July 17, 2012
[This dialogue continues where we left off in Dialogue # 9. But here we go deeper into the violent beginning of the physical world and the idea that that violence is an essential part of a unified field, and going further, that physical thought pervades that unified field. We explore the roles of intuition and evocation in providing a structure for the ephemeral. We look more deeply into the “noosphere,” Pierre Theilhard de Chardin’s 1922 coinage in reference to the sphere of human thought—noos”, possibly derived from the Greek nous, “mind”, and “sphere”, lexically similar to “atmosphere” and “biosphere.”]
Violence, Intuition, and the Noosphere — from the Pacific
M: OK. You’d like to start this morning’s dialogue with a poem of Robert Frost?
H: Yes. It’s called “Once by the Pacific.” Here it is:
That sounds like a poem written to Robinson Jeffers.
M: Perfect. It’s got to be one of the harshest of Frost’s poems. H: It must be.
M: He’s always talking about this sort of thing. But he’s nailed it here. He’s really pushed the idea to its edge, you might say. And he and Jeffers were contemporaries.
H: Yes, they were. Jeffers wrote Frost a congratulatory letter when Frost became Poet Laureate. So there was a mutual respect between the two poets. But I wonder when the poem was written. If it was written, as I suspect, in the early twenties, that’s when Jeffers was coming into his power. [It was published in 1928.] Jeffers was on the cover of Time magazine in 1932. I would suspect he had Jeffers in mind when he wrote that poem. The idea of a coming storm, a coming age and rage runs all through Jeffers’ poetry. That has to do with the violence of the Pacific.
M: Yes. That violence was emphasized last Friday at the commemorative program you were part of, the centennial celebration for your old friend and mentor, William Everson, at Berkeley City College. (July 2012)
The Divine Power to Speak Words
H: Yes, in particular, Matthew Fox focused on that. That came in part as a result of an unpublished paper I had given him to read titled “Jeffers, Whitman, and the cosmos,” about Whitman’s use of vocalism, “the divine power to speak words.”
In that paper I focus on Whitman’s notion of cosmic unity through his use of “Vocalism,” Whitman’s subjective method of understanding the cosmos; since subjectivity is, of course, a central driver in any attempt to understand the nature of the cosmos. I also show how the science of the cosmos is taken to its furthest limits by our Carmel poet, Robinson Jeffers. No poet, I say, has surpassed Jeffers as a poet of the cosmos, yet this calling to provide a portrait of the universe has a one-hundred-year trajectory that goes back to Emerson in 1844. It extends from that pivotal year to 1851 when Melville published Moby-Dick, to 1855 when Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass, to the 1950’s when Jeffers wrote “Explosion,” “The Epic Stars,” and “The Great Explosion.”
M: You see how,, . I’ve been thinking about all these interconnections. At the Everson program, you had a collage of photos from Everson’s life. There are pictures of Kenneth Rexroth, whom I’m familiar with… I have his Natural Numbers. I liked his work, not in the sense that you do, with the interrelation among the various threads of philosophical thought–oh, all the breadth and depth of it. I read his poems as stand-alone experiences. But our talks weave it all into a fantastic tapestry. But I knew hardly anything about his biography, his pals, City Lights Bookstore, and on and on!
I never paid any attention to the biographies of many of these people we discuss. Well, some, some of Frost, little bits of Whitman and Dickinson. I visited Jeffers’ Thor House in Carmel, Frost’s home in Derry, New Hampshire, Dickinson’s home in Concord, Massachusetts. But not in the way that evolved from talking with you. That’s another pattern to lay over the individuals I’ve read and enjoyed. Throughout Image, for example, there must be hundreds of excerpts and short poems, and as I think about your emphasis, each one of them has a biography attached to it. It would no doubt be fascinating to trace out all the biographical connections among them and the cross fertilization that must surely be involved. Many of these thinkers actually knew each other and talked with each other or read each other’s work…
The Vitalization of Matter
And that bothered him for a while, as you know. Biology was so fragile, how could it work? That puzzled him. I’ll stop here and say what Chardin is talking about is what’s been coming to the fore in my work over the years but has always been there since maybe before the time I started thinking about this consciously, about this oneness of everything, the physical and the spiritual.
The Universal Heightening of Consciousness
H: Let me read you a passage from the formation of the Noosphere in The Future of Man, which gets right to the heart of what we’ve been talking about: “No one man thinking by himself can encompass, master or exhaust them, the Earth and the Noosphere. Yet every man on earth shares within himself in the universal heightening of consciousness promoted by the existence in our minds of new concepts of matter and new dimensions of cosmic reality.”
This gets back to the idea that the new sciences of physics and astrophysics had so opened up the thinking of the human species that they made possible an extension of consciousness for every person. The Noosphere is formed by individuals. But no one person can form the Noosphere. It’s been formed, as we were saying from reading Chardin earlier, probably by Cro-Magnon Man.
That’s when the shamans and artists first began to paint their portraits on the interior walls of caves. Something exploded then. Something entered the Noosphere that was never there before. And that became concretized, materialized. Chardin talked a lot about the planetization of the human species that we’ve been aiming toward for 700 million years, this miraculous emergence of thought. He thought it’s inevitable that we’re going to arrive at universal peace. Did you read his essay on peace that he delivered to the UN?
H: Faith in Man, faith in peace.
M: When he read that, I wonder if they didn’t think he was just being “poetic” instead of “factual.”
H: He starts off the essay “Faith in Peace,” with “I’m no politician, but I am, if I may be allowed the term, a geo-biologist.” He’s saying that it’s inevitable that peace is going to
happen on a universal basis on the Earth. This is planetization and he has faith in that as a geobiologist.
He has grounded his thinking in the physical world.
M: Let me just interject here that that’s what I like so much about him, that he has grounded his thinking in the physical world. So I think it has a lot more weight than just saying something that sounds good but isn’t supported by anything tangible. That would be my main criticism of most of the poets who read their work last Friday at the Everson commemoration in Berkeley.
They use lots of metaphors, but metaphors are a dime a dozen. We could sit here right now and whip up a bunch of fine-sounding vacuous rantings.
H: That’s what Matthew Fox told me after my talk, that I had grounded it, that the poets had talked about angels and Everson, but in the abstract, really. But my talk had put a foundation under it, grounded it. Well, for example, what exactly does “Birth of the Poet” mean? Half the people there didn’t know what those words represented, the basis of them. So it was important to ground it.
M: Well, I have no objection to people writing poetry–I’m glad they do — but there’s some godawful stuff that calls itself poetry. I used to subscribe to Poetry magazine, and I’d say nine tenths of it was pure crap. [Laughter]
Like a Park, a National Park
H: There’s a great line from D. H. Lawrence in Studies in Classic American Literature where he talks about Whitman. He says there are a lot of poets camping on Whitman’s campground now. [Both laugh.] You know on the West Coast there a lot of these poets who are imitators but do not have much original to say. In other words, his campground is really that large; it’s like a park, a national park.
M: I wanted to tell you one other thing that grated on me Friday at the centennial. The two women at least put some verve into it. I thought that was important. You have to be on, your personality has to be accessible. This is a performance, after all. But one called herself a language warrior. Good god! Who appointed her? Is that like a poet laureate? I’d cross the street to get away from her. I can’t imagine kids putting up with this warrior who’s policing the language. “You’re going to use the right word in the right place or, or, I’ll have to silence you.” This is not the Hopi way… “Doing English” in a room full of kids is a joyous activity, as it should be in all English classes – in all kinds of classes, really.
Each Sentient Being a Cosmic Force
H: This is what you were bringing into your classes, the idea of spiritual democracy, that minds are all equal and that we can speak out and write in our journals what’s coming from our spirits and becoming part of the Noosphere.
M: It’s both a theory and a fact that each entity–which Chardin talks about–living stuff and not just people but any living matter, is a vital vitalization of the Earth. Each one of us is the whole Noosphere, each one. So even though most of my days I didn’t see the kids in that kind of light, with that intensity, always in the back of my mind was the awareness that this being is scintillating with atomic energy. This is an explosive force, right here. What’s more, this being, like all of us, is trying to figure out how to flesh out his or her nature. Everybody’s spirit wants to get out. It doesn’t want to be imprisoned.
H: No. There’s a certain force in it, a spirit in matter. M: Yes.
H: A cosmic force. And that’s not just a pretty force. It’s explosive and dynamic.
M: Now that you and Chardin and Fox and Jeffers have brought that to the fore.
Thought Mortared in Stone
H: And our dialogues. Getting back to intuition, looking out West, from these hills in Oakland, thinking of the Noosphere and starting to organize our dialogues with a number of themes, one of them is the Realms of Gold. You did lead me to read that Keats poem, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” and interestingly, he mentions the Pacific there. We talked about it a while back. And here’s Robert Frost writing about the Pacific. So we might think out loud together about what it is about the West Coast, what is it about California? What drew the pilgrims toward this coast? A lot of my poetry in the nineteen nineties when I started writing daily in my journal, my poetry quarterly, has themes of gold. “Transformation,” the Gold Rush, “Alchemy of the West.” What is it about alchemy? I have a poem “Alchemy of the West.” for I think I wrote it around ‘97. We were having chats back then.
Something about the West Coast in pointing in the direction of the materialization of thought in a way that Jeffers makes very palpable in “Rock and Hawk,” where he says, “Here is a symbol.” It’s not just a symbol. It’s mortared in stone.
Something Solid, Immutable
M: Hang on to that thought just a second. As you were talking it reminded me of how Chardin got started on his life-long quest for the physicality of thought. Right from the beginning, even as a little boy, he was looking for something strong and solid, something immutable. He chose iron, and then he went to quartz, and then he finally saw that that solid immutable thing was the cosmos itself and that it was a living thing, paradoxically, that was that solid immutable thing. He started out saying, “I want something strong, a rock.” Just like Frost and Jeffers and Matthew Fox.
H: Jeffers wrote “To the Rock that will be the Cornerstone of the House.” He wrote that in 1917, This rock is where coastal Indians built their fires and cooked their abalone, and it is still charred with “primal fire.” For thousands of years it was a sacred place, a place where the Native Americans had been living in harmony with nature. He wanted to have that same kind of harmony. So I think there are a number of factors about California that we’ve been looking at in some of these poems. Keats had it in his metaphor of the Pacific, and Frost did, and of course Jeffers and Everson lived it. One image is gold, because in 1849 we had a Gold Rush. What the alchemists were seeking… There’s the materialization of the metaphor of having traveled much in the realms of gold right there, the actual quest for gold.
Base Metal into Gold
M: Yes, the use of the term was much broader in the alchemists’ minds than what people took it to mean. When they were trying to turn base metal into gold, they were really working on their own base metal. They knew there was gold to be brought forth into the physical world.
H: Yes. That’s what these poets were doing. They were actually working on the writing of a West Coast spirituality. It’s not just Western spirituality; it’s West Coast spirituality.
M: What was Columbus looking for? He was looking for the “New World.” They kept looking for the new world. Why would you want to do that? Because there is something there beyond what we now experience. We don’t know what that is but we’re going to risk everything.
H: A “Passage to India,” in that spiritual sense. California faces India.
We Live in Very Messy Circumstances.
M: Yes. So this is the constant progress, across oceans, across the continent. It’s all very fascinating. So what’s happening in our dialogues is that you are bringing, as well, the ancient beginnings–as far back as we can go. Then, bringing all the contemporary work together with that Jungian perspective, and you do geology, too, in that concrete and spiritual amalgam. It gets more and more wonderful, don’t you agree! It’s clear to me that thought from all directions does coalesce into one thought. All these seeming tangents are not isolates. Even when we bring in the thinking that in my judgment is crazy, we use that anyhow. It’s all part of the unified field of thought. Even “wrong” stuff helps illuminate the realms of gold. If that weren’t so you could never come to an insight, because we live in very messy circumstances.
The Integration of the Shadow
H: We do, certainly. Oakland is getting more violent by the day. Back in the ‘30s Jeffers predicted there would be an increase in violence. In a poem called “Self-Criticism in February,” Jeffers wrote: “The present time is not pastoral, but founded / On violence, pointed for more massive violence: perhaps it is not / Perversity but need that perceives the storm-beauty.” I think we’re seeing some of that now. Chardin, of course, and Jung and Jeffers all lived through two World Wars, and when Chardin and Jung wrote their essays to the UN, they didn’t omit the shadow. They do agree that peace can only come about through the integration of the shadow. Chardin speaks more optimistically than Jung. He is certain there is going to be world peace. And Jung is questioning it, because he sees that evil and violence and the shadow are also something that can destroy the human race. And that is a very real possibility. We don’t know. And so it’s nice to have someone like Chardin with that kind of optimism. He gets that optimism from faith. Jeffers on the other hand is much more pessimistic. In the same poem on the verge of WWII he writes to himself in the last three verses: “If only you could sing / That God is love, or perhaps that social / Justice will soon prevail. I can tell lies in prose” .
[The shadow: Jung called hidden aspects of oneself, both good and bad, either repressed or never recognized, the shadow. “To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as both present and real.”]
M: “Tell lies in prose”—well put.
H: What Jeffers does is to puncture our idealism. Chardin’s view on the Cosmic Christ is that it will lead to a new age of peace, really, of planetization. The important balance that Jung provides is that he says, I am not overly optimistic nor overly pessimistic about the future of the race. Mankind now with the atom bomb is in a deciding place and can choose the fate of the species. I think Chardin saw that too, but because of his training as a geophysicist, he felt he could say, I have faith that there will be peace on Earth. He felt that faith was grounded in the physical. But with that you can’t help but see he’s also speaking as a Christian.
M: Yes. I think that does affect his thinking.
H: Jeffers would never say that. Jeffers, who also lived through two world wars, was actually quite pessimistic about the future. So when we talk about the Cosmic Christ, I want to know what you mean by this.
Neither Optimism nor Pessimism nor Faith
M: I have no use for optimism or pessimism, or faith. I find them all interfering with thought. They contaminate the purity of thought. I want the physicality.
I don’t want to have faith or pessimism about the future. I think it’s a waste of time to do that. To project what’s going to happen is stupid, I think. The reason I think so is, since you don’t have to do that to get the Noosphere functioning quite well, thank you, the tendency is exactly as Chardin says. I don’t have any doubt about it. I do have an intuition that what we call Love is the force of matter. Love and the fiery energy within the thing are one and the same. That, to me, is not faith but an objective reality. As soon as anybody starts talking with me about being pretty optimistic or pretty pessimistic, I think, yes, I can do that on my bad days, but it’s a waste of my time. Because right now I have here the opportunity to drill a hole in a piece of serpentine and put it on a base and make a sculpture. [The piece of serpentine from Mt.Shasta that Steven had given Clark] This is what needs to be done. So that’s how I see it.
H: That’s a great act of creation. It’s very artistic. Working with stone, and the California rock, can be very healing.
M: Well. My general point here is that it would be the same if I figured out how to put in a light bulb. I figure it out, the light comes on, ah! that’s how that works! So let’s see if we can get back to the Cosmic Christ. Do you remember in Image that I had this little matchstick puzzle?
H: Oh, yeah.
M: Do you remember that you did it?
You were to get the “olive” out of the cocktail glass with just two matchstick moves.
H: It took me about a minute and twenty seconds to figure it out.
Where Thought Can Find a Place to Lodge
M: OK. I used that for a variety of reasons, but one is that I’d like to call people’s attention to the process in which they know the solution, that they can feel it coming, before they concretize it.
Intuition! You can actually feel it. You already know you’ve got it. Just be quiet, and it will emerge. Where did that come from?! I’d say probably the right hemisphere–or whatever. But to me what we’ve been talking about and emphasizing in our last couple of chats is the role of intuition in everything. Chardin followed his intuition into that concretization of geophysics, which couldn’t exist without the overlay of the spiritual world, which he calls the Cosmic Christ. I think he may have finally emerged where he uses that word Christ as a metaphor, not just a definition he was obliged to follow. But I suspect even to the end of his life he felt he had to…
H: Well, as he describes in The Heart of Matter, he had an experience of the Cosmic Christ in a vision of immense brilliant light. It’s really beautiful — in the desert, in China. He also played a very important part in the discovery of Peking Man. He was an anthropologist. He was an archeologist. So he was able to study evolution based on the changes in the cranial skull, where thought found a place to lodge. So that gave him a certain advantage over other priests who were also attempting to formulate a concept like he eventually created. But he succeeds in a way that is very appealing. People love Chardin, and he became quite famous, especially after his death on Easter Sunday in 1955.
M: Anybody who had such a lucid clarity… H: He really did, didn’t he?
M: I gravitate toward that kind of mind.
H: I think that’s his intuition that leads him to those splendid insights.
M: He’s willing to trust that. This is the important thing that I think we need to focus on–or concretize. To me, it’s extremely important to recognize the role of that thing in our evolution of thought. Coming into the physicality of thought, you have to start with intuition–how the
matchstick solution comes before it can be made concrete. And that is perhaps another way of talking about your spiritual self demanding its expression. You start out in life as an entity, and I think you start with that, using it as your guide, or your vocation, I’d say.
The Poetic Basis of the Mind
H: I wanted to get back to that because I think Everson in his course Birth of the Poet really followed his own intuition about an actual concretization of a method by which students could arrive at what Whitman foresaw for the poets of the Far West. In 1860 he was foreseeing developments like Everson’s where vocation could be seen as the factor in the human soul, the body, and psyche through which we are able to tap into the Noosphere. It makes us equals. It means you can find your vocation and archetype and can be true to that and discover your symbols through your dreams, like he suggested. Intuitions come out of that and inform one’s originality, and one can speak out of that ground of being. For Everson it really was a concretization of the very thing that Frost and perhaps Keats were talking about when they mentioned the Pacific. And that’s a means by which we might all potentially become poets. He wasn’t just speaking to those who have a poetic calling. He was talking about the poetic basis of the mind, that there is a substratum of the mind where thought originates from, which is poetic in nature. And if we can tap into that regardless of what our vocation may be, then our language is going to be shaped. And he is a language shaper. In “Song of the Redwood Tree,” Whitman hears the wood-spirits come out of the great redwood forest in coastal California to chant in chorus of the “vistas of coming humanity,” the “new society at last, proportionate to Nature.” He is hearing them from across the continent, from Mendocino. Chardin is speaking out of mythopoetic metaphors too.
M: What’s impressive is when he says the word vital, he mean vital, not in its stripped-down common usage. He gets closer to its original meaning. Most of his choice of words is that way.
H: Yes, that’s right.
A Way to Intuit and Discover
M: Let me get this in before I forget it. You’re saying Everson wanted to find a way to tap into that innate aspect of all of us so that people could find their vocation and then let that guide them. I was about to say that. I think, if you want to call us educators, what we have to do is find a way for our audiences to intuit and discover; you have to set up situations where that can happen. You can talk till you’re blue in the face and it can be a nice package and can be very attractive, but each being has to do that him or herself. They have to solve the matchstick puzzle. They always have to solve it in each situation. Then it’s effective. Then it works.
Otherwise it may be very entertaining and very pleasant–and perhaps it may have a residual effect that gets activated later on–but sooner or later you have to do the work yourself. You always have to intuit it. And you have to know that about yourself, so that when you’re ready to do a math problem, say, or figure out some problem with your computer, you have to know that you have to,, . let . . . that happen.
Vocare: The Inner Voice
H: Intuition has much to do with the capacity for listening. If you listen to the inner voice, which is where the word vocation comes from, vocare, then you are intuiting where that voice wants to lead you. This is it. You know that idea of Jiminy Cricket, always let your conscience be your guide? The conscience is the radar that picks up the frequencies of vitality coming from that voice. So if students can find a way, through proper education and teaching, to feel that kind of creative freedom to actually hear the inner call, then that is going to make them much more effective in grounding their intuition in a kind of substantive reality that’s materialized. I think that’s where we’re heading.
This is what Chardin was hoping for and he had faith in that eventuality; because of the increase of consciousness through the newest discoveries of science, there would be an increase of spiritual evolution coincident with the rise of sciences. Science and religion would then form a bridge that would lead to an increase in globalization. So when I say that Everson was providing that kind of sacred space at UC Santa Cruz underneath the beautiful redwoods overlooking the Pacific, the key there is the factor of receptivity. This is right-brain activity. Intuition is a way to explore the Noosphere. In The Divine Milieu Chardin asks: “Could there be a more up to date or more faithful version of St Paul’s doctrine of the ‘Cosmic’ Christ?” Such has been my experience in contact with the Earth—the diaphany of the Divine at the heart of the universe on fire… Christ; his heart; a fire; capable of penetrating everywhere and, gradually, spreading everywhere.” The Divinization of the universe has to be incarnated via a vehicle of “vocation,” the only way the Cosmic Christ may be ushered in (DM 46). The universal divine milieu is the ultimate point, the pivot on which “all realities converge” and this is what he means by the Noosphere.
M: You have to allow that to come into your being. You have to allow yourself to be a vessel that could receive what that voice is pouring into your consciousness. Then you can stir and serve!
H: Then comes the way Whitman calls spiritual democracy and with it is the realization that everything is united. The unity of the cosmos is a vision Whitman and Chardin share, each with their own distinctive metaphors.
M: Getting back to intuition, I began to think that, my God! I wrote one of my best books before I came to this coalescence of concrete thought. I knew it, I knew it all did fit together; I knew all things are connected, even that all concepts are one integrated thing.
H: Image is not a fully formulated conceptualized book. It is pure intuition.
M: But look at the title. I sensed that that was exactly what it had to be, Reflections on Language.
H: And that’s in Chardin.
Reflection Is How We Make Thought Physical.
M: Yes. He puts reflection at the top of everything. Reflection. That’s how you make thought physical.
H: And he capitalizes the R. It jumps out at you. We all evolved from the massive explosion of a supernova that burst beautifully against a sea of dark energy and dark matter 14 billion years ago, and that incredible blaze of cosmic light can still be perceived in the inward mirror reflections of human consciousness, at the most primitive states of mind; preserved as they have been, for at least 30,000 years in Paleolithic cave paintings, the first explosions of cosmic thought appeared in portrait-representations of shamanistic art and continued in the various world’s religions, and now re-awakens in us as intuitive ideas of archetypal patterns in the transpsyche.
M: Steven, that’s a gorgeous portrait you just painted. Well, so what did I ask the kids to do? I even put it in my course outline. I asked them to reflect on what they were exploring that day. I ask them to sit down for half an hour and reflect on that. My God, I didn’t have any idea of what a powerful thing I was offering. Well, I guess I did but it was coming directly from intuition. I didn’t even know of Chardin’s work on this very process.
H: Well, in Reflections on Language, right on the first or second page, there’s that little boy with a package, untying the knot. Remember that? But then there’s that passage from Shakespeare, “Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?” “No, Cassius, for the eye sees not itself but by refection, by some other thing.” The mind sees only by reflection. [McKowen laughs.] There it is. You went right to poetry as the basis for the concept of the book.
All Journeys Lead to the Same Place.
M: And don’t think for a minute that Shakespeare wasn’t totally aware of exactly what was implicit in that remark. And that was almost 500 years ago. And God knows how many others understood that. They all, as is abundantly clear in our talks, they all had the same idea. Here’s the thing of it: Anybody who allows his intuition, his vocation, to guide him will come to what Chardin worked his way through. And it’s what I’m working my way through. I said to myself gradually, I want to see how this all fits together. I think everybody who pursues his vocation does.
H: Each in their own way. That’s the gift.
M: So why do we have to consider where we’re going? It seems to me what you’re describing is that you go over to where you work, you’re working with someone, and this emerges with that person, and you’ve had a good day… You can only get grace through recognizing the force of nature. You can’t fight it. This is what I’m trying to get at. You cannot fight it. So once you’ve let go of everything, then what’s really going on envelops you in this pure golden light. This beautiful, unbelievably joyous thing. Someone said when you see a painting of a saint in ecstasy it could actually be at the same time pure agony. Agony and ecstasy are the same, two sides of the same coin.
M: I’d say the agony is what’s going on up the very edge. Then it flips into ecstasy.
Vocatypes, Archetypes, Voices
H: I went to see Everson at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz in his final year. He had lost his capacity of speech, yet he could still scrawl out a line or two. The doctors had botched his tracheotomy and damaged his vocal chords, which was horribly sad of course and tragic. But he was editing his manuscripts right to the end. That’s the golden pen that’s writing with the golden lines right to the end–with the agony and the ecstasy of that terrible Parkinson’s disability. The voice was everything to Everson. The voice was his vehicle to vocalize his vocation to Love. Both Whitman and Everson were very effective in showing how the mytho- poetic basis of the mind is the human voice. That’s what Everson brought across as a poet so effectively. In one of our last talks he spoke of vocatypes. He developed his own word, like Chardin. Instead of archetypes he used the word vocatypes, because archetypes need to be voiced. They need to be spoken aloud and even sung. So here he was, unable to speak much but reflecting his gorgeous aria through the joy and love in his eyes, and you could just feel the Cosmic Christ, if you want to call it that. He was channeling the music of the spheres through his blue eyes, the cosmic sound of creation, materializing it.
M: What a wonderful thing for you to know such a person. I think the idea of the Cosmic Christ reinforces everything we’ve been saying about what’s really the nature of reality, the fiery atom, the great cosmos… This is what a good critic does, too. Criticism can be treated as illumination. In fact, if it doesn’t move us forward in our awareness, our sensitivity to our moments, it’s probably not of much value. For example, you start out reading, say, Frost’s “Once by the Pacific” and then you chat about it and it becomes more, more, more. When we first started talking about the title of my book Realms of Gold, I remember that you asked me why I had used that. Mainly it had been intuitive. I just knew it was right. But when you and I really started exploring it, it exploded in all sorts of directions. That was all there, compressed like an atom. Then, Pow! We opened it up… I had that experience when I was in graduate school at Bucknell. I had only one teacher who actually illuminated poems, John Wheatcroft. That was all it took, really. I saw how it could be done, and later that became part of everything we did in my classrooms, whether it was looking as a cigarette butt or painting or a poem. Let’s round out our dialogue with the Noosphere. Maybe we should illuminate that a bit more. It’s the question of whether it actually exists.
H: I think Jung proved it does. The collective unconscious does in fact exist. With Chardin you get a sense that the Noosphere is like an atmosphere enveloping the Earth, a psychic and physical membrane, a stratosphere. It’s a flash of light, such as the last beams of love I saw and felt emanating from Everson’s eyes.
QUOTE: With Chardin you get a sense that the Noosphere is like an atmosphere enveloping the Earth, a psychic and physical membrane, a stratosphere.
Being Is Doing.
M: Well, OK. As I think about it, Jung does ground it. But it’s a little hard to concretize it. Jung’s collective unconscious seems easier to demonstrate as a physical thing. Oh, OK, here’s how you do it for the Noosphere: Go back to what happens when you have a thought, what happens physically in the brain. It’s a physical electrical flash of neurotransmitters. Something does happen. Any time something happens anywhere in the universe, the whole universe is affected. Science does back up that concept. This is something we have to understand about minute actions affecting everything. I used to say to the students, “Want to see me change the universe?” I’d remain standing stock still. “Want to see me do it again?” They’d say, “You didn’t do anything.” I’d say, “Let me make it a little more noticeable for you,” and I’d move a couple of inches to the side. After a bit of chatting, they caught on to the idea. Your very existence affects everything. Being is doing. Gee, that’s a good aphorism! Being is doing.
H: Back to Chardin. The species is drawing closer and closer together in thought. He anticipated, I think, the worldwide web. That’s a concretization, or the materialization, of thought.
M: Hold that thought. If I wanted to talk with kids about what we’re saying, they’d say, Oh, yeah, we know all about that. They do–except they don’t. They’ve got it, but they don’t have it.
H: I know what you mean.
M: What we have to do now is put the foundation under it, so that we can get the joy into what we think we know.
Latency and Potentiality
H: That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Getting back to the joy relating to the realms of gold… Everson had this idea vocatypes in the end, of types of vocational speech, and what I would add to that is that these are latencies, potentialities in the minds of all of these students.
M: That’s a good phrase, latency and potentiality.
H: They need to be e-voked, evoked. You have vocation and evocation.
M: Oh, I like that. Yes. You nailed it. That’s evocative!
H: Well, it’s instinct. It has to be triggered by external stimuli that switch it on. That latent instinct has to be activated.
M: And it’s in everybody.
H: Sometimes a teacher, just the right teacher, can evoke it. Why? Because that teacher is operating in the field of what Joseph Campbell called your bliss. The field of bliss is akin to the realms of gold. There are teachers who are operating in the field they are meant to operate in. Our task as students and educators is to find them. When someone meets a person like that, the vocatype comes into consciousness.
M: I have to tell you a little story: Two doors down from us I’d been causally chatting with Mary Canizzaro, who lives there. Well, from superficial stuff it evolved into my being a certain kind of unconventional college teacher and it went on from there, almost like a flower opening. “Did you ever teach high school?” Well, click by click, layer by layer, it got to “You were my teacher.” Not only that but she remembered me because it had been a class that opened up her mind, and through the years, fifty years, she had been telling people about that experience. So there’s the Noosphere in operation, wouldn’t you say? I loved that revelation because of the implications of our moving the world by our most minute action. No movement is trivial. It’s nice if you can make the word vital mean what it says. The more your language is what you truly, poetically mean the more evocative it’s likely to be. That’s what we need to know in our bones.
H: Chardin, in The Heart of Matter talks about the warm glow at the heart of matter. And that is an inner fire. So the matchstick puzzle, when you think about it, is about helping people find their inner glow.
Sexuality and the Inner Glow
M: Just think how good you feel when you solve something, when you feel that solution coming into consciousness, that warm glow, that fire. That’s what I was telling this young person who came by Sunday for a visit. The sexual fire is a metaphor for the universe, how it works. And it’s what I was telling you earlier. It’s about letting go. You can’t have an orgasm and still hold on to things. Suddenly you’re in the grips of something, and you have to let it happen. Then you know, hey, this is OK. I don’t have to hang on my security blanket.
H: The sexual fire does have within it an image of Love, the cosmos–which is phenomenal. M: Matthew Fox last Friday did a good job bringing sexuality into the dialogue.
H: That’s Everson’s contribution. He got it from Jeffers, and Jeffers got it probably from Whitman.
M: Matthew talked about tea-cup Christianity. I thought that is absolutely right. I remember telling someone years ago, I hate domesticity. I hate domesticity. It’s so tea-cuppy. You want to crack that open. I want to say shit in front of all these people just to wake them up.
M: You know, Sister Vincent Walz had read Montage, and that’s how I got to know her, but when she read Image, she said it’s a much better book. I thought that was pretty good for a nun to catch on to that, that evocative intention designed into that book. Montage was a breakthrough book. Nothing like it had ever been done on a large scale like that, ever. By the time I did Image, the shock of Montage had dissipated, and there were several imitators. The interesting thing is, and relevant to what we’re discussing, that I had absolute certainty that what I was doing in those books was right. I was in my field of bliss, in Campbell’s words, or allowing intuition to have a voice. Now, you and I are concretizing those intuitions in these Dialogues. Quite remarkable. Do you want to round out our chat?
Standing Shoulder to Shoulder with Whitman
H: Well, I’m looking at this picture of Emily Dickinson that you brought over from The Chronicle and thinking about how remarkable it is that this was just recently discovered, particularly at this time. That’s only the second photograph that we know is really Emily Dickinson. It’s a very different photo from the young, thin, frail woman in the photo everybody associates with her.
Her gaze in this photo is very penetrating. This is 1859, and so she is at the full height of her powers and writing poetry that is going to make her the only poet in America to stand shoulder to shoulder with Walt Whitman, and this is a powerful picture; it radiates that kind of vitality, that kind of energy we’ve been talking about regarding Chardin’s noosphere. The earlier photo is of a less fleshed out entity. Here she’s a
igorous human being, seated next to a woman friend who was one of her many female loves. This one, Kate Scott Anton, was perhaps her favorite. She is in her full power.