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Abstract:
The poetry in this section is concerned with various aspects of philosophy in the western tradition and Baha'i philosophy in particular. The concept of the manifestation of God is pivotal to Baha'i philosophy and to this poetry.
Notes:
My general approach to philosophy is one that places it within an essentially interdisciplinary and relativistic context. Readers will find in the poems which follow, then, a mix of content that covers a very wide field from the social sciences and humanities, life and personal experience blended, when appropriate, into a philosophical context. I am also indebted to those Baha'is who have ventured forth into the field of philosophy with their initial explorations, explorations on which I have drawn from time to time.

Poetry About Philosophy: Section VIII: Poetry:
Pioneering Over Four Epochs: Section VIII Poetry

by Ron Price

published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and a Study in Autobiography, Poetry: Section VIII
2005
Part 1:

After 30 years of writing occasional pieces of poetry(1962-1992), I began writing poetry much more extensively and intensively, and have done so for the last twenty-five years, 1990-2015. The poetry here is written in relation to philosophy. It does not represent all the poetry I have written in relation to philosophy. Philosophy is a variable term at the best of times with many a meaning and context.

Moojan Momen concludes his interesting paper on Bahá'í metaphysics by saying that there is a relative lack of Bahá'í literature on metaphysics. This is also true of Bahá'í literature on philosophy. This is not surprising. "As we might expect," Momen goes on, "published Bahá'í literature concerns itself primarily with social and personal ethics." Indeed, Bahá'u'lláh's injunction: "Let deeds, not words, be your adorning" can, perhaps, in relation to both metaphysics and philosophy, be paraphrased thus: "As long as your actions and intentions are in accordance with divine ethics, for which there are universal standards, then it does not matter what your metaphysics are."

One's philosophy, one's metaphysics, is often quite idiosyncratic and subjective and its articulation in poetry, as I have done, will inevitably have an appeal to a coterie, particular individuals with a particular psychological make-up, particular literary preferences, orientations and, perhaps, temperaments.--Ron Price with thanks to Moojan Momen, "Relativism: A Basis For Bahá'í Metaphysics," Published in Studies in Honor of the Late Husayn M. Balyuzi:Studies in the Bábí and Bahá'í Religions vol. 5, ed. Moojan Momen, Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1988.

At the core of any of my understandings in philosophy--or in the humanities and social sciences in general, is a life of activity in the Baha’i Administrative Order which, as the Universal House of Justice expressed it in a letter to the American Baha’is in 1988 about freedom and authority in the Baha’i community, is "the structure of freedom for our Age," albeit for a still small section of humanity, about one in one thousand.

At the core of my understandings of this discipline is also a lifetime--some forty years--of work as a teacher and an extensive personal reading program that began in some ways, after I got out of university in 1967: 1967-2007. Philosophy finds its home in an interdisciplinary field and the following poems reflect that reality.

Here are some poems very broadly related to social science and humanites perspectives in philosophy and some of my understandings of the Bahá'í Faith in relation to these perspectives. I post, firstly, a thread of prose-poetic pieces in relation to Jean-Paul Sartre, pieces written in the last years of my working life and the first decade of my retirement from all FT, PT and casual work.

Part 2:

SOME PROSE-POETIC REFLECTIONS ON JEAN-PAUL SARTRE

Often the criticisms that philosophy is an obscure field are justified, but this is not always the case. The philosophical literature from the western and eastern traditions is burgeoning. Part of my task in this the evening of my life is to separate the wheat from the chaff, the relevant from the irrelevant.

Sometimes the essays of philosophers are even better than their philosophical literature, their philosophical writing. The essays of Jean-Paul Sartre(1905-1980) on allegedly non-philosophical topics are a case in point. A collection of his essays, reviewed in The New York Review of Books on 4 June 2013, testifies to such a claim. These essays also attest to philosophy’s continued relevance if not to Everyman, at least to many a reader, and certainly to this writer and author, this poet and publisher who has come to Sartre during the years of his retirement.

Commonplace subjects like New York City and jazz, in Sartre’s hands, become telling indications, finely-tuned analyses, of all sorts of things like: the differences between American and European metropolitan lifestyles, their solitary versus communal tendencies.-Ron Price with thanks to Publishers Weekly in The New York Review of Books.

Reading this review sent me back to what I have already written, drawing as I have on Sartre over the years, especially in the last years of my life as a teacher in the 1990s, and in the years after taking an early retirement from FT, PT and casual-work. I draw together here, the several pieces I have written referring to Sartre, in this single thread to post, perhaps, in cyberspace.-Ron Price, George Town, Tasmania, 8 June 2013.
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Part 2.1:

Sartre and Conrad

The pronouncement of philosopher, novelist, playwright, biographer, and activist Jean-Paul Sartre(1905-1980) that prose is an attitude of mind applies equally well to poetry. For Sartre the essay was an essentially dramatic form, the record of an encounter, the framing of a choice. Whether writing about literature, art, politics, or his own life, Sartre seizes our attention and drives us to grapple with the living issues that are at stake.1 Sartre did not seize my attention during my student-working life, 1949 to 1999. Now that I am retired and freed from 50 to 70 hours a week and the attendant responsibilities of a job and community meetings, I am free to read and reflect.

Joseph Conrad(1857-1924), regarded as one of the greatest novelists in English, associated the symbolic, suggestive, and inconclusive quality of prose writing specifically with poetry and art. To be a writer, Conrad commented in a letter in 1895, "you must treat events as the outward signs of inward feelings," and to accomplish this "you must cultivate your poetic faculty.”2

Conrad wrote in another letter: “A work of art is very seldom limited to one exclusive meaning and not necessarily tending to a definite conclusion. For this reason the nearer it approaches art, the more it acquires a symbolic character. All the great creations of literature have been symbolic, and in that way have gained in complexity, in power, in depth and in beauty.”3 -Ron Price with thanks to: 1 We Have Only This Life to Live: The Selected Essays of Jean-Paul Sartre, 1939–1975, Jean-Paul Sartre, edited by Ronald Aronson and Adrian van den Hoven, reviewed in The New York Review of Books, 4 June 2013; 2Joseph Conrad, "To Edward Noble: 28 Oct 1895,” The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad: Volume I: 1861-1897, editors Frederick R. Karl and Laurence Davies, Cambridge University Press, NY, 1983, p.252; and 3Joseph Conrad, "Letter To Barrett H. Clark," 4 May 1918, in Joseph Conrad on Fiction, ed. Walter F. Wright, University of Nebraska Press, Lincohn, p.36.

There has always been so much
to do in work and in love, daily
life, so much to read, & this has
become even more true in the 21st
century as the world swims now
in a miasma of information, and
infotainment, ideas and crises; JP
Sartre is just one—however clear
and brilliant---who is now on my
intellectual-reading plate as I go
to the age of 70 by 23 July 2014.
Ron Price
Undated, and updated on 8 June 2013
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Part 3:

                                    UNIMAGINABLE NEWNESS

For some there is a growing ability to cope with their inner demons and to achieve a degree of self-mastery that is highly prized; for others there is an acute sensitivity to suffering that cannot find escape in humour, pleasure and the delights of existence. Severe trials and hardships cause the nature of some people to recoil so that they desire death, desire to leave this world of honey and poison. -Ron Price with thanks to ‘Abdul-Baha, Selections, Haifa, 1978, p.239.

They’ve gone down like flies:

Poe in the gutter,
Crane over the side of a ship;
Kees and Berryman over a bridge,
Maupassant to syphilitic breakdown
and alcoholic poisoning,
Beckett to a stoic pessimism,
Sartre to the horror of existence
and its Nausea, Waugh and Green
to futility, Lovecraft and Faulkner
to the past and an endemic sadness,
Dostoevsky to a compulsion to suffer,
or to live in shame as in Strindberg,
to pleasure and the tragic as in Wilde
and the necessary deceptions
of Catholicism as in Yeats.

We all go down:

with our joys and sorrows,
our spiritual accomplishments
and our failures, our wins and
losses, pockets of attachment
and detachment and self-love,
tested and stretched to acquire
those tools, soon, so soon to
find the gifts of mysteries, &
secrets far beyond this life, a
Kingdom of vision on an arc
bound for God…. Will I be a
pure, a refined and sanctified
soul? Will I? Will I? Will I?

In that world beyond struggle,
where the identity of my soul
is a mystery, & I will receive
light upon light through many
entreaties, supplications & an
unmerited grace so contained
as to keep my life and writing
like some sensation of delight?

I will move beyond stubborn
and obstinate pride and wilful
perversity, with an enfeebling
atrophy, & ultimate incapacity;
or, perhaps, I may slip from my
spiritual orbit, fly irretrievably
into remoteness beyond those1
magnetic forces into some cold
hell of some common frenetic
passivity which seems to be the
lot of millions as they pass this
way on a long earthly journey.

Having gone down, beyond this
temporary shelter, I will make
my way beyond this world of
liquid nitrogenous oxygen and
starry grandeur to a newness, an
unimaginable newness, that is
completely beyond me now….

1 John Hatcher, The Purpose of Physical Reality, Baha’i Pub., Wilmette, 2005(1987), p.239.

Ron Price
3/3/’96 to 8/6/’13.

Part 4:

                              LEAVING IT TO THE SCATTERING ANGELS

The immensely varied, some might say erratic, subject matter in the narrative and expository explorations of my poetry are close, in some respects, in form and thought to the philosophy of Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Sartre; or so it seems to me. The central methods of my philosophy of poetry are introspection, self-examination and an interchange between speculative analysis and the idiosyncratic structures of my thought. Philosophical writing, meditative poetry, drawing as it does on these methods, has both a confessional and an assertive element. My emotional and intellectual problems, as well as the objects and situations which I choose to analyse, all function, in one way or another, to shape the language of my poetry and even my consciousness. The verbal grid, the language, through which I receive and shape the world in my poetry, defines and determines the nature of my experience, my way of life. -Ron Price with thanks to Frank D. McConnell, The Confessional Imagination: A Reading of Wordsworth’s Prelude, Johns’ Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1974, p.2.

There’s a unity of self and history
that memory and thought create.
The unquiet stir of my perplexities
finds, for a moment, a calm center:
can I call it a wise passiveness, or
is it just my simple egocentricity?

There is clearly a strengthening of self
in these poetic sensations. There is also
a sense of self-forgetfulness, a sense of
nothingness when, late in the evening, I
put down my pen, cease my ponderings,
and leave, to the scattering angels of the
Almighty, whatever fragrance resulted
from my words, whatever power this
poetic art has found on which to flow in
life’s rivers, streams, rivulettes, & oceans.

Ron Price
10/2/’01 to 8/6/’13.
                                          BEING AND NOTHINGNESS

One thing my poetry does is to trace the potential uniqueness of the recent past: mine, my society’s, my religion’s. Part of the trajectory of this unique individual and his social experience is the erosion of personal memory and significance into history’s grey wash. Memory is associated with personal life and the construction of its meaning. As Sartre writes: “culture is always being invented and reinvented.” My memory is both lost and found.

History is the construction and reconstruction, organization, of society’s past. Individuals and society are “hopelessly forgetful.”1 They suffer from historical amnesia, the draining of traditional memory. Sites of memory exist: museums, archives, cemeteries, etc. They are places that mark the ritual of a society without ritual, places simultaneously full and empty of meaning. Of course, there are also places where the living heart of memory exists: places of special refuge, sanctuaries of spontaneous devotion and silent pilgrimage amidst the jostle and noise.

My poetry is one of a memory so full in a world where memory is lost; a poetry which records a history so complete in a world where it has also become so empty, at least for millions. For Sartre, a commitment to something outside oneself also requires a commitment to oneself for many reasons, not the least of which is that our ideas come from our experiences, as we create ourselves over time.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Peter Redfield, “Remembering the Revolution, Forgetting the Empire: Notes from the French Bicentennial”, Visualising Theory: Selected Essays From Visual Anthropology Review: 1990-1994, Lucien Taylor, ed., Routledge, NY, 1994, p. 334, and 2 Jean-Paul Sartre, Wikipedia, 7 June 2013.

There’s been construction and reconstruction
going on here for years…I’m not going to let
it all go into a kind of vacuum….some vague
and tenuous series of lines going back to the
start of my life, my first memory: those mud
pies & meccano toys in spring in Burlington,
Ontario, Canada—out in the country, RR#1.

The pioneering trip, track, journey, experience,
after two dozen towns, can leave one hopelessly
forgetful, with what you might call a historical
amnesia, as empty as so many of the cemeteries
and archives where stone & paper fill the space
available. You pass them in the car or beside the
office-wall as if you were passing an indefinable
combination of detailed being-awful nothingness.1

1 The above prose-poem was born, in part, from reading some, but not all, of Jean-Paul Sartre’s, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, 1943. The main purpose of this work, Sartre’s overriding concern, was to assert the individual's existence as prior to the individual's essence, and to demonstrate that free will exists. Wikipedia has an excellent overview of Sartre, his life and ideas, for readers with the interest.--Ron Price, 8/4/’00 to 8/6/’13.

Part 5:

THE RECIPIENT

Since first coming in contact with the Bahá'í Faith in 1953 I have looked for its greatness and delight in her adherents whom I have come to experience as a fascinating mixture of humanity; I have seen a certain charm and genius in her beautiful and commodious temples and administrative buildings around the world; I have enjoyed the hospitality and human contact with many of her believers in their homes across two continents; I have come to enrich my life through reading the literature of this Faith and appreciating its beauty and wisdom. In the process I travelled across wide rivers, seas and oceans, enjoyed fertile fields, boundless forests and mountains, and experienced the pleasures of many of the world's cities and towns. But not until I ceased to look at the words and deeds of my fellow mortals and stopped seeing the beauties of the physical world as a standard for the true understanding of the nature of God and of ultimate reality, did I even begin to acquire a sense of certitude and become the recipient of that "grace that is infinite and unseen,"1 if that was indeed what these inner feelings and thoughts were as I approached the age of sixty. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 8 October 2002; and 1Bahá'u'lláh, The Book of Certitude, Wilmette, 1950, p.3.

Was it grace that brought
years of success and a power
beyond anything I had known?

Was it grace that brought
more pain than I had thought
life could ever give?

Was it grace, infinite and unseen,
that brought these effulgent glories
and that will take me, one day,
to the abode of immortality?

7 October 2002

PRIVILEGED POINT

Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman writes that "the point of gravity in spatial organization has been shifted from the question 'Who?' to the question 'From what point in space?'…There must be or should be, therefore, a certain privileged point from which the best perception can be attained…..the best mean(ing)…..supra-personal…capable of accomplishing the miracle, of rising above, and overcoming, its own endemic relativity."1 Bauman's words reminded me of Canadian sociologist Hoonaard's closing two sentences in his history of the Bahá'í community of Canada. He wrote that we need to see new religious movements from an international perspective not from the point of view of their local strength.-Ron Price with thanks to Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences, Polity Press, Oxford, 1998, p. 32 and Will van den Hoonaard, The Origins of the Bahá'í Community of Canada, 1898-1948, Wilfred Laurier Press, 1996, p.296.

The artistry of God
beginning with holy dus
at the centre of
nine concentric circles,
supra-personal,
intimately spiritual,
holy-of-holies,
awe-inspiring
and yet, paradoxically,
with immense obscurity,
complexity, paralysis,
tyranny and anarchy.
Freshness of vitality,
coherence of understanding,
dynamic links,
a change of time,
a new state of mind,
the earth astir
with deeper penetration,
greater synchronizing,
crystallized sharing of
a divinely driven enterprize
and this Bread of Life.

Ron Price
14 September 2002

THE LOUDEST PLACE

The nineteenth century philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer thought that the experience of the sublime could be obtained only at times of contemplation when the will was made to stand still and be quiet. Since so many millions are not capable of achieving the sublime in this way and need some kind of "stimulation" or "activity," civilization results in heightened barbarism. Some thinkers thought this tendency to barbarism and its violence could be countered by heightened sympathy and love. Perhaps this dichotomy is part of the basis for what Shoghi Effendi calls the integrating and disintegrating forces of our age. I'm not sure. Certainly the question of social control or social order is the primary problem presented to the social sciences by society for solution. The 'answer' to this issue, for Shopenhauer among others, can be found in their total vision of the human being and in the sociological and psychological, the distinctive and compelling, landscapes they create. -Ron Price with thanks to Stjepan G. Mestrovic, The Barbarian Temperament: Toward a Postmodern Critical Theory, Routledge, London, 1993.

This poetry creates a landscape
viewed at distance or close hand.
I wonder if my soul is here
amidst these words like sand.

Belief creates a river
and a mountain range,
viewed at distance
their size is small,
but close they're rich
and deep and tall.

The days of life add up
to make a painting or a book,
but the loudest place I fill
in the cellars of my soul
is licensed to be still.

Ron Price
21 September 2002

Part 6:

THE HEALING ROAD

I first came across the ideas of sociologist Emile Durkheim while studying sociology at university from 1963 to 1967. Many of his ideas I have always thought were relevant to a Bahá'í perspective. One thing he wrote certainly reflects my experience of intellectual, artistic and literary pursuits, what 'Abdu'l-Bahá called "learning and the cultural attainments of the mind." Just as Bahá'í administration was taking its first form under the guidance of Shoghi Effendi in the 1920s, Durkheim wrote that "the love of art, the predilection for artistic joys, is accompanied by a certain aptitude for getting outside ourselves, a certain detachment or disinterestedness….We lose sight of our surroundings, our ordinary cares, our immediate interests. Indeed, this is the essence of the healing power of art. Art consoles us because it turns us away from ourselves."

After forty years of pioneering
I find here my peace and supper
as if after a long day's work.
Yes, Emile, this is its own reward.

Just a simple artistry in these poems,
part of my search for the right idiom
and the best ways of meet life's lot.

I do not feel like Frost,
stricken, intensely conscious,
suspicious of my struggle.
A healing came, to me, at last.

And all that gloom, obsession,
temper, rage, depression softened
with the years and easy sleep
without the pain dulled, at last,
life's sharp and ragged edges.

And my style could lighten
and take an easier road
without that heat and load.

Ron Price
22 September 2002

WHISKING AWAY

Without life's struggle and its sharp edges, there would often be no poetry. Paglia writes about this in her analysis of Emily Dickinson and her poetry. Dickinson's struggle, Paglia writes, is with God and with society.1 The following poem takes the theme of struggle from Dickinson's poem number 928 and turns it into a product of my own experience, understanding and struggle. My poetry, without doubt, profits from the great disparity between the Bahá'í ideals and practice both personal and community, on the one hand, and between the immense beauty and complexity of this religion I have been associated with for half a century and the discouragingly meagre response of my society. I have whisked this discouragement and disillusionment into abstract poetic and not-so-abstract poetry. I whisk it, not into the frigid, godless universe that the great poet Wallace Stevens conceived it, nor into the empty and absurd one as Kafka defined it. I whisked these and other tensions of life into a form that Bahá'ís all around the world are creating--a new world Order. I try to sort it all out drawing on "new faculties"2 created by the writings of Bahá'í Scripture. While I do this whisking, I sometimes feel a great weight and a fatigue and sometimes feel a sense of wonder and awe. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Vintage Books, NY, 1991, p.653; and 2 Horace Holley quoted in The Ocean of His Words, John Hatcher, Wilmette, 1997, p.3.

The heart sits quietly on the shore
just above the waves.
Sometimes it's calm; it does not stir.
There is a peace it saves.
It saves that peace for troubled times
when devastation hits the heart
and then one waits mysteriously
for divine power to impart.1

With this aid one reconstructs
that place along the shore.
To heal a heart convulsed,
is often like trying to win a war.

Often on one's journey long
a tempest violence heaves,
demolishing all calm walls
like a pile of wind-blown leaves.

For divine power
does not leave the soul
beyond turmoil;
wind-blown leaves
and life's fatigue
is part of soul's good soil.

1 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, Introduction.

Ron Price
24 February 2002

SORTING THINGS OUT IN HOT SUMMERS

In the early years of my pioneering life, beginning perhaps as early as 1964, until my second or third year in Ballarat in 1977-8, I read every book written by Eric Fromm. He was a theorist that brought other theories together: Freud, Adler, Horney, Marx. He was part humanist, part Marxist, part Freudian, a large part existentialist. I read at least seven of his books, perhaps more, during these years. Trying to connect the Baha’i teachings to the ideas of this eclectic, synthesizing psychologist who argued, among other things, that one’s identity and rootedness come from one’s religion, one’s development as a person comes from a religious framework and philosophy, one’s choices not one’s memories block one's development and the aim of life is to live it intensely, I read and reread this stimulating psychoanalyst. He seemed to be saying so many things that my religion espoused in different ways with different words; things like: the psyche adapts to the dominant sociopolitical structure of society; character is the result of our solution to and resolution of existential needs for survival, relatedness, expression and meaning, character shapes instincts; and we need hope as well as spiritual teachers. -Ron Price with thanks to Michael Maccoby, "The Two Voices of Erich Fromm: The Prophetic and the Analytic," Society, July/August, 2001, Internet, 25 November 2001, pp. 1-16.

We have the inverse of Christianity here:
not the individual changing society,
but society changing the individual.

I knew he was on to something;
it was just too good to be true.

The messianic view of history was here;
many words about liberation,
the paradox was kept before our eyes:
that we were the most important thing
in the universe but powerlessness,
humility was our reality before
that Unknowable Essence.

There was a great split between
the ideal and the actual in life,
much of which we had to accept.

There was a dialogue with Fromm,
with the Central Figures of my Faith
for a dozen years in hot Canadian summers
and hotter Australian summers
as I tried to sort out the dynamics,
the intellectual parameters,
the paradigmatic shifts and bases
of a new religion that was emerging
from its chrysalis, from its obscurity,
into the glaring light of public recognition.

Ron Price
26 November 2001

Part 7:

SOUND AND FURY

Some of the last writings of Erich Fromm were published in 1994 in a book The Art of Listening, some fourteen years after he died and nearly forty after I first read his writings. I came across this book just the other day and I gobbled it up. I'd always loved Erich Fromm. He'd been with me for most of my pioneering journey, but I had not read one of his books for twenty years, since the late 1970s with his To Have or To Be. The following poem is a reflection on some of Fromm's ideas in this new book. In particular, he tells me, in his clear and easy prose, that I should not take an inordinate interest in myself. Interest in oneself, concentration on one's own problems, "should and must go together with an increasing enlargement and intensification of one's interest in life,"1 in music, the arts, walking, the great ideas, the best of what has been written and thought. Only then do we come to form a set of directions, goals, values and convictions "which are not put in oneself by others."2 For the general goal is to penetrate through the surface of life "to the roots of existence."3 -Ron Price with thanks to Erich Fromm, The Art of Listening, Constable, London, 1994, 1p.166, 2p.167 and 3p.171,

We all must overcome our narcissism;
We must struggle with it, understand it;
it's a lifelong task this battle with self,
the insistent self, He called it.

And I'm not talking about
that affirmative, loving, attitude
towards oneself called self-love.

And one must recognize
the non-experiences
that people, here, call parties1
where there is no closeness,
just a three-ring-circus, short
conversational concentrations,
throw-away one-liners,
smiles and chuckles,
endless edibles and drinks,
enough to float away on,
leaving your brain completely
drained, a deep-emptiness,
as if you've been to a war,
not of guns and swords,
but words, popping all over
like those cap-guns
you used to buy as a kid,
which never make anything happen,
just a lot of sound and fury
signifying nothing at all.

1 Fromm describes this 'American habit'(ibid., p. 178), but it is found here in Australia and approached with the same enthusiasm.

Ron Price
8 December 2001

COLONIZATION OF MY LIFEWORLD

The sociologist, philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, the major writer, the inheritor of the mantle of the tradition of 'critical theory' in sociology writes in a useful way for the poet, at least this poet. Habermas says that narrative makes it possible for people to create coherent scenarios, for groups and individuals to define themselves. I do this in my poetry and in my prose. There is, too, he writes, an emancipatory potential in social analysis. Much of my writing is social analysis. Habermas argues that our "lifeworld" is "colonized through rational, purposively organized, system imperatives." My lifeworld, as expressed in my poetry, is colonized by the system imperatives of my own life, my society and my religion. "The exercise of our ability to communicate," Habermas says, "is part of and constitutes our consciousness." I see my writing as a form of this "exercise of my ability." -Ron Price with thanks to Jurgen Habermas, "The Tasks of A Critical Theory," Notes from 'Sociology for Human Service Workers,' Ron Price, Thornlie Tafe, 1998.

The rest of this internet page needs to be edited to eliminate all the spaces that remained after my initial posting here at BARL. I will attend to this at a later date when time permits.

The project of the Enlightenment:
to ground our world, our society,
in a secularized,
non-metaphysical,
non-religious ethic--
has failed.

You1 are trying,passionately,
in your massive corpus,
your science for a crisis,
your sociology par excellence,
your interpretive schemata
with your dialogue partners
all the way back to Marx,
to overcome this problem.

And so am I,passionately,
in my own massive corpus,
my religion for a crisis,
my poetry par excellence,
my interpretive schemata,
with my dialogue partners
going all the way back to
Shaykh Ahmad and the Bab,
to overcome the crisis
of our times and set the foundation
for the Kingdom of God on Earth.

1 Jurgen Habermas

Ron Price
19 October 2001

LIFE-GIVING FACT

The philosopher Ayn Rand(1905-1982) had a conception of art that has some parallels to my view of poetry. Both of us see artistic expression, and hence poetry, as the concretization of the widest metaphysical abstractions and of our own particular philosophy; as broad brush strokes that assist in developing an integrated world view; as an exercise in contemplation; as an art form which depends not on the extent of our knowledge but on the means by which we acquire it; as a form whose value lies primarily in the process of cognitive integration it affords, as the mechanism, the means, for providing an integrated view of existence; as an art form whose sense of life is the product of philosophic conclusions; as an art which offers "life-giving fact" and "moments of metaphysical joy and of love for existence," which confirms our view of existence;" as something which satisfies the needs of our cognitive faculty; as an indispensable medium for the communication of a moral ideal; as an activity in which one can learn a great deal about life; as something that induces a sense of life through the work itself; as an act whose roots lie in the nature and requirements of our mind and in an objectification of our view of man and of existence. -Ron Price with thanks to Michelle Marder Kambi and Louis Torres, "Critical Neglect of Ayn Rand's Theory of Art," The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Vol.2 No.1, Fall 2000, pp.1-46.

Seeking a quiet place
and, then, a quieter place
for this profoundly satisfying
bit of philosophy made concrete,
point of sanity in an anarchic world.

With my broad and fine brush strokes
trying to bring it all together
in what you might call
cognitive integration,
with a sense of finding
life-giving-fact,
moments of metaphysical joy,
of love for existence,
satisfying my cultural sensibilities
and the requirements of my mind
defining that integrated world view
that I became associated with
insensibly in those years
when Lenny Bruce was writing
about how to talk dirty and influence people.1

and the average American family
was consuming about 1000 cans
of food each year and new teflon pans.2




1 Bruce, a popular commedian of the time, published a book by this name in 1962.
2 Teflon pans went on sale in December 1960.

Ron Price
25 October 2001

Part 8:

                                                      THE CRITIQUE GOES ON

A 'critical theory' of society emerged in June 1844 with the Economical and Philosophical Manuscripts of Karl Marx. Marx had been working on his Manuscripts while the Bab was preparing in the months before His declaration to Mulla Husayn in May 1844. Critical theory lay dormant after 1848 until 1917. The term 'critical theory' was not coined, though, until 1930 by Max Horkheimer. The first systematic philosophy of history or social theory, the precursor to Marx's critical theory, was Hegel's. Put another way, "the methodological basis of the critical theory of society" is to be found in "the dialectical logic of George F. Hegel."1 Hegel's first major works in philosophy were composed after Shaykh Ahmad had arrived in Iran to continue his work as a precursor of the Bab. Hegel died in 1831, three years after Shaykh Ahmad's passing.

The entire history of critical theory, one of modern sociology's major theoretical orientations, has, for me, an interesting comparison and contrast, an interesting juxtaposition, with the history of the Babi and Bahá'í religions and their precursors.-Ron Price with thanks to 1R. George Kirkpatrick, George N. Katsiaficas, Mary Lou Emery, "Critical Theory and the Limits of Sociological Positivism," Transforming Sociology Series, Red Feather Institute, 1978, pp.1-21.

You1 got a new lease on life
in the late teens,
say 1917 to 1921,
when George Lukacs' work
History and Class Consciousness,
was published and promulgated,
when the Frankfurt School
was born with its centre
at Columbia by 1934.

We, too, were articulating
our architectural ediface,
our institutional framework
in these years up to the mid-'30s,
not on a Marxian foundation
as it was with you, with your critique,
but on an ediface of some 75 years
of infallible, authoritative, guidance.

Yes, our world collapsed in the trenches.
Liberalism had proved useless
and socialism's death knell
would be wrung.2
When all hope seemed lost
in that decade of disillusionment,3
critical theory was born anew.

And we had found our
institutional form, then.
In time, you had your Habermas4
and we had our House of Justice
to provide the context for the search,
the adequacy of perspective,
the blending and harmonizing
of salutary truths, the generation
of spiritual nerves and sinews,
tapping as they do
the roots of motivation
and the meaning of this Revelation.

1 Critical Theory
2 many sociologists have pointed out the end of socialism and liberalism, some say by the end of WWI, others by the end of WW2 and still others at various stages in the post-WWII period. Of course, there are many who still find hope in these 'isms. Perhaps what I say here is said in the booklet Bahá'u'lláh(p.1) a little differently: "a succession of ideological upheavals.....have exhausted themselves."
3 1930s
4 leading writer in 'critical theory.'

Ron Price
18 October 2001

I want to say a few things here about the prose-poem because the form which my following pieces takes is more prose than poetic. I could insert the following pieces in a more traditional poetic form, but I choose not to here. The prose-poem is a form I like to use a lot, because it blends poetry and prose, without being purist about either. The prose-poem is still a somewhat controversial form that some poets will even deny exists. It had its origins, arguably, 150 years after it's origin in the prose-poems of Bertrand and Lautremont and Baudelaire. It can do things with words that more boxed-in forms cannot. One can move between poetic syntax and tone, into more prose-like sections, and back again, at will. I use it in several ways, the one here being dense poetic prose.

One of the 20th century's exponents of the prose-poetic form is Antoni Artaud, a revolutionary figure in the literary avant-garde of his time(1896-1948). He created a new, multigenre, form in which essay, dictation, poem, letter, dream, and glossolalia, in varying combinations, are present in a single work. I draw on his examplefor several reasons one of which is that Artaud symbolizes for all the generations of our time an exceptional fidelity to a very great belief, a life devoted to a cause and an unflinching persistence in extolling the cause.-Ron Price with thanks to:(1) Clayton Eshleman, The American Poetry Review, Jan/Feb 2005.

Let me add a little history of this form before I include some examples from my own work. The earliest writer credited with writing prose-poems, as a distinct genre, is Aloysius Bertrand, whose collection of prose poetry, Gaspard de la Nuit, was published in 1842. The prose-poem emerged in part as a reaction against the strict rules and conventions, and definitions, of French Neoclassicism. Originally the idea was to write in a poetic prose using elements of language considered more typical of pure poetry: rhythm, metaphor, surprising imagery, rhyme, musical form. But it was Charles Baudelaire who gave the form its characteristic shape and definition, when he introduced his collection of prose-poems, Paris Spleen, by asking: Which one of us, in his moments of ambition, has not dreamed of the miracle of poetic prose, musical, without rhythm and without rhyme, supple enough to adapt itself to the impulses of the soul, the undulations of reverie, the jibes of conscience?

Paris Spleen was published in 1869, two years after Baudelaire died. Only two years later, Artur Rimbaud, then 17, was trying his hand at the form. His seminal book of prose-poems, Illuminations, was published in 1886, by which time Rimbaud had long since given up poetry. We have a clue to what Rimbaud was thinking from letters he wrote in may of 1871. Rimbaud wrote: "To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, that is the point. The sufferings will be tremendous, but one must be strong, to be born a poet: it is no way my fault. It is wrong to say: I think. One should say: I am thought..." I found these words heuristic, seminal,stimulating because of my own bipolar disorder which certainlydisordered my senses. I wont go in to detail here. Suffice it to say that Rimbauds words struck a chord. He went on to add: "The poet searches his soul, he inspects it, he tests it, he learns it. As soon as he knows it, he cultivates it: it seems simple: in every brain a natural development is accomplished. . . . The poet makes himself a visionary through a long, a prodigious and rational disordering of all the senses."

After these beginnings, the prose-poem explodes. It seems to be a form many poets find congenial precisely because it allows them to say things not possible in the more constricted conventions of traditional verse. It expands both mind and perception, as Rimbaud intimated, and allows one to view life from new and different angles. Under Modernism, the prose-poem becomes more explicitly anti-authoritarian again, because it is flexible enough to transcend convention. Even a partial list of poets who have tried their hands at the prose-poem can make up a list of some of the greatest writers of the past 150 years: Stephane Mallarme, Guillaume Apollinaire, Antonin Artaud, Andre Breton, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rene Char, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Lawrene Durrell, Oscar Wilde, Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, Italo Calvino, James Wright, Robert Bly—to name only a few.

Anthologies of prose-poems sometimes attempt to trace its history as well as provide a sample of more contemporary pieces. Such anthologies highlight the prose-poems variety and history, so rather than getting many pieces by the most important prose-poem writers, we get a few by very many writers. One anthology along this line is: Models of the Universe: An anthology of the Prose-Poem. It is edited by Stuart Friebert and David Young, Oberlin College Press, Oberlin, Ohio, Field Editions, 1995.

Here is an excerpt from the editors introduction:

The prose poem is a very special invention, like a chair that flies or a small dish that produces food for forty people. In turning to it the poet seems to put aside the discreet or flamboyant costume of poetic identity and, in a swift and unpredictable gesture, raids the other world, the world of prose, subverting categories and definitions, defying the drag of the prosaic, turning everything inside out for a moment. It shouldn't happen, this gesture; it upsets the makers of categories and the givers and second-guessers of prizes. If poets don't even stay where we put them, among their lines, then there is no way to account for and contain their doubtful magic, their darting forays into the language whose meanings and habits we work so hard to categorize and make stable.

Poetic innovators and explorers write prose-poems because adventurers and innovators also tend to ignore the rigid boundaries of categories and rules. Innovation almost always comes from the margins, the yawping barbarians at the gates, not from the center of the mainstream. Indeed, these works "upset the makers of categories." But if there is an upset here, the problem is not with the prose-poem as a form, but rather with too-rigid definitions of what poetry is or isn't.

When I encounter a category that is too rigid, a boundary that is too fixed, I feel the grip of death around my throat, around the singer's throat, the lark's throat. I want to ask, what is the maker of such a rigid boundary afraid of? For fear is at the root of such rigidity, always. The usual dictatorial regime that would try to dismiss, diminish or deride the makers of prose-poems is a regime based on fear of change, fear of difference, fear of---ultimately---wildness. In the end, "In wildness is the preservation of the world." That means inner wildness, too, not only the national parks. Real poetry is not tame, polite, mannered, or snivellized. That's a battle we still fight against the forces of entropy. Prose-poetry is a tactic of real poetry, then.

This wildness is aptly summarized by the editors of Models of the Universe: They conclude with the following comment: "That prose poems still provoke snarls and yelps is an excellent sign of their fundamental health and success. We are identifying a tradition that is not only fun to review as history but alive and well and trying on disguises at Woolworth's at this very moment.
And so here are some of my prose-poems in my own particular rendition-application of this poetic form:

Part 9:

CELESTIAL HARMONY
A NEW ORPHEUS

Poetry was always meant to be an instrument of immense power with a scarcely foreseeable but wholly positive future. Is it due to this ‘scarcely foreseeable future’ of poetry that Sewell alludes to, that seems to limit the role of poetry in modern philosophy -Elizabeth Sewell, The Orphic Voice: Poetry and Natural History, Yale UP, New Haven, 1960, p.51.

A new Orpheus has come with golden touch
to soften steel and find the mystic bone,
to tame the tiger, uncover mysterious stone,
create new leviathan, to dance on sand,
to draw all things to Him, especially man.

This new Orpheus Who sings for all
to science, philosophy and poetry,
He has come and issued His clear call,
having been raised up by some
Most Great Spirit descended,
personated by a Maiden and I
have heard this Orpheus’ call.

It is this call that makes me yearn
toward a philosophic song and
cherish those times when time is reborn,
when a certain luminosity, deep coolness,
takes me back to myself, turning the visible
into the invisible and some inner breath.

This wondrous Orpheus of this new age
urges a harmony of science and poetry.
Dear Wordsworth did in his The Prelude
strike this harmonic chord and describe
an organic growth, its unity, timelessness
and ours in the exquisite chamber,
the deep recesses of my heart,
the seat of the revelation of
the inner mysteries of Vision,
of God, of Mystery, Celestial
Harmony: it is here that we must
free ourselves of the shadowy and
ephemeral attachments to hear
the piercing sweetness of music
unloosed when we free ourselves
of love and hate, detach and renounce
and free our tongues from excess
or idle speech and imbue ourselves
with such a spirit of search that Orpheus,
like some Mystic Herald
from the City of God, will endow us
with a new heart , a new mind, a new eye
and a new ear and we will gaze
with the eye of God,yes, in that
Celestial Harmony, perchance
In Shelley’s Undiscovered Country.
Ron Price...24 September 1995
(revised 5/1/06)

Part 10:

                              STANCE AND WITHDRAWAL

History is a series of snapshots with the poet in every scene.....going right back to the Iliad or the writers in the Old Testament. Genuine narrative must (i) respect time, (ii) locate elements of private or collective struggle and (iii) observe without sentiment, escaping if it can the unconscious conventions of society. These are the basic elements of a genuine political consciousness. This consciousness is sensitive and enriched by a great wealth of science, philosophy, religion, in a word, culture. In this wondrous milieux is found the new poet. His home, at least for some and necessarily some of the time for all who would claim to be a poet, is one of solitude and inwardness, emotion and reason, many selves and many moods. -Ron Price with appreciation to Frederick Pollack, “Poetry and Politics” in Poetry After Modernism, Robert McDowell, editor, Story Line Press, Brownsville, Oregon, 1991.

Poetry is about something;
poetry seeks a public voice
commensurate with its
political subject-matter.

And, so, I try to connect
with other stories.
What I create is a record
of oblique, hesitant approaches
to a new politics, a new stance
and withdrawals from that stance.1

1 Robert Lowell, major American poet of the 1950s and 1960s, wrote poetry that tried to be political in this way, as do I in my poetry. See ibid., p.9.
Ron Price 26 November 1996

                                                     ONE OF THE GREATEST PUZZLES

Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of the world, can alter.-Baha’u’llah,Gleanings, p.155.

How is it that the same looking cells-
with the same genetic blueprint-
early in the development of the human
embryo become different tissues?
It’s one of the greatest puzzles in biology.
The recipies are genes; the cookbook
is the chromosomes and the chefs the
protein molecules on DNA which switch
genes on and off.

How is it that the same looking people
with the same basic human physiology
for the first phase of their existence-
some four score years and ten-
have such different soul experiences
after their separation from the body?
It’s one of the greatest puzzles in
the history of religion, philosophy
and theology. The recipies are the
specific theologies of the afterlife;
the cookbooks the Holy Writings
of the great religious traditions
and the chefs the prophetic Teachers.
4 January 1996

                                    THE EYE

....the compound eye of the male horsefly....arrays about 7000 lenses in crystalline rows like a microscopic honeycomb....they register the movement of any visible object passing from lens to lens with such efficiency that a fly may accurately judge the speed of anything from the minute hand on a watch to a swooping bird or a flashing tail....This also explains why honeybees are particularly attracted to flowers swaying across their line of sight.-Guy Murchie, The Seven Mysteries of Life: An Exploration in Science and Philosophy, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1978, p.184.

Have you ever wondered why
the cat and owl look straight ahead
and the rabbit and dear see sideways?
Their eyes are coordinated stereoscopically
to ensure 360 degree vision.

Have you ever wondered why
some human beings see truth
everywhere they look and others
seem to be blind as well as deaf?
They seem to have turned on the
lamp of search and striving,
even devotion to learning.

The owl can swivel its neck more
than a full circle in a tenth of a second.
The much-hunted woodcock has eyes
in the back of its head; a gecko’s eyes
look like four diamonds; kingfishers
have eight times as many cells in
their retinas to notice fish or mice
for the great downward swoop.

Humankind is endowed
with the greatest of tools
for the rational faculty: the eye.
He has eyes to see but sees not
and ears to hear but hears not.
He sees with the eyes of his neighbour,
but not his own eyes;
and knows from the knowledge
of others but not his own knowledge.
Ron Price 5 January 1996

Part 11:

                                                      ENGENDERING A PERSPECTIVE

We make these observations.....to open up lines of thought, to encourage a re-examination of the bases of modern society, and to engender a perspective for consideration of the distinctive features of the Order of Baha’u’llah. -The Universal House of Justice, Letter to the Baha’is of the United States of America, 29 December 1988, p. 6.

I have thought, for years,
read and read and read
about the bases of modern society.
I’d like to summarize, as difficult
as that is, in a short poem
the fruit of many years of labour:

It seems to me, there are two lines,
two pillars, two great edifaces,
of thought on which the whole
of modern society is based:
traditional religious and political thought.
These traditions are the bases
of modern society everywhere on earth.

The perspective this basic understanding
engenders in considering the features
of the Order of Baha’u’llah is to see it
as grounded entirely in the Writings
of its Twin-Founders and Their appointed
Successors over a century and a half.

All the world of writing
in political and religious philosophy
over the last two to three millennia
serves to help us examine the bases
of modern society and sharpen our insights
into the nature of this distinctive Order
and our own complex global world.

When one begins to look at these
great systems of political and religious thought
one is faced with an enormous corpus
of material, enough to spend one’s whole
lifetime pouring over for points of comparison
and contrast with this new Order for our day.
Ron Price 4 December 1996

Part 12:

INTRODUCTION

The academic study of philosophy began over forty years ago in September 1963 at university in Canada. Although my mother and my grandfather were both strongly inclined philosophically, the formal study of the subject did not begin until that fall in 1963. Family influences in philosophy were part of my life in the 1940s and 1950s and the influence of the Baha’i Faith began in the 1950s. In 1964-65 I majored in history and philosophy at the same university, McMaster, in Hamilton Ontario. I also taught philosophy as a component of various courses I was responsible for in the 1970s and 1980s.

The notes here were gathered initially when I was a 'philosophy 1A' and 'philosophy 1B' lecturer at Thornlie Tafe College(now Swan) in the early 1990s. By the time I taught philosophy at the George Town School for Seniors from 2000 to 2004 that initial collection of notes had been extended. When I retired from teaching in 1999 I spent more time studying philosophy and the two arch-lever files I began my retirement with became five by December 2004.

Volume 1 of these notes deal with 'ancient and medieval philosophy' and volumes 2 and 3 contain 'modern philosophy,' volume 4 is concerned with aesthetics and volume 5 with an assortment of topics. The field is simply too immense to contain its substance in five files, but the core of material I have here serves a purpose.

December 21, 2004

           OUR NEW HOME

We have here a centre of gravity, some ideal of the rounded fullness of life in all its variety, a normality, a natural condition in which men can feel easy and at home. There is something trusted and familiar here, an inner battle but not a man divided against himself, or against others, or against nature. There is skepticism here, deep and pervasive, necessary, a collirium. There is a single doctrine, a coherent conceptual schema which explains life and offers solutions to the human condition in all its staggering complexity. We have here a high idealism. We have a new, richer, deeper form of collective self-knowledge of what men are and can be. It is a branching out in a new direction, tidy in some ways, messy in others, still hesitant. It is not random, haphazard or chaotic, but there is tragedy here and a solemnity beneath the joy. There are many burning issues, but within a framework of conception, of definition, of order, of choice. There is something complete and cogent, growing and illuminated by a half-light, formidable and massive, yet unobtrusive and a symptom of a basic sanity in our time.-Ron Price with apprecation to Roger Hausheer for his Introduction to Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas-Isaiah Berlin, Hogarth Press, London, 1979, pp.13-53.

                                              NEW GOLD

< When the life of the streets perplexed me long ago I attempted to find an answer to it for myself by going literally into the wilderness, where I was so lost to friends and everyone that not five people crossed my threshold in as many years. I came back to do my days work in its day none the wiser.-Robert Frost(1913) in Robert Frost On Writing, Elaine Barry, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1973, p.86.

Why I know some people, Robert,
who are not able to enjoy their own company
for more than a fleeting moment;
some actually get quite disturbed
by the silence of their own thought
or its absence and, eventually,
by the television.

They’re the sort of people who could not
sit on a middan and dream stars*,
if you know what I mean.

It’s not so much solitude, privacy, some need,
as the time and opportunity to sink their teeth
into some harmonious silence of the spheres,
some momentary sense of transcendence,
some replenishing philosophy, some new life,
a sense of the miracle of being alive,
some simplicity, humility, peace,
an awareness of their oneness,
an indissoluble bond, oceanic:
they seem denied this gift, this station.

And others still in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,**

I may feel like this upon a midnight
when I my labours done and some,
I call it, chemical exhaustion sets in,
but now in these last of middle years
I’ve found new gold to take me to
the final track where I will lay my head
one day in some celestial company.

Ron Price
20 December 1995

* Joseph Campbell tells the story of meeting a man on a desolate waste of bogs and he said to the man, “It’s rather dull here.” The man said, “Faith, ye can sit on a middan and dream stars.” ** John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale.”

                                          AN EMERGING ORTHODOXY

'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit seemed to have been the period during which the stress was on liberalism and lack of structure was greatest....From 1917 onward, the early American Bahá'í community began to lose those features....a loosley knit, inclusive, spiritual philosophy...a structure of organization and belief can be dated from around 1917.-Peter Smith, "American Bahá'í Community", Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol.1, editor, Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1982, pp.199-201.

While Lenin was leading his Bolsheviks
in the October Revolution,
with his 'ten days that shook the world'
the American Bahá'í community
was finally losing a loosely knit,
inclusive, often vague, spiritual philosophy
and moving toward a structure
of organization and belief
a process whose momentum
was greatly accelerated
under the Guardian.

The great revolutions in the west
have been marked by an evolution
in the growth and development
of Bahá'í history and community life.
A doctrinal orthodoxy was clearly emerging
amidst the fear of war, that Red Scare
and an increasing concern for teaching.

The greatest revolution in this century,
or so it seemed for years,
saw a significant shift from a broad
liberalism to an exclusiveness,
a definition of terms, of detail
that would remain throughout the history
of this emerging world religion.

We, too, have visited His tomb
in a safe place off the central square.
Ours has been a silent, unobtrusive growth,
a force as revolutionary as that October
Bolshevik battle, and now we face
the world with our ideology articulate,
our organizational units fleshed out
with guidelines to change the world--
not in ten days, but in the decades ahead.

For this revolution has all the seeds
of reality and the language for the real thing.
This time he's not coming
from the Finland Station; this time
it's a whole world of thousands
whose seeds are growing
into a global garden.

Ron Price 16 March 1996

Part 13:

                                                      NOT ALL IS DREAMING

My dream was not like common dreaming but wonderful and kingly, my own self awake and strong. I woke up into a new and vivid life, a life of intenser colour and finer ecstasy, governed by other laws, a world more real making this world like a passing shadow. The stone walls were changed to opal; inside the opal fire burned. The fire on the hearth was like visible music, such was the beauty of its flame. The trees stood like an array of knights in mail. Their fruits were like lamps, their leaves like jewels.-Ron Price thanks to John Masefield, Lost Endeavour, London, 1910, 2,XV, p.243.

This is another poem about poetry,
the process, the experience of writing
embedded as it is in a new politics,
a new philosophy of history
wherein are born intenser colours.
But not all is intensity and victory;
there is struggle with temptation and loss;
there is fatigue and a strange quietness;
even in joy there is the small silence,
a pause, a stillness in the heart;
the orchestra of winds performs
its sad and distant music, while the sky
wears masks of smoke on grey.
This Earth is but a nest and this poetry
is about falling from the rim--and flying.
It is also about losing all the poetry
in the universe, wounded and whirled
on the grey edge of oblivion.
Ron Price
10 October 1996

Part 14:


                                          SOME WAITING PLACE

A poet must chart a way through the worlds of life and art, linking them together, making them cohere. Each poem is a rising voyage into the blank spaces of a map. Most people don’t know what they want to have happen, what they are moving toward, if anything. The blank spaces remain blank. A poet gets outside himself and makes the map, charts new territories quite unknown and names old places that are familiar, in new ways. Partly it is a simple desire for knowledge and a consequent living with this knowledge on many levels, being intimate with it, severe with it, baffled by it and in love with it. -Ron Price with appreciation to James Dickie in Night Hurdling: Poems, Essays, Conversations, Commencements and Afterwards, Bruccoli Clark, Columbia UP, NY, 1983, pp. 110-190.

Ridvan 1967

We first read it1 in Fort William
and again on the plane going home.
I remember because you shone
like the sun in white with your golden hair.
Fort William was a long way from home, then,
my longest trip and I was intense, so intense.
I burned up, eventually, before being reborn
as a moon, a star, or just another of those billions
of suns which seem to travel across worlds
and settle, and live, as if, in another galaxy.

We first read it, all fourteen pages,
the longest letter we’d received from anyone,
even that institution we were just getting to know
in those earliest of the early years
when a world-wide proclamation
was on the horizon and we were
about to experience our largest influx
of believers, especially youth,
that we had ever seen, ever, in the west.
Hippies and long hair, rock music
and flowers and a counter culture
made for a special receptivity,
openness to this Force.

We first read it, about perpetual movement,
like the ceaseless surge of the sea;
the unknown sea of proclamation,
the meaning of deepening,
the organic change in the structure of society
as subsidiary adjustment in what for us
was a thrilling epistolary connection
that helped launch us, some of us,
onto a sea of pioneering, of proclaiming,
of movement to places where we learned
who we were and spent, drop by drop,
the waters of life until we dried out, burnt out,
kept on giving more from the dry cauldrons
and found some golden seam of joy
so rich it was like finding a fountain
of spiritual youth, some waiting place
for the land of lights, that mysterious Kingdom
and its wondrous assemblage of splendours.
1 The Ridvan Message of 1967

Ron Price 3 May 1996

                                          ROUTINIZATION OF CHARISMA

                                          IN A POLAR NIGHT OF ICY DARKNESS

In Max Weber’s view, the mindless momentum of bureaucratic structures and cultural traditions, which are themselves governed by pragmatic adaptation to reality and the systematic calculation of consequences, leading to routine regulations and deadening routinization, could be broken by the appearance of ‘charismatic authority.’ The charismatic leader, on the basis of extraordinary gifts, was able to introduce into history emotions that endow life with meaning and arrest the technical forces of disenchantment and bureaucracy. -Ron Price with thanks to John Patrick Diggins, The Promise of Pragmatism: Modernism and the Crisis of Knowledge and Authority, University of Chicago Presss, Chicago, 1994, p.31.

When you1 arrived at the head of this Cause
a whole philosophy of charisma was ready,2
as an intellectual support of your position,
but alas, you could not read German
and had too much to do anyway,
in your new role as Guardian.

Charisma was, he said, arguably
a way out of our disencantment,
an annunciation and promise3
becoming articulated
in a religious tradition
right under your nose and ours
by means of what he called
routinization:4
conceived against custom
and vested interest
in mysticism,
what he would have called
the irrational
and which you had to face
in a polar night of icy darkness.5

1 Shoghi Effendi
2 Written by max Weber and published in the early 1920s.
3 K. Miyahara, “Charisma: From Weber to Contemporary Sociology,” Sociological Inquiry, Vol. 53, p.377.
4 Weber’s term
5 Weber’s description of post-war Europe.

Ron Price
12 April 2000

RESHAPED BY FIRE

It took me virtually forty years to distill within the vessel of my mind and heart what had been the prima materia for my lifetime's work.1 This prima materia had been acquired insensibly in my years nine to fifteen and it was supplemented and clarified over and over again with the years. What had slowly insinuated itself into the bosom of my convictions by 15 and which was to burst forth again and again in the following years in different forms: prayer, pioneering, service in the administration, writing, work and meditation, had become a stream of lava forty years later by the age of 55. It was a stream that had just begun to flow in my forty-ninth year in 1992. The heat of its fire has reshaped my life.

My initial impulse to believe in those years of late childhood and early adolescence; and in later adolescence the desire to accomplish something in life with my mind and heart fully, passionately, engaged, found a home and a goal for those aspirations in the stories I heard of Tabriz and Akka and in an enchantment by some mysterious Fragrance I do not understand even to this day. My need then, as quiet, unhurried and insidious as a seed, had indeed found a home by 1959. It had been met in ways I could scarely appreciate or value by the time I began my pioneering adventure in 1962 at the age of eighteen.

My mid-life transition of 39-42 has been, long ago now, negotiated2 and in my forties my life was restabilized for middle adulthood and what might well be the long road of late adulthood and old age. The task of the second half of my life to bring about a greater wholeness, roundedness and groundedness, what I had begun but only superficially in the first half of my life for I had so much to do and learn and had to scatter my net wide, had now begun in earnest, in a more concentrated form. I appear to have found that second wind which will now allow me to go on forever, even unto eternity. -Ron Price with thanks to John Raphael-Staude, The Adult Development of C.G. Jung, Routledge and Kegan Paul, Boston, 1981, 1p.45 and 2p.15.

If I live to be 90 I will enjoy
some forty years
of this concentration
and attain that greater wholeness,
roundedness and groundedness
that I could never achieve
when life was raining down
on me in earnest: raising kids,
going to work, earning a living,
always there was earning a living.
And sex was always wished for
with its sharp frustrations.

The heat was always on
as I searched, endlessly searched
among the spiritually hungry
to erect the fabric of this new Order.

I am finding in these latter years,
that the heat of this fire
is reshaping my life, yet again,
in new and quieter ways,
emotions recollected in tranquillity,
still launched as I have been
already for forty years
on this my main business,
the single enterprize of my life,
this one idea, this one goal,
to penetrate my society
with the teachings
of this new Faith:
everything in my life
can be explained
from this central point,
this one theme.1

1 Jung expressed the same idea, only for him the one idea and theme was 'the secret of personality.' Jung was, among other things, a personality theorist. Staude, op.cit.,p.66.

Ron Price
9 January 2002

THE LABYRINTH

The poet's weapons against life's humiliations, disappointments and failures consist of imagination, memory, comprehension, understanding, thought, analysis and a common faculty which communicates between these inner powers and the outward senses. Suffering cannot be prevented, eliminated, but the Bahá'í teachings suggest many ways, techniques and philosophies to help one cope. Focusing one's thinking on a single point; 1 making one's learning a means of access to the Most manifest;2 seeking the confirmations of Bahá'u'lláh;3 seeing the good;4 developing courage by teaching the Cause,5 among many others. In addition, the poet's inner faculties deal with the world's complexities, analyse the problems, focus on interrelated fragments of reality, counter discouraging tendencies and the abyss of the sense of failure; develop several projects, themes and tasks so that one area is always rich in promise, there is always one element to nourish the waiting and the hope. -Ron Price with thanks to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, Haifa, 1978, 1-5.

Fear comes insidiously like a seed,
but there is much ease in my world
of dream and doubt,
where I surrender to my manias,
cultivate my idee fixe,
wallow in it at leisure,
keep the stimulant coming on,
get winded and renewed,
for always there must be renewal.

Always, too, there are the goals:
the big ones that retreat
and the near ones I bite off.
Living in the future is a motor
where something keeps brewing.
Always the battle,
always on my own ground,
at the place of my choosing,
probing thrusts in many directions,
where even my defects
have an important function.

And so, my mind frets
in this labyrinth,
deluged with messages,
in quest of a sign, a wink,
an unforeseen connection,
pacing about, looking for a way,
a glimmer of light, ceaselessly,
from exaltation to melanchology,
fatigue and disappointment
and back again.

Ron Price
28 July 2001

Part 15:

                     WITH THANKS TO SAMUEL JOHNSON

Coming across Samuel Johnson’s essay on Conversation has stimulated this comment on the same subject after the experience of nearly forty years of pioneering over three epochs. I insert this comment here because in February 1972 a paradigm shift occurred in my professional life as a teacher. It was a paradigm shift involving the power of the word, of conversation, a power in the art of human interaction.

“The faculty of giving pleasure is of continual use” says Johnson. Those who are able to give pleasure in this way are frequently envied and when they leave they are missed, he goes on in closing the first paragraph of his useful and pithy analysis. In my early years of teaching the Cause, of employment, of moving from place to place, I was not able, on entering a room, to bring a sense of felicity; when I left my departure was not lamented. My presence did not inspire gaiety nor enliven people’s fancy. At least that is how I recall most of the first ten years of pioneering.

This inability was not due to lack of knowledge or a proportional lack of virtue; for in the first years of my service to the Cause as a pioneer I completed my high school, my university and my vocational training. I prayed frequently, read the Writings and, indeed, as I often point out to my son, my friends and associates, when the opportunity arises, I felt more virtuous than after these many years of life’s practice. Insensibly, after a decade as first a homefront and then an overseas pioneer, I found myself able to entertain, to give that pleasure which Johnson speaks of and which is, indeed, essential if one is going to be an effective teacher, either in classrooms or in a wide variety of other places promoting the teachings of Baha’u’llah. A forgiving eye, a sin-covering eye, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha calls it, is essential; for noone wants to be under the watchful eye of someone who feels some uncontestable sense of superiority. And I did feel that sense of superiority in those early years in the field. I felt a sense of moral superiority: clear, graphic, open, subtle, insinuating.

I did not possess a “wit whose vivacity”, as Johnson puts it, condemned “slower tongues to silence.” I was alternativley silent and uncommunicative and at other times a ready word was on my lips. Gradually, I was able to hold my tongue and let others say their piece. My knowledge was not dominant, domineering; my critical eye was not pervasive; my reasoning did not condemn those whose minds were more idle. For to do so, as I was only too well aware, would be to obtain praise and even reverence from my fellows, but I would have been avoided and even feared. My words would not have attracted the hearts which was the essential prerequisite of the teaching process, in or out of classrooms. My aim was to please. And please I did. From February 1972, after ten years in the field, to April 1999 there was a reciprocality in the conversational process, mutual entertainment, but nothing too quick, too sprightly, too imaginative, nothing to distort the face without a deeper gladness of the heart underneath, as Johnson emphasizes in his criticism of the overly bright and enthusiastic

Of course, there are usually many views of just how one is doing in life. My wife offers a more moderate, a more moderating tone and perspective on just how successful I am and have been, than my own more enthusiastic view. Many of my students found me a gentleman who approached saintliness, extreme knowledgeability and a delightful sense of humour. Other students would have gladly confined me to oblivion as a useless weed. One can not win the day in every way with everyone. We are all many things to many people. At the very least the pioneer must learn the art of loving, of pleasing, of bringing pleasure, reach as many hearts as he can. This was my own aim, my own particular approach. This is a long and extensive subject but, to start, he at least must have gladness in his heart and it is this gladness that is infectious, that attracts by example. But, again, this must not be carried too far, with too much intensity, too much brightness. A certain moderation of tone and demeanor is helpful.

Indeed, as Johnson goes on, a good-natured personality is important to bring to the conversational milieux. To take on board criticism, to be unmoved by whatever confusion and folly surrounds him and to be willing to listen; these are all essential and useful traints. All of this brings, promotes, induces, a certain cheerfulness, and sometimes friendship.

Of course, conversation is not all. Some of the ablest conversationalists I knew over those years, for the most part in the tenth and final stage of history, were people who suffered a great deal and found human interaction very frustrating. Although I was able to connect with hundreds of people in the small country town of Katherine from 1982 to 1986, I was not able to connect with my boss and I suffered a great deal from my inability to deal with him effectively. My talents in Perth did not enable me to work happily with the LSA in Belmont. After a dozen years in Perth I was worn out in spite of any verbal talents I had acquired.

There is a rhythm in life, in both conversations and in the flow of pleasure and pain to our sensory receptors; and our happiness in life depends to a very large extent on the depth of our understanding of this life process and our capacity to regulate our own life to its rhythm. Opportunity without capacity produces stress. The pioneer is given many opportunities to find out the limits of his or her capacity. Stress is just part of the ride.

In 1972 and 1973 I had two years of very successful teaching experience. I was well liked by my students and highly regarded by my peers. After many years of low degrees of success and high degrees of failure the feeling of success in my professional work was intoxicating. It seemed to have no effect on the proces of teaching the Cause in 1973. There was no entry-by-troops that year and when I arrived in Tasmania on January 1st 1974 I had lost whatever expectations I had had of finding a high rate of enrolments here at the ends of the earth.

I was on the even of my thirtieth birthday and back in a Bahá'í community of about half a dozen. I missed my wife, Judy, terribly, but this was soon remedied with a series of three girl friends which culminated in a de facto relationship by April with a woman who is now my wife, Christine Sheldrick or Christine Armstrong, for that was her married name. And here is a poem about that relationship which was just beginning here.

MARRIAGE

Frieda loved D.H. Lawrence, even if he drained her emotional reserves or failed to fulfil her needs. The marriage had become her life’s work and it’s disappointments were inevitable. Frieda believed she had what few women ever have: “a real destiny.” The marriage was also Lawrence’s life work, although he acted under a different set of assumptions: a belief in the sanctity, worth and permanence of the institution. He also had a belief in the rescuer’s responsibility for the rescued(Frieda). Divorce was putrid and out of the question. Separations, though, were frequent. -Ron Price with thanks to Janet Byrne, A Genius for Living:The Life of Frieda Lawrence, Harper Collins, NY, 1995, p. 316.

Love was not a word that either Price or his wife liked to use to characterise their emotional attachment to each other. They both found it too abstract. They both had had their disappointments, disappointments largely ironed out in the first two decades of their marriage. Price believed he had what few people ever have: “a sense of destiny.” Price believed he had done a rescue job on his wife, on Chris, the rescued. They both acted under the assumption that marriage was a challenge, something worth working at and, hopefully, permanent, although divorce was an option which, by the beginning of the third decade of their relationship, was rarely contemplated. A sharing of solitude, “an exchange of two solitudes”, as the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset put it, was certainly a philosophical view that underpinned his marriage, as Price saw it. -Ron Price with thanks to Ortega y Gasset, Man and People, p.50.

PUBLISHED AT LAST

Yesterday while on the internet I discovered that if I typed my name, Ron Price, into the Google search box or, indeed, the search box of any one of a number of other search engines and then typed some subject like history, sociology, media studies, film studies, among a host of other topics/subjects--and then clicked the right/defined spot, a number of websites would appear, listing ten per page, with my writing located at several dozen sub-sites. There were literally dozens of search engines, dozens of subjects and dozens of sites where my writing could be located in this way. I tried the following subjects with much success: ancient history, jobs, poetry, autobiography, literature, psychology, religion, philosophy, Baha’i, Emily Dickinson, Edward Gibbon, Arnold Toynbee, inter alia. The list seemed to be just about endless.

After four years of posting my writings on the internet under many headings and at many sites, in addition to those above, I have ‘published’ enough to satisfy whatever desires I have ever possessed in this connection, in relation to fame and renown and publicizing the name of the Baha’i Faith as much as possible. Like some vast directory, file, archive or library, my writings could be easily located in bite-size, accessible, chunks. After 20 years(1981-2001) of trying unsuccessfully to get publishers to place my ideas under a hard cover and after 40 years of writing(1959-1999: age 15 to 55) with little publishing success, here was my writing spread out all over the world wide web.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, October 3rd 2005.

It’s all very autobiographical,
but the way I’ve set it all out
allows for generalizable,
theoretical, expositions,
of doctrine and teachings
in a personalized, subjectized,
individualized perspective----
not at all suitable to autobiography
according to Roy Pascal one the major
theorists of autobiography in my time.1

There is a desire for exaltation
here, an exaltation of a Cause
and the magnification of the station
of a new, emerging, world community.

1 Roy Pascal, Design and Truth in Autobiography, Harvard UP, Cambridge Mass., 1960, p.182.

                  -Ron Price October 3rd 2005

WHAT’S PECULIAR

This is a collection of poems that are part of the cultural history of the Baha’i community. Of the general principles of cultural history we still know relatively little. Like other kinds of history, cultural history has its own themes of exploration, settlement, and development, but these themes relate more to a social imagination that explores and settles and develops; that imagination has its own rhythms of growth as well as its own modes of expression. It is obvious that the literature written by Baha’is who are part of this Baha’i community, whatever that literature’s inherent merits, is an indispensable aid to the knowledge of this community. My poetry and my discussion of it participates in1a long and pervasive tradition in which there is a tendency to write cultural history when observing the poetic-literary scene.

By the cultural history of the Baha’i community I mean the study of the artefacts of that community: its imaginative literature, music, painting, architecture, the creative and performing arts, philosophy, science, religion, inter alia. This is a study whose aim is to discover the peculiar or identifying characteristics of the Baha’i community's collective expression or discourse. An important axiom of my study, my poetry and my analysis of the Baha’i community is that human communities possess certain intellectual and imaginative propensities which are proper to the collectivity of that community rather than to the individuals who constitute it. I try to uncover these propensities as well as my own peculiar poetic inclinations.-Ron Price with thanks to Northrop Frye, A Literary History of Canada," in Bush Garden, Anansi, Toronto, 1971, p. 250.

The cultural historian
tends to concentrate his attention
on contemporaneous political,
religious and theatrical circumstances,
with due attention to the revolutionary
changes in a plethora of fields.

The assumption that a culture
must somehow express
the collective genius
of the community
out of which it arises
I have easily transposed
into the proposition
that a literature ought to
formulate that genius
and so I do, I do, I do.

Nothing can so easily come home
to the business and bosoms of men
as compositions which arise
from the contemplation of those scenes
and the investigation of those circumstances
in which they may be placed.

From this natural facility
it may be safely asserted
that a community’s literature
can be the most successful
instructor of the great bulk
of the population of that community.4

How do we acquire cohesiveness?
It must be through the intensive study
of our history, its events and inspiring
personalities, as well as an increasing
devotion to the many manifestations
of our global our spiritual culture.

Here, for better or for worse, speaks
the soul of the Baha’i community;
here is its highway, broad and beautiful,
which shall cross every divide and create
an enduring, a lasting, entente cordiale.

To the Baha’i who is also a poet,
the tradition of his community,
proceeds in a direct chronological
line down to himself and that in turn
is part of a gigantic funnel of tradition
extending back to Homer and the Old Testament
in the West and a serious of other books
and writers in other parts of the world.

This linear sequence has broken down;
the traditions of European civilization
appear as a kaleidoscopic whirl
with no definite shape or meaning.

Lurking in its conflicting patterns
there is meaning but much digging
is required for centuries to come.7

I have a literary preoccupation
with my individual struggle
to accommodate my imagination
and discourse with the new, global
topography, climate and culture
swirling a mile a minute around me.

I assume an indissoluble continuity
with past, present and future,
with truths perennial but not archaic.

The Baha’i socio-political entity
may once have been too vague
in outline and pale in hue to enter
into our literary imagination.

Now, though, a poetic consciousness
Has begun to form within the leviathan
of this global, planetary, culture.

-Ron Price
September 21st 2005

Part 16:

FULFILLING HIS TRUST

Margaret Atwood, Canadian author, explained how she wrote a series of poems that became The Journals of Susanna Moodie:1 “They came as separate poems and I had no idea when I began that I was going to end up with a book of that size. It wasn’t planned that way. I wrote twelve at first and stopped and thought, you know, this is just short of a long short poem, twelve short poems, that’s it. And then I started writing more of them but I didn’t know where it was going. I don’t write books of poetry as books. I don’t write them like novels.”22

My poetry was similar to Atwood’s in terms of the process of writing. My pieces too “came as separate poems and I had no idea when I began that I was going to end up with a book” or books of poems the size or the extent to which I now have. “It wasn’t planned that way;” I wrote some 200 poems until the age of 47; of these I kept about 170. That’s about 5 poems a year from adolescence, the age of 13, to 47--35 years—or a poem every 75 days. Not exactly prolific. “And then I started writing more of them” in 1992. “But I didn’t know where it was going.” In the years 1992 to 2005 I wrote some 6000 poems. “I don’t write books of poetry as books. I don’t write them like novels.” I write a batch of about 100 and put them in a plastic binding and give them to some Baha’i group.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Margaret Atwood, The Journals of Susanna Moodie, Oxford UP, Toronto, 1970; and 2Margaret Atwood in Graeme Gibson, Eleven Canadian Novelists, Anansi, Toronto, 1972, p.164.

This is no novel but there’s
a central character, a story,
a set of ideas, a philosophy,
a serendipitous arrangement,
sequentially ordered with pattern
and images in a clear, an especially
modern sensibility, millions of words.

There’s a darker side to this persona,
this self in society and its exploration
is part of the trip, the journey through
a complex society and a new religion,
a series of coming to terms with people,
jobs, self, religion, the land, change---
as a tempest sweeps the face of the earth
in unpredictable, unprecedented ways.

After seeing little meaning in my world
around me at the start of my pioneering
journey in ’62, slowly, a union, vision,
past, present and future fell before my eyes,
insinuating, unobtrusive, with wonder,
awe, the foundation of the poetic me1
in a poem that is never finished and
helps me fulfill in my life His trust.2

1 D. H. Lawrence quoted in The Psychic Mariner: A Reading of the Poems of D.H. Lawrence, Tom Marshall, Heinemann, London, 1970, p.3. 2 Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, p.1

--Ron Price September 18th 2005

BECOMING NOT BEING

The following words of Maurice Blanchot, French novelist and essayist(1907-2003), are relevant to the project I am now involved with quite intensely and have been involved with for at least the last dozen years(1992-2004), if not for more than the last forty years(1962-2005) with less intensity. These words of Blanchot provide a helpful perspective, a useful approach, to some extent a philosophy, for what has become now in these earliest years of my late adulthood, the major task of my life. Blanchot quotes the German philosopher Friedrich Schlegel’s (1772-1829) words about philosophy: "To have a system, this is what is fatal for the mind; not to have one, this too is fatal. Whence the necessity to observe, while abandoning, these two requirements at once.”

What Schlegel says about philosophy here is also true about the act of writing, says Blanchot. When writing you should always see yourself as taking part in a process of becoming, says Blanchot. But you should never say you are a writer. If you make the claim to be a writer, he argues, then you are no longer a writer. The accent is on becoming not being. –Ron Price with thanks to Victor J. Vitanza, “Abandoned to Writing: Notes Toward Several Provocations,” Enculturation, Vol.5, No.1, 2003.

In some ways this is just a quibble
with words and in other ways
the emphasis is useful
for to focus on a process
is not to focus on a quantity,
although I must say that statistics
suggest the scope of what is being achieved.1

The number of poems have steadily multiplied,
advances in systematic learning
have given rise to them
and the necessary conditions
have been created for their rock
in reaching out, in the growing<
solidarity of the community
at a time of a rising vitality and
of increased receptivity, a process
which He pointed out 90 years ago.2

1 Ridvan Message, 2004
2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p.41.

Ron Price August 28th 2005

Part 17:

THE TABLES KEEP TURNING

At Ridvan 1964 I was just finishing my final exams at McMaster University in a first year BA(Arts) course. That month, in April 1964, a civil rights project was announced for Mississippi, sponsored by a number of organizations concerned with racial issues. The aim was to get Negroes on the voting lists. On June 21st 1964 three civil rights workers were killed by the Klu Klux Klan and an FBI investigation began to bring Klan members to justice, an investigation which only ended last month on June 23rd 2005. Several Klan members were imprisoned; many Negroes were killed and it took more than 40 years to bring one of the killers to justice.

A heavily fictionalized melodrama about the 1964 murder of these civil rights workers was screened in 1988. By that time I was 43 and living in Perth Western Australia. The film was called Mississippi Burning.

At the beginning of the Baha’i teaching Plan in 1937, in the years just before my parents first met, Erskine Caldwell’s You Have Seen Their Faces offered one of the best explanations of southern prejudice and the injustices the film Mississippi Burning was concerned with. In that book Caldwell explains the origins of despair in the white community of the southern USA and how the whites directed their resentment and despair on the Negro as scapegoat. Whites coped with their own suffering by watching the suffering of the Negro. Shoghi Effendi commented on this attitude to the Negro and its potentially tragic consequences ten years before in 1954.1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Shoghi Effendi, “To The American Baha’is…,” Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965, p.126 and Southern Cross TV, “Mississippi Burning,” 11:30 p.m.-2:00 a.m., July 17/18, 2005.

The tenth stage of history had just dawned
and what was called, then, a Nine Year Plan.1
I was just finishing 1st year uni exams at the time
as we entered another battle, one I hardly knew,
fighting my own, slightly below hypomanic,
on my way to depression, to history and philosophy
by summer’s end; living outside London and then
in Hamilton as the Freedom Summer hotted up
in Mississippi grabbing the headlines as I was trying
to grab an attractive country girl but with no luck.

The jobs that summer brought work about half the time.
The Beatles went from strength to strength
and the most indulged generation1 in history
kept turning the tables on an orthodoxy
that was in its last years in this first century
of the tenth and last stage of history.

1 Doris Lessing said(SBS TV, 18/9/’00) “the sixties generation, those who came of age in the sixties, were the most indulged generation in history.”

1 April 21st 1964.

Ron Price
July 18th 2005

SACRED SPACE AND LUNCHBUCKET SPACE

The film Field of Dreams(1989) exhibits many of the characteristics of Mircea Eliade’s discussion of sacred space in The Sacred and the Profane (1959). In contrast with the almost transparent meaning of the film, Eliade’s text is opaque to most readers of this age. Sentences like "the manifestation of the sacred ontologically founds the world,” as well as foreign words and comparative examples, baffle and confuse first year students of religion and those with little to no background in philosophy or religion. The immediate response to Eliade runs from criticism to hostility to derisive dismissal. Field of Dreams, a by now familiar artifact of popular culture, makes Eliade’s unfamiliar language and analysis more understood to students and others who watch the film purely for entertainment. The film can help people to understand Eliade, to think more critically about the religious category of myth and about its applicability to the world around them.-Ron Price with thanks to Mara E. Donaldson, “Teaching Field of Dreams as Cosmogonic Myth,”Journal of Religion and Film, Vol.2 No.3, 1998.

THE FOLLOWING NEEDS MORE EDITING AND THIS WILL BE DONE AT A FUTURE TIME

Little did I know the extent



of the irruption of the sacred



that resulted in detaching



a small territory--my life--



from the surrounding cosmic



milieu and making the whole--



my life--qualitatively different,



making the space sacred,



the only real, real-ly existing



space.1 I had entered my field



of dreams with some of that same



anxiety, indifference, disbelief



regarding the reality that came



into existence that autumn day



in October 1959 in the lounge-room



of Rod & Doreen Willis



in a small town by Lake Ontario



next to what is now the megacity



of that old steel-lunchbucket city



Hamilton where my grandparents



came in one hundred years ago.







1 Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, 1959, p. 30.







Ron Price



June 23, 2005.








ORIGIN OF AN EPOCH







In one of those rare moments when the origin of an epoch can be dated by scholars with relative consensus, Jacques Derrida, at Johns Hopkins University in 1966, delivered a paper called "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences." In this seminal talk, a talk which was a critical one in the creation of what came to be known as Deconstruction, Derrida laid out many of the elements in his mission of decentering structure and nullifying transcendence in Western metaphysics. Intellectual history, literary theory, and philosophy changed instantly. Humanists quickly became apprised of, and never fully recovered from, Derrida's revolutionary thesis, which invited scholars to dive into the abysses of linguistic presence/absence and other polarities or binaries.-Ron Price with thanks to Steve Hamelman, “The Terminator-Scholar,” Nasty, January 2003.

By the time I taught in



post-secondary colleges



deconstructionism had



been infusing its complex



tentacles into academic



circles and it continued



to infuse until the early



years of my retirement



in the new millennium-when:



it was said it was dead.1







Was it just coincidental



that it was developed



and had its life in the



first four decades of



the existence of that



charismatic institution



which would in time



supervise the entire



reconstruction and the



planetization of mankind?







That founding father



had been writing and



publishing for all the



years I had been part



of this world’s newest



religion—and I hardly



knew him at all!!!







1 John D Caputo, “After Jacques Derrida Comes the Future,” Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, Vol.4, No.2.







Ron Price



June 26th 2005








THE SCREAM

About 10 weeks before Baha’u’llah passed away the expressionist painter Edvard Munch began one of our age’s most famous works: The Scream. Munch says in his dairy that “he heard this scream from nature.” He almost collapsed from the fright it instilled in him. And so was born this painting The Scream. It was not exhibited until December 1893. The painting was part of a set of eight known as The Frieze of Life(1892-1906). Munch says that The Frieze was his life, its dance, its pathos. This series of Munch’s paintings is imbued with an existential angst, with his convulsive, tortuous existence. He undresses himself before the public emotionally; he reveals his deepest pains. His work portrays a ruthless self-revelation, a dark inner world. Munch’s philosophy was to paint life, his own life, as he lived it, as the direct expression of his experience. Painting was the result, for Munch, of his innermost needs, his innermost experiences.

As I look back at Munch, his work and his philosophy of art, I see much that is present in the poetry of my time, other poets and my poetry as well. My poetry is confessional, at least mildly so compared to Munch’s; it is experiential, an examination of my relationships, an examination of my imagination, my life, my loves and a range of existential questions that concern me. I try to portray the impact, the strengthening, the creative effect of my psychic illness. In the process of Munch’s painting and my poeticizing both our inner lives and our age is expressed from some inner necessity and, hopefully, for the pleasure of others.-Ron Price with thanks to “Internet Sites on Edvard Munch,” and “The Private Life of A Masterpiece,” ABC TV, February 6th, 2005, 11:00-11:50 p.m.

The dissolution of His tabernacle



where His soul abided temporarily,



released from life’s restrictions,



His radiance no longer clouded



by the world and all that is therein,



His soul could now energize



existence more than ever before.1







Was this prophetic---the scream



of release, of the world’s travail,



of the tempest that was unleashed,



of my angst and his and his and his,



of a billion dead, unprecedented,



of a suffering, catastrophic, humanity



bleeding in a devastating, unimaginable



death, then in 1892--and now



as we still deal with the resistless fury



of a great and mighty wind of God



invading our remotest inner life,



humankind’s fairest places, rocking



its foundations, wasting all that is



its life and light and harrowing up



the very souls of its inhabitants



in all their wretchedness and fear?







1 Baha’u’llah passed away on May 29th 1892 while Munch was working on his painting The Scream.







Ron Price



February 7th 2005








INTENSITY AND DRIVENNESS

Poetry, for me, is a means of defining myself, my community, my philosophy and religion to a world which, for the most part, has given me respect and acceptance, a sense of achievement and even affection, but which has also been, for the most part, indifferent to a religion, a movement, that has been at the centre of my system of commitments, the very raison d’etre of my life. My poetry is the autobiographical story of a man who has been an international pioneer of the Baha’i Faith, the story, my interpretation, of the religious community I have been associated with now for half a century and the society in which I have lived for six decades.

My writing, which is for me an art form, is also a beautiful world of poetic intensity. After 25 years of writing, I have shared it with a few; I have created something, in some ways, out of nothing; in other ways, out of a whole world of ideas, people, nature, animals, minerals, every atom of existence and the essence of all created things.1 “Creativity is following the urge of the human soul,” said Geoff Bardon, “that tug we probably all feel.”2-Ron Price with thanks to 1 Baha’u’llah, “Persian, Number 29,” Hidden Words; and 2“Mr. Patterns,” ABC TV, 8:30-9:30 p.m., January 12th 2005.

After 200 years you1 began



to put it all down,



for you had to define,



describe all that had gone on



since the beginning of time



and especially recent time.







Yes, there was an intensity;



I know what you mean, Geoff.



There was an artistic drivenness,



a compulsion, an obsession



to house the inspiration of soul,



to follow the urge, that tug



of the heart and mind------



the story, your story, at least



since the fifties and the sixties--



and my story too, my story too.







1 The tribes of the Western Desert in Australia put their story down in art, the Western Desert art movement which began in mid-1972.



Ron Price



January 12 2005













JUST TURNING UP







Woody Allen, a master of the self-put-down, has been a film-director for forty years and a writer for TV and film since 1950. In the interview of Allen on TV today he said some useful, helpful, interesting things. With the accompanying clips from his films this program went for 90 minutes. I will list here the main points made in the five minutes I watched: “80% of life is just turning up. Most of my movies have been faiures; I don’t make movie-making into a religion.”1 Part of my interest in Allen is the idiosyncratic blend of autobiography and philosophy, humour and seriousness, education and entertainment, his focus on the paradox of the isolating nature of shared experience and the existential dilemmas of fate, irony, desire and morality. They are films and writing he began churning out right at the start of the ninth stage of history in 1953 when the Kingdom of God on earth made its official start. -Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC TV, “Woody Allen,” 2:00-3:30 pm, December 26th 2004.







You talked of the empty nature



of fame, celebrity, renoun,1



telling us and me all along



this pioneering road, this life,



moderating my seriousness,



underpinning my humility,



making me laugh, so that.....







when the time came to write



there was a calm, a silent grass-



growing mood and when ideas



crept out of my head I could



catch and mold them into shape,



lost in wonder, interminably doing



in the here and now, fizzling-up



like coca-cola--but, oh, not just



a lot of stuff, not just a name



pronounced on the air, but with



the same feelings I have for......



Mulla Husayn or Quddus, Adib,



Haji Amin, Abdi-Asdaq, Thomas



Breakwell, John E. Esslemont,



imperishable, everlasting.







Now, Woody, I often just



turn up but, then, slowly



I come to ask:



‘what will it mean



in a 100 years?



and some subject comes



to choose me and my words.







1 His film ‘Celebrity’(1998)







Ron Price December 26th 2004









                                  IMAGES OF INDIFFERENCE

1953 was a big year for the international Baha’i community. The superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab was completed and the Mother Temple of the West in Chicago was also finished or inaugurated as Shoghi Effendi termed its completion. One of the key works, arguably, in the history of the cinema, at least according to the authors of a slim volume in the BFI Film Classics Series was also released that year, Shane. In the movie Shane the great enemy is indifference and, certainly, over a lifetime of pioneering this is also the case. -Ron Price with thanks to Edward Countryman and Evonne von Heussen-Countryman, Shane, London, British Film Institute, 1999. Reviewed in Film-Philosophy, Vol.4 No.24, October 2000.

It was a year for totemic images,



for simplicity and power.



What did these images mean?



What was their deeply resonant



message and simple narrative?







I really had no idea back then



when I was in grade four



at East Burlington Public School



and westerns came on TV



in the evening and at the movies



on Saturday matinees amidst



the popcorn and older kids



necking in the back rows.







So when Alan Ladd rode out



of the mountains in Wyoming



to that valley farmstead



I did not see individuals



buffeted by historic forces,



the scramble for land and



a massive indifference.1







So when the Baha’is built



their temples and shrines



in Israel and America



I did not see a community,



a most wonderful and thrilling



motion appearing in the world.2







If there was a Christ-figure



in any of this,



just about everyone missed Him/It.



But noone could miss the beauty



in the frontier austerity of Wyoming,



in the golden-tipped pinnacles on Mt. Carmel



or the temple of light down by Lake Michigan.







Their architects knew exactly



what they wanted to do



and were dedicated



with a thoroughness



bordering on the obsessive.



They all believed, too,



in the need for communal



belief and action



in the face of evil.







1 Bob Sitton sees indifference as the greatest enemy or ‘heavy’ in the film.



2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha in God Passes by, p. 351.







Ron Price



16 January 2004








                                                            A LITTLE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE







The discovery of Australia, it is now officially recognized, occurred long before the English arrived here at Botany Bay on April 19th 1770. The beginning of the experience in Australia of this pioneer from Canada began on July 12th 1971, 201 years and 84 days after Captain Cook arrived at Botany Bay. I came to live in George Town Tasmania on September 24th 1999, 201 years after Matthew Flinders first sighted the northern coast of Tasmania in 1798. In the other states, cities and towns of Australia where I came to dwell it was well within the second century of Australia's modern historical period. To put this another way, the history of the Bahá'í Faith in Australia began in the second half of the second century of Australia's history and my experience here began in the opening years of the third century of Australia's history. Of course the arrival of the Dutch, the Chinese, the Aboriginal people and others long before these two or three recent, modern, centuries alters the historical landscape significantly. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, June 12th, 2004.







The proper province of history,



said Thucydides,1 is in the



political and military and here



in this life, these domains express



themselves in radically different



institutional arrangements,



taking the attack to the very centre



of the powers of the earth,



defeating the right and left wings



of the hosts of the countries.2







Joys impregnated these days;



sorrows brought forth,



reverence and resolute persistence



helped me overcome obstacles



or simply live with them.



I did not outgrow my childhood



and adolescence, but made use



of them as far as I was able,



in an adult way



with a chart I had to live by.3







1 T. Corey, "Review of Arnaldo Momigliano's The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography, 1990, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2001.



2 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, USA, 1977, p.48.



3 J.C. Powys, In Spite Of: A Philosophy for Everyman, Village Press, 1974(1953).







Ron Price



June 12th, 2004








MY 'BIG BOOK'







A symbol of poet Les Murray's vastly eclectic interests The Great Book was a large, hard-covered ledger-book which he had adapted as a scrapbook.1 Into it went postcards, newsclippings, poems he liked, cartoons, inter alia. My mother kept a similar book which was sent to me from Canada when she died in 1978. Not as large as Murray's, it contained the literary memorabilia she had collected from about 1930 to 1955.







The symbol of my own eclectic interests can be found today in my study here in Tasmania. Postcards, cartoons and assorted newsclippings are virtually absent from my own Big Book. But quotations abound in some 125 arch lever files and two-ring binders on a host of subjects: history, philosophy, religion, literature, poetry, fiction, drama, psychology, media studies, anthropology, Greek and Roman history, various religious themes, graduate study programs, journals, novel writing attempts, biography, autobiography and much else. -Ron Price with thanks to Peter Alexander, Les Murray: A Life in Progress, Oxford UP, London, 2000, p.255.







So this is my 'great book.'



I've divided it into a library



of files over the years.



Part of my soul is there



on the shelves of my study,



extremely agreeable friends



from everywhere in the world,



past and present,



always at my service;



they come and go



as I am pleased.







Sometimes they are difficult



to understand and require



special effort on my part.



My cares are often driven away



by their vivacity. They teach me



a certain fortitude. I keep each of them



in a small chamber in a humble corner



of my room where they and I



are delighted by the happy symbiosis



of my retirement and their presence.1







1 Plutarch, On Books.







Ron Price



16 March 2002









                                      THE ETERNAL RETURN

In Baha’i philosophy and teachings there is an element of what Nietzsche called ‘eternal recurrence.’ It’s not quite the same as “the theory that everything that ever has been or ever will be is cycling through history in a loop,” as Megan Shaw defined eternal recurrence in her article on the Eternal Return of the Jedi.1 Nor is the concept of eternal recurrence the same as assimilating all of known and unknown history into some One scheme, as say Joseph Campbell appears to do in his study of mythology or as George Lucas with his three films on Star Wars. At least that is not my understanding of the Baha’i philosophical and historical schemata. -Ron Price with thanks to Megan Shaw, “Eternal Return of the Jedi: The Phantom Menace Approaches,” Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life, Issue #43, April 1999.





The whole thing is far too complex



to reduce to some visual simplicity



or even some masterful total vision



where everything becomes subsumed



into One enormous, but painstaking



inclusion of all of reality, known



and unknown throughout all time.







Still, there’s a richly rewarding



enterprise......confirmation of



the unity of the race of man...



biology and also spiritual history



like a single symphony1 for some who try.



For there is pattern, plot, rhythm,



order and harmonies2 in all



this flotsam and jetsam,



all this staggeringly complex



phenomenological reality before us.







1Joseph Campbell,”On Completion of the Masks of God,” Creative Mythology, Viking Press, 1968, Frontispiece. Campbell began this work in 1956.



2 H.A.L. Fisher, “Preface,” A Study of History, Fontana Press, 1973(1935).







Ron Price



11 August 2003








BOOKENDS

I would call these decades, 1917 to 1937, bookends if you like because between these marking years, these demarkation points, the student will find so much that defines the Bahá'í community as an international group, a people, a philosophy and a faith. A great sense of expectation, of millenariarnism, types of mild and extreme apocalypicism, Bahá'í beliefs for the most part ignored, unacceptable or just arousing indifference within western sensibilities, a strong encouragement to teach, people with stories of long searches and finding this new faith, tensions in the community from varied sources; a non-sectarian, non-denominational, inclusive movement centered around the teachings of the Bab, Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, a predominant image of liberalism with an absolute authority structure requiring obedience and, hence, generating some of that tension and, finally among a long list of features, an emphasis on good deeds, good works and a strong sense of morality and, in the outside, the wider, community, a pessimistic hedonism and a growing despair, an inclination to extremes of democracy, liberal and conservative and, inevitably, total disillusionment and indifference.-Ron Price with thanks to Peter Smith, "American Bahá'í Community," Studies in Babi & Bahá'í History: Vol.1, Moojan Momen, editor, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1982, pp. 135-194.

The magnitude of the ruin had just begun



as that first bookend was put in place,



a catelogue of horrors



darker than the darkest of ages past:



the most turbulent tempest



had begun to blow.







But hope sprang eternal



as it always does,



some fortuitous conjunction



of circumstances, it was thought,



would make it possible



to bend the conditions



of human life into conformity



with prevailing human desires



at this great turning point,



this climacteric of history.1







1 Century of Light, Universal House of Justice, Forward.







Ron Price



21 September 2003







BRINK OF DISASTER







In 1962 Katherine Anne Porter published her only novel Ship of Fools. She was 72. It made her rich and famous. Porter tried in this book to recreate the atmosphere of a world on the brink of disaster. In October 1962 in the Cuban Missile Crisis the world certainly was. In April 1957 the Guardian indeed did say that the world was "hovering on the brink of self-destruction." In September 1962 I began my pioneering life in this world which Porter saw in very harsh, bleak, terms. A world which could have the daemonic event of WW2 was, to Porter, weak and evil. Porter disliked the human species and she saw the established order as disintegrating. -Ron Price with thanks to Alfred Kazim, Bright Book of Life, Little, Brown and co., Boston, 1971, p. 169.







It was a difficult time to begin



this journey, just at the edge



of the final stage of history.



But I had no idea of



just where we were at.



I was too busy getting



in and through university,



dealing with the first stage



of manic-depression and



feeling the insistent surge



of hormones mixing the pot



during world crises which,



for the most part, only existed



in my world on TV, the radio,



in those newspapers on the couch.







My world had a different darkness



kept me on the edge fighting demons:



no calm, coolness or silent grass-growing



mood in which I could compose.



The laborious uphill work had begun;



I had not found my line, my art,



basis for constant toil and labour,



ceaseless comprehension of difficulties.







Ron Price



30 October 2003








                      TRAVELLING LIGHT--INTO WAR







Sometimes the word one is looking for is elusive; it seems to possess a certain obstinacy, a certain hidden quality. To curl the word around some sensations or thoughts is impossible; for others the process is easy. As I grew into my fifties I became conscious of an increasing richness and boldness, a greater sensitivity and subtlety in the poetic process. Themes and rhythms, ideas and experiences appeared for my use from books, life, the past, the future; I seemed to have access to a greater range of emotion and intellectual resources, what 'Abdu'l-Bahá called 'the cultural attainments of the mind.' I was able to take the ordinary and invest it with a peculiar quality of reality, of freshness and sometimes of orginality. But however profound the investment that took place the greater part of reality seemed to remain, always, untouched. One could only go so far.



-Ron Price with thanks to Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, The Hogarth press, London, 1991(1940), p.296.







Give yourself up, each day,



as if going to war, but…..



travel lightly and simply



with an attitude of



humorous kindness



and affection, feeling



reverence and a resolute



persistence to overcome



and, oh yes, you must



have a chart to live by.







A shield from the slings



and arrows of outrageous



fortune is poetry as it helps



the mind to react rightly



to life and--in the end--



what is important are



the feelings and pleasures



that are your companions



along the way which you need



to keep, as I said above,



affectionate and kindly.1







1 J. C. Powys, In Spite Of: A Philosophy for Everyman, Village Press, 1974(1953).

            Ron Price
      17 December 2002

THIS WILDERNESS

After nearly four years of 'retired' life away from the classroom, I have developed a system of classifying information for use in any 'serious' writing that I want to do. It is a system that can be changed, altered and expanded. Increasingly, in the last decade and especially since I ceased employment in 1999, a vast amount of material to read has appeared on the Internet. So much is this true that it provides a more relevant library for me than the public or academic libraries I used to use. In the last two days I have organized and filed many new articles on religion and the Bahá'í Faith. One of the articles was a piece on Horace Holley and the following poem is based on that piece.







As I near the age of sixty I am increasingly in a well-organized position to write for the print and electronic media to obtain exposure for the Bahá'í Cause as it comes out, more and more, of obscurity. I can draw on: history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, media studies, philosophy, writing, literature, religion, the Bahá'í Faith, biography, autobiography, among other disciplines. Let us see what writing unfolds in the years ahead. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 6 December 2002.







I saw today that Horace Holley



resigned from the NSA in '59



and he died a year later



just when my own story



was beginning its long haul.







He certainly went the distance:



1919 to 1959



which is as long as anyone



is expected to go:



forty years in this wilderness1



as the foundation was laid



for an Administration



that is the nucleus



of a new World Order.







I've had my forty years:



1962 to 2002



on the pioneering front



and if those mysterious



Dispensations of Providence



allow I may get another forty:



2002 to 2042. We shall see.







1 Bahá'u'lláh, "Long Obligatory Prayer," Bahá'í Prayers, USA, 1985, p. 13.







Ron Price



6 December 2002








    THE TUGS HAVE LEFT







In the first months of my pioneering experience, September to December 1962, I seemed to gravitate to solitude and introspection. There has been a vein of this tendency to the private throughout these past forty years. And now that I am retired from the world of employment, have far less community responsibilities than in earlier years and have developed a proclivity for writing poetry, I can give this predisposition to the solitary a full run with rich inner satisfactions. This morning I was reading about John Keats, Robert Owen and 'the war poets' and their propensity for isolation from other men. The feeling of great fellowship with the poets of history was a strong part of their inner attitude. Keats, some say, was burnt up by his own imagination; Owen was destroyed by war; Hardy lost the little optimism he had left. Classical culture and Christianity were not enough for these poets, not enough to build their poetic philosophy upon. Many of these war poets died young. Many required a period of study, intercourse with kindred spirits and isolation. I have had my study, my intercourse with the poets of old and with everyday man; and I have had my isolation: now it is my pleasure to write. As Owen said in a letter to his mother: The tugs have left me. I feel a great swelling of the open sea taking my galleon. It's about time after forty years of pioneering. -Ron Price, Notes on the War Poets, Thornlie Campus SEMC, Thornlie WA, 1994.







It has been more than 85 years



since He raised the call to war,



the greatest spiritual battle



in the history of the planet,



recreating the roots of faith



without which civilization



can not endure: regeneration.







Curiously, the guns rang out,



judgement-day had arrived,



as He set down that Plan



for the conquest of the world.



Dawn was theirs, then, and sunset



and all the colours of the earth.



Dawn was ours, too, in Plan



after Plan as we wafted



His fragrances of mercy



over all created things.1







We left a white unbroken glory,



a gathered radiance, a width,



a shining peace under the night.2



We left it amidst our ordinariness,



our humanness, our cups of tea



and our striving to connect.



Always there was that striving



and it seemed so slow,



the battle far too prolonged3



for it was our life.







1 Bahá'u'lláh, Tablet of Carmel



2 Rupert Brooke, "From 1914."



3 Roger White, "Lines from a Battlefield," Another Song Another Season, 1979, p.112.







Ron Price



17 March 2002








MY 'BIG BOOK'







A symbol of poet Les Murray's vastly eclectic interests "the Great Book' was a large, hard-covered ledger-book which he had adapted as a scrapbook.1 Into it went postcards, newsclippings, poems he liked, cartoons, inter alia. My mother kept a similar book which was sent to me from Canada when she died in 1978. Not as large as Murray's, it contained the literary memorabilia she had collected from about 1930 to 1955.







The symbol of my own eclectic interests can be found today in my study here in Tasmania. Postcards, cartoons and assorted newsclippings are virtually absent from my own "Big Book." But quotations abound in some 125 arch lever files and two-ring binders on a host of subjects: history, philosophy, religion, literature, poetry, fiction, drama, psychology, media studies, anthropology, Greek and Roman history, various religious themes, graduate study programs, journals, novel writing attempts, biography, autobiography and much else. inter alia. -Ron Price with thanks to Peter Alexander, Les Murray: A Life in Progress, Oxford UP, London, 2000, p.255.







So this is my 'great book.'



I've divided it into a library



of files over the years.



Part of my soul is there



on the shelves of my study,



extremely agreeable friends



from everywhere in the world,



past and present,



always at my service;



they come and go



as I am pleased.







Sometimes they are difficult



to understand and require



special effort on my part.



My cares are often driven away



by their vivacity. They teach me



a certain fortitude. I keep each of them



in a small chamber in a humble corner



of my room where they and I



are delighted by the happy symbiosis



of my retirement and their presence.1







1 Plutarch, On Books.







Ron Price



16 March 2002








NATURAL







Part of the postmodern sensibility and the poetic sensibility here is a philosophy of knowledge about what exists and how to know it. There are various definitions and perspectives on just when postmodernism began and what it means. Most centre on the 1950s, although the earliest I have found is in 1917.1 For the purposes of my poetry I take 1917 as the beginning, the year the Tablets of the Divine Plan were completed, and the 1950s as the start of its major expression in academic circles and society, coinciding as that period does with the Ten Year Crusade and the first major growth and extension of the Bahá'í Faith around the world. There is much in the postmodern sensibility that resonates with a Bahá'í sensibility and readers will find this resonance in my poetry.







For many, the postmodern condition is one is which everything is private, fleeting and deceptive. Baudrillard describes the world as hyperreal, an endless stream of simulated images that refer to other images from other times; copies of copies, ghostly doubles of nothing but pulsing images that fill our consciousness with desire for more of the I and more of the mine. Other postmodern critics see a good deal more substance to the images produced; for them, such images shape the behavior of whole industries, whole peoples, whole epochs. Bahá'u'lláh wrote that "the world is like a vapour in the desert which the thirsty dreameth to be water but when he comes upon it he finds it to be mere illusion." The Guardian wrote about the triple Gods of our age: Nationalism, Racialism and Communism "at whose alters governments and peoples"2 worship and whose ideologies provide images which 'shape whole epochs.'. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Rudolf Pannwitz, a German philosopher, Ron Price's Notes on Postmodernism, 2000; and 2Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, Indian Baha'I Pub. Trust, 1976, p.117.







Yes, an endless stream of images



from the high priests, the politicians



and the worldly-wise, sages of the age,



from the slaughtered multitudes,



a flesh and blood sacrifice,



with incantations, shibboleths



and irreverent formulas,



with incense, the smoke of anguish



from lacerated hearts of the homeless.







Such theories and policies,



so unsound and pernicious



exalting the state above humankind1 1Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come,p.118



have been in my lounge-room



for a thousand nights



and a thousand more,



from that lighted chirping box:



so seductive, so insidious,



so natural, so part of everyday,



with my cups of tea, coffee and Coke.


Ron Price 14 November 2002





                                                            SETTLING DOWN





Ginsberg’s autobiographical poetry, his Collected Works: 1947-1980, gives a shape to his life. There is a sense here of theatre, of playing to the crowd, of the location of the self in place and time. There are many anatomies of loneliness. There are our embarrassments at his self-revelations. From drugs to Buddhist meditation, Ginsberg gives us themes which are now somewhat passe; surface superficialities with little depth; philosophy with hardly any detail, growth or complexity. This bardic-comic-poet gives us formlessness and over-simplification, ugliness and courseness, the impolite and the imprecise, but he also serves up an incredible energy from a vortex of power.       -Ron Price with thanks to Marjorie Perloff, Essays on Modernist and Postmodernist Lyric, Northwestern UP, Evanston, Illinois, 1990, pp. 199-230.







Price’s autobiographical poetry, his Unpublished Works: 1992-2002, give a shape to his life that is not available in his other autobiographical genres. There is a sense of history and of the future, of locating himself and his Faith in the moving flow of history, of time. There are, too, a multitude of anatomies here: anatomies of his poetry, his self, his religion, his times and past times. He rarely embarrasses his readers with awkward self-revelations. His Faith seems just about always at the vortex, at the centre, or the perifery, for he has a passion for conveying its story. There is a sense, too, of new beginnings whose roots are in the past and whose branches are in a utopian world which looks increasingly like a world of realism with a recipe for our survival.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 2002.







I saw my own mind destroyed, temporarily,



by some frazzling chemical dysfunction,



burnt-out after jogging



through suburban streets at dawn,



as suggested by Jimmy Fixx



and friends concerned with my health.



I’d asked the House for prayers



and, although answers usually came slowly in life,



this one popped out of the answer box with haste.







Then, I settled down to an ease I’d never known



and only quiet burn-outs:



just the slow, quiet, laid-back reduction of high spirits,



excited enthusiasm and intensities



to memorable and meticulously chosen words,



observing the melancholy outlook and the propitious events



leading our world community to influence the processes



towards the Lesser Peace



and helping our concentrated endeavour



and the magnificent progress



of the projects on Mount Carmel.







Ron Price



1 June 2002








              APRIORI TRUTH







Stephen Halliwell comments on chapter 23 of Aristotle’s Poetics complied between the 360s and the 320s in the following words: “The poet can attain unity only if he selects a story whose action is capable of being perceived as a unity. The structure must be seen as whole and complete in itself and internally coherent in its dramatic sequence. Without such unity, an epic might yield all sorts of other pleasures, but it will not yield that concentrated pleasure which arises from the experience of a complex interaction of parts connected by, and contributing to, a particular end.” Unity and singleness of action are important with the poetry being a stage on which characters and ideas interact.-Ron Price with thanks to Stephen Halliwell,The Poetics of Aristotle: Translation and Commentary, Duckworth, London, 1987, p.165.







There’s the serious plane of history here



with great dollups of philosophy.



That’s the way he saw poetry then,



a pretty mixed bag this stuff



which I, too, have come to write.







He(and I) was selecting from life



particular events to support truths



held a priori, not just trying



to establish low-level generalizations.







He was showing how motivation



and the will of the gods,



some mysterious dispensation



in an ineffable complex



of historical causality



told the story of his times.



An unconscious mythic



tragic paradigm



underpinned his narrative.







And I, with another



mysterious dispensation



of Providence,



working within



another paradigm,



this one quite conscious,



deal with that ineffable complex



of historical causality



in a poetic framework



with its solemn consciousness



and its exquisite celebratory joy.







Ron Price



28 August 2002








ONE'S FORTY YEARS







After nearly four years of 'retired' life away from the classroom, I have developed a system of classifying information for use in any 'serious' writing that I want to do. It is a system that can be changed, altered and expanded. Increasingly, in the last decade and especially since I ceased employment in 1999, a vast amount of material to read has appeared on the Internet. So much is this true that it provides a more relevant library for me than the public or academic libraries I used to use. In the last two days I have organized and filed many new articles on religion and the Bahá'í Faith. One of the articles was a piece on Horace Holley and the following poem is based on that piece.







As I near the age of sixty I am increasingly in a well-organized position to write for the print and electronic media to obtain exposure for the Bahá'í Cause as it comes out, more and more, of obscurity. I can draw on: history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, media studies, philosophy, writing, literature, religion, the Bahá'í Faith, biography, autobiography, among other disciplines. Let us see what writing unfolds in the years ahead. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 6 December 2002.







I saw today that Horace Holley



resigned from the NSA in '59.



And he died a year later



just when my own story



was beginning its long haul.







He certainly went the distance:



1919 to 1959



which is as long as anyone



is expected to go:



forty years in the wilderness



as the foundation was laid



for an Administration



that is the nucleus



of a new World Order.







I've had my forty years:



1959 to 1999



and then some.



If those mysterious



Dispensations of Providence



Allow I may get another forty:



1999 to 2039. We shall see.







Ron Price



6 December 2002








                ON WAR







"The idea of modern total war," writes sociologist Robert Nisbet, "was born in the famous decree of the National Convention, August 23, 1793." This decree resulted in the creation of a mass army, a citizen army, the first in human history in France. Karl von Clausewitz's book On War followed forty years after. Clauswitz wrote, according to Nisbet, "the single most influential book written in modern times on war" in the years 1817 to 1827. On War, a book on strategy and tactics, on the philosophy of war and the relation between society and the individual, was begun one hundred years before another book on war, a spiritual war, The Tablets of the Divine Plan. In 1793, too, Shaykh Ahmad left his home in Bahrain to begin the process of that spiritual, that total war, a war of quite a different character, characterized in those Tablets by what you might call 'a military metaphor.'



-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Nisbet, The Social Philosophers: Community and Conflict in Western Thought, Heinemann, London, 1973, p.70.







Sharper than blades of steel



and hotter than summer heat,



placed somewhere inside,



pervasive



but as natural as the weather,



unassuming, unobtrusive,



you'd never know or guess








    EVAPORATION







One's life, my life as I near sixty, is part of a general inheritance, perhaps my chief inheritance as I spend my days now and in the years ahead. All my memories are written full of annals wherein joy and mourning, conquest and loss manifoldly alternate. All my philosophy, my religion, my non-partisan politics, at least that part I have written about, are ineffaceably recorded in this autobiography, although history may, in the end, totally ignore what I have written. "Our very speech," wrote the historian Thomas Carlyle, "is curiously historical."1 For narrative is the very stuff of our life; without it conversation would, for the most part, utterly evaporate. "Our whole spiritual life," continues Carlyle in his discussion of the sources of our being, "is built on history." For history is essentially "recorded experience." Reasoning, belief, action and passion are its essential materials. -Ron Price with thanks to Thomas Carlyle, Selected Writings, Penguin, Ringwood, 1971, p.51.







These years guided forward



by an unseen mysterious Wisdom,



with periodic blind mazes



and unintelligible paths;



however we study



and recapitulate the journey,



so much is lost without recovery,



our chief benefactors lie entombed



in some formless oblivion



and the weighiest causes



are so often silent.







Our faculty of insight



into passing things



is but impressions



in an everliving, everworking



chaos of being, unfathomable



as our soul and destiny,



a complex manuscript covered



with formless inextricably-entangled



and unknown characters,



partially deciphered.







But only in the whole



is the partial to be truly seen,



only in the Divine ordering of history



and its providential control



can bafflement be dealth with



and a revitalizing elan be found.







Ron Price



25 November 2002






                      DRIVING ON OUTSIDE THE MARKET







On "Arts Today" the work of Australian sculptor Robert Clipel was discussed. Clipel died in 2001 at the age of 81 and a retrospective exhibition was arranged to commemorate, to celebrate, to inform the community of his work. There are some similarities between his work, what drove him and his philosophy and my own. For this reason I write the poem below. He was a most inventive and self-directed individual, highly cerebral, highly intellectual. His creative drive sought expression in his work and was the most important aspect of his life over several decades. He was strongly drawn by the multitude of possibilities around him to give them expression in art, his art.       His central aim was to build up a language of forms, a language that was diverse, individualistic, new, self-critical, coherent and combined the technological with nature. His interest was in producing art not marketing it. He was unquestionably a man obsessed with his vision and his art. -Ron Price with thanks to "Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 14 January 2002.







I came to my work much later, Robert.



I'll have to live to be a hundred



to get in my several decades of art.



So, I'll just have to take it a step-at-a-time.







Everything I heard today about you



animates me and my work, except



perhaps that aim to synthesize



the technological and nature.







I'm into one big meta-synthesis, Robert.



and the possibilities around me



just go on and on and on as I link



them to this thrusting creative drive.







Perhaps when I'm gone there will be



one great retrospective and someone



can market all of this, these thousands



of poems, this obsession, this vision, this art.







Ron Price



14 January 2002




          CONNECTIONS

C.Wright Mills tried to make us aware of the intricate connection between the patterns of our own lives and the course of world history, as ordinary men do not usually know what this connection means for the kinds of men they are becoming and for the kinds of history-making in which they might take part. They do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of man and society, of biography and history,of self and world.1 The Bahá'í Faith, in contrast, gives to its votaries an historical consciousness that is both providential and humanistic, that stimulates the process of making connections and finding patterns between individual lives and the course of history.-Ron Price with thanks to 1C.W. Mills, the Sociological Imagination, 1959, p.4.

A lot of things relate



to a lot of things,



big-and-little-pictures



in this tenth stage of history



and a lot of isms and wasms



have collapsed as explanations



of the world and ourselves.1







Meanwhile, there has been



an influence not dwelling



elsewhere in literature



or philosophy that shatters



the cup of speech



that we cannot contain



as we cannot dam the sea.2







This influence asks us



to stretch ourselves



beyond the here-and-now,



present awareness,



subtlely reminding us



of what we already know



in the big world that has



made us what we are,



as sub-creators in



our own understanding.







1 Immanuel Wallerstein, "Louis Horowitz, C. Wright Mills: An American Utopian," Theory and Society, Vol.15, 1986, pp.465-474.



2 Horace Holley quoted in the Ocean of His Words, J. Hatcher, Wilmette, 1997,p.3.







Ron Price



8 November 2002




BREAKING THROUGH

"The idea of modern total war," writes sociologist Robert Nisbet, "was born in the famous decree of the National Convention, August 23, 1793." This decree resulted in the creation of a mass army, a citizen army, the first in human history in France. Karl von Clausewitz's book On War followed forty years after. Clausewitz wrote, according to Nisbet, "the single most influential book written in modern times on war" in the years 1817 to 1827. On War, a book on strategy and tactics, on the philosophy of war and the relation between society and the individual, was begun one hundred years before another book on war, a spiritual war, The Tablets of the Divine Plan. In 1793, too, Shaykh Ahmad left his home in Bahrain to begin the process of that spiritual, that total war, a war of quite a different character, characterized in those Tablets by what you might call 'a military metaphor.'-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Nisbet, The Social Philosophers: Community and Conflict in Western Thought, Heinemann, London, 1973, p.70.









Sharper than blades of steel







and hotter than summer heat,







placed somewhere inside,







pervasive, subtle, natural







as the weather, unassuming,







unobtrusive, you'd never know







or guess that this was war.















Reposing on that green,







Isle of Faithfulness







in that place of honour







in the central square,







a crystal concentrate







of exquiste power---







slowly the people came,







citizens from everywhere,







feeling its intolerable beauty,







growing accustomed to its ways.






This was no temperate, limited







engagement, no indecisive contest,







a gentle war, silent, you would not







have called it war or death, but life,







ideal forces, lordly confirmations,







rushing from hidden ramparts,







strong fortifications,







impregnable castles







razed to the ground,







unbeknownst,







the lines of the legions







breaking through,







breaking through.




Ron Price 1 October 2000

BEAUTY

One of the issues raised in the new U.K. television series This Is Modern Art1 was "what is beauty?' The series, and this issue in particular, stimulated me to read one hundred pages of a book on aesthetics.2 I read this book for some three or four hours and found the discussion on aesthetics to be dense and complicated, but useful as a base for exploring the concept of beauty. One definition of aesthetic value or beauty which informs my approach to poetry is known as instrumentalist. Drawing on this definition of aesthetic value this poet sees his poetry as the fixing of attention on heterogeneous but interrelated components on a phenomenally objective field. His poetry aims at achieving an experience of some intensity and concentration on some narrow field of concern. This experience attempts to hang together, be coherent, have some climactic element, be complete in itself. It tries to insulate itself, detach itself, from the intrusion of other experiences, other aspects of life. It aims, too, to be rich in insight and suggestion. Taken as a whole my poetic opus possesses a continuity, a rhythm, a consummatory character, a concentration of energy. -Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC TV: 10:30-11:20 pm, 17 February 2002; and 2Monroe Beardsley, Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism, Harcourt, Brace and World Inc., NY, 1958, pp.456-556.

I try to name the heart of things



and the distances we've come.



I speculate of some of what



is out there in the sun.







I do not know where poems go



as they move into their mystery,



but all of life and time and love



gets put into these words so misty.







My poetry will never matter



to millions who will not read it,



but that is part of nature's way,



the burgeoning patterns that fit it.







There is a kind of spontaneity



that arises out of living



and the engaged discipline



I find in my special kind of giving.

Ron Price
18 February 2002

                  AS IF IT WILL BE MY LAST

Reading John Cowper Powys' Autobiography made me aware, for how long only time will tell, of how much my conscious drinking in of all the various sense impressions which I receive as I embrace my world and the incalculable welter of criss-cross forces each one of which has its own particular measure of and impact on my consciousness, both contribute to making my world one of an inscrutable mystery. Unlike Powys who "woke up every morning with a tremendous life-energy pulsing" through him and with a feeling that he could "flow through every material object" he looked at in a rapture of identification, I wake up with little enthusiasm, energy and joy. These vibrant and pleasing sensations come later in the day, usually and gradually within two hours of waking but, it seems to me, my experience of these sensations is gentler, quieter than Powys'. Powys' rapture of identification with objects, as he expressed his reaction to the physical world, seemed much more intense than my own. I have had my "nervous and strung up" years, as Powys described his entire life, but mine were mostly before the age of forty. -Ron Price with thanks to John Cowper Powys, Autobiography, Picador Books, London, 1967(1934), pp.53-55 and p.61.

I, too, can feel now those
actual, identical feelings



that I used to have when



in that small lounge-room



my father would dry my hair



and go back to reading his paper



where he fell asleep,



his chin and white hair on his chest.







This repetition, this going over



it again as I gaze in my mind's eye,



is quiet, gentle, without your1



psychic intensity of expression.



These memories, imagination



are softer, more mellow,



as they confirm and defend



my thoughts and feelings--



my philosophy of life--



and mix with my world in endless



permutations and combinations.







And the tale of my days



advances and retreats,



erratically flickers and flutters



as I stroke toward



that green opposite shore



where death rehearses



at a thousand tangents



in this contemplative milieux



where sensations enter



with such an immensity, rich wisps:



slowly I learn to live each day



as if it were to be my last.2

1 John Cowper Powys: 1872-1963.
2 This idea comes from an old evangelical hymn.

Ron Price
11 May 2002

          ARISTOTLE’S EPIC

Stephen Halliwell comments on chapter 23 of Aristotle’s Poetics complied between the 360s and the 320s in the following words: “The poet can attain unity only if he selects a story whose action is capable of being perceived as a unity. The structure must be seen as whole and complete in itself and internally coherent in its dramatic sequence. Without such unity, an epic might yield all sorts of other pleasures, but it will not yield that concentrated pleasure which arises from the experience of a complex interaction of parts connected by, and contributing to, a particular end.” Unity and singleness of action are important with the poetry being a stage on which characters and ideas interact.-Ron Price with thanks to Stephen Halliwell,The Poetics of Aristotle: Translation and Commentary, Duckworth, London, 1987, p.165.

There’s the serious plane of history here
with great dollups of philosophy.
That’s the way he saw poetry then,
a pretty mixed bag this stuff
which I, too, have come to write.

He(and I) was selecting from life
particular events to support truths
held a priori, not just trying
to establish low-level generalizations.

He was showing how motivation
and the will of the gods,
some mysterious dispensation
in an ineffable complex
of historical causality,
played within an unconscious
mythic paradigm
underpining his narrative.

And I, with another
mysterious dispensation
of Providence,
working within
another paradigm,
this one quite conscious,
deal with that ineffable complex
of historical causality
in a poetic framework
with its solemn consciousnesS
and its exquisite celebratory joy.

Ron Price
28 August 2002

No more for now!

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