. As we close our eyes and begin to move towards our center the other physical senses tend to engage. Conversations from the lobby or traffic from the street vie for our attention as we move towards stillness. It is not that we want to ignore these things though. To ignore these stimuli implies an ignorance of them and that is not the goal here. We want to focus our awareness completely within ourselves. To ignore something requires a certain amount of awareness of that which we are ignoring. Let the world be around you and shift your focus.

Of course, the greatest tool to assist with this inner focus is the breath. Ujjayi breath creates a sound[vi] and that sound comes from within. As we let the world around us fall away focusing on the sound of the breath will guide the awareness within. The internalized awareness faces a new opportunity as aberrant thoughts and emotions begin to flood the awareness. Here, objectivity and a certain amount of awe for the mental capacity required to process this raging river will be your best allies. Objectivity can lead us to examine the possibility that thoughts and emotions, like the external sounds, are actually not who we are! To overcome the onrush of thoughts we can try to build a dam and with rigid discipline attempt to still the waters, but this process begs the question, who is building the dam?

The spirit of exploration will assist you here as well. An explorer documents her travels and keeping a yoga journal will assist in learning this new terrain. Please be aware that the process we are lightly bandying about here in a few paragraphs is one that can play out over years or decades for some while others may merge more easily into these states. No matter your experience with pranayama, practice is always required and creating a link between our asana practice and our pranayama will be a great boon to both.

Moon Days

See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...we need silence to be able to touch souls.

~Mother Teresa of Calcutta

In addition to the creation of a pranayama practice within our regular asana practice we can look to the observation of Moon Days to extend our ability. The observation of Moon Days is a slightly fringe aspect of yoga engaged in by some schools of thought. It can have a profound affect on the connection between yoga and the rest of your life. My personal practice is traditional Ashtanga as handed down by Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois and in this lineage we do not pursue asana practice on days of the full and new moon. There are many and varied reasons for this, but the best explanation is that the human body is 70% water and is influenced by the moon just as the ebb and flow of the tides are. The slight pull of the moon upon our bodies shifts our center of gravity and can rend us more susceptible to injury. Taking rest from our asana practice gives us another opportunity to pursue pranayama.

In addition to extra time to explore the inner realms, this practice can assist to reestablish our connection to the world around us. An awareness of the cycles of the moon brings our bodies closer to a connection with Natural Time. The clock and the calendar are man-made constructs and though they perpetuate our civilization and lifestyle, they too negate our connection to our core. Taking a moment to recognize the new and full moon can lead us to an awareness of the delicate machinery around us, the sunrise and sunset, the positions of the stars and ultimately to an awareness of ourselves within this place. We may also slightly glimpse the fact that we live in Natural Time and constructed time in the same breath and that there may be other levels of awareness as well, but we’ll leave these abstract notions for more advanced pranayama explorations.

As we engage in our Moon Day practice we may begin to notice subtle differences between full and new moons. Cultures around the world have expressed the different energies between these opposite ends of the lunar cycle in very similar language. Typically the new moon is imbued with a grounding quality associated with fertility and planting. The full moon, in turn, is a time of harvesting, of rising energy and a time of spirit. By observing the energetic qualities of the lunar cycle we can guide the meditative aspects of our pranayama. Tuning into this natural flow of setting intentions on the new moon and tending to them during the waxing of the moon can serve as a guide us upon our life path. Being mindful of harvesting the fruits of our intentions and nourishing ourselves with them through the waning of the moon can inspire us and bring us closer to a more active role in our lives. This cycle continues and as the new moon comes back around we again find ourselves breathing on our mat, exploring pranayama and planning seeds.

This exploration into pranayama, approached from the mindset of play and exploration, will amplify the connection between our yoga, our world, and all worlds. We have covered a great deal of ground here but at the same time have greatly simplified a very complex system that, as mentioned above, is designed to be studied throughout a lifetime or even across many lifetimes. The greatest resource as you enter into a pranayama practice will be your own body, mind, and breath, your asana teacher and the foundational texts of the tradition that influences your practice.

[i] Pranayama (Sanskrit prana = life force, or vital energy, the breath, ayama = to lengthen or extend) is often translated as control of the life force. When used as a technical term in yoga, it is often translated more specifically as "breath control."

Pranayama is the fourth 'limb' of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29 in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali discusses his specific approach to pranayama in verses 2.49 through 2.51, and devotes verses 2.52 and 2.53 to explaining the benefits of the practice. Patanjali refers to pranayama as the control of life force that comes as a result of practicing the various breathing techniques, rather than the numerous breathing exercises themselves.

Many yoga teachers advise that pranayama should be part of an overall practice that includes the other limbs of Patanjali's Raja Yoga teachings, especially Yama, Niyama, and Asana.

[ii] Different schools of yoga have very different views on hydration during practice. I highly recommend asking your instructor about water intake and your practice.

[iii] Satsang (Sanskrit sat = true, sanga = company) describes in Indian philosophy (1) the company of the "highest truth," (2) the company of a guru, and (3) company with an assembly of persons who listen to, talk about, and assimilate the truth.

[iv] Though Ujjayi breath is a great start to our pranayama, as your practice deepens so will your interest in exploring the diverse world of breathing techniques used in pranayama. These different techniques create different states of mind and body.

[v] A mudra is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudras involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers.

[vi] In many traditions beginning Ujjayi breath has a sound quality while more advanced practitioners will move towards less audible Ujjayi breathing.

 


Sept 16, 2014 FreeWrite on Land and Identity/Personality

Another attempt to get back to writing every day as a healing practice. One of my mentors recently noted that many of the issues/situations that we have been attempting to address/interrupt through our work in Detroit appear to intersect at our new house and the experiences we're having while settling in here. What follow is stream of consciousness focused on a few of these issues. ~G

LAND: Until my 30s I swore up and down that I would never own anything. That to own house or a land was a weakness, a vulnerability that my lifestyle would not partake in. Being a product of disposable culture and mandatory transience, I learned to thrive like a plant with a short root structure, landing for a certain amount of time and then, typically using the energy/excuse of a storm or turbulence, to roll on to the next.

I'm nearly certain it is the case for many born in the late 60s early 70s, that the internal and external transitions occurring between 30 and 40 years were intense. I'm also certain that the post-millennial decade, with towers falling on one end and the economic crash on the other shifted me and many others, regardless of age, greatly.

My experiences between the ages of 30 and 40 were vast, but for the current project I'm more interested in outcomes rather than anything that could be considered nostalgia.

What I want to focus on here is the shift from transience to permanence, the shift to attempting to participate rather than manipulate, the shift from being an extreme individual striving to dominate reality to this empathic, vulnerable, and often angry being before you.

While my time this morning is coming to a close, I propose and will explore more the existent notion that our connection to land/water is directly connected to our identity.  The idea of living out the rest of my days in this house, in this one space rather than moving hither and thither, is doing more to ground my personalities, my beliefs and to solidify my intentions more than any other practice, ritual, or therapy that I have pursued. Gratitude.


May 24, 2014 - Analysis, 'The Spring of Pathos'

For those who may not be aware, we're about 3 weeks from the estimated arrival of another little one. So, I've been actively stepping-back from the front-line of a few of the issues I frequent to focus on family. In addition to preparing our hearts and minds for this transition, I'm also striving to get us moved into our new space on the East Side as quickly as possible.

For me there is a great deal more to the new space than simply gutting and rebuilding, there is also a philosophical/spiritual process/evolution that my awareness is drawn to and, for many reasons, some emotional and some strategic, compelled to partake in.

So, in addition to the physical transitions we're facilitating at the moment, I've been attempting to synthesize lessons learned in the past five years here in Detroit and the more seminal source material that facilitated our positioning here. While fun in a nostalgic sense, it has also been quite heady and heavy.

Just going at the surface, with little effort, we could make cookbooks, zines, art books, and I have collections of essays, newsletters and flyers from the lab and and our subsequent efforts that I could organize into something successful.

Being who we are, it could be easy to simply 'entrepreneur' ourselves into sheltered irrelevance and service to the forces that have stepped in for 'the common good'. But, rather than just slap the name 'Detroit' on something to turn a profit, I'm attempting to integrate the lessons Detroit has taught in a respectful, meaningful and, most important to me, in a practical way.

Five years of documenting and participating in protest efforts, rallies, marches and others, has reemphasized the need for intentional and practical application of a few of the seminal theories referenced above.  I recognize that everyone has a particular approach to change and transformation and I support such efforts to keep those channels open and accessible.

At the same time I have witnessed these efforts to be the source of ego that gives rise conflicts of identity and agenda. While these efforts have been and will continue to be vital, I know that I need to expand my efforts to include action and building.

I'm attempting to find an internal relevance, that for whatever the reason, requires personal transformation. It is my intention that this approach will not simply ease the symptoms, which I've spent a great deal of effort on, but rather will reach toward the locus, the root, the spring of pathos.