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Poems of Francis Gurney Okie   

Francis Gurney Okie was a manufacturer of printers' inks in Philadelphia when he wrote a supplier of sandpaper in Minnesota asking for samples of sandpaper that would not tear apart when used under water. The company's name was Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. Okie received a letter from an officer of that company, William McKnight, informing him that the requested product did not exist.

McKnight invited Okie to come to Minnesota and join the research department of what is today known as 3M, one of the world's largest suppliers of tapes and other coated materials. This was in the early 1920s.

Working for 3M, Okie developed a product known as "Wet-or-Dry" sandpaper, which was the company's first big commercial success. (It was, they said, the "acorn" from which a giant corporate "oak" grew.) Another which followed during that period was a product known as "Scotch tape". Wet-or-Dry sandpaper was widely used in manufacturing processes. The ability to sand a metal or wood surface under a stream of running water cut down on dust in the air which, in turn, greatly reduced cases of the lung disease known as silicosis. It gave a major boost to occupational safety.

Francis Okie retired from the company in the 1930s. He spent most of his remaining years writing religious poetry. Until his death in 1975, Okie lived with his family in a large house on White Bear Lake. Each day he would sit at a table with pads of yellow paper testing proposed verses through a mathematical discipline known as Gematria. This is an ancient, mystical equation of numbers with the alphabetic letters in words in the Greek and Hebrew alphabets. Okie's English-language verses each had to add up to a certain number or he would not use them. His particular number was 869 - which matched the numerical count of the line "He that hath understanding" in Revelation 13:18. The author of Revelation had invited persons knowledgeable in gematria to identify the beast .

This practice, which lasted for more than thirty years, began when Francis Okie may have had a mystical vision featuring a fiery cannon ball. It was the period when Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany; he and other powerful figures were sometimes discussed as candidates for the Anti-Christ. That time of troubles passed but Okie continued to work on the numerical verse well into his 90s. He did not use a calculator but counted the numbers in each line by a process of manual addition.

What we have here is, then, the product of a painstaking creative process. These verses are precious jewels which remain of Francis Okie's remarkable life. They were published in a limited edition on the occasion of his son's 50th wedding anniversary.

Here is what the wedding-anniversary guests were given to read:

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A HIGH metaphysical

Millenium is here

And another cycle.

A beginning and end of people

A depopulation

Sudden coming death

and life resurgence

and high recrudescence

In the spirit,

And a being not ourselves

Which is the ancient of days.

 

THE BEING wakes us of a morn

Saying, listen and apprehend

What parable brings to mind

In the language of numbers,

God’s language of symbolism.

 

Here is the Father counting

In the sprit counting

Into consciousness

Articulate apocalypse.

 

Singled out in grace, I AM THAT I AM,

In all time and space and matter hid,

Saith the Lord of Hosts.

 

Pursuing the sky,

Giving names to stars,

I am all in all; I am Alpha and Omega for

I am a beginning and end.

 

BACK THE HOUR is struck

To our pristine era.

From that original dark void

The stimulating sun

Measures the full oceans.

 

Mysterious day

And the mysteries of night alike

Cause the methodic hours.


And the minutes and seconds

Prophetically count

For the day and morrow.


Arithmetic from the clock of ages

And grace notwithstanding,

Compassionately planned.


BACK FROM the sun’s bright beam

Pregnant in her single action

The pale moon wills the tide.


The waves of words

Their music lit within

Disintegrating crests

Articulate their essence

Pouring balm upon us.


Images in crests and trough

Another and another speaks

And to the sky’s refrain

Rising and falling and rising and falling again.


AS ONOMATOPOEIA’S accents

Color the light of the sun

And the bowstring shining

And the keystone of the arch

And the very first man,


Weaving a pattern planned

Threading aeons, ages, years,

In liquid syllables of light

And crystallizing sand,

 

Molding the sapphire throne,

Strewing him stars,

No dearth in guidance hinders long

Earth’s ray inviolate.

 

All this and more at revelation’s hour

Waits upon motion

And alphabetic relativity.

 

By SIX, six, six

In sighs and portents die

Named of a grand cycle of the sky

God’s revelation from on high

Is in language of the stars.

 

The son’s science of phonetic

Is arithmetic in rhythm.

The decibels of sound united,

Aid ghostly strength,

And the esoteric echo of the doom,

Abstraction counts,

Is in language of the stars.

 

WHEN UPON the great circle

The just master bends his universal mathematic

Tendered in that semantics

Whose coaxial scale is light,

Superseding language comes

The spiritual dimension.


CONSIDER THE images of the night,

The mystifying cipher

That begets the hours,

Shining a faith in things to come,

In the tides of the final things,


The light that seeks action,

The need which evokes the law

Reflections from the emblems,

Pulsations of the flood,


Ere time was, I AM, in power.

And has any other made a sky?

 

TIME AND PLACE together and the goal

Mark at the wheel’s full circle

The stars’ grand climacteric

Relating to divine event,

 

Off his scroll of heaven’s book

Who reads by indirection,

Meditating on the stars

How symbols might become

The instruments of grace,

 

Reminiscent of tongues

In memory’s deep concerns,

In a rhythmic alphabet diffused,

From which all languages derive.

 

AS NUMERAL and sacred word

In his belief conjointly spell

The supreme criterion that best defines Jesus,

Long in the sky of Chaldean learning,

Carried from the past to be,

Unto Greek and Hebrew song,

Lingual felicity’s basic key,

 

Line by line and link by link in cipher,

Punctuating light and fire

To the miracle of tongues,

Punctuating spins

The fabric of our counting.

 

THESE WORD GROUPS that run on and on aright

Are numbers and are all alike

Spatially conceived, each and all final,

Under earth and sea and sky,

Under the smitten rock.


IN ALPHABETICAL chains of thought,

A cadence upon the pillar of a cloud,

Comes the same which led Moses,

A testimony old and new

Nourished and kept alive

In a parable faithful and true,

The alphabet wherein a book is hid

Is in language of the stars,

Lighting from Genesis to John

The faith of a consecrated earth,

In characters of clay united

Teaching the earth a knowledge of God.


SHALL NO MAN read the little book

Bearing witness to good,

Nor wake his fatal inner light

Before the holy trump

Gird back the blessing of his sight?

 

Is the loom of language lost?

Read on, thou child of measure.

 

IF YE WOULD read the emblems

If ye would read the dragon

And if you would read the danger,

As feeling a thing before it happens,

Search the high scripture

By the pole star’s light,

Read, through the aid of Gematria

Dream, beside the spring of dove,

And the emblem of the eagle in the sky.

 

And to search history

Take the pen and write from

Motion and an empty space,

Aloof from the world, the echo

Whence comes the Lord Messiah.

 

ERE SAINT or any image speak

Before a wheel with spokes

Spins out the parallel,

Behind the face no man dare see, burns

Earth’s ray inviolate.

 

BY LIGHT A lightning chain is born

From the voice of thunder,

Light from the integer of light

By integrant of motion,


Poised and counterpoised,

Positive kindling negative,

Negative kindling positive,

Fathering the radiant ooze


FOR IN THE good garden of the Lord

A man in robes of light arrayed,

Under the tree of knowledge,

Nature and spirit meet,

And where lake and river join,

Father, Son, and spirit grace

The divine expression.


HERE IN THE fair harmonies of time

And light through ages sifted,

Bides the essential spring,

In stem and leaf and flower,

The divine metronome of hope,

Which is a high immortality,

Thy continuity

Thy living waters.


BY A SPIRIT stirred,

Now is Adam made a living soul

And in the book of life, together

Unto the man and his helpmeet,

Has the Father reared an edifice of light

To measure truth

To measure destiny

And to measure the sun.


MINDING THE NATURE of the Book,

In the hand of the angel serving God,

In John’s great Revelation,

Ever mindful of Boanerges’ aid

And conscious of the dreams

Where through the cipher

He institutes his grace,

Authenticating nature

Into divination’s thread,


Against God’s fervent heat

Objects coupled and inseparable

Echo things burning to be said.


IN HIS STARLIT cosmos

Within his church in Philadelphia,

And to his seven churches

Foremost in their parallel,

John burns the little candle,

Sublime through faith alone,

And reads the seven stars

In the harmonies of spheres.

 

Through a cosmic vista

Rises a mystic church,

A light alight to light she fares,

The silent word reflected,

The silent holy word

Transubstantiate.

 

HE THAT HATH the love of the Lamb

Who draws this parable

In parable he issues forth,

St. John the Divine speaking,

Ideal his melody of silence sings,

Ideal the gateway of the Lord.

 

Gentle John of Patmos ancient,

Blessed aid in quiet waiting,

He knows a language of creation

Of the rhythmics of the Lamb.

 

Here is a door opened and a key

To the miracle of tongues,

A long forgotten wisdom

Once a searchlight of the soul,

 

So in signs and wonders,

John shows the way.

 

IN JOHN’S great Revelation

Is a revelation sealed in cipher,

Cipher is mystery,

The image is mystery

And on the pallid cipher hangs the mind

To clothe in words a demon

Written of the signs.


It is high time in humility

To think with relation

To thy words, John,

Foretelling this darkness

Which besets the Master.


PARTICULARLY STAND

At revelation’s hour,

A Book and a code of bitter taste

And the precept of a golden rule,

The Book of a divine solicitude

Written of the signs.


Searching the heart, this Book

Must needs be rhythmic

Relating things to action

Concordant with a sky.


Presently this Book,

Personalized in the wind,

Waits upon motion

And alphabetical relativity.


HE THAT IS the event of it,

He binds with the bonds of it,

Substance and a blessed form,

To presuppose it

And put it to test

And use it in the parable of the Babe.


And as ye watch and pray

As if while yet ye may

By God’s grace avert night,

Charged with fresh power,

A cause illuminates the Book,

A mean reconciling faith with science.


MY BELOVED SON is right

Saith the Spirit of Light,

Uttermost right,

Than Eden’s time, light, force amplified

Since Him there is none other

Named our Lord and Savior.


WHEN THE QUESTION is

Which is fact and which is fancy

Or when fact and fancy disagree,

Beware the voice of fact

Speaking more than he knows.


What images the mind rejects

A mystic word affirms.


Fancy runs in verse

Counting the word elect

And spins it out a cipher.


What parable brings to mind

The fatal code devours

And spins it out a cipher

In the harmony of spheres.


THE SYMBOLS write

Impromptu, and the emblems

Comprehensive past belief, echo

A voice ye wot not of.


So being, the solar tongue

Spins out the parallel

And tersely tells the man

His prospering way.


WHEN THE PRINCE of Darkness,

In a sky of arc and sine and chord,

Overturns earth

At her point of zero,

Right angles from the meridian and back,

A B C and 1 2 3 make parallel straight lines;

The Prince of the tempest

And the chaos of the tempest

To rhythmic balance tuned.


WE ARE A JOB walking in darkness

While we do walk beside Satan

Drunk with his power,

Babel reiterates the past.


Counting the paradise lost

Thou seest the beast,

The creature of an evil mark

Coming a thousand years

In decadence to desecrate the earth.


The dragon is a hunter of men,

The black angel of destruction

Encompasses the great earth

In the apocalypse of war.


HELL SHAKES the earth today

With repercussion;

From the voice of thunder

Caesar makes hideous the night

Lucifer tilts the skies.


Apollyon is put aside

And he grieves in the abyss

Sunk where his love is.

“ In the Hebrew tongue Abaddon,

Apollyon turns again.”


IN THE PRINCE of the Lemming people

Vengeance takes his turn.

The Prince of the tempest,

The Prince, epitome of evils,

A counterfeit of Jesus,

Minted in coin of dross, abominable,

Contemporary now,

Vies against the world.


In his fatal footprints

“As breath to each other,”

Says a scripture,

The second beast follows.


WICKED IN THE ARENA of the sky

In the eye of Taurus,

Thou seest a beast

Kindling the great red star.


A demon the same of a different name,

A name and a killer with a sword

Shake men’s foundations.


For it is the iron messiah

The enigma of authority,

Master for a little while,


And the bear that walks as a man,

And the red star of the dragon

Of the dance of destruction,

Written of the signs.


HE THAT HATH understanding,

He sees the die in his own forehead,

The creature of an evil self.


He sees the great red star

The scythe of the reaper,

The horns of the bull.


Bitter to take is death’s

Self-made divinity of war.


ABIDE THOU READER of the signs!

Blessed is he who readeth to

Disclose the false prophet.


Blessed is he that waiteth

By the faith in the vision

To amplify the saints;

Thy vision is Earth.


A part of us we sing,

The while another weeps.


WHEN SUBVERSIONS

Multiply power and

Their course is run

Awhile unaccountable to God,


In a finger writing in the sand,

A Babel written on the wall

Like image patterns in the sand,

He spells them out to die

And a pattern in the sand is all.


HE THAT HATH understanding,

After the earthquake’s menace

While again the earth trembles,


Let him read by his spirit

So as before God let him find his ark,

His spirit ark of saving,

In the still, small voice in man.

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These verses were complied by Helen M. White two years before Francis Okie’s death in 1975. The poet’s grandchildren - Martha Elizabeth Okie, Jesse Shuman Okie, and Susan Rogers Okie Bush - published them in a short booklet in July 1990 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the marriage of their parents, Richardson B. Okie and Susan Mary Shuman Okie, and also in memory of their late brother Francis Gurney Okie III.

Helen White wrote: “ Francis G. Okie’s poems are written in cipher, in a language of numbers, a “solar tongue,” a “universal mathematic.” Ninety-three-year-old Okie, the inventor of wet and dry sandpaper that provided the key to success for a modern, world-wide corporation, retired in middle age, and for more than thirty years has searched for a core of meaning in the Bible. The mystical poems here presented have been selected from thousands of lines he created during his quest.”

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On My Father’s Lines

by Richardson B. Okie


I shall try to convey my father’s way of looking at these lines which he calls his homework, and how he happened to begin writing them.

It became apparent during he 1930s, with the rise of Adolph Hitler and his hateful philosophies of force and race, that something akin to a personification of evil was loosed upon the world. Mankind had best look to itself. Reading the Revelation of John, and long interested in biblical writings and commentary, my father realized that St. John, writing in his latter days of the conflict of good and evil, gave warning of personified evil operating in his time. He uttered an eloquent plea for men to follow the better way laid open to them in the Gospels. However, St. John foresaw future great surges of the evil principle, and sought to forewarn and arm men against it.

In Revelation, the 13th chapter, verse 18 seemed most specific:

“Here is wisdom.

He that hath understanding,

Let him count the number of the beast;

For it is the number of a man;

And his number is six hundred and sixty and six.”

The quotation is from the American Standard Edition (Thomas Nelson & sons, 1901)

When St. John wrote, in the Greek language of his time, it had long been understood that the “number” of a man’s name was determined by adding the numerical values of the letters comprising it. The Greeks used their alphabet as a numerical system (since arabic numbers were not yet invented). Thus alpha was 1, beta was 2, gamma, 3, and so on, but after kappa, 10, one skipped by tens to the end of the alphabet. So each name had a number, determined by adding up the “count” of its letters.

In St. John’s time, under the Emperor Nero, the first official persecution of the Christians began. Many thought that he, in some combination of his numerous Latin names, was the “beast” of Revelations.

A famous example of this same reasoning occurs in Tolstoi’s War and Peace, where Pierre and his friends speculate similarly in finding that the words, “L’empereur Napoleon” add up to the count of 666, making Napoleon another candidate for beasthood. With Hitler starting his career of conquests, my father was much impressed by War and Peace.

St. John, for reasons of danger during the persecution of the Christians, had cause to use a numerical code My father thought, also, that the use of a language of numbers gave the message a timelessness necessary to take it down through the ages.

Gematria is defined by The New Encyclopaedia Britannica as “the substitution of numbers for letters of the Hebrew alphabet, a favourite method of exegesis used by medieval Kabbalists to derive mystical insights into sacred writings or obtain new interpretations of the texts.” According to the O.E.D there is no clear evidence of gematria before the Philo or Christian writers of the first century, A.D. (e.g., Rev. xiii, 18) The “language of numbers,” however, was given great weight in the ancient world. The philosopher Pythagoras, who gave the world the Pythagorean Theorem of plane geometry, had solemnly declared, “all things are numbers.” Modern science finds that the different forms of matter are different only in the numerical relationships of the positively and negatively charged ions of which the atomic elements are composed.

On a higher level, number and rhythm are inherent in mankind’s most deeply felt poetic utterances. Is there not, then, some deep relationship as yet scarcely understood, between number and thought? If so, it must exist also in languages other than Hebrew or Greek.

Applying to the English language the numerical values of letters as was customary in Greek, one gets the following:

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I-J *
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
110
V
W
X
Y
Z
120
130
140
150
160

* Linguistically J is considered the consonant of I, the two being basically the same letter.


Using these letter-values to determine the count of the Revelations line “He that hath understanding,” one arrives at the sum of 869. The introductory line, “Here is wisdom,” counts 510. My father uses this count in the first introductory poem in this series.

A count can of course be established for each of the lines, but long reflection convinced my father that the essential ingredient for absorbing St. John’s message, and for living wisely in the present and future, is the “understanding” of which we all have need.

He therefore took as his key the line, “He that hath understanding.” And he set himself to create lines having the same count of 869, in faith that the necessary discipline, selectivity, and care, and the rhythms inherent in the count, would lead him to lines having beauty and significance.

No one need accept his theory of the infallibility of the language of numbers, but it will be perceived that the lines filtered lovingly through this medium are capable of speaking for themselves.


Richardson B. Okie

March, 1973

 

See: Personal Recollections of Francis G. Okie by William McGaughey (with additions and corrections by Jesse Okie and comments by Tim White)

 



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