Sunday, October 2, 2016

Thoughts for the New Year

These are the notes that I prepared for my class exploring aspects of the Hebraic Mystical Tradition.  As the year turns to 5777 at sunset, I'm focused on the implications of shattering as sounded by the shofar during these High Holidays.

Here are some thoughts to root to in times of chaos, trauma and transformation.

Shattering towards Wholeness
Shatteress“With shattering was the world created..” 
 Genesis 1:1 
"Beraishit" using RESH SHIN SHIN as the 3-letter root

The letter cHET derives from the root cHET TAF TAF = terror, shatter, dismay

Each level of transformation begins from an initial point of “shocking the vessel” into a state of pulsation. 

Excerpt from The Web of Life by Fritjof Capra:

Non-equilibrium: Tektology, the science of structure
“(Alexander Bogdanov) emphasizes in particular that the tension between 
crisis and transformation is central to the formation of complex systems.”

Page 191:
“A bifurcation point is a threshold of stability at which the dissipative structure may either break down or break through. At the bifurcation point, the dissipative structure … shows an extraordinary sensitivity to small fluctuations in its environment. A tiny, random fluctuation, often called 'noise,' can induce the choice of path.”

Cognition – The Process of Life
“(Gregory) Bateson thought that in order to describe nature accurately one should try to speak nature's language, which, he insisted, is a language of relationships. Relationships are the essence of the living world.”

The Hebrew letter tzadi is the 18th letter of the Alef-Bet - 18 representing "life." Tzadi means "hunt" as in "hunting for fallen sparks." 

“Tzadik” refers to a person who walks in balance, having a mobile fulcrum which adjusts authentically to the demands of the moment. This balance evolves, not out of identity with virtue, but rather, through the integration of chaos. It is this redemptive processing of the murky, personal underworld which empowers tzadikim to raise the fallen sparks of consciousness to the benefit of all humanity. 

Akeidat Yitzhak 14:
No one is wise in Torah but the master of traumatic experience.
Wisdom is a function of becoming adept at integrating traumatic experience.

Nachson ben Aminadav was the guy who saw the Egyptians in hot pursuit of the fleeing Hebrew slaves and made the choice based on inner direction to “plunge” feet first into the Red Sea up to his nose – whereupon the sea parted. Nachson was a descendent of Judah and Tamar and the forebear of Boaz in the line-up to David - all players in the messy stories of shattering that, when internalize, symbolically lead us toward the unfolding of our own redemption.

Pashtus: Acting out of appropriate unreasonableness

Pashtus is the path of simple, direct and unsubstantiatable clarity.

It is for each person to perceive and follow their own pashtus, as it is entirely personized and precise. Pashtus requires you to listen and act upon the promptings of the internal voice of direction - the “Voice of the Silent Moment“– Kol Dimama Dakah. 

The Rav (Tzvi Kahana) called this a dangerous path. Our minds contrive grandiose plans and desires to confound the Voice. The Powers-that-be are threatened when they have no jurisdiction over those who acknowledge the authority of their own choices.

Buckminster Fuller said in his Critical Path:

“I am convinced that human continuance depends entirely upon: the intuitive wisdom of each and every individual  . . the individual's integrity of speaking and acting only on the individual's own within-self-intuited and reasoned initiative . . . the individual's never joining action with others as motivated only by crowd-engendered-emotionalism, or a sense of the crowd's power to overwhelm, or in fear of holding to the course indicated by one's own intellectual convictions.”

Essentially, pashtus is the personal expression of Divine Authenticity within each moment.

The Colors of Sound of the Shofar Blast by Jennifer Jones

Sounding the Shofar

Tekiah: “blast,” one long blast with a clear tone

Shevarim: “shattering,” sighing sound of three short calls

Teruah: “alarm,” a rapid series of nine or more very short notes

Tekiah Gedolah: “The Great Tekiah,” a single unbroken blast, held as long as possible

Other Notes:

If you'd be interesting in participating in a once-a-month online class via Skype let me know and I'll see about setting one up.

I'm participating in the annual Crestone Artists Open Studio Tour tthis weekend,October 8th and 9th from noon to 5pm both days.  Would love to see you If you can make it. Here's the link for more info:

With a call ahead of time, if I'm here, my studio is almost always open for a visit throughout the year.

L'Shana Tova!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Homing into liberation

 Psalm 84:4 
Gam tzipor matz'a vait oo dror kain lah
"The bird (too) has found a home and the sparrow her nest"
The soul has found her home --  & freedom is her nest

Flying Home - 18.5" x 19.25"

Flying Home is the culmination of a series of synchronistic events relating to the theme of "liberation".  It began with a visit to the Savitri House mid-May during a discussion of Sri Aurobindo's The Synthesis of Yoga.  "There must awake in us a constant indwelling and enveloping nearness, a vivid perception, a close feeling and communion, a concrete sense and contact of a true and infinite Presence always and everywhere." I remember the ensuing conversation leading in the direction of a consequent liberation.

The following week I received a call from an acquaintance in New York. She called thinking I might help her with a chronic, debilitating physical pain in her neck that resulted in miserable headaches. I had no idea what would help but I did believe that her body and its intrinsic wisdom would know.  I suggested she direct her attention into the pain, describe it's shape, texture, color and emotion as ask it what it needed to be released.  I was beyond gratified when she reported being told to get into some Kundalini yoga position (that she particularly detested) and do some specific kind of breathing.  She put down the phone and did as directed. When she got back on the line she actually felt more space space between her cervical vertebrae.  What I felt was Liberation!

Well, the next issue was really uncomfortable.  A smoldering resentment reared it's ugly head over which I couldn't escape obsessing. I'll leave out the specifics on this one.  Let's just say it had to do with being manipulated by a person of means around my art over several months during a time of serious financial vulnerability. I called my dear friend Peggy, who directed me to hold that person in my thoughts and ask for them to be released from whatever enslaves them - and me too.  I told her I didn't know if I could honestly say that. Peggy said, "it doesn't matter - JUST DO IT".  I did. Wow. What an immediate visceral response. Hard to believe. I've been doing it ever since, any time I am irritated by some personality that rubs me the wrong way: 

"May so-and-so be released from whatever is enslaving them, and me too." 

It's really humbling to get in touch with ones subtle and not-so-subtle internal and external enslavements.

There's more that added to the theme but the symbolic language and impetus to translate these liberating experiences into art came during a gathering of friends when asked what I saw in the mint leaves of an empty tea cup.  What I clearly saw was a bird with extended wings flying above a nest.  This Rorschach Test brought to my mind the line from Psalm 84:4 : Gam tzipor matz'a viat u d'ror kain lah, "the bird has also found a home and the sparrow her nest."  Tzipor - "bird" is the soul, and D'ror is both a sparrow and the word for "freedom."  


You can see the Hebrew words u d'ror kain lah written into the tail

Here is a detail of the nest cutwork backed in textured clear acrylic and a translucent blue washi paper that adds to the sense of spaciousness.

May we all be released from whatever enslaves us so we may experience the expansive divinity of who we really are.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Questing for The Grail Quest

El Santo Cáliz - Acid etched copper, fretwork, oxides, backed in mulberry paper.

I recently started listening to the archived lectures of the Temenos Academy (U.K.) and listened to one just the other day given in April of 2010 by Jules Cashford on Wolfram's Parzival (  It was that insightful retelling of the Grail legend that led me to choose the Grail as subject for this week's post.

It has been several years ago now since I was given the assignment of The Grail for an illumination.  At first I was a bit appalled, knowing nothing directly about the Grail other than it was a chalice somehow associated with some Christian myth and there had been a best selling book out having to do with a daughter of Jesus and Mary Magdalene - neither of which subjects I felt any connection to.  When I receive an assignment, however, I have disciplined myself to put all aversions aside and do my best to figure out why this has come to me.  I started with a chalice, which at least I could associate with a feminine receptacle. I saw a form coming together around the chalice I was going to use.  As you can see above, it is something like a chalice itself only upside down. I saw the arabesques where they are, but I saw something else as well - I saw words.  I asked what the words are and I distinctly heard: "Look for a question."  Well, that sent me on a different path entirely since now I had to search for the story in order to "look for a question."   

I did the normal Google search and found that the story I had to find was about a character named Parsifal or Parzival.  I knew there was an opera by Wagner with that name. So I started there. Then I found a beautiful French poem in translation about the story, but it wasn't until I tackled the full story written in High German by Wolfram von Eschenbach that I got it.

The entire story is about a question.  It is not, in any way about an answer.  It is Parzival who is destined to ask this question. It is what the Grail Quest is all about, the only key that will unlock the door to the grail castle, redeem the fisher king from his terrible ailment and ultimately redeem the world (redeem = make true again).

I thought of my friend Jacob, with whom I studied Hebrew texts for all the 26 years of our friendship.  His favorite psalm was Yimalei Havayah Kol Mishalotecha - which only made sense to me now and within this context: "Havaya (The Verb of Creation) will fill all of your questions."

We live in a society that places a high value on expertise - the ones who have the answers.  To be cool you need to always have your trigger finger on the quick comeback, the fast retort. 
Wisdom, however, does not reside in "the answer" but in being empty and open to the filling with what you do not yet know. The Talmud says that the purpose of disease is so that you will seek for the cure that pre-existed. Interestingly, the Hadith too says that Allah has not created any disease for which the healing was not first created.

The words that I was led to through my journey through the Grail quest became: Empty of Answers A Question Redeems.  Included too are two of the words from Jacob's psalm: Yimalei Havaya - "Havaya will fill" written in medieval Rashi script at the center top.

As a confirmation, my German friend Karin DiGiacomo, who cut her teeth on Wolfram's Parzival, said when she saw the completed illumination that a truer translation of the question Parzival asks the fisher king would be "What are you empty of?" as opposed to "What ails you sir?

Wolfram provided me with yet another gem that made it clear that this assignment had my name on it.  He spoke of the grail being made of stone with Arabic writing carved into it!  What if I could actually find and incorporate that Arabic writing?!!

Living the in Google age, I did a search.  Would you believe it? I found that there lives in Valencia, Spain a chalice called El Santo Cáliz that is composed of an upper half-hemisphere of carnelian and a bottom half-hemisphere of chalcedony. There is a very old form of Cufic (Arabic) writing engraved into the inside of the base.  Wolfram believed it to be an Arabic transliteration of the poor Latin phrase: Il Lapsit Exillis.   The website I found had a photograph of this chalice (17cm high) along with a discussion among Arabists as to what the Cufic script actually said. One thought it was a "Bismillah" another a "La Illaha Ilallah"... , but there was one scholar who believed that it actually could be L LPST EXLS - Il Lapsit Exillis minus the vocalization (vowels). This is when I started to hear the theme song from The Twilight Zone.

Needless to say,  I ditched the chalice I was going to use for El Santo Cáliz sans the pearls, emeralds and rubies.  I made my image equal to the 17 centimeters of the original (Jacob loved the number 17, which is "good" in gematria), and included the inscription Il Lapsit Exillis at the bottom center of the piece.

I too have been transformed by this quest.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ciphering the Sacred

Or Zaruah garden threshold illumination

We live in a world that ceaselessly seeks to decipher - to take things apart to uncover the secret of their existence; to break the code.

As an artist, I feel drawn into mirror world, the realm of ciphering - to participate in the act of creating a space that holds the secret. 

Aleph ciphered medallion*

When I think of "cipher" my mind immediately goes to the Hebrew root SAMEcH PEI RESH - the root for words like number, counting and recounting (mispar); telling a story (misapair), book (sefer), library (sifria);  the one who writes sacred texts (sofer), sapphire (sapir) and the Spheres of Emanation (s'firot).

Adrinka ciphered medallion*

The English word "cipher" sounds suspiciously related to words like sphere and sapphire.  It does indeed come to us from the Semitic root, though not directly from Hebrew but from the Arabic of Al-Andalus - the Golden Age of Spain where words like "sifr" and "shayfara" created a whole new concept in mathematics that sparked a revolution of thinking, that of the space holder, the concept of zero. As one philosopher put it: 

"Zero does not mean "nothing". Zero is on a border between things identified and not identified. Once the identification is set in, or something is appointed it's name or meaning or characteristic, then one appears."

This mystical mathematical addition gives rise to irrational numbers, with which I identify wholeheartedly!  

To participate in the act of ciphering is to reside in the experience of number, story and the sacred space that borders the real and imaginary worlds where intention has an opportunity to lean a wish into a manifestation.  

Mem ciphered medallion*

*For more information on the ciphered medallions shown here as well as others available you can go to the following Facebook link;  Ciphered Medallions  .  The link to place an order is: Paypal link. You can also just send me an email at

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lute Rose Windows

Toward a Higher Fidelity Series: Umanut,  -  closeup

What is a "lute rose"?  It is the opening that is cut into a lute to create a soundbox.  The lute as musical instrument derives from the oud, an ancient instrument of the Arabic origin carried to Al-Andulus, that is to say Spain, during its Golden Age. Al-Oud العود becomes La Oud which settles into "lute" in the Renaissance vernacular.  The lute rose (or oud shams - shams meaning "sun") maintains its characteristic arabesque form.  In my own work I have found the lute rose form to have a beauty and movement that goes beyond the compass and straight rule into a fluidity which lends a kind of roundness and femininity to an angular world. 

Kaddish  detail

According to Friedemann Helwig, who seriously researched the symbolic geometric language of lute roses,  the lute rose as pierces through the visible into the invisible worlds.  The 6-fold forms which predominate among lute rose patterns symbolizes the intrinsic harmony of the universe.

Lute Rose window from The Cosmic Dervish copperwork illumination

For me these forms have become windows peering into the numinous, co-present nature of reality, as expressed in the Song of Songs 2:9 

Here it stands behind our wall, winking through the windows, twinkling through the openings.

Flight for Life - A love song      Lute Rose detail.

I draw from the broad resource of Islamic geometries to find an appropriate lute rose window for an illumination.  Any form that functions as a window through the worlds can qualify.  The beauty of these geometries is that any form is only a snapshot of an infinitely extending reality, a harmonic moment captured within the boundless celestial symphony.

Dynamic Intervention

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Process of coming to light

Shams Enlightened  17.5 H x 33.3 W 

This is my most recent illumination. Its title is Shams Enlightened.

I have taken a few photographs at various stages of the process in order to provide a glimpse into what goes into the creation of a copperwork illumination.

Above you see a piece of copper sheet that I have cut approximately into form with an open throat shear.  The pattern has already been transferred onto the copper and the pattern scribed in using a sharp stylus. Asphaltum (liquid asphalt) has been applied to the areas that are to remain high - that is, not to be eaten down by the acid (I use ferric perchloride to do the deed).

Here the copper has been through the acid etching bath (around 4 hours) as well as the solvent bath to soften and remove the asphaltum (between 5-7 days).  I have also begun some polishing and even begun adding some blue to the tree to make the flowing geometries and calligraphy stand out.  You can also see a portion of the original pattern that I transferred on the far right towards the top. That pen looking object to the right of the copperwork is the stylus used to both scratch the pattern into the copper and to bring up thinner areas of the design, especially lettering, during polishing. For thicker areas, such as the petals, I use a fiberglass pen for polishing.

Here's a closer look to see the petals and internal sunflower geometry coming alive through polishing and the sepal natural patina amplified with a coating of shellac. There is also the polishing and outlining of the lettering.  You can see the right side of the image is still in its original condition from the acid and solvent baths.

In this image you can see the right side tree brought up with polishing and the amplifying effects of engraving over the lettering with a wriggler (with the black handle) seen in the picture.

Here the internal sunflower cutwork was accomplished with a scroll saw at its lowest speed setting with a very fine metal blade  and filed with needle files; the cutwork around the top perimeter of the trees was accomplished with a jeweler's saw.(If you check out the banner on my Facebook page you will see examples of those tools used in other illuminations, Here you can also see the outlines of the sepals have been engraved to give them more definition and coloring has been added to the tree form on the right.  Framing is all that is left to do.  From inception to completion Shams Enflowered took ~ 3 months to come to light.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Who's that in the mirror?

Singularity mirror detail

The final illumination associated with the series "Toward a Higher Fidelity" is called Singularity. Singularity reflects the development of the self, the human soul, as it takes on the responsibility of inherent holiness and moves closer to the Source of Being.  In the Hebraic Mystical tradition this quality of soul development is called YEcHIDA or Singularity.  

The central geometric illuminated cutwork is twelve-fold or twelve around one, "one" being the flame. In three dimensional space this geometry become a dodecahedron.  The dodecahedron has twelve faces formed from pentagons, so it also has a 5 nature. This is significant to me since YEcHIDA is the 5th level of soul development. I also sensed a musical aspect to this form suggestive of the circle of 5ths. My son Noah studied at the School of Music in Eugene, Oregon.  He had told me that sometimes the students would stand around and each take one of the twelve tones (comprising the black and white keys on a piano within an octave). I found myself rather reeling from the numeric diversity of this assignment - 12, 5 and 1 (as in Singularity) and asked him what it would mean were he to commit to an ascending note of the twelve tones.  He said it would depend entirely upon the resonance (not tempered as it is on a piano) of the tone of the person standing next to him - in other words, it was a matter of relationship and resonance.

Singularity, then, is a self-portrait of anyone who looks deeply into themselves and commits to the unfoldment of their intrinsic divinity expressed in relationship to those around them.  

Who's that in the mirror?  
It is you and the faceted jewel that you are. 
Be beautiful. 
Be holy.

After completing this work, I was directed by a friend to a canto from the epic poem Savitri by Sri Aurobindo: Canto III Book 1 of The Yoga of the Soul's Release.

All here must learn to obey a higher law.
Our body's cells must hold the Immortal's flame
Else would the spirit reach alone its source
Leaving a half-saved world to its dubious fate.
Nature would ever labour unredeemed;
Our Earth would ever spin unhelped in Space
and this immense creation's purpose fail
Till at last the frustrate universe sank undone.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Symbolic Language of Human Holiness

 וִהְיִיתֶם קְדֹשִׁים, כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אָנִי 
" have been, will be and are holy, for I am Holy."
Leviticus 11:45

Toward a Higher Fidelity: Being Holy 
19.5 "x  19"

The copperwork series entitled "Toward a Higher Fidelity" explores the triune nature of human holiness.  The initial call came while chanting from the daily Hebrew liturgy: The One who triplicates in 3's HOLINESS for the One Who is Holy. The internal impulse made it clear that there were three aspects of human holiness that I was to discover and find symbolic language to express.

In short, after many failed attempts, I sat down one Sunday afternoon, admittedly in a state of boredom. to listen to New Dimensions on the radio.  An interview was just beginning with British poet, adventurer and author David Whyte concerning the conception of his book The Three Marriages - Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship.  Stunned out of my own stupor, I grabbed a pen and began taking notes.

The Aramaic work for "betrothal/marriage" is kiddushin. It is a feminine plural form of the root KDSh - "being holy."  You can see why my mind went BINGO! upon hearing the book's title.

Three illuminations make up the Higher Fidelity series.  This blog will consider the symbolic language of the first one: 
Being Holy.

Beginning at the root, engraved in Hebrew are the words: 
Ha'mishaloshim b'shalosh - "the One who triplicates in 3's."

Moving up to a 3-petalled heart center are 3 Hebrew letters that represent the 3 aspects of human holiness: cHET (lower left), YUD (lower right), and ALEF (top).  They stand for cHupa ("marriage canopy". i.e. relationship), YecHida ("Singularity" - the 5th, most cultivated level of human soul development, closest to merging into divinity) and Umanut ("skill/ artistry" from the same root as Emet - "truth").

Above the 3-petaled heart is a Kiddush cup engraved with the word kiddushin - "marriage".  The gematria of wine = secret (70).  Here resides the mystery.

The overarching, unifying symbol of the illumination is the Tree of Life/Burning Bush.  I was amazed and delighted when this image arose since I have heard the burning bush described as a bush and fire dancing together without one consuming the other.  I can't think of a more appropriate definition for "marriage."

Crowning this burning bush is the 3-branched letter SHIN.  If you look closely you can also make out a 3-pronged crown on the branch farthest to the left. SHIN is a fire letter whose gematria is 300. Though I heard instructions for the SHIN to be placed as it is, I cannot say for certain what its function is.  My imagination wanders to David Whyte's book and his proposal that, should a person find a way to balance Relationship, Work and Self without compromising any of the three, one might indeed attain to a new level of human experience, the Marriage of Marriages

Perhaps we are looking here at an evolutionary potential of humanity that each of us is capable of cultivating within a single lifetime.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Breath of the Compassionate

Oh beloved, I savour and swoon to the taste of that which is

the Breath within the Breath.

 attributed to the Sufi poet Alcragujar 

Breath of the Compassionate Series: Breath

The traditional Islamic cosmological worldview speaks of  the 18,000 universes were created through the Nafs Ar-Rahman - "the Breath of the Compassionate."  An elegant geometric intertwining expresses this concept throughout Islamic art and architecture as the octagon star and cross.

Beginning with a square as the symbol of "matter," it expands from the center into the out breath of an octagon star.  The square then contracts into its center in an in breath.    

In Hebrew as in Arabic, "breath" and "soul" are intertwined.
Compare nafs (Arabic) to nefesh (Hebrew); ruh (Arabic) to ruah (Hebrew); nasama (Arabic) to neshama (Hebrew). All are expressions both of "breath" (with the inference of wind, breeze...) and "soul."

Breath of the Compassionate Series: Reunion

This intertwining has become a significant source of inspiration for many of the copperwork illuminations.

Mihrab Ar-Rahman - "The Mother Nature of Divinity"

Nafs Ar-Rahman is generally translated as "The Breath of the Compassionate." The meaning of the Arabic rahmanhowever, yields a meaning far more informative than "compassionate" or even "merciful." The deeper meaning, comparable to Rahman and Rahamim in Hebrew, is reflected in its 3-lettered root R H M. That three lettered root renders us the word "womb."  Far more concrete and personal than the abstract concept of "compassion,"  this God name, foremost among the 99 names, is the "mother nature of divinity."  Ar-Rahman, then, describes an intimate, creative, nurturing and ferociously protective Source of Being.

I welcome you to add archetypal "womb-ly" attributes to enliven our mutual understanding of this most fundamental of divine names for the Source of Life and our own being.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Copper, Alchemy and the Venus Factor

Orange Blossom - acid etched copper platter detail

   Chemistry dissolves the goddess in the alembic,
   Venus, the copper queen, the universal matrix,
   Down to the molecular hexagons and carbon-chains. 

adapted from The Collected Poems of Kathleen Raine 

Alchemically and astrologically speaking, the metal copper and the planet and goddess Venus share the symbol of the circle and the cross, the sign of the feminine. 

Planets and metals are active and passive manifestations of generative powers on a coloured spectrum of consciousness...                                                                                       Dr. Paul Kiritsis

The archetype of beauty and love, Venus is known by the name Aphrodite in Greece. Aphrodite derives from the Greek word aphros, meaning "foam". Venus springs from the sea fully formed. The zephyrs waft her along the waves to the Isle of Cyprus (the source of the word copper), where she is received and attired by the seasons and led to the assembly of the gods.  

Here is how Boticelli depicts her in The Birth of Venus. Notice her copper hair?

All the gods are charmed with her beauty and each one demands her for his wife.  Jupiter gives her to Vulcan in gratitude for the service Vulcan has rendered to him as his forger of thunderbolts. 

As I work in my studio/laboratory, I saturate in Venus consciousness.  I don't interfere with the evolution of the patinas that form during the processes to which I submit a sheet of copper.  My work is to remain present to the unfolding mystery as the higher intent and inner nature of each illumination develops its own spectrum of colors within the acid and solvent baths -- beyond any desire or choice on my part. My own aesthetic choices are made after the patinas have formed and I better understand the Great desire. 

Myth informs us that Venus is birthed by the sea. As such, she (copper) often takes on the verdigris water colors of blues and greens.  Partnered with Vulcan, divine fire master, she may also deepen to the fire colors of red and orange. Cupric* Venus - harmonizer of water and fire.

Copper: soft, warm. responsive, reflective, protective, conductive, magical and, best of all, B E A U T I F U L .   

Emergence detail

* Cupric:  of, relating to or containing copper with a valence of two