Dialogue # 14: Vocation, Synchronicity and Timelessness

January 22, 2013

[In this dialogue Steven and I talk the powerful energy that’s at our disposal when we have the luck to find and accept our calling, our innate vocation.  We all know the difference between a  prose-like life that is not our calling and the poetic life of  spirit and flesh melded into one unstoppable force.]

The Synchronous Vision of the Awakened Mind

M: What’s interesting to me is the way discoveries keep coming into focus. Remember I told you Mary (Rutherford) Canizzaro–who lives two doors up from us in our new place–and I discovered she had been a high school student of mine back in 1963? We were chatting casually, and then these things started to fall into place. I could feel them falling into place, I could almost anticipate it happening. You could feel something was on its way here. The questions back and forth, in retrospect, were very pointed, but neither of us knew we were pointing them that way.  Again, it’s this same process, almost like a magnet drawing two minds to a point of connection. They keep going. And there were about three more of these coincidences recently. This is the sort of thing I think we should talk about in terms of your area of expertise. Here’s the thing of it. One might say, “Well, those things happen.” They come together, and the information that’s desired is acquired. I don’t think that’s unusual at  all. We just don’t realize it. Many, many times I’m in the right place at the right time. I think that’s part of this synchronous world we live in. By synchronous I don’t mean in the conventional sense of time. I mean a universal time, or rather timelessness.

H: Those things are so baffling that they jog the mind.  It creates a certain kind of Aha! I was at the gym last night, and there’s something about this number, 44. I don’t think I’ve told you this. When Manny was a little boy, we used to see this recurrence of the number 44. It  was  all a build-up to the year 2000. I was born in 1956, and I knew I would be 44 in the year 2000.  So  I began noticing the number 44 in random places. I’d be driving on the freeway with Manny, and I’d say, “Forty-four on that license plate.” Then going to pump gas and looking at the numbers on the meter, and it’s registering $44.44–something like that. Both of us paying attention to it and laughing, him shooting me an email, saying, “Look, Dad!”  We  had  this thing, and then when I met Lori, we brought her into it. We all started to talk about this, and it became a kind of family joke. But not really a joke. It was one of those things that just kept happening.

Sometimes it was mind-boggling. I didn’t keep a list of every time  it happened.  But I did write a number of these coincidences in my poetry journal. Then we brought Marina, Manny’s fiancée, into it, too. So we all had this thing going. So after the year 2000 it continued right up through my early fifties. I’ve let it fade out, though, since Manny’s on the East Coast, and  we are absorbed in other things now. But interestingly,  I told Lori  yesterday that I’d  be going to the gym before coming home. I didn’t look at my emails, but I got two referrals between the time I went to the gym and came back, and one was at 6:44. I thought I’d tell you that. But it happens to me a lot, so much so that I can’t say there’s any possibility of a doubt that this isn’t meaningful.

“If your  belief system is such that intuition and synchronicity are real and significant, you will notice them. If your belief system is that they are hogwash, you won’t.” If you go  through life thinking that stuff is hogwash, if you aren’t alert to these things going on around you, it won’t happen.

Street-Corner Research

M: That’s the main point I want to make here. Remind me that I want to mention W. C. Williams’ and Charles Demuth’s “The Figure Five in Gold” and numerology. But right now I want to say that I’m certain that this is not just stuff that happens. Here’s a quote: “If your  belief system is such that intuition and synchronicity are real and significant, you will notice them. If your belief system is that they are hogwash, you won’t.” If you go  through life thinking that stuff is hogwash, if you aren’t alert to these things going on around you, it won’t happen. It’s about research, too. I’m not a researcher. You are  much better at this  than I am, and Karl Staubach is way up there. You and he can gather your data and remember it. I find it remarkable that you can. I don’t do it that way. That’s not my process. My vocation is to get  the feel of something or other. That’s how I understand things.  You can do research by going to the library. Or you can do as Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman philosopher, did. He said you could look up things in the library, or you could stand on a street corner in San Francisco, and it will come to you. And that is true. That’s how I do my research.

Once you begin to realize the environment is full of data available to your interest, you can begin to make use of it. But you do have to know that this can and will happen. But your senses have to be tuned up.

Beyond Vivacity

I just posted on my website something about Jane Goodall from her book Reason for Hope about chimpanzees. She cites two incidences in which she went beyond the  ordinary, the realms of gold as I would call then, or the ecstasy that Emily Dickinson talks about. People, who get into that  realm, use similar  metaphors, quite often golden.  Goodall talks about such an experience in Gombe after she’s been in the forest about six or eight months. She senses it coming on. Now, she has these vivid experiences in nature, and it’s wonderful for her. She thinks that’s heaven, but then she  can feel this  mystical sort of thing coming on, coming on, and then she’s in it. It’s  that timeless now where  everything is really, really vivid. Then she’s in Notre Dame in Paris years later, when she’s  in Europe for her doctorate, and there’s the organ playing, and it’s reverberating in the soaring arches of the cathedral, and the  music is like it’s alive. Those are two experiences in which she steps over the threshold, through the crack between the worlds. Or you could call it the right hemisphere being brought to the fore. My point is that it’s possible  for all of us  to elevate our senses. Jane Goodall couldn’t  have had that experience in Gombe, she couldn’t have had that experience in Notre Dame, if she hadn’t built up a sensorium that was able to receive that information. She got it by nature, by vocation. Even as a little girl she was  fascinated with the  minutia  of nature.  Her family  told her that when she was four or so she spent four hours in the hen house. She wanted to see how an egg was made. She stayed there long enough to see it being laid. When she was one-year- old, she was given a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee. It was  named  after the  first chimpanzee in the London zoo. She still has it.

Jane Goodall and Juibilee

Using What Comes Our Way

So you see how this intensity can build. She’s the one who broke open the notion that humans are the tool-making animal. There were cover articles in National Geographic at the time [First Jane Goodall cover article: 1963]. This was a woman who had no academic background for this work–except her own eyes . . . and no prejudices. She was actually able to communicate with wild animals. So the point I’m making is that if you will allow coincidence into your life, then it can function in your life. You can use it. I’m rather pragmatic about my thoughts. I don’t want to be ruminating about something if it’s not useful to me somehow or other. It has to have value in my day-to-day activities. This could be part of our educational system. You have to know this about yourself, that you can make use of what’s brought to you–if your sensorium is set up for it.

H: Well, I think that’s good, Clark. For that to happen, the students would have to be educated. And the problem is that we don’t have an educational system that focuses on that.

M: I know.

The Nuclear Symbol and Vocation Dreams

H: Getting back to research, my aptitude for research, I’m not sure if I told you my master’s thesis research was on vocational dreams in early adulthood. Ten individuals who had a vocational dream in early adulthood. They were interviews I transcribed and then analyzed the data, the stories. How is it that this interest developed? Well, sure enough, every story, all ten, had the exact same theme that you  just talked about, with Jane Goodall. And  that is  the variable that I call the nuclear symbol. You could say of Jane Goodall, that looking into the henhouse and watching the egg being laid was  the  first  impression of the  nuclear symbol on her little psyche. Something in her got  switched  on through evocation, like  an instinct, or Innate Releasing Mechanism (IRM) paired with an outer sign stimulus, something was evoked from the outside which was the archetype of her vocation. The nuclear symbol, I would say, is the chimpanzee.

M:    Yes,    yes.

The Self’s Pole Star

H: The chimpanzee would represent everything she is motivated to champion as an adult. You could say her whole life and vocation revolve around that nuclear symbol, like planets around the sun. That is the magnet, the North Star toward which her destiny points.

M: It goes even further. As a young girl in England she was supposed to go learn something useful for making a living. So she was sent off to become a secretary. But, almost like an  arrow, she wanted to go to Africa. She hadn’t gone  there  to study chimpanzees; she  just wanted to go to Africa.  Maybe it seemed to her kind of like a nature preserve. So, what happens? She applies for a secretarial job  with Lewis  Leaky–who  is studying fossil remains of human-like creatures. He makes her his secretary on the spot, this twenty-two-year-old girl, who had not any background for that work. A year later he says to her, “Hey, you want to go study some chimpanzees in Gombe? I think that would be  interesting.  Why  don’t  you  go down there and look at these hairy chimpanzees?” She says, “OK.” And zoom, zoom, zoom, like an arrow.

The path with a heart

H: From the outside it would look like a zigzag course, but you can step back and see the trajectory.

M: Right. I wrote a poem once about the zigzag course–which really was a straight trajectory. You think, Oh, I’m taking a detour.

H: The symbols left on rock paintings of the Native Americans often have a snake in the shape of a lightning bolt, a zigzag shape.

M: Oh, that’s right. They do a lot of that.

H: But to get back to what we were talking about, the nuclear symbol is charged with a certain kind of energy–you could say, a field energy–and it radiates outward from within. It can activate centers in other individuals that are vocationally attuned and thereby create a resonance, a fertile bed for synchronicity.

The Merging of Spirit and Flesh

M: Let me interrupt you there, because if I don’t I’m going to forget some things. I think the other person doesn’t have to be tuned up. You can tune him up. Take him up in the mountains, sit by a campfire, and you can soften his reserves, and  that  aspect  comes forward. You can take someone who’s  pretty hard-nosed about life and says that nothing matters about anything.  I think this is what happened in our classes.  Everybody comes  in, as  you  well know, living their own individual lives, and then the atmosphere becomes resonate and people  tune  in and all this data begins pouring out. That happens because you get people fiddling around and something opens, and this world we’re talking about becomes accessible.

H: Well, that does bring up this whole point about nature. Nature is the perfect medium in which the unconscious can emerge into consciousness. I think that’s where these memories come from. Jane Goodall probably didn’t have a linear course she was following when she went to Africa, as you were saying, but she carried in her unconscious all her interaction with the stuffed chimpanzee. I wrote a chapter about this in my dissertation. There is not much good vocational education in the elementary school or even in middle school. High schools sometimes get career counselors. But usually it’s about their ideals, not really their vocation, probably something instilled in them that they should be, a doctor or maybe a lawyer. And they should not be an artist or a poet. God forbid that you would be a poet.

M: Yeah. [Laughter]

Vocare in the Curriculum

H: You’ll never make money at that. The key is to tune the teachers in at a very early level so that they can begin to see the  motivational interests of these students. I know for my  son Manny, it was computers, and now he’s working with computers at Move On. He’s an online organizer. They complained at school that he had an organizational  problem.  I said, “Well, what are you doing to help him around his computer interests?” Sure enough, when they focused in on that, his grades shot up, and he started to excel. Now, he’s a computer organizer. He’s doing great work. I think if more educators were trained and taught how to recognize vocational interests at a young age, it would definitely create a transformation in society.

M: Here’s what I think is wrong in schools. They get this  good idea about recognizing vocation, as you just said. They have courses for teachers so that they recognize that. But first we have to take a step back and train them to recognize it in themselves.

H: Of course. That’s the first step.

The Necessary Feel

M: I think institutions start at the second step and  unleash these mechanical  monsters who think, “Well, I read the book. I know how we’re supposed to do this. Hey, kid, come in here. I’ll fix you up.” Instead of listening. Instead of looking. Instead of feeling. I suggest that one way is to get a person up in the mountains sitting around a campfire. Another way is to take advantage of cocktail talk and shift it into the direction you and I are talking about. Sunday night we  were  at a party with about twelve people, and a younger middle-school teacher said in passing, “You know, we’re supposed to get the kids to memorize the names of all the states and their capitols. What good is  that?” Someone  else said, “Well, they have to know about their country.” So I threw in a bit of a tilt: “I think maybe what you want is a combination.  You want people to have the facts, but you want them to have the feel of the facts.” You want them to have the feel of the facts. And that’s what we’re talking about.

H: I want to talk a bit about the feel of the facts and thinking about thinking. You started in mathematics, a field that involves thinking, but intuitive thinking. Either you’re becoming more feeling oriented as you mature, like a tree . . .

M: That’s true!

H: Or you always were that way. I never really considered that. But that does make sense about you.

The Soul’s GPS: The Feel of the Facts

M: I think that is true, but I never had a lucid awareness of that about myself till recently. I began to stand back and look at how I had been going about it. Using the feel of the facts as my GPS so to speak. Now, I consider it a pretty powerful tool of mine–to know this about myself. If I’m looking at a pile of data that make my eyes glaze over, I say, “Oh, wait a minute. Let me back up here and come at this from the feeling approach.”

H: I was never the kind of student in high school who could memorize the fifty states, for example, and just rattle them off. That wasn’t the way my mind works. I had a much more feeling-of-the-facts way of thinking. Is that what you’re saying?

M: Yes. You have to get the feel. You have to feel one  plus  one.  You can’t  just memorize. You have to sense how that works. This is why I didn’t stay with math. I didn’t realize how central to understanding the feel of a concept is. Now I know. But that’s how they grade math students. They don’t care about the way a student is going about catching on to the idea of one plus one, the feel of relativity. That’s all they care about. This kind of mathematical thinking was all over Gleick’s book on Richard Feynman. For the really great mathematicians and physicists, it’s like sex. It just simply feels so good to them. They love to mess around in their equalities–their metaphors, really. What you’ve been doing with 44, one of them might stop everything and really start exploring coincidence and synchronicity and simultaneity. In high school, Feynman could “get” the answer without doing the calculations. He was great in the
math contests New York used to sponsor. That’s what the feel really comes down to. He could see how this would work. That’s the concept. Very important.

H: If you look at it from a vocational angle, the reason Feynman was able to feel that is because of the fact that he had located the source of his motivation. That’s what you’ve been doing, too.

You know what your nuclear symbol is.

 M: What is it!?

H: It’s the teacher.

M: OK!

H: Look at your life, its trajectory. In your profession and even in the writing of your books, you’ve been teaching.

M: Hmm. Even in high school and on into college, I was always helping other students with their math or writing their essays.

H: It’s interesting how it’s taken shape. You specialized in the area of language. You didn’t become a math teacher.

M: No. I gravitated toward something that was fun, a lot of fun.  Math would have  been fun, but I didn’t have one clue from my math teachers about the fun aspects. Algebra was  presented as a little puzzle you could solve if you did certain things. I got one glimpse in analytic geometry. All of a sudden I thought, “Oh, this is fun.” But just that one little glimpse. This idea of how you could find your way into the heart of something and have such a joy I experienced one time in grad school. Again, it happened only one time. A teacher named Jack Wheatcroft spent a whole  session with us exploring a very short poem, “On My First Daughter,” by Ben Johnson, a writer in Shakespeare’s era. I still remember most of the words of that poem.

Jack Wheatcroft in 1978

Wheatcroft came in and illuminated that poem. Well, those two incidents must have planted a powerful idea back in my mind somewhere. Eventually, my teaching, when it exploded, was really that sort of thing.

The Explosive Force of an Atomic Speck

The basis of that way of being with students wasn’t that I was going to teach something. It was that I’m going to have a great time along with the students having a good look at this poem–or painting or metaphor.

H: You listened to your feelings.

M: Yes.

H: That’s a very strong indicator of a function of the psyche, the feeling function that helps in identifying vocational choice. If you tune in to how you feel, that’s a contributing factor in the vocational choice process. Do you feel like switching subjects?

M: Sure.

H: What you said about your interest in the figure five in gold.

M: Yes. It’s in Image all over the place. There’s a full color page (p. 193) of the painting by Charles Demuth (It’s in the Museum of Modern Art in New York), and I put in William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Great Figure” that inspired Demuth’s painting.

I was trying to make the point in the book that the more you fiddle around with something the richer it becomes. I seeded 5 throughout the book. The  idea is that you can take any  speck and if you play with it, you can explode it. It’s like a pot with an amaryllis bulb poking up that Ruth’s nephew sent us. It’s on our kitchen, and it’s  exploded in three  or four huge  gorgeous red blooms. You can watch an idea come alive like that, too, like the figure 5 or 44. That’s because it you let things like this occur, then it’s like  a magnet  drawing metal pickup sticks into the center. Discovering that someone sitting next to you at a dinner party was your high school sweetheart forty years ago is, again, like a magnet. You begin bringing those fields of information into proximity. You can actually feel it. You know before you get there that it’s going to connect. It’s like in these matchstick puzzles I use with groups of people. You know before you get there that you’ve already solved it. I want people I work with to realize why we do things isn’t the result but the pleasure that develops along the way. It builds to a climax.

H: Yes.

M: You can see it coming.

H: That’s intuition.

M: Isn’t that very similar to the sexual climax? You can feel it coming on. You know it, and you know there is nothing to stop it.

H: That’s a good point. Yes. There’s a certain point at which it breaks through. You know, you’re talking about coincidences, so I have to throw this in. I was thinking about you this weekend. This was before the water heater went out on Sunday and we were cleaning up. If this had happened on a weekday it would have been a disaster. We would have had to cancel all our patients. I’ll get to my point. And then we can segue  back to the number 5, which as you know in alchemy stands for quintessence.

M: That’s right.

H: In alchemy they were searching for alchemical gold. The aim of alchemy is the quintessence and its gold.

M: Nicely put. I’ll add that to my figure 5 bundle!

A Volcano in the Oakland Hills

H: OK. Back to Saturday. I got this idea that I shared with Lori. I had heard that up here at Sibley Park there’s an actual volcano, and I didn’t know this. I lived in the Orinda hills, as you know, for I think twelve years. And then we moved here. Between the Orinda hills and where we’re sitting right here, between those hills and these  hills, there’s an extinct  volcano.  It erupted nine million seven hundred thousand years ago. It blew its lid and created these wonderful rock formations. We were able to descend into the volcano.

Labyrinth in Sibleiy Park crater

M: That’s amazing.

H: They’ve cleared out the crater, and there’s a labyrinth you can walk. You and I can go up there when it’s warmer. The point I’m getting to is that I was having a casual chat with friend who asked if I knew there was a park up here. I did know about it but I’d never explored it.

Then I Googled it, and sure enough there’s this volcanic park. So we went up there. It’s quite extraordinary.

M: Can you back up? You were just chatting casually with a friend. So how did it come about that you got to that subject?

H: Oh, yes. Someone challenged me  to go  up there to Round Top. That’s the  volcano  that blew its lid. So this person challenged me to go up, because he had. It was a chat about losing weight and exercising. You know, when you get  into  your fifties–it was a challenge  to do some vigorous exercise. These hills are a great place to  hike. Anyway, the  point  is  that  this was very important for me in that moment because I had been immersed, since our last talk, in volcano symbolism. Remember the Emily Dickinson poem?

M: Oh, my god!

Dickinson’s Volcano

H: How the volcano became for her the symbol for her vocation. Vesuvius. Yes. She has a wonderful poem in which the last line is “Vesuvius at Home.”

So she really sees herself as Vesuvius at Home, in Amherst. She doesn’t have to go to Naples. She’s actually sitting on it. She is there, and she is writing out of that energy field.

M: That energy. Exactly.

How to Recognize a Poem

H: She’s talking about the little force within her that explodes. So when I went up there with Lori, suddenly these poems  that I had  been sitting with for years, over seventeen years, emerge again. In 1995 I wrote my first essay on Dickinson. Two of them in particular came to me up there. I knew exactly what she was talking about. In the first one she says, “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the  only way I know it. Is there any other way?”

M: That’s beautifully put.

H: The top of her head is taken off. I had thought it was being scalped by lightning–which she has is another poem. So the lightning symbol comes through there. But that wasn’t quite it.

Then I remembered another line. “God forbid it lift its lid unto its ecstasy.”

She’s talking about the lid being lifted. She is talking about what Goodall is talking about but with more explosive force, because perhaps the poet is closer to the origins of language itself–which is the word. She was able to craft words and syllables like nobody else.

So she’s talking about this explosive force.

M: Very good.

Volcanic Gems

H: Just to circle back to what we were talking about earlier, 5 and the alchemical gold, in 1847 when Emily was studying at Holyoke Female Seminary, she heard a famous geologist, actually the first president of the American Geological Society, who later became president of Amherst College. This was the one year she actually went somewhere and before she returned to live at her father’s house. She didn’t finish her education. It just so happened she was there in the fall quarter, 1847, the same year Whitman  was  writing  his  Notebook and discovering the  origins of his calling, his vocation. She heard this sermon by this geologist, Reverend Hitchcock, and talked about the 21st chapter of Revelations, which Emily calls the “gem chapter,” because as you know gems come from volcanoes–explosive force. Sure enough, the city that would come in the future was the city of gold.  So here she  is hearing, at the  source of her vocational call, the chapter which would play such a pivotal part for the rest of her life in her work as a poet. And it’s all based on this gem chapter in Revelations, the gold. And gold symbolism is found throughout her poetry.

M: Here’s what I want to get back to, the vocation aspect of her experience. In that same classroom there were probably fifteen or twenty other girls, and she’s the one who’s not hearing prose. This is poetry she’s hearing. Why is she able to hear poetry? Because her entire childhood, I would presume, had opened her senses to experience those words as not just placeholders but meaningful language, the feel of the facts. Actually, I think those words were considered metaphors by thinkers  of that era in New England, probably by the  minister himself. But to her they were messages from the volcano itself.

The Feel of the Unity of the Whole Cosmos

H: She got a feel for the unity of the whole cosmos from listening to this.

M: Yes. She was able to do it that way.

“They Shut Me Up in Prose.”

H: I know she did, because she wrote in her letters that she had this feel. She said, “They shut me up in prose, as when a little girl they put me in a closet because they liked me still.”

“Because they liked me “still” –You know what she called herself? The still volcano.

M: [Laughs]

H: And when the little force exploded, that was poetry. She knew that was poetry because the top of her head was taken off. And that’s ecstasy. As we know, that’s the crown chakra, the chakra of illumination.

M: I’ll take your word for it. I know of it, the sequence, but I’ve never spent much time with it.

Illumination: The Seventh Chakra

The crown of illumination

H: The crown of illumination, Ananda, bliss, the cobra is over the Buddha’s head. The two kundalini serpents wind from muladhara up the spine to the thousand petaled lotus on the top of the yogi’s head. That’s the seventh chakra of illumination.  She  basically talks about how her consciousness explodes when she sees the void. It’s very Buddhist.

M: Well, it’s phenomenal that you could have this little girl in very straight-laced New England letting loose like a wild woman.

H: She said, “Wild nights, wild nights, wild nights–were I with thee–wild nights would be our luxury.” She was a wild force.

M: I’m imagining her sitting down at the breakfast table, this nice prim girl. Whew!

H: Pretty fierce. If you look at some of the letters she wrote to her brother and Austin, she’s feisty. She doesn’t mess around with language. Every word is selected.

M: This is the thing of it. I think of the goings and comings, to the grocery store, over the back fence–everybody wants to talk in prose.

H: Yes.

Too Intent on Going Somewhere

M: We don’t even want to touch that other stuff. It’s too electrical; you could get a shock. So if someone says, “Have a nice day,” and may even mean it in a superficial way, you could respond, “You have a nice life.” [Both laugh.] I like to see what kind of response I get when

I’m out on my bike. Everyone goes by as if you aren’t there. They just go straight ahead. So, just for fun, I say, “Good morning.” Nine tenths of the time, they just keep right on going.

Often they’ve got something plugged into their ears, so probably lots of them can’t even hear! But I’m guessing a lot of them are too intent on going somewhere, and acknowledging another person is not on the agenda. So we’re talking prose and poetry here and what the difference is. Poetry is nothing more than the feel of the  facts.  Walking or riding your bike could be prosaic or poetic. Facts are wonderful, but you have to let them explode. You have to let your steps along the trail explode. Words are little packets of energy, aren’t they? Like Dickinson’s “A word is dead / When it is said / Some say. / I say / It just begins to live that day.” You know, from our dialogues about Dickinson and your reading some of her poems, I’ve gotten much better at understanding how she uses dashes. Remember “because they liked me ‘still”? That’s the prose approach.

H: This is what teachers do in schools. They want the children still. All that excitable energy, all that powerful energy gets…

In the Prose Closet

M: It gets twisted. Put little boys in that prose closet and you get remedial reading classes that are mostly all filled with boys. They put a lid on all that energy when it ought to be outside exploding.

H: Well, an interesting thing about Dickinson’s history is that her grandfather, her paternal grandfather, was a visionary. Amherst College  was very  much indebted to his vision. Her father was the treasurer of Amherst College. He was a lawyer. So this was an educated family. She grew up in that environment.

[A short break]

M: So where are we now?

H: We covered a lot of ground. The idea of feeling the facts speaks to me. That’s a good way to put it. The feel of the facts.

An American Soldier in a Zendo in Japan

M: There are lots of ways to put it. William Carlos Williams called an intense vision of the facts. I like that. It’s what Yeats meant, too, I think when he wrote, “One has a vision. One would like another.” My friend Jim Doerter that I’ve mentioned in our talks has such an experience in Japan when he was and eighteen-year-old soldier during the occupation. He gravitated toward a Zen-like park and was sitting on a bench and noticed two men in an enclosure talking, and they’re talking in English. One of them was Japanese. He was D. T. Suzuki, the person who introduced Zen Buddhism to the United States.

H: Jung wrote an introduction to his book.

M: Oh, more connections! Anyway, they invited this kid to come up and talk with them. He was  shy and nervous, so he didn’t follow through. But there he was, touched by this powerful teacher, and it changed the trajectory of his life, that one event.

In Eternity’s Sunrise

H: We brushed by it a bit when our class went up to Tassajara. There was a Zen monastery near there. There was that Zen feel to the area, I think. There’s something in Blake . . . What do you think of him?

M: Oh, I love him.

H: Well, if anyone had an intense vision of the facts, it’s Blake, don’t you think?

M: Oh, my, yes!

H: His were internal facts as well as those outside his body.

M: You know what annoys me is when people talk about someone like Blake in a prose-like way. Blake is not prose.

H: Blake has that marvelous little poem:

That’s living in the moment. What do you  think  about that  last  line,  “eternity’s sunrise”? What would it be like for someone to live in eternity’s sunrise? Wouldn’t that be the realms of gold?

M: It absolutely is. If you moved in there, you’d be considered a nut case, the way people around Blake thought of him. By that I mean that you no longer care if school keeps or not. Everyone’s thinking, “What are we going to do with Blake?!” Blake’s wife was fine with it. She’d say, “We don’t see him much, he’s so much in paradise.” Some of these loved ones would just put up with it.

The Divinest Sense

H: Emily Dickinson’s family would put up with her eccentric nature. But you know what she said about this, “Madness is divinest sense.”

M: … madness!

H: But to someone who knows poetic madness, that is actually sanity. Divinest sense. When one can live in that kind of awareness and not care about the majority…

M: That’s something I understand completely. I know that’s a choice I could make–and absolutely refuse to make, to take that step. Because I know what it would mean. Actually, it’s very nice over there, but I don’t go.

The Trouble with Teaching Poetically

H: Oh, I think there were times when you were teaching when some of the administration wanted to get you out because they thought your teaching was a little too eccentric!

M: True. When I was  interviewed, the  English Department thought I would fit in because I used the same words they  did about how our subject should be approached. The  difference was that they had the words but not the poetry of the words. When  I started doing it poetically, it was too strong for their blood. They literally thought, “We gotta get rid of McKowen. He’s eccentric.” I was doing what they said they were doing. By that time, though, I was so self- confident that I could defend myself.

H: Did you have the union behind you.

M: No. It didn’t have anything to do with the union. In the first three years they could have fired me. They didn’t have to have a cause. But, I must say, the college at the time had a fine president, Karl Drexel. He let us know that once you were hired, as far as he was concerned, you already had tenure. Still, some really did try to make a case that McKowen ought to go. But they really didn’t have a chance. I was far too clear in what I was doing and why, and it was backed up by the best research. Later on, though, I did become a union president, sometimes defending people who should have been fired. I just didn’t like the way they were firing people. They would just get together in a little room and decide  what to do with this guy. We broke a hole in that wall. No, you have to discuss in the open what  the  charges are. So I’d be going in and be defending people I didn’t even like.

H: You know, I’d like to have a platform to teach what we’ve been talking about.

The Artist as Showman

M: You can create your own platform. You don’t have to make it merely commercial, but you must find a way to make sure that your audience opens its senses to, say, some little poem you’re reciting. You have to get them prepared for that. And that’s showmanship. So what I’m suggesting is that you work on showmanship. In a good  way, in a nice  way, in a  generous way. If you know your audience is already tuned in, or certainly receptive and can use your information, then you can simply present a paper. If you want to talk to a general audience, which I think you need to do, you need to become the kind of performer that people come  to and ask to talk. You’d start having to keep a book of your engagements!

H: My talks around the Bay Area have been surprisingly well received, particularly the one on

Melville at the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Kensington, “Melville’s Myth for Our Time.” That was very well received. What I’m thinking is that  I want  to get  a book out there  with good distribution behind it before I take the next step. Meanwhile, to continue to set up talks. But to reach a more general audience, I need someone who can really get the book out.

M: Right. You need the power of some major publisher’s advertising department.

H: Yes.

M: That’s the key to it. I do think you’re doing very well in your lectures. But if you wanted to reach a more general audience, you can begin toying with the view of a lecture as a performance, like a stage show–which it is.

H: Everson was a master at that.

M: Yes, as you’ve described him, I think he was a showman.

H: His father was a band master. So he grew up with a father who was out on stage all the time.

Lecturing as a Performance Art

M: Arthur Fiedler, the director of The Boston Pops for decades, was  the consummate showman. When he came on stage, he was essentially acting a role. He even had his uniforms tailored so that no pockets bulged out to spoil the lines of the outfit. When he was an old man, he’d do this marvelous concert and then go backstage and fall apart. But that role kept him going into his eighties. A showman. It doesn’t cost anything to dress up one’s performance. I published an article once called “Lecturing Is  Not Teaching.”  A lecture has to be understood to be a performance. It’s not an educational situation. So what you’re doing in a lecture is giving people the feel of something, so that they can run home and  continue  experiencing it. It’s not an intellectual thing. For what it’s worth, that’s what I’m getting at. One keeps saying, “How can I engage this audience so that they’re just hanging on every word?” So that they’re experiencing it poetically. I would say people in your circle that I’ve heard talking are far too academic in their talks. I guess maybe they think their audience is smart enough to translate it into poetry. But the way they present it is prose.

H: That’s a good point, Clark.

The Smell of Death in Academic Prose

M: It’s like the faculty in the English department at the college. They had the right words, but they didn’t have the music. Oh, there’s one more thing I want to add. You know, when I wrote Realms of Gold I thought, “This is really good.” Then I started thinking of cutting it up into postings on the web. I just re-wrote a chapter on Goodall, and I changed the style and sentence structure as I went along. I made it much more accessible and much, much less academic. I could see clearly how artificial that way of writing is. There’s the smell of death about it, dry and empty of feeling–even when the writer is talking about feeling.  Ugh.  I was  a  little ashamed of myself. This is really a great education, even at my age. I want this to be  just like our dialogues. I want my own voice in there, couched not with fancy language, which I call academic language. They’ll put an adjective after a noun, or have some stilted way of putting something, not the natural flow of English. Sorry, I know you had some topics you wanted to talk about.

When the Top of Your Head Is Taken Off

H: Just to finish up. You know, when Dickinson says, “If I feel the top of my head is  taken off, I know that is poetry,” she’s using feeling language there–for a fact. That is an  experience. And when the top of her head is taken off, something has so altered her consciousness that she knows she is at the center of the cosmos. Not only is she at the center, she is at the circumference. Now, this is a mathematical problem, but she takes it on in her poetry, the relationship between the center and the circumference.

M: Right.

H: And her flood subject is immortality, a synonym for circumference. She says to her mentor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “My business is about circumference.” She got that from a poem by Shelley called “Epipsychidon”. He uses the metaphor of circumference. It’s the idea that there’s an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.

Joseph Campbell was fond of quoting this.

M: Yes.

A Stuffed Chimpanzee from Childhood

H: She had the alchemical metaphor at the tip of her fingers when she was writing about this. What’s so interesting to me right now, Clark, is this idea that there is a nuclear symbol–like Jane Goodall’s stuffed chimpanzee from her early childhood.

M: Oh, right.

H: The nuclear symbol–that’s  the center. But the  circumference  is everything that she is able to do out on the periphery. You know, that’s there from the start. So Dickinson not only has Hitchcock who’s introducing her into the realms of gold in Revelations. Hitchcock was a geologist who was studying Alexander von Humboldt, whom Whitman was studying and Emerson was studying. Hunboldt’s book Kosmos had opened up the minds of these American poets to something that was so transcendent, what Keats was writing about and what Shelley was able to write about from Montblanc, which was his mountain. Humboldt had been to the Andes. He had been to Chimborazo, and he had become famous for having scaled what was thought at that time to be the highest mountain in the world, 20,000 feet in the Andes, right outside of Quito, Ecuador. Dickinson has a poem about Chimborazo, one about Popocatépetl, outside of Mexico City–volcanos. They become symbolic about a place of vista from which the poet sees and has visions. That’s where she’s writing from, that place of visionary consciousness that Whitman called spiritual democracy, or democratic vistas. She’s actually seeing from that point. That is the place where  the  realms of gold are seen, as eternity’s sunrise. There’s a place where the poet can dwell through this kind of movement from prose down into the poetic, the mythopoetic. Something had so opened the mind of the  poet that the top of her head was taken off. Something was lifted. The lid was lifted.

M: Yes, yes.

H: And she could see up at the celestial sphere what no romantic poets could before then.

Humboldt had made this possible. The “Age of Humboldt” –that’s what Emerson called it. Humboldt had opened up the mind of poetry to the vastness of the cosmos that had never been appreciated in quite the same way. So this was speaking to me, this metaphor that she can feel the top of her head being taken off. That’s what you’re talking about, a feeling for facts, the facts of experience.

M: That’s a great connection.

Dialogue # 13: Vocation and the Experience of Being Alive

December 11, 2012

[In this dialogue we delve more deeply into the deliberate use of coincidence but then segue into the drive of the spiritual universe toward ecstasy,  Emily Dickinson, the poet of ecstasy, being an exponent of that drive, and the natural world of bluebirds, snakes and butterflies  in her father’s garden in Amherst.   We explore the seeding of vocational symbols into the psyche in early childhood and later being paired with some outer stimulus (coincidence), triggering the revelation of one’s vocation or calling.  Interwoven are reflections  on living at a pitch that is “near madness,” death and immortality, compassion, fate and destiny,  and  the shaman’s role in releasing the poetic self.]

From Many, One

Herrmann: I want to pick up a thread from our last dialogue which began with you talking about coincidences, and I want to tell you about this  very interesting thing that  happened  to me on Sunday. It’s an important point in relation to our discussions about the Field. These occurrences are regular rather than very rare. So first let me show you the coin Lori gave me. We were painting the bathroom and it was also the  first day of Hanukkah, so we  were conscious of the holiday. Lori lit the first candle that evening. Anyway, after we finished painting, she took out a little purse that she had from Israel, and there were some coins in it, foreign currency, and she showed them to me. I said, “What’s that?” and as I looked I saw it was a silver dollar. As you can see, it’s from 1885. I looked it up on Google. It’s probably worth about $35 to $40.

There were about seven million minted, so it’s not a rare coin. But let me tell you what was going on for me  when she  handed me  that coin. First, you’ll notice it says e pluribus unum, from many one, from the Great Seal of the United States. Well, that’s at the core of spiritual democracy, the oneness of all religions. That’s very American. And it’s in the First Amendment, too, the freedom of religion.

The Symbolic Dimension

McKowen: Maybe they were wiser than they knew, when you get down into looking at the symbolic aspect.

H: That’s the key, the symbolic dimension. And a lot of the imagery of the Seal comes from Rosicrucian imagery [The secret society of the “rosy cross” that emerged in early seventeenth century Europe] and Masonry. Ben Franklin played a part in the ideas that went into the Great Seal. Well, to move beyond that, I’d always been impressed with the silver dollar, and I didn’t have one. At the time this happened I was returning to my manuscript on Emily Dickinson, I was working on this letter she wrote to Helen Hunt Jackson. Jackson was an American poet who was a contemporary of Emily Dickinson. She’s remembered mainly through her letters to Emily, not because of her stature as a poet and novelist of any supreme stature. As Jackson was nearing death, she came to Santa Monica.

She was on the Pacific coast and she and Dickinson had been corresponding. Dickinson had written about the great sea in the West in a poem where she called it “Immortality,” which is a great mythological theme. The Western se a is symbolic of immortality; you see it in a lot of myths and poems. She was looking out, as Dickinson said in her letter, to Japan from the West coast. Then she penned this poem in the letter that she wrote to Jackson in 1885! Dickinson was approaching her own death, which was a year later. She writes, and I mentioned this in our last dialogue, “Take all away from me…” M: Yes, you did!

H: “Take all away from me–but leave me ecstasy.”

M: It’s true, isn’t it?

H: “And I am richer–than all my fellow men.”

So here she is proclaiming her wealth, her riches, in the ecstasy she felt near the end of her life, as she was now 55 years old and suffering from kidney disease. She  died at 56; she was born in 1830. So I found the coin on Sunday, which was the ninth of December, on the eve of her birthday, yesterday, December tenth. So, I was working on the poem in my manuscript, and the poem was written in 1885, and Lori hands me the coin. I don’t have any coins with that date on them or that old. In fact, that is my only coin from the nineteenth century.

M: That is something!

H: She hands me this coin dated 1885, and I thought. “What an interesting coincidence!” “Shamanism = Technique of Ecstasy”

M: It certainly is.

H: As a poet-shaman, she really spoke for ecstasy. Mircea Eliade the great historian of religions (1907—1986, also a philosopher, a writer of fiction, and professor at the University of Chicago), said in this simple equation: “Shamanism = technique of ecstasy.”

[The history of religions will inevitably attain to a deeper knowledge of man. It is on the basis of such knowledge that a new humanism on a world-wide scale, could develop. – Mircea Eliade]

Nobody illustrates this technique better than Emily Dickinson.  Here she was, writing to a woman who’s looking out on the Pacific, looking out toward on Japan, who’s close to her own death. Jackson died just before Dickinson did. Jackson had encouraged Emily to publish her poems so that they wouldn’t be published merely posthumously, but in her lifetime. Dickinson writes back, “Take all away from me, but leave me  ecstasy.” She’s  thinking, OK, I’ve published seven poems in my lifetime, but that doesn’t matter much; I’m so rich in gold, in ecstasy, in the ecstatic, in Happiness, in Joy in living, as Whitman would say. And that’s enough, that’s sufficient.

M: Jackson must have appreciated the quality of her work.

H: Oh, she did immensely, and that’s why she encouraged her to publish it.

M: So how many people of her era who knew her poetry realized the quality of it?

H: Very few. The only people who really did were her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert; Samuel Bowles the editor of the  Springfield Republican; and her mentor Thomas  Wentworth Higginson whom she wrote many letters to. Also, a few of her friends whom she wrote  letters to and who she blessed with poems. But Jackson clearly recognized her magnificence and felt that her poetry should be in print.

M: I think for someone to recognize that quality they would have had to be of that level of awareness as well. Otherwise, it would not penetrate their way of experiencing life. So I would guess, then, that Jackson had to be somebody pretty special, too, as well as Gilbert and anybody else who saw it.

H: Yes.

Coincidence—a Matter of Having One’s Senses Awake

The prepared mind snaps up whatever crops up along the street. The street overflows with endless possibilities

M: You have to have wealth in the  realms of gold  in order to pick that up.  Otherwise  you’d see it superficially. Well! That’s a very good coincidence. You started to say it’s more integral to human experience than something that happens only once in a while. I’m beginning to see that more and more, and I’m telling you it crops up everywhere. As I said when we talked about this in some of our dialogues, we see more and more coincidences  the  more awake we are and the more our sensorium’s open. Some of the little silly things, like seeing the word superficiality, just after you said it or thought it, there in the first paragraph of the newspaper you’ve just picked up. That’s sort of fun but maybe not really of the same sort of thing we’ve been discussing. As I think about this, it’s coming into focus that for the awakened mind everything is a coincidence–or nothing is–like miracles. As you know, Whitman wrote, “As for me I know of nothing but miracles.” That is, any speck of experience, anything as insignificant as a particle of dust falling through a beam of sunlight in a room, cannot help but be related to my experience, and if I’m awake I notice that. So the prepared mind snaps up whatever crops up along the street. The street overflows with endless possibilities. And  then, the amazing coincidences, as this line of thought unfolds, are indeed just exactly like the fun ones. It’s all there for the tuned-in mind to register. It’s a matter of having our senses awake.

H: Well, it is relatively uncommon to see a word in print just after you had it in your conscious mind.

M: True. It’s similar to what you and I shared about the experience of my English classes. We accumulated a semester of shared experience, a cloud of data and  then went  our separate ways, gathering huge piles of experience over the years. Then a decade or two later we meet again and through these dialogues download what the years have generated around that shared experience. I’ve been busy expanding and deepening the thinking of those months, and  you have gone your unique way doing the same thing.  Now you come back with all those nuggets  of Jung, Chardin, Campbell, greatly fleshed out.  You bring your huge  cloud  of information and I bring my modest cloud, and now they  merge.  Now I can assimilate all the  insights you’ve gathered over all these years. So thank  you very much! What a feast! That’s really great. I do think that’s how it works.

So to get back to your thoughts, if you would, about coincidence.

The Great Water of the West

H: I think these coincidences are based on destiny factors that are relatively opaque during such moments, and the actual occurrences lead one to formulate  ideas about human destiny and about the fact that there are figures in the field–you can say the world is a field—and the Self-world is a Field, and there are vocations people have, specific callings, such as Emily Dickinson and Susan Gilbert and her brother Austin and Helen Hunt Jackson. This woman who was so well known at the time was in the field of her ecstasy, in this case of course the literary field. So these overlapping clouds that you’re talking about—these number diagrams—bear on vocation–and I noticed you liked what I said the last time about the intersection of various vocational fields and their convergence upon a center. That center is, I think, what Jung called the Self. And for Dickinson her favorite subject was what she  called the flood subject, or what I referred to earlier as the great water of the West, or immortality. You find the same theme in Yoga, the theme of immortality. In Hinduism, the yogis through their various techniques of meditation and physical disciplines achieve a state of consciousness where they break through to this place of mutual resonance, a kind of light you could say that is golden, a light of consciousness, of spiritual consciousness.

A Place of Mutual Resonance

M: A place of mutual resonance–that’s a good way to describe what happens. Can you expand on that?

H: Spiritual democracy is known by these poets by virtue of the fact that there’s a common resonance. You were hinting at the idea that Jackson must have had…

M: A resonance of her own.

H: An experience of her own, knowledge of her own of what this field is like. M: Yes.

H: So she must have known about it to appreciate it, the resonance she felt in the reading of these poems by Dickinson.

M: And if you think about resonance like the waves of a lake or light waves, if they are synchronous, they amplify the wave. It’s nice to have somebody like Jackson resonating with Emily because that amplifies the waves.

H: And from Santa Monica, on the West Coast. And those waves went all the way across  the US to Amherst; this feeling of a mutual connection between the two writers.

 H: Dickinson said,

And, “To comprehend a nectar/ requires the sorest need.”  To comprehend her, someone needed to know about this nectar in the flower. I think she had that sense that she was exuding this kind of resonance. She had it. She had her fingers on it because it was a destiny factor within her, given to her by the gods when she was a little girl, as she said.

There’s this sense in some of these poet-shamans that they’re teaching something that is beyond belief, beyond faith.

M: Exactly.

H: That’s what I love about them.

The Symbol and What It Points To

M: Well, that’s the essential point, I think, of all our dialogues, the difference between the superficial–the difference between the symbol, the image, the metaphor–and what it points to.     I sense that the mass of humankind lives in the symbol and not in the thing it points to. They think they’ve got it, but they’re just floating around on the surface. That’s why the subtitle of Realms of Gold is Excursions IN the Sea of Intelligence and not ON the Sea of Intelligence.

They never penetrate into what Emily’s talking about, that ecstasy that I think all spirits, all souls yearn for. She should be called the poet of ecstasy. That’s what this is all about, I think.

How about your colleagues at the Jung Institute in San Francisco? Do they “get it,” this drive for ecstasy?

H: I had the good fortune of having been mentored  by the  foremost authority  on shamanism and the field of analytical psychology, Donald Sandner. He’s the one I told you about who had and Aha! moment when he saw The Cocktail Party.  He moved to an entirely different career,  to psychiatry, from having seen that play and the role of the psychiatrist there. He was the one who encouraged me to go down to Kingfisher Flat and interview Everson on the subject of shamanism in American poetry. This was in 1991. Everson was writing his own book at the time. I’d been his teaching assistant and I had done my masters on vocational dreams. So Don Sandner suggested I interview Everson, based on a series of dreams  he and I discussed together. After I finished the series of interviews, I needed to write  my  own book on the subject. Clearly, I had learned enough about the material. I had read Whitman and Jeffers and Everson, and I could speak on my own on that subject. Here’s the interesting thing about Sandner. This relates to resonances. I did proceed to write my book on shamanism and American poetry, and the first chapter I wrote was on Emily Dickinson, a seventy-page essay. Don loved it. He sent me to see John Beebe, who is an exceptional analyst and editor, and he loved too. One of the things that had moved Sandner profoundly is this poem by Emily Dickinson, this 1885 poem, “Take all away from me, but leave me ecstasy.” So for the  two years I knew him, after I wrote that little essay, from December 1995 until his death on Easter Sunday in 1997, we had ongoing dialogues about Everson, Dickinson, D. H. Lawrence, Whitman, Jeffers, and Herman Melville. He said, “You’d better read Moby-Dick. You have to have a chapter on him!”

M: How old was Sandner when he died?

“But leave me ecstasy.

H: He was 69. He had a  massive  heart attack on Easter morning.  So here’s the  interesting thing about finding that coin and why it’s so significant to me. The night before Don died, a Saturday, he went to the symphony with his wife, and on the way, the sun was just setting, and he was telling his wife about how beautiful it was over the Golden Gate, and he started talking about a person he knew who had written a piece on Emily Dickinson. She told me this later, after his death. He said to her how wonderful the piece  was and  how this  one  poem had spoken to him, “Take all away from me, but leave me ecstasy.” He had that on his  lips  the night before he died.

M: Wow.

H: She told me this, and I was very moved by it. He was having serious symptoms  of angina. He had actually fainted at the airport and was very near death. Because he was near death, he was having these ecstatic experiences more and more, and he started talking about them with me. So then he dies on Easter morning, the day of the Resurrection. I thought it was all very moving. He had that kind of certainty about the soul’s survival after death. He was not the kind of person who questioned anymore when I knew him in his final days. Walt Whitman, too, had spoken to him. He had been a literature major. He got his bachelors in English at the University of Illinois and then transferred over to medicine and  psychiatry. That’s another thing about these fields we’ve been discussing. For whatever reason, he was Jungian, yes, but he had studied English. His son went on to become an English professor. He had this transference on to me and I onto him. Our vocations united in the same Field.

My Cloud of “Clarkness”

M: Maybe we should talk about the afterlife, the continuation of the Self as an entity, an integral thing, which to me is irrelevant. That goes along with my feeling that “The future” out there is irrelevant. Perhaps, if you don’t mind, we could do a tangent into distance and time. As I said before, I carry my cloud of “Clarkness,” all the stuff I’ve  gathered up in various ways, through the collective unconscious, and all that, plus everything I’ve gathered with my sensorium, and whatever my brain is able to piece together. I carry that cloud with me. Here’s the important thing: The idea of the past is a concept. We picture the past as something way back there, but in fact the past is here now, and  there  isn’t any  place else for it to be. It’s  in this cloud. So it’s in the now. The reason it seems so distant is  because I think of it that way.  It’s not that it is back there. Similarly, the future is the same sort of thing. It’s    here and now, too. This means that this cloud contains all that I need right here and now. That’s the time element of it. My experience as a four-year-old is right here in this present moment. Now, distance: I picture Pennsylvania three  thousand  miles away. You’d have to walk or drive a long way to get there. That’s a concept as well. The idea that it’s three thousand miles is an idea. It isn’t really three thousand miles. It’s here  in this  body of information that’s  available to me now. The significance  of that is  that if you want  to talk about telecommunication and that sort of thing, that makes it much less mysterious. People we knew twenty years ago are actually in this cloud right now.

Synced with Our Own Inner Voice

H: Well, we both know people who have, sadly, not lived their vocation, and because of that, I think they suffer. Perhaps many of the people in the world are in that predicament. I go there myself sometimes where I feel like I’m not living my destiny. The struggle and strain of everyday living require sometimes that we do things that takes us out of sync or out of resonance with our inner vocational voice. And  that voice at ground  level is based on music, the music of the spheres, or of language, the harmony of syllables. But let’s go  back a moment to that 1885 coin I found, and there’s Emily Dickinson writing that poem the same year, “A Route of Evanescence.”

M: Yes, I know that poem.

This is a poem she also sent to Helen Hunt Jackson. Jackson had asked for a bird poem, about a bluebird, I think it was. Dickinson sends her a poem describing the actions  of this bluebird to the T. And then she writes, “And let me add a hummingbird.” So here’s my connection: Sunday evening after finding the coin, I’m watching Nature with Lori, and there’s this  special on hummingbirds.  You’re talking about information being transmitted  in this cloud in lightning speed, well, for Dickinson, who  was  an astute student  of animal intelligence, she wrote in that poem that the trip from Tunis with the morning’s mail was only    a day away. Now, one of the things I learned about hummingbirds, the ruby-throated hummingbirds of the East Coast migrate up from Central America. What I’ve learned about many of the hummingbirds that we have here in our gardens in the spring and summer is that they fly up from South America on their way to Alaska.

M: Oh, my!

The Butterfly Bush, the Bottle Brush, the Sage

H: And these hummingbirds return to the precise garden. I bought some hummingbird sage to plant out in front for them. Think about that kind of intelligence, being able to return to the same garden year after year. How do they find the home with the butterfly bush and the bottle brush and the sage? I like the  metaphor of the  hummingbird, because when we’re  talking about the past and the present and  those birds  that were here and  are going to be here again in a few months, sipping nectar from the same bush, we’re talking about the past and the present in the moment. They were here and they’re here again; that is eternal time. Joseph Campbell said to Bill Moyers, “When you’re in that state, there is no time.”

M:          That’s right.

An Experience of Being Alive

H: He’s talking, if you recall, about this whole concept of living in a myth. Moyers is questioning him about that. Campbell says, if you put yourself in harmony, in tune–in resonance, you could say–with that myth that you are meant to be living, doors begin to open for you and the myth that you ought to be living, the life that you ought to be living, is the life that you are living. That’s the key. When you think about the life of those hummingbirds, they are living their life, the one they are meant to live. And it’s not a myth. It’s reality. That’s the other thing Campbell was right on about.

The experience of being alive

When Moyers questioned him, he said, “I don’t think people are looking for the meaning of life. I think  people are looking for an experience of being alive.” That’s what that hummingbird is teaching us. That’s what Emily Dickinson is teaching us. She said the ecstasy of living is enough. That’s joy enough for her. And when we’re in that kind of an experience, we don’t need to think about the survival of the soul after death. So I would agree with you.

M: OK. That’s my position exactly.

H: And there are mysteries that we’ll never be able to fully answer. Cosmic Resonance

M: And the thing I want to emphasize about what you’re saying is  this  resonance  you’re talking about, resonance, rhythm, music, are the vehicle by which we travel through this experience. We resonate with the universe as the hummingbird resonates. When we allow ourselves to get into that resonance, then we’re there. What you said earlier about the pull of everyday needs bothers me a bit because it seems to disrupt that resonance.  Francis  Bacon (1561 -1626) spoke of wife and family as hostages to fortune. They interfere with our work (and “give us our greatest joy,” of course. [Laugh.] But I think we actually do give up our resonance in order to do things for other people or in choosing not to go a way that feels better for us because others seem to need for us to be doing something else. We put up with; we put up with. Well, what’s your response to that? I think we both do it, but where does that put us, considering were we ought to be? Maybe that’s where we ought to be, living in both worlds.

H: I think that’s what we have to do if we’re going to live out our lives to their completion, to be able to be masters of both worlds. And that’s what the shaman does with excellence, and the poet.

M: Do you think a shaman could have a harridan wife? [Laughs.] A shrew?

H: Let me tell you about a dream I had this morning. I resolved it in the dream.

M: That’s what you should do.

H: It had to do with the writing of this chapter on Dickinson. And that’s this whole problem of fate and destiny. Dickinson has some marvelous poems about this. That’s why my manuscript on Dickinson has the title “Fate, Destiny and the Spiritual Marriage.” She suffered a particular,  fate as we all do in one way or another. Yet if one stays true to one’s destiny, then things work out in the end. And the two work together. I think in rare moments we see that the fate  that we’ve been given is precisely the fate that we needed to have.

M: OK. That’s great.

H: To split those as opposites, that fate is bad and destiny is good, is a mistake.

M: How about a child born with Down Syndrome?

H: Well, I think you’re asking some difficult questions.

M: I know!

H: You’re throwing a curve ball at me right now.

M: And at myself, too, but I want to resolve it. I don’t want to come off as some kind of callous person either! I think, though, that the question can be resolved.

H: You know, Dickinson had an interesting view about illness and death. She writes letters to relatives and people who were very close to her, friends who had just lost a child to an illness. They’re not the kind of letters of consolation you would expect. They’re letters affirming the fate of that particular child and the suffering of that particular parent. Why is it she can write with that kind of assurance? That that death was just the way it ought to be?

M: Ah, you are answering my question.

H: I’m answering it in a roundabout way. I’m telling you what Emily Dickinson’s attitude was about it. There are limitations to that. If it happens in a natural way, sure, when you throw into the equation the problem of war . . .. Did you see Lincoln, the Civil War movie, for example? Those innocent soldiers, some dying of gangrene because they had  had a leg amputated. And we can add the factor of evil and what happened in Nazi Germany.  Some answers I think are  not forthcoming. We can’t answer affirmatively that  in certain circumstances  it’s the  way it was meant to be.

The Universe Is as It Is.

M: To try to explain it intellectually is a waste of time, because you can’t. But here’s what I  do know. The universe is as it is. When you go down into the realms of gold, you realize that the universe is as it is. You cannot withhold yourself from that. You have to surrender to the universe as it is. You can’t interject some idea you have of the way it ought to be… If you can’t accept it, you haven’t really surrendered to it. It’s beyond acceptance.

H: I’ll tell you someone who surrendered to the  universe as it is, Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning. He wrote a manuscript that has sold ten million copies about his experiences in Auschwitz. The Nazis destroyed the first draft and he wrote from memory verbatim the whole manuscript a second time. What kept him alive he says in that miraculous book was the thought of seeing his wife again–who died tragically in Buchenwald–and the sense of meaning that came from the realization that he had a vocation to fulfill. That was conveyed clearly in his manuscript. He later became a great logo-therapist. He actually invented that style of psychotherapy. He believed in the possibility of changing one’s mental frame, one’s attitude. He called them attitudinal values.

M: What you do in your work, I think, is to help people rearrange their patterns of thought.

H: I think that’s part of what we have to do if we’re going to help patients.

M: That’s what it’s all about. That’s what we’re talking about, too.

H: “We are what we think. What we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” There you have it. That’s logo-therapy right there.  Five hundred years B.C., Buddha got it right.

M: And there were people before him that go way, way back.

H: Oh, yes, the yogis. “Yoga is the intentional stopping of the spontaneous activity of the mind stuff.” That’s the first line from Patanjali’s Yoga Sturas.

M: The same concept. We talked earlier about how it could be that they could know this long before any of the research that has accumulated over time. You remember I was speculating about how Yeats could know about memory, which is really the subatomic field that he’s talking about. You said,   Well, it’s not such a big surprise because…

[The train of thought was interrupted when I noticed a hummingbird out Steven’s window. We take up the symbiotic relationship of hummingbirds and hawks and bluebirds and then a tangent to pick up on Dickinson’s interest in the bluebird.]

Above Vicissitude

H: Dickinson identified with the bluebird. She has beautiful poems about bluebirds and she speaks about her teacher having been a bluebird. So she learned a lot from them.

I think you were about to say something when we stopped to talk about hummingbirds and bluebirds.

M: Oh, let’s see… If a person’s actually complaining about war and pestilence and suffering,  he or she hasn’t delved deeply enough into the realms of gold. The bottom line is you have to give up your reservations.

H: That’s because you have to develop the attitude that Dickinson calls superiority to fate.

M: Exactly, exactly.

H: Superiority to fate means one has accepted one’s destiny. One’s destiny is to live in the realms of gold and be able to bequeath those realms to others. This is something that is very rare actually. These poet-shamans are not common.

M: I’d like to see what she said to these people whose children died.

H: I have a number of those letters.

M: Maybe you could email some source information on that for me to look at. I’m interested in how she talked about it to these people.

H: In these letters she’s talking about death by natural cause.

Being Grounded in That-Which-Is

M: Sure, but I think that one’s  response can be extended to a death of whatever its cause. That’s the key to it all. We have to be able to surrender to what  circumstance  dishes out.  I don’t think that diminishes anguish one whit. It just provides a grounding in that-which-is. It’s not even a matter of acceptance. It’s more like how a radish lives out its  life, being a living thing without the overlay of judgment. Something like that.

H: What you’re talking about is the struggle of the ego that wants to struggle  against its fate and realized through defeat we must bow our heads. Amor Fati, love of one’s fate, is the capacity to accept life just the way it is. It’s very difficult when you think about certain blows  of fate.

M: Yes. There’s the more common reaction of outrage and all that.

 H: It looks like we’re wrapping up our time for this chat.

M: Well, one last thing. I wanted talk, too, a little about vision.

How Ecstatic!

H: Dickinson had a lot to say about vision. Right near the end of her life she had a profound vision. She wrote about it two weeks  before  her death in a letter of consolation to a woman who had just lost her husband. In it, she’s affirming that death. She affirms it because she’s convinced that he’s going to immortality. She  writes, “How ecstatic!”  with an exclamation point that she  should be in ecstasy over this. Then she says, “I will not let thee  go  unless I bless thee!” Now, what she’s done  is  turn around  the Biblical statement  of Jacob, who wrestled with the angel. Jacob said, “I will not let thee go until thou bless  me.” And here’s Emily reversing it. “I will not let you go until I bless you.” Now someone two weeks before   she is going to die who can bless, who has the power to bless a person in grief over the loss of her husband . . .!  She knows she’s dying because she is declining from kidney failure, Bright’s disease. She is letting her friend know she has that power because she is experiencing it.  She has tasted immortality. She knows her soul will be immortal, and she knows her poetry will be immortal, even though it’s not published. She’s got it all ready to go in forty little fascicles, as they were called, little packets that her sister Lavina found in her desk drawer after her death, all ready to go, and clearly intended for publication.

“I Would Have Preached It to the Poor Box.”

M: What if they weren’t published? I think in a sense they still were.

H: Meister Eckhart said, “I would have preached it to the poor box.”

M: [Laughs]

H: If the Beguines [Women who chose to live religious lives in the world] had not taken down Eckhart’s sermons, those women who were loyal to him, then they would have been lost to time… Shakespeare was an immortal poet, and he was speaking from the realms of gold too.

Dickinson was reading him since she was fourteen. She quoted him right up to her death. Shakespeare was on her list, and she was a rhyming poet. She was not like Whitman. She was not a writer of free verse. She wrote in little hymnals, based on Watts, a hymnal that all the Puritans were familiar with. She  used that hymnal and its rhyming metrics. Nobody knew this at first, but later scholars found her source. So she did have a method to her style. It was all very organized, even though she said she could not organize, and when she  tried, her little force exploded.

An Emerging Pattern

M: Ah, good for her. Well, next time I want to discuss the physicality of thought.  You know, in general, I think the path of these dialogues–how many of them are there now, maybe fourteen, about eighteen pages of discussion each–has a distinct pattern to it and is going somewhere.

H: Yes, but we’d have to melt down the gold from the dross.

M: I do think, though, the dross is significant in dialogues like this and is important. I’d like to keep it in, because it shows the process of dialogue, how it arrives, when it goes well, at a heightened perception. But of course we do not want to bore people!

No More Heaven or Hell Than There Is Now

H: I want to get back before we stop for today to something Whitman wrote in “Song of Myself.” He says, “There never was any more inception than there is now, nor any more heaven or hell then there is now, nor any more youth or age than there is now, nor any more perfection than there is now.”

M: Perfect.

H: I mean that’s the idea. M: Yes, yes.

H: That’s the idea, to be in the now. The past, present, and future are all there.

M: Not some place way back there twenty years ago. I think if you’re able to catch on to that, you’re on the verge of being able to use telecommunication deliberately.

H: Well, now you’re talking about parapsychology. We’ll have to talk about that at another time.

Dialogue # 12: Immortal Wounds, Transformative Experience, and the Quest for Spiritual Gold

Follow your bliss.

October 30, 2012

[I have long considered coincidence to be much more significant than commonly treated in the United States and perhaps most Western countries– for whom random “clutter” is irrelevant  in daily life.  So, of course, I’ve been asking Steven to take up the question from time to time in these dialogues. I suggested that coincidence may be accounted for scientifically and that we can cultivate, to our advantage, as the Chinese do,  connections among seemingly random events.  The dialogue evolves to the way of life of Native Americans and how it is possible to live in the moment,  particularly  as described by Joaquin Miller and “poets of the now,” such as Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.]

The Cloud of Information

McKowen: I’d like to talk a bit more about what are commonly called coincidences. As you know, I told you of several I had had recently. I had been searching for the Marianne Moore quotation that Ferlinghetti used as the preface of his When I Look at Pictures where she says that when she buys a picture it must be “lit with piercing glances into the life of things.” And that led me to browse through Ferlinghetti’s book, and there I ran across the Sorolla painting. Keep in mind that I’ve had this book for twelve years. Well, as I said, this time things started to go click, click, and I went into our bedroom and there was our painting above our bed. It’s a framed print without attribution about 3 by 2, that Ruth had bought on sale from Penney’s years ago.

Space Ship sent to us in 1906 from Joaquin Sorrola

So, if you think about it, the painting over our bed and the  painting in this  book were separate entities.

It’s that instead of floating around as separate spheres of awareness, things separate in my mind bumped into each other. They were separate only because I had boxed them up that way in my mind. 

So here’s what I’m getting at: It’s that instead of floating around as separate spheres of awareness, things separate in my mind bumped into each other. They were separate only because I had boxed them up that way in my mind.  There’s nothing in the network of neurons  in my brain that requires that separation. So this painting over here, that other painting over there, the piercing glances  quote over here, all floating around  but coming closer and closer, and suddenly, Bang! their separate bubbles collided.

Why, who makes much of a miracle? Biarritz 1906

So, I’m thinking that this cloud of information, all my data, contains bubbles of isolates that seem remote until certain things are done which bring them into proximity. That could describe how it is that you could be sitting here and mentally communicating with somebody across the continent.  Again, those things seem distant because we imagine a map–San Francisco to Pittsburgh–but actually it’s a cloud of data right here, right now, encompassing all the data of the cloud. They are only “distant” because we didn’t bring them into proximity. We do something or other, bubbles of data float into proximity, then the merging can occur, and we have “telecommunication.”  Most of us aren’t too damned good at it, but this schematic does fit what we know about the totality of the instant. It’s a matter of our setting things up so that they can come together, unite. The other thing that’s important is that  we have  to know that  that’s  how it works. We can relax, we know what we have to do–sort of like a little magic trick–to make them come into proximity. The mind will take care of the rest. This Sorolla discovery made it clear that the past, as we know, is here in the present. There isn’t anywhere else for it to be! Everything is here in the present. That to me is a fundamental idea. Whew! That’s enough from me. Tell me where you’d like this dialogue to go.


H: That’s a good start. What’s interesting to me is the  associative  process  that  happens  in these chats. I was listening to what you were saying and it was sounding really good, the cloud of information, and I got an image in my mind, when you said that phrase of the front cover of this  book I’ve  been re-reading, Life Amongst the Modocs (1873) by Joaquin Miller. On the front cover is a picture of Mount Shasta with a cloud above it shot from the  southeast corner  of the mountain.

We attract our own weather.

And you’re  right, because I have  that  information from Miller’s  description of his experience with the people of the Shasta region. It’s  still very present, and it’s present in the region. He lived here in Oakland, too, as you know.  That’s the Joaquin Miller Park trail right out from our back patio.

M: Oh, let me interrupt! Because these associations keep popping up. I can barely hold myself back.

H: Go ahead.

M: I saw a documentary recently about the Ponca Indians, and somebody made this extremely important point that ties in with what we’re saying. He said that the Western man carries his history with him. He can pick up and travel and come to America and settle here, and  he brings his history and his culture with him. He said that for the  Indian the  culture is  in the Earth where they are. That’s why they call it sacred. This is where it all takes place. A settler might think, That’s kind of silly. Why don’t you just carry it in your head?

The point is  that it is indeed in the  physical world. You could say that our physical environment creates us. We grow out of it, the way a tree grows out of the land. And it’s reciprocal. You do embed the place where you live and eat and  breathe  with your imprint. You know that Frost poem where he says the land was ours before we were the  land’s? The land was ours before we were the land’s. We came and the land fed us, filled our eyes with its sunsets, its waters, and after a while all our cells are quite literally made up of that nurturing environment. Well, that’s what the Indians commonly understood.

We Attract Our Own Weather.

The other point that you made was about the cloud over Mount Shasta. I’ve observed that phenomenon myself. A huge mountain does make its own weather–just as you and  I attract our own weather. We bring in this stuff, we make these little clouds of information, which attract information that has an affinity for that cloud. The last week or so I’ve been doing this all over the place, and it’s just really fun. It’s especially fun to watch the process while it’s happening and to know how it works.

H: I was thinking about that myself this week, and what’s become clear is that what we’re talking about is the transmission of shamanic knowledge from a region. These people we’re talking about, the Native Americans, the center of their culture was shamanism; their religions were and still are based on the practices of animism and shamanism. The fact that the mind wants to go in its own direction and think its own thoughts, and the comment about Frost there… Frost did get in touch with the shamanistic foundation of the West. We talked about that poem of his that I introduced in one of our chats, “Once by the Pacific.” Joaquin Miller came West from Liberty, Indiana, in a covered wagon with his parents. They settled in Oregon. He came across a number of different Indian tribes along the way. Then, also the Indians of Oregon and of course the tribes of Mount Shasta. You really see the transformation that takes place in his character when he comes into contact with the Indians of the Shasta region, and then lives with them for two years.

Transformative Experience—Base Metal into Gold.

M: Let me interrupt again for a moment. That’s a good point about Miller. After you and I talked about him I read a bit of his biography, and I think he did transform, as Robert Kennedy did, when Kennedy began to know the people of America. He became truly a man for the people. So go ahead with your story.

H: Well, I can talk more about Miller, but I think there’s a big difference between a man like that and someone like Shelley, for example, a poet who lived thirty years, never made it through a mid-life crisis. In his poem “Ode to the West Wind,” he’s onto the theme of the West, and it’s a nice poem, but it’s not going to infuse you with many new ideas, not like Whitman, or Dickinson or Melville.

M: I’ll review that poem latter. How does that fit in with our discussion?

H: In the fifth stanza, Shelly says, “Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is.” That’s a great thing to wish for; it’s another thing to become that lyre and to sing from it, and that’s this actual experience of the aliveness of the West Wind that Dickinson wrote about, and so did Whitman.

I’m thinking about what makes American poetry different and unique? I think it’s the shamanic transmission of knowledge from the region of the West. It creates a different kind of rhythm, a different kind of poetry that’s fused with new ideas that can really take us somewhere. Shelley’s in The Norton Anthology of Poetry, it’s beautifully written, but I don’t read it very often. Yet I can pick up Dickinson and wander through her poetry for hours and hours. The same thing with Whitman. Dickinson really is probably the only poet who can stand shoulder to shoulder with Whitman. So there you go. We’ll talk more about Miller because he’s a very important figure too and he’s been mostly lost to time in the march of history. But he’s right here, in our very own back yard!

M: I’ll say! I doubt not one person in a thousand has heard of him. I wouldn’t know more than his name if I hadn’t been talking with you about him.

H: He’s a very significant figure. The same thing with me, if Everson had never mentioned him to me. Everson thought he represented the inception for the Western archetype.

Transformative Encounters

M: Yes, I would guess your whole world would be different if you hadn’t met Everson. Well, who knows, but he does seem to have been a transformative figure in your life.  He enabled you to focus on and become clearer and clearer about what’s going on in your own development.

You got that powerful experience. It’s amazing to me that a man like him would be hired by the University of California at Santa Cruz. There he is, he’s a former monk, and maybe he’s wonderful, but how did they realize that, those academics?

H: Well, it was a time of experimentation. They were  trying to set up a new style of teaching.  It was a new campus, up in the redwoods overlooking the Pacific. So they wanted someone like that. They wanted a poet in residence. They considered a couple of poets. I think Gary Snyder was one.

M: Oh, well. They were wise, then. Snyder isn’t all that  terrific.  He’s  not  a seminal poet, in my judgment. Your mentioning the mid-life crisis makes  me think  that, while  some  people may  never have to discover their vocation, their bliss as Campbell would call it, and  follow that path from childhood on, the most common experience is to have to pass through some transformative experience. Rites of passage, mid-life crises, and so on.  Snyder fools a lot of people.  He re-packages the fundamental Eastern philosophies, creates pretty imagery and so on, but I don’t feel the  force of a Whitman or a Dickinson.

The Cloud of Affinities

Your center of thought and feeling, your bliss, has attracted to you like a magnet people like Joaquin Miller, Emily Dickinson, and those others we’ve discussed. There’s this gravity that seems to pull them to you right and left. And, lucky me, I’m assimilating your whole package into my own realm. There’s that merger process again. There’s this realm, this cloud of affinities over here, this one over here. There’s this  young man who  was  in my classes when he was eighteen. He goes out assimilating his affinities over the years and then, now, that realm merges with mine. Gee, what a return on my investment! [Laughs]

If we had  to wait  for mathematicians and scientists to figure out the universe, we’d be in a hell of a fix. So there  must be other ways to figure out the universe. And as we know, there are.

There have been a few things I’ve wanted  to  clear up and  understand. Remember,  for example, I said to you recently, isn’t it phenomenal that someone  like Yeats, who  never studied sub-atomic physics, could understand it perfectly and write poems capturing exactly what the scientists are only now nailing down in mathematical formulas? And you said, “Not really.” I think your point, the obvious point, was  that  if we had  to wait  for mathematicians and scientists to figure out the universe, we’d be in a hell of a fix. So there  must be other ways to figure out the universe. And as we know, there are. You can go out into the desert, quite literally in Christ’s case, or sit under a tree as Buddha did, and sit there till it all comes into focus. What’s coming clearer in our case is how we enter the realms of gold. We start a dialogue, skirt around things a bit, and then if things go right you dip into this rich vein of interconnectedness, like floating in a wonderful golden sea.

An Hour-and-a-Half of Dialogue:The Pause That Refreshes

One of the purposes of doing that is that you spend an hour and a half like that and it refreshes you and then you go about your day, but now the day’s enriched and your moments are more intense. Maybe there’s a decay factor, but it stays enhanced for a while. That’s one reason to have a dialogue or to convert cocktail-party chitchat to something deeper than surface features. Then all of a sudden it’s really fun.

H: Yes. You’re circling back to the realms of gold and some of the dialogues we’ve been having about the significance of the West, the sunsets, golden sunsets, the naming of the Golden Gate, Joaquin Miller Park right here, John C. Fremont. The West was invaded by settlers because of gold.

The Metaphor Isn’t the Territory. Or is it?

M: I was going to ask you to take a tangent and talk about the negative aspect of the quest for gold.

H: Well, Miller was part of that. That’s what I wanted to get to. That history is with us, too. What we did to the Indians of the Mt. Shasta region we’re still doing to the environment. Miller came down to the Shasta region to mine gold with a group of twenty-nine men. He was the cook for them, but we know he did do some mining with Mountain Joe, a man he  lived with for a period of time, near the  Klamath River.  But the  main thing I want to get to is what he learned from the Native Americans during the uprising in the very significant year, as you know, 1855, when Whitman published his  Leaves of  Grass, a month before, July 4 in fact, when Whitman published his first volume. Miller fought in the battle of Castle Crags.

An Immortal Wound

He was wounded by an arrow that pierced his cheek, knocked out two teeth and came out through the back of his neck and almost pierced his spinal cord. He survived but they had to pull the arrow on through the back, feathers and all! So that was his shaman’s wound. That was, I think, the transformative moment–when he  suffered a decisive blow to his  Western ego. He was taken care of by Native American women. He later lived for two years with the Indians of the McCloud district.

What he learned was that the Indians had gone on the warpath against the settlers because their main foodstuff, Salmon, their totem and God I might add, were turning up on their bellies because of the strip mining and the filth that was flowing down the rivers and killing the fish, trout, steelhead salmon. The Sacramento, as you know, is one of the largest rivers that flows into the Pacific. We had some of the biggest salmon populations on the Pacific coast, and they spawned all the way up to the source of the river, which is around Shasta. Miller wrote that a horse wouldn’t even cross the river in the  Klamath area it was so thick with salmon, black with crowded salmon spawning there. The killing of that source of food, the Indians’ livelihood, was what sent them on the warpath. So gold had a devastating effect on not only the Indians but on animal life, the mosses, the plant life along the rivers. It destroyed a way of life, for the people, the animals, the elk, the grizzly bear, the wolf. But Miller gives us a history of the gold mining era through poetry that is priceless because it recounts the history through tragedy. He was more famous in London than Walt Whitman at the time. He’s very interesting in that he records the shadow side of the realms of gold.

There’s the material aspect of the realms for you. The Indians called it the yellow metal. To them it didn’t hold the significance it does for the greedy White Man. Miller brought all that history down with him when he settled in Oakland eventually. I think that history is still with us. What we did to the redwoods  is an example  of that kind of 49er craze. They needed to build San Francisco. So they butchered all the redwoods. It’s  interesting how gold  played a part in that environmental destruction that has led, fortunately, to the Sierra Club and other movements springing up to fight against this tendency at the economic level of democracy, so that we might remember the  spiritual democracy of the  land, the  connection among all things. I think it’s the shamanic foundation that Miller was writing out of, after his transformation, after his shaman’s wound. He changed; his whole character changed after his injury.

M: Yes. That’s very clear.

H: I think that was an important moment in Western poetry. He represents something of a shift of consciousness. He’s known for being a great champion of trees. He is responsible for Arbor Day in California. The trees  in the  Presidio were a  result of Miller’s efforts  in talking with City planners about how to make it more beautiful. So those are a few ideas about why I think Miller is significant. He brings the history of what we did to the Indians in this one book, Life Amongst the Modocs, to light in such a way that we cannot forget the tragedy.

The Immortal Wound: Bobby had been a ruthless politician, but he became a true advocate for spiritual democracy.

M: Yes. He embodies both sides of the coin. As  I was saying earlier, that sort of transformation happened to Robert Kennedy. I was going to say it happened as he toured the country and got embedded with ordinary Americans in a way he hadn’t before.

But now I’m thinking his shamanic wound may have been his brother’s assassination. Bobby had been a ruthless politician, but he became a true advocate for spiritual democracy. Lyndon Johnson is another person who suddenly transformed from a canny political maneuverer to a true Presidential figure, perhaps precipitated by his suddenly being thrust into that role. A  shamanic transformation? He had been an unscrupulous player, but when he got  a  chance  he did more for Civil Rights than perhaps any other President in the 20th century. So there is this yin yang nature among these men.

Blood and Gore and the Glow of the Spirit

What’s focusing in for me is this idea that you’ve brought into our discussions of this dark side of the realms of gold. There’s the blood and gore alongside this brilliant glow. To live clearly in the universe is to embrace the whole package, not just half of it.

H: It is. I think that’s a great point. The symbolic meaning of the physical search for gold is that there’s a spiritual quest.

The Metaphor Isn’t the Territory.

M: Like the alchemists, or the Stock Market. That’s a metaphor for what they are trying for, isn’t it? After all, the checkbook stands for an idea that its owner has. What are you really seeking? What in you sends you off to Wall Street every morning? You want to live a rich, beautiful life, of course. Everybody wants that.

The Quest for a Rich, Full Life

H: And a life of happiness.

M: True happiness.

H: True happiness. At the cocktail party people are having drinks, and they want to get into that mood.

M: That’s why they’re there. They want to feel good.

H: I think there’s something wonderful about that. It’s a kind of substitute for the kind of liquor that Dickinson was in touch with.

M: Yes, great connection.

H: That ecstasy that she describes. She says “Take all away from me but leave me  ecstasy and I am richer than all my fellow men.”

M: And that’s not pretty imagery. That’s as actual as words can come to be. And anyone who experiences it remembers it. So getting a good selection of stocks is not necessarily what I’m really after. I am really after one hundred proof Dickinson liquor.

The Immensity of the Landscape

H: To add to what I said about Miller, it wasn’t just this wound that he sustained that changed him but what happened afterwards while he was recovering. He met a man, Mountain Joe, as I said, who used to run a wagon train up and down from Mexico to Oregon. This man took him up Shasta to the summit, and on the way up he had a transformative experience of light and of looking down at the forests of California all the way to the Pacific. It blew Miller away. The immensity of the landscape was like John Muir seeing Yosemite for the first time. So he’s really looking from vast vistas in the sketches he paints for us.

M: Oh, that’s like Keats’ poem “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” that we looked at earlier, looking at the Pacific “with a wild surmise.”

H: What Miller is seeing is the grandeur of nature–that John Muir saw also and the spiritual democracy spread across the landscape–and the native peoples down below and the water . . .

A Childlike Innocence

M: You were talking earlier about what distinguishes American poetry. I think it’s part of that child-like  discovery that’s possible when you come into  a new land. In Europe, if you traveled, you came into a place whose buildings had been there for centuries, old, old streets. There would have been the feel of age. But cross the Atlantic and  you come  to this place where there is not a trace of the old civilization. It’s all new.  So you’re like a baby that wakes up and finds everything new and exciting. That’s that freshness that you’re talking about.

H: There’s definitely that freshness. That’s a good point.

M: Hmm. I kind of like that! [Laughs.]

H: In fact, there is something childlike in the way Miller writes this book, a childlike innocence.

The Awareness that One Can Learn

M: Even more, we need to know that each of us comes with the capacity to play the cards he’s dealt.  But then, what about a mentally impaired person or a person with some horribly  crippling disability? I think, even there, there is that biological process of dealing with one’s condition. I don’t for one second intend to dismiss pain and suffering. But I would say we can handle that till we can’t anymore, and then nature takes over and runs the show. I die, I go insane, the grain of wheat doesn’t grow into a plant.

There’s also the environmental impact of, say, a child with Down Syndrome. I had a colleague who had such a child. I swear the love that clearly flowed between them humanized my friend–who had a lot of rough edges. He told me of the love that came to him because of this complete outpouring of love from her to him. She brought to him what ordinary people didn’t. And the child experienced that  unrestrained  love from him.  Of course, that’s always the bottom line, isn’t it?P Everything we’ve been discussing is about connecting with that energy level we can call Love, that spirit of unguarded participation in the flow, to become vulnerable to some other part of the universe.

 Everything we’ve been discussing is about connecting with that energy level we can call Love, that spirit of unguarded participation in the flow, to become vulnerable to some other part of the universe. That needs to happen to everybody. We’re back to the transformative experience. That’s what I mean by the capacity to play the hand we hold. To be educated is to have caught on to that. If you protect yourself, you’re missing the gold.  You miss the point of what the universe is and your connection with it.

Unguarded Participation in the Now

So we need Joaquin Miller’s shaman’s wound. Many people I consider compassionate, compassionate, thinkers have had to sit on the sidelines for a while. For Miller to have to lie there and be nursed, that gave him time to calm down and stop looking for gold. This hiatus seems to be necessary for many people to catch on to this. But another way to view what happened to Miller is that the circumstance shaped him into  what he  would become. The Native peoples, the volcanic mountains, the trees, the rivers, the Pacific. It’s idle to speculate how I might have been different if I had gone into another line of work, but what did happen was that I had kids talk to me all day long about this and that and the other thing and I evolved into this persona I walk around in. Things were coming at me from all over the place and I absorbed them.

H: That’s an interesting point about work and how the work shapes us. Getting back to  children who have these deformities and disabilities, you know I started my work first as a cook but then as a therapist/social worker, working with emotionally disturbed children. I learned a lot from these children about suffering and discrimination. And  about joy and  how to help a child move like Judy Garland does in The Wizard of Oz from fear and terror to true joy, when she’s singing “Over the Rainbow” and dancing with these figures.  So I think  that that work shaped me, too. Whitman was talking about the same thing. “Do you see O my brothers and sisters? / It is not chaos or death–it is form, union, plan–it is eternal life–it is Happiness.” He’s asking what’s the aim of life. He capitalizes the H. Life, liberty, truth, the pursuit of happiness–but what kind of Happiness is it, really? The happiness that comes from material wealth? We know a lot of rich people who are very unhappy. Or, is it something else that comes through the discovery of some kind of meaning in life? I think of it as a calling, a vocation. I think of the gold as a metaphor for the self.  We could choose a number of different metaphors. Gold is one of the  most common across cultures. We  learn a lot from suffering, from our own suffering and from children’s suffering.

When I first read the book Life Amongst the Modocs, it did something to me. It affected me. It moved me to feel grief. The stories about what happened to the Native American tribes wounded me. The stories wounded me, and I began to feel like I was going through something profound, an internal shift. I even called in sick at work for four days, and what came out of me was pure poetry.

M: Oh, that’s great!

Reconnecting with the Child

H: I wrote in my journal, and  I couldn’t stop writing.  Ten years had elapsed since  I had written like that. I was in Everson’s class at twenty-five. At thirty-five I started writing poetry. This didn’t come out consciously.  I didn’t intend  to write  a great poem.  It  was something that I had to do. I started journaling, and as  I journaled the language  became  more and  more poetic. Before I knew it, I had struck a vein of pure gold. There are even metaphors of gold in these poems. A lot of it was centered around  memories  I had  as a child  of being at Lake Shasta with my family. Then later on, after you and I reconnected and were having our dialogues in Orinda, I went up to Shasta–I think it was in 1997– with my son Manny. We camped on Mount Shasta for four days. That was a powerful experience, to get a taste of what  it must have been like to live up there with Native Americans. Miller married a Native American woman and had a child by her. I think  something about reconnecting with the  child is very important. Whitman writes, “There was a child went forth every day.”

M: Yes.

H: And everything the child saw he or she became. It’s the same idea about the miracle. Everything is a miracle when you’re in that state. In Leaves of Grass Whitman wrote: “WHY, who makes much of a miracle? / As to me I know of nothing else but miracles.”

M: Yes.

H: This is why these students were down at Santa Cruz taking “Birth of a Poet.” They were seeking an experience. I think that’s what people want. They  really want  an experience  of what we’re talking about. We can ramble on about realms of gold and spiritual democracy and the aims of Western poetry and literature, and yet it’s a different thing to dip one’s hat into the river and to drink that pure water from the river mouth. I think this is the water Christ was talking about when he said, “Whosoever shall drink the water from my mouth shall drink the water of life.” It’s that idea.

M: Keats also wrote “Beauty is truth, truth beauty. ” When I reflect on it, that seems to work for me. Beauty in my experience is non-verbal. It’s something I experience. I think the test of a poem is Is it true? If the answer is no, it isn’t, then we’ll have to use some other word to describe it. Pretty? Pleasant? Decorative?

H: Well, that is what we see as the central metaphor for truth in the poetry of Robinson Jeffers It takes a great artist to paint a magnificent portrait of such beauty as the central theory of truth in the universe.

Spirit Imbedded in the Art

Everything we’ve been discussing is about connecting with that energy level we can call Love, that spirit of unguarded participation in the flow, to become vulnerable to some other part of the universe.

M: Yes. For example, I told you in one of our dialogues about Ansel Adams’  photos. There’s a visceral difference  for a viewer (for me, at least) between the  ones he selected for display and for his books and the cast-offs he didn’t want in the book I bought on sale, apparently put together after his death. These coffee-table photos where shot  by Adams, but they  were not “lit with piercing glances into the life of things.” Adams knew. And I knew, too, when I compared my disappointment in the photos in the book I bought and Adams photos that knock your socks off. An artist puts his spirit into the thing he creates, and it’s there for you to pull out. He has created that picture. That’s not just a physical copy of Half Dome on your wall   over there. It’s the photographer’s spirit that he put in that photo that comes back to you as a combination of the two, the physical work of the camera and the spirit of the artist.

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” 

H: Ansel Adams was a great teacher, and Howard Weamer was a great student of his. To move from the black-and-white to a color piece like that one–Weamer’s a park ranger in Yosemite. He’s up at the ski hut there right now. He’s a good friend of the family. He took that shot, and you can see there’s a certain kind of intelligence in there. He put that into a poster. He selected it, just like Ansel Adams had an eye for the best of his own photos.

Weamer selected that one. You can see why: “Storm Light Over Half Dome,” You can see what I was trying to get at when you asked me about Joaquin Miller and how the history is living in the present. We saw what happened on the East Coast with Hurricane Sandy (2012). And now there’s renewed talk about global warming. There was a great article in the paper about what could happen here on the Pacific. That “Storm Light Over Half Dome” is kind of like Frost’s poem. There’s something looming in the future we can’t quite foresee. There’s a pond in the picture, reflecting the storm.

M: Oh, yes.

H: And there’s a certain light in the darkness.

Making Art Come Alive

M: Do you see how as you’re discussing it that that photo is coming alive? This is the surface features game that I used to play with the  students, where  you keep noticing details, and  as you do that it’s like someone put a spot light on that particular part. And the whole thing starts to brighten up. The first thing you know it’s  gleaming with light.  You can do  that actually with anything. Anything. The whole point is that everything encapsulates the realms of gold. These are surface features  through which you see down into and around, and all of a sudden the thing is bursting with light. That’s what everybody wants, we all want to live that life. But we forget how to consult our spirits and go screwing around and try out everything but that.

The Future is a boogeyman

UC Sant Cruz: And then the environment shapes us.

We should discuss your own path through life for a bit. You actually had the backbone to follow your bliss. I don’t know if you thought of it as your bliss at the  time, but you did some very dramatic things to move yourself in the direction you took, to become a Jungian psychotherapist. I know you told me that in college you began to catch on to your own self th rough your journals. You think “Oh, so this is what I’m up to.” Then when you got to Santa Cruz, you knew you wanted to go toward what Everson was doing. You made use of these events that occurred along the way. I think most people don’t do that. Most are “living lives of quiet desperation,” as Thoreau said. It’s a sadness. I visited a brilliant former student recently who has a horrible fear of the future and it ties him up in knots. It’s  impossible to talk him out  of it. It’s almost like a crutch—I think a lot of people do this.  They’re so used to falling back on what must seem a sustaining support—you know, I will  ward  off disaster by worrying about it, getting myself all set for the worst. What would it be like if I weren’t hanging on so tightly? So you say, quit taking the poison, it’s killing you. And they say What shall I take instead?

It’s this whole business of living with the  future  in mind.  What  a  boogeyman! It’s such an insane idea to me. I was trying to convey this idea to a man I know who had been a priest for a year or two and then entered the secular world. Now he’s in his seventies and he’s still lost; he doesn’t know in which direction he should be going.

H: Well, as for my own trajectory, I don’t know what it was that brought it to conscious awareness. “I don’t know who or what put the question, but at some point I did answer Yes to Someone or something. And  from that point I knew that my  life in self-surrender had a goal.” I love that passage in your book from Dag Hammarksjold’s Markings, and I memorized it as you can see. But I think I learned to experience the unity of the cosmos in track and field. I learned it up on Mount Shasta when I was a boy. I learned it in nature, running, usually running. Track and field was for me a way of getting into the zone, the Zero  point field. And my first memory of it comes from the age of three in Jeffers country, running down the white sand beach at the end of Ocean Avenue in Carmel, and seeing the golden light of the sun beaming everywhere across the vast vista of water. When I ran track in high school I got that same feeling now and then.

M: Yes, and I’ve read that about marathon runners. After about fifteen or twenty minutes, your body takes over and you’re not pushing yourself.

From the Economic to the Spiritual Dimension

H: You’re in a Zen place. You’re in the moment, in the present. And this happened to me in Santa Cruz. But I also was doing Yoga right around the time I took your course, Kundalini Yoga, and reading Joseph Campbell. And I took that yogic consciousness to Santa Cruz, too. Yoga was a wonderful technique to get out of the  monkey  mind, to get  out of directed thinking, and I allowed myself to really  let  go. So then I took Everson’s course. You  know that little poem I wrote, “Alchemy of the West” — in 1999 right before the millennium? The opening line is, “Was it gold that brought the Pilgrims to this point or was it something more spiritual yet?” Those lines anticipated my writing Spiritual Democracy. They anticipated what we’re talking about right now, the idea that California, because of its place in history, because of what the 49ers represented; the arrival at, first, the material representation of democracy but then to the symbolic, of a radical shift in human consciousness from the economic to the spiritual dimension. But the fact that these poets were all anticipating it, and even these British

M: I think that’s one likely scenario.

H: I think we’re very adaptive as a species, and I’m optimistic that the human race will rise to the occasion and start cutting down on fossil fuels, like China and the US are now doing.

To Surrender to One’s Life

M: That would be a splendid idea, and I think it’s likely. You may even see it in your lifetime. But I don’t think that’s got a thing to do with what you and I are doing at this moment. In fact, what you and I must do in these moments  is to live them to the  hilt without any thought of  what they might signify for the future. If you do that, my past experience is that that is the strongest and best thing you could do for the future–by not thinking about the future, not siphoning off your energies and focusing off there in the future somewhere, but instead letting those energies plant the tree now and water it now and enjoy it now.  You don’t know if someone might come by tomorrow and pull it up, but that’s not the point. That has nothing to do with it. The point is to surrender to your life, as you just said. So to me, we don’t need optimism or pessimism. Those are irrelevant. We need to cast them all out.

One of the worst things

Camus said that Hope was one of the worst things Pandora let out of the box. It gets people anxious and worried and looking out there with a scaredy cat attitude. Well, screw that. We’re here in the mud, right here, right now. One has to be able to do that. It’s hard to do, but you have to know that it’s possible so that you can pull it off. It’s like knowing that you can learn. Well, knowing that it’s possible to live in the moment and that this is the best place you could possibly be is really nice. When you start to get all upset and nervous, you can say, “Oh, wait, I know how this works,” and let yourself surrender into the now.

H: That was a good development of your point. I think what we’re  talking about is  a difference in psychological types. The intuitive type not only has anticipatory intuitions of what could be possibilities in the future but actually foresees them. I mean that in the Whitmanesque sense, which is different from the fearful way of looking outward that you describe. I’m optimistic about the future of humanity because I foresee possibilities. In some way we may be driven to spiritual democracy because of the looming shadows chasing us on the material level and political level. Look at what’s happening in the Near East right now. When are we going to stop playing these war games? It’s absolutely absurd, and religion is right at the center of it, right at the heart of it.

M: Oh, yes!

H: So, as we’ve talked before of monotheism, we need to broaden our concept of what spirituality really is. I think what you’re bringing in is good. It’s a very Zen approach. Buddhism in the West is important because it brings us into the now.

Yelling at each other about metaphors

M: What you’re saying about religions–we know there are dozens, maybe hundreds. I see them all as metaphors for what we’ve been talking about. To understand any religion at its base is to see the realms of gold again. This is what it’s all about. So wars among the major religions are absurd because they’re yelling at each other about metaphors. They’re yelling about something held in common that’s  being described. Salvation, all that stuff, is metaphoric for what you and I are talking about, a common participation in what’s going on. So I guess one can get pretty mean-minded following politics closely and taking sides. [Laughs] I’m perfectly happy, though, to take sides with the progressive view of our society!

But we also need to be able to do what Frost called being above the  fray.  He’d like to be up there where you could see both sides. You have to be able to do that. I must admit it’s pretty hard for me not to hate people like Romney. But to be really clear about how the world works you can’t hate anybody or anything. I still love  it, the joy of hating! But  I do know that if I really truly got to know the man beyond his superficial bullshit, I could not help but have compassion with him. I’ve seen it in my own life, people who chose to hate me and then changing over the years. As I think of it right now hate is like that clash between Islam and the West. But the softening of the heart is what really removes the missile and opens the way for shared spiritual democracy.

The Transformative Vocation

Let’s go back to what you were saying in your last dialogue with me about vocation being a means of transformation. I think you see that as a cornerstone of the work that you do. Is that right?

H: Yes. It’s a very old idea. You find it in the Bhagavad Gita, “Set thy heart upon thy work but never on its reward.” It’s kind of like what you’re saying about being in the moment. If you set your heart on your work and not on the reward, that gold on the material level, the spiritual dimension will break through where everything becomes golden.

M: I think so, but what I was getting at, in your therapy it seems like you’re helping people find their vocation.

H: That’s exactly what you were asking me about and how it is that I had the courage, if you want to call it that…

M: The nerve! [Both laugh] That’s a pretty dramatic thing.

H: The nerve to follow my  bliss. The video with Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell was released right about the time I became licensed as an MFCC, and lived out the experiment of individuation prescribed by Carl Jung. I really did take a descent into the unconscious. But I think if anybody paved the way for my getting on the path of individuation, it was when I first read Jung at the age of about nineteen. He doesn’t just write beautiful essays about what we’re discussing, which is how to get to the Self, how to get to the realms of gold. He actually gives you a method through dream interpretation and active imagination. I learned from Jung how to value science, how to value art. Erich Neumann was one of his greatest interpreters, and he wrote  a lot about art. And Jung of course wrote a lot about poetry. Jung learned from poets,  the German poets, Schiller, Goethe, Heine, Nietzsche. Yet he also wrote a long study on the poetry of Longfellow, “Hiawatha.”

M: So he didn’t stick to some narrow scientific approach to his work. He was willing to step into all the arts and all the sciences, apparently.

H: That’s what I’m getting at with regards to vocation and our discussion about the Field. Really it’s the fields. They all unite on a pivotal idea, which is vocation. If anything can bring us to the realization that you were mentioning earlier, the question of how it is that a poet, for example, can say, “The  whirling and whirling is elemental within me.” How can Walt Whitman say that?

Because he is there. He is spinning with the atoms, the electrons within the atoms, and also the stars.

M: Yes.

H: He’s in that Field because he’s in his  right  field, which is poetry. He  is singing the songs and chants of the poet-shamans  which he  is. That’s the  key. Whatever the  path is, whatever the vocation is that’s the entrance way to the realms of gold. If one can find a way in, then one unites with others who  are also in that realm. And vocations are fields that all unite at a common center, which is the  Self. Jung called it the Self. That is the  unitary  place, that’s where everything unites. The physicist knows that, too; it’s like McTaggart’s book The Field. Parapsychologists, people who study light, photons–they all unite at a common point, and that’s captured by Howard Weamer beautifully in “The Storm Light Over Half Dome.” The illuminists who went to  Yosemite, for example, they  captured  that beautiful light  of the Pacific West. There’s something about light here in the West. It’s a special light.

M: The painters always talk about the light. I’m not quite as sensitive as they are, but just look out your window right now! It’s glowing.

H: It’s a funny irony, but they cut down hundreds of eucalyptuses here that Miller planted, thinking they could build houses from the wood. Well, you can’t, and they cut them all down, and we have this gorgeous view back. Look. You can even see the Golden Gate.

M: That’s something. You can see both bridges from here. And something else. The light keeps changing. While we’ve been sitting here, there was a building down there in Oakland that was illuminated. Now, the light has passed on.

H: Once in a while, I see that kind of reflection from up here and I capture it as if in a mirror, and I see that this light in the West, the Golden West, is really special. I can see why Fremont named it the Golden Gate, and that’s before the  bridge, much earlier, (1846) before  the logging phase of the 1850s that decimated the great redwoods.

The Many Academic Fields

M: That reminds me. When I was  reading through the  transcript yesterday, and you are bringing it in again now, I was thinking about academic fields. They talk of having a field. My field is English, mine  is chemistry, and  so on. They’re rarely thinking of it in a poetic sense, but “my field”? The Field?  We had all those  fields in Diablo Valley College. Well, if each of us was doing his work, as his or her calling, it descends or penetrates  the  main Field. That’s what a liberal education is ultimately.

The college put into its mission statement the mingling of the disciplines. I don’t think they honored it much, but our English Department actually had it in the  course outlines.  I loved that liberty to roam anywhere I pleased, the humanities, the sciences, mathematics, football. That’s what you, Steven, do with all the fields you include in your explorations— paleontology, astrology, archeology, religions, philosophy, poetry. You really go into it.  I don’t go into it to the degree you do. I monkey around in a field long enough to get the feel of it. What I’m trying to remind myself of–that’s sufficient.

The Poetic Basis of Science

H: Yes, that’s a really good point, because Robinson Jeffers, you know, got into geology and medicine and physics and astronomy. He was a scientist firstly by education, and  he  brought the sciences into his poetry. That’s really a marvelous thing, when integration happens among various fields, around a center. I always thought of you as a poet.

M: Oh? Gee, it’s always good to know these things! That’s another thing I wanted to bring into this dialogue, the immense power people have of influencing others by even a slight comment.

H: I think there’s so much poetry in Image that it connected with a poet in me that wanted to come out. I needed you to be a poet to bring that out. And you and your book did do that. You had Shakespeare on the opening page. Image even begins with “Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?”

M: Hmm. I remember the first semester of my first year of teaching, in Stagg High School in Stockton, the principal sat in on one of my senior classes, and I was trying to teach some little bit of Geoffrey Chaucer. Later, he said that maybe I ought to be teaching in a college. I hadn’t thought about maybe I ought to be teaching in a college. Just that one little thing. And I began thinking of myself that way and came over to Diablo Valley College a few years later.

H: The other poems you have in Image that meant a lot to me, among others, are Dylan Thomas’s “The Force That Through the Green Fuse,” and Robert Frost’s “Neither Out Far Nor in Deep,”

There’s the poet who’s looking deep. I thought, well, Clark knows how to look deep. I knew I was a deep seer. I just had to awaken that in myself and reflect on it in language. “Reflections on Language,” just that in itself is a metaphor. Only the poet knows  how to answer. How do you reflect on language? That’s the poet’s job. That’s the capacity within the archetype of the poet to see by reflecting. The  vocation of the  poet is  to reflect on language and provide a new perspective on it.

Mission: To Be a Spiritual Creature in a Physical Environment

M: Whether we know it or not, each of our jobs as a spiritual creature is to be that spiritual creature in the physical environment. As a result, that particular spirit gets embedded in, say, this pot here on your side table. When the poet-sculptor surrenders himself to that spiritual self, that has this powerful effect on everything else. And that’s his job. That’s what a painter does; that’s what a photographer does, all artists. But all people when they become their true spiritual selves have this fantastic influence on the environment.

H: The psychologist–the phrase “depth psychology” –the depth psychologist is one who’s looking deep. He can look both out far and in deep, deep into the unconscious, into dreams. And I think that’s what I got through Jung, the capacity to look through the surface level of the water into what’s lurking down there.

Water as Metaphor

M: Yes. We could spend a half hour talking about water as a metaphor. “I’m going to turn this water into wine.” You were talking about that earlier. In The Field, as we discussed it earlier, McTaggart talks about dissolving antigens in water and gradually reducing the solution till there is not trace at all. But the water retains the full force of the antigen, apparently the memory of it. That’s factual science. But think of the implications! We’re back to Yeats’s memory poem, and that was conceived long before this new scientific discovery about memory in water. But as you were saying about Whitman and Dickinson and others, this realization was part of their awareness. This is important to me because I’ve just been plowing through this  book, The  Life  and Science of Richard Feynman. Feynman was a Nobel-Prize winner. What I’ve read so far takes him up through his years with Oppenheimer and the Los Alamos project. That was the most powerful gathering of geniuses in the science field ever put together in one place and working collegially on one effort.

H: That’s what happens. Think about the East Coast poets, the shamans, Dickinson, Whitman and Melville. They’re all contemporaries of Emerson. These were not like Tennyson and Longfellow, Whittier. These were different kinds of poets.

A Fantastic Brain Trust

M: In Los Alamos, they wanted to see if they couldn’t create some kind of a bomb.  In fact, they used water to dilute uranium to get it into the right mix. There were probably in Los Alamos alone the greatest minds  in mathematics  and physics of that era from all over the world, all working together, collegially. I think it’s the most fantastic brain trust we have ever had in the history of mankind, before or since. If  you had that same  kind of set-up on a cure for cancer, what a powerful thing that would be. It  took them three  or four years, working night and day. If you could simulate that endeavor, you could polish off cancer. It never happened again. But the relevance for you is, who are the greatest thinkers that you know of working in Jungian psychology right now? Do you know who they are?

H: I think I know a few of them. I know a couple of them personally, and I know others professionally. That’s a good point. I reviewed Murray Stein’s books. He’s probably one of the most seminal Jungians.

M: Are there seminal Jungians in Switzerland?

H: Yes, he’s in Switzerland. He thinks  my work on Melville is great. Brilliant, he said. He put  it on the web site of the International Association for Analytical Psychology.

M: Do these five or six people ever get together?

H: Oh, yes. At Jungian conferences. When they get together, you have quite a conference. Tom Kirsch, who’s one of my friends and quite a force in analytical psychology, is an historian of Jungian psychology. He puts together these marvelous  history symposiums. He’s done  it in San Francisco. But, yes, you’re right. It’s important to be part of a movement in any field. Yet what we’re doing here, too, is looking at the power of what’s been shaping on the  West Coast in terms of literature and poetry for over one hundred and fifty years.

M: I think you could make a damned good college course from these hour-and-a-half dialogues we’ve had over the years.

H: Actually, last night after looking at the transcript from last time, I think  I need to get to work filling in some of the questions you asked and polishing these dialogues up a little. We could work on it. You know, you re-invented education at the college. You’ll be remembered on the West Coast for your innovative teaching approach.

To Use the Poet’s Voice to Teach

M: Well, I don’t think that’s how it works. I won’t be remembered, but because of the Field influence, I think it’s already worked its way throughout education. Things being innovated right and left during the time you were there I see being used in school systems all over the country.

H: You were asking about Santa Cruz. You were asking how someone like Everson could get hired. Well, you and Everson were on the same wave in different colleges.

M: I’ve seen people use what we innovated–they never heard of me–but I’ve seen them using these ideas in the grade schools. But the teacher who’s using them doesn’t really understand what it means or how it needs to be applied.

H: To use a poet’s voice to teach an English class, to quote from poetry a lot as you did, and in your book, there’s something about that that does get directly to these other big questions.

Waves of Influence

M: I don’t have any doubt that that kind of behavior, any kind of behavior, has waves of influence that go out and out and out to places you never dream of.

H: The key is to help as many people as we can find their link to the Self.

M: Because they do have to take it over themselves.

H: Exactly, and I think that was the aim of your course and Everson’s, and the aim of our dialogues. To provide something that will be of value.

M: OK. We have to wrap this up now. Make a punch line for today’s dialogue.

H: Well, just a quick thought I had when you were talking about water, reflections on water. The whole metaphor of Native Americans looking into their stream and seeing salmon turned up on their sides because of the strip mining, can you imagine the outrage? Can you feel into the sadness, the grief?

M: It’s enough to make you want to go to war!

H: Well, there you go. Now we’re talking about Oppenheimer and those bombs.

M: We could take that whole atomic bomb development I’ve been reading about in the Feynman book and play with the imagery and with realms of gold. These guys were investigating the fundamental elements of the world.

H: Think about the difference of the wars. The war the Indians fought was an environmental war, fighting for their land, fighting for animal intelligence.

M: Right.

The Force of Spiritual Democracy Versus Head Knowledge

H: Not these kinds of split-off intellectual knowledge, head knowledge, about whose religion or political idea or economic desire for dominance is right…

M: That’s good, because the force of spiritual democracy is running up against scientific warfare, which has to do with sub-atomic particles, getting at the very elements of this physical world. It’s really a yin yang situation now. That kind of rounds out our dialogue, doesn’t it? Nice going, Steven.

All Things Are Connected

Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle (c.1786—1866) is said to have written to President Franklin Pierce, in 1854, in response to his offer to buy Indian land and provide the Indians a reservation in place of it. This version is from Outdoor California, November—December 1976. I’m including it in this website because, for one thing, it is a profound example of what it’s like to live in the moment, to have an ” intense vision of the facts” all day long. My dialogues with Steven frequently explore the connectedness of all things, just as Seattle does here, how all things really are one thing. If you don’t think so, consider your belly button. But also notice that Seattle’s feelings are a part o;f his words. His ideas are feelings. His feelings are ideas. No separation. You can feel the strength his centeredness gives him.


How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us.

If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us.

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees caries the memories of the red man.

The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man — all belong to the same family.

So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will he our father and we will be his children. So we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us.

This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred, and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lake tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my fathers father. The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves behind, and he does not care. His fathers graves and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright heads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring or the rustle of insects’ wings. But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond, and the smell of the wind itself, cleansed by a midday rain, or scented with the pinon pine.

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath — the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes, Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench. But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all life it supports.

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath — the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath

The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where even the white man can go to take the wind that is sweetened by the meadow’s flowers.

So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition: The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers.

I am a savage and do not understand any other way. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.

If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know. The earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.

Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Even the White man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all; we shall see. One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover: our God is the same God. You may think now that you own him as you wish to own our land, but you cannot. He is the God of man, and his compassion is equal for the red man and the white. This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The white too shall pass, perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

But in your perishing you wiIl shine brightly, fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this Iand and for some speciaI purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man. That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all sIaughtered, the wild horses tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. The end of living and the beginning of survival.

One thing we know. Our God is the same God. This earth is precious to him. Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see.

Dialogue # 11: The Marketing of Ideas, Bringing Alive the Spiritual Forces that Make Wonder Moments

September 25, 2012                                                                                   

[In this dialogue I wanted to think through how to engage the minds of an  audience, however small or large, wherever  people gather, in online blogs, at conferences–for whatever reason.  I called the process the marketing of ideas. Some teachers and thinkers do their thinking out loud in the presence of a group. It can be effective, and from talking with Steven, I thought William Everson might have used that approach in  his Birth of a Poet classes at UC Santa Cruz, when Steven was a TA. 

Doing Philosophy.

M: You told me earlier what it was like to be in Everson’s “Birth of a Poet” course at UC Santa Cruz.. How did he actually conduct the class? You referred to him giving his meditations. Would he actually generate them right there during a session?

H: Well, he didn’t bring notes. He never spoke from any kind of an agenda. He might bring a book or two. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces was the main text for the course. We would read a chapter every week. And he would bring some of his poems and read some of them aloud when the spirit moved him.

A thinking process that I really like


M: Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher whom I mentioned earlier, used to have sessions in his rooms  at Trinity College, I think it was, at Cambridge.  He  would just start in and develop a dialogue with whoever was there. He did his original thinking in those sessions, carrying on thought experiments on the spot, “doing philosophy” as he called it, generating his thoughts  as he  went along.  I think that’s  similar to what you and I are doing here.  We’ll start out, and we’ll say, “Let’s see where this leads,” and  we  follow that  through.  It’s  a thinking process that I really like. That’s why I was asking you about Everson because it sounds like he was comfortable with just sitting down and generating the session as he went along. Someone else who did that sort of thinking was Krishnamurti.


The Purpose of Dialogue Is to Enter into an Energy Field

H: Can we tie this in with McTaggart’s The Field. In the opening pages she’s talking about an energy field. Whether we’re talking about cells or whether we’re talking about the place of thought in the mix, that’s the unifying level.

QUOTE: “Doing philosophy” isn’t so much pointed toward arriving at some great concept for other people as to enter into this energy field, this genius field, if we want to define  genius  in that way, where  everything is understandable and understood. 

M: Right. So, as I was saying earlier, you and I start this kind of a dialogue and it almost always evolves into a deeper probing. Your bringing the energy field back into this dialogue makes me  think  that the very purpose of this kind of “doing philosophy” isn’t so much pointed toward arriving at some great concept for other people as to enter into this energy field, this genius field, if we want to define  genius  in that way, where  everything is understandable and understood.  I have  a couple of friends who would fit that definition. I think  we  can get  a sense  of what  that’s like when dialogues go on in this way. You start out at conceptual discussion and things  begin to open up, and then you go into it.

“Doing philosophy” isn’t so much pointed toward arriving at some great concept for other people as to enter into this energy field, this genius field, if we want to define  genius  in that way, where  everything is understandable and understood.

H: I think what you’re getting at is the way to do it, you know, what McTaggart’s getting at, what she points out in the introduction: that she’s writing for the general reader.

M: Right.

H: And I think what you’re getting at is how to make a conference like I put on at UC Santa Cruz in honor of Bill Everson applicable to the ordinary person.

The Marketing of Ideas

M: Yes, I’m very interested in that, because I think that’s the biggest challenge. But I do think there are ways to do it—by this sort of dialogue for one. I think a person could get good at it. I was talking earlier about marketing, and the idea is that you want to get whatever it is you’ve discovered – un-covered, I’d say–across to the public. That’s the biggest thing for me right now, figuring out how to do that. For example, when I was discussing a manuscript with a McGraw-Hill editor, he said you don’t want to write the greatest book that is never read. How do you get people to read it? I’m interested in the concept of marketing.

We can segue directly to your concept of spiritual democracy. How do you get people interested enough to enter into a dialogue with your book, with the ideas put forth there? Marketing isn’t only something for Madison Avenue; it’s for people like you and me too. That may sound crass but not if you think of how the great spiritual forces in the world told their truths. Madison Avenue could learn from them! You, Steven, are very likely to be going forward with ideas we’ve been exploring, through workshops and programs and books and all kinds of venues. So finding ways to present what you have to offer–the marketing of your idea–will be a key to your success. You have a clear picture of the concept of spiritual democracy. So now you have to market that, that is, get it across to ordinary people., As you know, Christ, Buddha, shamans, mullahs, poets, they all used everyday language,  and  they told stories, parables, aphorisms, and the like. I don’t think you’ll find academic language anywhere in their teaching. Since I still want as many people as possible to engage with the ideas in Realms of Gold, thousands of people, I’m going through and clean up the way I come across


Reader and Writer, Speaker and Audience, Teacher and Students, in Harmony

How to market it is the key. That’s what I was getting at. In the sense I’m using the term, marketing is simply a matter of communicating your ideas.  That’s why  I’m experimenting with the Internet. I can get feedback within a day or two. You could call it test marketing, and you can keep editing and adapting till you and your readers are in harmony. One thing I do know is you don’t want to bore people to death, if you’re doing a YouTube, for example, you don’t want to record more that ten-minute video. Also, I’m  adding ideas from my book Get Your A Out of College to my website and connecting it to aspects of Realms of Gold. It would center directly on how to get through school without being bored to death, but the same approach applies to getting through your life without being bored.

The same approach works for both.

One’s Investment in the Process

The first question is Why are they bored–Why is anybody bored in life?! So I’m starting off with the matchstick puzzle. I can get a lot of mileage out of that simple little puzzle. In solving the puzzle, everyone in a group, of whatever size, has an investment. The big pay-off is an insight into their own selves. For you and me, that’s also in the direction of spiritual democracy. That’s the secret of a good class, getting everyone to invest a piece of themselves into the mix. Did Everson do that? Did  he  invite them to participate, or did they just sit quietly and listen?

H: Some took notes, some were just sitting quietly and listening, some were half asleep, lying down. But for the most part, everybody was quiet. There was no discussion, no question-and answer process.

M: If I were you I would begin to concentrate on how to do presentations that are absolutely riveting. (Sometime, we ought to have a dialogue on how to do that.) I know you’ve seen the video of Jill Bolte Taylor at a TED session. That talk was tailored for the TED style that was attracting ardent participants. A presenter wasn’t allowed to talk for more than eighteen minutes. It would be instructive to study their technique. I’ve read that people couldn’t tear themselves away from those presentations.

H: Yes, everybody who comes to any presentation wants an experience, and the key is to sharpen the techniques, and that opens it up to an actual experience. And it’s transformative. When it comes down to it, people are looking for an entrance way into the Field.

M: Exactly. And we’re back to the Field again. Nice segue.

Providing a Channel to the Realms of Gold

H: And so the gift of the presenters is to provide a channel for that. And the best way to do that is through language that captivates the audience, electrifies.

M: It does seem to be the most effective way, and there are many reasons for saying that.

H: It could be music, if you were a musician.

Thought Is Physical.

M: Yes, music would open it up, but I’m not so sure without cognitive processes, linguistically putting what you know into a physical form, that the transformation would go forward. There is this fundamental value of conscious thought, the  fact that thought is physical. That seems like a central fact–that a thought is embedded in the physical brain through synapses of electrical energy and that thought affects the entire  organism, and  that that organism is at the center of everything. So, then, a thought affects, not just the organism, but everything else as well. That’s an understanding that we’ve been building over these months.

H: As for music, I think Beethoven got that physicality in the Ninth Symphony when he put Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” Ode an die Freude, in the last movement. He saw that he needed conceptual ideas to bring the brotherhood of humanity together, to unite the world with the joy and love of the Cosmos… Oh, on another note I want to show you a picture I just had reproduced. It ties in with what we’re discussing.

[Steven goes into another room and brings back a photo of doors he discovered in some cliff dwellings in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.]

M: I really like that. I like the colors and everything about it. It reminds  me  of that picture of the cosmic explosion of the shaman in the cave, going back farther and farther toward infinity. That’s great, isn’t it, like going forever into the soul.

H: It is, isn’t it?  My brother, Richard, just edited this  Doorways picture, photographed  at Chaco Canyon in, I believe, 2007. Rich’s edit brings out the Gold. This picture is now a meditation on some of the subjects we’ve been discussing together, the Field, spiritual democracy, light, Cosmic Christ, indigenous  Americans, poetry, vocation, and  Realms of Gold.

I have a sense of entering into multiple dimensions when I look at it. There are four doorways, leading where? Notice also the golden light that appears to be burning at the  top entranceway on each of the first three doorways.

Painting the Life of Things

M: What the artist does in a painting is meld his spirit with shapes and colors, and the result is an illumination of the life of things there, specifically in the brush strokes but also the illumination of thing-ness in general. The spiritual forces which have made it–the artist’s spiritual force and the Force, the energy, he releases and imprisons on the canvas. That could just as well be captured in a photograph like this as well as in poetry or music. I’ve seen Ansel Adams’ great photographs, the ones that are lit with piercing glances. But once I bought a big coffee-table book of his photos, not the ones he  himself had chosen but one’s someone  else had put together after his  death.  Well, they simply did not  have that  force, those cosmic forces. That was a great learning experience for me. I gave the book to the Salvation Army.

Lit with Piercing Glances

Well, back to connections. What I’m getting at is that you’ve been filling in a lot of blanks with me about the  artists and philosophers, about paleontology, archeology, anthropology and all the connections among them, the Joseph Campbell work, and Jung, of course… I was looking up the lines of Marianne Moore, for you actually, “It must be ‘lit with piercing glances / into the life of things” that Lawrence Ferlinghetti put at the beginning of his book, When I Look at Pictures. Then I ran across this Sorolla painting and click, click, click,  all those separate things came together–and were connected all along. So what’s  been happening is, like the Sorolla paintings, our Samuel Miller [1807—1853] boy and girl primitives I told you about and our discovering the originals in the de Young, those isolates coming together into a lovely pattern. All that brings to the fore the question of these things being random, or emerging because we are primed and ready to receive them. And if that’s so, then there’s a key here about how to see the world more clearly.

Important shifts in thinking often occur in interesting synchronicities.

Important shifts in thinking often occur in interesting synchronicities.

H: I was just thinking of the reference to Ferlinghetti because of the  Everson Centennial  and that article that was in the San Francisco Chronicle about Ferlinghetti just the  week before, and you mentioned you had read his  book.  This idea  of coincidences–McTaggart  actually uses the word synchronicity. She  has a chapter on sharing dreams, and the  German phrase for it is Das ganze Feld. This is interesting. I picked up her book again and I actually opened it up to this exact page, and I want to read this to you: “Important shifts in thinking often occur in interesting synchronicities.” Just that opening line . . .

M: Um Hum.

The Light from the Far Door

H: This idea of shifts  in thinking… I took that picture in 2007 when we  were in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. It’s where the ancient astronomical site  was  situated strategically  for the Anasazi culture; it’s where they had their kivas; the largest kivas in the Southwest were in this very canyon. This is a doorway inside of one of the pueblos that has this interesting symmetry to it.

What I like about it so much is the light that comes through from the far door. It’s fully illuminated.

M: Yes, it is!

H: If you go through the succeeding doorways it looks like it’s opening into a golden light, a realm of pure gold.

M: Um, hum. It does, doesn’t it!

H: In a way it’s a metaphor for what we’ve been talking about, like going into the field of the unconscious. I think it’s fair to say that the Zero point field is a zone of mystery in the collective unconscious Jung was talking about. It’s an energy Field.

M: I think Jung would have been happy with that.

H: He would have.

Science, the Foundation for the Intuition

M: That would have reinforced what he was saying. In fact, it grounds his intuitions in a way. You said last time that he proved the collective unconscious. I thought you said that with some assurance. I would have said before that the objective psyche was a theory, though a very compelling one. But I thought, without having looked into it deeply, that he had amassed a tremendous amount  of anecdotal  information and  empirical evidence. But connecting it with the Zero point field really illuminates the work he did and gives it grounding in the so-called hard sciences.

H: Well, Jung thought Einstein’s work was exciting. They knew each other, and Jung understood what Einstein was working on. Jung had him to his  home  for dinner a few times. He knew a number of famous physicists. In fact, Jung analyzed over 200 dreams of Wolfgang Pauli.

Pauli is the physicist who helped Jung work on his monograph on synchronicity and gave him some scientific inspiration for his ideas. You know that passage we just looked at about thinking being stimulated by interesting synchronicities, such as your picking up that Ferlinghetti book.

That’s an example of what Jung is talking about.

M: And it goes on all the time.

H: Finding that interesting link to the artist that you were unaware of.

Piercing glances into the life of things

M: Yes. I had both Ferlinghetti’s When I Look at Pictures and the painting over our bed and had seen them both, and then just this week those  two seemingly  discrete pieces of information came together. They were floating in separate spheres, and now they merged into one larger sphere, both now in conscious awareness.

H: Yes, finding that interesting link to the artist is an “ah ha” moment.

M: Well, it’s quite a delight for this to happen. By the way, I brought you this copy of When I Look at Pictures because there’s a Klimt  in the  book that Ferlinghetti  accompanies with a poem he wrote after looking at the painting. He does this  with twenty other famous  paintings. So, I’m going to ask you to look at the painting closely, really closely, and then read Ferlinghetti’s poem. I used to do this with my classes. We’d do the surface-features game with the painting. Each person would point out one detail in the  painting, and we  went around several times. One of my students sent me a postcard from Europe later on. It was a Klimt. She had seen a painting in a museum and knew instantly that it was a Klimt. That class sent  a lot of Klimt specialists out into the world! So that’s what happened to me. When I leafed through Ferlinghetti’s book and saw the “Promenade on the Beach,” I said to myself “I know that artist! That’s who painted our picture!” so from Ferlinghetti I learned his name  was Joaquin Sorolla (1863—1923). Then I had the good luck to find ours among over 400 of Sorolla’s paintings on a website on the Internet. I could feel it all pulling together, like reading a good detective novel, all the clues coming together. So, look at the Klimt as long as you like and then the poem.

H: O.K.

M: About your doorways picture here, the way I look at pictures, without even thinking about what you described–which is a nice add-on for me and which I probably would have come to eventually–for me, first of all, is colors and shapes arranged  within the frame  of the  photo… If I saw that in a gallery I’m sure I’d like to have it. You said you just had it  reproduced?

H: I’ve had it all these years and only recently put it on a web page I did, and it looked so good I decided to have it enlarged.

The Synaptic Flash

M: I think we can take what we’ve been saying right back to memory and the Field. All these things are there in the Field, not in some physical past but here in this moment, all of them; they’re all here and available for that synaptic flash of connection. How this works is exciting to consider. What keeps coming back up for me is that poem by Yeats that you called to my attention several months ago. It’s called “Memory.”

One had a lovely face,
And two or three had grace,
Buit charm and face were in vain
Because the mountain grass
Cannot but keep the form
Where the mountain hare has lain.

What he talks about is what remains where the  hare  has lain. Charm and face are in vain. In vain because what’s durable is the hologram, the impression on the  field. It’s  the imprint on the self–I could say, on the cellular structure–that remains. So the physical woman fades away, but the imprint remains. After all, as Einstein said, reality is an illusion, albeit a very compelling one.

What’s durable is the hologram

As I read through The Field it becomes clearer and clearer that, though I stub my toe and it hurts, what we call physical reality is a way to get at the energy field that is our true home. I can’t think of any argument that can refute that fact.

H: The world picture, too, is an interesting thing to start with. I’m going to throw you a curve now that the Giants just won the 2012 World Series. [Both laugh.] This is something Everson said when I was interviewing him.  You know that Confucius said a picture is worth a thousand words. Everson said, “Confucius said a picture is worth a thousand words, but it took words to say it.” What do you think about that?

Too Cozy with Our Conclusions

M: Huh! We should always take our selves down a peg or two. We get too cozy with our conclusions, and we stop looking. For me it constantly comes back to the realization that you can sort things out and come up with a profound statement. But you have to throw it back into the mix. You have to refresh your ideas, breathe new life into them. Someone was talking about words and things, words and things. “No,” someone else responded, “Words ARE things.” They are physical just the way my so-called flesh is physical. And, it does seem unarguable that the entire physical world is indeed the Zero point field, or we could call it energy, though that’s probably too broad a term for a physicist.

The trip to Safeway is a human hologram flowing through a memory field!

McTaggart describes a fascinating experiment in which the  immunologist  put strong amounts of an antibody in a water solution, made a solution of one tenth of that and poured it into the next bottle, put one tenth of that into the next pure water and so on to see the minimal amount needed. It turned out that the weaker the solution the  more  powerful the effect till they couldn’t find the antibody at all in the  final solution–it was  virtually pure  water–but it still had the most powerful effect. The water had the memory of the antibody. The mountain grass could not but keep the form where the hare had lain. That’s fantastic. What I draw from that is that everything is based on memory. It has nothing to do with the physical act. It’s what’s carried over from that.  Once you get the  knack of tapping into the  memory field, you can use it to deal with going to Safeway. I can see that trip as a human hologram flowing through a memory field. It’s mind-boggling. Gee, I think that’s a keeper:

Resistance to New Ideas

H: That’s a fascinating idea, and McTaggart mentions a critique published in Nature  expressing some doubt. So often in science you find resistance thrown at the  researcher in order to force the researcher to prove the theory. It can be a powerful deterrent to presenting new ideas. The researcher risks alienation of his fellow scientists. I think this idea is powerful because it shows, going back to Jung and his idea of the collective unconscious, how many people tried to discredit him.

M: Oh, yes, to this day.

H: I had a little experience of this myself when I was doing research at John F. Kennedy University, after taking Everson’s course. I set out to prove the theory of the vocational archetype, because I believed that this idea of the Field is something that anybody can experience through a vocation. Vocation is the doorway into the field, into the  realms  of gold. It has to be a way whereby an equivalence or equality is achieved through shared fields. That’s what I mean by spiritual democracy. You could use field as a metaphor, vocational fields, to verify that.

In the Poetic Mode at Cocktail Parties

M: Could you hold that thought? When I go to a cocktail party, the kind I would like to go to would be among people who realize that they are bringing a field, and  I am bringing a field, and the idea is through language to bridge those fields so that the fields can merge. What does happen instead, almost always, is that you talk in superficialities. But one of my games is to gently slip beneath that level when a crack opens. That happened recently. Someone was asking me about what I do. They are always asking that. I told her about my latest book. She wnted to know what it was all about. I said, “Well, it’s about a lot of stuff, but what I could say is that when we are having this dialogue, we have the opportunity to move beyond a more general level to talk at a more intense level. As we go about our lives, we have the opportunity  to experience them more intensely.”  She said, “I think  I would  like your book.” I said, “I know you would like what  I’m talking about.” I do, because everybody does.  I hope  that didn’t distract you too much.

The Cocktail Party

H: No. In fact, it gets right back to what I was  talking about through another interesting segue and that’s something my former Jungian analyst Don Sandner had read. He had been a literature major. While he was deciding what profession to pursue, he read a book called The Cocktail Party.

M: Oh, yes, T.S. Eliot.


H: In it, the protagonist finds his calling to psychiatry. The cocktail party is the theme of the book. [First performed in 1949 in London, the play received considerable critical approval,] So Don decided to pursue a career as a psychiatrist based on that play. I think those types of interesting stories between the fields of literature and psychiatry and psychology intrigue me because of the bridge among fields.

M: Yes. What you have done is bridge a whole lot of fields. And by the way, doesn’t the word field as used in describing a profession add a new depth to the more conventional meaning of it!? You center on Jungian psychology, but that involves almost everything else!

H: My research studied the way vocation is confirmed through the dream life and how powerful dreams can be in the career decision-making process.

M: Is that what you were getting at when you said you were doing that research at JFK University and ran into some opposition.

The Nuclear Symbol

H: I developed this hypothesis and I was using the empirical method of the nuclear symbol, that there is a nuclear symbol at the core of the human psyche. It’s filled with energy. The personality, you could say, is an energy field. So dreams from very early childhood or memories, as you were saying, from early development are often associated with this act of vocational discovery. Jung had a very powerful dream at the age of three that helped confirm his vocation.

M: Do you remember what it was?

Memory in the Cell

H: Yes, He was out in a field and he found and underground cavern going down into a chamber. He went down into it and found a very large phallus seated upright on a golden throne. So there’s the gold for you. It was a very large phallus. And it had an eye looking motionlessly upward and aura of light around its head. This is a three-year-old child.

M: Wow!

QUOTE: Psychic  Antibodies

H: He remembered this dream in mid-life. But  Jung’s  vocation was  discovered earlier  than that recollection of his early childhood memory.  This discovery  was made through a dream that he had that led him to specialize in medical science in his early twenties. He had many interests he could have followed— archeology, philosophy—and the dream helped him specialize. But he was always pursuing a scientific vocation. That was his primary vocation, science. He was like these scientists in the way he approached his work. This idea of an antibody memory that you were just talking about intrigued me because about four years ago I sent a paper to the Journal of Analytical Psychology called “Psychic  Antibodies.”  I got this idea intuitively through a poem I wrote back in 1989 or 1990 called “King Snakes.” The king snake has its own internal antibody  against  rattlesnake venom.  Intuitively  I also saw something related to that in my study of children’s fantasies, in their sand-play fantasies. And I’ve seen it in dreams as well. What you’re talking about is a memory in the cell itself, the antibody as a memory. That reminds me of my hypothesis of psychic antibodies. I think that theory is in advance of where our field is right now.  My paper was  returned.  It  wasn’t quite the time for its emergence. I’ll publish it someday. The idea that the psyche has its own anti- toxins that can fight against psychic infections that come  from the  environment, the  social field, the cocktail party. A critical teacher, for example, can plant a very toxic idea that you’re not worth anything. So you have to find your own inner connection to the self to protect yourself against that.

The idea that the psyche has its own anti- toxins that can fight against psychic infections that come  from the  environment, the  social field, the cocktail party.

M: That brings me to this thought  I have every once in a while.  When I think of these dialogues we’ve been having, I think, These are really good; these are profound. Then I think, What would somebody like Wittgenstein, the philosopher I told you about earlier, or Jung, think about what you and I have been saying? Would they punch holes in these ideas? Would they think our ideas are shallow or ill conceived?

H: I don’t think so.

M: Well, that’s what comes over me sometimes. It would be like some big-shot in the field stepping in and ridiculing your work.

H: And it has to be presented in a way that is very readable and flows. The other thing is that we seem to be on a track that appears to be moving toward something.

M: But I think if I were editing it, I wouldn’t want to take out the stumblings. Sure, we should cut out the stuff that doesn’t move the play forward, probably a third or more. But you  want that exploratory process.  It’s  like going into a good novel or a play. That carries a What’s going to happen next? engagement.

H: I do agree with that. I’m excited about where we’re going with this idea about marketing spiritual democracy right now.

This Is the Way You Need to Go.

M: Well, I have those waves of doubt that come over me, but then the antibodies kick in and I think, Well, screw it! I think the vocation is saying, This is the way it’s going here, pal; this is the way you need to go.

H: That’s good.

M: I find these dialogues pulling together everything that’s gone on before. And that’s really nice.

H: I just sent one of the poems from the journals I’ve kept over the years to Norbert Krapf, who  was  the  poet laureate of Indiana.  He said it’s a great poem. I called it “Wholeness,” but I re-named  it “Psychological  Age,”  because I was talking about our entering a new age.

Psychological Age

Do you want to know how to heal yourselves from the overwork of civilization? Watch your dreams. Wake up at 4:30 A.M., on consecutive summer mornings. Read a good book, look at old pictures, paint, dance, or write poetry.

Do whatever it is you have wanted to do for a long time. Do not hesitate even for a moment.

Have a light breakfast, exercise a bit, open the doors and windows of your house. Let the air and the sound of the birds rush in to penetrate the morning silence.

Know that whatever happens in the workday world cannot shake you from your discipline.

For in the morning you are free.

Do not expect yourselves to be masters of the Art,

Do not expect Dante, Shakespeare, or Michelangelo. Know that we have entered a psychological age.

We can all be poets and artists now, after Whitman.

Granted we will not be great, like the great masters were great; but we will be great like ourselves.

You can use poetry to gather up the seeds of your wholeness now.

For what is truly great in us now is the psychological; that is what is truly great in this century after Jung and Everson..

It will take many poets working together to put down the meanings of analytical psychology into poems.

This century will produce artists and poets who will be true representatives of psychological consciousness for centuries to come.

It is the Democracy of the body and soul that matters now, Not the eloquence of our speech.

The men and women who will lead us into the future Will be bearers of the same essential message:

Poetry and art are means to individuation and wholeness.

So what kind of an age is it? And what’s the aim of this new age? I don’t like the term “New Age” so much. It’s got all those connotations that have a ring of superficiality.

I Know All About That.

M: That’s the problem I see here. You could probably go out on the street and find some twenty-five-year-old who could recite exactly what you and I are saying, and it would all be superficial with him. Sure, he would say, I know all about that, blah, blah, blah. And he could lay it out for you, and it would be totally superficial. And that’s what’s annoying, because they are “getting it,” but they’re not getting it at all. It’s the  new jargon.  Everything that you and  I are exploring is not grasped. They might know of the Zero-point field. They’ve seen plenty of science-fiction movies where you go back in time, and so forth. “Oh, yeah, yeah, I know all about that.” But they don’t. That bugs me. But that is the veneer you have to chop through.

Let’s go back to vocation. The only way you can get to it is to calm down and stop knowing everything and let yourself go through those passageways in your Doorways photo, or into a cavern deep inside yourself. I don’t know if you’d need an axe or just some quiet meditation. Of course, it could be either.

I don’t know if you’d need an axe or just some quiet meditation. Of course, it could be either.

That brings me to distance viewing, which is discussed in The Field too. I think there’s enough evidence to say that people really can sit here and visualize something going on in Poland, or in Pennsylvania, in great detail. Some people are really good at it, but ordinary people can learn to do that too. I’ve never done it, but I never really set my mind to it either.

H: People have their own particular gifts.

Distance Viewing

M: Yes, I agree, but the researchers who conducted some of the experiments tried out randomly selected people, and they could be trained to do it, too, with a little bit of practice.

They call it distance viewing. The CIA had some amazing results using a couple of guys who were known to be especially talented in it.

H: There are clairvoyants who can do that.

Clairvoyance — Clear Vision

M: Right, but they tried ordinary people like Clark and Steven and got statistically good results with them, too. That’s the significant thing for me, the implication that we may all be able to tap into the field and access connections with music, math, anything humans pay attention to.

H: I think everybody, under the right conditions, has access to ESP phenomena. This is something Jung was studying back in the first quarter of the last century. I did my dissertation at Rosebridge Graduate School where I got my doctorate working with Jon Klimo who was the chairperson. He wrote the book Channeling. He’s become internationally famous for that book.

He speaks of the idea of distance viewing. He studied a lot of the research out there in this field.

It’s fascinating. ESP, of course, is part of parapsychology. I think we do have a capacity in the mind for that and there are people who become specialists in it.

M: You may live to see it become part of our everyday lives.

H: We are seeing it. Channeling does provide techniques for people to develop these cognitive functions.

Staying Whole

M: What if we began that with kids in grade school?

H: Yes, children are open to that reality too. That’s what I was getting at. I learned how to observe empirically the psychic phenomenon of psychic antibodies in children’s sand-plays. They were actually creating portraits, getting back to pictures of psychic antibodies in the sand tray. I was taking pictures of this real phenomena with my camera. I have some of them on slides.

M: Could the kids learn to use their antibodies deliberately?

H: They did, and that played a part in their transformation.

M: Becoming whole again?

H: Exactly, becoming whole again and healing the psyche.

M: Maybe this is connected, but something that’s been driving me nuts lately is this 2012 election. I read in the San Francisco Chronicle two days ago that I’m not the only one. Lots of people are feeling very anxious about it. I think this is something new. I’ve never seen this kind of behavior among voters before, not to this level. People are frantic. They can’t take their minds off it. One woman said she’ll wake up at three in the morning and go check the Internet to see what the latest word on it is.

H: That’s interesting, but I’m not getting as caught up in it, for some reason.

M: Here’s what I’m getting at, though: the collective opinions out there almost infected me. I started getting nervous, too.

[Psychic Infection  Here is a link for Daryl Sharp’s online Jung Lexicon, which contains terms and concepts that come up in this book, as they were used by Jung himself: http://www.psychceu.com/Jung/sharplexicon.html]

H: That’s exactly what Jung means by psychic infection.

M: I despise getting that psychological disease. I had that kind of infection one other time in my life. I resolved I would never let that happen again.

H: That’s a psychic antibody working for you.

M: Yes, that’s exactly what I think is going on.

H: Thoughts can be psychic protection against intrusive antigens. The psyche has its own immune system. And it needs to be protected.

It Has to Wash Away.

M: You can’t just say I’m not going to be upset. It has to wash away. But you have to set it in motion.

H: And washing away is the right metaphor for what we’re talking about. I got this also from looking at a movie, and that was The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy throws water on the witch. She says, “I’m melting.” She washes away.

M: The insights in that movie are profound. I looked up the author, Lyman Frank Baum [1856—1919], and it turned out he wrote children’s books. But I don’t think anything else came close to the understanding of psychology he displayed in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Sometimes, I think, conditions in the field are so synchronous the writer seems almost to be taking dictation. Frank Herbert did that in his book Dune. He never came close to it before or after.

Liquidation of a Complex

H: That’s called liquidation of a complex, but I use it in terms of a toxin. This is actually medical terminology. Toxins are liquidated through water. Water is used to wash away.

M: And to add to that, thinking about the memory the water holds, you could take away that particular antigen completely, and the memory in the water would do the trick.

H: The psychic antibody is a memory. That’s powerful, and I’m glad you called attention to that chapter because I hadn’t read that closely. I skimmed it this morning, and it’s interesting.

M: Well, I was losing track of what the Field is all about, and I started re-reading it more thoughtfully. My problem as a thinker is that I can’t keep track of all these details. I have to do what we’re doing. I have to bring them to the surface through dialogue, through reflection. So, yes, the memory in the cell is exactly the same thing Yeats was describing in his  poem.  I have to wonder how he could be so insightful, so aware. “One  has a  vision. One  would  like another.”

H: He had a poetic sensibility, an ability to capture a unitary picture of the world.

M: Yes, but how could he possibly know what these scientists worked so hard to discover or come to understand. As a poet, it’s pretty damned amazing, don’t you think?

Zero at the Bone

H: Not really. What  it takes  is  receptivity to something like what  I call a vocational archetype. I know the term doesn’t quite work for you. Maybe another phrase will emerge as we talk. But let me just finish my thought. We were talking about, for example, the Zero point field, and Emily Dickinson wrote, “Zero at the bone” and capitalized the  Z.  “The lightning struck me every day,” she says elsewhere. It entered her and lighted her within with these bolts of illumination. And that was the energy field that she had tapped into. You see the same thing in any field where there’s excellence, brilliance. We saw it this summer again with Usain Bolt when he ran that 100 meters. It’s become a cliché, the  lightning symbols.  Let  me  return to what I was saying earlier about fields, a field such as track and field, and an athlete like Usain Bolt can help clarify what I am getting at. They called him Lightning Bolt.  He’s  the  fastest man in the world in the 100 meters. When you see a race like the one he ran this summer, that kind of excellence is a manifestation of the field in action. The same with language. Sometimes when two people are thinking together and enter the Field and drop down into it, lights can go on and people can get a feeling for it. I think that’s what people really want.

Merging the Physical Being and the Field

M: You need to know consciously what you’ve been experiencing and what that’s  all about, and then you can do  it yourself. I want to tell you, though, as I was sitting here  that I realized in answer to your question of when this got  going for me  that it probably got  going long before I thought it did. I majored in mathematics and English, and people would say they were so different. But I said, no, they interact with each other.  As I began to see connections between them, it reinforced both of them. So I was seeing all things as connected even then, even then. I don’t know if it goes farther back to when I was  a little boy. I guess I didn’t exclude anything from my realm of interest. It could have been gardening or carpentry or painting a house or whatever. As far as I could see, it seemed to be the same stuff, involving your physical being in the Field, which of course is infinite.

Anyway, as you were saying, when two people start discussing this  the  way Wittgenstein would be doing philosophy, with ten or twelve people in a room, you begin to open up that Field. That might be what Everson was doing in his meditations. You, Steven, were the other part of the dialogue. You were engaged. People taking notes, I would say, were not doing it as well. I don’t know about the guys who were half asleep. Maybe they were doing it better. They might have been absorbing it in a way they weren’t aware of.

H: I think finding ways of making this accessible is a great idea. We could explore TED more.

Cocksure Certainty—the Enemy of Clarity

M: There’s an article in the New Yorker I might be able to dig out for you about how TED works.  As I said, they are always booked. [Of course, as I edit this dialogue in 2019, TED has expanded almost exponentially.] But people know they will be getting a presentation that’s going to be extremely fascinating. I’ve also seen an article that finds its flaws, which is fine, because we need the debunking as well, as you were saying earlier. This is what I was telling you earlier because every once in a while something comes over me that says This is ridiculous. We need that leavening to keep ourselves from becoming too cocksure. We need to be more gentle about it all.

H: Modesty is a key to it.

Fresh, Open, Like a Child

M: If not, you become a zealot. Like one of those crazy fundamentalists who don’t doubt their own self-assurance. You always have to come to each new dialogue like a child, fresh, open. Then the Field becomes accessible. You can release yourself from its grip. It doesn’t matter what happens on November 6. On the other hand, I feel sorry for you younger people who will have to live through Romney if he gets elected. [Laughs.]

H: You’ll have to live through it too, Clark

M: True, but America will be almost irredeemable by the time he’s done!

H: I don’t think he’ll win. Besides there’s the women’s vote! How many women want to vote for someone who’s planning to take control of their bodies?

Planting a Redwood

M: How could any woman? I don’t understand that. How could they let anybody do that to them? I must say one thing the anti-abortionists did make me think about is what a life is. To say you can’t stop a fetus from growing is like saying you can’t stop a grain of corn from growing. It’s a sin that it doesn’t grow. It fell on fallow ground. I know that sounds harsh, but my point is that we take life all the time, some of it brutally.  I know that for most women, when they have an abortion, it’s a major, major problem. It’s not something you do lightly. And that’s the key to it.

H: Hearing you talk about the grain of corn, reminded me of the redwood trees. I was out yesterday with Lori planting four new redwood trees out along the trail here, four four-foot redwood trees. It felt so good to put those trees in the earth and water them and to know that those trees will outlast our generation, even seven generations, 2000 years perhaps. Whatever we do to the Earth, those trees will hopefully eventually outlast it all.

The Labor Is the Point, Not the Fruit.

M: That’s a beautiful thought, but as I was saying earlier, we don’t have to have that thought  in order to plant a tree. There is a story in Image about an old farmer who was planting a fig tree when the king came by and asked how old he was. A hundred, he replied. Well, let me know if you live long enough to see it bear fruit. Well, he did and took a basket of the figs to the king. But living to see the fruits of your labor wasn’t the point. The point is  that you  do this and you’re participating in it. It’s what’s going on right now that’s the value. If you live long enough for some figs, that’s really great, but that’s not the point.

Dialogue # 10: The World-Wide Web of Thought, Exploring the Noosphere, –from the Pacific

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.”

“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.”  –Chardin

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?

M: No.

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.

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.

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 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

Get the “olive” out of the glass by making only two matchstick moves.

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.

You can only get grace  through recognizing the force of nature. You can’t fight it.

H: Right.

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.

Your Bliss

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.

Tea-cup Christianity

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.

Dialogue # 9: The Physicality of Thought: Intuition, The Benign Indifference of the Cosmos, Thought Towers, and the Spirit in the Stone

June 5, 2012

[In this wide-ranging dialogue, I ask Steven to think through with me the idea that thought – whatever comes into one’s head – is physical, not ephemeral but as physical as anything else we can touch.  We had talked when we last met about Teilhard de Chardin’s view that spirit and matter are one thing.  Chardin was a Jesuit and his metaphor of  The Cosmic Christ – if valid — would somehow have to work for thinkers who may not be Christians. We talk about the role of intuition in all this and how we move from intuition to concrete metaphors. We spent some time as well with the West Coast poets of spiritual democracy: Joaquin Miller, William Everson, and others.]

M: I’d like to pick up from where we left off last time concerning Teilhard de Chardin’s ideas about the physicality of thought and its role in this whole process of bringing into the physical realm the intuitions we get of spiritual reality.           As you know, he thought of it a  a cosmic spirit, or specifically a ‘Cosmic Christ,’ Let’s see if we can wrap some words around the idea and  see if we can integrate the spiritual and the physical. Of course, you know that I see no separation; they are simply verbal perspectives, the attempt to get a grasp of how it all works.  But all separations are made up by us; they can’t possibly exist outside of our linguistic distinctions. Oh, and I guess I’d better add that language  is indeed physical, too, so it also is an aspect of the totality.  I hadn’t  really  articulated thought in that way, as a truly useful device for getting at what’s going on in the world. We only touched on that in our last two dialogues.

But all separations are made up by us; they can’t possibly exist outside of our linguistic distinctions.

H: That’s an important point you’re making. That’s what I was trying to get across when I quoted the Jeffers poem “Rock and Hawk.”

M: As you said. You made a good point right there.

Thought incarnated in Ssone

Jeffers’ tide-worn stones

H: The symbol of the Hawk Tower, which Jeffers built at Point Carmel from tide-worn stones of grey and white granite, works as metaphor for what we were speaking about.  Later in the poem Jeffers says, “I think.”

M. Right. There’s something about thought , , .

H. Incarnated in the stone. It enabled him to ground his intuition in physical reality.

M: So you could say the artist is tinkering with the universe and as I call it, the physicality of thought, how to deliberately set yourself up so that thought can be grounded.

H: It gets back to Chardin’s The Heart of Matter, the Spirit in the stone.

M: Yes, yes.

H: Back to the ideas that are embedded in material reality and within the atoms of the body that built Hawk Tower.

M: Yes. I think we could spend a few more minutes next time bringing that to the fore.

Philosophers’ towers in stone

H: That’s Whitman again: “I am the poet of the soul,” of course, but “I am the poet of the body” also, the idea that one is speaking thoughts of the body. Jung, of course, explains this brilliantly in his theory of psychological types just before he began constructing his own Tower at Bollingen. If you’re an intuitive type, then the opposite function is sensation, which connects you to the body, the Earth, the sense of one’s own physical ground.  That’s as we were talking before about the interesting coincidence that Jeffers  built a tower, and so did Jung. There’s something about building.

M: Jung built a tower?

H: His tower is on the Lake of Zurich. I’ll show you a picture. It’s a gorgeous thing. Jung was like Jeffers; he built a stone structure to express his spirit in matter.

Jung’s tower

M: With his own hands.

H: Yes. He was a stone mason.

M: [Laughs] That’s wonderful! During England’s darkest hours, Churchill took up building brick walls at Checkers. Well, well.  We do need to ground ourselves, don’t we!?

Yeats’s tower– “One has a vision”

H: They built towers. There’s something about the need to ground the intuitive vision in material reality that relates to what we have been saying about the golden glow. Yeats of course built an impressive tower too.

Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers

M: Hmm. I’m thinking about the man who built the Watts Towers, Simon Rodia. He built three towers out of rebar and cement and bits of glass from Coke bottles and whatever he found around his little house back up against the railroad tracks. These towers were so big–right there in the Watts area where the riots were.  Later, the city decided they were a hazard, so they sent their crane to pull them down. Art lovers were up in arms, of course, but the city went ahead anyway. But the cranes couldn’t pull them down. They themselves started to tip over. So they decided to leave them. They are still there.

H: Oh, that reminds me. I want to give you something and see what your reaction is. It’s for your back yard or your house or whatever you want to do with it. That’s green serpentine from Mt. Shasta, right out of the volcanic geological structures up  there.  I thought, well, Clark might like that.

M: Well, well.  What a neat piece of nature!

A kind of energy in a rock

[Clark later made it into a piece of sculpture that he has on a table in his breakfast room.]

The therapeutic energy of rock

H: There’s a kind of energy in rock, a kind of healing energy in it…

Getting back to what we were just talking about, I finished a review this week for the Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion on Chardin’s  view of the  Cosmic Christ.  I didn’t get The Future of Man in my review. But it sounds as if you feel after reading it that he’s moved away from the traditional language of Christianity and become spiritually democratic.

M: I think he’s opened it up. That’s my impression.

H: I’m going to give it a good read and then let’s explore that insight further.

M: The last chapter, the one he wrote just before his death is the one I focused on.  I have to tell you, though, my non-scholarly way of understanding the world.  You not only have explored a hundred times, maybe a thousand times, more material than I ever have or will and have done  it to such a degree and depth–and remember it all!  I can’t and don’t want to do that! I’m always  impressed!  You say, “Well, now, that piece by Whitman came  out in 1855, in July, it had been sunny, etc.”

H:      [Laughs.]

Intuition and the “facts”

M: I could never bring myself to do that, much less retain the details. That’s just not the way I live. What I do is gather some stuff to work on in my  mind, and then I fiddle around, apparently, and get the feel of it, and I do that till all the pieces fall into place and it feels right. That brings us back to intuition–what you were saying about when you were a young college student in Everson’s course “Birth of a Poet.” You were probably doing what I do all my life–intuiting. Then, as Thoreau might put it, having built the castle in the air, I go about putting the foundation under it. That’s what you’ve been doing in your academic work, putting the foundation under a vision you had way back then. It’s necessary, too, if you want to get the stodgy establishment to pay attention. They say, “Give me the facts.”

H: [Laughs.] I think that’s what Jung tried to do as a scientist, to get the facts out there and make sure he was speaking in the contemporary language that Chardin was so versed in, as a scientist and a theologian, only Jung did it through psychiatry.

M: Chardin had no problem with Darwinism.

 H: He could go back and forth without effort.

M: Steven, let me take a tangent here before I forget it. It’s about the Spirit needing a physical structure. It’s from a Colin Wilson idea I excerpted for Image. The general idea is that this structure the Spirit is walking around in has a tremendous influence on how you look  out  on the world and what you do.

This physical body is a spaceship, as I described it in our last dialogue, and it powerfully influences the Spirit that inhabits it.  If  something goes  wrong with the  mechanism, which might be the case for most of the  human race— most of us have some kind of interference  going on—it’s interfering with your capacity to think clearly. It could be joint and muscle pain or a visit of an alien force, as Wilson characterized it in The Mind Parasites. But for the Spirit to have a place to live, it has to have a physical structure. It can’t just be virtual; it has to unite with the physical; it can’t just be out there in the ether. There’s a real symbiotic relationship between them. Even though it seems like they are separate, there can’t be separateness, as we both know.  It’s all merged—and has to be.  We  may imagine  them separate and create language in order to try to see how it works, but beyond language, they are one thing. Our words are simply metaphors to allow us to explore what’s going on.

Well, I did want to get that idea in. Can you retrieve what you were saying about intuition earlier?

H: I was thinking about the address that I’ll be giving in Santa Cruz, at the Centennial Conference on Bill Everson. And I remembered that in 1860 that . . .

M: April 16 at 3:15 in the afternoon, , . [Both laugh.]

H: Well, speaking of synchronicity, it’s actually Section 14 of “Chants Democratic.” [Clark laughs.] that Whitman wrote in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass, what he called the cornerstone for his “The New Bible.” There are four lines in Whitman’s epic I will cite in my opening speech as MC at the one hundredth anniversary of Everson’s birth. They are from “Poets to Come!”: “Poets to come! / Not to-day to justify me, and Democracy, and what we are for, / But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known, / You must justify me”. Whitman goes on, but I’m going to stop with that, because it is basically an announcement, speaking of intuition, that there would be poets who would come, like Miller, Jeffers, Everson, California poets, West Coast poets, people on the West Coast who would be writing after Walt. He has another song, “A Song for California,” and he starts looking at the West Coast at that point as an answer to his call for poets of the great idea of Spiritual democracy.

M: Had he ever been out here?

Joaquin Miller

M: OK, what are his dates!? [Laughs.]

H: Well, Miller wrote probably his most famous work, Life Amongst the Modocs published in England in the early 1870s. [Clark laughs.]

M: So he was writing here in Mt. Shasta, San Francisco, and Oakland, California.

H: He was in the Mt. Shasta region at the time.

M: It was published in England.

H: Yes.

M: So he had some international interest in his work.

H: He had gone  to England and had an editor there.

M: What sort of a person was he?

H: Cincinnatus Hiner Miller? He took the name Joaquin from Joaquin Murrieta, the famous Mexican bandito.

M: Excuse me a minute, but the other thing is he was living here right after the Civil War. This might have just become an American territory? When did it become a US possession?

H: Well, after the war with Mexico in 1848, when Texas was annexed and also New Mexico and later California.

M: Yeah. I asked because I was trying to get the feel of his circumstances.

H: He came west in a covered wagon and settled with his family in Oregon. He became a lawyer there and later a judge. Then he came to the Mt. Shasta region to become a gold miner and married the daughter of a Wintu  chief and  had a daughter by her who  he  named CaliShasta. He fought in the Modoc wars on the side the Modocs and another time on the side  of the cavalry.]

M: I don’t know anything about the Modoc Wars.

California, The West Coast, Pacific Basin Poetry

H: It’s one of the most unsung wars in US history.  The Modocs actually held off the US rangers for over six months  in the  lava beds of Northern California.  I’ve  been there  with Lori. It’s a beautiful place. Miller crossed the line.  He  went back and forth, first for the cavalry and then for the Modocs. So he really represented a revolutionary figure in American poetry.  As Everson says, in his book Archetype West: The Coast as a Literary Region,  Joaquin Miller represents the inception point for the Western archetype in California, West Coast, Pacific Basin poetry. He’s the first poet in whom this Western literary region became internationally known, and his book  was  quite well  known in 1873.  He  was more  famous than Walt Whitman at the time.

M: As you describe him, I would say he’s the embodiment of the California spirit–the independence of thought, this willingness  to innovate, to stretch out beyond our limits.  That’s  a California way of thinking.

H: Yes.

M: When we moved to the Bay Area from Pennsylvania, it drove my family back East nuts! They thought I had gone native! [Laughs.]

H: So Whitman, in a sense, in this poem was calling the California poets, poets of the West, poets to come, sounding a call to California as a region.

M: So, let’s see how Whitman came to this view.

The Pacific vision

H: Because of his eagle intuition. He had an intuition that great things would happen in the West. That really comes forward in his poem “Song of the Redwood Tree,” where  he  speaks of the men and women of the Western shore who  are the  future development of these States. So democracy itself, he felt, would evolve to a spiritual level in the West Coast. This is not New Age. This is not Theosophy. It’s not Emersonian transcendentalism. This is Whitman’s intuition of a future society that would take the principles of democracy to a new level of religious experience, Varieties of Religious Experience, as William James put it, on the West Coast, that would not just be up in the air, as Thoreau said, but grounded in the Earth.

M: This puts it all together. The connections are clear.

H: Well, Everson says Jeffers was really our greatest spokesman for this Pacific vision, in Carmel. He’s really our greatest environmental poet. I received an email last night from John Cusatis, who’s putting together a program for next year’s Asilomar conference  for the Robinson Jeffers Association to mark the one hundredth anniversary of Jeffers first book of poems, Flagons and Apples. I plan to submit a proposal because, after John Muir, he was our greatest ecological poet. He’s our poet of the Earth. And Everson comes out of that tradition.

M: Yes. I think your paper would show how it all fits together.

H: Also it welcomes poets in the audience at UC Santa Cruz, because a lot of those poets will resonate with this notion of calling to the poets to come.  I was  thinking about what  you said in a previous chat about Robinson Jeffers  writing prose, his  poetry being prose.  It’s interesting how subjective the evaluation is of poetry, how a certain taste for poetry develops according to the temperament, perhaps the psychological type and feeling, of the reader.

M: Absolutely. But to be accurate, I think his poetry is crafted, deliberately, to sound unlike “poetry.” It seems to me, if I’m right, that the poetic line had to jolt the habit of thinking that people would bring to a poem, to wake us up!

A bolt of universal energy

H: So there are many things going on in these different poets. It gets back to what we were talking about regarding teaching–and literature and writing and  college English classes.  How a teacher who doesn’t like a particular style can really injure  that student  through carelessness is something I have been pondering, the impact of it on the vocational sense, the futurity of the archetype groping for the right teacher to switch it on and electrify the student with a bolt of universal energy, awaken the mind, which is not going to happen if the teacher is careless.

M: Yes.

H: For example, that Shakespeare teacher I had at the college, and I certainly got the hell out of there. [Both laugh.]

M: I think that was a very good thing that happened to you. It made you break away from the habit students have of accepting without questioning the authority of a teacher.  It  provides you an independence; you take charge of your own life.

Structured to love freedom

H: I think you’re on to it.   In “Shine, Republic” Jeffers  wrote: “And you, America, that passion made you. You  were not  born to prosperity; you were born to love freedom. / You did not say ‘en masse,’ you said ‘independence.’ By en masse he  meant Whitman, I think, for Walt was writing for the masses. Jeffers was writing for the individual, the individual who goes  his own way, and like Thoreau, embodies that spirit of freedom, which is so deeply American.

M: That’s true. We do embody what those writers back East like Thoreau were articulating, perhaps never taking it to the extremes.

H: Well, Whitman did. He said, “I am the poet of the body. I am the poet of the soul that extends to the whole Cosmos.”

M: He was a real anomaly. Well, come to think of it, there was Melville too.

H: Dickinson also. She was showing us how to become free and liberated in poetry and life too.

M: Right, and what a nerve she had, to write the way she did.

H: She did!

M: She wasn’t ruled at all by the conventions of the craft.  She  dared to put it down the  way she wanted. These dashes all through the poetry! You have to read it out loud to know how it works.

H: I was thinking again about what you said in an earlier talk about Jeffers’ style being more prose-like than like poetry. You know, there’s the marvelous poem–I think you’ve read it– called “Rock and Hawk.” I thought we might speak a little bit about it, unless you’d like to discuss something else.

Intuition of the Cosmic Christ

M: Well, I’d like to pursue intuition a bit more and then let’s look at “Rock and Hawk.” Let’s see how it fits in with Chardin’s metaphor of the Cosmic Christ. I’m sure that we understand things  intuitively before we do intellectually.  Always.  We have bits and pieces  floating around in our heads. Then there’s the coalescence and, Pow! Now you have it intuitively.

Then you convert that into thought–which is what Chardin’s talking about–which is as you know an actual physical electrical flash of energy, impulses being created, codifying this insight. Little electronic impressions, like digital recording. That then has created an area in the universe where this stuff has a place to sit.

So you gather all this stuff together, you get this intuition and you say, “Let’s go down in the cave and get this onto the wall. And what do we see there? We get the starry universe again. We get this explosion of red hot light: “a billion Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier! Falls, galls itself and gashes gold vermilion.” This is Gerard Manly Hopkins talking about Christ in “The Windhover.” But he’s transformed Christ into the Cosmic Christ. It’s a gorgeous metaphor, but he’s also going right back to sub-atomic physics.

The mad world of abstract thinking

So we have all this tied  together.  And all connected, in my  way of thinking, to intuition, which is a major element of this process. Intellectually, you can do all sorts of Frankensteinian manipulations, but it’s all artificial. There has to be this explosion of insight somehow. If you think you can think  your way through an understanding of anything simply by abstract thinking, in a superficial way, with no emotion involved, you’re a monster. This is what we have in American politics right now with maybe fifty  to fifty-one  percent  living in that mad world and extremely dangerous. So we have this yin and yang thing going on in the United States right now. It’s pretty scary.

The other possible outcome is what you’ve been saying. You have this spiritual democracy that could come out of this conflict and maybe stronger than it was before. Meanwhile we have people defining rape in an impersonal Frankensteinian way, totally devoid of the empathetic element.

So that’s the intuition aspect. There’s more to say, but that gives you an overview of how I’m thinking about what we’ve been discussing. These explosions of insight like Mavis Gallant and Jane Goodall and all those others.

The Divinization of Consciousness

H: Well, I think that the metaphor of cosmic explosion is a good one.  Chardin’s  metaphor of the Cosmic Christ is beautiful.  For Chardin the  Divine  is  the  “combined  essence of all evil and all goodness,” filled with compassion as well as with endless universal “violence” Teilhard’s image of Divinity can be traced in the human psyche to what I have called after Bill Everson and Don Sandner the primal  shamanic archetype, which is at the center of all religions.  This  gives a psychological grounding to the  history of the archetype’s emergence  at a critical period of the approximately 30,000 BC, a crucial time in human evolution when we witness a sudden explosion of consciousness, which we see, for instance with the proliferation of shamanistic art in the cave paintings in Southern France.

Getting back to your point about intuition, Chardin was writing at the same time Jeffers was. He died on Easter Sunday in 1955. Jeffers died in 1962, so they were contemporaries. Jeffers wrote his poem ‘The Great Explosion” shortly after Chardin’s death. When you think of Christ, you think of Jesus, and Jesus was the Lord of Love.

What do you think of Christianity, Mr. Shaw?

I think it’s a good idea. Someone ought to try it sometime.

M: And there are people who see the Christian God as just the opposite.  As some kind of stern, cruel tyrant who’s restricting you from doing anything.  And you are  reviled if you don’t follow every edict. That’s any fundamentalist–no matter what church, for that matter– view that’s not based on the bedrock of the Earth, be it in science, the arts–any view not grounded in the sub-atomic field. So fundamentalists forget all about the Lord of Love. For me, when I was growing up, that was the basic metaphor. I sensed that long before I began exploring it. It’s a good idea. Someone ought to try it sometime, as Shaw said.

H: You know, Jeffers wrote about the symbolism of God and thinking in his wonderful poem “Rock and Hawk” and I want to get it into our discussion, because he mentions the cross, and creates his own new emblem, based on the bedrock of the Earth as you say, represented by Hawk Tower:

Rock and Hawk

Fierce consciousness joined with final disinterestedness

Of course, this poem is about Hawk Tower. In the fourth verse he says something very interesting, “I think.” There’s the thought based on a sudden intuition of some cosmic explosion still visible in traces of white sea-granite and black crystal embedded in stone. Here  is the bedrock symbol, the intuitive image and then something spiritual comes into thought. “I think, here is your emblem / To hang in the future sky.” Hawk Tower has become his new symbol for God incarnated in an architectural form, but it has wings. The wings and consciousness of his totem animal, the hawk: “Fierce consciousness joined with final / Disinterestedness.”

M: I think it’s Chardin perhaps who also talks about this disinterestedness.

H: Yes, disinterestedness.

M: People thought when I used to talk about the benign indifference of the universe that Camus described that it’s like you don’t care, that you’re saying, “Well, let everything go.

But that’s not really itIt’s a benign indifference.  It’s a willingness to witness this universe in a kind of envelope of assurance. But go on with the poem.

It’s a benign indifference.  It’s a willingness to witness this universe in a kind of envelope of assurance.

H: Yes. He says, “Life with calm death; the falcon’s / Realist eyes and act / Married to the massive / Mysticism of stone.”

The Massive Mysticism of Stone

M: Massive mysticism of stone

H: Mysticism of bedrock.

M: Yes, because right within that stone, think about the fiery atom, think about what’s in that stone, that barely imaginably small atom compressing such a huge force of energy.

H: Cosmic energy, black crystal, dark matter.

M: That’s a well put poem. That force is captured in the poem.

H: And then he says, “Which failure cannot cast down / Nor success make proud.” Those are the final lines, and  that’s  a powerful punch line  at the end, because in a sense that was Jeffers’s fate. He was fated to suffer crucifixion on the cross of his destiny. He  is really speaking about the need to hold the opposites between one’s fate and destiny. Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita: “Be not moved in success or failure.” That is disinterestedness. That is what Meister Eckhart and the Buddha call detachment, which both agree is the highest virtue.

The freedom not to be scared

M: Yes, it’s there. You would think that every kid coming out of high school ought to at least know that last line you just quoted. They ought to at least know that, really know it, and have come face to face with their circumstance. That’s what the rites of passage are designed to provide. So in the physical world, when things  don’t work, that’s  OK, because you can see  it in the context of the cosmos, in the fire of the atom. You have to know your own death is OK. You don’t say, “I give up.” No. It’s a liberation. It’s a freedom not to be scared anymore.

So when I used to talk about this benign indifference, some of the kids would think  I was talking about some sort of nonchalance toward events, of being withdrawn from full participation in the physical world, just letting things go–I don’t need to do anything about what’s going on. No, you fully release yourself into the  process.  You push that rock up the hill, but you don’t kid yourself that you’re getting anywhere. You know full well it’s going to roll back down. But the work itself is what you’re doing; it’s not about some  future outcome. It’s not for something else, not for the future. And it’s as you were saying last time about the pregnancy of the moment–which made it good  for me  to articulate my sense about what  I think about the future and why I don’t spend a lot of time on it, because it seems to me here is where I work. My work impregnates this moment, bearing fruit if it wishes. Lots of times it doesn’t. The seed could fall on barren ground. Etc, etc., etc. That’s irrelevant. You do your work here, and you don’t say, “Oh, boy, am I doing good work.” You just can’t help yourself. The work is too compelling, too much fun, really–or maybe joyous is a better word for it.

Finding a way to let love in

So I think you have to be having a hell of a wonderful time. If you’re not absorbed in what you’re doing, you’d better go  back and figure  out how to let joy in. You see people huffing and puffing at their jobs, and you think, “You know, you could go in the back room and think, ‘This  is where  I am now,’” and then come back out and do your work with pleasure.

Because that’s all there is to it. There isn’t such a thing as a bad job if you look at it that way.

You may get tired and your bones will beg for mercy, but that’s irrelevant. [Both laugh.] However, I don’t know of any way to deal with debilitating pain and do what we’re talking about. Maybe we should talk about that.

H: You know, I have some personal experience with this from my conversations with William Everson at the end of his life. He was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. And poor Whitman suffered from a terrible stroke in 1873 that pretty much paralyzed a good half of his body. He recovered partially from it. But he continued to write poetry right to the end and good prose,  too, brilliant essays. Everson did as well. He was able to pursue his vision in those conversations to the end. I admire that.

M: You could add to that this the wonderful astronomer, Stephen Hawking, too, who contracted ALS— amyotrophic lateral sclerosis— Lou Gehrig’s disease, when he was quite young. He ended up with only his mind and a device invented for him that could speak his words. And he continued to produce profound work in astronomy. If you’d like to talk about people who continued their work long after their bodies had abandoned them, there’s a third one.  Or, Helen Keller, and Christopher Hitchins,  who  died of cancer this year and  wrote about the process of dying. Here’s my issue: If Whitman’s  stroke was  hurting him, if Everson’s Parkinson’s was painful . . .

H: You’re talking about real physical pain here.

M: Yes. Or even something like Flu.

H: That’s different.

M: But a difference that has to be thought through. Does it represent an aspect of our being that we are like “playthings to the Gods”? Bum deal. I don’t see a way out of it! Something that’s really demanding your attention so that your brain can’t think about anything but the thing that’s taken over your body. I do admire people like Everson and Hawking. I think I might get enraged if I had to put up with that. I’m not too sure I’d  soldier  on. That would be my shortcoming. But when you are actually suffering pain, say, they’re torturing you, you don’t have time for mentation. Well, maybe you do, maybe some true spirit might be able to do that. I don’t think I could. At any rate, in the course of our dialogue, we could take up that kind of issue, some powerful overriding force invading the sanctity of the body. Perhaps we need a tremendous amount of compassion in that situation. And this could include mental intrusions, maybe pressures from other people that enter the mind and  distract it.

H: I have a good friend who’s very ill right now, and there’s no way he could think much. He’s suffering too much.

M: People will come in and say, “Come on, cheer up.” Humph. That muscle and joint pain I went through just recently and then the complete absence of it, that is providing me a lot of food for thought. Sure, I’d had aches and pains over a lifetime, and more as I advanced in age, but this was an onslaught and then sudden absence.

The other thing is that with my renewed feeling of well-being I feel like doing things, projects around the house, making a built-in cabinet in the kitchen, painting all the kitchen cabinets white because they were so drab—all the things a healthy body favors, including things of the mind.

So my point is that having good physical health can set the stage for active participation in shaping one’s interconnection with everything. I think we are all designed for such a life. That’s what I want to explore.

H: When you have that kind of health, the energy of the psyche wants to , , .

M: Wants to get going.

H: Wants to be creative in all aspects.

 M: Exactly. That’s it.

H: I’ve been doing some work on the house myself this weekend, and it felt really good. So I think you’re really right.

The puzzle we’ve been working on

M: I think building a cabinet is  just as  good as making a poem. In fact, it is a poem. Like Jeffers working on his house, his tower—he knew the connection. It’s  what you said, the drive to make, to create. That’s and important piece of the puzzle we’ve been working on.

Imagination, the divine faculty that penetrates basic image

H: Getting back to this idea of intuition that we’ve been pursuing and Whitman’s idea of the poets to come, and putting this centennial conference on for Everson in Santa Cruz and Berkeley, I’m thinking it’s time for me to start getting my  poetry together and working it up for a book. Till now, my contribution has been mainly in the analytical psychological field. I think we’re in an age now in which everybody can write poetry. I wrote a poem about this called “Psychological Age.” It’s a matter of making use of that right hemisphere and allowing the imagination and the intuition to have their say and not giving them a secondary role.

Wallace Stevens  said: Imagination is the  only clue to  Reality, the  artifice of life; imagination is the divine faculty that penetrates  basic images, and emotions; in fact, imagination composes  a poetry so fundamental and basic, that it may penetrate to what is most ancient, more

Ancient even than the ancient world; imagination is the faculty by which we import the unreal into the Real, he continues; imagination is the chief image, the only genius, the divine  power, that enables us to perceive the normal in the abnormal.

The nurturing of intuition

M: Hmm. Yes.  That’s exactly what education should be fostering.  I thought it was  a nice point you made about intuitively understanding things while you were in college, the intuitive understanding. I started thinking that if you could put kids in situations where they got really used to doing that and trusting it, you’d pretty much have done your job. Then to liberate the right hemisphere and allow it to cooperate with the left so that the two work in concert, now you have a powerful human being. And actually, I think that’s pretty easy to do, if you know that that’s what the game is. What if you had a whole society that did that, kids coming out of school, saying, “Oh, I know how to do this,” and knowing how to make it happen? Wouldn’t that be great?

H: Well I think that was Carl Jung’s life project: teaching us how to think intuitively and in a sensate way that unites the opposites. He began in 1912, after his break with Freud.  Symbols of Transformation’s opening chapter is on two kinds of thinking. Jung talks about fantasy thinking and directed thinking. He’s talking about right-and-left-brain thinking. Now, with Robert Ornstein and the research into the bicameral brain, the two lobes and how they work together, we understand this interplay much better. Jung’s great genius is how he used psychological methods to gain access to the fantasy thinking. I think that was his great contribution to the twentieth century.

M: Yes, I think you could say that. I got some sense of the implications of the bicameral brain from Julian Jaynes’s, “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976). I put it in Thinking about Thinking.

H: I think we’re all swimming in those seas now that Jung charted. Everson came out of that ocean. So did Robinson Jeffers. Jeffers read some Freud and Jung.  We  don’t know how much. Maybe with his collected letters being published in three volumes  by Stanford it’s going to become clearer.

M: Actually, you don’t have to read a lot to get his basic idea.

A universe of absolute beauty

H: Jeffers may have read Symbols of Transformation. In “Rock and  Hawk,”  for example, there’s the opening line, “Here is a symbol in which / Many high tragic thoughts / Watch their own eyes.” He says “Not the cross, not the hive,” etc. He’s making a statement there about replacement. He is replacing the cross with his own personal symbol of a tower, Hawk Tower–which was really an astronomical observatory on the Pacific coast where he could see the vastness of the ocean and look up at the stars at night. You don’t see the cross up there, or Christ, unless you use your imagination like Chardin did. What Jeffers saw was a universe of absolute beauty, of constellations, endless star-swirls or galaxies. His brother was an astronomer at Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton. Hubble came  to visit  him at Hawk Tower and lived in Carmel not far from Tor House.

  • [Ewin Hubble (1889—1953) was instrumental in establishing the field of extragalactic astronomy and developing the theory of an expanding universe; he was the creator of the cosmic distance scale. Hubble made use of the 100-inch Hooker Telescope, the largest telescope in the world from 1917 to 1948, on Mount Wilson near Pasadena, California.] 
–100 inch Hooker Telescope

Jeffers’s intuition was very forward looking, because he was one of the poets-to-come Whitman had called for and was writing in the same cosmic tradition. He  was looking for a new symbol or an emblem for himself to replace the symbol of Christ, who as he says had been his father’s lord and captain all his life. He said, “I found my bedrock, my spirit in the stone, now let the people find theirs.” So this  idea of the cornerstone–he  had found the  rock, the stone of his own house that he could build on and he says so. He was building on the Christian myth. His father was a linguist and theologian near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he studied the Old and  New Testaments and  was quite a learned man.  But Jeffers  really wanted to go his own way and build on the cornerstone of American democracy. He believed in religious freedom and thought it was  his  task to  replace  the cross with his  own emblem, symbol, or what I would call his personal theology of the universe.

M: I do think we are destroying ourselves and I get a bit depressed sometimes, but then I cheer up. It’s all going to fall apart anyway. This planet will disintegrate. Even the atom decays.

Chardin was talking about it in that piece I mentioned. It’s almost another way of looking at this “benign indifference,” really. Maybe we only have a few trillion years left.

H: I like to think  of that kind of detachment as a way in which we  can stay true  to our vision  of integrity. You have one vision; you want  another.  In order to have another, you have  to stay true to the  first one.  Detachment or indifference is a way the  intuitive introvert stays true to his or her vision. Nevertheless, I think responsibility to the Earth is something we have to embrace, the way to try to heal the Earth from the vast devastation that’s happening all around us is through sacrifice.

M: I’ll say.

H: In whatever way we can. Through these chats, these dialogues, we are trying to do our modest parts in trying to be shepherds of the Earth. I think Chardin’s helped focus us.

M: It’s a good time for Chardin to come into our discussion; it’s not anything new really but it’s so well-articulated that it illuminates what we’re exploring. I want to also throw in here, when we’re thinking about the two hemispheres of the in brain, or the conscious and not- conscious, that one of the very lucid descriptions of how this works is Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight. Her description of cosmic unity as a stroke victim is extremely persuasive in describing how these things work. It puts it in a nice physical package so that anybody could grasp it. If you want to talk about Jungian psychology, you have to at least bring in the physical structure of the brain and how the two hemispheres deal with the world. Her talk at TED gives a vivid image to examine and then work from there. When I started reading about the two hemispheres years ago, that was all rather vague among people who  were talking about it. But it’s becoming much, much clearer as thinkers and scientists are unraveling the mechanism. It’s not a theory someone dreamed up. It’s an actual physical reality. It’s how we function.  The one side  places you in the  cosmos, and the other side adapts that to doing your taxes.

The other thing I’d like to explore for a moment is Sidney Field’s little book about Krishnamurti. As you probably know, some Europeans brought Krishnamurti over to England from India when he was just nine. They felt he was a seer and a guru with great potential, perhaps a Buddha. Annie Besant, a British Theosophist, became his legal guardian and was his close friend and supporter. Years later, she died and people were taken aback that he wasn’t sitting around  mourning her.  From his  perspective this was in the pattern of things.

H: I think his spirituality was transformative. He  was onto some  remarkable  truths.  I think what you’re saying is absolutely right… I just had an interesting experience with the Poet Laureate of Indiana, who is a friend of mine  now, Norbert Krapf.  I reviewed one of his  books, a really good book of poetry. He edited a poem of mine for me that I’m going to read at the centennial, “Standing at the Coffin,” which is about being at the funeral for Everson. I had put “Friends, when you’re with him in that state, tears well into your eyes.” Now, as an editor and as a quite well-known poetry teacher on Long Island, now retired–he substituted the word moisture where I had written tears: “moisture wells  into  your eyes.”  I thought that was brilliant; because he wanted make sure I was true to the metaphor of my experience. Not everybody’s in tears at a funeral.  Some people have  moisture in their eyes, because  it brings up a certain sadness that this person has passed, but not everybody’s in grief.

M: That fits perfectly what  I’m trying to get at: that’s an authentic  and accurate description. We need that clarity in all of what we experience. There is the experience and then there is an attempt to put it into accurate thought.

We need that clarity in all of what we experience. There is the experience and then there is an attempt to put it into accurate thought

H: I think that what we’re talking about is a very important point. It’s one thing to have moisture in your eyes and to miss somebody, out of love, because that moisture is love, isn’t it?

M:  I think  that’s  a precise understanding of what’s  going on, a tenderness, in this case toward a  particular person, but it’s very like a recognition of a maple  leaf, as Archibald Macleish put  it in “Ars Poetica”: “For all the history of grief / An empty doorway and a maple leaf.” Life  in its cycle. All kinds of feelings–they’re  valuable, if they  are  understood, if you experience them from a solid base. Then you use them, and  you become  better at your life; it improves you.

H: Yes.

M: Somebody’s death can improve us.

H: I’d like to get to the importance of moving on with one’s vocation in life and how it really is a vehicle, or ship, which carries us from one place to another. Whitman thought of it as a sailing vessel, in “Passage to India.” Now, we might think of it as a space ship. The question is whether a  poet of the cosmos can hold  the  universe together with all its various parts as a single  unity. That  is  the  question Whitman leaves us with.

You tides with ceaseless swell! you power  that does  this  work! You unseen force, centripetal, centrifugal, through space’s spread,

Holding the universe with all its parts as one—as sailing in a ship?

M: Maybe Whitman did sail the heavens!

H: His universe was so expansive that he did space travel. You know the shaman engages in what Mircea Eliade calls magic flight. This idea of conscious flight . . .

All Cosmic travelers

M: To nail it down, I’d say we are all cosmic travelers. That may sound poetic, but I mean it in a very physical sense.

“I have cut the meshes and fly like a freed falcon.”

H: Oh, yes. Jeffers has a beautiful passage about this in “The Tower Beyond Tragedy,” when his hero figure, Orestes, says he has cut the meshes and flies like a freed falcon.

M: And we are  these tiny atoms, that you and I represent, and we  are indeed floating around the cosmos, maybe attached to the Earth as one big thing, but not in the sense of the universe. And it in turn is one infinite thing floating around. We are definitely cosmic travelers.

That’s just a physical reality.

H: It’s true. Right before that talk I gave on Whitman at the International House at UC Berkeley, the day of the Egyptian Revolution (2/12/2011), when people were on the streets celebrating, I had that dream I told you about. This woman who was sitting right across from me in a chair had the body of a woman, but she had the head of a spiral galaxy.

M: Wow. You have great dreams. I never have dreams like that.

H: If anybody was cosmic in my dreams after that shaman dream I had, where there was an explosion of light out of a star, it was that galaxy woman, and I think in a way she did in fact came down from a spiral galaxy, which one out of the two-hundred billion of them, I am uncertain, of course, but she came down from out there!

M: Oh, I have to add something here. We watched Philadelphia last night and I have never seen such an encapsulation of everything we’ve been discussing, when Tom Hanks, in the character of Andy who is dying of AIDS has the aria “La Mamma Morta” from Unberto Giordona’s Andrea Chenier playing and walks us through the searing force of grief and its culmination as Love coming down from the heavens and enveloping us. If we want know what holds it all together, it’s there in that aria.

Seed Ideas for the world myth

H: To round this off regarding Jeffers as a  poet-to-come and  the  California  spiritual democracy building here, he didn’t want to just tip his hat to Whitman. For him independence was the real meaning of democracy. So Whitman and Jeffers make a very nice complement around this idea that is part and parcel of the American character, part of the American mythos I’ve studied and that I’ve been writing about, and I think a new psychology of the  West, based in depth psychology, really, a study of the mythopoetic unconscious, needs to rely on its poets  to help forge some seed-ideas about how the American contribution to the world myth, the movement toward a one-world spirit, is part of an ongoing process of evolution that Chardin was writing about, too, this Noosphere he so brilliantly described. There’s something that has been evolving in a spiritual domain that has to do with energy–Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric.” This electrical energy we’ve been talking about in a field of spiritual thought that’s grounded in the body, grounded in instinct, not split off as a New Age kind of sublimation, but something that’s very much part of the Earth.