CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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August 26, 2018

Go Out in a Blaze of Glory (permalink)

Revealed:
The Secrets to
the Spontaneous Expansion
of One's Quivering Entangled Vibrations

 

[For Clint Marsh.]

In 1929, the occult Welsh novelist John Cowper Powys, who wrote his magnum opus on Myrddin/Merlin (Porius), revealed his mystical secrets for the spontaneous expansion of one's quivering entangled vibrations.  We say "revealed," but these secrets are actually hidden and dispersed within the novel Wolf Solent.  For the first time, the varied elements of the technique are here coalesced and adapted for present-time adventurous spirits who wish to direct their own inner lives in their own peculiar fashions.

This technology is best practiced in the countryside, leisurely, from the passenger seat of a moving automobile, train, bus, or mountainside gondola.

Preliminarily (root word limen, "threshold"), stare through the open window and allow the passing telephone poles or trees to induce a mild hypnotic state.  Allow yourself to feel indulged by the peculiar pleasure in this luxury of simply taking in the environs.

The first step, when you're ready, is to imagine yourself to be a prehistoric giant running alongside your vehicle with effortless ease.  Leap over hedges, ditches, lanes, streams or ponds.  Let the noisy mechanical vehicle be deftly rivaled by the silent, natural-born speed of your giant.

Second, watch this other self, this leaping giant, with "the positive satisfaction of a hooded snake," as Powys put it, "thrusting out a flickering forked tongue" from coils that shimmer in the sun.

Third, notice that your real self is neither the giant nor the snake but rather that tree over there, "still in the rearward of its leafy companions," whose hushed grey branches throw such contorted shadows.

If you happen to see a cow eating grass in a churchyard, watch it for a quarter of a minute as it gathers to itself "such an inviolable placidity" that its feet seem "planted in a green pool of quietness" older than life itself.

If you happen to see a church tower, wonder whether the religions of the world are "nothing but so many creaking and splashing barges," whereon the souls of humanity ferry themselves over "lakes of primal silence," disturbing the swaying water lilies that grow there and frightening away the timid waterfowl.

If you happen to notice that a bluebottle fly is your traveling companion, fix your gaze upon it as it cleans its legs and wonder whether from church tower to church tower there might be sent, on "one gusty November night, a long-drawn melancholy cry, a cry heard only by dogs and horses and geese and village-idiots, the real death-cry of a god—dead at last of extreme old age!"

Whatever you happen to see, draw into your lungs the lovely breathings from damp mosses, cold primroses, hazel wood, or whatever foliages in question, breathings that seem to float up and down valleys on airy journeys of their own.  

And then begin the practice of "sinking into the soul," a device that supplies one with the secret substratum of one's whole life.  This is accomplished by summoning-up to the surface of your mind a subconscious magnetic power from your early days, from that time when you watched the glitter of the sun or moon on the waters—a power that seems prepared to answer such a summons.  Allow a bit of arrogance, the idea that you are taking part in some occult cosmic struggle, between what you like to think of as "good" and "evil" in those remote depths.  See the magnetic impulses as resembling great vegetable leaves over a still pool of blue-green water, "leaves nourished by hushed noons," as Powys put it, "by liquid, transparent nights, by all the movements of the elements—but making some inexplicable difference, merely by their spontaneous expansion, to the great hidden struggle always going on in Nature between the good and the evil forces."  Let the worries of daily life become faintly-limned images in a mirror.  Let the true reality exist in your mind, "in these hushed, expanding leaves—in this secret vegetation—the roots of whose being hid[e] themselves beneath the dark waters" of your consciousness.

When you're ready, feel your body in that water, like the body of a tree or fish or animal.  Feel your hands and knees "like branches or paws or fins."  Notice that floating around your body is a thought, "'I am I' against the world."  Let this "I am I" include a new purpose and include your will toward this new purpose.  Contemplate Powys' contention that there is no limit to the power of the will as long as it is used for two purposes only: to forget and to enjoy.  "The stream of life is made of little things. … To forget the disgusting ones and fill yourself with the lovely ones, that's the secret."

When you're ready, look above the surface of the pool, over the high tops of the trees, until your gaze loses itself in the blue sky.  "Millions of miles of blue sky," Powys said; "and beyond that, millions of miles of sky that could scarcely be called blue or any other colour—pure unalloyed emptiness, stretching outwards" from where you sit, "to no conceivable boundary or end!"

And, as you exhale into that vastness, say aloud, "Not dead yet!"  And then recite this passage from Wolf Solent: "Good is stronger than Evil, if you take it on its simplest terms and set yourself to forget the horror!  It's mad to refuse to be happy because there's a poison in the world that bites into every nerve.  After all, it's short enough!  I know very well that Chance could set me screaming like a wounded baboon — every jot of philosophy gone!  Well, until that happens, I must endure what I have to endure!"

---

See John Cowper Powy's Wolf Solent (Simon and Schuster, 1929) and Janina Nordius' "I Am Myself Alone": Solitude and Transcendence in John Cowper Powys (Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1997).

---

—Craig Conley is author of HarperCollins’ One-Letter Words: A Dictionary, Weiser Books’ Magic Words: A Dictionary, and The Young Wizard's Hexopedia.  His more arcane publications include A Field Guide to Identifying Unicorns by Sound, a guide toSeance Parlor Feng Shui, and a manual on The Care & Feeding of a Spirit Board.  He is co-author of New Star Books’ Franzlations: The Imaginary Kafka Parables.  His work has been profiled in the New York Times, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News, Publishers Weekly, The Associated Press, and dozens of others.

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Original Content Copyright © 2019 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.