Book Review: “Katabatic Wind” by Stephen Crimi
| Reviewed by Bonnie Willow |
An accomplished author has appeared on Asheville’s writing scene – one whose work as a publisher has helped support that very scene. Stephen Crimi, author of Katabatic Wind: Good Craic Fueled by Fumes from the Abyss, is editor and publisher at Logosophia Books in Asheville. In this book of essays, Crimi explores humanity’s attempts to find the Divine within, across centuries and continents. He gives us a scholarly look from an elevated perspective at the cultural trends that led to the loss of the Divine Feminine in our current culture. As worded in the introduction, “The kernel of these essays is loss, longing for return, and the grief of living in a society without an inkling of its sacred origin story.”
Having published works by local authors Skye Taylor (A Monk in The Bee Hive), Alli Marshall (How to Talk to Rock Stars), and Mindi Meltz (Lonely in the Heart of the World), Crimi also transcribed and edited two groundbreaking volumes of talks by Alan Chadwick on biodynamic French intensive horticulture. Katabatic Wind is the first book of his own writings. “Katabatic wind” is a meteorological term for oxygen-rich winds that rush down a slope from a high elevation, drawn by earth’s gravity. It’s a perfect analogy for this book.
A hardcover tome, it is a gem of fine artistry, inside and out. On the cover and sprinkled throughout are sumptuous, full color images of spiritually significant artwork from a variety of cultures and timeframes. Ancient and modern poems adorn each essay. The language used is also sumptuous – rich and colorful. Don’t just read this book; feast on it. Let it remind you what language can be.
In a recent interview, Steve Crimi offered a deeper understanding of what’s being brought to light in these pages.
The title Katabatic Wind: Good Craic Fueled by Fumes from the Abyss is not one that immediately makes sense to the reader. Why have you chosen to use obscure phrases in the title?
“This points to a couple of things. Current education does not include knowing the foundations of our culture, which are mainly Greek in origin. So we don’t even know our own cultural origins, let alone the sacred origins of that. Any educated person of a hundred years ago would know that a katabasis is the Greek term for the underground journey, taken by Orpheus, Inanna, Pythagoras, Odysseus – even Jesus had his “harrowing of hell.” It is only obscure because we have been denied knowing our real mythic origins by those who prefer our imaginations to be walled in and limited to mere physical pursuits for their profit. The hope is that the title will be a siren call for someone open to the mysterious, the feminine form of which lives in these sacred underground places, and fumes from there occasionally reach us through the cracks.”
You mention the demise of the Divine Feminine in our culture. How would you wish to see the Divine Feminine reestablished?
“If we maintain our current ignorance in the West of our sacred origin and how we lost it, our future will be merely an incarnation of the violence-soaked present. The divine feminine was lost through the ascendancy of rationality. Wisdom in the early Greek world was sought in temples, caves and sacred places – mostly underground – through a shamanic practice called incubation, which involved lying perfectly still in a state of absolute surrender. These were always places of the Goddess – Whatever her name. She would come to you with wisdom, with laws, with healings for individuals or even cities. Even logic, for example, is a gift from the Goddess through the early Greek philosopher-priest-healer Parmenides. But it is a gift to take us to unity, to being as one.
“Then it starts, through Plato and Aristotle, to become something else. Reasoned arguments become the way to knowledge, not the experience of the divine in the underworld. The head now becomes the place to find wisdom. Now everyone thinks they can get to the real through thought. It is the predominant delusion of the west. Everything that is wrong is grounded in it.
“Every so-called “crisis” in this world is a spiritual crisis – political, social, environmental, religious fundamentalist crises – they all arise from the loss of the experience of the divine, both within and without us. Especially the divine feminine, who experiences this cosmos – which is her own body – through our eyes and sensorium. In other words, one of the great mysteries is that the goddess experiences herself, as the world, through us. The divine masculine you might say is the light illuminating that experience.”
Sacred geometry and numbers play a significant role in the great philosophers’ and teachers’ understanding of the world. For what purpose are they included in this book?
“The attractive thing about the practice of sacred geometry is that it is the only topic that Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Ancient Greeks, and the ancient builders of the pyramids, stone circles, and the Gobekli Tepe temples have in complete common. They all built holy places and created art using the golden mean and other transcendent ratios. It was said that if you got the proportions right, the deity inhabited the statue. This is not metaphor. If you get to a place like Chartres Cathedral of Notre Dame, you can experience Her if you are open and lucky. It’s a great place to find unity amongst currently warring ideologies.”
Your explorations of a Grateful Dead song, baseball, and biodynamic gardening give the impression that divine wisdom is always present beneath the surface in every culture. Your discussion of cosmic cycles gives the impression that there’s always hope as civilizations rise and fall. Is this book’s ultimate message one of hope, if we learn from our past?
“Maybe the ‘hope’ in this book is to realize the utter hopelessness of redeeming the current western model of physicality and consumption, of (male) competition versus (female) cooperation. Of “fixing” it. Yet there is light to be found in the ruins, because this is a spiritual world at source, no matter how many layers of illusion enwrap it. You have to listen with your divine heart to find it, and find your divine eye to see it, deep in the sacred caves of our life.”
What influences shaped your life to create your fascination with the philosophies and spiritual practices of the world?
“There have been several fortunate times throughout the years when – for whatever reasons, via meditative practices or simply grace – real contact has been made with the divine. For me it has always taken the form of the feminine. The power, beauty, and grace are unspeakable; there is nothing left but to see if there is some small service to do for Her amidst the clamor in this world begging you to do just about anything else. From those experiences, all forms of the Goddess, including of course Nature, resonate with Her trace. If anything is right with this book, it is because I have tried to write from, not about, that place.”
Stephen Crimi will give an author talk at Malaprops on Tuesday June 21st @ 7pm. Katabatic Wind is available for sale at logosophiabooks.com, and through all bookstores after that date.
Stephen Crimi has a degree in English literature from Union College, and spent over a decade in traditional Yoga study at Yoga Anand Ashram in Amityville, NY. He’s been previously published in Moksha Journal and Journal of Anthroposophy in Australia. He’s done time as an editor, estate gardener, cook, massage therapist, and most recently, running a biodynamic garden and fiber farm, Philosophy Farm, for twelve years with his wife of three decades, Krys. They now live in the city of Asheville, in the mountains of North Carolina, where they continue to garden and midwife literature. Stephen was born in Brooklyn, and raised on the streets of Ozone Park, NYC. This is his first book.
Bonnie Willow is a published author (www.LoveLightAndBusiness.com) and director of The School of Peace (www.TheSchoolOfPeace.com). She teaches in Asheville and online with her clients & students worldwide.