Dialogue 15: Sequential Time, Timeless Time. Synchronicity, and the Power of the Word

 [In this dialogue we talk about some tools that anyone, not just people consciously interested in enlightenment, can use deliberately to  elevate the  moments of their days to a higher intensity and make that a permanent approach to daily life. Two such tools are the reflective writing approach that I still use and that I used with my students and Steven’s use of journaling with his patients. For the soul to flourish, it is necessary to wrap one’s senses around the “facts”, to get the feel of the facts . Refelctive writing and journal writing are two ways to do that.]

H: This is from a book by Marie-Louise von Franz, On Divination and Synchronicity, The Psychology of Meaningful Chance. I copied three pages for you.

[Carl Jung’s definition of synchronicity: the coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same or a similar meaning.”]

M: [Delighted] “The psychology of meaningful chance”! I love that phrase. That’s almost a complete essay in itself.

H: So what she’s done is brought two Chinese number systems back to life for us, in light of Jung’s theory of individuation. I think I’ll read this to you, and then maybe we can talk about it. “In all areas of events one would always finally arrive at this mirror image, the basic rhythm–a matrix–of the cosmos.

Lo Shou

For the Chinese one of the basic matrices, or arrangements of the universe, was a quadrangle matrix–a magic square called the Lo Shou, which sets the basic rhythm. It is a so-called magic square because whichever way you add up the figures the result is always 15.”

M: [Checks it out] True enough.

H: “The Chinese had two ideas or aspects of time: namely timeless time or eternity, unchanging eternity, superimposed on cyclic time. We live normally, with our consciousness, in cyclic time, according to Chinese ideas, but there is an eternal time–une durée créatrice, to use an expression of Bergson’s… In every detail, this  number pattern always played a  role, because it was  thought to be the basic rhythm of reality… The underlying numerical order of eternity is called the Ho-

Tu, a mandala and also a cross. There is again 5 in the middle… The Lo Shou is the world in which we live, and underneath is always the eternity rhythm, the Ho-Tou. [Notice, that 5 is always in the center of each of the matrices] … Jung has already pointed out that among different archetypes there is one which encompasses all the others, and that is the archetype of the Self.”

[In the combinations of the Ho Tu, note that the 5 is pivotal. The four sets of Ho Tu combinations require 5 to form the combination. Thus, looking at the square above, 1 plus 5 is 6, so 1 and 6 are one combination. 2 plus 5 is 7, so 2 and 7 are another combination. 2 + 5 is seven, so 2 and 7 are another combination. 3 plus 5 is 8, so 3 and 8 is a third combinaiton. And 4 pluis 5 is 9, so 4 and 9 is a combination/

5 is 9, so 4 and 9 is a combination.

Ho Tu

[The Book of Changes: “The clockwise movement is cumulative and expanding and manifests the events that are passing. The opposite backward movement reflects the time of the future and, as it moves, the seeds of the future take form. To know this movement is to know the future. In symbolic terms,” if we understand how a tree is contracted into a seed, we will surely understand the future unfolding of the seed into a tree.]

I could read further, but I’m going to give this to you and you can look at it later and study it. But I wanted to lay out this basic Chinese view of the relationship between these two mathematical diagrams and temporal reality–or time–and eternal time, the five being in the center of both.

M: Oh yes, the 5 we’ve been talking about.

H: Yes, because of the 5 and because 5 is in the center of both.

Reality, The Shared Memory of the Race

M: Well, it’s very timely for me because the latest thing I put on my website is about Yeats’s “Memory.” It’s about the impression in the grass where the hare has lain, as we’ve discussed several times. The impression in the grass is what you keep. I wrote that up rather quickly and cleverly I thought, and then Ruth didn’t get it at all. I’m thinking, why isn’t this perfectly obvious? So I’ve been thinking about how to make that clearer, and I thinking that if I gave her this to read she wouldn’t get it. But I’m getting it, click, click, click, like that, because it fits in with everything.

The issue for most people, anybody who hasn’t thought about it very much, is that what they see is what they get. And they don’t realize that that very thing that they’ve just done is an impression they took of the universe. Not what’s out there but what  they’ve carried away from it, a residual impression from the nerve endings. And they don’t often realize that. After all, reality is a very compelling illusion, as Einstein noted/ The job for me is to find a way for them to “get it.” In my classes, we would do something like this. We’d look as these two configurations and play with them.  And they would start to come around.  What happens is, as you know, that your mind goes back and  forth.  Over here is the  physical world, and then here’s what it really is. If you’re alert, you go back and forth. What Frost toyed with is, Can I get both of those simultaneously? Can I be in eternal time as well as in sequential time?

The problem is the carryover.

H: So what’s on my mind is the whole question of how a reader can apply any of the ideas we’ve been discussing.

M: That’s on my mind  a lot. It’s rather ironic that to enter into timeless time, you have to spend enough time one something to make it come alive in its full complexity. What did the fox tell the Little Prince? “It’s the time you spend on your rose that makes it unique in all the world.” Men only understand things they have tamed.

Something to Wrap the Senses Around

H: And practically. We’re talking practical applications. So I think it would be useful to talk a little bit about method and technique for bringing about changes in awareness whereby a reader or someone who might be listening to our dialogue could get that concept–through an experience.

M: Yes. Maybe one could say, “OK,  let’s look at this vase.”    Then go around the group asking each person to add some detail or aspect that hadn’t already been mentioned.  And keep going like that for a while.  I think you could start with something like that. What we’re doing is wrapping our senses around that vase, but what we’re also doing is bringing that vase into our own sensoriums.   We have to take this step.  No amount of explication  by a well-meaning teacher will do the trick.  Only the participation by the witnessing participant will bring it alive.  What I’m realizing as you and I talk is that these dialogues are raw material and will remain, as far as any reader is concerned, spiritless until the reader becomes a participant in the dialogue.  Steven, you and I have to recognize this fundamental fact in these dialogues, that they cannot help but be static till some reader imbues them with his or her own spirit.


you and I have to recognize this fundamental fact in these dialogues, that they cannot help but be static till some reader imbues them with his or her own spirit.,

H: I think that’s true. And then there needs to be a way for the integration process to happen. That’s where I think doing some kind of journaling method helps bring about a change in awareness.

Reflective Writing as a Flashlight

M: I think it’s critical. But how do you get people to do it who are so casual about everything? That’s what pulls it off, what I call reflective writing. That’s the key because you have to take time. Before I came over here I was doing that. For me it illuminates things so rapidly you can’t believe it.  But it’s a wonderful tool. If people would do it, it would work for them.  In my classes  I could make that my requirement. Actually in my mind it was a recommendation, a suggestion- -not a requirement, because it really is their choice to do this. If they had to do it, it would be just another composition exercise. But sometimes some would start out acting like they had to and then would find themselves doing it productively and liking the process.

H: What I was getting at is that everybody who works on himself or herself and has the aim of transforming his or her consciousness has to find their own method.

M:  That’s  right.

The Necessity of One’s Own Path

H: And that somebody else’s method might work for him, although one has to find one’s own rhythm.

You know, von Franz is talking about rhythm being basically a mathematical principle in the cosmos. So how does one find one’s own rhythm? All these poets we’ve been talking about– Whitman, for example, talks about vocalism as “the divine power to speak words.” That’s what vocalism is: vocalizing power, the power of divinity. Finding a technique whereby one  can activate the archetype of the Self in its temporal and eternal aspects, so that one is living in touch with both realities, is the key. And I think that it varies in every individual.

Getting the Feel of One’s Facts

M: OK. I’m sure that in your work  you take each person as an individual, a separate self. OK, so I’m thinking about how this might work. I can’t imagine convincing a bunch of anonymous readers that they’d better start keeping a reflective journal, even though that would be a great idea.

H: I’m not so sure convincing them is what I’m getting at. What I’m looking for is some  practical steps for applying the concepts to  their own lives. And  beginning to  apply them in such a way that they can do it in their own personal space and time, because if you’re using the web as a way to reach people, you’re not going to have interactive experience with them, except through back and forth commentary.

M: That’s right.

Catalytic Rhythm and Music

H: What I’m thinking is every soul, to quote Whitman again, has its own individual language. One has to find that language. Now, that language is patterned by rhythm, and for the poet it’s always rhythm, music, that helps induce the state of mind whereby a poem can be born.

M: Or you could say, where your voice is released. It’s unique, your voice; that’s the essential point. No one else’s ventriloquism will do. I don’t think we can over emphasize how fundamental this is to the individuation of a being. In linquistics there’s a word for it, idolect.

[An idiolect is an individual’s distinctive and unique use of language, including speech. This unique usage encompasses vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.]

I don’t see how an elementary teacher can be effective without knowing that that’s the game, to open the way for that little kid to speak in his or her own tongue. Or any of the rest of us “educators” for that matter. Everything else is Trivial Pursuits!

H: Where the voice is released. And coupled with that is also the vision. One has to have a vision. This is very Jungian. And it’s very Native American. One needs to stay true to one’s own inner vision in order to work on material that wants to manifest itself from the collective unconscious.

M: OK. So in order to get your voice going, you have to get in tune with your inner rhythm. That has to be allowed to function. Then your voice can come out. Now, how to get people  to recognize that their own vision is central to this process? There are the rites of passage of various forms, of course.  As a culture America isn’t very good at it, this turning point where a person simply wakes up. 

Active Imagination

H: That’s where, as a Jungian psychotherapist, I recommend to all my patients that they keep a dream journal. When you think about the technique that Jung used with his patient’s, active imagination, it was something that grew organically out of his work with Freud on dreams.

M: Talk about “active imagination.”

H: Well, “active imagination” was Jung’s method  of working with the  unconscious. Jung saw that the philosophies of India–Buddhism, Hinduism–had asked the  perennial  question, How does one come to terms with the unconscious? With the cosmos, most basically. You could say that the unconscious and the universe are interconnected with mathematical figures that the Chinese developed. But  the big question in all of these philosophies and  religions  had been How does one come to terms with the orderly and chaotic forces in the universe? And then, How might a person be led to have a vision out  of that that can lead to enlightenment  or recognition of one’s own dharma and teaching.

Jung, of course, broke away from Freud in 1912 because of his  book Symbols of Transformation, which upset Freud. After that he developed his method  of active  imagination that he learned a little bit about first from an American student who was a visionary, Miss Frank Miller: How to engage poetic fantasy, mythopoetic fantasy. He developed it in his own psychological direction into this discovered method that he used to engage the unconscious rhythms, fantasy-thinking as a way to promote directed thinking.

Rhythm, Vision, and Discoveries

We’re talking about the two diagrams that we’ve been looking at and the two types of time. Fantasy thinking takes one into eternal time, and directed thinking brings one back into temporal reality. So how do you unite those two? Well, it’s through the integration of the  right and left hemispheres, this integrative process of rhythm, vision, and the discovery of one’s own language. Jung said that in order to interpret a dream properly, one has to learn the language  of the dream that is unique in every individual, every patient. I think the same is true for someone like yourself teaching a group of unruly English students; you have to get into that rhythm with the students and thereby help them discover their vision. You used your own reflective writing technique, and that worked for the students. I use a different method, my own journal technique.

M: Let me interrupt for a minute. You referred to a Miss Miller?

We Want at Least a Glimpse

H: Yes, that was her pseudonym. Jung had found her visionary experiences in a book by his colleague Theodore Flournoy, who wrote up her visions in 1906. Jung read those and wrote his major work as an analysis of those visions. Some of the visions that she had were based on her reading of “Hiawatha” by Longfellow. So there’s a Native American element to visions. My point is that Jung had to develop his own method of coming to terms with unconscious, just as the Buddha or any religious teacher had to find his  own method  of meditation or however they’re going to deal with their own impulses and these cosmic forces. Everybody wants to be able to have a glimpse at least of this reality you’re talking about in the Yeats poem that I gave you about the hare and the impression in the mountain grass, because, you’re right, all we have are these impressions in life.

M: That’s it!

H: Yet there are impressions that are internal that live forever, and those are the ones that he’s talking about. He’s talking about that special one that could never be replaced by any other woman.

Nourishment for the Soul

M: Yes, I think that’s absolutely correct. So you allow your senses to absorb the loved one, that person in front of you. You keep that, and I think you do; that image is inside you. But what happens is that your entire Self has been transformed. Or, that experience has put you in touch with the eternal because you have allowed it to be so vivid. So what happens is that openness to experience allows your Self to grow or develop. So every loving thing that you do out there in the world is nothing more than nourishment for the whole thing. It’s not that specific thing; you’ve been made different because of that openness.

H: You’ve been changed.

To Live in Eternity’s Sunrise

M: And that’s all gain. What happens is that if you do enough of that, you begin to live in eternity’s sunrise. You may not think that’s your goal, but that clearly is your goal. I think  most of us choose not to go quite that far. If we did, we wouldn’t be sitting here.

H: Yes. I don’t think it’s possible to live there all the time. We have to take out the  trash, we’ll be in traffic . . .

M: Right. I picture that glimpse like that white bird on your shoulder that Carlos Castaneda wrote about. He called it your death, but I’d say it’s that glimpse of what’s available that you carry around on your shoulder so that when you’re going through traffic, you’re in that envelope of the greater world. We can go ahead and do our shopping . . .

H: Oh,  I think it’s perfectly possible to be  in traffic and be living with an awareness of that.  But I don’t think that’s typically the  case. This is where  we  get back to what  I was saying, though. If one does what you said you did this morning, using you reflective writing method to get yourself into a state whereby you have broken through.

M: What I did essentially was to allow my voice to come forward.

H: I do it all the time. But this is what your readers will want to know. How do you do that? Let’s get back to what you did this morning.

M: That’s how this one does it. I think a lot of my students did it that way. Perhaps they were doing it in other ways that I wasn’t aware of. In the journals I got a real sense of what was happening in regard to this other realm. And I’d get a general sense as well of the  feel of the whole group. They were making up an envelope within the greater envelope. How to get, say, your spouse to do it, or one of your kids, someone who’s not usually thinking about this sort of thing? I don’t know.  After all, what you, Steven, and I love to think about isn’t even on the list  of most people I know.

Poetic Science

H: I would follow her rhythm, to the place inside herself where she can have an experience. I would ask her about her dreams. That’s what I do when people walk into my  office. Getting   back to my point about method, this is really the key  readers  to  your website are going to want to know, or readers of my book on spiritual democracy. They are  going to want to find out what  a practical method is for applying this idea, this big notion. How does one practice spiritual democracy? How does one practice being a poet when one doesn’t write poetry every day? And live as a poet? What can poetry teach me about being a physicist in the field of science or in the field of chemistry? Poetry, as Whitman thought of it, vocalism and free verse are methods whereby anybody may activate the center of the personality, which Jung called the  Self  — which is exactly the place where the two diagrams come together.

M: OK. Sure. Of course that works when someone comes to you. They are there for that express purpose, even if they haven’t articulated it. They know something isn’t quite clicking.

H: Yes, of the kind where one has an experience that Yeats is trying to teach, and that you’re talking about. How one activates the experiential reality of cosmic unity through a method–and here again we’re getting back to journaling.  I think journaling is a key to this–writing.  And that’s where literature and psychology meet. I think the greatest psychologists  of the  19th century were poets. Whitman, Dickinson, Melville. There were others  of course, but for me  as an American, they speak to my soul in a way that no other poet does. Everyone has to find their own teachers. For me, they are the greatest teachers of the 19th century. They were psychologists. They’re not like New Age teachers.

Lasting Moments

M: So let’s say you take someone like Ruth and you give her Whitman’s poem “There Was a Child Went Forth.” I have a feeling that if you gave that poem to ordinary people and they read  it slowly and absorbed it, they’d “get it”–for that particular moment.  I think the thing is for them to have enough experience of that poem that they begin to see that that’s something that could be going on all the time in their perception of the world.

H: Right. You and I can hear that line, “There was a child went forth every day and the first object he look’d upon. that object he became.”

I think, as a child psychotherapist, that’s no problem at all. Children engage in that kind of experience all the time.

M: Right.

H: That’s what they’re doing. They come into my office, and they play. And everything on my play shelf they become. They become the alligator. They melt the witch.

M: [Chuckles.]

Seeming Isolates

M: Here’s where you and I can pick up McTaggart’s The Field, or Whitman or Emily Dickinson and “get it” right away. I could pick up a book on Richard Feynman and  particle physics and  I see how that connects to me and  to all these  other seeming isolates. You couldn’t get  most people to touch that stuff.

H: Your comment about Whitman’s poem, “There Was a Child Went Forth” — I think that poem in itself can help anybody, I don’t care who it is, return to those states in childhood where one had a glimpse.

M: Let me pursue this a little bit more, though. I’m thinking about how stimulating and poetic it is, to me, to trace physical reality through the fingernail, down through the atom, down through the nucleus, down through the particle, to the very deepest, deepest evaporation of physical reality.

H: That’s what Whitman does in “Song of Myself.”

M: But you can’t get anyone to talk about that journey I just described in terms of modern physics. You can’t use those words; they will run away from you! If you try to do it that way.

H: Well, it depends on who you’re talking to.

M: Do you think an ordinary person would listen to me if I used such terms?

H: Sure. Especially if they’re trying to get their A out of college!

M: [Both laugh]

H: Then they’re really going to listen! But von Franz does it really smoothly, as she does in that little piece I read you.  Bringing Chinese philosophy and Jungian psychology together in seamless language.

She has found her rhythm.

M: Yes, that’s a nice bridge.

H: These were a series of talks she gave. I don’t think it’s a problem. I think most people are interested in the new physics. The question of the ultimate reality is on everyone’s mind. Everyone wants to know something about it.

Wrapping the Senses Around the Facts

M: OK. So everybody was quite comfortable  with the  idea that  the  Earth was flat.  Someone told them the Earth was flat, and they said, “OK. That works for me. Now I’ll go about cultivating my garden.” Then they’re told, “No, no, no. It’s a big sphere.” And again, everyone says, “That sounds pretty good.” What they’ve  done,  in my  view, is accept these things, all sorts of fundamental things, superficially. They never get the feel of the flat Earth or the round Earth. My point is that either one would do. If you used those as metaphors by which you paid attention to what’s going on, you’d come back to bed-rock reality anyhow. You’d come back to the deep ground of being. It doesn’t matter what image you use. But if you just let it stand there and don’t wrap your senses around it, then you’re living a mechanical life. So, I tell you, “You know what? The physical world is made of little teeny  particles that you can’t even see, and when you get down deep enough it’s all pure energy.” Then they say, “Oh, that’s  very interesting. I am glad to know that.  I’ll keep that in mind.” Then they go ahead and ignore it. So  it never penetrates no matter what image you use. It doesn’t mean anything; it doesn’t change anything. That’s my problem, to get people  to wrap  their senses around, say, this  little plant here on your side table. You can get at it in your work through the approaches we’ve discussed. Also, they keep their experiences of reality in separate boxes. I get a big kick out of thinking about Jungians who see all these disciplines  interrelated–anthropology, paleontology, shamanism, geology, mythology–all interconnected. That’s as it should be. I think most people see a piece of granite as one thing and the cave drawings as something else.

Separate Realms of Gold /One Realm

H: I think this gets back to what I call the Alchemy of the West, what Keats calls the realms of gold, and it’s not the realm of gold, it’s the realms of gold. There are realms to get to this place. And what  von Franz said here, which is very interesting, “For in modern physics it is thought that one might possibly find one basic rhythm of the universe which would explain all the different phenomena.” So that is the problem, because everyone has their own realm of gold.

How can all these different realms explain that one phenomenon? This is where I want to ask a question about whether it’s fair to talk of one realm we each can dip into, or whether there are always going to be these infinite realms and everyone has to find their way to gain access to those realms which may be very different. That’s why spiritual democracy  is  important  to me. It answers the perennial question of philosophy and religion that is: Which is the right way to the Self? Well, there are many ways.

Hooking Up with the Eternal Center

M: I’d put the question another way. How can I use my way to connect up with the eternal center?

H: That is it. You just nailed it right there, because the problem of the teacher is the subjective lens through which the teacher sees.

M: Yes.

H: The key is learning the language of the subject.

M: Yes, yes.

H: Or student or reader. So how does one do that when one is in the  role of teaching something, such as you and I have been trying to do in these dialogues. That’s where there have to be some practical steps that are offered to readers whereby they can discover their own way to the realm or realms of gold. Of course, either leads to the same place, which Jung calls the Self.

You Become a Melody.

M: What happens is that by fiddling around in all these various realms, at some point the music takes over and you are simply a melody. And once you become  a melody, you’re there. And you are quite at home in the totality of it all. These issues we’re talking about dissolve because they really are ephemeral. They’re just ways to get there. That picture, that picture, this feeling, that feeling–those really are just aspects of that one deep melody that’s playing, that rhythm that she’s talking about.

You become a melody.

H: So, then, let me ask you a question that I think might spark some interest in readers of your web page. It was only after I saw this Chinese work of genius, these two basic rhythms of the universe, that I asked myself the question, “Why has Clark been so preoccupied with this matchstick puzzle? He was teaching that thirty, forty, years ago. Why is he so interested in this?

What does it have to do with the number 5? Well, sure enough there are four sticks and an olive.

M: [Laughs]

H: Did you ever think of that? I thought, Well, there it is right there.

M: Oh, my! Well, when you showed me these two diagrams, and when you’ve talked about pentagons and several other circumstances involving the number 5, I have indeed noticed the figure 5 popping up all over the place. An artist I read about created a vase that’s rim is a pentagonal but as you look down into its bottom it’s evolved into a triangle.

H: Getting back to your point about how one helps the average reader connect with what we’re talking about. Well I know exactly how I would deal with illuminating a patient’s realm of gold. When I was a child, I used to walk to school, Strandwood Elementary, from our house in Pleasant Hill, and it was a long way to school, as Jung said when he was going to Basel. There was a milkweed plant and every spring around February or maybe March, I would watch the caterpillars eat away at the milkweed, these wonderful caterpillars with golden specks, incredible golden specks on their backs. And I watched this transformation into a chrysalis and then later in the year you’d see these monarch butterflies that would return and had been returning for who knows how long.

On the way to school

So that’s an example of a child going forth as in Whitman’s poem. I’m sure Ruth has memories like this. Anybody who observes nature will have a sense of what we’re talking about.

M: Oh, sure. In fact, Ruth has a much richer memory of her childhood than I do. Mine was more ethereal. She was absorbing it all like a sponge.

Stardust Memory—Trailing Clouds of Glory

H: I think that’s the key, those childhood memories contain transforming emotions.  Part  of the beauty of the  journaling method is that one can write memories  from childhood and try and remember those spots of time, as Wordsworth said, when you have such a vision. Then come memories of trailing clouds of glory from our home, which is the cosmos–where those butterflies are flying from. They’re  flying out of those  atoms  you’re talking about. Atoms that were formed by a star. Stardust.

Entering the Realm at Will

M: That’s important to me, to be able to jiggle that sense of trailing clouds of glory, whenever you feel like it. That reminds me of a guy I got to know over in San Mateo. Recently he was asked to do a sermon at a Methodist church and his title was, “Coming Home,” which meant coming home to God. His three or four references were all out of the Bible. I immediately thought of this Wordsworth poem and trailing clouds of glory. And I immediately thought of eternity’s sunrise and a  number  of other associations. My point  is–sorry it’s taken so long to get here–that all these secular connections would enrich his sermons so much. These poor guys who know only the  Bible are stuck with this  limited view that they get from their Bible. So I sent him those references and maybe a couple of others and maybe he used them. But he didn’t even know about them. Religion cannot separate itself from the culture surrounding it.

“An Antique Volume Written by Faded Men”

H: Well, I think that’s why Emily Dickinson wrote that the Bible is an antique volume written by faded men.

M: [Laughs.] Ooh.

The Bible and the Hubble Telescope

H: Of course there is wonderful richness that we can find in the Bible, certainly in Revelations 21 I told you about last time, Psalms, Job, Isaiah. But I think what people want to know is how to have or perhaps remember a glimpse outside of a conventional method. Some approach to their discovery via their own technique. Your friend was  using his  Biblical  metaphors  to enclose himself in his own subjective reality. Therefore, when one does that, he  or she  can’t often open up and see the cosmos. I think physics helps us do that, astronomy helps us do that. When I first took a look at the Hubble pictures that were made  in 1998, which  I discovered about four years ago on the Internet, I was blown away. Those billions of spiral galaxies  out there! And this here is just a speck. We are just a speck. Infinity is mind-blowing. The poets had this awareness. Wordsworth certainly did in that poem.

Bunched Up Sunlight

M: Well, here’s the thing. The Bible does have it there, too. I can think of a couple right off: “In the beginning was the Word.” The other is, “And the light was coming into the world.” Those two things are sub-atomic physics and the mythopoetic representation of it. The Word is vocatus, the voicing of the cosmos. So you have both those two fundamental components of the universe coming right out of the Bible. If the priest got the feel of those things, he would explode. Instead, what do most do? They deal with the surface, the dead metaphors, metaphors that have to be brought alive again. Reading the  Bible  that way is so primitive  when this  richness is right  there to be broken into. Whoever wrote those passages really understood. They got it right down to the fundamentals. People read those words as if they’re reading Readers Digest. I can’t stand it!

I think sitting around and having superficial conversations does have its warming aspects, but it’s not very nourishing in the long run. At least once in a while we need to notice that that person across from us is bunched up sunlight.

H: Yes. One wants to feel vital. Alive. I think this is the key, the journaling method, a mere mental exercise is not going to do it. It’s got to electrify the whole body. It’s got to wake us up.

That Electrical Feeling, the Mind on Fire

M: That’s what we’re talking about. Getting that electrical feeling to be part of the way you run around on the planet, tuning yourself up in the morning. When you get up in the morning, take down a musical instrument, Rumi said.

H: There’s the rhythm. That’s the melody.

M: You become musical. Then you can go out among your fellow creatures.

H: One has to find it in one’s own vocational channel. Von Franz isn’t a poet. She’s  a Jungian analyst but also a mathematician and a physicist. Nevertheless, she hears the music.

A Matter of Making Connections

M: I think the patient of yours has to catch on that his game is to make connections. You can’t keep these things isolated. You can’t think that the  world is a bunch of separate specks. Yes, there are these specks. But if you look at a speck, it’s the cosmos. If you look at the cosmos, it’s me. I think what you said about the Self as the place where the two come together is a great way to put it–and correct. I still haven’t figured out how to make this happen on my website. It’s getting there, but there has to be an elegant solution.

H: I looked through your website, and I think it looks good. You know I didn’t say it lightly about getting your A out of college. I think it’s great that you have a whole section devoted to that. Get Your A Out of College did help me get good grades.

M: You know, it occurred to me a few days ago  that that book is about what  we’ve been talking about. It’s about taking charge of your own schooling–which is an aspect of most people’s lives–and about what you’re up to in the first place. It’s all about nourishing your Self.

A Way to Take Charge

H: It’s one of the things we’re talking about, and it certainly helped me get organized. Again, getting back to what I was saying earlier, it’s practical. It’s got methods and techniques. BFAR

[Browse     Focus     Absorb     Reinforce —or simpler yet, Browse      Browse  Browse Browse]

is a technique for learning how to be in a classroom in an engaged way, through active listening. People are looking for techniques. We’ve talked a lot about a big notion, and we have to find ways to make it practical. I think journaling does that.

I have yet to take my journals and extract the method underlying them that I use.

 M: Making it practical. This is really a key to everything.

H: When I think about what this method of journaling that I’ve been using has done for me, I think about this way in which a poem can imprint the mind and soul, and into the heart even.

To Understand, Make a Poem

M: Exactly. That’s the difference between a description of particle physics and the way  a Yeats or a Dickinson would go about it. You can use technical terms, but if you want someone to understand particle physics, you are going to have to make it poetic. That’s what  the  Chinese did. That’s what von Franz did. She brought the concept to the fore and made these connections we’ve been discussing in, for me, a rather poetic way. It’s critically important to find ways to make something esoteric penetrate the heart. Frost said a good poem inflicts an immoral wound that you never recover from. That’s the whole idea of it. I think Kafka said it’s like an ice axe that cuts through the ice that separates the two realms. The poem can be like an axe or an arrow that pierces the defenses. If you want to study physics, physics should feel like that to you. Right?

H: Sure. I don’t know of anybody who has a fifteen-minute viewing of the photos from the Hubble, the Deep Field it presents–which is where those galaxies are located, and that’s just one wee part of it–well, I don’t know how anybody whose mind is open wouldn’t be blown away by it.

M: I have a feeling that most people, even then, don’t feel what you’re describing. Maybe every once in a while they do. But I do agree with you about the  power of those images,  and you can go the other direction, too, into the sub-atomic realm. Microscopes are getting pretty good at taking us farther and farther inward.

The Widening Gyre

H: I told you what happened when I took a look into the Deep Field. I was teaching my  course on Whitman at the International House on Spiritual Democracy. I had a dream of a woman who had a spiral galaxy for her head. She was all in blue and she was sitting right across from me.

And I saw the light emanating from each of the little stars in that spiral, luminaries. I think the way in which the mythopoetic mind works is through this idea you’re talking about in the Yeats poem “Memory,” about the impression on the grass. That’s the idea of imprinting. The way the journaling method can be used practically is through the taking in of a poem like that one we’re talking about–or any poem–and working with it, the Keats poem and also, of course Whitman. The taking in of “There Was a Child Went Forth,” then the transformation of it into something else. Think about how Whitman came to write  “Song of  Myself.” He  tells  us,  “I was simmering, simmering, simmering. Emerson brought me to a boil.” He read Emerson’s  essay “The Poet” where he mentions Humboldt. Whitman uses the German spelling, kosmos. “Walt Whitman, from Manhattan the son, a kosmos.” He talks about himself as a cosmos. He assumes the form of an eidolon [A spirit image in human form] of a galaxy, a universe, really. “Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” So there’s the relationship between physics in outer, external, space, and the internal reality. “The whirling and whirling is elemental within me,” he says, the elemental forces are whirling and whirling within him. Whirling and whirling  in a widening gyre the falcon cannot hear the falconer, says Yeats. The whirling is within us, within all the atoms of our blood.

M: Oh, yes, that last quote is from . . .

H: Yeats’ “The Second Coming.” The dervish whirls. The poet enters that state through affect [emotional reactions marked by physical symptoms and disturbances in thinking] attunement, rhythmic activity that puts one in accord with one’s Self. Take a look at those two diagrams von Franz discusses. Every direction you go in in that top diagram you get the number 15, with 5 in the middle. It’s something I’ve never seen. Most mathematicians probably have.

M: If they’re really mathematicians. The way they get to be mathematicians, they get a big kick out of such configurations.

H: But the way the Chinese worked out those two diagrams to demonstrate the two types  of time   is remarkable.

M: Think how mathematics would be transformed in America if it were brought to kids as something that’s fun to play with, not as something you have to learn.

H: These mathematicians who have it as a vocation at the gene level, these people love numbers.

M: Yes. That’s the way language works for me. It’s no problem to play with almost any aspect of it.

The Journal—a Place for the Imagination to Play

H: And that’s what the  journal is, a place  to play. A place for the  imagination to work.  And in rhythmic ways. I think one has to play with language for it to have a transformative effect.

M: For me, reflective writing is almost like hypnosis.

H: Well, they used to use automatic writing, a form of auto-hypnosis to treat trauma patients in the early dynamic psychiatry. Jean Charcot and Pierre Janet were big proponents of the use of automatic writing at the Salpêtrière in Paris.

M: In my reflective writing, I won’t be writing long till I go from the superficial to what seems like taking dictation. That almost always happens within fifteen minutes or less.

Toward a Feeling of Unity with the Cosmos

H: That’s what people who want to have, an experience.  Some  readers  might  be  asking, “Taking dictation? What is he talking about?” They want to feel it. They want to experience  it. It’s interesting when you talk to people who  are keeping a dream journal, whether they’re patients or students, or readers of one of my books, sometimes when they really begin to play with language an experience happens through experimentation. It’s what Whitman said, that Leaves of Grass was a language experiment. Bringing in scientific information in 1855 enabled him to create for the reader a feeling for the unity of the cosmos. We have to bring in an experimental attitude to keeping a dream journal. Because the experiment isn’t going to work without investigation, inquisitiveness, curiosity about the dream’s  essential meanings, and  that is where the poetry journal comes in. Science is the same way. How are we going to arrive at something new? When a person begins  to play with language  in her poetry journal, sometimes she may want to keep what she’s written private for a while. But then she begins to feel, “Hey, what I just wrote is pretty good.” Then she wants to be mirrored. She wants  to find out, is  it really any good? If she were an English student she might think “I’ll show it to Clark McKowen and see what he thinks.” If she were  to get on the  margin of her journal, “Hey! This is  great stuff!” with an exclamation point, it’s going to make her want to continue with this.

Teaching as Dialogue

M: Right. You begin to have a dialogue about what’s important to you. The other person’s  going to be responding to that. Not telling you what you ought to be doing. The other person is saying, “Oh, yeah, that reminds me . . .” and so on. I’m still working on the mechanics  of getting this going on the website. You can do this in your work. You can say, “I’d like you to keep a dream journal.” Is that what you do?

H: That’s one of the methods I recommend. I also suggest they keep a regular journal of their thoughts and any images that may come to them.

M: I’ve got to figure out how to do that on the website, how to talk them into it.

H: I told you about Ira Progoff, didn’t I?

M: Yes, I had his book. I read it years and years ago. Don’t forget, I looked at all the books and articles on writing journals I could get my hands on.

H: Was that before you developed your own writing process?

M: No, I was developing it all along. It evolved rather rapidly as I discovered how effective the technique I’m using now is. But, sure, when I’m working on an idea I bring in anybody else who can shed any light at all on it. Sometimes a whole book has maybe only one idea I can use, but if  it does, it’s worth the time. So really, the reflective-writing process I encourage has a world of journal methods behind it.

H: So in a nutshell, what would you tell your students you want in terms of keeping a journal?

Clark’s Only Writing Rule: Reflect on It in Writing.

M: That’s very simple. After an experience in class I’d ask everyone to sit down and reflect on it. Write for about half an hour and think about it. Explore it a little bit.


After an experience in class I’d ask everyone to sit down and reflect on it. Write for about half an hour and think about it. Explore it a little bit.

H: Did you have anything about dreams.

M: They came into the writing organically. The reflections were supposed to be associated with our class somehow or other, not only in response to class activities. They could start with something that happened on their way home or a movie they saw and thought fitted in with our class dialogue. But, yes, there were lots of dreams that came into the writing.  I even told them little secrets about how to remember their dreams. You’re probably familiar with this: I’d say,  OK, you say you don’t remember your dreams. Do this and I guarantee you will remember what you dream: Get yourself all ready for bed and the last thing you do before lying down, fill a drinking glass to the brim with water and set it on your night stand right next to your bed. That’s all you have to do. You will remember your dream. And they did! Well, of course.

H: I don’t see how that would be a problem on the website. If you take on an experimental attitude.

M: I should probably have a little box at the beginning of every post that I put on the web. I think I’ll work this up and see if anything happens.

Keep a Dream Journal.

H: Let me tell you why I’m having this thought, because take for example  that comment  of Yeats that you like, “One has a vision. One would like another.” The reader may  wonder, How do I get a vision? You know, Yeats recorded his dreams. He worked with the unconscious material. Most poets I’ve read and studied, Melville, Whitman, Dickinson, Miller, Lawrence, Jeffers, and especially Everson, kept a record of their dreams or at least paid attention. Some of the best poems have been written out of the dream state.

M: I’m well aware of that. I’ve gotten several useful ideas out of today’s dialogue. We were talking practically but also poetically, weren’t we? Very good, Steven.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.