Eve: Song as a record of Mystical Experience
One of the reasons I became actively interested in mysticism and mystic poetry was that for much of my life I have had random experiences which simply did not comply with the world view I was raised up in. I have had many gentle visitations from other places, which I was cultured to designate as daydreams or fancies of imagination. I was quite comfortable with that designation for a long time, but as the experiences continued over the years I began to be able to distinguish some experiences from other daydreams, and some of these experiences carried a different weight, a different feel from the others.
My first album, a cassette (remember that?!) release of work entitled River Running Backward under the artist name Atman Zi was more or less lost to me as the media formats changed and then changed again. I lost access to my own early work, as many artists do. The songs from this era fade from mind and are forgotten.
A few years ago, as I was streamlining my studio I realized I had what might be the last chance to archive these old songs into the digital world, I dug out an old cassette tape of River Running Backwards and ran a digital bootleg of my own album for my archive. I found a number of the songs still did speak to me, with far more immediacy than I would have expected. The first I re-recorded is “Medicine” which opens The Blackbird: Vol. 2: Retro (2018). It's a song I have always loved to perform and is still fresh to me.
With my new release (2019) I have revived and re-recorded another of these songs. This one is called Eve, which brings me back the idea of mystical experiences.
I can remember writing Eve twenty-five years ago in a way I cannot remember writing the other songs of that time. What was different about it was the element of participation in it's creation. The “character” from the song provided her own ideas, text and presence, I simply recorded the event as it occurred to me. She never identified herself to me, but at the time I was steeped in the Gnostic Gospels, I was reading and engaged in the works discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt and I was deeply impressed with some of the texts. What captured me is that the characters we all know from the Bible were sometimes speaking with great freedom in these texts, and they were clearly involved in an experience very different to our modern conception of them. These texts are inconsistent with each other- if you are looking for a dogma out of Gnosticism you will not really find one, but what you are given was a record of direct Christian mysticism, from their own mouths lit by their own inner fires dating back to around 200AD. These texts live in a different way than anything I had experienced from Christianity before. The concept of the Living Word exists still today, but I had never realized that a truly Living Word may not act the way I expect it to. For me this was a great lesson, and it opened up Christian images to me, which had been shut down by centuries of dogma and dull cruelty in a new way. The lesson was: The Living Word lives, and as all living things it changes and reacts, and it develops different relationships to different people.
In my own mystical experience I have come to understand that there are beings of all sorts who we do not recognize in the West generally, and they do not communicate with us in American English, but they do communicate to us using images and ideas already contained in our minds. Our minds are the palette with which they can paint their communications to us, and to be clear, our personalities will filter the messages. There is no other way it can be. A Christian Mystic will “dress” his mysticism in the language and imagery of Christianity just as a Native American Mystic will dress his mysticism in the language and imagery of the Nature around him, as a Celtic Mystic will dress his mysticism in the language and imagery of the Otherworld of Faery and Avalon, and so on.
Back to Eve. I named the song after Eve because this was the language and imagery she presented herself to me with at that meeting. But what is important is the content of the communication, not the cultural source of it. I had no experience at this time receiving communications at all, and I did file this experience under “daydream and flight of fancy” for many years. But the vividness of the experience never dulled for me to this day. Had I not written this song, I expect I would have forgotten the experience completely, and I know beyond all doubt I have dismissed or forgotten many such experiences in my life. But singing this song invokes the experience to me still, it does re-light the presence for me and she is a warm and loving being with whom I delight to spend quite moments also. She still calls me forward as she did in this song.
In the Garden where I walk, a voice approaches me, she says:
If there truly were a sin, it's to be less than you can be.
And she holds in her hands a guitar of golden strings
she says: I can hear the songs the fear won't let you sing.
She says: I once knew a man who did what he was told
but I never was the complacent sort, hidden things are often gold
And with bare and sober hands, the fruit down from the tree
fire startes raining down, raining over me
Some choices bear more weight, than any single life
but don't ask me to apologize, time cuts me like a knife
and she smiled and turned her head, she said: I remember when
of one thing I am certain: I'd do it all over again
In my experience since this song was written, I have come to understand the way to distinguish an experience of a mystical nature from a daydream or flight of fancy is the felt sense of the experience itself. There is also, for me a sense of participation in an unknown environment, there is a sense that I am not in full control of the events around me, but I am fully present, alert and aware. And perhaps this is my greatest realization: with me the communications are not universal messages, they are very personal and for me only to work with. They are intimate messages, not burning bushes and stone tablet things. The beings seek to engage me personally, not all of humanity. This is my current experience of mystic work. How I express the ideas or information is fully under my control, and I am fully responsible for what I share.
What I found wonderful about Eve, the song, is that it is a record of an early experience of mine which fully captures and supports what I have learned to develop since. The being in this song, may still be in communication with me, this is still unfolding, but she may be approaching me now from another cultural context, not dressed in Christian imagery any longer. Perhaps it is a different being, but if so, they have some relationship I must try to unweave.
It is my understanding and hope that this discussion itself falls under the idea of “songs which the fear did not let me sing”. Perhaps I am moving passed that fear. Let's hope.
The only other thing I would add is that these experiences are beautiful, flowing, peaceful, and radiate love and affection towards me, and the better I harmonize with this love and affection, accepting it firstly (not as easy as one might expect), and reciprocating it secondly, the more deeply in the experience I may find myself.
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