The Flower of Stillness

A fragmentary translation of Zeami [世阿弥 元清]’s The Nine Stages of the Noh in Order served as both inspiration and creative headfuck for me during my time in Tokyo. As an outsider to the performance tradition in which it’s founded, The Nine Stages is opaque, yet provocative: the image of the Flower of Stillness — snow piling in a silver bowl — abides with me, and in my work.

  • The Nine Stages of the Noh in Order
    • Higher stages
      1. Flower of the miraculous – transcends power of speech and working of mind due to the yugen of a master actor.
      2. Flower of Supreme Profundity: profound mystery of a landscape.
      3. Flower of Stillness: snow piled in a silver bowl.
    • Middle Stages
      1. Flower of truth: first step toward attaining the flowers.
      2. Art of versatility and exactness: to describe complete the nature of clouds on mountains, &c.
      3. Art of untutored beauty: Learn the Way of Ways by following the usual way. Beginners start at the beginning.
    • Lower Stages
      1. Art of strength and delicacy: will stand up to detailed observation.
      2. The art of strength and crudity: like a tiger cub.
      3. The art of crudity and inexactness: When an art lacks delicacy, it becomes crude and inexact.

Start with Middle, then Upper, then Lower. Middle is the training stage, Upper is the yugen, and Lower is the indulgence of the masters of yugen. Some masters choose never to descend to the Lower.