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.
WE MAY BE BROTHERS AFTER ALL
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?
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 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.
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.
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.
[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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.]
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
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
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
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.
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
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
M: Um, hum. It does, doesn’t it!
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
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.
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
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.
Finding that interesting link to the artist that you were unaware of.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
describes a fascinating experiment in which
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.
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
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
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
I hope that didn’t distract you too much.
The Cocktail Party
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.
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
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
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
QUOTE: Psychic Antibodies
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
whatever happens in the workday world cannot shake you from your discipline.
For in the morning you are
Do not expect yourselves to
be masters of the Art,
Do not expect
Dante, Shakespeare, or Michelangelo. Know that we have entered a psychological
We can all be poets and
artists now, after Whitman.
will not be great, like the great masters were great; but we will be great like
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.
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
The men and
women who will lead us into the future Will be bearers of the same essential
Poetry and art are means to individuation and wholeness.
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
I Know All About That.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Not really. What it
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
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.
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
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
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.
[This dialogue continues where we left off in Dialogue # 9. But here we go deeper into the violent beginning of the physical world and the idea that that violence is an essential part of a unified field, and going further, that physical thought pervades that unified field. We explore the roles of intuition and evocation in providing a structure for the ephemeral. We look more deeply into the “noosphere,” Pierre Theilhard de Chardin’s 1922 coinage in reference to the sphere of human thought—noos”, possibly derived from the Greek nous, “mind”, and “sphere”, lexically similar to “atmosphere” and “biosphere.”]
Violence, Intuition, and the Noosphere — from the Pacific
M: OK. You’d like to start this morning’s dialogue with a poem of Robert Frost?
H: Yes. It’s called “Once by the Pacific.” Here it is:
That sounds like a poem written to Robinson Jeffers.
M: Perfect. It’s got to be one of the harshest of Frost’s poems. H: It must be.
M: He’s always talking about this sort of thing. But he’s nailed it here. He’s really pushed the idea to its edge, you might say. And he and Jeffers were contemporaries.
H: Yes, they were. Jeffers wrote Frost a congratulatory letter when Frost became Poet Laureate. So there was a mutual respect between the two poets. But I wonder when the poem was written. If it was written, as I suspect, in the early twenties, that’s when Jeffers was coming into his power. [It was published in 1928.] Jeffers was on the cover of Time magazine in 1932. I would suspect he had Jeffers in mind when he wrote that poem. The idea of a coming storm, a coming age and rage runs all through Jeffers’ poetry. That has to do with the violence of the Pacific.
M: Yes. That violence was emphasized last Friday at the commemorative program you were part of, the centennial celebration for your old friend and mentor, William Everson, at Berkeley City College. (July 2012)
The Divine Power to Speak Words
H: Yes, in particular, Matthew Fox focused on that. That came in part as a result of an unpublished paper I had given him to read titled “Jeffers, Whitman, and the cosmos,” about Whitman’s use of vocalism, “the divine power to speak words.”
In that paper I focus on Whitman’s notion of cosmic unity through his use of “Vocalism,” Whitman’s subjective method of understanding the cosmos; since subjectivity is, of course, a central driver in any attempt to understand the nature of the cosmos. I also show how the science of the cosmos is taken to its furthest limits by our Carmel poet, Robinson Jeffers. No poet, I say, has surpassed Jeffers as a poet of the cosmos, yet this calling to provide a portrait of the universe has a one-hundred-year trajectory that goes back to Emerson in 1844. It extends from that pivotal year to 1851 when Melville published Moby-Dick, to 1855 when Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass, to the 1950’s when Jeffers wrote “Explosion,” “The Epic Stars,” and “The Great Explosion.”
M: You see how,, . I’ve been thinking about all these interconnections. At the Everson program, you had a collage of photos from Everson’s life. There are pictures of Kenneth Rexroth, whom I’m familiar with… I have his Natural Numbers. I liked his work, not in the sense that you do, with the interrelation among the various threads of philosophical thought–oh, all the breadth and depth of it. I read his poems as stand-alone experiences. But our talks weave it all into a fantastic tapestry. But I knew hardly anything about his biography, his pals, City Lights Bookstore, and on and on!
I never paid any attention to the biographies of many of these people we discuss. Well, some, some of Frost, little bits of Whitman and Dickinson. I visited Jeffers’ Thor House in Carmel, Frost’s home in Derry, New Hampshire, Dickinson’s home in Concord, Massachusetts. But not in the way that evolved from talking with you. That’s another pattern to lay over the individuals I’ve read and enjoyed. Throughout Image, for example, there must be hundreds of excerpts and short poems, and as I think about your emphasis, each one of them has a biography attached to it. It would no doubt be fascinating to trace out all the biographical connections among them and the cross fertilization that must surely be involved. Many of these thinkers actually knew each other and talked with each other or read each other’s work…
The Vitalization of Matter
And that bothered him for a while, as you know. Biology was so fragile, how could it work? That puzzled him. I’ll stop here and say what Chardin is talking about is what’s been coming to the fore in my work over the years but has always been there since maybe before the time I started thinking about this consciously, about this oneness of everything, the physical and the spiritual.
The Universal Heightening of Consciousness
H: Let me read you a passage from the formation of the Noosphere in The Future of Man, which gets right to the heart of what we’ve been talking about: “No one man thinking by himself can encompass, master or exhaust them, the Earth and the Noosphere. Yet every man on earth shares within himself in the universal heightening of consciousness promoted by the existence in our minds of new concepts of matter and new dimensions of cosmic reality.”
This gets back to the idea that the new sciences of physics and astrophysics had so opened up the thinking of the human species that they made possible an extension of consciousness for every person. The Noosphere is formed by individuals. But no one person can form the Noosphere. It’s been formed, as we were saying from reading Chardin earlier, probably by Cro-Magnon Man.
That’s when the shamans and artists first began to paint their portraits on the interior walls of caves. Something exploded then. Something entered the Noosphere that was never there before. And that became concretized, materialized. Chardin talked a lot about the planetization of the human species that we’ve been aiming toward for 700 million years, this miraculous emergence of thought. He thought it’s inevitable that we’re going to arrive at universal peace. Did you read his essay on peace that he delivered to the UN?
H: Faith in Man, faith in peace.
M: When he read that, I wonder if they didn’t think he was just being “poetic” instead of “factual.”
H: He starts off the essay “Faith in Peace,” with “I’m no politician, but I am, if I may be allowed the term, a geo-biologist.” He’s saying that it’s inevitable that peace is going to
happen on a universal basis on the Earth. This is planetization and he has faith in that as a geobiologist.
He has grounded his thinking in the physical world.
M: Let me just interject here that that’s what I like so much about him, that he has grounded his thinking in the physical world. So I think it has a lot more weight than just saying something that sounds good but isn’t supported by anything tangible. That would be my main criticism of most of the poets who read their work last Friday at the Everson commemoration in Berkeley.
They use lots of metaphors, but metaphors are a dime a dozen. We could sit here right now and whip up a bunch of fine-sounding vacuous rantings.
H: That’s what Matthew Fox told me after my talk, that I had grounded it, that the poets had talked about angels and Everson, but in the abstract, really. But my talk had put a foundation under it, grounded it. Well, for example, what exactly does “Birth of the Poet” mean? Half the people there didn’t know what those words represented, the basis of them. So it was important to ground it.
M: Well, I have no objection to people writing poetry–I’m glad they do — but there’s some godawful stuff that calls itself poetry. I used to subscribe to Poetry magazine, and I’d say nine tenths of it was pure crap. [Laughter]
Like a Park, a National Park
H: There’s a great line from D. H. Lawrence in Studies in Classic American Literature where he talks about Whitman. He says there are a lot of poets camping on Whitman’s campground now. [Both laugh.] You know on the West Coast there a lot of these poets who are imitators but do not have much original to say. In other words, his campground is really that large; it’s like a park, a national park.
M: I wanted to tell you one other thing that grated on me Friday at the centennial. The two women at least put some verve into it. I thought that was important. You have to be on, your personality has to be accessible. This is a performance, after all. But one called herself a language warrior. Good god! Who appointed her? Is that like a poet laureate? I’d cross the street to get away from her. I can’t imagine kids putting up with this warrior who’s policing the language. “You’re going to use the right word in the right place or, or, I’ll have to silence you.” This is not the Hopi way… “Doing English” in a room full of kids is a joyous activity, as it should be in all English classes – in all kinds of classes, really.
Each Sentient Being a Cosmic Force
H: This is what you were bringing into your classes, the idea of spiritual democracy, that minds are all equal and that we can speak out and write in our journals what’s coming from our spirits and becoming part of the Noosphere.
M: It’s both a theory and a fact that each entity–which Chardin talks about–living stuff and not just people but any living matter, is a vital vitalization of the Earth. Each one of us is the whole Noosphere, each one. So even though most of my days I didn’t see the kids in that kind of light, with that intensity, always in the back of my mind was the awareness that this being is scintillating with atomic energy. This is an explosive force, right here. What’s more, this being, like all of us, is trying to figure out how to flesh out his or her nature. Everybody’s spirit wants to get out. It doesn’t want to be imprisoned.
H: No. There’s a certain force in it, a spirit in matter. M: Yes.
H: A cosmic force. And that’s not just a pretty force. It’s explosive and dynamic.
M: Now that you and Chardin and Fox and Jeffers have brought that to the fore.
Thought Mortared in Stone
H: And our dialogues. Getting back to intuition, looking out West, from these hills in Oakland, thinking of the Noosphere and starting to organize our dialogues with a number of themes, one of them is the Realms of Gold. You did lead me to read that Keats poem, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” and interestingly, he mentions the Pacific there. We talked about it a while back. And here’s Robert Frost writing about the Pacific. So we might think out loud together about what it is about the West Coast, what is it about California? What drew the pilgrims toward this coast? A lot of my poetry in the nineteen nineties when I started writing daily in my journal, my poetry quarterly, has themes of gold. “Transformation,” the Gold Rush, “Alchemy of the West.” What is it about alchemy? I have a poem “Alchemy of the West.” for I think I wrote it around ‘97. We were having chats back then.
Something about the West Coast in pointing in the direction of the materialization of thought in a way that Jeffers makes very palpable in “Rock and Hawk,” where he says, “Here is a symbol.” It’s not just a symbol. It’s mortared in stone.
Something Solid, Immutable
M: Hang on to that thought just a second. As you were talking it reminded me of how Chardin got started on his life-long quest for the physicality of thought. Right from the beginning, even as a little boy, he was looking for something strong and solid, something immutable. He chose iron, and then he went to quartz, and then he finally saw that that solid immutable thing was the cosmos itself and that it was a living thing, paradoxically, that was that solid immutable thing. He started out saying, “I want something strong, a rock.” Just like Frost and Jeffers and Matthew Fox.
H: Jeffers wrote “To the Rock that will be the Cornerstone of the House.” He wrote that in 1917, This rock is where coastal Indians built their fires and cooked their abalone, and it is still charred with “primal fire.” For thousands of years it was a sacred place, a place where the Native Americans had been living in harmony with nature. He wanted to have that same kind of harmony. So I think there are a number of factors about California that we’ve been looking at in some of these poems. Keats had it in his metaphor of the Pacific, and Frost did, and of course Jeffers and Everson lived it. One image is gold, because in 1849 we had a Gold Rush. What the alchemists were seeking… There’s the materialization of the metaphor of having traveled much in the realms of gold right there, the actual quest for gold.
Base Metal into Gold
M: Yes, the use of the term was much broader in the alchemists’ minds than what people took it to mean. When they were trying to turn base metal into gold, they were really working on their own base metal. They knew there was gold to be brought forth into the physical world.
H: Yes. That’s what these poets were doing. They were actually working on the writing of a West Coast spirituality. It’s not just Western spirituality; it’s West Coast spirituality.
M: What was Columbus looking for? He was looking for the “New World.” They kept looking for the new world. Why would you want to do that? Because there is something there beyond what we now experience. We don’t know what that is but we’re going to risk everything.
H: A “Passage to India,” in that spiritual sense. California faces India.
We Live in Very Messy Circumstances.
M: Yes. So this is the constant progress, across oceans, across the continent. It’s all very fascinating. So what’s happening in our dialogues is that you are bringing, as well, the ancient beginnings–as far back as we can go. Then, bringing all the contemporary work together with that Jungian perspective, and you do geology, too, in that concrete and spiritual amalgam. It gets more and more wonderful, don’t you agree! It’s clear to me that thought from all directions does coalesce into one thought. All these seeming tangents are not isolates. Even when we bring in the thinking that in my judgment is crazy, we use that anyhow. It’s all part of the unified field of thought. Even “wrong” stuff helps illuminate the realms of gold. If that weren’t so you could never come to an insight, because we live in very messy circumstances.
The Integration of the Shadow
H: We do, certainly. Oakland is getting more violent by the day. Back in the ‘30s Jeffers predicted there would be an increase in violence. In a poem called “Self-Criticism in February,” Jeffers wrote: “The present time is not pastoral, but founded / On violence, pointed for more massive violence: perhaps it is not / Perversity but need that perceives the storm-beauty.” I think we’re seeing some of that now. Chardin, of course, and Jung and Jeffers all lived through two World Wars, and when Chardin and Jung wrote their essays to the UN, they didn’t omit the shadow. They do agree that peace can only come about through the integration of the shadow. Chardin speaks more optimistically than Jung. He is certain there is going to be world peace. And Jung is questioning it, because he sees that evil and violence and the shadow are also something that can destroy the human race. And that is a very real possibility. We don’t know. And so it’s nice to have someone like Chardin with that kind of optimism. He gets that optimism from faith. Jeffers on the other hand is much more pessimistic. In the same poem on the verge of WWII he writes to himself in the last three verses: “If only you could sing / That God is love, or perhaps that social / Justice will soon prevail. I can tell lies in prose” .
[The shadow: Jung called hidden aspects of oneself, both good and bad, either repressed or never recognized, the shadow. “To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as both present and real.”]
M: “Tell lies in prose”—well put.
H: What Jeffers does is to puncture our idealism. Chardin’s view on the Cosmic Christ is that it will lead to a new age of peace, really, of planetization. The important balance that Jung provides is that he says, I am not overly optimistic nor overly pessimistic about the future of the race. Mankind now with the atom bomb is in a deciding place and can choose the fate of the species. I think Chardin saw that too, but because of his training as a geophysicist, he felt he could say, I have faith that there will be peace on Earth. He felt that faith was grounded in the physical. But with that you can’t help but see he’s also speaking as a Christian.
M: Yes. I think that does affect his thinking.
H: Jeffers would never say that. Jeffers, who also lived through two world wars, was actually quite pessimistic about the future. So when we talk about the Cosmic Christ, I want to know what you mean by this.
Neither Optimism nor Pessimism nor Faith
M: I have no use for optimism or pessimism, or faith. I find them all interfering with thought. They contaminate the purity of thought. I want the physicality.
I don’t want to have faith or pessimism about the future. I think it’s a waste of time to do that. To project what’s going to happen is stupid, I think. The reason I think so is, since you don’t have to do that to get the Noosphere functioning quite well, thank you, the tendency is exactly as Chardin says. I don’t have any doubt about it. I do have an intuition that what we call Love is the force of matter. Love and the fiery energy within the thing are one and the same. That, to me, is not faith but an objective reality. As soon as anybody starts talking with me about being pretty optimistic or pretty pessimistic, I think, yes, I can do that on my bad days, but it’s a waste of my time. Because right now I have here the opportunity to drill a hole in a piece of serpentine and put it on a base and make a sculpture. [The piece of serpentine from Mt.Shasta that Steven had given Clark] This is what needs to be done. So that’s how I see it.
H: That’s a great act of creation. It’s very artistic. Working with stone, and the California rock, can be very healing.
M: Well. My general point here is that it would be the same if I figured out how to put in a light bulb. I figure it out, the light comes on, ah! that’s how that works! So let’s see if we can get back to the Cosmic Christ. Do you remember in Image that I had this little matchstick puzzle?
H: Oh, yeah.
M: Do you remember that you did it?
You were to get the “olive” out of the cocktail glass with just two matchstick moves.
H: It took me about a minute and twenty seconds to figure it out.
Where Thought Can Find a Place to Lodge
M: OK. I used that for a variety of reasons, but one is that I’d like to call people’s attention to the process in which they know the solution, that they can feel it coming, before they concretize it.
Intuition! You can actually feel it. You already know you’ve got it. Just be quiet, and it will emerge. Where did that come from?! I’d say probably the right hemisphere–or whatever. But to me what we’ve been talking about and emphasizing in our last couple of chats is the role of intuition in everything. Chardin followed his intuition into that concretization of geophysics, which couldn’t exist without the overlay of the spiritual world, which he calls the Cosmic Christ. I think he may have finally emerged where he uses that word Christ as a metaphor, not just a definition he was obliged to follow. But I suspect even to the end of his life he felt he had to…
H: Well, as he describes in The Heart of Matter, he had an experience of the Cosmic Christ in a vision of immense brilliant light. It’s really beautiful — in the desert, in China. He also played a very important part in the discovery of Peking Man. He was an anthropologist. He was an archeologist. So he was able to study evolution based on the changes in the cranial skull, where thought found a place to lodge. So that gave him a certain advantage over other priests who were also attempting to formulate a concept like he eventually created. But he succeeds in a way that is very appealing. People love Chardin, and he became quite famous, especially after his death on Easter Sunday in 1955.
M: Anybody who had such a lucid clarity… H: He really did, didn’t he?
M: I gravitate toward that kind of mind.
H: I think that’s his intuition that leads him to those splendid insights.
M: He’s willing to trust that. This is the important thing that I think we need to focus on–or concretize. To me, it’s extremely important to recognize the role of that thing in our evolution of thought. Coming into the physicality of thought, you have to start with intuition–how the
matchstick solution comes before it can be made concrete. And that is perhaps another way of talking about your spiritual self demanding its expression. You start out in life as an entity, and I think you start with that, using it as your guide, or your vocation, I’d say.
The Poetic Basis of the Mind
H: I wanted to get back to that because I think Everson in his course Birth of the Poet really followed his own intuition about an actual concretization of a method by which students could arrive at what Whitman foresaw for the poets of the Far West. In 1860 he was foreseeing developments like Everson’s where vocation could be seen as the factor in the human soul, the body, and psyche through which we are able to tap into the Noosphere. It makes us equals. It means you can find your vocation and archetype and can be true to that and discover your symbols through your dreams, like he suggested. Intuitions come out of that and inform one’s originality, and one can speak out of that ground of being. For Everson it really was a concretization of the very thing that Frost and perhaps Keats were talking about when they mentioned the Pacific. And that’s a means by which we might all potentially become poets. He wasn’t just speaking to those who have a poetic calling. He was talking about the poetic basis of the mind, that there is a substratum of the mind where thought originates from, which is poetic in nature. And if we can tap into that regardless of what our vocation may be, then our language is going to be shaped. And he is a language shaper. In “Song of the Redwood Tree,” Whitman hears the wood-spirits come out of the great redwood forest in coastal California to chant in chorus of the “vistas of coming humanity,” the “new society at last, proportionate to Nature.” He is hearing them from across the continent, from Mendocino. Chardin is speaking out of mythopoetic metaphors too.
M: What’s impressive is when he says the word vital, he mean vital, not in its stripped-down common usage. He gets closer to its original meaning. Most of his choice of words is that way.
H: Yes, that’s right.
A Way to Intuit and Discover
M: Let me get this in before I forget it. You’re saying Everson wanted to find a way to tap into that innate aspect of all of us so that people could find their vocation and then let that guide them. I was about to say that. I think, if you want to call us educators, what we have to do is find a way for our audiences to intuit and discover; you have to set up situations where that can happen. You can talk till you’re blue in the face and it can be a nice package and can be very attractive, but each being has to do that him or herself. They have to solve the matchstick puzzle. They always have to solve it in each situation. Then it’s effective. Then it works.
Otherwise it may be very entertaining and very pleasant–and perhaps it may have a residual effect that gets activated later on–but sooner or later you have to do the work yourself. You always have to intuit it. And you have to know that about yourself, so that when you’re ready to do a math problem, say, or figure out some problem with your computer, you have to know that you have to,, . let . . . that happen.
Vocare: The Inner Voice
H: Intuition has much to do with the capacity for listening. If you listen to the inner voice, which is where the word vocation comes from, vocare, then you are intuiting where that voice wants to lead you. This is it. You know that idea of Jiminy Cricket, always let your conscience be your guide? The conscience is the radar that picks up the frequencies of vitality coming from that voice. So if students can find a way, through proper education and teaching, to feel that kind of creative freedom to actually hear the inner call, then that is going to make them much more effective in grounding their intuition in a kind of substantive reality that’s materialized. I think that’s where we’re heading.
This is what Chardin was hoping for and he had faith in that eventuality; because of the increase of consciousness through the newest discoveries of science, there would be an increase of spiritual evolution coincident with the rise of sciences. Science and religion would then form a bridge that would lead to an increase in globalization. So when I say that Everson was providing that kind of sacred space at UC Santa Cruz underneath the beautiful redwoods overlooking the Pacific, the key there is the factor of receptivity. This is right-brain activity. Intuition is a way to explore the Noosphere. In The Divine Milieu Chardin asks: “Could there be a more up to date or more faithful version of St Paul’s doctrine of the ‘Cosmic’ Christ?” Such has been my experience in contact with the Earth—the diaphany of the Divine at the heart of the universe on fire… Christ; his heart; a fire; capable of penetrating everywhere and, gradually, spreading everywhere.” The Divinization of the universe has to be incarnated via a vehicle of “vocation,” the only way the Cosmic Christ may be ushered in (DM 46). The universal divine milieu is the ultimate point, the pivot on which “all realities converge” and this is what he means by the Noosphere.
M: You have to allow that to come into your being. You have to allow yourself to be a vessel that could receive what that voice is pouring into your consciousness. Then you can stir and serve!
H: Then comes the way Whitman calls spiritual democracy and with it is the realization that everything is united. The unity of the cosmos is a vision Whitman and Chardin share, each with their own distinctive metaphors.
M: Getting back to intuition, I began to think that, my God! I wrote one of my best books before I came to this coalescence of concrete thought. I knew it, I knew it all did fit together; I knew all things are connected, even that all concepts are one integrated thing.
H: Image is not a fully formulated conceptualized book. It is pure intuition.
M: But look at the title. I sensed that that was exactly what it had to be, Reflections on Language.
H: And that’s in Chardin.
Reflection Is How We Make Thought Physical.
M: Yes. He puts reflection at the top of everything. Reflection. That’s how you make thought physical.
H: And he capitalizes the R. It jumps out at you. We all evolved from the massive explosion of a supernova that burst beautifully against a sea of dark energy and dark matter 14 billion years ago, and that incredible blaze of cosmic light can still be perceived in the inward mirror reflections of human consciousness, at the most primitive states of mind; preserved as they have been, for at least 30,000 years in Paleolithic cave paintings, the first explosions of cosmic thought appeared in portrait-representations of shamanistic art and continued in the various world’s religions, and now re-awakens in us as intuitive ideas of archetypal patterns in the transpsyche.
M: Steven, that’s a gorgeous portrait you just painted. Well, so what did I ask the kids to do? I even put it in my course outline. I asked them to reflect on what they were exploring that day. I ask them to sit down for half an hour and reflect on that. My God, I didn’t have any idea of what a powerful thing I was offering. Well, I guess I did but it was coming directly from intuition. I didn’t even know of Chardin’s work on this very process.
H: Well, in Reflections on Language, right on the first or second page, there’s that little boy with a package, untying the knot. Remember that? But then there’s that passage from Shakespeare, “Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?” “No, Cassius, for the eye sees not itself but by refection, by some other thing.” The mind sees only by reflection. [McKowen laughs.] There it is. You went right to poetry as the basis for the concept of the book.
All Journeys Lead to the Same Place.
M: And don’t think for a minute that Shakespeare wasn’t totally aware of exactly what was implicit in that remark. And that was almost 500 years ago. And God knows how many others understood that. They all, as is abundantly clear in our talks, they all had the same idea. Here’s the thing of it: Anybody who allows his intuition, his vocation, to guide him will come to what Chardin worked his way through. And it’s what I’m working my way through. I said to myself gradually, I want to see how this all fits together. I think everybody who pursues his vocation does.
H: Each in their own way. That’s the gift.
M: So why do we have to consider where we’re going? It seems to me what you’re describing is that you go over to where you work, you’re working with someone, and this emerges with that person, and you’ve had a good day… You can only get grace through recognizing the force of nature. You can’t fight it. This is what I’m trying to get at. You cannot fight it. So once you’ve let go of everything, then what’s really going on envelops you in this pure golden light. This beautiful, unbelievably joyous thing. Someone said when you see a painting of a saint in ecstasy it could actually be at the same time pure agony. Agony and ecstasy are the same, two sides of the same coin.
M: I’d say the agony is what’s going on up the very edge. Then it flips into ecstasy.
Vocatypes, Archetypes, Voices
H: I went to see Everson at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz in his final year. He had lost his capacity of speech, yet he could still scrawl out a line or two. The doctors had botched his tracheotomy and damaged his vocal chords, which was horribly sad of course and tragic. But he was editing his manuscripts right to the end. That’s the golden pen that’s writing with the golden lines right to the end–with the agony and the ecstasy of that terrible Parkinson’s disability. The voice was everything to Everson. The voice was his vehicle to vocalize his vocation to Love. Both Whitman and Everson were very effective in showing how the mytho- poetic basis of the mind is the human voice. That’s what Everson brought across as a poet so effectively. In one of our last talks he spoke of vocatypes. He developed his own word, like Chardin. Instead of archetypes he used the word vocatypes, because archetypes need to be voiced. They need to be spoken aloud and even sung. So here he was, unable to speak much but reflecting his gorgeous aria through the joy and love in his eyes, and you could just feel the Cosmic Christ, if you want to call it that. He was channeling the music of the spheres through his blue eyes, the cosmic sound of creation, materializing it.
M: What a wonderful thing for you to know such a person. I think the idea of the Cosmic Christ reinforces everything we’ve been saying about what’s really the nature of reality, the fiery atom, the great cosmos… This is what a good critic does, too. Criticism can be treated as illumination. In fact, if it doesn’t move us forward in our awareness, our sensitivity to our moments, it’s probably not of much value. For example, you start out reading, say, Frost’s “Once by the Pacific” and then you chat about it and it becomes more, more, more. When we first started talking about the title of my book Realms of Gold, I remember that you asked me why I had used that. Mainly it had been intuitive. I just knew it was right. But when you and I really started exploring it, it exploded in all sorts of directions. That was all there, compressed like an atom. Then, Pow! We opened it up… I had that experience when I was in graduate school at Bucknell. I had only one teacher who actually illuminated poems, John Wheatcroft. That was all it took, really. I saw how it could be done, and later that became part of everything we did in my classrooms, whether it was looking as a cigarette butt or painting or a poem. Let’s round out our dialogue with the Noosphere. Maybe we should illuminate that a bit more. It’s the question of whether it actually exists.
H: I think Jung proved it does. The collective unconscious does in fact exist. With Chardin you get a sense that the Noosphere is like an atmosphere enveloping the Earth, a psychic and physical membrane, a stratosphere. It’s a flash of light, such as the last beams of love I saw and felt emanating from Everson’s eyes.
QUOTE: With Chardin you get a sense that the Noosphere is like an atmosphere enveloping the Earth, a psychic and physical membrane, a stratosphere.
Being Is Doing.
M: Well, OK. As I think about it, Jung does ground it. But it’s a little hard to concretize it. Jung’s collective unconscious seems easier to demonstrate as a physical thing. Oh, OK, here’s how you do it for the Noosphere: Go back to what happens when you have a thought, what happens physically in the brain. It’s a physical electrical flash of neurotransmitters. Something does happen. Any time something happens anywhere in the universe, the whole universe is affected. Science does back up that concept. This is something we have to understand about minute actions affecting everything. I used to say to the students, “Want to see me change the universe?” I’d remain standing stock still. “Want to see me do it again?” They’d say, “You didn’t do anything.” I’d say, “Let me make it a little more noticeable for you,” and I’d move a couple of inches to the side. After a bit of chatting, they caught on to the idea. Your very existence affects everything. Being is doing. Gee, that’s a good aphorism! Being is doing.
H: Back to Chardin. The species is drawing closer and closer together in thought. He anticipated, I think, the worldwide web. That’s a concretization, or the materialization, of thought.
M: Hold that thought. If I wanted to talk with kids about what we’re saying, they’d say, Oh, yeah, we know all about that. They do–except they don’t. They’ve got it, but they don’t have it.
H: I know what you mean.
M: What we have to do now is put the foundation under it, so that we can get the joy into what we think we know.
Latency and Potentiality
H: That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Getting back to the joy relating to the realms of gold… Everson had this idea vocatypes in the end, of types of vocational speech, and what I would add to that is that these are latencies, potentialities in the minds of all of these students.
M: That’s a good phrase, latency and potentiality.
H: They need to be e-voked, evoked. You have vocation and evocation.
M: Oh, I like that. Yes. You nailed it. That’s evocative!
H: Well, it’s instinct. It has to be triggered by external stimuli that switch it on. That latent instinct has to be activated.
M: And it’s in everybody.
H: Sometimes a teacher, just the right teacher, can evoke it. Why? Because that teacher is operating in the field of what Joseph Campbell called your bliss. The field of bliss is akin to the realms of gold. There are teachers who are operating in the field they are meant to operate in. Our task as students and educators is to find them. When someone meets a person like that, the vocatype comes into consciousness.
M: I have to tell you a little story: Two doors down from us I’d been causally chatting with Mary Canizzaro, who lives there. Well, from superficial stuff it evolved into my being a certain kind of unconventional college teacher and it went on from there, almost like a flower opening. “Did you ever teach high school?” Well, click by click, layer by layer, it got to “You were my teacher.” Not only that but she remembered me because it had been a class that opened up her mind, and through the years, fifty years, she had been telling people about that experience. So there’s the Noosphere in operation, wouldn’t you say? I loved that revelation because of the implications of our moving the world by our most minute action. No movement is trivial. It’s nice if you can make the word vital mean what it says. The more your language is what you truly, poetically mean the more evocative it’s likely to be. That’s what we need to know in our bones.
H: Chardin, in The Heart of Matter talks about the warm glow at the heart of matter. And that is an inner fire. So the matchstick puzzle, when you think about it, is about helping people find their inner glow.
Sexuality and the Inner Glow
M: Just think how good you feel when you solve something, when you feel that solution coming into consciousness, that warm glow, that fire. That’s what I was telling this young person who came by Sunday for a visit. The sexual fire is a metaphor for the universe, how it works. And it’s what I was telling you earlier. It’s about letting go. You can’t have an orgasm and still hold on to things. Suddenly you’re in the grips of something, and you have to let it happen. Then you know, hey, this is OK. I don’t have to hang on my security blanket.
H: The sexual fire does have within it an image of Love, the cosmos–which is phenomenal. M: Matthew Fox last Friday did a good job bringing sexuality into the dialogue.
H: That’s Everson’s contribution. He got it from Jeffers, and Jeffers got it probably from Whitman.
M: Matthew talked about tea-cup Christianity. I thought that is absolutely right. I remember telling someone years ago, I hate domesticity. I hate domesticity. It’s so tea-cuppy. You want to crack that open. I want to say shit in front of all these people just to wake them up.
M: You know, Sister Vincent Walz had read Montage, and that’s how I got to know her, but when she read Image, she said it’s a much better book. I thought that was pretty good for a nun to catch on to that, that evocative intention designed into that book. Montage was a breakthrough book. Nothing like it had ever been done on a large scale like that, ever. By the time I did Image, the shock of Montage had dissipated, and there were several imitators. The interesting thing is, and relevant to what we’re discussing, that I had absolute certainty that what I was doing in those books was right. I was in my field of bliss, in Campbell’s words, or allowing intuition to have a voice. Now, you and I are concretizing those intuitions in these Dialogues. Quite remarkable. Do you want to round out our chat?
Standing Shoulder to Shoulder with Whitman
H: Well, I’m looking at this picture of Emily Dickinson that you brought over from The Chronicle and thinking about how remarkable it is that this was just recently discovered, particularly at this time. That’s only the second photograph that we know is really Emily Dickinson. It’s a very different photo from the young, thin, frail woman in the photo everybody associates with her.
Her gaze in this photo is very penetrating. This is 1859, and so she is at the full height of her powers and writing poetry that is going to make her the only poet in America to stand shoulder to shoulder with Walt Whitman, and this is a powerful picture; it radiates that kind of vitality, that kind of energy we’ve been talking about regarding Chardin’s noosphere. The earlier photo is of a less fleshed out entity. Here she’s a igorous human being, seated next to a woman friend who was one of her many female loves. This one, Kate Scott Anton, was perhaps her favorite. She is in her full power.
[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.
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
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.
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!?
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.
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!
[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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 it. It’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.
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 exactlywhat 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.]
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.
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.
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,
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.
The body of Christ, the vine and its branches— organic imagery as distinct from monarchical and political imagery. The center of gravity of the whole thing has changed. With that center of gravity will go a change in our own inner feeling, namely (whether we get it from our study of science, or whether we get it from Oriental religions, or all of them together) Western man will begin to feel at home in the world.
He will begin to feel that he belongs, that he is not a stranger, and that his heart is not simply something inside his chest, but it is the entire universe living and changing forever.
—Alan Watts, from “The Crisis in Religion”
[In this dialogue Steven and I explore the idea that Love, or what I would call the manifestation of the spirit, is indeed a physical force, and we re-visit Chardin’s definition of that force as an essential aspect of the cosmos. We are talking about Love in a deep, poetical sense of that much abused word. As you follow this dialogue along, I think you will be reminded that there is indeed some sort of glue holding everything, everything, together. not some dictionary word, but an involuntary uniting force.]
The Heart of Matter / The Heart of the Matter
M: Let’s see where we are now. We could continue to talk about that metaphor by Graham Greene quoted by Teilhard de Chardin. Greene, as you’ll recall, called his novel The Heart of the Matter. I reread it last week, and it isn’t quite as I recall Greene’s way of looking at human nature. His central character breaks the rules he lives by, rules of his Catholic faith, and the entire structure of his life falls apart. In many of Greene’s novels his characters break rules and live more organic lives, I’d say. Anyway, this novel does explore the role of the heart in human matters. You can’t do the math without that factor, for sure!
[Philosopher and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) had trained as a paleontologist and geologist and taken part in the discovery of Peking Man. His way of describing the future of the Earth and the human community and of a Cosmic Christ were not fully in line with the thinking of Church authorities of his time, and his major works were not published till after his death. Steven and I had read his The Heart of Matter (1976) and The Future of Man (1959).]
That said, here’s Chardin taking up the heart of matter head on. You wanted to discuss: “At the heart of Matter, /A World -heart, / The Heart of God” in his book The Heart of Matter. Everything you’ve been saying about spiritual democracy, the field–all that–leads to the same thing. If what we might call God is in the atom–another word Chardin uses is Love–there is this glow of oneness that people call enlightenment that is the heart of matter. Matter at its heart is precisely that. That’s what he’s getting at, I think, and that fits in with Whitman and everything you’ve been saying. By the way, I’ve always admired Chardin as a clear philosophical thinker. I think anyone who’s really interested in figuring out how things work would do well to read him.
H: Well, you’re right the glow of oneness does fit nicely with Whitman. I think the idea of the shamanic archetype helps us understand how this “Golden Glow” at the heart of matter emerged in human awareness, its evolution. When you look at those portraits of divinity on the walls of Lascaux, what you see are animal forms. That’s a kind of love for those animals, and a kind of equality with the animals.
M: Think of what it entailed to go deep into those caves and draw images on the walls. It’s a lot of work! When you think about the physical effort involved, that’s quite a challenge.
H: Yes. They had to bring torches down there. And what you find there are portraits of gods in animal forms, animal shapes, and at the center of these characters is a shaman figure, and he is lying prostrate on his back, apparently entranced, with a bird mask. So he’s identified with an animal form in some way. Consciousness itself assumes equality with animal life. What emerges from that is the explosion of art from the central figure: the creator of all this magnificence. It is cosmic.
M: Your focus in all this art is in this place of light, and then you explode. Well, not everybody, but that’s the difference between an intense witnessing of those drawings and a superficial scanning. Where I start in thinking about them is the sheer effort involved and the accomplishment. This is not doodling, not graffiti. It rewards our attention.
Love at the Center
H: Yes, there is love at the center, because Love is for the animal and light–and for the darkness within the cave.
M: Yes, I don’t think you could undertake this work without Love. But that word love is one we always have to fiddle with when we’re in a dialogue so that people don’t misunderstand what we mean by it. Some people don’t see the universality of it but limit it to something among their families or maybe just between two people, but the way we’re talking about love, it’s a profound experience for the whole universe.
H: I think the love is for the thought that evolves from this cosmic experience.
M: It’s something that won’t stay inside yourself, and yes, that is the way it is when two people connect in that profound way. It transcends the immediate experience. There’s no, “Let me think about this.” And yet it’s the result of thinking.
Bringing Consciousness to Animals
H: Sexuality is right there too. The shaman figure has an erection in the cave portrait. The animals in a sense are the mistress of the cave. There’s a kind of copulation symbolism, where the shaman is fertilizing those animal forms and bringing consciousness to the animals, the generation of thought itself, and the magnificence of thought. You know, we’ve talked a bit about your book Realms of Gold and how it was first conceived. It came from thinking about the implications of your earlier emphasis on animal intelligence. Well, there it is. Shamanic intelligence is a certain kind of cosmic intelligence. This is what Walt Whitman and Robinson Jeffers bring in; this strong realization that the hawk, for example in Jeffers poetry, represents fierce consciousness joined with final disinterestedness. That’s very Buddhist, very Zen. To be disinterested in the future.
The Spirit’s Spaceship
M: I wrote a note to a friend up in Oregon the other day, and I’ve been thinking about this. All the things we talk about are things we’ve always known. But one thing that’s interesting to me lately is this realization that I’m sort of wearing my body. It’s my outfit. [Laughs.] Or you could call it my spaceship. I’m wearing it, but it’s not really me. You could cut it all up and I’d still be me–till you finally turn off the light. It’s a real sense that I’m borrowing that body of mine so I can travel around the universe.
On the Soul’s Voyage
H: I like that metaphor. I think Whitman anticipated you by a hundred and fifty years! [Both Laugh.] He does talk about himself as a spaceship. He does go out into the cosmos, sailing in a ship. That’s his metaphor. He’s out exploring the universe of thought. In “An Old Man’s Thought of School,” Whitman praised the “fair auroral skies” and “morning dew upon the grass!” and then turned to the “sparkling eyes” of the boys and girls in the public school, as if speaking to children, parents and teachers across all America. In Leaves of Grass he spoke of children of the future possessing “stores of mystic meaning” and equips their young lives “like a fleet of ships, immortal ships, / Soon to sail out over the measureless seas, / On the soul’s voyage” out into the cosmos.
M: Think of all these little kids in their celestial spaceships, on their souls’ journeys, with their “stores of mystic meaning” sailing toward mysterious shores. Well, that is the salvation for cosmic awareness, for the awareness of our cosmic participation. Wouldn’t it be lovely if that were the central theme of all education, the very heart of it all? Really, I think those shamans felt that back in Lascaux.
H: I think so, and that’s what my intuition tells me. I don’t think it’s original to Whitman, though it took a certain evolution of science to launch him, as he says, into the Unknown . . .
To Bring the Metaphor Alive Again
M: In order to turn it into the language of our day, this day, I think that’s what our jobs always are. We keep having to translate what we already know into the language of the moment in order to bring the metaphor alive again. You have to tell it just right, or it’s just going to be confusing.
H: The poet doesn’t select his or her metaphors randomly. You find this in Yeats. In “Sailing to Byzantium” he says that he shall never take his bodily form from any natural thing but such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make of hammered gold and gold enameling. Think about that metaphor for a moment and think about what we’ve been talking about with regards to equality with all matter.
M: That’s good.
The Transformation of Nature Through Art
H: If there is a distinction being made by the poet between the natural world and something supernatural–I don’t like the word supernatural, because it creates a separation. Nevertheless, there’s a subtle distinction being drawn by Yeats about the transformation of nature through art; that there’s some kind of transformation, as the philosopher and art historian Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) wrote.
M: You could call it supernatural, but that’s just a word for what he’s talking about.
H: It’s what Teilhard de Chardin called the “Noosphere” in The Phenomenon of Man, a membrane of thought that gradually evolved and, closing in on itself, eventually encircled the Earth, or what Jung called the collective unconscious.
M: In a literal sense . . .
H: Byzantium is the city of gold.
M: It’s super-natural–the way they use that word.
H: A place of enlightenment.
M: Again, if you were to throw “supernatural” into an essay without conveying the sense of it we’re describing, people would probably misunderstand entirely.
H: Well, it is the realm of gold Keats named for us, the place where the Yeats arrives by creating monuments of his own magnificence–in the moment. The poet has that capacity to do that, as do other vocations.
The Intensification of Daily Life
M: I think what my work in teaching was and still is today to take something like “Sailing to Byzantium” and mess around with it till it comes alive–which is what we’re doing right now. That was constantly what we were doing, bringing these things alive in various ways, trying to work toward the intensification of daily life.
H: That’s a good way to put it.
M: The intensification of daily life. When I’m looking at things around this room, I’ve got my nervous system, my organism, so tuned that those things are now part of the golden glow that we’re talking about.
H: And that relates to energy. Energy intensifies. There’s an intensification of energy at the heart of matter made possible through thought.
H: Thought itself can create a higher vibration . . .
M: I think it’s exactly what Christ did when he went out in the desert. Those who are truly artists somehow or other grope their way up to that, and then for the rest of their lives, as Yeats put it, “One has a vision. One would like another. That is all.”
H: Well, I think that’s right here in the quote I sent you from Chardin from The Phenomenon of Man, “But let us emphasize the point: union increases [There’s the intensification] only through an increase in consciousness, that is to say in vision.” So seeing is only unified through vision. Vision is therefore the apex of creation.
Through a Subjective Lens
M: Vision is the key word here. I would say that, too, but again we have make sure people understand how we’re using that word. It isn’t the image that’s perceived but what lies behind that image. And these words are simply tools for getting at what’s going on.
H: The only way an objective view of the world can emerge is through a subjective lens of what lies in the Noosphere.
[Chardin coined the word “noosphere” to describe what he saw as a sphere of thought encircling the Earth every bit as “physical” as our quantum makeup or our Earth’s atmosphere. He postulated a “noosphere” of interconnected thinking of the great minds, past and current, that envelope the human community.]
M: That’s a good phrase. Is that a new way of putting it for you?
H: Well, yes. It’s very much a part of what we’re talking about with regards to reflection. If you remember how you start off Image, that Shakespearean dialogue between Casius and Brutus: “Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?” “No, Casius, for the eye sees not itself but by reflection, by some other thing.” Reflection can only happen through as subjective lens. And the cosmos is unique to each person and needs to be seen anew. Chardin wants to call it Christ, and there’s Christ in everything in the cosmos. And that’s his subjective universe, and that’s beautiful, and it’s true.
H: The idea is to gather more and more information about all these views. For example, you could take an historical view of world religions and decide to look at them in the moment through an act of unitary seeing that embraces each as equal. They are ways to envision what reality is at a spiritual level. The economic level of democracy is not working. We’re about to see a seventeen trillion-dollar deficit, April 3, 2012) mostly owing to China. What about the political strata of democracy? Well, not much going on there, no seeding of the Earth with new potentials, for our becoming a one-world species. It’s got to happen on a spiritual level. Whitman was right about this third level, I think, spiritual democracy. What did you call it earlier? We were talking about Chardin’s “Omega Point, in The Phenomenon of Man” where the universe is personalized and converges in each of us. And you were relating it to the idea of critical mass, I think you said.
H: There’s something about that critical mass, the tipping point. What’s the tipping point, some big spark happening?
Critical Mass and the Interconnectedness of the Strands of Thought
M: Someone back, oh, thirty years ago, talked about a critical mass of thinkers, and the plus side was that of, say, a billion people, five percent are part of that critical mass. But now we have over seven billion people, (April 3, 2012) so even if only five percent of that is of the critical mass, it looms much, much larger and has a logarithmic potential. A much more powerful force. So I think that’s quite a compelling argument. The other thing that I’m seeing here, and talking with you about–which I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to–is the interconnectedness of all these strands of thought. You know, you picked out Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki’s An Introduction to Zen Buddhism as a link. I bet he read a lot of the people you’re talking about. They are all so intertwined.
The Unification of the Spirit of Humanitiy
H: Well, I think we’re linking up East and West now. That’s basically what Whitman was trying to do as well in “Passage to India”: to create this new society that never existed before, where there is equality between thinkers of the East and West with regards to the unification of the whole spirit of humanity, a new religious or spiritual phenomenon. At some point it would be great to talk to you further about this emergence of thought that Chardin talks about in The Phenomenon of Man. I think you’d be interested in this. His ideas are really brilliant –the birth of thought, in particular because of your interest in thinking about thinking.
M: Oh, where was it? Oh, yes, we began this talk by speaking of Chardin’s review involving Graham Greene. Greene wrote The Heart of the Matter” forty some years ago.
Synchronicities and the Noosphere
H: We’re back to the zero-sum field. That’s the place where synchronicities emerge. Jung called it the psychoid realm. Eckhart called it the Godhead. It could be that place Chardin calls the Noosphere, an atmosphere or membrane. Whitman also talks about that atmospheric zone as a place where miracles are happening all the time.
A noiseless patient spider, I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated, Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding, It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself, Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand, Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space, Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them, Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold, Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul. -- Walt Whitman
M: Let’s take a moment to talk a little about how you disabuse people of a narrow understanding of their own religions and faiths?
H: Well, I think through new metaphors. They can help people get outside of their box.
M: How would you do that, though? How would you deal with some fundamentalists’ refusal to step outside the box? How do you get them to do that?
H: I think that’s what’s happening in Egypt. Hillary Clinton nailed it. It’s about protecting the rights of minorities. We can’t have what we did to the Native Americans ever again. Or what the Spanish and the Portuguese did to the Central and South American peoples.
M: Sarajevo in our time, Rwanda. (April 3, 2012)
A Global Species
H: The time of imperialism is over. We have to move forward as a global species or we might destroy ourselves.
M: Well, what we have is ethnic cleansing all over the globe right now. It seems like we’re regressing, don’t you think?
H: But at the same time we’re emerging, progressing . . .
M: Well, you’re right. There is that Hillary Clinton demand that we do advance toward spiritual democracy.
H: And democracy is playing a part in this–American democracy and the movement toward equality and religious freedom.
M: Yes, that fits what we know already: the equality of all things.
H: The movement toward universal equality. And that means equality for women; their rights, all rights.
M: I don’t see how a human being can achieve equality if her freedom is curtailed in any way from the freedoms others enjoy.
H: There are a lot of Middle-Eastern women who are throwing off the veil today. Some are fed up with patriarchy and Muslim fundamentalism and want real democracy.
M: Catholic women are getting like that, too. The nuns are getting ticked off with this masculine view of things.
H: It would be helpful to get that quote from Alan Watts’ talk “The Crisis in Religion” that you transcribed for your book Image as a kind of introduction to our talk here. I’m very interested in getting in a key metaphor from that talk. Did you bring him to Diablo Valley College yourself?
M: No, I didn’t bring him. In those days, we had a series of guest lecturers and he was one of them. I had read him and seen him on TV, and I was delighted. Here was this whole college being offered his view of how things are. Anyway it’s in Image, and maybe you can find the quote and we can talk about it.
H: Did you transcribe it yourself?
M: Yes. The college taped it, and I got a copy and painstakingly typed it up.
H: It’s good you preserved that.
M: Yeah, I think so too.
H: When was that? I’m wondering if my father was there teaching foreign languages at DVC at that time.
M: I’m sure he was there for that speech. It must have been around 1967 or so. Image came out in 1973. We were in temporary trailers back then, and your dad’s office was in my building, so we knew each other. He was a linguist, and that was the connection for me with him.
H: You know, Alexander von Humboldt got some of his insights from the linguistic research of his older brother, William von Humboldt. Alexander gave him two hundred samples of different native tongues from Ecuador to analyze and he said that language more than any other function of the human mind can bind together the whole human race, transcendent of class, religion, and ethnicity. We’re talking about the time when Schiller and Goethe were alive. The four men were friends in Germany. This was a long time ago. You mentioned Goethe earlier. Well, the Humboldt’s brothers influenced Goethe directly.
M: Oh, my!
Deliberately Liberated Thought, Still Warm on the Walls of Caves
H: And so this whole idea of cosmos was very much connected with Humboldt’s explorations in South America and the opening of his mind to the constellations of stars in the Southern hemisphere. Language was at the root for Whitman’s experiments with poetry, you know, “Salut Au Monde!” But before language, there was art. And that’s where those symbolic forms created thoughts that eventually found their way into language in Lascaux. Those early shamans must have had their own language, which we’ve lost, of course. As Chardin says in The Phenomenon of Man, “With homo sapiens, it is a deliberately liberated thought which explodes, still warm, on the walls of the caves. With them these new-comers brought art.”. This connects up nicely with the dream of the shaman as a light being I reported during the beginning of our chats.
Toward a Zen Synthesis
M: There’s a little book by Ernst Cassirer, Language and Myth.
H: Oh, yes and he wrote The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. I love it.
M: This book is quite short. It’s more like an extended essay. It cleared up for me a lot about how language works.
H: He was a linguistic philosopher. That’s always how I thought of you, with a Zen component, of course. If there’s a metaphor for a particular religious attitude throughout Image, it would probably be Zen. Eno keeps popping up throughout the book with little thought bubbles coming out of his head, and he’s tracing that path toward a Zen synthesis, an experience.
M: That’s right!
H: Explosions. Chardin writes in Hymn of the Universe : “All these activities of the inner life [exact computation of space and time, the dreams and anxieties of love] are simply the bubbling up of the newly-formed life-center as it explodes upon itself.”
Writing the Novel of Our Lives
M: Ha, well, thanks for pointing that out. Oh, so that’s what I was doing! William Saroyan has a play–My Heart’s in the Highlands, I think it is–and there’s a character in it who is writing something all the time, and someone says, “You’re writing a novel.” Oh, is that what I’m doing?! I suppose we human beings could be writing a novel of our lives as we go from day to day, but someone else would have to notice that for us. We’re just tooling along mowing the lawn, eating a peach.
Transforming Intuition into Thought
H: You know a thought just came back to me. Back in my journal I was reflecting on a lot of this in advance. Intuition has that way of being in advance of thinking.
M: That’s an important idea, Steven. When we go into a classroom, we need to be well aware that students may not have transferred intuition into thought, but that can come later, maybe years later. Yet classrooms need to be places where intuition can play its important role. In that sense, I felt successful in that seeds were planted with virtually everyone. Just about everyone participated in that intuitive experience. I think they did indeed have experiences of the type we’re talking about. Eliot’s line puts it this way: “Oh, do not ask What is it. Let us go and make our visit.”
The other day I discovered that a woman who had been a student at Salem State when they had adopted a book of mine, Montage, in all their freshman English classes. Well, I looked her up and found she’d gone on and gotten her Ph.D. Now she’s teaching. Well, there’s a lot of fertilizing going on there, a lot of seeds planted. I rather like that. What possibly could not be good in experiencing and then later, through language, realizing?
Thought Images and the Inner Voice, Calling
H: I was looking recently through my dissertation, which is on vocational development in childhood, particularly the research I did and put down in a survey of literature on vocational education in the elementary and middle schools. Based on what I had read, it struck me that American education lagged behind Germany, which had at its center vocational education at a very young age. And I think what we need in education in the United States and across the world is a focus on this very thing that we’re calling the emergence of thought. And by that I mean through images. It comes at a very early age.
You could say even children have a vision and need to find a way to manifest it through action.
M: Oh, yes.
H: It’s important to work with these kids and help them shape their vision at a very young age so that they don’t get off track at the university system, misled by current trends.
M: This is the first time I’ve heard the German educational system described this way. I hadn’t considered that what the Germans may have indeed been trying to do was to tap into a person’s penchant toward a vocation–defined as you define it.
H: The inner voice, the calling . . .
The University, a Universe of Thought
M: If Germans were doing that, then my hat’s off to them. I just read something the other day where someone asks “What’s the purpose of a university?” And he says, “It’s to make university professors.” It’s all academic, the academy, not about vocation. It’s about making university professors. That’s pretty much what happens if you go through the system–you become a professor.
H: I was reading just the other day, in Chardin, about the meaning of the word university. Of course, it comes from the word universe, which was originally meant to create a cosmology and search for our personal vision of spiritual evolution in the cosmos. More recently I’ve learned that the word comes from Islamic scholars, who imported the notion to Spain.
M: And that would be to discover or nourish one’s vocation. If the Germans were up to that, that’s exactly what’s needed.
H: Van Gogh in his Starry Night got his idea for the portrait from Whitman. Whitman had a cosmology. So he taught Van Gogh. And Van Gogh put it on canvas beautifully, I think. So there’s the cosmology right there for you: a universe of thought.
M: Um. Let’s see where that’s leading us.
H: Why don’t you round it off for us?
M: OK. I was surprised. Why did you bring up Chardin? You were working on something. How does Chardin figure into it?
The Coming of the Cosmic Christ
H: My friend Matthew Fox wrote a book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, which I just reviewed, and I wanted to trace the origins of the phrase Cosmic Christ to its foremost thinker. So Chardin really should get a lot of credit for the birth of the idea. Matthew Fox has a late chapter where he talks about that and he of course takes Chardin much further.
M: So writing that review refreshed you on Chardin.
H: I’m bringing it up here with you because I think it’s very important in our talks on the unity of the cosmos and to get back to the idea of the Field, and the role of thinking in helping to move towards the future of humankind. I know you don’t like to look into the future, futurity.
In the Pregnant Moment
M: I guess that’s right. I tend to think the future will take care of itself. What we do now is in the now and must be given full attention. If we do it well, then whatever future there may be is best served.
H: In the moment, yes, but I do think there is futurity in the pregnant moment, that there’s a pregnancy of ideas. Chardin is so very optimistic about the future, you know. He is a breath of fresh air! In Hymn of the Universe he says: “Let us forget for a moment the details of the economic crisis, the political tensions, the class-struggles which block out our horizon, and let us climb high enough to gain an inclusive and impartial view of the whole process of hominization”. That’s beautiful!
M: Yes, that’s well put. Like a fertilized egg. There’s a futurity in that! In fact, I brought along a couple of pithy quotes from Chardin. They’re sort of like koans that one can ponder. He says, if you want to influence the future, help the kids who are coming along right now.
H: That’s the whole vocation of your work in Critical Thinking and in first-and second-semester English. You were influencing these kids . . .
The Golden Glow at the Heart
H: So he’s looking to the Pacific. He’s looking west. And in another poem I sent to you,,“Dialogues with a Master,” when I was writing to you back in the 90s when we got started with these dialogues, right around the time you were retiring, that metaphor was already there for me as the Golden Gate. I think there is something about the parallels we see that amaze me. If you look at the Buddha, the magnificent art with Buddha with the golden halo, it’s the same as the halo of Christ–the golden glow. It’s really from the heart, connecting the fourth chakra to the seventh, this connectivity between thought and feeling is really what the golden glow at the heart of matter is all about.
Dialogue # 7, Part 2 Nature
Headon,, Fleshed Out Moments, Randomness
The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted, but few are the ears to hear it. --Thoreau
[Steven and I continue
discussing poetry that penetrates the barrier of the ordinary, Jeffers being
one who confronted nature headon, stripping his images to the bone so that
there is no way for a reader to take them as pretty words. We both are familiar with the choice of
paying attention to random occurrences and allowing them to help flesh out our
Nature in the Raw
M: As I was saying, we do have the choice of fleshed out moments,
and I think possibility would fit in well with your Jeffers work. As I read him, he wants for himself, and he’d
like to make it available to others, what we’re talking about here, that nature
is so raw.
H: I think that’s the main reason
that he writes, to convey to the reader the sense of what he calls the beauty
of things. He even says to the reader,
“Can’t you feel it?” “Look . . .”
M: (Laughing) Yes, look, for Christ’s sake!
H: Look at how beautiful it
is. And, I think, not just the nature
that we see but the transparency behind nature, that sheen of gold behind the
M: I think I mentioned earlier
that Lawrence Durrell called it the cloth of gold beneath the sackcloth of
H: Something internal that shines
forward–which comes from the great explosion.
For example, this golden orchid that’s come into bloom, here on the
The Difference Between Pretty and Beautiful
M: Ah, yes. I think for most of us, living on that first
level, this is pretty. If you allow this
orchid to express itself, it’s beautiful.
That’s the difference. There’s a
great difference between something pretty and something beautiful. What’s beautiful is non-verbal,
speechless. Pretty, you can
describe. You have to experience
beauty. And beauty is what it’s all
about. I know everybody wants to live in beauty. They may not know it, but they do everything
they can think of to get there.…
Well, let’s get back to what
you’ve been working on. Where are you
H: Oh, let me tell you about a
dream I had last night. I’ve been
planting redwood trees you know, and in my dream I was planting trees. So there’s something about tree planting that
for me right now is an expression of what we’ve been talking about here, an
expression of the poetic. Planting a
tree is poetry.
Reverence for the tree
H: When it’s done right and with
the right attitude, reverence for the tree, it is poetic. And that tree will possibly live for
two-thousand years. That gives me peace
of mind, gives me pleasure, and it helps me see longevity. Another reason redwood trees are so important
to me is because of the fact that we are writers on the West Coast. And poets, both of us as well, and as
appreciators of good poetry, know this.
In his “Song of the Redwood Tree” Whitman sees the tree is alive and
gives it a voice. It speaks in the poem,
and he becomes the voice of the tree.
It’s a beautiful poem. In many respects it reflects Whitman’s
feelings for spiritual democracy, for the unity of all life. The other side of the poem is the
sacrifice. He celebrates the sacrifice
of the tree; it’s a symbolic offering.
There’s a certain lack of awareness in it about the ecological dimension,
a consciousness that should have been in the teamsters’ minds, the loggers, who
cut down those great first growth forests in Mendocino County, where the poem
takes place. Of course, they were doing
it for money and because was their jobs. Nevertheless, there’s a certain sense
in which humanity must be elevated to the point in which it fully realizes the
tree is sacrificing its life for this new society, which Whitman says is
proportionate to nature. So “Song of the
Redwood Tree” is really an anticipation of what Whitman calls poets to come,
the future bards of the West.
could say, is one of the great voices of the West Coast, in regards to the
interconnected relationship between the poet and nature, that cosmic unity that
is there in so many of his great poems.
So I think planting redwood trees in this park area [Joaquin Miller Park just back of Steven’s
home] where we had, not one, but two tragic deforestations for the building
of San Francisco and Oakland, with the redwood trees that were cut down here.
Planting redwood trees is also an expression of ecological awareness that as
writers we have some kind of role in giving something of our own spirit back to
nature. Lori and I found a plaque back
in Roberts Park where two massive trees had been cut down, believed to be
amongst the largest redwood trees in California. They were so large ships used them as
navigation points to go through the Golden Gate so they wouldn’t crash on the
rocks at Alcatraz. They were so high
they towered above everything else. You
can go and see the rings, thirty feet in diameter, today. These may have been three-thousand-year-old
trees. And the largest living things in the world! And the fact that the forest was cut down for
profit says something sad about the need we have right now for a shift from
political and economic levels of democracy, to the religious strata–which is
what spiritual democracy is, according to Whitman.
They Would Eat a Forest for Profit.
Just to finish
this off, there’s a great little poem that Jeffers wrote, right before he went
to Taos, probably around 1927, called “A Redeemer.” Speaking of the Americans who came West, he
writes, “Oh, as a rich man eats a forest for profit and a field for vanity, so
you came west and raped / The continent and brushed its people to death.”. The Indians, the Native Americans. Jeffers writes, “They would eat a forest for
profit.” So here a focus, an ecological
focus, on the shadow of economic democracy, and there’s this criticism of
manifest destiny. It’s a serious
critique of the economic side of our democratic system–that doesn’t have
enough of an ecological awareness in its religious outlook. We’re speaking of coincidences. Here’s one more. Lori and I were coming home yesterday after a
nice long hike up into the Redwood park, about two miles down to the creek area
and on our way back I looked up and I said, “Lori, look!” And four of the
redwood trees, right here in back of our house, had been butchered. Somebody had cut the tops off four of the
trees so that they can have a view from their house, looking out toward the
South Bay. I can understand someone
wanting to appreciate the beauty of the Bay, but it was sad to see those trees
cut like that. They’ll grow back,
they’ll survive, because Redwood trees are resilient. They’ll outlast all of us. It was sad to see because it reminded me this
whole hill where we are right now was once filled with Redwood growth–because
of the fog belt. So that’s it. That’s
what I wanted to say. So let’s get back
to what you were talking about.
M: Well, the first thing is, I
would say in American politics today there are those who speak only of
economics and cut down Redwoods for profit and vanity. Their opponents only counter in those same
terms. They are very reluctant to bring
in the spiritual aspect of what we’re doing.
I think we should be strong and clear that democracy is a spiritual
thing. We don’t have to say that. But
there is a moral aspect to all these arguments about the environment, gay
rights, equal pay for women, the right to an education for every human being,
the right to health care, a dignified old age.
These are all spiritual things.
They don’t have anything to do with economics. You can’t argue there’s profit in any of
these. There’s not enough profit in the
arts, and so forth. Well, democracy
isn’t about profit. These things must be
done because of our souls. You don’t
have to use this kind of language, but you have to be willing to stand and say,
“We are a spiritual democracy.” There is
no such thing as democracy without the spirit underlying it. And that brings us right back to the deep
layers of meaning. Now there’s the poet coming back in again. The other thing I was thinking about when you
were talking about Jeffers is his style.
I’d say he’s kind of a successor to Whitman. Whitman was much more flowing and
melodic. I’d bet a few dollars that
Jeffers was very familiar with Whitman.
H: Oh, I am sure he was although
he says in a letter that Whitman never interested him.
Jeffers’ style versus the safety zone of closed thinking
M: He took it to the next
step. He must have intentionally decided
to make his poems less poetic than Whitman.
It must sound almost like a dialogue.
It couldn’t sound like what people were used to in poetry. It seems, in reading his poems that he
jettisoned the conventions of poetry so that he could somehow penetrate the
thick skulls, including those of the intellectual establishment, to get past
their barrier, that glass partition.
Looking out at the world through glass prevents the world from touching
us. It’s a lot cooler or hotter out
there but our mind-sets insulate us. I’d
say that our politicians and establishment thinkers are looking at the world
through glass. I think Jeffers is trying
to smash that partition, to get us out of our safety zone of closed
H: Yes. That’s a good way to put it. He is forcefully
trying to do that.
M: His very life, as you know,
was lived in that location on the cliff above the Pacific in Carmel. If he
lived there, and if he built his house from stones he dragged up from the
shore, then he would almost be forced to live the life he was talking about. Drag one of those rocks up the hill and
you’re not looking at life through the window.
You’re not having someone else bring life up for you. I think just the
few poems I’ve been reading would suggest that to me.
H: Um hum.
Jeffers and the ecological movement
M: So today, just putting things
together from our dialogue, I’d venture to say Jeffers is a successor to
H: That’s the way I see it,
too. He is in many ways an answer to
Whitman’s call for a future literatus order, which would fulfill his dream of a
future society that would be proportionate to nature. He’s probably the strongest spokesperson in
America for the ecological movement.
M: I could see that, yes.
H: He’s highly regarded by
ecological thinkers. The Sierra Club
quotes him quite a bit.
M: Do you have any audios of
Jeffers reading his poems? I was
wondering how he would deliver those lines, his emphasis.
H: That’s a good question. I know there’s at least one recording and
probably others. I was saying earlier regarding the Apollo of Keats’ poem that
of course Apollo is the sun god but also the god of poets. Regarding the classical reverence for the
poet as the voice of the deeper and wider world, Whitman writes, “Have you
reckon’d a thousand acres much? Have you reckon’d the Earth much? / Have you
practis’d so long as to learn to read? / Have you felt so proud as to get at
the meaning of poems? / Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess
the origin of all poems, / You shall possess the good of the Earth and the sun,
(there are millions of suns left,)” (Leaves
of Grass). Millions of suns! You see
how cosmic he is? He wants to give the reader a sense of the unity of the
cosmos in these lines, the origin of all poems.
The shift from the classical period where Keats uses the metaphor of
looking up and discovering the new planet, to countless suns, comes in because
Whitman was reading Alexander von Humboldt’s book Kosmos. There are millions
of suns. We are merely one. Apollo is only one inspiration.
Millions of suns yet to discover
H: So he’s saying there are
millions of suns left for you to discover.
That’s one thing I wanted to say.
The other thing is that Keats says, “Then felt I . . .” He feels.
He has a feeling for something that is transcendent. It swims into his mind; it swims into his
ken. This is really the significant aspect of the experience. The planet swims into his mind and into his
understanding, “Ken” being of course the word for understanding. He goes on, “Or like stout Cortez, when with
eagle eye . . .”
M: That’s a good image, too. He had a less powerful image in an earlier
version of the poem.
H: I think it’s a great metaphor
because it shows the ability to see things from outside of the human realm,
from the point of view of the eagle, the animal intelligence within all of
us. More than just animal intelligence,
it’s the intelligence of the bird of prey that has this kind of vision that
looks down at the Earth and at humanity. That’s what Jeffers brings in through
his hawk symbol, and Whitman brings forward in the dalliance of the
eagles. And, yes, it was Balboa, not
Cortez, who was the first European to see the Pacific on a peak in Darien,
which is in Panama. Panama was also the
place where Alexander von Humboldt went to explore. This is interesting because what Keats is
into, as a British poet, is a vision of the Pacific, the West Coast, which is
where Jeffers put his roots down. Darien
is also significant in terms of locale because of the Inca culture. The Incas,
of course, were killed off by the Spanish and Portuguese.
M: Yes, yes.
H: Killed off because of their
quest for gold. The Incas had all that
M: Oh, yes. The Spaniards took back tons to Spain.
H: Tons, to build their churches.
M: Yes, they really did. What irony!
H: So that’s how the metaphor
plays on the actual place where some of the greatest gold was found.
M: Well, as we talk and in this
context, you can see why people valued the metal. It was probably something that was touching
their spirits, a physical version of what they experienced, knowingly or
not. They misunderstood, as you were
saying earlier, about the economic use of trees, converting redwoods into gold
At play in the realms of gold
I want add here
that Karl Staubach a year or two ago gave me a book called The Tree by Colin Tudge. A
central ideal of that book is that human beings and the tree go back a long way
together. Trees pretty much made
civilization possible, if you really think about it. This was how human beings were able to
survive, with fire, housing, and all that sort of thing. There is a great
reverence of trees in that book. And
Karl isn’t kidding around when he regards a tree as he would a person. They are people to him, and he pays a lot of
attention to them. I think he’s one of
those who live in the realms of gold all the time. He told me, back when kids were telling him
about their psychedelic experiences, “That’s what I see all the time.” Nothing special about that! What’s annoying about geniuses is that they take
those realms of gold for granted. They probably wonder why everybody doesn’t
see it that way. But if you’re not wired
that way, you can’t. You have to come at
it from a different angle. And maybe you
have to mess around a little bit. That’s
how I came at it in my teaching: We have to mess around a little—play–to get
things going, to invite the soul, as Whitman put it. So, back to the poem, as we’ve been
demonstrating, the more you play with it the more it comes alive, doesn’t it?
The key to the poetic mode
M: After a while, you start to
say, “Wow!” I think everything you and
I’ve been talking about is what Keats was fully aware of when he crafted the
poem. Or, let’s say he wasn’t
consciously aware, and he wrote these words that resulted in this sonnet. It doesn’t mean what we’ve seen is not
there. What you, the reader, bring to
the poem—always–is what brings it alive.
It’s not alive till you do something yourself to that poem, which is to
bring your intensity of vision, your openness. Your flood gates of sensitivity
are open so that that poem can penetrate.
It would be the same thing with this pair of glasses here, or anything
else. I can imagine going into a class
one day and saying, “Well, let’s look at these glasses today.” We would spend an hour on that. You can’t
believe how poetic that would become within an hour or so. The option, the opportunity, to participate
in the world with that kind of intensity is available, and it would be nice for
every educated person to know that much about it. Not that you have to go around doing that all
the time, but you at least ought to know that if you mess around with the
world, that that’s what’s there, available to you at any time.
H: That’s good, and I think that
Keats was aware of something very profound and that there’s something about the
Pacific in that poem that spoke to him.
Keats was looking West, he was looking, as Whitman was looking, to the
West Coast. There’s something about the
Golden West, too.
M: Yeah! There’s so much!
The golden gold of gold
H: Right here, the Golden
Gate. The bridge just had its 75th
anniversary. But getting back to what you said about trees and gold. The Gold
Rush, of course, the Forty-Niners. Right
after that, the redwoods were cut down in the 1850s. The Gold Rush, and they
were still using gold coins back then.
So, profit, cutting a tree, a forest, for profit was equivalent to
getting gold. You could get gold by
cutting down redwood trees. We’re at a
point now where we have to shift the focus back to the spiritual level.
M: Well, yes.
The petal of the rose and a million suns
H: That gold is really in the trees. The poet,
Dylan Thomas, writes, “. . . that blasts the roots of trees, is my
destroyer.” You remember, “The force
that through the green fuse drives the flower”?
It drives the redwood tree. That is the secret force of the universe.
H: “Drives my green age, , .
Blasts the roots of trees . . .” So
there you see Thomas is actually on to something that Whitman foresaw when he
wrote there are millions of suns left and that Jeffers would later
explore. Jeffers showed what blasts the
roots of trees is that universal force and it is not just soft petals and warm
beds. It is something much larger than
science had ever conceived–until we discovered the idea of the giant atom.
That was a real breakthrough in science, and it changed the shape of poetry
forever. Jeffers was very aware of this,
and it’s interesting what you’re saying about his lines. When he wrote “The Women at Point Sur,” he
said that metaphors would serve. He
would tell stories again, but there was something that had changed in the shape
and structure of poetry. It’s no longer
the kind of poetry that Keats wrote.
H: The kind we find in modern
Keats’s spaceship docks in the Oakland hills
M: But I want to say–this
occurred to me while you were talking–that Keats’ poem is like a little space
ship that came sailing across two centuries.
H: It’s a beautiful poem.
M: And here it is. It arrived in your living room this
morning! It set sail and arrived here,
and we started looking at the space ship and what he embedded in it is now
available to us again. So that’s a good lesson for you in your writing. You want to make sure that 200 years from now
somebody’s going to open up your Jeffers book and say, “Oh, Boy! This is great stuff.” H: There it is. Keats uses the metaphor of discovering a new
H: So the science is there, too.
M: Ha! He poem swims into our ken! Also, you can’t falsify anything. It has to ring true at all these levels we’re talking about. In this poem the surface features produce a picture. Then we go deeper into the allusions and see what Keats’ inspirations are and then deeper into the source of all those allusions, the very atomic nature of nature and our experience of it. Not a bad little space ship!
If I could only live at the pitch that is near madness When everything is as it was in my childhood Violent, vivid, and of infinite possibility:That the sun and the moon broke over my head.Then I cast time out of the trees and fields, Then I stood immaculate in the Ego; Then I eyed the world with all delight, Reality was the perfection of my sight.And time has big handles on the hands, Fields and trees a way of being themselves.I saw battalions of the race of mankindStanding stolid, demanding a moral answer.I gave the moral answer and I diedAnd into a realm of complexity came Where nothing is possible but necessityAnd the truth waiting there like a red babe. —Richard Eberhart (1904—2005)
[From time to time, Steven and I explore what are commonly called coincidences here in West and how much such phenomena influence the way we experience reality. A Robinson Jeffers book that fell off my kitchen shelf the morning of this dialogue brought the question to the fore, since this dialogue was to be centered on Jeffers and Whitman, both of whom could see the fiery cosmos in a blade of grass or a hurt hawk on a California promontory. The dialogue evolves into ways of allowing that awareness to inform an afternoon of clearing out the garage.]
H: You remember our chat about why Jeffers’
reputation changed after 1932? I won’t
go deeper into all that . . .
M: Why after 1932, though?
H: He was on the front cover of Time magazine.
H: He was considered America’s
M: Let me interrupt a moment: Here’s an interesting
coincidence. We have a bookcase in our
kitchen jammed with books. One morning a
couple of days ago I reached for an envelope lying on top of the books and one
fell out. It was a book of selected
Jeffers poems. You’ve been focused on
Jeffers lately and talking with me about him, and here’s Robinson Jeffers Selected Poems.
So I started reading a few of the poems.
H: What did you read?
M: Oh, I don’t remember the
titles. One, of course, is “Hurt
Hawks.” I remembered that one from some
time ago. And a couple of other ones. And I think his style of writing is almost
like prose. That could possibly be one
reason the general public isn’t familiar with him. Reading him now seems easier
than when I was younger.
H: That book falling out onto
your kitchen floor, isn’t that a remarkable coincidence? It wanted you to pay attention.
M: Apparently, because it just
popped out and fell onto the floor!
H: It wanted you to pay
M: So, coincidences: Jeffers book, a coincidence.
Let me bring in “Hurt Hawks” here
so readers who aren’t familiar with Jeffers’ poetic style”
The broken pillar of
the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting
for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.
I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons
when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.
M: I think these chance
happenings are fun and fascinating. I could give you a couple more that I noticed
recently, but we both know there are tens of thousands of such incidents that
people have described.
The fiery furnace of ordinary realitiy
The thing about
it, though, is that for me there was no sense of shock or surprise. Only in pondering it does it seem like quite
a thing to have happen. But let me shift
slightly and come back again to the contrast of the way our culture treats what
we call coincidence and the way most other cultures incorporate whatever pops
into their awareness. The Spanish—I think
the whole Spanish culture —when they talk of ghosts and visits from dead
people, they don’t speak of them as remarkable, mysterious. They take it as part of the warp and woof of
daily life. They really do. When you
read a story, the narrator will say, “Grandfather came and sat by my bed and
talked to me.” And that’s perfectly
normal, and they go about their lives as though that’s how it is, nothing to
get excited about.
I do see it cropping up more in our own culture. in Ann Tyler’s book The Beginner’s Goodbye the narrator is telling his own story and
starts out by saying something to the effect, “You know, the funny thing is the
way people react to Dorothy when we’re out someplace.” Well, it turns out that
Dorothy, his wife, has died and she shows up every now and then, maybe sees him
in the market or maybe she’s walking beside him. For him, it’s perfectly natural, though he’s
aware that other people might not see it that way. And there are four or five ways people will
try to make that fit, because they see her, too. Someone might have thought she died but then
maybe he hadn’t been paying that much attention, so maybe she hadn’t died after
all, so he’d try to act natural and hurry off.
So there she is.
So Tyler takes up the issue of
people coming back into their lives after they’ve died. And I think she seriously means this
story. The reason I think so is that her
husband, Taghi Modarressi, a psychiatrist, died in 1997. I don’t recall the particulars, but I do know
that. She never refers to that at
all. But I’d bet she had experiences of
him coming back, and she thought, “I’m going to put that in a story.”
The trick is not to ignore anything.
in Fanny and Alexander has the dead
visiting the living, and no one acting as if that’s anything but normal and
natural. The dead continue participating
in the shaping of physical reality, just as any other thing we encounter
affects us, be it a spilt glass of milk or a glimpse of something out of the
corner of the eye. The trick is not to
ignore anything, to realize that everything is of equal importance. There is no such thing as generic snow to an
What I’m leading
up to is that I think there’s a point of view in which these phenomena fit in
quite well with some of the things you and I have been talking about, the fiery
furnace that we all come from, the sun, and the little atomic furnaces that
make up our bodies, the blood flowing through our veins.
The deeper sense is alwaiys
H: Say some more about that.
M: Well, I’ve been thinking about
that. You were saying my book title, Realms
of Gold, is a pleasant metaphor, yes, and Wordsworth’s host of golden
daffodils, and so on. These pretty
images–but you were saying they grow out of this fierce atomic furnace, the
sun and that we have to take that into account when we look at a daisy. You were talking about Jeffers’ poem “The
Great Explosion.” You were saying, if
you really want to know where the gold is, it comes from that. I was saying, yes, I had thought that was
implicit in my remarks. Because these
levels of experience, coincidences, for example, are going on right underneath
ordinary reality, and supplement or complement ordinary reality, and there are
layers and layers of that. Possibly the blood coursing through your veins can
be a constant reminder that you come from a fiery furnace, that you are such a
furnace yourself. In this little atom in
the tip of my fingernail, so small it can’t even be seen, there’s a fantastic
fire contained in there.
The deeper sense is always available to us.
My point is,
sure, go ahead, go to the store and buy the grapes, but if you would really
like to enjoy your life, you could let all those various levels inform your
life. And wouldn’t that be nice, to be able to experience all those levels
while you’re buying grapes? So you have,
yes, what you call ordinary reality, but you know, you always know, you could
easily click into what I would call the poetic mode and also experience it in
this deeper sense. The
deeper sense is always available to us, if we care to engage it. I’d guess things like rites of passage are
supposed to introduce you to that mode in a sharp, clear way, so that you have
that awareness as the background of your journey through life.
My God, all that talk. Well, Steven, you’re a very good listener!
H: I can see you’ve given some
more thought to what I said about Jeffers poem about the Big Bang.
M: I’ll tell you one more thing
about these thoughts. I thought I should
tell where the title of my website came from: Keats’ poem “On First Looking
into Chapman’s Homer.” So I said, OK,
here’s the poem. Then I realized there
were so many allusions in it that people wouldn’t know, and it would be hard
for them to get at it. Then I thought,
what if he means his words literally, and not in some kind of poetic exaggeration,
but really means realms of gold, what if he means literally this intensity of
experience that is so deep? What if
Jacob Boehme wasn’t kidding around when he looked at light reflected off a
pewter bowl and said, “I saw all heaven.”
What if he really means that?
So I print the poem and post it on my Website,
and I thought people will not get this.
And that’s because these surface features, these words, are one level. If you untangle that level, that allows you
access to another level that is indeed there.
It begins to be richer, more exciting.
If you allow yourself to go to another level, you’re back to what you
were talking about, Steven, “The Great Explosion.” That’s all there in this poem. If a person were willing to wake up every
day, and tune in to these levels of the cosmos all at once, then something like
that poem can be absolutely fantastically meaningful. And eating these scones that we’ve been
having this morning could be the same way.
It’s all there. It depends on my
bringing my sensitivity, my concentration, to that world, for it to come
alive. You see poets running around
loose, the real ones, and everything is intense like that. It’s almost enough to burn them up. Sometimes it does. Richard Eberhardt wrote, I remember, “If I
could only live at that pitch that is near madness. . .” I guess it’s no wonder so many of us choose
to stand a bit farther from the flame.
So that’s what I’m working on,
and that’s why I’m thinking about this so much, ways to get into the several layers
of meaning that are available in any aspect of any moment.