Dialogue 1: A Unified Field of Mind and Matter

November 15, 2010

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[Steven and I talked in the preceding dialogue about investigative journalist Lynn McTaggart’s The Field. I’m interested her contention that there is a way to reconcile mind with matter, a way to connect classic Newtonian science with quantum physics and somehow to connect science with religion. Her book centers on the “dead space” of microscopic vibrations in outer space as well as within and between physical objects on Earth. She describes these fields as “a cobweb of energy exchange” that links everything in the universe, from cellular communication to the workings of the mind. So, in this dialogue, we explore implications of that unifiying field that underpins perceived reality. That’s all tied up with realms of gold and we talk a lot about how seers of all ages use gold imagery. ]

Two Distinct Realities

Two realities
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Steven Herrmann: From what I’ve read so far in Lynne McTaggart’s book it seems to me that the search connects physics, for example, with psychic phenomena. As you know, she cites the view Indians living in the Amazon River basin, that a dream doesn’t belong to a dreamer alone but to the tribe as a whole, and that such dreams can be a foreshadowing of what’s going to happen that day in connection to the ancestors of the tribe and the cosmos. One way into a discussion might be, not to enter into it intellectually though linear left-brain thinking, but experientially, by actually shutting down left brain activity and then paying close attention to right brain and lower brainstem activity, and making liberal use of the imagery and feelings that spring from there.

Clark McKowen: Yes, I would say if someone wants to “get it”—I’d put it that way—to catch on to what we’re talking about, you cannot do it in the left brain. You absolutely cannot do it in the left brain.

The Therapy of Discussing Dreams Over Breakfast

H: We could begin by my telling you a dream I had and see where our reflections lead. McTaggart describes how Amazon Indians assimilate their dreams into the collective consciousness of the tribe. Dreams are part of the fabric of their lives. Every morning everyone awakens before dawn to gather together, and as the world explodes into light, they share their dreams. The dream is owned, they say, by the tribe, and the individual dreamer is seen as a vessel the dream decided to borrow so that it could have a dialogue with the whole tribe.

M: OK. Let’s have a look at your dream. I’m pretty sure our American culture would be a lot healthier if we made a practice of discussing our dreams over breakfast every day. Years ago I included an article in my book Image about how the Senoi people of the highlands of the Malay Peninsula assured their kids that everything that appears in their dreams is filled up with their own Spirit or force and that they can learn to take charge of that force and use it toward their own well-being and the well-being of the Senoi people as well. They often brought back from their dreams practical ideas and inventions for the tribe! In their society every dream is a good dream. I’m sure, once we begin talking about your dream it will be a good dream, too. As you know, the way we explore dreams is the key to their value.

Our American culture would be a lot healthier if we made a pracice of discussing our dreams over breakfast every day.

H: I’ve already noticed connections with The Field and our discussion of American poetry – and poetry in general and language and teaching, too.

M: I love what can be found in dreams. Let’s do yours now.

H: This dream came to me back in May of 1997. It’s a dream where I was with a woman colleague of mine. We were at the cave in Lascaux in France. We entered the cave’s dark opening with modern battery-illuminated flashlights and descended down to where the famous cave paintings were. We looked up and could see them there with their beautiful colors and their spectacular imagery. Then I saw a chamber path that looked like it was going down and down. We followed that trail downwards and entered through a little hole in the ground and went down farther into an underground cavity where there were many more paintings that anthropologists of the twentieth century had not discovered. I shined my flashlight on the wall, and there was a magnificent shaman-figure who was painted as a star that had exploded with light, and he was a light being. I wondered, in the dream, how in the world the ancient shamans in those caves could have possibly painted those beautiful images down there, in such a black hole, when all they had was fire. I thought at that dream moment there must have been a light beam, a shaman figure with light radiating from his body—like the pulsating, electromagnetic field—illuminating the cave so that the artist-shamans could paint this portrait, and this painted shaman figure was illuminating a background where the panoply of images could be seen of the animals and other shaman figures. He was the central figure depicted as a pulsating star—like this idea of pulsating energy that forms the healing field.

So then, when I was shining my light in the dream on the master shaman’s light, I had this electromagnetic, ecstatic feeling, and when my woman companion and I exited the cave together and got to the opening, I had this sudden transformed feeling. It was right at the point where I was beginning the chapter that became my first manuscript on Walt Whitman that I had this dream.

As I said, that was in May of 1997, close to fourteen years ago. I see that dream as a transcultural dream, or a collective archetypal dream, as a way to illuminate the idea that we’ve been discussing in our dialogue. So what are your thoughts about it?

M: What you’ve described is a really profound dream. It may be a fundamental dream that could apply to anyone. If you were to write it down and look at the language you used to describe it— “I shined my light,” “I went down through a hole.., a black hole,” “when all they had was fire.” It seems that people are always going through the looking glass or down the rabbit hole and coming out in a place like you just described. But I think in a number of ways, it’s very accurate physically. It’s metaphoric, but it’s also the way energy works. You were saying earlier how some people can just walk into a room and you can sense that they have this powerful magnetism or radiation that affects everybody in the room immediately. We’re  always hearing about such people. Whenever they come along that force is noticed by everybody else in the room.

Pulsating Frequencies in Quantum Physics and Rock Concerts

So I think that if you take what you just told me and print it out, it has all the metaphors of how this sort of thing works. You know, you were talking about Whitman earlier, about his use of the word “whirling” in some of his verses. Well, you know about the whirling dervishes—the same imagery. Rumi, the 13th century poet of the middle-east, was a whirling dervish. Maybe that’s what the kids these days are doing, too, at their concerts. We do know there’s a kind of energy that flows between the performers and the audience that when it works right is very much like what’s described as pulsating frequencies in quantum physics. The whole idea of that kind of concert, and in symphonic concerts, too, is to tap into a vibration that electrifies each person and the entire gathering as well.

The other day I was matting some pictures in my garage with the door open and the people next door were in their adjoining garage with their young peoples’ music going—not too loudly, really—and I was thinking, “I don’t really like that music.” What was annoying me was the repetitiveness, its monotony. But I suspect that’s exactly part of its appeal for them. It tunes them into a frequency, a vibration mode they begin to experience in their own bodies. I choose to avoid that, but I think that’s exactly a major part of the appeal. I choose not to like it, but I know what they’re up to, and I understand it.

Because a Fire Was in My Head

H: We’ve talked before about different metaphors that have spoken to both of us, for example, that poem of Yeats about wandering Aengus…

M: “The Song of Wandering Aengus.”

H: “I went out to the hazel wood / Because a fire was in my head…” What do you think about that poem with regard to “the field”? What’s going on with Yeats when he describes it that way?

M: Here’s the whole poem:

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He’s describing what we just talked about. It’s metaphoric, but it’s damned close to a literal description of the field. How does he say it?

And pluck till time and times are done The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

Till time and times are done…he’s so imagistic. A colleague of mine at Diablo Valley College, Karl Staubach, used to do a couple of poems in his classes at Christmas time—I used to bring my classes for that—and one was by Yeats, “The Magi,” and one by T. S. Eliot, “Journey of the Magi.” Yeats is all image, no left-brain glossing of what he “meant.” Eliot, though, does provide some left-brain information. I think Yeats is more a pure poet, because we don’t “get it” unless we allow ourselves to experience it directly—in the mammalian brain, the spiritual brain. We have to get into that level. That is not a left-brain process. It’s more like what the kids are doing with their music….

A Resonating Force Field Behind the Grain of the Voice

I was looking at the title of a book yesterday, just the title, The Grain of the Voice by Roland Barthes–the grain of the voice. For example, maybe I say, “I’m going to speak today,” and I think, well, those words are the message. Behind that, though, is the resonating force field—quite literally, that’s physics—that affects the vocal chords and goes back further. And if you really listen to the grain of the voice, you’re listening to Clark McKowen and not just words. So if you want to know what I’m talking about, you have to go that far, you have to listen to it all.

H: I want to ask you—in fact, you read my mind—speaking of the field, it’s interesting how the question that was forming in my mind you were already responding to. It had to do with the title of your book, Realms of Gold. I wanted to ask you about how that metaphor as the title for your book came together with regard to this “field” notion we are exploring.

From Animal Intelligence to The Realms of Gold

M: I had told you the book was going to be about animal intelligence. Actually, it started out being a book about a pet resort and about dogs, but as I got into it, well, of course I needed to put it all in context, hence, animal intelligence. The reason the project went from animal intelligence to realms of gold is what you said earlier about it evolving, because animal intelligence was not deep enough; it’s too superficial— although, even so, when you think about animal intelligence, all the senses in which you and I talk about imagery and language, and so forth, those things are always in the back of my mind. So I would have had to expand the subject anyway. I would have had to set it in that broader context of energy and light. In order to do that, I would have had to expand it and end up with realms of gold, because realms of gold are what you and I are talking about both imagisticly and physically. The realms of gold—the Zero Point Field—is what’s ignored in everyday life in America. Well, I suppose just about everywhere!

H: Can you say more about the metaphor of “realms of gold”—how you got to that?

The Intelligence Ocean

M: Well, when I was thinking about animal intelligence, I was thinking, “Oh, yeah. intelligence, that’s a pretty big pot. What does that mean? How does that fit into sub-atomic physics?” Because we are all part of that; that’s what we are; a dog and I, for example, we’re both the same stuff, atomic energy. So how does that work? I began to wonder about that.

There’s got to be an encompassing ocean that we’re in, I thought. Am I on that ocean, or am I in it—or am I “it”? Then at some point I came to the idea “Oh, I am the ocean.” That’s not an egotistic thing; that’s just how it works. Every particle of the ocean is the center of the ocean, and all the particles are so infinitesimally small from one perspective and so infinitely large from another perspective, going back and forth from various viewpoints. It had to be something like a big ocean, a big sea. Everything that’s going on in this intelligence package is part of the sea of intelligence. That’s what it all is; all the variations we look at are merely images of the intelligence package, infinitely varied. So if you look at any particle of it, your head should explode, like the painting of your dream shaman in the depths of that Cave. The great poets have tapped into it in such a way that they can not only survive but illuminate us with light…

H: So tell me some more about “the realms of gold.” What poem does that come from?

M: That’s from John Keats’s poem, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” and it goes:

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The Weight of Words

When he says, “Much have I traveled in the realms of gold,” he means that literally. When he’s talking about realms of gold, he’s talking about the poetic experience. When I thought back over innumerable great thinkers and seers, they’re always using the word “gold,” which is light, which is what you were talking about in your dream earlier, this brilliance. And people like Keats would glimpse that and then they would write down that experience. And I think, as much as everyone appreciates his craftsmanship, his artistry, and so forth, and think, well, isn’t that a beautiful poem, I would say, no, it’s not a beautiful poem; he’s transcribed that-which-is. He’s giving you the most accurate picture of what’s going on that you can possibly get.

People take it as a “poem,” which I take as an insult. [Laughs.] It’s an insult because if it’s a “poem,” they dismiss it. A good poet is as hard headed and any scientist. They’re not trying to be pretty or “poetic.” It’s got to have a basis in fact. Actually, what it’s giving you is the basis of everything. He’s saying, “Here it is. Look.” When they say, “Oh, it’s a lovely poem,” you want to just say: “Wake up!”

H: So that’s an example of a poem by Keats where he’s saying he’s actually visited the realms of gold. That’s a beautiful description of a process in mythopoetic imagination. Let me take another poem of Yeats where he’s sailing to Byzantium, going into that golden realm via poetry, to be such a thing as “Grecian goldsmiths make … Or set upon a golden bough to sing / To lords and ladies of Byzantium / Of what is past, or passing, or to come.”

M: That imagery is so good that readers sometimes miss it. It has to be taken seriously, literally.

A radiant energy that finds its way into verse

H: Yes, metaphors awaken this field, right now as we’re talking. A metaphor can take a person into the realms of gold that exist inside of us and outside of us in the ZPF, as a sort of radiating energy that may find its way into verse.

M: Yes, that’s why we have to do it by way of images. I used to listen to academics sitting on panels, talking in nice, abstract left-brain language. But that’s not very effective. You have to come at things from this imagistic level if you want it to work. Remember what Whitman did when he listened to the learned astronomer? He hurried out and looked at the stars! [Laughs.]

H: Yes, of course I remember that, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” Whitman is sitting in a lecture room listening to the astronomer’s lecture where the unified cosmos is broken down into “columns” in a left-brain kind of a way that divides, adds, and theorizes about the universe in a scientific manner that makes the poet feel tired and sick. Whitman then leaves the lecture-room and glides out alone into the “Mystical moist night-air” and looks up peacefully at the “silence of the stars.” This has a healing effect upon him. Star-gazing was a mystical experience for Whitman, a way to heal himself from the illness of the Civil War.

Whatever Scalps Us

You could say that that poem is exactly what McTaggart is trying to convey in her book: The quest for the secret force of the universe turns out to be a search, through poetry in this instance, for the origins of our sense of cosmic unity. As a poet-shaman Whitman uses the metaphor of the silence of the stars as a way to put readers in accord with the quiet sense of peace that precedes speech. So when you talk about these metaphors of Keats or the one of Yeats that I referred to, there’s a certain numinous feeling that we get when we read them. Emily Dickinson perhaps describes it better than anybody when she says, “If I physically feel as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” I suppose that’s what the gold is. It’s whatever it is that scalps us! Whatever verse can take the top of our heads off so that we are out of our left brain linear mode of thinking and are open to the unity of the cosmos and the secret force of the universe; that is what real poetry is. One can only know what it is by feeling it experientially.

The Poem as Ice Ax

M: Scalps us–that’s a good expression. It’s like Kafka’s axe that has to chop through the conceptual ice of the known. Frost said you have to take an immortal wound from which you’ll never recover. That’s what it’s supposed to do. Talking technically and theoretically may have

its place, but no one should think that that’s all there is to it. That doesn’t get it at all. It may point to the place we need to go, but it’s only a map. I don’t know of any great physicist who doesn’t go down into the poetic level.

H: Let me ask another question. You talked earlier before we started to record about the Zero Point Field. You said we need mathematics to really understand it. Ten to the fortieth power in terms of how much energy is in this Field—I can’t even begin to comprehend forty zeros after 10, much less as an exponent.

M: I’d better take that back. I shouldn’t say it quite like that, because even though the mathematics could lead you to that place, you would still have to go there poetically. The great seers and the great philosophers did get to it without the math. And that’s what it’s all about. But I think if we want the human race to be able to talk about what’s going on, then we need to be able to talk about it in quantum terms, too. We need to be able to find language that will convey that.

Zero at the Bone

H: So let me give you another metaphor from Emily Dickinson to contemplate. This is a magnificent poem in terms of animal intelligence speaking to her directly through a metaphor. It’s called “Snake,” where she says,

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H:“at Noon.” So there’s this idea of the Zenith…

M: Oh, yes, that’s right.

H: There’s the sun, the gold. The realms of gold are right above, and she says at the end in the very last line of the poem, “But never met this Fellow, / Attended or alone / Without a tighter breathing /And Zero at the Bone—“Zero with a capital Z! When she talks about this zero at the bone, what do you think she might be saying about the Zero Point Field?

M: I think she’s got it. I hadn’t caught that before, not in connection with quantum physics. But we know she doesn’t use words casually. So, like Keats, she means exactly what she’s saying. We’ve talked about going down into the quantum field, going down into a vacuum by reducing temperature as near absolute zero as you can possibly get it. It’s at that level that information is in flux and can be manipulated. She took it down that far. At one level she’s exploding, and at the other level she’s down to zero! She has both fundamental images right there. Well, well!

What we have here is an encapsulation of what we’ve been discussing. If a reader captures that—as I did not—he or she’s got it! I wasn’t taking her as literally as she clearly wanted to be taken. Well, maybe not necessarily as she wanted a reader to take it but as she wrote it.

Publication Is the Auction of the Mind of Man

H: Now let’s back up… She starts with “Snake” and ends up with the Zero Point Field. I see the type of thinking Dickinson does so superbly in “Snake” as animal intelligence; thinking out of the reptilian brain. Dickinson enters the field of her vocation—poetry—and finds herself in a stand-off with editors and publishers who try to change the structure of her line, her syntax, her punctuation and the integrity of her poetic style, with its marvelous use of dashes, over this sixth of her seven published poems. I find it ironic that the quarrel she engaged in in one of her letters was over “Snake.” The poem was written in 1865, the same year Whitman published “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” By the time “Snake” was published in TheSpringfield Republican, on Valentine’s Day in 1866, she had already decided publication was “the auction of the mind of man.”

M: What a way with words! Beautiful.

H: Dickinson, being a wild force—a “force of Nature”—would have none of the judgments of patriarchal thinking about language, where women’s natural voices, their natural intelligence, was oppressed. Seven poems in her lifetime out of 1775! Such a supreme gift for elocution, for language-creation, for symbolic thinking; to silence such a natural gift for poetry in her lifetime, is atrocious. Her rebellion was very American; her revolution through language against the forces of oppression in a male-dominated society goes back to the American revolution of 1776. She was, like Whitman and Herman Melville, a fierce rebel for liberty.

She would not submit to external patriarchal authority. Dickinson’s penetration to the Zero Point Field in her breakthrough moments is stunning. By touching “tap-root” in the Zero Point Field, Dickinson transcends the space-time barrier, to perceive the operation of the shamanic archetype in its eternal nature. Such transcendent moments shaped her life and prepared her soul for its transit to the Beyond. [Clark chuckles.] So what’s the connection between animal intelligence and the realms of gold?

M: Well, it’s obvious that how it works for me is that paying attention to any animal drives me right back to these connections, keeps pushing me toward the Zero Point Field. So, any time you pay attention to a rock, really pay attention to anything, it takes you right back to the field of everything, and you find yourself saying, “Oh, my God! Here we are participating in this remarkable sharing of information, sharing of this-ness. Quite amazing.

Creation Spirituality

H: You mentioned earlier that you feel that all of the great seers and religious teachers, the spiritual teachers, have somehow had access to this sea of intelligence in the Zero Point Field. I’m thinking about my dream. I’m having a dialogue right now with the post-denominational priest Matthew Fox. We’re talking right now about the coincidence of his having been in Paris for his Dominican studies, and studying under a man named Père Chenu. Chenu was a theologian. From Father Chenu Fox got the term “creation spirituality.” What he’s doing is connecting Christian theology to all the religions, showing how there is a post-denominational side to Catholicism. He’s an Anglican priest now. The connections he’s making to all the religions are pointing in one direction, namely what Whitman called Spiritual Democracy. Where he sees Christ in everything, my dream is suggesting in a parallel way that the shaman who first receives the secret light of the Universe may be tapping into the “origin of all poems” that Whitman talks about in “Song of Myself”: “Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems, you shall possess the good of the Earth and the sun, (there are millions of suns left).” You see how he gets the millions of suns into those two lines? That is the secret force we are searching for through language: the origins of those golden orbs that make up the myriad galaxies of universal light. “The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.” Whitman says it beautifully. Of course, Buddha attained it. So did Rumi, Confucius, Lao Tzu—all these great Hindu, Sufi, and Chinese sages and mystics of the whole world. But in terms of the evolution of consciousness, we’re looking at the sea of intelligence in evolutionary terms. The first significant personages to incarnate this energy, the pulsating star force that filled the shaman-figure with exploding light in my dream; it’s interesting in talking to you about your book, that the great poets, they also had their animal allies. The same was true down there in the center of the unexplored cave. At the center was the shaman and the animals were all around him, illuminated by the light emanating from his body.

M: Oh, yes!

Envoys of the Great Spirit

H: And the Animal Powers that Joseph Campbell talked about in his Historical Atlas of World Mythology were really envoys, as Campbell terms them, of the Great Spirit. So what do you think about this idea that the shamans were the forerunners of the first poets, the great poets we’ve been looking at, Yeats, Keats, and the American poets as well, Whitman, Melville, and Dickinson, and of course Robinson Jeffers and William Everson in the twentieth century?

Millions of Suns, Billions of Galaxies

M: When you think of human beings in their evolution, it seems pretty obvious that they had this sense of the cosmic whole that we’ve been talking about. And certain of them, like Christ, like Buddha, went further and said, “Yes, there’s something going on here, and I’m willing to go look at it.” And they would allow themselves, like Emily Dickinson, to go into it that deeply. People in general had a sense of this too: that something unbelievable was going on.

They cherished and honored the shamans because they were providing them with their spiritual information, giving them ways to access what they sensed was going on. So, yes, I would say those earliest shamans were the poets of their day. What we have, then, as we go forward in time are people who represent that same thing. Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, were all shamans. They went off somewhere and sat long enough to get the feel of it and came back and told people about it, and people thought, “Yeah, that sounds pretty good.” Of course, we can screw it up royally, too. I was thinking of my granddaughter and her dad going to the Vatican not long ago, and I said to Dave, “What do you think the guy who started all that would think of the Vatican?” He said, “He would have torn it all down.” They’ve got untold wealth stored up there, vaults full of priceless art and gold. And there’s Benedict in his Gucci shoes and gorgeous robes. Can you imagine this?! Christ probably wouldn’t be allowed in with his sandals and simple garments.

[Actually, they weren’t Gucci shoes. But, then, they weren’t sandals either.]

H: [Laughs.] Certainly the poetry of Christ would be lost, if he had wandered in there in His sandals with the priceless art and gold and He had laid his eyes on the Pope in his Gucci shoesHis connection to the light of the first shaman in the Cave would have been cut off from the origin of all poetry, which is the Light not merely of millions of suns but what we now know to be billions of galaxies.

Let’s get back to that, the Field, because that’s what we’re really talking about.

M: I can’t talk about the ZPF beyond the surface features. I think McTaggart has done a good journalistic job of finding some information that bears on what you and I are talking about. There are plenty of people who would find fault with what she’s saying, but I think only because they haven’t listened carefully. I think she does know what she’s talking about, and her implications are pretty likely. I don’t think there’s anything in The Field that runs counter to what you and I talk about in the poetic or philosophic level or what physicists have said when they describe quantum mechanics with a general audience. So I think it does give us an underpinning to work back and forth from where we began to where we are now. As for me, I keep zipping back and forth between Zero at the Bone and the top of your head coming off.

H: Yes, you just tapped into it again, because I was going to ask you a question about this. On page 51, McTaggart says, “All these phenomena led Popp [a physicist] to think of emissions as a sort of correction by a living system of Zero Point Field fluctuations. Every system likes to achieve a minimum of free energy… As Popp thought of it, the Zero Point Field forces the human being to be a candle. The healthiest body would have the lowest light and be closest to zero state, the most desirable state—the closest any living thing could get to nothingness.” I know you’re quite interested in Zen and have written haiku poetry. So think about the connection between being in alignment with the Zero Point Field and the Zero state that Dickinson talks about, which McTaggart thinks is the closest we can get to nothingness, nothing-ness.

M: A lot of the philosophers thought that the ideal thing would be to get to that state, to nothing-ness, to leave the cycle and not come back anymore.

H: It sounds like the Buddha’s nirvana. The Ground of Being as Guide

M: Yeah. Exactly. And I don’t want nirvana. That’s where I am! I’m not trying to get to Zero. What I do think is that maybe that’s so—that Zero is where we have to go—but I don’t like that idea. So I’m not participating in that quest. But I do think we have to function out of the Zero Point Field. That is our foundation. We have to allow ourselves to be firmly planted in this ZPF in order to participate in our daily lives—successfully, or appropriately, whatever the word might be. We’re going to be off balance all the time if we’re pursuing things shifty-eyed rather than allowing the field or the Ground of Being to guide us. It’s our GPS. It says, “This is your way.” “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to.” “Too bad. It’s your way. Can’t you feel it? You have no other way.” The Zen poet Ryókan wrote, “If you point your cart north / When you want to go south / How will you arrive?”

Intelligence Within the Zero Point Field

H: So, you’re saying intelligence within the Zero Point Field knows.

The Self’s Voice

M: Of course. It knows. It knows what needs to be done. And as long as I don’t recognize that, I’m off balance. I would say people who are seeking some sort of enlightenment or some way to participate accurately in the world sense that that’s what they have to do. So, some of them take steps, drastic steps. Gurdjieff’s followers, for example. They seem to torture themselves trying to get it right. They’re almost masochists. I hate that. I wouldn’t do that even if it was a good idea. I would refuse to discipline myself in that way. To me, it has to flow. They will say, “But Clark, you’re going to screw up.” I don’t care. If it doesn’t flow, I’m not going to do it. Mark Twain said, “If you can’t get to seventy by a comfortable road, don’t go.” “Now, you must do this”? “No. No, no, no.” My Self says, “Do it this way.” I could never understand people who torture themselves to do things their Selves don’t like.  That’s the way it is with me.

H: Earlier you were talking about the voice and the grain of the voice. Why don’t you talk a little more about that, because you were suggesting something that has to do with poetry and articulation.

M: Rumi says when you get up in the morning take down a musical instrument. He means tune yourself up. In order to walk through the day, the way I’m designed to walk through it, I have to tune myself to the level that when you say hello to me, I’m not just hearing the word “hello,” I’m hearing the grain of the voice that said those words. What I really need to be able to do is to hear Steven Herrmann’s Self that’s coming through those words. I can’t do that if I’m not tuned up. That’s what I’m talking about. The grain of the voice is where everything is. The grain of the voice is that pulsating frequency; it’s the Field communicating.

H: Where is this metaphor from, the grain of the voice?

“I Almost Always Learn Through Metaphor.”

M: It’s a book about poetry, by Roland Barthes. The book is heavy sledding, but what struck me was the title itself. I thought it was a great image. I googled it the other day and saw a heading in which someone said he immediately thought of Elvis Presley. The grain of the voice explained Elvis!

When I was learning how to be a teacher, there was a textbook I remember that went on and on boringly about some “profound” topic or other. But at the beginning of each chapter was a little quote from Eddington or Scudder or some other thinker. The quotes were great. So I would ignore the chapter and we would kick the quote around. We had a hell of a good time. That was the grain of the voice. The rest of it was silly talk. I almost always learn through metaphor. I hear a phrase that intrigues me, I play with it, it clicks in, and then I get it.

The Divine Power to Speak Words

H: Yes. Whitman is speaking to the reader in section five of “Song of Myself”: “Loaf with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat, / Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best, / Only the lull I like, the hum of your valvèd voice.” Notice how he gets the lecture in there? Like the lecture of the learned astronomer, he says he does not want that. He wants only the lull or hum of your valvèd voice. That is the grain of the voice, the sound of pure poetry. He had this idea of “vocalism,” the “divine power to speak words.” He said it exists as a possibility in everyone. He gave us a technique to access it, namely free verse. “Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems.” His aim as a poet-shaman is to stop us in our tracks. All we have to do is to find a way to tap into it, to descend into the deep chamber of the mind that no one else has discovered yet, the place where the cosmic shaman dwells, in the deepest recesses of the mind. That is the place of the Zero Point Field, where we can each become Zero at the Bone through the quick lightning flashes of language, the realms of gold, metaphorical speech made possible through vocalism. When one can do that then he assures us that there will swiftly arise and spread around us the “peace and knowledge that pass all the art and argument of the Earth.” This is the secret force of the cosmos: the light of the exploding universe.

M: Yes, exactly.

H: Vocalism is the act of speaking out of the Divinity…

M: There you go.

H: From the heart chakra, [Chakras are energy points or knots in the subtle (non-physical) body] the Self as the source of our inner light…

Speaking Out of the Ground of Being

M: Ah. Once you can speak out of the heart, out of the divinity, that’s what you’re trying to do—trying to get your voice tuned in so that when you speak, you’re speaking from the Ground of Being, so that when you say, “Good morning,” you really mean it. “Good morning”—imagine how that would sound if the expression was voiced from the very Ground of Being.

H: Yes, then you could say, “The song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.” That would be living in the light of the first shamans who also worshipped the sun as the source of everything that is. So when Keats said he had visited realms of gold, he was actually speaking realms of gold. He was in that realm.

M: Yeah. He’s not just thinking up lovely phrases. H: It’s the same thing with Yeats.

Explosions of Energy Within Vocational Fields

M: Yeah, the great Romantic poets, well, you know any great poet is living in that kind of way. Some modern ones are just as good.

H: Yes, it is all relative. The American poets all benefited greatly from the Romantic poets. McTaggart talks about another phenomenon that’s very interesting to me, and that’s what happens within a culture when there’s this explosion of energy within a vocational field, such as in Vienna during the late seventeen hundreds when there was an explosion of classical music.

M: Oh, yeah, that’s right!

H: And then it catches fire, then it happens in other people, not necessarily through direct transmission. Consciousness itself is not located in the brain, so whatever I’m saying and whatever you’re saying here is affecting consciousness in other places.

Thinking and the Collective Whole

M: That’s absolutely right. There are lots of ways to demonstrate that thought can’t, cannot, be locked inside the skull. It’s part of the collective whole. The entire whole changes when you think. [Laughs.] So we’d better do a good job of it!

The Light Source of All Mystical Experience

H: So what do you think about that? You mentioned the Romantic poets. As you know, the same thing happened. There was a stage in the Romantic period where there was an explosion of energy—out of the field, the Zero Point Field. The same thing happened in the American Renaissance. Whitman saw that religions had become too far removed from the people. He wanted to make the experience of the Divine accessible, articulate, and available in the present for anyone, so he invented free-verse. Free-verse enabled him to speak words with a “full lung’d, limber-lipp’d, loosen’d-throat”; to chant Divinity from the “hum” of his “valvèd voice.” Religion was not something “out there” in the churches, synagogues, or mosques, in the teachings of prophets, messiah, or messenger only, rabbi this or imam that; for Whitman religion exists in the living temple of the human body—your body, my body. The body is Divine, Whitman was saying, and the basis for his new religion of Spiritual Democracy, where all religions are brought to the ground, made equal in the great psalm of the republic, is here right now. “If religion is not for your Divinization, then what is it for? If not for your Happiness then for whose Happiness?” “Do you see O my brothers and sisters?” Whitman asks in “Song of Myself.” And then he answers: “It is not chaos or death–it is form, union, plan–it is eternal life–it is Happiness.” He writes it with a capital H. What he is speaking about is the bliss that comes from the opening of the heart chakra, the ecstasy of the shamanistic state of consciousness, which cuts across all religions. That is the factor that makes all religions equal: The Light that is the source of all mystical experiences, the secret force of the Universal .

M: It’s a little hard to grasp intellectually, but back in the seventies when filmmakers were using black and white, Fellini in Italy was using it to great effect. He loved it. Then Ingmar Bergman did a color movie, and someone asked Fellini if he’d seen it. He said, “No, I don’t have to, because”—something to this effect—“that information is in the atmosphere now and is affecting everything.” So color is in the air now. We no longer live in a black and white filming world. Fellini then made Juliet of the Spirits, which is a lavish color movie. It was his first color movie, and it’s a masterpiece, and it’s just rich with color. Well, color has affected the whole world, really. When I think back to the world I grew up in, our movies were black and white, a black and white world. The clothes we wore, for example, were more subdued, less colorful, too, in those days. Then all of a sudden, color burst into the scene, and the world is transformed, for better or for worse. Better, I suppose. It can always be for better.

Author: Clark McKowen

I taught English at Diablo Valley College in the Bay Area for over thirty years and probably taught over 20,000 students during that time. II'm still interested in how beings of any species learn and why, and I write books and articles about these things. My 2000 book of haiku, Ligonier Sightings, is an appreciation of the Chestnut Ridge area of Southwestern Pennsylvania, where I grew up. All of my books can be purchased on the internet. Most teachers say they love teaching, but I don't know what they mean by that. I loved being in a group -- under my guidance, to be sure -- and getting so absorbed in exploring an idea that we didn't care whether school kept or not. That's the kind of teaching I love. I love seeing a bunch of people's eyes light up. I love the feeling of discovery of any sort. I love enlightenment. That's what more or less gets me up in the morning, -- and I suppose is involved, one way or another, in everyhing you will find on this website and in just about everything I do, including building redwood decks or going to the dog park with our Boston terrier Gracie.

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