Feb 02 2010

The Celestial Drink 4: Fermentation

Published by at 10:46 am under Celestial Drink,Poetry

/ Photo by tibchris /

We’ve talked about the winepress and juice, but juice alone doesn’t make men drunk. It must be fermented…

I drink no ordinary wine,
but Wine of Everlasting Bliss,
As I repeat my Mother Kali’s name;
It so intoxicates my mind that people take me to be drunk!
First my guru gives molasses for the making of the Wine;
My longing is the ferment to transform it.
Knowledge, the maker of the Wine,
prepares it for me then;
And when it is done,
my mind imbibes it from the bottle of the mantra,
Taking the Mother’s name to make it pure.
Drink of this Wine, says Ramprasad,
and the four fruits of life are yours.

– Ramprasad Sen (1718? – 1775?)

Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar
by Elizabeth U. Harding

In Ramprasad’s song of “no ordinary wine,” the “molasses” is the sweetening agent that feeds the fermentation process. It is the initiating element that readies us internally for the process of deeper awakening.

His intense desire or longing for God, here as Kali, the Divine Mother, “ferments” that energy, causing this sacred brew to bubble and expand, giving it a vitality of its own. Fermentation is the inner quickening.

“Drink of this Wine, says Ramprasad” — indeed, we should!

Fermentation and the Christian Tradition

We often think of the great sacred wine songs as coming from the Sufi poets, but I want to take a moment to point out that the Celestial Drink is universal and is described in all of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions.

The divine liquid appears in many forms throughout Christian sacred tradition, as wine, blood, oil, water…

John of the Cross, John of the Cross poetry, Christian poetry John of the Cross

Spain (1542 – 1591) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

The Fountain

How well I know that flowing spring
      in black of night.

The eternal fountain is unseen.
How well I know where she has been
      in black of night.

I do not know her origin.
None. Yet in her all things begin
      in black of night.

I know that nothing is so fair
and earth and firmament drink there
      in black of night.

I know that none can wade inside
to find her bright bottomless tide
      in black of night.

Her shining never has a blur;
I know that all light comes from her
      in black of night.

I know her streams converge and swell
and nourish people, skies and hell
      in black of night.

The stream whose birth is in this source
I know has a gigantic force
      in black of night.

The stream from but these two proceeds
yet neither one, I know, precedes
      in black of night.

The eternal fountain is unseen
in living bread that gives us being
      in black of night.

She calls on all mankind to start
to drink her water, though in dark,
      for black is night.

O living fountain that I crave,
in bread of life I see her flame
      in black of night.

– John of the Cross (1542 – 1591)

To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light
Translated by Willis Barnstone

/ Photo by AngelsWings/linhtinh /

The Celestial Drink is referred to in too many ways within Christian tradition for us to explore them all here. Instead, let’s look at a gospel story that particularly relates to fermentation, the Marriage of Cana…

It is at the Marriage of Cana that Christ performs his first miracle, turning water into wine. Why is this his first miracle? And why does it take place at a wedding feast? These are important questions for the Christian mystic.


      O nectar! O delicious stream!
O ravishing and only pleasure! Where
      Shall such another theme
Inspire my tongue with joys or please mine ear!
      Abridgement of delights!
      And Queen of sights!
O mine of rarities! O Kingdom wide!
O more! O cause of all! O glorious Bride!
      O God! O Bride of God! O King!
      O soul and crown of everything!

      Did not I covet to behold
Some endless monarch, that did always live
      In palaces of gold,
Willing all kingdoms, realms, and crowns to give
      Unto my soul! Whose love
      A spring might prove
Of endless glories, honours, friendships, pleasures,
Joys, praises, beauties and celestial treasures!
      Lo, now I see there’s such a King.
      The fountain-head of everything!

      Did my ambition ever dream
Of such a Lord, of such a love! Did I
      Expect so sweet a stream
As this at any time! Could any eye
      Believe it? Why all power
      Is used here;
Joys down from Heaven on my head do shower,
And Jove beyond the fiction doth appear
      Once more in golden rain to come

      To Danae’s pleasing fruitful womb.
      His Ganymede! His life! His joy!
Or He comes down to me, or takes me up
      That I might be His boy,
And fill, and taste, and give, and drink the cup.
      But those (tho’ great) are all
      Too short and small,
Too weak and feeble pictures to express
The true mysterious depths of Blessedness.
      I am His image, and His friend,
      His son, bride, glory, temple, end.

– Thomas Traherne (1636? – 1674)

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty
Edited by Alan Jacobs

The reason Christ turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony is because, esoterically, the wine is the marriage. The wine is the marriage of water and fire. It is the water transformed by fire into something wholly new.

The water here is the psyche, the soul, the individual awareness. At the marriage, the water is the bride. Just as a bride prepares herself on her wedding day, the water is prepared for the miracle by allowing it to grow deeply still, with no ripples upon its surface. Through love and yearning, through the thirst for life, the psyche has become pure, “virginal,” and ready for marriage.

Clare of Assisi, Clare of Assisi poetry, Christian poetry Clare of Assisi

Italy (1193? – 1254) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

Draw me after You!
We will run in the fragrance of Your perfumes,
      O heavenly Spouse!
I will run and not tire,
      until You bring me into the wine-cellar,
      until Your left hand is under my head
      and Your right hand will embrace me happily
      and You will kiss me with the happiest kiss of Your mouth.

– Clare of Assisi (1193? – 1254)

Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality
Translated by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP / Translated by Ignatius C. Brady, OFM

And what is the fire that is wedded to the water? The fire is the fermentation. As I pointed out, neither water nor juice alone make men drunk. You need the fermentation. You need the hidden alchemical work of the bacteria. You need life! Wine is alive, and it is the fermentation process that infuses it with life.

Fermentation is the working of spiritual practice until the psyche sparks into life. It is the impregnating of the awareness with new life. That life-giving spark, that quickening fire is the Bridegroom.

When the still water is lit up by that initiating fire or fermentation, the heavenly night sky is reflected upon its calm face. When the mind is utterly still and lit with the fire of illumination, then the awareness reflects the heavenly expanse — and you find yourself imbibing the Celestial Drink! You find that the water of the normal psyche has been miraculously transformed into the glowing, life-filled marriage wine!

Symeon the New Theologian, Symeon the New Theologian poetry, Christian poetry Symeon the New Theologian

Turkey (949 – 1032) Timeline
Christian : Eastern Orthodox

This is the gift you have given me, my God:
that this mortal and shabby frame
has become one with your immaculate body
and that my blood has mingled
with your blood.
I know, too,
that I have been made one with your divinity
and have become your own most pure body,
a brilliant member, transparently lucid,
luminous and holy.
I see the beauty of it all, I can gaze on the radiance.
I have become a reflection of the light of your grace.

– Symeon the New Theologian (949 – 1032)

The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives
Translated by John Anthony McGuckin

/ Photo by Elizabeth Haslam /

To make wine we need the still water of quiet awareness, and then we must reflect the light and life that is fermentation. To discover the Celestial Drink requires stillness, readiness, clarity, and finally the initiating spark that comes from spiritual practice.

Feeling a little tipsy yet?

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “The Celestial Drink 4: Fermentation”

  1. artemison 02 Feb 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I never though of sacrmental wine in this context..fermentation. Thanks for your research…

  2. leilaon 02 Feb 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Wow!! Ivan……i think this was my reply for my comment…:D…realy great..thanks…ya it was used by diffrent ways by diffrent people…who all feel same “real”…..
    I was reading about art theories some weeks ago…
    so i came to know that all these symbols and secrets first was in old time before philosophy was born by Socrates and plato,time of mythos i think,when still humen didn’t become apart to 2 sides, specialy by plato!!..and later all religions….
    And the root came from “Dionysus”, god of wine and dance in old greek , same Bacchus in roman mythology! and their spritual way was that during a cermony or process with dancing and using wine as symbol,in a mistycal absorbation they became one with god or nature or anything we can call it…
    It was so interesting for me!..so many people like Pythagoras,also was follower of this way…and through him it reached to others somehow and later to Christianity….
    it is so interesting …coz then i thought in all history looks like it became like a fight between 2 theory, 1:religious view ( thinking 2 sides or 2 poles always,good and bad and so on,looking for God in heaven or sky!..)…and 2: spritual view( think all as ONE,and God here between us in our heart,inside&ourself!)
    I guess in old time people were aware of it very well!!..they knew the “secret”!!then after philosophy and religions we forget about all,:(…something very easy …i think all children felt it anyhow, when we was ONE with ourself….so all sptitual teachers try just to make us to go back these long way!…to just became child again…to make us aware of the duality we r living in,in unreal world of mind we r living in….
    So that is the key they have gave us,forget about all theoris! about all good and bad..all names….become empty….then what they have talked about love and oneness and secret maybe will come to us by itslef…will reflect in our heart…
    God!! i just forget the time!!sorry i have talked alot….i don’t now if i am right or wrong about my undrestanding…
    thank you Ivan….

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