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NETI NETI : A POEM ABOVE GANGOTRI (For World Poetry Day 2015)


Neti, Neti means “Not this, Not this”. It belongs to celebrated claims of the Hindu Upanishads (with affinities for Negative Mysticism in some medieval Christianity) which describes God/Ultimacy not as Creator or Person but what God isn’t. The mystic realizes there is only the being/essence, or “Suchness” like a substance into which by concentration one may yogically hope to merge. This wwareness of Suchness can however co-exist with a world of myth or even created this-worldly forms which have the status of a sort of dream/illusion (Maya) in which the gods are capricious and divided because ultimately they are not real or at least secondary to the higher realm of Brahman and Suchness.


Warm images of ancient ones rise up,
Delay and play and circle here, a dazzle
For the inner eyes. There pass the crowds,
The many thousand sons of King Sagara,
And then from him seven generations on
The greater son for whom Mount Bhagirath
Ahead not far is named.[2] Among the spirit
Train appear ascetics who it’s said
Could swallow seas or scatter wide
Whole multitudes and pulverize with breath
Or fire. Their eyes are alien wild; see
The unearthly stare amid the smiles and play
Of Ganesh and of Hanuman, one plump, one spry
And family icon gods of hearth all coloured
Friendly as a bright bazaar their shapes,
Now firm, now fragile as the eternal
Womb of myth itself which presently
Lies in this would-be yuga age at rest
Upon these valleys,”the abode of gods”.[3]

The moving arc of jostled forms,
That juggernaut of sculpted images
Tight pressed but cheerful as a noisy nursery
To ride the skies and range through earth
(For there are heavens, worlds and realms beneath)
Glows bright and lively as a sun.
Yet Sol’s own rays beam down
Less warmly on what towers ahead,
That bare reality of solemn heights
The granite eminence and glacier wall
Through which the only silence-breaking
Sound that stirs the few and ancient trees
Above the pilgrim’s path is chill,
Crisp gustings from the thin air’s winds.

Even so it’s light alone, and then fast drifted
Strands of cloud that whisper to and brush
The peaks, bring near, as though for merely
Human touch, what’s still remote from here below:
Those heights that partly hide and shelter
This wide cow’s mouth of sacred rock. [4]
From there, much like a frothing, freezing snow
Pours out the worshipped hoped for one,
The playful She that once gushed forth
From out the highest heavens and deepest earth
To fill dried ocean and to purify
Sagara’s murderous sons and resurrect
Their ashes from the ancient pyres. No will
Of gods or men could halt the impulse
Or her play nor even by Shiva’s locks
Could plunging Ganga be detained. Yet she,
By Brahma sent to purify, even shape lives
And redeem from endless circles of rebirth,
Was too soon stained, (and is those icy heights
Once left behind), dragged, drawn and tossed into
The filth and mire of earth, choked and polluted
In her deepest self, her role scarce more
Than mourner to a universe of pyres.


Now they are gone, as sudden gone as glimpsed,
Shades that imagination feeds who suck
In turn at spirit’s life for nourishment,
Ghosts of this valley, objects of desire half feared
If here adored by those few hardy pilgrim souls
Washed, frozen in the churn of rushing
Ceaseless Ganga flow. Motionless, astare
Eyes fixed or closed, what do they see?
Those Hades shades, an outer or
An inner light, a combination of all these?
What breeze from what Beyond would blow
Through mind as surely as those flags
Staked here and there to mark devotion?
What might minds feel of primal unity
Or plenum emptiness? If reaching there
Could even the devotee avoid and nowise
Sense through nature on the steep ascent
The solemn radiance that won’t reveal,
The weight of melancholic solitude
Which voiceless owns the valleys and the air?
“The gods came later than creation,
Who knows from where this world arose?” Thus
Pondered and in vain would poetize
The Vedic sage. [5] Indeed! For can those
Peaks be left to soar and mountain purity
Look down except as though to bar
From earthly Edens all remaining paths and
Every sacred conversation?

Before they enter on their final truths
It’s hearing is the last sense dying
Persons know; and surely rightly so
For what is first in the creative urge
Is sound and word, not images which
Hand may draw or mind’s eye see.
From all decay creation’s Lord withdraws
And dwells beyond, where never hand
Has touched nor fixity of concentrated
Thought has merged or can.

Go where you will, dream, chant
Or meditate, pursue the path of intellect,
Seek wisdom at a guru’s feet,
Bathe in the frozen Ganges’ waves
To claim redemption through the pores.
It’s all in vain since soul and spirit
Have not “heard”. God is not “this” or “that”,
Not “here” nor “there” unless you’ve left
The substance for the sound from where
Faith’s fountain flows into all levels
Of the holy worlds. When this is missed
So at the door of “suchness” mind remains,
Soul stays confused and nature mourns
Even though, within all things, near and
Beyond, the deity you did not know
Or long forgot, still waits.


[1] Gangotri is in India’s northern Uttarakhand province the nearest village below the source of the Ganges. Though I have visited the Himalayas I have not visited specifically Gangotri but with only the slightest help from photos I feel I can sufficiently imagine it. I would also assume that like pilgrims mentioned in Nick Fleming’s photographic record ( I would sense the melancholy (which I associate with many Asian mountain regions and sacred sites) and which for me raises metaphysical questions. So much so that what began aesthetically here as a lyrical evocation of India finished closer to a personal statement somewhat redolent of ideas expressed in my writings such as The Great Circle: Asia, David and God Consciousness with its claims about Asia’s lost, unknown God.(see
[2] Mount Bagiratha. Bagirathi was the descendant of Sagara whose labour of extreme penitence atonement for earlier family crimes attracted Brahman’s attention.
[3] Existence for Hinduism runs through repeated cycles of four vast yugas (epochs) of which the supposed current Kali Yuga is the worst. The whole area around Gangotri is dubbed Devi Bhoomi, or “abode of the gods”.
[4] Gomuck means Cow’s mouth and is the point at the end of the glacier from which the Ganges or one of its chief sources of the Ganges emerges above Gangotri.
[5] Rig Veda 129: 6-7.

ascetic    hindgods

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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Poetry, religion


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(In this poem followed by some prose reflections on Mother Teresa, I have nowhere merely invented statements. All draw on the Mother’s own words or certain leading claims of her critics which demand answers).


Come Father I pray be my guide
I seem chirpy and cheery outside
But within hell has opened so wide
I can scarcely describe how I feel.

All you priests I love truly and dearly
Because in pyx and on paten you really
Bring me Christ, or at least very nearly
If and when I have faith. That’s not always.

Oh Jesus I listen but then I can’t hear
Oh Christ I look but then I don’t see
There’s a wafer can unite you and me
But my heart and my soul know a void.

Does your absence result from my sins?
Is my work insufficient for grace
When I’ve laboured and sought for your face
In the life of the slums, sick and poor?…

Medicine will cure many ills but not
The heart when it’s lonely, and I say
To be hungry and poor is not worst.
Prayer will ask nothing at all, mine waits
Here alone for the words deep within,
But Jesus, my Lord, you may beat, even
Slay me, but silence please spare me, I pray.
It’s forty years long since you last spoke one
Word and so tenderly asked I become
Your light bringer, a spouse and  a lover
To quench your deep thirst. In performing
Your will is endurance decreed  at still
Higher degrees of those holiest pains that
Once I believed could inspire and bless many?

The death of the poor holds such beauty;
For you I’ve even refused to the dying
The pain killers’ lie lest they miss
The shock and stab of your kiss at
The last gasps of life. For you I have let
Hurting needles hurt more and go blunt,
Have washed and re-used them rather
Than miss a process and pain so redemptive
(And be wasteful renewing the stock).
For you I have saved many offerings
Made by good souls for the sick – banks
Hold them in hundreds of millions – with these
I have founded you houses for nuns.
Since the life of the poor owns such grace,
I can’t blight their existence with too many
Favours. Indeed for me, who’s your lover,
It’s truly a penance when, to remain
For your work, I must voyage first class
And suffer the finest of treatments
And hospital places. In your honour
I deny it as worldly and waste that
My nuns should attend to their teeth
Or be troubled with medical checks;
We abandoned all that with their vows
Like most hygiene in wards. I ruled
Nuns must wash their saris in buckets
Darn their drapes till they’re falling apart –
One in rags is a soul marked for blessing.
Saviour, I could not even consider it
Pure to grant alms from charity funds to those
Stricken and injured by gas at Bhopal
They must, and they can, learn how
To live and forgive the rulers and rich
Of this world that you’ve willed. It’s Mary
Revealed through her medal I gave them can
Best cure their ills. Just as our sick must
Not be too fed, we should work with the least.

This I try. Even your vicar, my guide
Here on earth, wished to gift me a Rolls.
He saw me, I think, as India’s guru –
My home once belonged to Kali the dark.
I declined, but agreed in my way
Permitting devotion that kisses my feet.

Oh God, my sweet Jesus, my terrible
Longing, why am I so lonely, imprisoned
In night? Could it be you refuse me,
Determined forever to  cast me away?
Why do I doubt God exists, why do I
Find it such burden and hardship to pray?
At night, there’s more torment, my sleep
Is disturbed , some claim, and I fear, from
Devils I need a good priest to expel.
Everywhere I see Jesus. He’s the bread
On the altar, he’s the sick on the streets
He’s the reason I declare to all peoples
Please never abort – no different I say
From murdering God, for God’s every thing,
Though nowhere I feel him in heart or
In mind despite all the places we know
That he hides. I’ve said I love all religions,
And your vicar, oh Jesus, has agreed that
Wherever we feel that there’s truth
There it is, and on that we should build.
When Hindus are dying I tell them just
Pray to your gods and to Buddhists the same
While the Muslims who know Allah as God
I tell them pray to him too. No belief should
Divide us, all are children of God. I care nothing
For saving of souls, salvation’s secured by
Just doing good. Our missions are missions
Of mercy, we have faith God is just
So Jesus, I hope I have earned a good place
Why is it you seem to betray every trust?

But forgive words turned foolish and close
To despair when more deeply the truth
Is not quite so obscure. I’ve no interest
In heaven but quite love deepest night
For pursuing you there. If my fate
Will be sainthood I’m pleased to accept
A place outside heaven as light to.. slumwhere.
For once in a dream even St Peter refused me
Entrance to where dark, foul places aren’t seen.
I’ve said if it gives my sweet Jesus more joy
I am willing for hell itself as reward,
(My friends can confirm I never feared heat
Living over a kitchen I’ve refused every fan).
So… let the doubters and dead send their prayers
To my shrine in perpetual thanks
For the course of my life. Trace its path
Through the madness, confusion, despair,
Faith’s masochist Mother will lighten their care.

(Copyright: Rollan McCleary 2013)


Great mystery surrounds Mother Teresa especially since her conflicted inner life, even despair, was posthumously revealed in  Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. Ever since she was fast tracked towards sainthood by her ardent supporter Pope John Paul 11  it’s common to regard  MT’s absence from God and doubts about God’s existence as an extreme case of “dark night of the soul” experience endured with unique heroism. This is questionable not because there are no dark nights for believers to traverse, but because if the night lasts decades and even begins shortly after the very work Jesus is supposed to asked of her, it stands in denial of biblical dicta like “I will not leave you comfortless” (Joh 14:18) plus elements of the mystical dark night  don’t fully belong with Christianity. They belong rather with known effects resulting from practices of self-purgation and asceticism which owe more to Neo-Platonic and pagan practices than Christian ones.

I see only two real possibilities. 1) Mother Teresa was seriously sick with varying untreated levels of depression or even mild schizophrenia distorting her core views. Depression is likely to be at least partly the case, though if she were seriously depressed it would have been impossible to have worked, taught, and functioned at the impressive level she managed. This nun was a genius of sorts and no matter how critical of her one may be, her determination to confront the problem of extreme poverty, to approach “the poorest of the poor” and identify with Indians was revolutionary, commendable and put to shame the slow, creaking bureaucratic machinery of the rather political church she served and which at first opposed her vocation. Even her first major critic Christopher Hitchens admitted she was “part genuine, part crummy”. It’s possible MT was schizophrenic and related to her Catholic heritage at one level, the level of a discourse that framed everything for her and which she necessarily employed within her environment, while at another level her true thoughts went in other directions. Despite some frank confessions to spiritual advisers, she revealed little of her inner life and it was not clear till after her death that her original calling in 1946/7 was something she hoped her confessor would tell her was demonic delusion and whose demands she only accepted after three visions in which the Virgin allegedly begged her to do what the her demanding Son was asking of her.

2) Assuming Jesus ever communicated with MT about a special mission (which is questionable since the talk of “little spouse”, being Jesus’ light,  wanting to make Indian nuns “victims” of Jesus’ love, and being chosen because she was the most “incapable” of persons – which she wasn’t – raises suspicions), it must be MT did something unacceptable that broke communication. The gospels warn not everyone saying “Lord, Lord” and claiming to do God’s work is acceptable to him but may risk rejection if they don’t truly do his will (Matt 7:21-23). Is it possible MT pursued romantic visions of suffering at people’s expense? It looks like a love of poverty (arguably even plain selfish amid the self-flagellating humility) plus inflexible attachment to fanatical private vows making herself and nuns  “victims of Christ’s love” dedicated to living like beggars, prevented use of medicines and modern equipment put at the order’s disposal. Not only did the Mother oversee a primitive system of care with effects some thought scarcely better than Belsen (and how can one, even dare one, presume to tell someone dying of cancer that the pains they endure were Jesus kissing them, an expression of the extreme of his love), but the fact is a kind of idolatry got mixed up with the whole enterprise. Especially someone claiming, at least originally, to be totally dedicated to “saving souls” for Jesus, would not need to be guilty of advising patients to pray to other gods (Life in the Spirit, pp 81-82) – she herself celebrated the 25th anniversary of the foundation of her order by praying in front of a Buddha image. (In Catholicism you can’t be divorced or gay but even those in line to be saints can practice what Judaeo-Christian tradition ranks as idolatry!).  MT might have expected her “lover”, Jesus, to prove a “jealous God” on that subject and turn from her.

Typically for MT and her order’s confusion of values, the first miracle securing beatification would be attributed to a non-Christian whose husband, like her doctors, attributes the miracle to a timely change of medication. Monica Besra is still haunted by dreams of Mother Teresa (from slumwhere?) and “believes” in her powers though she now accuses the Mother’s Sisters of Charity of leaving her in penury after fussing around her promising her much needed family assistance up until MT’s beatification was insured, then dropping her like a hot brick.

The possibility of real failures of character and belief in MT should be so obvious it’s astonishing devotees have not seen it. Failure to do so nonetheless belongs to the quiet, almost Christian-atheist revolution MT launched and which is somewhat echoed today in Pope Francis’ notions of a poor church for the poor and a heaven for atheists and free forgiveness for almost everyone whether they want it or believe it or not.  Basically MT undermined the whole notion of mission in favour of the idea religion is almost nothing but works of charity. Like the Dalai Lama who declares, “My religion is kindness”, there is now no faith (“without which it is impossible to please God” Heb 11:6) to talk about. A new and effectively heretical world faith (an apocalyptic possibility where Christianity is concerned) is born and Mother Teresa, who said she wasn’t interested in heaven and couldn’t imagine going there, is the patron saint of that, no more, no less.

A few further clues can be derived from MT’s horoscope (she wasn’t opposed to astrology and reading her chart though it’s a pity she wasn’t told or didn’t learn the relevant messages).

  • Rising behind the Sagittarian ascendant (which describes the chirpy, cheerful exterior she showed to the world and which is alien to depression) is the asteroid Lie in opposition to Theotes (Godhead). The suggestion is that there is some kind of untruth in what is seen of or shown by MT (she freely admitted she didn’t come over to people as she was) and this untruth carries over to understanding of God, her own and/or modern religious understanding.
  • In the seventh house of partnerships and marriage is Neptune, often seen as the Christ planet. It is closely opposed to shocking, eccentric, alienating Uranus. MT regards herself as specially married to Christ but the idea scarcely fits her and is doomed to shocks and an ongoing feeling of alienation and separation from Jesus the Lover. Since Neptune is any water, the aspect seems linked to the obsession with quenching Jesus’ thirst. The love for Jesus is described by the trine of Venus to the Christ asteroid but the separation from Jesus who gives her in effect hell is dramatically shown by the close opposition of Isa (Jesus) to Orcus, one of the two hell asteroids and the one deemed more associated with precisely darkness and torment.
  • The chart’s core psychological aspect is a very close, harsh, depressing square of Venus in extravagant Leo to Saturn in material/financial Taurus. Venus in Leo wants to be loved big time and if possible enjoy the high life (which feted around the world MT somewhat did). It makes for a real drama queen (and I think though MT genuinely suffered she was not beyond dramatizing and exaggerating her condition). Saturn in Taurus is associated with money issues, often the extremes – great wealth or grinding poverty. MT tries to resolve the tension through an almost romantic attachment to poverty which she hopes will draw love to her from Christ and people. She believes all this is earned; there is no real idea of grace in her religion. MT’s admitted struggle with pride and her strange ambition to have loved Jesus more than anyone had ever done (apparently St Francis of Assisi included!) belongs to the aggravated Venus in the love and pride sign of Leo.
  • Apart from Orcus, the overall darkness theme is announced by 3 planets, Sun, Mars and Venus in the 8th house of variously shared/inherited resources (the wealthy often have a strong eighth sector), sex and death and a bit of a hell passage of a house. Mars and Venus are sex and romance planets. It was insulting and unnecessary of the late guru Osho to suggest MT needed “to get laid”, but to be frank in her case she probably would need erotic outlet and not having it this increased her sense of unfulfilled loneliness. There have been great pioneers of work among the poor and marginalized like Hong Kong’s Jackie Pullinger (Chasing the Dragon) who worked among the destitute and drug addicts in the slums but who have been or who would be eventually married.  Radical lifelong celibacy is not the condition of successful and spiritual labours among the deprived or anyone, but I feel the Catholic system regarding this was part of MT’s problems. Why do I say this now? Oddly I note that the last lunation hit MT’s Mars almost to the minute of the degree, inviting someone to say something like this. And interestingly as regards criticism MT’s arch critic Christopher Hitchens (in The Missionary Position) shows asteroid Hitchens almost to the minute in difficulty affliction to MT’s moon, a point of relation to the public, hence undermining for her.
  • MT is rightly called Mother Chaos where religion is concerned. Chaos trines (makes easy aspect to) her prominent Jupiter (any religion and beliefs). The masochism, the will to serve in little things and to call oneself nothing, belongs to the Sun in the servant sign of Virgo, but negatively expressed within the eighth house of sex and death. I take it the birth time with 24 Sagittarius rising is correct. A total lunar eclipse hit this angle prior to MT’s vocational visions of September 1946. Jupiter ruling the chart via this rising factor and placed at the chart’s destiny/reputation Midheaven is a life in religion and being famous for it, but this Jupiter  “afflicted” by Neptune is the illusion and deception around religion and the reputation.
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Uncategorized


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