James N. Powell

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James N. Powell

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Member Since
February 2008

James Powell examines the symbols of language the way a biologist examines cells.
James Powell assures us that the universe is a silent partner in a dialogue that goes on all the time

~ New York Times Review of Books

In addition to his published works, he collaborated with Imogen Cunningham on a photographically illustrated translation of the verse of St. John of the Cross.

Average rating: 3.83 · 1,067 ratings · 140 reviews · 12 distinct worksSimilar authors
Postmodernism for Beginners

3.71 avg rating — 467 ratings — published 2007 — 11 editions
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Derrida for Beginners

3.76 avg rating — 339 ratings — published 1982 — 6 editions
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Deconstruction for Beginners

4.03 avg rating — 67 ratings — published 2005 — 4 editions
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Eastern Philosophy for Begi...

3.73 avg rating — 77 ratings5 editions
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The Tao of Symbols

4.52 avg rating — 52 ratings — published 1982 — 4 editions
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Slow Love: A Polynesian Pil...

4.26 avg rating — 39 ratings — published 2008
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Energy and Eros: Teachings ...

4.67 avg rating — 9 ratings — published 1995 — 2 editions
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James N. Powell's Global Em...

4.83 avg rating — 6 ratings — published 1979
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River, Raft and Shore: The ...

it was amazing 5.00 avg rating — 3 ratings2 editions
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Mandalas: The Dynamics Of V...

it was amazing 5.00 avg rating — 3 ratings — published 1979
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More books by James N. Powell…
Deconstruction for Beginners Derrida for Beginners Eastern Philosophy for Begi... Postmodernism for Beginners
(41 books)
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The Shape of the River: The Semiotic and the Symbolic in Life on the Mississippi and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Nonfiction)
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El Silencio del Chupamirto (Select)
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Some Thoughts on Editing (Literature & Fiction)
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The Egg Era (Select)
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Orientalism by Edward W. Said
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It is clear, I hope, that my concern with authority does not entail analysis of what lies hidden
in the Orientalist text, but analysis rather of the text’s surface, its exteriority to what it describes. I
do not think that this idea can be over
More of James's books…
“Deconstruction seeks neither to reframe art with some perfect, apt and truthful new frame, nor simply to maintain the illusion of some pure and simple absence of a frame. Rather it shows that the frame is, in a sense, also inside the painting. For the frame is what "produces" the object of art, is what sets it off as an object of art—an aesthetic object. Thus the frame is essential to the work of art; in the work of art. Paint a $5,000 abstract painting on a railroad boxcar and nobody will pay a cent for it. Take a torch, remove the panel of the boxcar, install it in a gallery, and it will be worth $5,000. It will be art because it is now framed by the gallery. But at the same moment that the frame encloses the work in its own protected enclosure, making it a work of art, it becomes merely ornamental—external to the work of art. Thus is the frame central or marginal? Is the frame inside the work of art, essential to it, or outside the work of art, extrinsic to it?”
James N. Powell, Derrida for Beginners

“It is within and through language that the human mind points to itself.”
James N. Powell, The Tao of Symbols
tags: symbol

“So that to give a commentary on the text, such as we are attempting here, is to reinforce the illusion that a present meaning exists–that a text can be presented.

When I try to present a commentary (as I am doing here), I necessarily resist the suction of the play of meanings which attempts to suck any such attempt–which it produces–back into a void. If I try to explain the text, I forget that the production of my explanation is already related to its dissolution, its disappearance into a textual void, a void between any two readings, a void which is always already producing another reading, and its dissolution.”
James N. Powell, Derrida for Beginners

“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”
Jiddu Krishnamurti


Now I shall instruct you regarding the nature of asana or seat. Although by 'asana' is generally meant the erect posture assumed in meditation, this is not its central or essential meaning. When I use the word 'asana' I do not mean the various forms of asana’s such as Padmasana, Vajrasana, Svastikasana, or Bhadrasana. By 'asana' I mean something else, and this is what I want to explain to you.

First let me speak to you about breath; about the inhaling breath-apana, and the exhaling breath-prana. Breath is extremely important in meditation; particularly the central breath-madhyama-pranan, which is neither prana nor apana. It is the center of these two, the point existing between the inhaling and exhaling breaths. This center point cannot be held by any physical means, as a material object can be held by the hand. The center between the two breaths can be held only by knowledge-jnana – not discursive knowledge, but by knowledge which is awareness. When this central point is held by continuously refreshed awareness – which is knowledge and which is achieved through devotion to the Lord – that is, in the true sense settling into your asana.

“On the pathway of your breath maintain continuously refreshed and full awareness on and in the center of breathing in and breathing out. This is internal asana." (Netra Tantra)

Asana, therefore, is the gradual dawning in the spiritual aspirant of the awareness which shines in the central point found between inhaling and exhaling.

This awareness is not gained by that person who is full of prejudice, avarice, or envy. Such a person, filled with all such negative qualities, cannot concentrate. The prerequisite of this glorious achievement is, therefore, the purification of your internal egoity. It must become pure, clean, and crystal clear. After you have purged your mind of all prejudice and have started settling with full awareness into that point between the two breaths, then you are settling into your asana.

“When in breathing in and breathing out you continue to maintain your awareness in continuity on and in the center between the incoming and outgoing breath, your breath will spontaneously and progressively become more and more refined. At that point you are driven to another world. This is pranayama." (Netra Tantra)

After settling in the asana of meditation arises the refined practice of pranayama. ‘Pranayama’ does not mean inhaling and exhaling vigorously like a bellow. Like asana, pranayama is internal and very subtle. There is a break less continuity in the traveling of your awareness from the point of asana into the practice of pranayama. When through your awareness you have settled in your asana, you automatically enter into the practice of pranayama.

Our Masters have indicated that there are two principle forms of this practice of ‘asana-pranayama’, i.e. cakrodaya and ajapa-gayatri. In the practice of ajapa-gayatri you are to maintain continuously refreshed full awareness-(anusandhana) in the center of two breaths, while breathing in and out slowly and silently. Likewise in the practice of cakrodaya you must maintain awareness, which is continually fresh and new, filled with excitement and vigor, in the center of the two breaths – you are to breathe in and out slowly, but in this case with sound.”
Swami Lakshmanjoo

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
Walt Whitman

“Tomber amoureux. To fall in love. Does it occur suddenly or gradually? If gradually, when is the moment “already”? I would fall in love with a monkey made of rags. With a plywood squirrel. With a botanical atlas. With an oriole. With a ferret. With a marten in a picture. With the forest one sees to the right when riding in a cart to Jaszuny. With a poem by a little-known poet. With human beings whose names still move me. And always the object of love was enveloped in erotic fantasy or was submitted, as in Stendhal, to a “cristallisation,” so it is frightful to think of that object as it was, naked among the naked things, and of the fairy tales about it one invents. Yes, I was often in love with something or someone. Yet falling in love is not the same as being able to love. That is something different.”
Czeslaw Milosz

“But for their cries,
The herons would be lost
Amidst the morning snow.”
Chiyo Ni

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message 3: by Dean

Dean Pusell Thank you for being my friend James,
I adore meditation's too :))),
Peace brother :))).

message 2: by James (last edited Mar 09, 2011 10:17PM)

James Paula wrote: "i was reading some Octavio Paz poetry, and i remember you!

Entre Irse y Quedarse

Entre irse y quedarse duda el día,
enamorado de su transparencia.

I've not read that poem before, which surprises me. I adore Paz's affiliation with liminality. "Entre Irse" reminds me of the following poem, one of my favorites:




Entre la noche y el día
hay un territorio indeciso.
No es luz ni sombra:
es tiempo.
Hora, pausa precaria,
página que se obscurece,
página en la que escribo,
despacio, estas palabras.
La tarde
es una brasa que se consume.
El día gira y se deshoja.
Lima los confines de las cosas
un río obscuro.
Terco y suave
las arrastra, no sé adónde.
La realidad se aleja.
Yo escribo:
hablo conmigo
—hablo contigo.

Quisiera hablarte
como hablan ahora,
casi borrados por las sombras
el arbolito y el aire;
como el agua corriente,
soliloquio sonámbulo;
como el charco callado,
reflector de instantáneos simulacros;
como el fuego:
lenguas de llama, baile de chispas,
cuentos de humo.
con palabras visibles y palpables,
con peso, sabor y olor
como las cosas.
Mientras lo digo
las cosas, imperceptiblemente,
se desprenden de sí mismas
y se fugan hacia otras formas,
hacia otros nombres.
Me quedan
estas palabras: con ellas te hablo.

Las palabras son puentes.
También son trampas, jaulas, pozos.
Yo te hablo: tú no me oyes.
No hablo contigo:
hablo con una palabra,
Esa palabra eres tú . . .

As a poet-philosopher Paz realized more than most the dangers of reification, how subtly words freeze worlds into fixed categories, which are then accepted as the real. And he is aware of his responsibility to break down those worlds so we can view life anew. So the gaps between things are extremely important as a kind of fluid vinegar to melt away ossified meanings. I greatly admire his El Mono Gramático, for the same reason.

El Mono is set in India, where that gap is conceptualized as Sandhya.


He takes up the theme of reification again in the following lines, which seem borrowed from Chuang Tzu:

Words are uncertain
and speak uncertain things.
But speaking this or that
they speak us.
Love is an equivocal word
like all words.
It's not a word.
said the Founder:
it is a vision,
base and crown of the ladder of contemplation...
To love is to lose oneself in time,
to be a mirror among mirrors.

If anyone is following this conversation, there follows an English translation of "Entre Irse"

Between going and staying...

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.

The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can't be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

Translated by Eliot Weinberger
Etiquetas: Octavio Paz

message 1: by James (last edited Mar 31, 2010 11:56AM)

James "Whose woods these are I think I know."

- Robert Frost

A contentious line, because it doesn't stand alone . . . Dark, behind it, the trees have standing, and those who know the spirits of the trees . . .

Dark behind it rose the forest, rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,

Rose the firs with cones upon them; bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water, beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.
There the wrinkled old Nokomis nursed the little Hiawatha,
Rocked him in his linden cradle, bedded soft in moss and rushes,
Safely bound with reindeer sinews; stilled his fretful wail by saying,
“Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee!” Lulled him into slumber, singing,
“Ewa-yea! my little owlet! Who is this, that lights the wigwam?
With his great eyes lights the wigwam? Ewa-yea! my little owlet!”
Many things Nokomis taught him of the stars that shine in heaven;
Showed him Ishkoodah, the comet, Ishkoodah, with fiery tresses;

Showed the Death-Dance of the spirits, warriors with their plumes and war-clubs,
Flaring far away to northward in the frosty nights of winter;
Showed the broad white road in heaven, pathway of the ghosts, the shadows,
Running straight across the heavens, crowded with the ghosts, the shadows.
At the door on summer evenings, sat the little Hiawatha;
Heard the whispering of the Pine-trees, heard the lapping of the water,
Sounds of music, words of wonder; “Minne-wawa!” said the pine-trees,
“Mudway-aushka! said the water.
Saw the fire-fly Wah-wah-taysee, flitting through the dusk of evening,
With the twinkle of its candle lighting up the brakes and bushes,
And he sang the song of children, sang the song Nokomis taught him:
“Wah-wah-taysee, little fire-fly, little flitting, white-fire insect, little, dancing, white-fire creature,
Light me with your little candle, ere upon my bed I lay me, ere in sleep I close my eyelids!”
Saw the moon rise from the water, rippling, rounding from the water,
Saw the flecks and shadows on it, whispered, “What is that, Nokomis?”
And the good Nokomis answered: “Once a warrior, very angry, seized his grandmother, and
Threw her up into the sky at midnight; right against the moon he threw her;
‘Tis her body that you see there.”
Saw the rainbow in the heaven, in the eastern sky the rainbow,
Whispered, “What is that, Nokomis?” And the good Nokomis answered:
“ ‘Tis the heaven of flowers you see there; all the wild-flowers of the forest,
All the lilies of the prairie, when on earth they fade and perish,
Blossom in that heaven above us.”
When he heard the owls at midnight, hooting, laughing in the forest,
“What is that?” he cried in terror; “What is that,” he said, “Nokomis?”
And the good Nokomis answered: “That is but the owl and owlet,
Talking in their native language, talking, scolding at each other.”
Then the little Hiawatha learned of every bird its language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How they built their nests in summer, where they hid themselves in winter,
Talked with them whene’er he met them,
Called them “Hiawatha’s Chickens.”
Of all beasts he learned the language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How the beavers built their lodges,
Where the squirrels hid their acorns,
How the reindeer ran so swiftly,

Why the rabbbit was so timid,
Talked with them whene’er he met them,
Called them “Hiawatha’s Brothers . . .

~ * ~

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