A Mahamudra Essay: I’ve Looked….

A MAHAMUDRA ESSAY: I’ve Looked at Life from Both Sides Now

There is a popular song of the 60’s that, in recent times, caused me to undertake a contemplation on a before-and-after gnosis (knowing) sourced from the Treasure Texts with little to no emotional reactivity. That is to say, the conventional “I” reflected on how life was viewed before and after endeavoring  practices of Anuyoga and Antiyoga, having transitioned from the Sutrayana view of Emptiness based on understanding Dependent Co-arising of the Abhidharma section to the Atiyoga of pure vision. In this case, it comes from meditative experiences only.  As noted, the view changes dramatically. After all, our transformational practice is made up of living moments while breaking out of the mold of limitations; and, lest we forget, we are all nirmanakaya, the mental and physical manifestations of Buddha.

When lyrics are a form of art, we must remember that all art is supposed to increase our mindfulness—the ability of self-awareness and the capacity to reflect on experience and daily life. The name of the song as an object of meditation is “Both Sides Now,” by songwriter/singer Joni Mitchell. Her noetic lyrics will be interspersed throughout the essay as my contemplation unfolds. In several ways, the words send me on a journey of where I am, looking at both sides, in the now, throughout.

Here is a spoiler alert when it comes to the word “love.” As interpreted, it is not about the numerous failed attempts at karmamudra in which the final mind refinement (the very, very subtle mind) is actualized. Read this essay while recognizing that “in reality, each phenomenon appears vividly while recognizing that the essential nature of subject, object, and action are without inherent existence.” In effect, a quantum effect—it exists and does not exists at the same time in each moment of life. A more poetic way of explaining the quantum phenomena is that “it comes in the stillness, a wordless knowing of everything and beautifully nothing (nondual).”

Thus, we begin this journey of “Both Sides Now” together as we also attempt to recognize any of our cognitive biases.

Rows and flows of angel hair

And ice cream castles in the air

And feather canyons everywhere

I’ve looked at clouds that way….

Though the first stanza exists in the memory of sense objects, the imagery appeals to our sensual consciousness—they create a loop, especially of the eye- and intellect-consciousnesses. There is contact. There may also be a craving for forms, taste, and tactile sensations, including ideas. Nevertheless, the lyrics seem to recognize a wisdom that is inseparable from Emptiness.

The reference to “feather canyons everywhere” is a visual of the actual Feather Canyon located between Pulga and Keddie, California. It is known for its high winds (aka Jarbo Winds). For our purposes, we can recognize the prevailing winds as consciousness rides the breath (Prana)—the Wind Horse metaphor. Wind as Prana is everywhere.

But now they [clouds] only block the sun

They rain and snow on everyone

So many things I would have done

But clouds got in my way….

There is an awakening here, recognizing that, although the Clear Light is in everyone, it remains a common clear light that is hidden by a cloud or veil. In other words, it remains dormant, undefined, and ignored. Thus, when we speak about ignorance in Buddhism, we are really referring to the ignorance of the bliss, clarity, and non-conceptual awareness that is our birthright. In other words, as Dr. Ian Baker, explorer and author of Tibetan Yoga; Principles and Practices, states, “The recognition of mind’s innermost photonic nature to an all-pervading luminosity—’like a moonlit sky in autumn,'” is our natural inheritance. Moreover, the sun, when darkness (ignorance) is expelled, becomes the complete brightness of mind.

The awakening starts with the words, “so many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way.” How do I see ’em clouds, let me count the way. No, do not bother. Phet! If I had known then what I know now, I could have gone beyond self-liberation….

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow

It’s cloud illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds at all….

How do clouds play illusions? I really do not know how they create illusions if not by recognizing that “(1) all appearances are mind; (2) mind is empty, (3) Emptiness is spontaneous presence; and (4) spontaneous presence is natural liberation?” All of existence is made up of dreaming while awake, dreaming in sleep, and dreaming the blending of both day and night dreams. The cloud of illusions is a teaching. This reminds me of a stanza in the Upadesha Tantra on the Great Perfection, The Secret Kissing of the Sun and Moon: Self-awareness transcends all obstructions | It is within the special quality of our place. | This itself is divided between the external and the internal. | So there is the measureless place of the precious citta.

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels

The dizzy dancing way that you feel

As every fairy tale comes real

I’ve looked at love that way….

The roundness of Ferris wheels and moons while June radiates with solar energy—such lovely and sneaky imagery. The fairies of Midsummer gather for the ritual of fertility come into play with the word “June.” This is how we mostly sense “love” in many cultures to perpetuate the existence of rebirth. It is a dizzying ritual dance.

But now it’s just another show

You leave ’em[,] laughing when you go

And if you can, don’t let them know

Don’t give yourself away….

A change does take place. When Shakyamuni Buddha was asked what he gained from meditation, he replied, I gained nothing, but I lost greed, hatred, and delusion.” This is what I see happening here. All that preceded in memory is likened to “just another show” of delusion/illusion. A comma had to be inserted before the word “laughing’ to make it clear that the object/subject is the one laughing, not her friends or not any reified idea. The clinging, craving, and feeling sensations dissipate, too. In caring, one shows oneself the courage to surrender one’s mind and ego to the realm of unknowing, at which point one glimpses many times over the nature of mind. The world of tantra is difficult and perilous enough to want to share it with anyone who simply could not understand.

I’ve looked at love from both sides now

From give and take, and still somehow

It’s love’s illusions that I recall

I really don’t know love at all….

To reflect on all the different types of loves experienced—as daughter, sister, mother, wife, divorcee, widow, and the like—there is all this give and take and confusion until one stands up, stamps the foot, and clasps the hand to exclaim, “I have had enough of this absurdity!”

Tears and fears and feeling proud

To say “I love you” right out loud

Dreams and schemes and circus crowds

I’ve looked at life that way….

Ah, the temporary disturbing emotions of tears and fears. They are illusions that will deceive and mislead. Instead, identify with your Buddha Nature. That is how “feeling proud” comes into play. Tears and fears are surpassed by Vajra Pride that encourages to continue cultivating Bodhicitta for the benefit of all others. Without Bodhicitta, there is no Mahamudra, Tantra, and much less Dzogchen Nyingthik (Heart Essence of the Great Perfection). The warning of Tantra is that an unbalanced Vajra Pride can lead to schemes of megalomania, like Rudra and the circus crowds he collected for his aggrandizement. So the practice of a Yidam is to be healthy and balanced.

Yet, the shooting out loud “I love you,” is loving oneself first for the purpose of healing. Bodhicitta is always for oneself and others, the immeasurable mind of equanimity.

One embarks on the knowledge and wisdom of what is termed relative, correct deceptive reality: There is a path of seeing that is realized awareness—the practice of cutting through the dualistic conceptual thoughts into the raw uncontrived primordially pure nature of reality. Everything becomes a mirage of dreams after dreams until it is gone—tathagate (as used here, one who has acquired perfect knowledge or who has attained liberation from karma).

But now old friends are acting strange

They shake their heads, and they say that I’ve changed

Well something’s lost, but something’s gained

In living every day….

Yes, “old friends” is another loss. They just cannot see how you are wishing them Enlightenment in your samaya recitations. What is gained? a transformation into the Five Wisdoms of one’s own Alaya, not to be confused with the Alayavijnana.—the collective ground consciousnesses. Some songwriters have an inner vision that is clear-eyed.

O, I’ve looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It’s life’s illusions that I recall

I really don’t know life at all.

They say, “Patience is the virtue of time.” As Toni Bernhard, former law professor turned Buddhist, once wrote, “Patience is an act of compassion toward ourselves, and it also gives rise to equanimity—that sublime state of mind that leads to peace and well-being.” For the tantric practitioner, it is pure vision and pure awareness turned into ‘pure awareness being primal purity.” The subject, object, and action become inseparable, recognizing itself. From a Buddhist perspective, patience is the ability not to be perturbed by anything. After looking at life from both sides, the gnosis cognizes the nonduality of Emptiness as immaculate as a cloudless sky and wisdom as the perfect discrimination of phenomena (all knowable things).

As a last thought, even the melody of “Both Sides Now” sticks to the ribs, affording a satisfying opportunity to lower the chest voice registry by an octave; it helps vibrate the Vagus Nerve to strengthen the immune system. Whistling the melody also helps strengthen the Vagus Nerve. Of course, there is always the mantra–OM MANI PEME HUNG HRI.

May all dream-like beings awaken
from their illusory suffering, confusion,
& fabrications....

Pope Francis as Pope Hormisdas?

In several ways, the character of Pope Hormisdas II in CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES parallels the scientific bent of Pope Francis who called upon other religious-spiritual leaders to make a joint appeal at the upcoming meeting of the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November at Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday, October 3, 2021, to offer concrete solutions to save the planet from “an unprecedented ecological crisis.”

Pope Francis takes part in the “Faith and Science: Towards COP26” meeting with other religious leaders ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November in Britain, at the Vatican, October 4, 2021. Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS

The “Faith and Science: Towards COP26” meeting brought together leaders representing Christendom, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and Jainism. The leaders represent about 3/4 of the population of the world, a significant percentage of people across the planet. Perhaps that collective voice will be heard.

In addressing the forum, which was organized by The Vatican, Britain, and Italy, Pope Francis said, “COP26 represents an urgent summons to provide effective responses to the unprecedented ecological crisis and [to] the crisis of values that we are presently experiencing and, in this way, to offer concrete hope to future generations. We want to accompany it with our commitment and [with] our spiritual closeness.”

The appeal, which described climate change as a “grave threat,” was posited as a “war on creation,” that calls for a “global financial architecture that repents of its sins in the past 100 years,” including changes in tax rules to promote green activity.

“If one nation sinks, we all sink,” said Rajwant Singh, a U.S. Sikh leader. The pope said, “Each of us has his or her religious beliefs and spiritual traditions; but no cultural, political or social borders or barriers prevent us from standing together.”

In Chapter 10, page 221, of CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES, Pope Hormisdas II speaks to Pope Francis’s signature theme — Environmental protection. “Climate change is causing the planet Earth to be on Fire!Failure to cut the use of fossil fuels leads to a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperature … Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization!” Nonetheless, Pope Hormisdas II, a scientist, is also interested in alchemy.

Francis, 84, about 11 years ago and several times thereafter appealed to the fossil fuel CEO’s and investers to have good faith in protecting the environment to no avail. He continues to strongly support the environment and the goals of the 2015 U.N. Paris accord to reduce global warming. He told young people at the weekend that theirs was “perhaps the last generation” to save the planet.

The pope’s impassioned appeal to protect nature is increasingly urgent as the global pandemic alters lifestyles and makes painfully plain the fragility of life.

If You See a Blue Porch Ceiling

The online blog, Taste of Home, posted an article, “If You See a Blue Porch Ceiling,” dated July 20, 2021, was indeed a treat to read since such a ceiling was mentioned on page 230 of CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES, 2020. The ceiling of the subdued Queen Anne was painted a pale shade of blue known as “haint blue,” a color sourced from crushed indigo plants.

The article stated, “The painted blue porch ceiling started in the American South around 200 years ago. The practice traces back to the Gullah Geechee, enslaved people living in the low country of Florida, Georgia[,] and [the] Carolina[s].

“Gullah folklore explains that ghosts, also referred to as ‘haints,’ were not able to cross water. In order to repel evil spirits from plantations, porch ceilings were painted a soft blue. The color was meant to mimic water in an effort to keep any haints or spirits at bay. The Gullah people made sure to cover all their bases—windows, doors[,] and shutters were often painted the same color of ‘haint blue.’”

What is not stated is that the masters also agreed to the color and more than likely just as superstitious.

Miss Ellie, who had served the Carr family for many years and raised young Carr, was a Gullah Geechee descendent.

Frogmore Crossing by Jonathan Green, 1997, with permission of the artist.

Chlorpyrifos Banned 5/2021 AT LAST!

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its withdrawal of all food uses of chlorpyrifos. This announcement follows the 9th Circuit Court’s May 2021 order to withdraw all uses of chlorpyrifos in food production that cannot be proven safe.

Kristin Schafer, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Executive Director, issued the following statement in response to EPA’s decision: 

“Together with partners across the country, we’re celebrating this decision that protects the health of millions of children, farmworkers, and rural families — and is long overdue. Science documenting the harms of this neurotoxic chemical has been strong for decades. It took persistent organizing, advocacy in statehouses, and coordinated legal action to finally force EPA to do its job.

“Our understanding is that today’s action will also result in a ban of chlorpyrifos use on commodity crops grown for feed, and in the coming months, EPA will consider action on all remaining (non-food) uses of chlorpyrifos as well. We urge the agency to also quickly withdraw these uses, so we can join the 35 countries that have already fully banned this dangerous chemical. 

“We’re hopeful that today’s decision signals a shift for this Administration, toward re-centering science and justice in decision-making about dangerous pesticides. For too long the pesticide industry’s interests have been prioritized over protecting children’s health or the health of those on the frontlines of industrial agriculture — farmworkers, farmers, and rural families. It’s time for this to change.”


Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, acaricide and miticide used primarily to control foliage and soil-borne insect pests. 

In August 2021, EPA released a final rule revoking all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos, which establish an amount of a pesticide that is allowed on food. Read a prepublication version of the final rule: Chlorpyrifos; Tolerance Revocations (pdf) . In addition, the agency will issue a Notice of Intent to Cancel under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to cancel registered food uses of chlorpyrifos associated with the revoked tolerances.

Thoughts beyond the Novel CCC.5–Mycelia/Fungi

The biggest threat to the scientific community when it comes to innovative and safe applications of mycelia/fungi is Big Pharma. Though Big Pharma is not the topic of this blog, it must be dealt with because of its business practices, for example, requiring years of Prosac instead of two-three capsules of a specific fungus to […]

Thoughts beyond the Novel DoD.4—Mother Goddess Anahita

In a remote area of Iraqi Kurdistan, the ancient lost city of Natounia, which was named after the founder of the Adiabene royal dynasty, is presumed to have been found recently. The region belonged to the Parthian empire over 2,000 years ago. Lost to antiquity, a sanctuary-style complex that received heavy rains to produce a […]

Thoughts beyond the Novel DoD.3—Isla OIL Refinery

Once open a time—millions of human years ago to be exact—the remnants of animal and plant debris became oil. Mother Nature during this expanse of time transmuted dead life into black gold, using heat and pressure. To say that it runs modern society and fuels serious political tensions is an understatement. Take, for example, a […]

This action will also be incorporated into the ongoing registration review for chlorpyrifos. EPA is continuing to review the comments submitted on the chlorpyrifos proposed interim decisiondraft revised human health risk assessment, and draft ecological risk assessment. These documents are available in the chlorpyrifos registration review docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850 at www.regulations.gov.


Music on the Brain

One of the characters in the novel, CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES, was a prospective Alzheimer’s disease candidate. The clinical-residential center, however, adopted music therapy (binaural beat) for her treatment, in addition to other alternative modalities. [p. 76).]

“Future medicine

will be the medicine

of frequencies.”

Binaural beat therapy has been recognized in recent times as an emerging form of sound wave therapy, which helps balance and improve long-term memory among other benefits such as increased concentration, deeper meditation and enhanced psychomotor performance and mood. In reading the literature, there are those who claim that the therapy is semi-experimental, leaving one to wonder if the chemistry pharmaceutical-industry senses competition.

Nonetheless, it was Albert Einstein who posited that the “future medicine will be the medicine of frequencies.” The frequency of binaural beat therapy is amazing in that, when two tones of slightly different frequencies are played in separate ears simultaneously, the human brain perceives the creation of a third tone. This new third tone is equivalent to the difference between the two tones being played. If a person hears a tone of 405 Hz in one ear and a tone of 415 Hz in the other ear, that person would be hearing a beat with a frequency of 10 Hz.

Binaural beats provide the same benefits as meditation. While research is still ongoing, binaural beats still offers low risks of side effects if any. Many apps, podcasts, videos and other services provide free access to binaural beats offering a range of brain waves.

Beta waves at 13-16 Hz occur when we are awake and alert. Alpha waves at 8-12 Hz occur when we are relaxed with eyes closed as in meditation. Theta waves at 4-7 Hz occur in lighter stages of sleep or the transition from waking to sleeping. Theta waves at 0.5-4 Hz occur in a state of deep sleep. Then there is gamma wave to be discussed below.

A gamma wave (aka gamma Rhythm) is a pattern of neural oscillation in humans with a frequencey between 25 and 140 Hz, the 49-Hz point being of particular interest. Gamma wave activity is correlated with large scale brain network activity and cognitive phenomena such as working memory, attention, and perceptual grouping. It can be increased in amplitude by meditation or by neuro-stimulation. Altered gamma activity has been observed in many mood and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.

For a binaural beat to work, the two tones have to be less than 1000 Hz in frequency, and the difference between the two tones cannot be more than 30-40 Hz.

From a study by Aron and Yanker at the Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, they reported that “[t]reating neurodegenerative disorders by non-invasive modulation of neural networks is an intriguing prospect. The present study used light to stimulate gamma oscillations in the visual cortex, which is relatively unaffected by Alzheimer’s disease. It will be important to determine whether other approaches can stimulate gamma oscillations more globally, in brain regions that are affected in Alzheimer’s and other disorders. For example, behavioural interventions such as meditation have been shown to increase gamma oscillations. Electrical stimulation of deep brain regions — an effective approach in drug-resistant Parkinson’s disease — could potentially be adapted to stimulate gamma oscillations in specific brain regions. These are just two of many potential therapeutic approaches likely to arise from a greater understanding of the role of neural networks in neurodegenerative disorders. [https://doi.org/10.1038/540207a]

There is much to be advanced in this area. Research/Development needs to be budgeted now that there is a greater need to delay brain deterioration. Though estimates may vary, experts believe there more than six million Americans have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. Moreover, recent estimates indicate that the disorder ranks third as a cause of death in older people, just behind heart disease and cancer.

The latest and past research conducted by NIH (U.S. National Institutes on Health can be found at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19895855/.

Below are some YouTube videos to inspire us.

Of course, Izobel’s favorite is–

The Wisdom Eye

Immediate stillness

A crash about to happen

Awareness ensues

Have you ever experienced going into a crash or a fall when time seemed simply to stand still and then there was no mind reaction, even for just a nanosecond? The above haiku speaks to such an event. What is the mind doing? Is the mind experiencing its very own nature? Awareness looking at (experiencing) itself?

Buddhist literature speaks to this awareness with many metaphors such as a mirror or a crystal. Our awareness can be likened to a mirror that reflects with complete openness while unaffected by the reflections whereas a clear crystal sphere takes on the surrounding colors of the materials (e.g., red cloth, refraction of surrounding light) with the sphere, remaining unchanged.

Another way of understanding the nature of our mind is to note that the images on our digital display (e.g., iPhone, iPad, TV) are made up of miniscule lights that are similar to our unexamined experiences as “solidified” light energies in a dance of awareness. Except for one thing, we have not allowed our cognitive senses to notice this phenomenon. Yet, every moment in our life, we are the natural, primordial energy state of being as a sentient being. However, in a lifetime of conditioning, of instilling preferences and aversions, our mental patterns engulf our sense of being. We form attachments to our feelings and become enslaved or addicted by these experiences. Yet, they are merely reflections without any inherent permanency. Once you change a channel or enter a query into GoGoDuck, the images change instantly. Such are our experiences; they fade away into space. Yet, the heart of reality—the light of the natural mind—remains present.

Basically, we are made up of three types of energy:

The first one is like the mirror. Though the voidness of a mirror is essentially endless and formless, the mirror can fill itself with any content. This is also true of us — our energy has the capacity to adopt any form and to emanate radiantly.

The second energy is like the clear crystal ball. External forms appear as though seen with the “eye of the mind.” In other words, it sees the form internally as if it were seen with the “eye of the mind” when, in fact, the appearance is neither inside nor outside no matter how vivid the internal image of the form may be.

The third energy is explained by the properties of a crystal-prism. When the light falls on the crystal-prism, the light is refracted and decomposed by it. Though the appearance of rays and forms in colors seem separate from the crystal, it is the actual function of the crystal-prisms own nature. Thusly, when it comes to our own energy, which experiences the world dualistically — the illusion of a self-existing individual separate from the external world — our fragmented dualistic consciousness takes the projections of the senses to be independent and separate from oneself. At this level of experience, one accrues karmic traces, contained in the one’s stream of consciousness that gives rise to two kinds of forms: forms that the individual experiences as his or her body, voice and mind and forms that the individual experiences as an external environment as described earlier. Everything that manifests in the individual’s field of experience is a continuum.

Image: Longchempa

As one Tibetan master summarily wrote, “our ultimate nature is said to be pure, self-existing, all-encompassing awareness. It intrinsic nature has no form or its own. Yet, it has the capability of perceiving, experiencing, reflecting, or expressing all form. As such, it is being without being affected in a permanent way.” Other evocative phrases have been used by wisdom masters to  describe this state of being as an ‘effulgence’, an ‘all-pervading fullness’ or as ‘space that is aware’. When an individual is able to maintain the “rdzogs chen” (perfection) state continually, he or she no longer experiences dukkha (i.e., feelings of discontent, tension and anxiety in everyday life in samsara). Experiences can become nirvana in this lifetime. The opposite of dukkha is sukha that means happiness, pleasure, ease, joy, or bliss, which has authentic states of being that are lasting. Such life pursuits of well-being can be achieved in one’s life time if pursued.

Imagine that you are the eyes of the world but unaware. It is always now to wake up. The protagonists of both novels, DAUGHTERS OF THE DANCE and CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES, attempts to bring this awareness to mind. The protagonists sought to remain open to the creation of beautiful spiritual experiences while understanding the workings of samsara that flows from birth, illness and death to rebirth (also known as the Wheel of Life based on the Law of twelve Interdependent Origination (co-arising)). There is a world of being  imbued with loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity – non-dual and generous.

As for the image above, it is the Wisdom Eye of the Awareness Consciousness surrounded by a circle (the Enzo) that represents the wholeness of experience in non-duality.

Was Mata Hari a Jewess?

In chapter five of Daughters of the Dance, Mata Hari is referenced in connection with when Madame Dara was introduced into the high society of the elite of Panama in Colon. Mata Hari was her stage name, a Malayan term that means “eye of the day (sun).”

The well-produced 2017 Russian-Portuguese television series, “Mata Hari,” portrays her as a Roman Catholic. Be that as it may, her father was a Zelle, a very Jewish surname. Unfortunately, in the novel, the surname is misspelled; erratum “Zeele”, a likely missed error in print. (Other derivatives of the root name Zell are Zeller, Zellner, Zellerbach, Zelnick, and Zellniker.)

Mata Hari was born in Leenwarden, The Netherlands, on August 7, 1876, as Margaretha Gaertruida Zelle under the sign of Leo. Her father was Adam Zelle, and her mother was Antije van der Meulen. Though Adam was a haberdasher by trade, he made investments in oil that allowed his family of three sons and first-born daughter to live lavishly. This may explain why Margaretha had expensive tastes, for at an early life, she was known to be flamboyant. However, the Zelle’s world changed drastically when ther family went bankrupt in 1889 and her mother died two years later. She was sent to live with her godfather Mr. Visser (another Jewish surname) in Sneek where she, at 15, was sent to a preparatory school specializing in teacher training. A scandal broke out when the headmaster of the school obsessed over her, causing Margaretha to live then with her uncle, Mr. Taconis, in The Hague. (The origin of the name Taconis is unknown, but he was married to a Faber, another Jewish surname. There were other Jewish surnames associated with the family tree–De Roos and Rosendaal).

At age 18, Margaretha responded to a newspaper ad of matrimony from officer Rudolph “John”  MacLeod who was stationed in the Dutch East Indies (currently, Indonesia). After eleven years of marriage—seven years in Java and the latter four years in The Netherlands—the MacLeod’s went separate ways.

Margaretha moved to Paris where she reinvented herself, drawing from the Javanese dances she had learned from one of her servants. She arrived at the height of the Paris Belle Èpoch (1880-1914) when all things “oriental” were very fashionable in Paris, allowing her exotic looks to add to her mystique. She danced at various venues—private salons, later at large theaters (ballets and operas), and large parties. She also traveled extensively. She was known for her number of lovers (often military men from various countries) who were willing to provide her financial support in exchange for her company.

In the ending of the Russian-Portuguese TV series, there is another detail about her that needs adjusting: her arrest–the currently known version of Mata Hari’s real-life story is that she was actually arrested in England by Scotland Yard at the behest of the French police. She was not kidnapped by the French police in Spain. This detail was only declassified in 2017, a century after her death and after the production of the TV series was completed.

The notion that Margaretha Zelle was an exotic dancer who used her seductive powers to extract military secrets is also false. She was years past her prime as a dancer by the time she agreed to serve as a spy for France—and possibly for Germany—while maintaining her innocence up until the time of her death.

One of Mata Hari’s surviving quotes is, “Death is nothing, nor life either, for that matter. To die, to sleep, to pass into nothingness, what does it matter? Everything is an illusion.” She must have gone bravely before the French execution squad.

“Chlorpyrifos” mentioned in Choir of Cloistered Canaries

CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES is more than just the use of consonance alliteration. There is a critical “C” employed in the novel, and it is “Chlorpyrifos.”

What is “chlropyrifos?” Common commercial names are Brodan, Bolton insecticide, Chlorpyrifos-methyl, Cobalt, Detmol UA, Dowco 179, Dursban, Empire, Eradex, Hatchet, Lorsban, Nufos, Paqeant, Piridane, Scout, Stipend, Tricel, Warhawk, others. Identifiers. CAS Number. 2921-88-2. But what is it, really? But, but, but?

Chlropyrifos (aka chlorpyrifos-methyl) is as an insecticide, a kind of pesticide, that attacks the nervous system to eliminate insects and worms on a range of food crops. However, extensive scientific studies over years have concluded that it also attacks the nervous system of young children’s brains as those of farmworkers and animals.

In fact, the European Union recently voted in December 2019 to ban chlorpyrifos. Their scientific experts concluded that its use affects human health, in particular in relation to genotoxicity and developmental neurotoxicity. The World Health Organization banned it in 2000 for most household uses but still allows it to be applied to dozens of crops on over 40,000 farms. Due to economic trade-offs, it has been difficult to wean countries off the stuff. However, the allowable Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) of both EU food products and imports are being lowered to become effective in October 2020.

Instead of following the science, the Trump Administration is rejecting all scientific evidence of  poisoning to humans, particularly, children’s brains, fetuses, and farmworkers. Accordingly, the  anti-science Administration refuses to ban the use of this neurotoxin. As toxic as it is, there is no apparent mitigating the harm it causes. In September 2020, the U.S. Environmental Agency has released its risk assessment calling the toxic pesticide’s effects “unresolved” and allowing its continued use in a wide variety of agricultural products. A final decision on its use is pending. Meanwhile, will American food products be banned from entering the European Union?

(CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES mentions it in pp. xv, xvi, xvii, 79, 80, 83, 141, 281.)








Interpreting Leonard Cohen’s Tantric “Hallelujah”

Not many admirers of Leonard Cohen’s artistry know that he was a Zen Buddhist monk for five years even though he kept ties with the synagogue affiliated with Ashkenazi Orthodox Judaism throughout his life. His Lithuanian mother, Masha Klonitsy, was the daughter of a Talmudic rabbi. His Polish father’s surname, Cohen, was a strong influencer that was at the core of his faith. Throughout his life, Cohen (1934-2016) received a “Messianic childhood” because his Kohen surname (in Hebrew for the “priestly” class) came from a hereditary caste descending from Moses’s brother, Aaron. Among the many song themes of Cohen, he explored loss, religion, romance, and sexuality. “Hallelujah” is an overmind mix of those listed themes, both religiously and secularly, and are explored below. Without a doubt, his songs tapped into the universal human condition.

Through the eyes of Nona, one of the primary spiritual dancers in the novel Daughters of the Dance, the protected and spiritually evolved Nona knew (chapter 28), as did Cohen, how everything in life is impermanent, including her tantric union with Ariel. Leonard touches on that in the sixth stanza. Oh, the secret is out! In her case, the Hallelujah feeling was unbroken, for hers was an internal practice she took with her wherever she went. For Nona, her tantric practice was a ritual act that integrated her body, speech, and mind.

On the surface, we can agree that Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is about a mourning of a broken but true love and a journey of pain, suffering, and fleeting joy. “Hallelujah” is a metaphor for his journey. What we may fail to see is the mysticism that he brought into the words as phrased, including the count of the word Hallelujah.

Hallelujah appears 24 times in The Book of Psalms, which is attributed to King David, although not all modern scholars agree. After all, he was king and had scribes to write songs for him. Hallelujah has always been a term to invite songs of praise. However, having a history of liturgical prayer among Jews and Christians alike, Cohen did not necessarily use Hallelujah (which translates into a joyous praise to boast in the Hebrew God (Jah) of the Israelites) in that manner exclusively. The Buddhist Zen monk in him explained, “This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled. But there are moments when we can reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘hallelujah’.” Cohen had learned to work with his human condition, not against it.

Cohen did not let hallelujah be just a sound validating dubious praise; he was invoking the feminine, not just sexuality, both of which are fleeting. For him, the song was a form of existential crisis, a deep emotion of something broken. Was it about the broken shards referenced in the Kabbalah? An artist and mystic often see multiple dimensions whereas non-artists only see two. Cohen was a poetic mystic as well.

Briefly on the origins of the Kabbalah tradition—the kabbalistic knowledge was traditionally transmitted orally by sages (hakhamim in Hebrew) and other influencers, and was eventually interwoven into religious writings and culture. It is held that there was an open knowledge of the Kabbalah, which literally means reception, by the people of ancient Israel (10th century BCE). Due to foreign conquests, the Jewish spiritual leadership of the time hid the knowledge and practices, fearing it would be misused in the wrong hands. It resurfaced in the 10th century C.E. Thus, the esoteric and mystical aspects of such knowledge lends itself today to many flavors of interpretations as it has become popular in these times.

More to the point, the Kabbalah tradition views the infinite God—Ohr Ein Sof—as having contracted from His/Her creation to design an empty space for humans to have free will, thus creating a dynamic crisis-catharsis in the divine flow of light, a divine light of influence that fills all existence. One view is that God created the material world as vessels (HaKelim) in the empty space that was full of His/Her light. But these material vessels of light were not strong enough to hold His/Her powerful light. Thus,  the vessels of light shattered into many shards also made of light. With divinity still in the light, it was up to the humans to repair the broken shards, energizing the light once more to become whole and at one with God. That is why Cohen makes reference to the “light” twice and to “broken” thrice. For a lovely reading on this topic of kabbalistic light , visit https://architizer.com/blog/practice/details/architecture-plus-kabbalah/https://architizer.com/blog/practice/details/architecture-plus-kabbalah/

There are many attempts at interpreting Cohen’s lyrics. Remember that Cohen was deeply versed in Judaic scripture and teachings. A key point, I believe, is that Cohen was grappling with a quote from the Book of Isaiah 45:7:  “God says, ‘I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things.'” So, why did God create duality?

Now for another interpretation of Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” written in 1984, as follows:

Now, I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah (4x)

Cohen implies that the person he addresses does not care for the technicalities of music making, especially about the esoteric secret chord; but he does explain the complexities of creating music as he is hinting the song is multidimensional.

In the Book of Samuel, prophet Samuel is also  the last judge of Israel, who records that David is a skillful lyre (harp) player and the sweet psalmist of Israel. As baffled king, David had his highs and lows with his God. Some of his psalms reveal his depression, too, when he feels he has lost a connection to his God. In Psalms 43:3 , David beseeches God to “send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.”

I would be remiss if I did explain the ancient symbolism of the Star of David. As a hexagram, the base equilateral triangle represents the masculine, and the inverted equilateral triangle represents the feminine. When combined, or equally matched, the Star of David represents union, similar in meaning to the Yin-Yang symbol.  

Your faith was strong but you needed proof | You saw her bathing on the roof | Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you | She tied you to a kitchen chair | She broke your throne, and she cut your hair | And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah | Hallelujah (4x)

In this stanza, Cohen conflates two heroes, first King David and then the strongman Judge Samson. Both of them, as was Cohen, loved the company of women.

We know the story of King David and Bathsheba. David’s involvement with Bathsheba broke his rule/throne. He had garnered disfavor before his God’s eyes for coveting another man’s wife; thus, he had to hand over his reign as punishment to his son Solomon with Bathsheba when Solomon became of age.

Though Delilah, possibly a Philistine prostitute, may not have tied Samson to a kitchen chair; but she did attempt to bind him three times and failed. She was after a lucrative monetary bribe by Philistine chiefs. On her fourth attempt, she managed to get his secret of his source of strength. His seven tresses were cut off his head while he slept. In so doing, she finally succeeded and turned him over to the Philistine chiefs who captured him and gouged out his eyes. His tresses represented the power of Israel among enemy nation. The Samson story is about him having a relationship with a non-Jewish woman and having a decline in his spiritual state by violating his Nazarite oath, mainly, refraining from cutting the hair on one’s head and allowing the locks of the head’s hair to grow (similar to uncut hair by men who practice Sikhism).

In any event, stanza involves two women who brought about distress or downfall in the rapture of embrace with these women. To draw from King David/Samson’s lips the hallelujah is a very strong metaphor, an ennui toward depression and not wanting to condemn womanhood.  

You say I took the name in vain | I don’t even know the name | but if I did, well really, what’s it to you? | There’s a blaze of light in every word | It doesn’t matter which you heard | The holy or the broken Hallelujah | Hallelujah (4x)

Whether or not Cohen felt he took God’s name in vain, he is making reference to a name which is so holy that it cannot be pronounced—YHWH and El, Eloah, Elohim, Elohai, El Saddai, Tzevaot, Jah, Yah, Ein, Ohr Ein Sof, Eternal One, Elyon, Yaweh, Jehovah, including the Shekhinah, to name a few. He wrote, “I don’t even know the name,” because there were many in his tradition.  But I think it is the Ohr Ein Sof that intrigued him.

I did my best, it wasn’t much | I couldn’t feel so I tried to touch | I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you | And even though it all went wrong | I’ll stand before the Lord of Song | With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah | Hallelujah (4x)

Cohen had many relationships with women. The known ones he loved and who loved him back were Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Marianne Ihlen, Nico, Suzanne Verdal, and Suzanne Elrod. Sharon Robinson, however, was his platonic muse during the period this song was written. With all these goddesses in his life, how could he not sing Hallelujah? Nonetheless, there was an overriding numbness—had to touch—because he could not feel his mind-body connection.

Baby I’ve been here before | I use to live alone before I knew you | And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch | Love is not a victory march | It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah | Hallelujah (4x)

I may have solved the mystery of the line, “And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch“. He was referring to the Fascist flag. The woman he called the “perfect Aryan ice queen” is one of his known lovers: Nico, a German singer whom he seemed to have been batty over, following her all over New York. Her real name was Christa Päffgen. One day she told Cohen, “I like young boys. You’re too old for me.”

The incurable Cohen said in 1990, “I loved her.”

There was a time you let me know | What’s really going on below | but now you never show it to me, do you? | And remember when I moved in you | The holy dove was moving too | And every breath we drew was Hallelujah | Hallelujah (4x)

It is in this stanza where Cohen gets very honest in describing his sex with a special woman, literally or figuratively. There was a break in their sexual contact. He was feeling no heat of desire that caused him to ask, “What’s really going on below.”

He was remembering their ecstatic moments—tantric in nature—when he conjoins the sexual act to the holy dove. Likely this holy dove is not the Holy Spirit of the Greek scriptures but the Shekinah herself of the ancient Hebrew scriptures—the glory of a divine presence.

Sexual orgasm, as short-lived and evanescent, is a reason for enjoying the act, because that is when the glory of divine presence is felt. Not being able to take it beyond is to admit the “Hallelujah” would remain broken. There would be no permanent union of the energized consciousness and the conscious energy of existence—the Shakti. In the Kabbalah, the Shakti is Binah and resides opposite to Keter, the masculine in the Tree of Life.

Unpretentiously, Cohen spoke of the height of tantric achievement, but unfortunately, with clinging. It would remain a broken shard of light.  

Maybe there is a God above | But all I’ve ever learned from love | Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you | And it’s not a cry that you hear at night | It’s not somebody who’s seen the light | It’s a cold and a broken Hallelujah | Hallelujah (18x)

Like many agnostics, there is doubt either way about the existence of a benevolent God. For him, as was King David’s plea to see the wisdom light again, Cohen is saying that existence is muddled and that dissatisfaction and suffering are due to lack of trust in others and an inability to know knowing.

So why 18 Hallelujahs at the end of the last stanza? In numerology, 1 and 8 are blended to the higher frequency of nine. Nine is considered a cardinal number and a complete, perfect, and divine number. It is to harmonize the development and creation of the will of God. To reduce it to its essence, it symbolizes wisdom and spiritual energy—what Leonard Cohen was searching for throughout his life—through song, relationships, sexual ideation, and his flavor of Judaism.

As for repeating Hallelujah four times after each previous stanzas, it could be another way that Cohen honors the mystery of womanhood and gives tribute to the four ancient Jewish matriarchs—Sarah, Rebecca, Rachael, and Leah).

Five years in a Zen monastery as a monk, he was given the name Jikan (it means normal or ordinary silence) that was to become his spiritual achievement to combat his depression of existential angst. When he left the Zen monetary, he wrote some of his amazing work, including being inducted to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) in 2006.


“Never lament casually but within the constraints of dignity.”