The burning bush unfurls the dream fire. Its streams flow as fields suffused with doors that bestow vision like windows. A body of layered veils disrobing, always star-filled, always empty.
-David Chaim Smith from The Blazing Dew of Stars (Fulgur Press, 2013)
(Click Here to see the featured image in more detail)
Where do you listen, and with what?
What does it mean to digest a thought, to amplify an emotion, to be touched in the heart by a tender vision, to listen to and react upon the words of a book?
There is a natural way in which we communicate the field of senses with far greater nuance than we normally pay attention to, hinting at an intimate source experience lying beyond 5, or even 6, senses. An experience that moves so far beyond anything we can know or grasp that it returns into a single field, a vibrant, multiplicitous unity of immense singularity divided against itself without ever leaving a non-existent, yet infinitely expansive point. This is not a scientific notion, but the play of poignant poetic resonance, a silent, unmoving walk away from all conceptuality.
Artist and contemplative practitioner David Chaim Smith represents this with two very simple equations, which are in a sense the same equation seen from different sides of a non-existent mirror:
01 = 10
0 = 1
Look deeply into the complexity of the featured image for this post, and you will see this equation visually unfolding in a way that hints at this dynamic singularity, as each geometric shape is an expression of the point ( 0 or o1) expanding, via a line, into the periphery (1 or 10) without ever leaving the unified field of existence, as expressed by the bio-morphic shapes which en-womb the entire image.
You might say to yourself, bullshit, that’s way more complex than a point, a line and a circle, and yet, if you look deeply you will see that it is in fact even simpler than that. Even the point itself is a crutch made necessary by our reified and crowned sense of ‘self,’ our luciferian urge for unique identity, which requires a certain level of accommodation at the beginning as we work to tear down the walls separating us from becoming insolubly intoxicated in the luminous empty mirror of phenomenal appearance.
Anyone familiar with what happens to the brain when you get drunk knows that your frontal lobe starts to become impaired, your brain essentially begins to shut down in terms of higher functionality and you are left awash in a physiologically induced sense of self’lessness due to the subtle response of poison on your brain. Smith’s work intoxicates in the same way, however the poison here is not a drug or substance of any sort, this is a gnostic poison that shuts down more than just the front lobe. It cuts the root of self itself. Quickly or slowly, it does not matter, once one has sipped at the fountain of wisdom, that perfect inconceivable point where luminousity and emptiness meet in unbreakable no’thingness, the process of un’becoming within the sacrificial universe begins.
“Poison nectar as simple perfection; the blaze of secret mercury as a sacrificial gesture.”
– David Chaim Smith
Smith has been working this path for over two decades now, and at this point there is very little there outside of his contemplative practice which enters into his perceptual field. This is astonishing and beautiful for those that want to access those streams of pure and unadulterated practice, but can be very strange when people think it’s for show or that he’s another ‘author’ or ‘artist’. They quickly find themselves entering an expression of the mystery which is unlike the table top fare that they are used to, this is a carnival of complex simplicity in which the flesh is not just bid farewell, it is never born.
It can also be strange for people who ‘think’ they understand what he is doing to encounter Smith’s work directly, because what he is doing is completely non-conceptual, his drawings in all of their complex and subtle beauty can be a real trap for those approaching his work if they try to access them in terms of conceptual understanding. This is far more radical than anything like that, a complete system of non-theistic, non-dual contemplative path working.
Smith’s latest work, The Blazing Dew of Stars is the most complete introduction to his practice that he has provided to the public. Robert Ansell and Fulgur Press are pushing the limits of contemporary fine art publication in presenting this radical and subversive contemplative who lives in retreat at the edge of Brooklyn. Although he is accessible via his Facebook page in order give some context to his work, Smith for the most part remains in contemplative retreat throughout the week, living separate even from his wife for a large portion of the time in order to fully focus on his practice.
Poetic resonance, a key
There is an essential mistake in the concept that the ‘senses’ are separate. While this is true in a relative way, it’s also possible to access them as a unified field. Some may be familiar with candle meditation techniques, or mirror scrying, which help with the experience of this state, however, when described they are usually set up to get people to think they need to go ‘inward’ towards a visionary experience. What is missed in this is that there is a passivity to the proper state in which all the sense fields intermix to invoke a profound bliss state accessing a totality, a multi-valient unity.
One can think of this as something like experiencing everything as a harmonic scale (discordance being where things ‘seem’ separate) It’s easy to conceptualize this, which is what the mind immediately wants to do, but it’s also possible to ‘bath’ in this sense field, which is essentially everything we can ever possibly experience through what we think of as senses. Eventually even meaning and more abstract elements of consciousness are included in this meditation.
The divine mono-chord
We can recognize this in works such as Robert Fludd’s famous image of the divine mono-chord. Fludd ‘s image presents a continuum of tonal expression, which in turn is mapped out to express the continuum of the physical, elemental universe through the celestial and into the ‘cloud of unknowing,’ that luminous darkness which hides the greater mystery of being. Following the diagram you will notice that there are no discontinuous points, from the ‘cloud’ down to the base of the instrument which sounds the chord, and throughout the radiant curves, everything is interconnected, and within the resonance of the mono-chord, everything exists within the continuum of the tonal play of undifferentiated sound and silence.
In the mixing field of a dream, the child becomes its own parent, and the harvest of meaning reaps itself without labor.
– from The Blazing Dew of Stars
This is why Smith’s drawings are so complex, yet so simple, as they re-present the interplay of these same existential fields within a unity. He is basically drawing 1 = 0 or 01 = 10 again and again and again in different permutations – it is the most simple and the most advanced form of gematria imaginable, existing as it does outside of conceptuality in the infinite ars combinatoria of resonant being itself. To read that ‘he is basically’ doing anything one could easily mistake the depths of devotion and contemplative work that allow him to express what he does with such elegance and stability.
One sees a hint of this in studying the differences between Fludd’s work and Smith’s, both of which reach towards the same reality, yet demonstrate very different resonant expressions of that reality. Again, we see the multifaceted aspect of unity in comparison, but only in a non-conceptual immersion in what is being compared can one begin to unbind the subtle gnosemic nuances that allow for differentiation in an undifferentiated whole. Beginning to enter into these subtle tones is the work of a lifetime.
If you look at the Yin-Yang symbol – there it is, if you look at the ouroboros, there it is, it’s literally at the core of every tradition. It’s so profoundly simple that it gets ignored, because it has no conceptuality to it, it’s a total experience that goes beyond concept and has to be directly experienced and accessed in order to ‘get’ it. Once you even have a taste, it is so supremely intoxicating. To get it is not to grasp it, but to let go, allowing the self to fall selfless into the ambient fields of existential bliss formed in the invariant variability of phenomenal appearance.
Returning without turning
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
– from The Emperor of Ice-Cream (1922) by Wallace Stevens
One becomes easily lost in the breeding ground of all revelation and paradox. This mystery can be masked, overshadowed and corrupted by what seems to be. ‘What seems’ and ‘what is,’ both concepts must melt away, the clenched hand must let go of even being a hand. This is the radical invitation of Smith’s work, to not only let go of our concepts of spirituality, known and unknown, but to let go of concept itself. Let go of let go.
אהיה אשר אהיה
Hinged on ‘that’ the ‘I become’ reflects itself in the appearance of being and nothingness, within this interplay, if it remains unreified by an illusory sense of self, there is not even a continuum of existence, no concept can describe the utter and unimaginable intoxicating mystery that is expressed in this often repeated axiom, more often heard in it’s reified sense of: I am that I am. Yet Hebrew is a language of flux not stasis, which makes ‘I become that I become’ a more suitable, and more revelatory, rendering of the phrase.
All of this may give the sense that Smith’s work represents a nihilistic escapism, or solipsism that breaks away from all foundations. Yet, it requires no sacrifice outside of living within the continual sacrifice that is already the innate function of being. This radically integral function of being returning to its own is offered here with all the complexity that something so simple requires, the simplicity that expands out into the existential flux of phenomenal appearance opened in visionary gates waiting to be entered by those bold enough to loose themselves in the intoxicating resonance of listening deeply to the blazing dew of stars.
Look for further elucidation of David Chaim Smith’s work in an upcoming article on Pijama Surf!