They Showed Me Their Instruments of Recording
photo: Fernando Natalici
The Art of Copernicus in Five Acts
by Mark S. Tucker, continued
PSF: Your wife appeared, as far as I can discern, only once on your releases. Why not more frequently?
COPERNICUS: My wife was playing Chopin in the house and I loved it. Music inspires me to feel, and she plays with a great deal of emotion. I invited her spontaneously to a small recording session that I was having. She accepted. We sat her down at a wonderful piano in the studio. At some point, she began to play while the other musicians were playing and I was emoting. Then we mixed it all together like an abstract painting in sound. I love the piece. Right now, the name of it does not come to my mind - it's like loving one of your children but forgetting the child's name. For whatever reason, my wife has not returned to record. I'm pretty wild in a recording session and it's sort of intimidating to have your wife watching you. After one of my recording sessions, she might ask me for a divorce, with the defense that Copernicus was not the man that she married! Forty years have gone by and she is still the best defender of Copernicus around, even though she does not agree with even the foundations of Copernicus. She hasn't even read the book, which has been translated and published in Spanish. My wife is from Mexico. Ah! The name of the piece is "Come to It," from the album Null.
PSF: The last two CD's, echoes of each other, disclose a distinctly more arrested approach in many respects while not losing the passion of the earlier works. Are you mellowing, Copernicus, as age creeps up on the children of the '60's and '70's?
COPERNICUS: I am not mellowing. I am coming to the conclusion that if you really want to communicate something to someone, you should not be yelling at them. My father was always yelling and I never paid any attention to what he said. I want to communicate, not express my ego through yelling.
PSF: "The Sound of the Mind" was your most highly produced song and a scintillating piece of voice theater. Ever given thought to an audio-book effort done completely in just such a manner, either of your own words or as a take on, for instance, Poe or Kafka?
COPERNICUS: "The Sound of the Mind" was produced by Michael Theodore. He would bring me into the studio and I would do bare vocals. The words to "The Sound of the Mind" flowed out right off the top of my head. Theodore would take the vocals and put the music to them. He's produced many pieces throughout the albums in this manner. Now, only once have I read someone else's poem, which was never put on an album, but most writers are drenched in identity and old bankrupt thinking. I discount all art before the end of the nineteenth century as only historical. I disagree with all of their thinking. Why should I want to read their corrupt poems? A poem that is well written but tells lies is not something that would interest me. I do not have enough time or energy to do all of my own work, so why would I want to get involved in somebody else's work? Do not forget: I am not a rock star, I am primarily a philosopher. For good or bad, I have no hero who has taught me anything about philosophy. I have had to put everything together by myself under great criticism from everybody for my thoughts. Should I read something from Democritus who advanced the cause of atoms around the sixth century B.C.? Is there something to read? I would love to read it or perform it. Do not forget that I have a Bachelor of Arts with a major in History and was half-way thorugh a Masters in Contemporary English Literature, so I am not completely illiterate.
PSF: Related to that, then, you quoted Goethe on No Borderline and I would imagine you'd credit Tolstoy as a great author, especially given your background, but who do you see as the worthy modern writers and poets?
COPERNICUS: No one. Unfortunately, we're living in a bad time for telling the truth. Commercialism is King. In the old days, they burned you for telling your truth; today, they ignore you until you give up. I do not give up because being what I am is my only pleasure in life. For me, a new idea and an original way to communicate it is all that I ask for.
PSF: What musical groups appeal to you?
PSF: You're most often placed in the progrock bins in record shops, especially in shops lacking avant-garde sections. How does that sit with you and what do you make of that genre?
COPERNICUS: For good or bad, life sent me rock musicians. Copernicus is principally about thought and emotion and really should have his own category.
PSF: The transglobal music network is an odd one, surprising those who think such things are reserved only for Eric Clapton and Billy Joel. How do independent artists like yourself navigate what seems to be the most threadbare of music's equivalent of silk roads?
COPERNICUS: You give your greatest energy to creating the best that you can do. Then you give your greatest energy and resources to sharing your work with the world. This has been my formula.
PSF: Dave Conrad, at least, was quite the quisling long ago in his 1990 OPtion piece regarding the Euro-Russo tour. What did you make of that article and how did the magazine's completely unprofessional lack of editorial discretion strike you?
COPERNICUS: I was very hurt by that article. It had taken me, all by myself, a whole year to organize that incredible tour. It took all the extra money I had, to pay for the tour. Though the musicians were very good on stage throughout it, Larry Kirwan, in some crazy desire to have power, kept the musicans under his control and influenced them to disrespect me at every turn. They would not help me to lift a bag. It was a horror story with them off-stage. The article put the nail in the coffin. Maybe I am no good. I carry that hurt until today.
PSF: How have you viewed the punk "revolution"? Seeing as how it's now nearly dead, the time has come for analysis, rather than the reflexive, regurgitative, commercial worship run in magazines. Was it the anarchy it claimed to be; was it a matter of a bunch of self-indulgent, middle-class, white kids posing as guttersnipes; or was it something in between, perhaps the purgative that even master musicians like Robert Fripp have extolled it to be... or merely the best that could be wrought from a declining culture?
COPERNICUS: All of this analysis of movements is beyond me. I don't even understand what ‘punk' means. My job is to grow like a flower in the things I do and not pay too much attention to the other flowers around me, though the day will come when Copernicus' ideas will become a revolution in thought, just as the first Copernicus was a revolution in thought. My work is revolution, but it's a little ahead of its time. I hope to leave a full path for humanity in writing and recording.
PSF: I and many place you in a rarified stratum that numbers amongst it occupants The Living Theater. You've informed me that they've indeed not expunged themselves from the cultural books. What's your take on the group, their history, and why the disconnect in the needs of our society for critical art?
COPERNICUS: My contact with the Living Theater has been mainly through the artist Iris Lord. She invited Copernicus to perform in some of the concerts that she underwrote and she got Copernicus to underwrite a show at the Living Theater. I know Judith Malina rather well, but I do not know much about the Living Theater. They are building a theater in Manhattan and she travels and performs in Europe.
American society has sold out. American society is like a farmer who is eating his seed to survive for today. American society hates its artists, as all societies in the past have hated their artists. Artists tell the truth. The powers in all societies do not want the truth, they want their truth, and their truth generally benefits only them and their brood to the detriment of everybody else. Therefore, the powers in all societies hate artists. It's a human shame. In the case of Democritus, the powers in society still, 2500 years later, hate what he has to say: that everything is made of atoms in constant motion. This means that nothing exists
PSF: Let's say I'm David Geffen's fictional bastard stepson, if that's even peripherally possible, and that I've come to you to fund your zenith statement because I'm loony and only care for the generation of Art. Cost is no problem; what are you going to create and with whom?
COPERNICUS: I would have all of my albums remixed and re-released with worldwide distribution. I would release an album every six months and promote the album or promote the contents of the thought of the album. I would do concerts and tours according to my own desires. I would make the bastard stepson of David Geffen even richer than he was before he met me for as long as this formula worked with me being in control and not too terrorized. I would do this until I croaked. I'm doing this same formula right now. David Geffen's stepson would just help me to do it at a level where more people could come to understand. The world is sort of letting me go to waste; that is the problem of the world. I am doing my best.
PSF: You remain, besides your mountain-top slice of paradise in Ecuador, in New York. Why?
COPERNICUS: I have several mountaintops. There is no why to a mountaintop. It is.
PART TWO: THE SOUND OF THE MIND
PSF: You were once Roman Catholic, engaged in a Jesuitical quest, and came to the same dead end most of us did. What are your major particular beefs with Christianity or with the clergy, or with both?
COPERNICUS: I did not come to a dead end, I came to Copernicus and the evolution of all of the ideas of Copernicus. This is not a dead end, this is freedom. I'm free of death and of life and even of afterlife. The Catholic Church is just another jerky Mafia organization set up to rob the ignorant poor. Fortunately, it's on its way out. One more generation and the Western world will ask: Catholic who? They have sold 62 churches in the past two years in the Boston Archdiocese, netting 90 million dollars just to pay for all the lawsuits against their child-loving priests. I know the Catholic Church, I know its entire history. They are jerks whose scam is up. I hope when the world comes to the ideas of Copernicus that they do not make a church around those ideas. No physical church is necessary, the Universe is the church, there is no need to have priests because every man and woman is their own priest. Spontaneous communication with all the levels of the Universe is the process.
PSF: If fascism is the marriage of business and the state, what would we call the connubialities of business, state, and religion... or is that merely a double redundancy? Has Constantine's child become the alpha and omega?
COPERNICUS: Religion has always been just another business and should not be separated from the word 'business.' Fascism may be the only form of government possible for human beings. Fascism may be the only form of government that has ever existed on the face of the earth and the only form of government ever possible for humans. There is not enough space here to go further on this. Some people have called me a Fascist. The United States is a fascist state; it certainly is not a democracy. I really do not want to get into politics. I'm a philosopher who cares about pointing out the importance of the atom as it relates to philosophy.
PSF: Immediate Eternity, the book, provides a claim unusual in the annals of spiritual literature. You posit physical reality, the atom, as "the source," "God" or whatever we care to call the generative point or the prime-mover-unmoved. Tillich, De Chardin, Pike, and others held a "God beyond God" philosophy as well, which was not met graciously by Mother Church but was nonetheless a zen-ish extension of logical spirituality much in line with some of what Thomas Merton was espousing. Why do you land on physicality as "the Godsource," for lack of any proper term, rather than the unknowable step beyond it, as zen does?
COPERNICUS: The atom is not physical reality, because, according to the definition of Copernicus, for existence, the atom being made up of many smaller particles, all in motion does not exist. The atom does not exist, because the atom itself is subject to the same forces to which a human being is subject. Humanity only understands about 6% of matter, the matter capable of reflecting light. But 94% of the matter of the Universe is still not found or understood. We know that there is something there because of its gravitational effects. Immediate Eternity never said that the atom is God. The book stated that if there is a particle that cannot be divided and is not subject to constant change, that particle would exist. The word 'God' has so many different definitions and may be best just avoided, because all it does is bring up a debunked, bankrupt, mythical, no-longer-functioning, philosophical past. The unknowable is the foundation for all of the religious scams since Day One. A theory deals with the unknowable in that it puts forth an unproven idea that has a possiblity... but just to give up and believe in the unknowable is to ask for the horrendous murder and carnage we've seen in human history.
PSF: Shamans often relied upon so-called hallucinogens for their place in primitive societies. Some continental natives here considered, and often still do, peyote to be a sacrament. Bishop Pike got further from the Church and closer to "God" through LSD, Terence McKenna found enormous psycho-physical benefit and even alien cultures in psychotropic drugs, and Richard Alpert became Ram Dass after both drugs and religion... what do you see in all this drug activity and have such substances figured into your evolution at all, at any point?
COPERNICUS: I'm from the generation that believed that if I had a problem, I should light a cigarette and take a drink like Humphrey Bogart, so that the answers would come to me. Hemingway drank one or two bottles of booze a day. I wanted to be a writer and so I drank alcohol sometimes to excess. I used to even drink alcohol on stage. My generation was only alcohol and cigarettes. However, I watched a video of a show I did with twelve great musicians behind me and my conclusion was "Copernicus is drunk." I had not too long before gone head first off a six feet high stage and, incredibly, landed on my feet. The people applauded because they thought it was part of the performance but it wasn't. I had taken four shots of whiskey before I got on stage and didn't even know where I was. I also used to go out for days, for a period of about ten years, in these after-hours places in Harlem, drinking, sniffing cocaine, and writing poetry.
In analyzing all of this use of drugs, I have come to the conclusion that, for performing, it takes away your mind and makes your body weak; for writing, it disorients the writing; and, in both cases, performance and writing, drugs were a hindrance to what I was trying to do. My mother said that I could have gone much farther if I didn't drink. She could be wrong, she could be right. In some cases, in the beginning of imbibing, it's possible that ideas came to me that might not have come to me without the booze.
Anyway, Immediate Eternity was written with no booze, just Ecuatorian coffee and cigarettes. Maybe I should rewrite it after drinking a bottle of booze and see what comes out. It will be worse. Immediate Eternity took me three years to write, taxing physically and intellectually. A drunk could not have written that book...though all of the first five albums were recorded spontaneously under the influence of Seagrams Seven, a cheap Canadian whiskey. Just listen to "Rah!" on Null and imagine a sober person doing that.
Both albums of Immediate Eternity, in the four languages in which it is recorded, were done with no alcohol. Today, I feel sorry for people who use any drug to attempt great work.
PSF: Many of the so-called modern masters turned incredibly corrupt (Rajneesh), bizarre (Mahesh Yogi), alcoholic (Trungpa), or engaged in shenanigans not very ethical (Maezumi Roshi, etc.) - and then, of course, there's Scientology. Is this a result of the lamentable condition of being an enlightened soul within pitifully shallow cultures, or does it reveal flaws in the various discipines themselves?
COPERNICUS: Artists and philosophers should learn one thing: they should not expect that their art or their philosophy should produce money. If they need money, they should get purely involved in making money and not mix money with their art or their philosophy. Therein lies the defect of the examples you have given. They needed money and therefore called on their art or philosophy to produce money. Wrong! Money corrupts. Selling art or philosophy for money corrupts the art and the philosophy.
My studies in history showed me that and had a great influence on my activities. I saw three roads regarding art: the first was the road of the artist with a patron, like Michaelangelo and the Medici; the second was the starving artist like Van Gogh; but, for me, there was a third road: born poor in the richest country on earth, you could make your own money, and then allow your art to be free of the corruption of it. Thus Copernicus is producing his own albums and publishing his own book.
Philosophies that involve ego are defective. Ego is as corrupting as money. Ego can be done away with through wise information. Money's just another tool that one must learn to use wisely. You shouldn't use a circular saw to clean your nails.
PSF: Some find dogma to be acceptable, others go beyond and synthesize the most logical components from everything available into a more useful vehicle, while still others have seemingly cut through the bullshit and come to a very simple expanded existentialist ideation: we exist and that's that - we live, we die, we live, we die, we live, we die... ad infinitum, nothing more, nothing less. Is this nihilism or realism and do you see the Wheel of death and rebirth as consequential, inevitable, or illusion?
COPERNICUS: Illusion. There is no such thing as life or death or rebirth. These concepts are mental traps created by people who need to define reality with their bare senses. Reality is beyond the perceptions of the human senses. This is one of the major themes of Copernicus, because it is very difficult to go beyond the human senses... but if I could do it, anybody could do it.
PSF: Your book is profoundly street-level despite its subject matter and that seems to be exactly the point: no one has to be anything special, they just need to see. There's a new kid on the block, Adyashanti, and, though he seems overtly fey in his disposition, the message he's carrying is much the same: anyone can achieve peace and enlightenment in his lifetime. This somewhat harks back to the days of Ikkyu, the third patriarch of zen, who attacked his own religion as the first act of liberation from maya. Realistically, are we finally seeing the first step of the end of religion?
COPERNICUS: Firstly, achieving peace is never a good thing. Achieve struggle. When you stop struggling, you stop growing. It seems to me that peace causes struggling, and thus growing, to cease. All you want is evolution, not so much enlightenment, because enlightenment involves something like a visitation by an angel. Be patient, evolve slowly or quickly, however it comes, but do not expect great enlightenments through singular events. However, once or twice in a lifetime, singular events upon an open-minded individual can cause a great enlightenment. Wisdom and truth are all around us, we just have to be able to find them. Normally, we inch forward very slowly, but every little inch is a great treasure. You will be the only judge about the value of this. Be positive and do your best.
Everyone can struggle to evolve. Some, for whatever reason, can go deeper in understanding than others. Please forget about peace and do not definitely search for peace. If you ever find peace, run from it to where there is authentic struggle. Peace will make you pacified like a dead fish on the beach.
Religions come and go. That has been the story of religion. What happened to the great Egyptian religion which provided the seminal ideas of Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedenism? Christianity and Mohammedenism became widespread only through the use of violence. Give me the American Army and I'll soon have everybody believing that they do not exist.
The definition of religion that I remember is: "the summation of man's relationship with God." Man seems to need that relationship; that's why man created God. That creation, however, may have caused man a lot of trouble. Once man created God, his neighbor created another God, and then his neighbor created his God, and etc., until we have many many Gods. Now, which God is the best or the true God? That will always be determined on the field of battle. If I beat you on the field of battle, that means my God is better than your God.
For good or bad, religion will always be with us. What we do not want always to be with us are these people who claim that their religion is absolutely true and that all other religions are absolutely false. Everybody has to recognize that their religious ideas could be wrong, that their religious thoughts are being followed by them because that's the best they can do, but there's a chance they may be wrong. Those who claim to be absolutely right have given themselves the right to be killers of everybody else.
PSF: How do we compose societies after religions have gone the way of the dodo? Will, as Bertrand Russell avers, logic and reason suffice?
COPERNICUS: You compose societies with logic, reason, law, and and an absolutely just enforcement of law. As I said, religions will never go the way of the dodo. They just change names and sometimes, superficially, thoughts. The ideas of Copernicus contain the fundamentals for a new religion. The beauty of Copernicus' religion is that you do not need priests, churches, or money, although somebody will probably figure out a way to make money from the Universe.
PSF: One passage of yours: "Be careful of the world of rejection that cries alone in the desperation of no song that bleeds in the night into the torn rag of tears that brings poems into the world..." (p. 71) describes about half of all art ever produced. Are you proclaiming an end to all that?
COPERNICUS: Artists who are recognized during their lifetimes are generally mediocrities. Probably, the greatest art ever produced is totally unknown.
PSF: Your concepts of MAGOVA, BEJ, and MAH, when read against an informed background, create a physicalist analogue corresponding incompletely to the classical treatises. They say that the phenomenological world, no matter how well presented nor how minutely inspected, is never the be-all and end-all. Your philosophy, however, seems to be antithetical to that, as, in descriptions of places, from Illusiona to MAGOVA to BEJ, you're speaking of places and things (MAH). By use of those terms alone, physicality is inferred. This is where many people lose the string. The Buddha and others spoke of nullity, the void, as a place that was not a place. Are we encountering linguistic/perceptual problems here, or are you firmly stating that physicality is the final, undivisible, inescapable reality?
COPERNICUS: First, I do not believe that Immediate Eternity attempts, as one of its goals, to define reality. It is basically a book of observations aspiring to define reality but recognizing there is still a lack of information. The difference between Buddha and Copernicus is that Buddha allowed for ego and individuality and Copernicus states that nothing exists including the ego and individuality. I'm firmly stating that there are very small never-detected particles out there, filled with eternal energy that are racing around at the speed of light, joining and disjoining with stuff. The stuff that seems to be created is filled with these never-detected particles of energy that are not permitting anything to exist... if existence is defined as being able to stay the same from one moment to the next.
My job, and it is stated somewhere in the book, is to make human beings aware that they do not exist. Defining reality is another task which I may or may not someday be competent to enter into. If you're asking if I believe in the Holy Ghost, I would tell you that anything is possible, but right now the knowledge that I do not exist, can never die, and therefore cannot be sent to Hell is a liberatingly good feeling. I may be wrong, but this is what I see. Doesn't this idea also liberate the rest of humanity from fear?
Reality is inescapable. We are reality. We are God. We are reality. We are the Universe. We are the multiverse. We are indivisible because we are not. We are not and there is nothing that is final; everything is immediate eternity. Enjoy the paradise and liberation from ignorant human traps.
PSF: Your contention on page 33 is interesting: that Christians or ex-Christians, though equally based in myth, may well be the creators of the new millenial realities, while Jews and Mohammedans are yet "incarcerated" in their myths. I'd like to argue this for a moment. All three are Abrahamic desert religions, with everything that implies. Islam created the fount of Western civilization and was crushed as a competitive threat to its own abstracted estranged progeny, Christianity. To that time, it, though, contained the most tolerant and enlightened sector of the West and Near East. That the land now seems to reflect the fundamentalist regressions that so typified earlier Christianity is regrettable, but why do you see the Christian mindset as sufficiently progressive to do as you claim? I see little evidence of it except in those I cited earlier, all now long fallen into obscurity, with the possible exception of comtemporary gents like Shelby Spong.
COPERNICUS: It may very well be that Christianity in the Western world will collapse of its own weight well before Mohammedanism or Judaism. Christianity is rapidly collapsing. I recognized that in 1961, in Europe. Europe is now lost. This is spreading rapidly in the United States. We have local parishes suing the Vatican for theft (see the Wall Street Journal, Dec. 20, 2005). What will all those lost Christians be doing? Some will become Mohammedans; others will become Jews; others will become Buddhists, etc..
However, a good number will turn to science and, out of the discoveries of science, will form a basis for visionaries who will interpret modern scientific discoveries from the point of view of human philosophy. They will make records and write books documenting their interpretations. They will provide humanity enough philosophy so that humanity does not commit suicide until its capacity is up to the level where it will be able to travel space and find civilizations on other planets...then, in the end, stop war on Planet Earth in order go to war against the new planet. No doubt.
The smartest, best prepared, and most liberated minds of the planet will be ex-Christians reaching into the microcosm and macrocosm, trying to explain it all with the vestiges of their Christianity within them. They will want to share what they've found with everybody, whether everybody likes it or not. The promotion of new ideas is a difficult, expensive, and dangerous proposition. However, it will happen. The future of nonexistent humanity lies in the heavens, not in heaven.
PSF: Given that most of the minds on this backwater mudball will not be able to comprehend what you're saying otherwise, perhaps your "humanity... is within the power of humanity," on page 97, is one of the best reminders since George Bernard Shaw's admonition that "the religion of man should be mankind." However, given the unbelievable venality of the Bush Crime Syndicate and the society's stultifyingly passive mien in the face of it, all engendered by a secret desire to share in the spoils of corruption, is there really a prayer?
COPERNICUS: The religion of man should be of the truth, not in man. Are you forgetting about all of our brother creatures on the earth? Hope for a better world must always be maintained, intelligent hope should never be abandoned. The lot of humanity has gotten better since when I was younger - certainly not the lot for our brother animals, though. There is prayer and there's nothing wrong in praying, just do not demand. Pray, hope for the best, and do the best that you can.
PSF: Your relation of Father Tom's inadvertant confession of solipsism revealed, I think, what's at the bottom of almost all religions, save the most basic Far Eastern philosophies (Buddhism, Zen, Ch'an, Taoism, etc.): overwhelming fear in the face of unimaginable forces and the resulting propitiation of factors we cannot locate. Everything we see indicates an inimical base to reality, yet you and others say that it's not so, that we're inflowing mistaken data. Being an anarchist, I could care less and take a taoist's viewpoint: what happens happens, but I don't discount inquiry into mechanics at all and would like to see an eventual global sanity emerge from that quest. The Dalai Lama agrees in this meta-scientific grail yet you are in agreement that we need only wake up. However, those who have awoken plainly are human, do not answer the myth of the uberman, and put their pants on one leg at a time. There's a weird dichotomy there- it jars our Carlylian goals. Is the aspiration to physical utopianism a mistake?
COPERNICUS: Aspiration to physical utopianism? Just be what you are, try to know and understand what you are, and act based on what you think. Respect your actions at every moment. Don't betray yourself. Never be your own worst enemy. Do not aspire to unknown ideals, just be the expression of what you are now. Life is great even though you do not exist. The foundation of fear is ignorance. If you are afraid, it is a signal, like pain, that you need to clean up some ignorance causing the fear. If you don't exist and cannot die, what is there to fear? The unimaginable forces are with us just as long as they are being respected. When ego enters and man separates himself, through the ignorance of ego, from the unimaginable forces, going to war against the them, he will lose and create a Hell for himself. We are part of the unimaginable forces. They are not separate from us or out there to do us harm. We are them. They are us. Understand that, feel that, believe that, feed off that, be inspired by that, and wake up everyday loving that. The forces will give you strength to reach inside of yourself and do your best. You are an unimaginable force the moment that you give up your ego and let your mind join the force, becoming immediately eternal.
See the official Copernicus website
|MAIN PAGE||ARTICLES||STAFF/FAVORITE MUSIC||LINKS|