Hudson River: Meditation Mediation

A Project Conceived by Daniel Rothbart


Lisa Paul Streitfeld, Curator

Only when intense individuation has been consummated, when the immediate intuition has been focused, and, one might say, reduced to a single point, does the mythic or linguistic form emerge, and the word or the momentary god is created.  And this particular genesis determines the type of intellectual content that is common to language and myth; for where the process of apprehension aims not an expansion, extension, universalizing of the content, but rather at its highest intensification, this fact cannot fail to influence human consciousness.  All other things are lost to a mind thus enthralled; all bridge between the concrete datum and the systemized totality of experience are broken; only the present reality, as mythic or linguistic conception, stresses and shapes it, fills the entire subjective realm.  There is nothing beside or beyond it, whereby it could be measured or to which it could be compared; its mere presence is the sum of all being.

Ernst Cassirer

Language and Myth


The Hieros Gamos Project presented a second collaboration with Daniel Rothbart in Peekskill New York during a solar eclipse falling on the Fall Equinox, 2006.  The performance took place at Riverfront Green Park in Peekskill, New York and was followed by a Rosh Hashanah Tashlich Ceremony led by Livia Straus.


The performance of Meditation: Mediation in the Lab Gallery of the Roger Smith Hotel under the solar eclipse of April 24, 2005 led to a tacit understanding between Daniel and myself that we were embarked on a path taken by priests in ancient cultures to deliver the new archetypal content of the unconscious into form and infuse it with meaning.

Once again, the sky provided the roadmap for a process culminating into a performance integrating myth and word with meaning.  The timing of the project –the unusual occurrence of a Solar eclipse as prelude to the Fall Equinox — provided a readymade myth for the 21st century: a self-empowered Proserpine entering the underworld to deliver the birth of a new archetype.

The participation of the German artist Heide Hatry, who works in multiple mediums with pigskin, brought the myth of Proserpine into play.  In the Elysian Mysteries, the running of pigs over a cliff symbolized the cosmic death of Proserpine’s rape by Pluto who carried her to his domain in the underworld to be followed by rebirth when Proserpine returned from underground in spring to join her mother, Ceres, for a renewed vegetation cycle.  Hatry’s work with pigskin is one of a personal journey for reconciliation with her father, a pig farmer, who died when she entered adolescence.  Pigs were considered to be companions to the goddess and integral to the vegetation cycle with their ability to break new ground with their snouts, thereby aiding the planting of the seed.

In writing and speaking publicly about Hatry’s process in the summer preceding this historic eclipse, I became immersed in the myth of Proserpine.  At that time, Pluto was a huge global topic for discussion.  The media attention surrounding a historic vote at the international astronomer’s conference to demote the planet into a dwarf or asteroid required that mythographers consider the Greek myth of Proserpine’s abduction by Pluto in relation to Pluto’s new status in position with the discovery of a new planet that some astrologers have long referred to as Proserpine.


At this point, the word that denotes that thought content is not a mere conventional symbol, but is merged with its object in an indissoluble unity.  The conscious experience is not merely wedded by the word, but is consumed by it.  Whatever has been fixed by a name, henceforth, is not only real, but Reality.  The potential between “symbol” and “meaning” is resolved, in place of a more or less complete congruence between “image” and “object,” between the name and the thing.

Could this new planet be Proserpine?  If so, what does Pluto’s demotion mean for the archetypal experience of the male abduction of the dark feminine power?  What does it mean for familial relationships based on power if the mythical male supremacy of the “lord of the underworld shifts in the collective consciousness from dictator to equal partner with his wife Proserpine and her mother Demeter?

As Hatry became an enthusiastic participant in Meditation Mediation: Hudson River, the  re-visioning of the Proserpine myth became an organizing theme for the astrological chart that I drew up for high noon on September 23, twelve hours after Mabon that followed a Solar Eclipse falling at 29 degrees Virgo.

Virgo is the sign of the Harvest, and indeed, this project was to bring a harvest of a seven year journey as a newspaper art critic devoted to delivering a new art theory by way of uncovering the authentic face of the feminine in millennial art.  A leap into human relationships balanced with nature, where female selection dominates sexual union, was instilled through the Equinox Sun in Libra at the zero degree position of new beginnings.

The theme of the performance – the consuming of conscious experience by the word – thereby fixed “the name” Pluto as the sacred reality Mircea Eliade establishes as essential for mythmaking.  A noon astrological chart set up the performance for exactly 12 hours following the Fall Equinox.  The 2 degrees Sagittarius rising allowed for this philosophical approach.

The chart was marked by what is known in astrology as mutual reception.  There were, in fact, two dominant mutual receptions reinforcing the theme of giving meaning to emerging archetypes.  Jupiter, the chart ruler, was in Scorpio, the sign ruled by Pluto in the first house. Yet, through the mutual reception, Jupiter’s 12th house immersion into the collective unconscious (the river) brought the energy of the philosopher/adventurer into play with the magician/priest ruling the performance with the 1st house position of Pluto in Sagittarius.  These interconnections indicated a passion play (Saturn in Leo on the Midheaven) between the word, Pluto, and meaning (Jupiter and Sagittarius).  In sum, the chart spelled out a renewed role for performance (Saturn in Leo on the Midheaven) in delivering emerging archetypes (the Neptune in Aquarius mutual reception with Uranus in Pisces) to the collective consciousness (eleventh house).

With the exception of Mercury, all the personal planets – Sun, Moon, Mars and Venus – were in the eleventh house of the collective consciousness.  Therefore, the goal of the performance was to provide new meaning to the word, Pluto, the subterranean god who rules the underground in mythology as well as the artistic “underground” which strives to penetrate these forces and deliver them to the collective consciousness.

Daniel and I established a correspondence between astrology and art during the April 24 Meditation Mediation at the Lab Gallery, also performed under an eclipse.  In building on this foundation, our collaboration launched a search for meaning that would link the demotion of Pluto in the collective consciousness (the Sun, Moon, Venus, Mars conjunction) with a re-visioning of Proserpine expressed in the art of Heide Hatry, who was to dramatize this mythical figure while wearing a scarlet satin red dress (symbolizing Eros) for her intervention.

With a natal chart for the performance divided between the unconscious (12th house) and consciousness (11th house), we were in good position to continue the shaping of this myth emerging from underground that we began on April 24.  During that initial collaboration of Meditation Mediation at THE LAB, words and image converged to confirm the vision shared between Wolfgang Pauli and C.G. Jung of the hieros gamos as the 21st century icon.


Participants were asked to come up with performances that had to do with the theme of water in general and the Hudson River specifically.  They were encouraged to bring their individual journey to the group project incorporating their unique sensibility, aesthetic and process.  In this manner, Meditation Mediation: Hudson River would be a model for 21st century art incorporating the opposites of personal/universal and local/global.

In keeping with the theme of the River as metaphor for the flow of life, the project proved to be an exercise in surrender for Daniel and myself.  An equal number of men and women were invited, yet only women participated in Hudson River: Meditation Mediation.  Although this outcome was not intentional, it was in keeping with the feminine element of water and the re-visioning of Proserpine.  We were delighted that Livia Straus wanted to perform a Rosh Hashanah ceremony at the river as a conclusion to the performance. This served to bring the theme of cleansing and revival of the face of the feminine full circle.

In keeping with the mysterious nature of eclipses, Daniel and I were only provided with brief sketches of the individual interventions prior to the date of the performance. Participants were instructed to arrive at 11:30, so I could proceed to establish a narrative linked by order to be expressed in my introduction.  At noon I invited the four directions into the circle, thus laying the foundation for the ritual ceremony.


My role as curator shifted to priestess as my body opened to the transpersonal forces converging along the Hudson River at high noon.  My role as energy facilitator was to become a vessel for the emerging archetype, the hieros gamos, as the introduction to the narrative of this archetypal emerging required instantaneous processing between left and right brain.

My introduction established the theme as the Eternal Return with its life/death/rebirth cycle re-visioning Proserpine in the context of Pluto’s official new status.  As I presented the new status of Pluto in relationship to the Solar Eclipse falling on Mabon, I assured the audience/participants that – without any conscious intention on the part of Daniel or myself — the performances all served to narrate the re-visioning of the Proserpine myth.  What was required to make this leap was the fulfillment of the millennial goal of the avant-garde — overcoming the Uncertainty Principle in which the artist impacts the outcome of the experiment by virtue of his or her presence.  I aimed to fulfill this intention by relaying consciousness regarding the myth guiding the interconnected narrative of the seven performances, which followed the passage of the kundalini, or dark feminine power, through the chakras of the body, representing the integration of heaven and earth reflected by the hieros gamos.

First Chakra:  Columbia Fiero

Columbia Fiero is an artist whose very name set the stage for the performance in integrating the opposites of Dove (Columbia) and Fire (Fiero).  Columbia arranged progressively larger vessels in a linear position and labeled them with numbers suggesting a hierarchy of value.  She went to the river to draw water that she poured into each vessel, ending her intervention by dumping the remainder of the water over her head.

Second Chakra: Alison Levy

Alison Levy structured the galaxy in keeping with the emerging cosmology with small capsules that she placed into vessels laid out in accordance with the solar system.  As she poured water heated from the river into each bowl, sponges burst from the capsules in the shapes of the signs of the zodiac ruling the planets specified by their containers.  The camera captured the Scorpio symbol of the Scorpion and the Pisces symbol of the two fish together in one bowl, thereby connecting the underworld realm of Pluto (ruler of Scorpio) with the mythology surrounding the emerging face of the feminine (Pisces) enacted by the performances.

Third Chakra: Lisa Paul Streitfeld

Lisa Paul Streitfeld

For my intervention, I selected the Pluto vessel determined by Alison and placed it in the center of the two vessels named for the other participants in the underworld myth: Ceres and Proserpine.  I proceeded to plant two bulbs of narcissus (the intoxicant seducing Proserpine into the underworld) into the central bowl.  Covering them with water and pebbles from the river from the other bowls mixed with my menstrual blood, I envisioned a relationship of gender equality rooted in merging of masculine and feminine reflecting the hieros gamos.

Fourth Chakra:  Heide Hatry

Heide Hatry, looking stunning in a scarlet red satin dress and black pumps, placed a large bowl under her feet and squatted over it.  She held up her skirt revealing a sheer slip.  An egg dropped from her vagina into the bowl and cracked open.  She held out the bowl to the audience and threw the contents in the river, and then preceded to wash out the bowl, place it on the ground and hit it with the striker.

Fifth Chakra:  Diana Barnes-Brown

Diana, a poet, began her intervention by striking a medium sized vessel and washing her hands in the river.  She kneeled on the ground and said: “This poem I made for today is based on my belief that all acts are political.”  She quoted the poet John Woodward saying, “Standing silently in an amusement part is a political act.”  Then, she proceeded to tell us: “All of your actions here today are political.”

Diana utilized her intervention with the forms of the masculine and feminine to embrace the Uncertainty Principle and leap into a declaration of a new modernism in which feelings are acknowledged as political acts.  She read a poem of her own carrying profound imagery about death and hope for the renewal that a new modernism honoring the feminine (feeling) would deliver.   She finished by reading a poem to her friend John, written on the day of the performance, September 23, integrating the personal with the political, thereby initiating a new poetic language reflecting the unity of the hieros gamos.

Sixth Chakra: Kathleen Anderson

Kathleen presented among scattered vessels a bowl of copper (the metal of Venus) filled with 450 million year old crystals retrieved near her home.  She related the properties of crystal as the transmutation of energy and invited the audience/participants to throw the stones in the water after her reading of nine mediations relating to the integration of consciousness and matter.

Seventh Chakra: Livia Straus

After a picnic lunch, Livia conducted a Tashlich Ceremony to commemorate Rosh Hashanah.  The bowls were set up on the beach.  She began by wishing everyone a Happy New Year.  Then she explained about the Tashlich Service, a ritual of tossing bread into the water.  She described it as a “shaking out the bad” removing the cause of harm in your life through a collecting of crumbs symbolizing the displacing of evil.  She then related a Hassidic story of a man who thought he could evade evil by tossing his sins into the water – until his son was claimed by a whirlpool on his 13th birthday.  We then all picked up a vessel and tossed the crumbs into the water.


Anything that happens under an eclipse cycle can take months, even years, to play out.  In this case, the results were fairly rapid in regards to my personal trajectory.  In November I met a man who played the patriarchal role of Pluto; his overbearing presence carried the implicit threat of a sexual addiction confining me underground and therefore thwarting the process by which I would rise to relate my personal story aligned with a collective mythology.  This sexually charged confrontation impelled me to focus all my energies on re-visioning Prosepine.  As an act of survival, I embarked on an intense dialogue with a visionary priestess, Prosepine born of Mary that led to my discovery of a new language reflecting the announcement of a new modernism by Diana Barnes Brown.

I performed the poem, Surrender, in the East Village alternative New Year’s Day Poetry Project.  This led to an understanding that I was being assigned the role of Proserpine in the unfolding myth of the return of the face of the feminine initiated by Meditation Mediation: Hudson River.

The poem served as prologue to a new literary form, the blog-novel, reflecting the 21st century cosmology integrating heaven and earth.  I performed the blog-novel in real time during a performance installation at THE LAB in the Roger Smith Hotel, the storefront gallery space where Meditation Mediation was performed under a lunar eclipse.

On January 19, MP guided me into ritual inside THE LAB to greet Venus in her ascent from underworld and her transition from Prosepine to Inanna in accordance with her sighting as the Evening Star.

The return of the Love Goddess symbolizing the hermaphroditic the union of Heaven and Earth brings forth the icon of the hieros gamos in the re-visioning of Prosepine in the collective consciousness.  No longer the victim, she now identifies as equal partner with her husband.  The myth of her “kidnapping” into the underworld shifts to one in which she has made a proactive decision to go underground to explore the mystery of sex.  She returns from this underworld experience with the knowledge of the mysteries of sex.  In addition, the consciousness of fertility symbolized by the pomegranate seeds keeps her attuned to the cycles of the seasons.


The experiment on the Hudson River under the Solar Eclipse reverberated with meaning in which the word (Pluto) became “the thing.”  The potential between symbol and meaning was resolved through the integration of conscious (the astronomer’s demotion of Pluto) and unconscious (the re-visioning of Proserpine) in the body as the energy traveled up the Stairway to Heaven (the spinal column) chakra by chakra.

With this focus, Pluto was created as a momentary god of transmutation into a gender unified being.  No longer the masculine lord of the underworld expropriating the female power for his own purposes, he is now equal partner with his newly empowered bride, the visionary priestess Proserpine.

The re-visioned Proserpine who emerged during Meditation Mediation: Hudson River is no longer a victim but a visionary activist whose understanding of the mysteries of attraction between the dark and the light and the human desire for balance between the opposites celebrated during the equinoxes, in which day and night are equal.

The congruence between image and object reinforced the previous Meditation Mediation performance of the underground avant-garde.  Both performances revalued the primal role of solar and lunar consciousness in human relationship as a passage to the unifying archetype of the hieros gamos, determined by Wolfgang Pauli and C.G. Jung to be the icon of the 21st century.

Indeed, through a new language integrating the political and the emotional expressed so eloquently by Diana Barnes Brown, we welcomed the face of the feminine into the collective consciousness, thereby making this goal of unification not only possible but imminent.


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