Friday, August 31, 2012

Dark Pool of Light

Beaver (Invisible) Swimming Through Reflection of Moon, Manset, Maine

One afternoon in the late 60s, I walked into Ron Thelin's Psychedelic Shop on Haight Street--planet Earth's very first head shop. The bulletin board was filled with personal messages, ads for goods, services and rooms. Off to one side I spotted a sparse message that concisely expressed the spirit of the 60s. "I am looking for marvels," it said. Plus a phone number.

All my life, I have been looking for marvels too, not satisfied with the surface of things. I compulsively read science fiction and haunt used book stores, constantly searching for fresh ideas. During my graduate studies at Stanford I worked part-time at the EastWest Bookshop in Menlo Park (now in Mountain View) which at that time was the largest occult book store on the West coast. So I tempered my reading of the occult works of Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Paul Dirac with large doses of Manly P. Hall, Arthur Avalon and Aleister Crowley. Somewhere in this potent mix of Eastern and Western wisdom texts I came across a journal called Io, edited by Richard Grossinger. Grossinger was looking for marvels too and was publishing in Io various essays by himself and others on such high-weirdness topics as "Alchemy", "The Doctrine of Signatures", and "Oneirology". I recently learned from Wikipedia that almost 50 different volumes of Io were produced.

Richard Grossinger has written dozens of books--all composed in the same marvel-seeking style reflected in the pages of Io. His numerous books include Planet Medicine, Bardo of Waking Life and the autobiographical New Moon. From New Moon I learned that Richard is a member of the clan that started Grossinger's resort in the Catskills, linchpin of the legendary Borsch Belt where famous performers such as Milton Berle, Danny Kaye, Phil Silvers and Henny Youngman made their debuts. In 1977 Grossinger and his wife, poet Lindy Hough, founded North Atlantic Books to promote their own works and the works of like-minded friends.

Now Richard has turned his marvel-obsessed mind to the most profound unsolved mystery of modern times--the problem of consciousness.

Grossinger's newest book Dark Pool of Light approaches the phenomenon of human consciousness from a dozen different directions, biological, psychological, mystical, prophetic and indeterminate. Dark Pool of Light is a physico-poetic symphony of words informed not only by Richard's reading in science but by his experiences at the Berkeley Psychic Institute and his participation in several other maverick mind-science ventures from Maine to California. Dark Pool of Light is obsessive, excessive, poetic, confessional, exhausting, touching, boring and brilliant--all at the same time. A truly remarkable literary performance.

Then just when you think he's done, he's not. Richard can't seem to get off the stage. The last dozen pages he calls "Deleted Scenes" consisting of snippets that were cut from the main text but considered too good to throw out. I read these gems first. I'm glad they were included.

There's something in this book (which runs to 3 volumes) for everyone--something to complain about and something to adore. Dark Pool of Light is like an astonishing high-wire performance at Grossinger's Catskills resort--you really want to keep watching this crazy-risky guy just to be there when he falls on his face. Well worth the price of admission.

But I'm not entirely unbiased concerning Richard's audacious intellectual high-wire act. The forwards to this book--the opening acts for Spielmeister Richard Grossinger--are short riffs by Nick Herbert and Jeffrey Kripal. Grossinger's Borsch Belt--it is alive and well!

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