On Mexico City Blues (25th Chorus)

Jack Kerouac – cover illustration by Robert LeVigne

Allen Ginsberg on Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues  continues from here

(Death is – “Nil, none, a dream,/A bubble pop, a foam snit/in the immensities of the sea/at midnight in the dark”)

AG: However, 25th Chorus:

“Dont worry about death/ Once you’re there/ Because it is trackless/    Having no track to follow/You will rest where you are/In inside of the essence/    But the moment I say essence/I draw that word back/And that remark – essence’s/    Unspoken, you cant say a word,/essence is the word for the finger/ that shows us bright blankness/    When we look into the God face/ We see radiant irradiation/ From middleless center/ Of Objectless fire roe-ing/In a fieldstar all its own/    Is my own, is your own,/ Is not Owned by Self-Owner/ but found by Self-Loser -/  Old Ancient Teaching.”

“Old Ancient Teaching.” – (That’s how he ends it)

Well, you know, “the finger” – “essence is the word for the finger/that shows us bright blankness” –   (there’s the famous Buddhist saying, “Language is like a finger pointing at the moon, it isn’t the moon”.  Language is not the same as the moon.  The word “moon” is not the same as the moon.  The moon is the moon and the word “moon” is a moon.  So, the word is like a finger that points at the moon, but is not the moon itself – “essence is the word for the finger/that shows us..” – but instead of saying “moon” he changes it to “bright blankness.”  So his idea of eternity, or nirvana, or post-death state, is “bright blankness”)

Peter Orlovsky:  ..and in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, it’s..
AG:  Clear light?
Peter Orlovsky: Clear light,  or illuminosity.
AG:  Luminosity, yeah.  So the older Buddhist reference is luminosity and clear light,  the old acid reference from the (Timothy) Leary days was “clear light”.  But this is 1954, not Leary’s 1964.  So this is Kerouac investigating his subjective dream-within-dream-within-dream of the mind, and his pointing out what that feels, or what that looks, like, or senses like, way back, doing it all by himself, without any cultural support.  It wasn’t in vogue to be talking about such matters then.  Actually, what he was doing here was breaking through into areas, of.. modalities of consciousness, and discussing them in a very vernacular way that were not generally or popularly discussed, (nor was the populace sensitized to (them), or the generation sensitized to (them) for another decade).  Yeah?

Student:  I remember reading one of his books where talked about sitting meditation.  Did he do a lot of sitting?

AG:  He knew about it, and he knew Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen who sat, but at that time they didn’t show us how to sit.  They may have shown Jack.  And he knew Lew Welch, who sat, also.  And he knew Alan Watts.  Though by this time he didn’t know Watts, but he did at this time, by the time he’d written this, he knew Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen. And though he sat, I don’t think he sat with any real straight back, just following the breath, which is the classical way.  I think what happened is he sat and hyperventilated and closed his eyes and squeezed his ass and tried to pop up light in his mind, or something, (which he describes in Scripture of the Golden Eternity, which is written, I think, around this time if you look it up).  That’s probably where you saw it?

Student:  (In his book, he) describes going home to his mother’s house…
AG:  Yeah, sitting in the backyard …
Student:  … yeah …
AG: … under a tree.
Student:  … sitting in the backyard.
AG:  And swooning.  Seeing the material universe turn to golden ash under his closed eyelids, or something like that.  So “bright blankness” – golden ash.

I don’t know if he’s got it in here but his theory at this time or his slogan was “Life is a dream, already ended,” which is a really beautiful way of putting it – that quality of transitoriness.  Already ended, in the sense that you know it’s going to end so therefore, if you look at it from the end, it’s already ended, so therefore you behave in the dream as you would in a dream while awake, knowing that it’s a dream, rather than getting hung up within the dream, or getting scared by the delusion, or delighted by paradises.

And then he also has the idea that because what remains after everything is no pressure, no anxiety, it’s all “bright blankness”, but ashes in the sense of burned out.  But harmless ashes with no pain, so golden ash.  He recurs to the image of the infinite immaterial essence of the universe as golden ash, or “Life is a dream already ended and turned into golden ash.”  Here “bright blankness.”

“When we look into the God face/We see radiant” – (so he’s just using words here to describe a non-speakable experience or ideal or conception.  But what’s funny about it and different from most people who get hung up on composing abstract words together to see if they can describe an acid high. or Medieval mystical high, is that he’s inventing words and using words in a very idiomatic and playful way, making the fun of the attempt.  He’s saying – “We see radiant irradiation/ From middleless center/ Of Objectless fire roe-ing/ In a fieldstar all its own” –”roe-ing/ In a fieldstar” – roeing in a field all its own).

“Roe-ing/In a fieldstar all its own/ Is my own, is your own,/Is not Owned by Self-Owner/ but found by Self-Loser- ” – “found by Self-Loser” means..  In the Bible you have, “Unless the seed fall into the ground and die you won’t have a crop later”. [“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” – John 12:24].  So, in order to find yourself, lose it. Or, as T.S. Eliot (said) [from The Four Quartets – The Dry Salvages] – The way up is the way down”.  Or, the title of Andre Gide‘s book, ‘Si le grain ne meurt  (Unless the Grain Die) – Andre Gide had a book titled Si le grain ne meurt – from the Bible, actually, that phrase.  Anybody know where that’s from?  –  “Unless the seed die”, that is,  go in the ground and be..  cease being a seed, but begin… fall apart and sprout, they’ll be no follow-up, there’ll be no fruit).

Peter Orlovsky:  It can’t really die though, it just moves.
AG:  Well, lost.  It’s lost from the owner.  Lost from its original (state).  “Is my own, is your own.”
Peter Orlovsky:  (It sort of) travels.
AG:  The point is, “Is not Owned by Self-Owner” – in other words, a seed isn’t owned by itself, it’s owned by the tree that grows out of it, so to speak.

Student:  Before it becomes a plant,  a seed has to die, though
Peter Orlovsky:  Seed and a tree..
AG:  Has to change.
Peter Orlovsky:  The seed and the tree have made a pact, you know – “You can go off now, I’m going to give you my essence in a seed, so you can go off and come up again”, so it’s….

AG:  No, we’re just talking about the question of losing yourself in order to find yourself.  Giving yourself away in order to get yourself back or to get the world back.  Give yourself away and you get the whole world.  And “found by Self-Loser – “

Then he realizes he’s just repeating what everybody already knows in the Western world anyway, with finger upraised,  so he says, “Old Ancient Teaching.”  That’s 25th Chorus.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventeen-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-five minutes in

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