Dialogue # 19: Sin, Zen, Ethics, Rules, Animal Nature and Natural Morality

October 23, 2013

[In this dialogue Steven and I explore how writing poetry can be a kind of liturgy, a way to still the mind, a way  for Western society to restore harmony between daily activities and the Self’s center.  We re-visit concept  based ethics, values, and morals as opposed to those that that come from nature.

Take Down a Musical Instrument.

M: The problem, for all of us, is to wake up every day and look around and see what’s going on–the intense realization of what we’re doing, the intense moment—and to do this is every day.  That sort of thing. What do you think?

H: I think what you said sounds just right.  I’m thinking about Yone Noguchi, the Japanese poet and professor who came to California in 1893, and the way in which words and the precision of his language became a kind of devotional meditative practice for him, right up on these heights with Joaquin Miller.  He wanted to teach students and he did, some from UC Berkeley who would come up here.  He wanted to teach the art of haiku and that meant a very different kind of poetry that he was learning from Miller and a very different technique. It meant very short lines with metaphors that really bring light, you could say, the light of the magnificent sunsets he would behold here looking out at the Golden Gate.  You’ll read about it in the book. [Noguchi’s California, by Nina Egert]

…with metaphors that really bring light, you could say, the light of the magnificent sunsets he would behold here looking out at the Golden Gate. 

It’s quite remarkable, and he is credited with having introduced haiku to the United States. So this is a figure that’s going to speak to you, Clark, with regards to your own interest in it, in haiku, and how Ligonier Sightings came into print.  

I decided you can do haiku in English and retain the form.  You really can.  Every poem in Ligonier Sightings adheres to those limits.

M: I think I told you one reason I really got going on haiku was that I was working with a Japanese woman who wanted to translate here dad’s haiku.  He lived in Kyoto and was the president of a haiku club there.  They had haiku clubs all over Japan that worked on perfecting their art, held contests, and so on.  We translated together about 250 haiku.  I really started paying attention to how that could work.  Not that this is important, but a lot of people say you can’t really do haiku in English, not retain the 5, 7, 5 syllable structure.  I decided you can do haiku in English and retain the form.  You really can.  Every poem in Ligonier Sightings adheres to those limits.  

H: Apparently Noguchi had studied at the University in Tokyo, and his master, the poet from the past he revered most, his mentor, was Basho.  So when he came to America he really wasn’t looking for a master in the art of poetry.  But he ended up in San Francisco and met some of the important luminaries in the literary world here.

M: From just what I glanced at here, he has found a way to bring those two cultures together.

The light that shines out from words

H: That’s what he did.  He also found a man who was living what he saw these Buddhist writers were living in Japan.  This attitude of reverence, you could say, for nature, and the challenge of putting nature into poems so that there’s no distinction between the word and the light of the word, as you said, and the metaphor that shines back.  Miller taught him the value of silence.  Miller told him that, although he had him live next door in a little cottage, they would agree they would speak briefly to each other, and then they would go into their own meditative places.  I think his sitting up on the hill and looking out at the Golden Gate–there are a number of beautiful passages in the book where he describes it–you see this mutual influence between the two poets that is quite impressive.

M: You were up at Shasta presenting some talks recently and picked up that book there.

Temporarily blinded by Whitman

H: Yes, they were commemorating Joaquin Miller’s centennial [he died in 1913], and I talked about Miller as a poet shaman.  They were very responsive because he had been influenced by the Wintu people in the Mount Shasta region.  As I mentioned in one of our dialogues, he lived with them and married a Wintu woman.  He learned the chant technique from Native American women.  I spoke about that.  This was during the time he was healing from that arrow-wound, the arrow that went through his face and on through the back of his neck and left him with a shaman’s wound.  So I presented that model.  They loved it, and the next day I presented a view of Miller’s vision of spiritual democracy and how he really learned from the Shasta tribes.  But also when he got to London, where he became famous in 1871, for the book Songs of the Sierras. He learned from Dante Gabriel Rossetti the idea of the equality of all religions.  Rossetti and his brother had just published Whitman’s Leaves of Grass when Miller’s book came out.  So the two brothers were steeped in Whitman.  Whitman was all over the place as a luminary by the time Miller arrived in London.  Miller hadn’t met him yet, but after his London trip, he returned in 1872 to the States and there he met Whitman and Longfellow and others.  But that relationship played a big role in changing Miller’s consciousness.  Speaking of light, you mentioned the light metaphor of Christ, the Word and the Light in a previous dialogue.  After Miller read Whitman in London in 1871, he said he had to put the book down because there was too much light! He was temporarily blinded, like being snow blinded.  He said he didn’t read any books after that. He said he didn’t need to.

M: [Laughs] Very good, very good, very good!  Oh, here’s a nice pattern: You told me of Whitman “simmering” and Emerson bringing him to a boil.  So Whitman got to pass that intensity on to Miller.  And, maybe Miller passed it on to you, Steven.

H: Yes, there’s something about the influence of Whitman on Miller that I have been very interested in.

M: Yes.

H: But also there’s this very interesting connection with this young Japanese student.  It’s heartening to have picked up Noguchi’s California because I had already done the research and there it was; an even further affirmation that this Noguchi really was a very important person.

M: I’ll say!  Absolutely. [We talk about the book for a few minutes.]

M:  If you’d like to see the power of putting pictures with words, that book you loaned me of pictures accompanying Moby Dick is a good example. [Moby-Dick: A Picture Voyage edited Tamia Burt, Joseph D. Thomas, and Marsha L. McCabe] I don’t know how much it’s abridged.

H: A lot. You’re talking about a whale of a book!

M: This one is a pretty big book, actually.    

H: They did a nice job.  I haven’t read this version fully.  I did look at the pictures.

M: What I’m getting to is that even though Melville gives beautiful descriptions of what it’s like to harpoon and catch a whale, boy! you see one picture of these little whale boats and this unbelievable whale!

H: It is amazing. Absolutely amazing and dangerous.

M: Yes.

How to put oneself in harmony with nature

H: So back to the book. When Noguchi came and met Miller, here was a man who had learned from Native Americans in Mount Shasta how to put oneself in harmony with nature.  

M: How to put oneself in harmony with nature.  OK.  How to put oneself in harmony with nature.

H: So.

M: That’s what it’s all about.

In the beginning

H: That’s all I wanted to say.  I was talking with a friend yesterday, Matthew Fox, at lunch, and I was thinking about how Creation stories from other cultures can give us a new perspective, a fresh perspective, on existence, on being alive.  Miller tells the story in Life Amongst the Modocs, the story of the origins of human life.  Just to refresh your mind, it’s the story of the Great Spirit coming down through a cloud and creating, first, Mount Shasta.  So the beginning of creation starts with the mountain.

M: The mountain provides a wonderful metaphor for all the people who hang around it.  It really does give you the idea of firstness, a volcano that surges up out of the Earth. In the last page of the Moby Dick book we were just now looking at–Ishmael almost being sucked into the vortex.  If you read that metaphorically, it almost sounds like the black hole of science.  It all comes back.  It all keeps coming back and coming back.  

An Attitude of At-Oneness

H: Yes. And in Chapter 104 of Moby Dick, Melville says–through Ishmael’s voice–“Give me a condor’s quill.  Give me Vesuvius’s crater for an ink stand.  Friends, hold my arms, for thinking about this leviathan, it worries me for no great volume has ever been written on the flea.”  He’s writing about the great leviathan, the great whale, and that means the whole cosmos.  Because Cetus is the constellation of the Southern Hemisphere, the Great Whale.  So he also mentions that. I think that idea of bringing the light of the cosmos into a great work of art like this–or into a haiku, a seventeen-syllable poem–is something that can only be done by a certain attitude of atoneness with everything that is, and with nature.  

…that idea of bringing the light of the cosmos into a great work of art like this–or into a haiku, a seventeen-syllable poem–is something that can only be done by a certain attitude of atoneness with everything that is, and with nature.  

So in this creation myth, the Great Spirit comes down and the first things he creates are, what? The trees, because trees are the origins of life.  Oxygen, the whole atmosphere.

Probably without it, we wouldn’t be here.  

M: I told you about the book The Tree by Colin Tudge.  It really brings to the fore our relationship with the tree.  Probably without it, we wouldn’t be here.  

H: How could we?  We wouldn’t… Trees are first on the mountain.  

M: As I’ve said before, my friend Karl Staubach sees them as fellow beings.  He really does.

H: Like Walt Whitman, and Miller, too.

M: Yes.  I’m pretty sure Karl’s always been at one with nature.  He must be bemused by those of us who need to work at that!

H: He struck me as a man who was very in touch with the mythological stage of consciousness.

M: Oh, yes, everything.  It’s all mingled together for him.

H: He had that kind of mythological consciousness.  It’s interesting how it’s often literary people who lead me to have that feeling.  

So, the idea that came to me yesterday when I was talking with my friend about this Creation story, which is very different from the Hebrew Creation myth, is that the Great Spirit creates the trees.  Then all the animals and all the birds and the salmon–and then the great grizzly bear. M: [Laughs]

H: The grizzly bear!  The Great Spirit was frightened by the grizzly bear.

The Great Spirit was frightened by a grizzly bear.

M: [Laughs]

H: He had to hide inside his great teepee.  He made a fire inside the great mountain, and he had to hide in there with his family.  Because the grizzly bear was that frightening.  Then he sent his daughter to look out and try to quiet a huge storm that was passing over the mountain.  And as she was doing that, he warned her, “Don’t stick your head out, because you’ll be blown by the wind.” She did exactly what the Great Spirit warned her not to do.

M: Of course.

H: Her hair got caught in the wind, and she was blown down the mountain, down the ice.  She slid past all the trees, and she ended up, where?  She ended up in the den of a grizzly bear family. 

So she’s adopted and is actually breast fed by the grizzly bear mother and raised by the family.  But then, they want her to marry their youngest son.  So she marries the grizzly bear.  And that’s where the Red People come from.  

So the origin myth is not that God is some father god in the sky that created everything that is, including human nature.  But the people come from a union of the Great Spirit, the cosmic divinity, that has no gender, that has no…

M: [Chuckles] That’s a good story.

H: And the animal nature.

M: Can’t you see the Wintu kids lapping that up, that story?  Who wouldn’t be absorbed!

The people were born from a union of animal and spirit.

H: Yes, and in our time, there’s a woman who wrote a children’s book with pictures, as you were discussing earlier.  And the children do lap it up.  This book sells.  It’s all about the Wintu Creation story that’s told by Joaquin Miller in his book.  My point, Clark, is this:  When we have theologies that have become obsessed with abstract intellectual notions of What is the Trinity? for example, there’s this hair-splitting that goes on.  You’ve got volumes and volumes in the Vatican that are never read, about what the Trinity means.  And you have all these elaborate rituals.  But here was a culture that knew that our origins are animal nature.  That we come from animal nature, a union of spirit and instinct!  And so the animal—in dreams the grizzly bear is a symbol for instinct, Carl Jung would say.  Animal symbolism often is an image representation for instinct.  Our theologies have gotten out of touch with the ancestral spirits, with being animal.  The totem animal is the great teacher. We can learn from Native peoples about how we can get ourselves back in touch with nature. And that’s through instinct.  I think that means taking instruction from the animals, the soul, that are still there as presences within us.  So that idea came to me yesterday, that when you have a different creation myth, to complement a beautiful creation myth like the Hebrew myth and the Christian myth, In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was Light, then you are in balance. Then the snake becomes a god with Christ.  And in the beginning for humans was the animal.  The people were born from a union of animal and spirit. Our theologies have lost the animal.  It’s there certainly in some of the parables, but the Church doesn’t even teach this.  Saint Francis had his relationship to animals.

M: Yes, and to return to my point, you need to take away from the St. Francis story the essence of it, because this is an historic figure we can check up on.  It wasn’t quite the way the stories tell it. The stories extracted the essence of the man and his relationship with animals.  That works just fine.  But when you brought that up it caught my interest because you use that name St. Francis, because that’s the new Pope’s new name.  I find him quite delightful.  

The “Sin” of superficiality

H: That’s right.  Because he cuts to the chase about what true spirituality is all about.  It’s not about the economic stage of democracy.  

You must realize what life is, some kind of spiritual thing you’re dealing with.

M: He’s talking the way I took Christianity to be when I was going to Sunday school.  He’s teaching the Catholic doctrine, but he’s humanizing it.  He’s not for abortion, but he’s not running around beating people up about it.  He takes it from the point of view that you and I would, that this is life. You must realize what life is, some kind of spiritual thing you’re dealing with.  You don’t treat it lightly.  And I don’t judge you.  I don’t know what the Catholics mean when they say, “I am a sinner.”  But it seems to mean you don’t take life superficially.  I suppose it’s what you’d call a sin. I guess that’s what sin is, not being with your spiritual nature.  Your animal nature and your spiritual nature being one thing.  When you divorce those two, then you’re, quote, in a state of sin. I hate that word, but that’s probably what they mean by that.  What do you think? H: It’s a very complicated subject.  I think it’s all relative, because what’s sin for one person is bliss for another. 

. I guess that’s what sin is, not being with your spiritual nature. 

M: Well, yes.  It’s when you don’t live in the unity of spirit and flesh.  It’s a disjointed self.  

A Way to Still the Mind-Stuff

H: Yes.  Religion is about linking one thing and the other.  In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the first line is that yoga is the intentional stopping of spontaneous activity of the mind stuff.  The intentional stopping!  Now, that is something our Western civilization is having a hell of a time doing, because of all the technology, and all the media.  And everything is so out of focus.  Probably one of the most common diagnoses in our psychotherapy field are sleep related disorders.  It’s because we can’t still the mind.  And I think this is what native people knew how to do.  Drumming, for example. Drumming is a method for stopping that spontaneous activity of the mind stuff.  

… a method for stopping that spontaneous activity of the mind stuff.  

M: Here’s a problem I see.  You hear what we’re discussing in sitcoms all the time.  They talk about all these things you and I discuss.  But it’s all just talk.  It’s the new small talk.  

H: It has to be embodied.  

M: That’s it.  But they don’t seem to get that.  It doesn’t seem to penetrate.  

H: They need teachers.  

M: They need to catch on.  

H: They need to take our course.  

M: Ha! You know, in our classes, we would actually go out and do that.  We’d go stop the world. I remember music would come into our classes all the time. 

We don’t know what will happen to these voice recordings, but maybe they will find their way into print and provide ideas for someone if they’re looking for an alternative. When it comes down to it, any change in culture has to start with change in consciousness

H: Well, we’re doing that right now as we sit here.  We don’t know what will happen to these voice recordings, but maybe they will find their way into print and provide ideas for someone if they’re looking for an alternative. When it comes down to it, any change in culture has to start with change in consciousness.  And that can only happen in individuals.  So while you and I, just chatting here quietly having a dialogue about different ideas, once in a while we have an idea that breaks through.

M: Yes.

H: It’s cracking the nut to get to kernel, as Meister Eckhart used to say, and getting to where the truth is.

M: Yes.  [Looking out the window] There’s the truth right there.  See that little bird there.  I don’t know what he is. He’s a really pretty little thing.  We don’t have those around my place.  You have lots of different kinds.

H: I take pains to put in plants that produce flowers for the hummingbirds and butterflies and things like that.  I try to draw the birds and insects to our garden, so that we can enjoy them but also so that they can get nourishment.  You know, the cities are destroying their natural habitat.

M: I was sitting eating my lunch on our patio the other day.  I have two hummingbird feeders there. Anyway one came up and hovered less than a foot from my face and stayed there, oh, for what seemed like a long time but maybe only a few seconds.  Then I blinked and he left.   

H: That’s remarkable.  It’s a joy when that happens.  It’s almost as if they’re thanking us.  Where you the one who sent me that YouTube of that boy and the hummingbird?  That was remarkable.

 [A baby hummingbird had fallen out of a nest and this teen-age boy had fed it with an eye-dropper and it had become tamed and would perch on the boy’s finger, even bedded down at night with him.  The boy allowed him to go outside, but the hummingbird liked to come in at night and be with the boy.

The bird was thanking him.

M: There’s no doubt about that.  That’s a wonderful connection.

H: That bird was definitely thanking him.  Like the whales do when someone frees a whale, from these nets and ropes they get tangled in. 

Poetry-Writing as Liturgy

M: As we were talking, I thought about the process of writing a poem and how it actually serves to integrate my body and my spirit.  It’s like a ritual.  It’s like a liturgy for refreshing yourself for what your world’s about.  That’s one reason I like to have these kinds of dialogues because I think it keeps me paying attention.  Everything, the rocks, the trees, the birds, the whole works.  The poem brings all that into focus and more in

That’s one reason I like to have these kinds of dialogues because I think it keeps me paying attention.  Everything, the rocks, the trees, the birds, the whole works.  The poem brings all that into focus with more intensity. 

[A break]

M: Let’s see if we can pull this together before I have to head home.  So this sort of sums it up for me.  It’s really always about bringing everything back into harmony with itself.

It’s really always about bringing everything back into harmony with itself.

H: That’s a good description of our morning’s chat.

M: The very idea of creating the word “sin” is to divorce it from nature.  And then you have people saying, “You’re a sinner.”  And that’s not it at all.  It’s an individual kind of thing.  

H: Since I’m still living in the afterglow of the Shasta experience, the whole problem with water-it’s a sin what we did to the rivers, the Sacramento, the McCloud, the Klamath, all these rivers that the salmon used to spawn up.  We created these dams for electricity, for agriculture, and water for San Francisco, etc., etc., etc. We all appreciate it, of course, those of us who drink it and water our plants with it.  But what did it do to the natural habitat, these ecosystems that we destroyed because of gold mining and because of… 

M: The gold mining was brutal.

The Intention of Doing Good

H: Brutal.  There were so many salmon on the McCloud a horse couldn’t cross the river without stepping over all these salmon!  I think it’s a sin what we did to indigenous peoples.  A lot of those who did it were Christians, good people, thinking they were doing good, when they were doing evil. We have to revisit the idea of sin from the standpoint of nature.  Perhaps a new definition of sin would be anything that is out of harmony with the natural world.  Environmentalists would certainly agree. We’ve gotten so out of touch with the natural world.

Perhaps a new definition of sin would be anything that is out of harmony with the natural world. 

For Economists and Politicians: The test is, Is it in harmony with nature?

M: That would be the test in politics and government: Whether it’s in harmony with nature.  So at the start of any new legislation, they’d have to say, “OK, our test is ‘Is this in harmony with the natural world?’”  Here’s this problem, say, of making a law that you can stop people from having abortions.  Then that’s misinterpreted all over the place.  Howard Dean, a doctor, said nobody wants an abortion.  

So at the start of any new legislation, they’d have to say, “OK, our test is ‘Is this in harmony with the natural world?’

M:  I’m with you totally. But then Sacagawea was sixteen years old when she led Lewis and Clark across the Rockies to Oregon.  She had a baby on the way.  She was the only woman on the expedition, a sixteen-year-old woman–had a baby, kept the baby, did all this.  I mean you could have a baby today, even with today’s circumstances, and still get your degree.  I do know some women who have done that.

H: She was a real heroine of the Lemhi Shoshone people, and she helped bring spiritual democracy to…

M: Of course.  I’m just pointing out that this is possible.  It’s damned hard, though, certainly.

I think the solution for me is to recognize the relativity of values. … That ethics and morality come from the body

I think the solution for me is to recognize the relativity of values. 

H: What I’m describing is a collective opinion that lands on one side or the other.  I think the solution for me is to recognize the relativity of values.  What’s right for one person is wrong for another.  I learned this early on.  I think probably from reading Jung so much.  That ethics and morality come from the body.  

M: Yes, that’s a good way to put it. Ethics and morality come from the body.  Values too must come from the body. I think most “values” are not in harmony with the body. We could finish on that because I’ve been wanting to bring up morality, again, another term that’s been a burden on people trying to have a good time. 

Morality is not a concept; it is an experience.

M: George Bernard Shaw says morality is something we invented to explain, I think, a lot of stuff that goes on.  But as far as he was concerned, he was an enemy of morality, doing things for moral purposes, rather than what I would call instinctive, natural decisions.  Your spirit and your body come up with this.  This is your morality.  It’s not a concept; it’s an experience.

H: We construct our own morality from the ground up, I believe.  From the body up. 

M:  The key is what I’ve been describing as nature’s morality. As they say, it ain’t in no rule book. Every circumstance is unique, not just as in the case of an abortion, but in all events.  I’m generalizing here. You can’t live by rules.  No two moments are alike.  So you can’t have a rule… for how to have abortions.

You can’t live by rules.  No two moments are alike.  So you can’t have a rule… for how to have abortions.

You can’t live by rules.  No two moments are alike.  So you can’t have a rule… for how to have abortions.

H: Exactly.  This is why monotheisms are in trouble.  When you get a morality that grows out of religion and it begins to be dictated to the people, and the women have to wear veils, they can’t drive cars, they don’t have a vote.  They are in trouble.  

M: Yes.  

H: Then we’re in trouble.  Our religion has become a kind of dictatorship. 

M: And just think, Mohamed never wanted his people to behave like that.  Such slaves to a concept… Surely he wanted his people to feel good about living.  

H: Have you heard about what’s happening in Uganda right now?  And Kenya and Ethiopia and Al Queda?  These radical Islamists who are going around butchering people.  Why?  Because they’re Christians.  It’s insane.  

M: Well, it literally is insane. Want a punch line here?

H: I don’t think so. [Both laugh.]

M:   Well, let’s see.  We talked about sin and morality and nature all mixed together.  So that’s pretty good. Zen always figures in.  

H: And we got the Jesus story in there, too.                                                  

Dialogue # 17: Compassion, Bliss, and the Quest for the Ground of Being

June 10, 2013

In this dialogue, Steven and I continue examining the role of compassion in the Spirit’s quest of a ground of being in the physical world.  Then we look at how a liberal education might aid this process or how a university might interfere with it.  We go on to talk about how  he shaman, the roshi, the teache,r and the therapist go about their work.]

Spiritual Democracy in the Realms of Gold

H: Clark, let’s take a minute  to talk about turning these  dialogues we’ve been having into a book. I feel we’ve been developing a great theme as we interweave our two emphases, mine Spiritual Democracy and your thoughts that you put into your Realms of Gold manuscript. And they overlap beautifully.

M: I do agree. For me, going back and forth as we do, fills in the picture of how things are that’s been my focus throughout my life, even before I was consciously aware of it. But I think the way these dialogues work, they are indeed like a stage play. They may seem like friendly casual chats, but every one of them rises to a peak and comes to a point, just the way a play is structured. So I think this structure, a dialogue between two people about how the cosmos works –you, Steven, a Jungian therapist, and me, talking with you as I used to do with human souls who  would appear  in my college classes every semester. I do know thousands of them loved this process.

Melville’s Great Whale of a Novel and All the Barnacles

H: One thing we were touching on–and we circle back to this theme a few times–is what people really want to know about is the therapeutic nature of language, in terms of keeping a journal or taking an English course… I think what’s behind all this is compassion.

M: Well, I’d put it that people, their selves, their spirits, most assuredly do want the kind of  therapy that’s perhaps only available through language. But, my, yes, I’m glad you bring in compassion.  That’s a word I’ve  thought  a lot about, com-passion.   People confuse  that with pity–which is almost the polar opposite. You and I are well aware of the drive of the Spirit for a voice.

H: Because, you know, the language-shaper is really, in his or her deepest foundation, hoping the reader will really catch on. You’ve used that phrase a number of times in  our dialogues. And when a reader does catch on, then she realizes suddenly that this could actually change her life. So there’s a certain compassion the author has in writing a book, I think, toward the intended reader, because ultimately com-passion is suffering with. So, as you said earlier, about not wanting to be a slave, in some way there’s a labor of love. I think  that’s  part of this  ship that we’re all on, as Melville says in Moby Dick, “We all need to scratch each other’s backs.” We’re all slaves on the ship. And we’re wedded to our vocation, and in a sense that means work, and work always means some kind of suffering. And it means some kind of sacrifice. You and I could be out playing golf right now, but instead you’ve chosen to be here at 8 A. M. It takes  energy and effort and will to be here. But it also takes intelligence and it takes compassion.

M: I’d like to put in a few touches to the idea of com-passion, though. I’m resisting the word “suffer.” Maybe if we use it in the 16th century meaning, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” that would be fine. It does require effort, it does require sweat or at least full attention. Let’s take up the word “passion”, though. If we say “compassion,”  generally people do associate  it with the idea of suffering, but I think in com-passion, there’s a passion that’s being shared, not necessarily in the conventional sense of suffering. There’s a kind of joy involved. To me compassion is almost equal to love in the deepest, richest sense. Love doesn’t make it seem like hard work; you just do it. I have that scattered all over Realms of Gold. I guess I’d say that I don’t feel pain digging a ditch in my back yard. I don’t really mind that. I’m actually glad to have my shoulder to Sisyphus’s boulder.

It is also important just to keep walking.

There’s a case of a rugby player whose plane went down in the Andes. Most of the people were killed, but half a dozen or so weren’t and this one person, Nando Parrado and his friend Roberto Canessa chose to walk out for help. They weren’t even dressed for the extreme cold of 12,000 feet, only their sneakers and a light jacket. They did get out, and  did get  help, but Parrado said that what kept him going was his love for his father. He said to himself “It doesn’t matter whether  I get there or not. I’m going to just keep walking.” And that’s what he did. But that’s com-passion, that deep love beyond mere affection. This is the ground of being really, functioning in a human being. I think of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, even Bobby Kennedy in his later years. They don’t feel like they’re cleaning up human excrement, wading through those foul smells, because they’re overcome by com-passion. It’s not at all like I feel sorry for you. It’s participating in this life up to your neck. How does that sound?

H: That sounds good.  I was thinking of the role of the psychotherapist being similar to that  of an English teacher, in the sense that a psychotherapist works out of compassion.

M: Yes. Well, whether it’s a teacher, a clerk at McDonalds, a social worker, a spouse, it has to begin with compassion. It can’t be faked and it can’t be done mechanically from a rule book. Com-passion, passion with.

H: People come to us because they need our help. They are suffering. Every student comes to the English teacher because she’s looking for help with language. She’s looking for help in being a better writer so she can get a degree, so she can get a job and work in the world, and maybe be a writer, maybe become a poet. So that work you’re doing is  really directed at the  foundation of her being. Evoking that is the main thing.

A Therapy of Health

M: Well, evoking is exactly the right word, yes. But let me add a little to the idea, at least regarding students who would arrive in my college English classes. I came to see the atmosphere in my classes and a kind of therapy of health. I didn’t think of those fellow human beings as ailing but rather as fellow adventurers, bright-eyed and alive. Yes, their spirits were yearning to be free, yes indeed. And college can be and should be what that’s all about.  So, if these young people were feeling confined, it was because they were under the yolk of practical people’s expectation of them. But I think, too, that at some level they all had a joyous anticipation of this Western-style rite of passage.

H: With joy, joyous participation. Compassion is about bliss, actually.

M: I think that’s exactly right.  You’d think the horrors some of the great martyrs suffered would  be without mitigation, insufferable agony. But as  someone  pointed out, when you see paintings of a saint in ecstasy, that’s that step beyond agony, the transformation into ecstasy.

[You have noticed that the truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping. When people are already in despair, maybe the laughing face is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better for them to see.” — From Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt, 1932]

You’d think, this is terrible, but as someone pointed out, when you see a picture of a saint in ecstasy, that agony and ecstasy are almost identical. I said in one  of our  dialogues that  I think the ecstasy kicks in at a critical instant and transforms into pure, pure, timeless joy, a different dimension altogether. I do think that’s the case. But don’t ask me to test it out! [Laughs]

H: In those paintings, yes.

The Quest for the Ground of Being

M: In those paintings you see exquisite participation in the act of being, I think you could say. I wanted to add that we go to college so that we can take charge of our own language, or voice, as you would say. You want to take charge of your own vocation, which emerges through language.

H: That’s right. Through language, through the  act of speaking,  and  through  vocalization the Self emerges. Vocalism, as Whitman called it is the way to make this emergence happen.

M: I think, as I said, as I always say, everybody wants that. What art has to do is trick them into realizing that. That is, it comes over us when we’re doing something else.  All of a sudden you say Oh!

Diablo Valley College: Many teachers have forgotten the reason for a university in the first place

As I said, I don’t think kids come to Diablo Valley College wanting English. They come because they have to take it as a required subject. The institution itself thinks we have these kids in freshman English so they can write, so that they can become cogs in the wheel, to be able to write reports and stuff like that. Many teachers have forgotten the reason for a university in the first place, which is to look out at the world in a larger sense, to do what we’re talking about. The whole purpose of a higher education is to “know thyself.” That’s what  it’s about.  Everybody  now talks about it as if it’s to get a job.

H: To get started, everyone does need a vision. And that’s why Yeats said after you have a vision, you want another. And that’s it. I think the helpful thing about looking at these American poets and the English poets for models is that they all have a vision that’s their own. Every student who comes into an English class who reads that line will want to have a vision, will wonder about it, will wonder what he’s talking about.

The Shaman’s Art

M: You have to present it in such a way that he or she can’t help wondering about it. That’s where the shaman’s art—or the roshi’s or Jungian therapist’s or the English teacher’s at Diablo Valley College– comes in.

H: The psychotherapist is in the same boat. The patient hears about dream interpretation, about active imagination, about vocalism. They want to know how to do it. They want something practical. These dialogues you and I are having demonstrate one effective and uncomplicated way a way to engage the imagination through speech, even just a casual dialogue like the one we’re having right now.

A Dialogue with the Self

M: I want to throw this into our dialogue while we’re talking about it. In the classes I realized at some point that I never talked to students’ surface features. I always talked to their souls. We talked to each other via our souls. I noticed this really strongly when the kids would be having a party; they reverted to their superficial selves. In our classes we only talked to each other in that deeper sense, that authentic voice back and forth. That’s what’s so powerful.  I didn’t  know at the time that that’s what I was doing. It was just what I did.

I never talked to students’ surface features. I always talked to their souls. We talked to each other via our souls

H: It was a true dialogue.

M: Yeah. Exactly.

H: Most students have and I/thou relationship to their teachers. They are students and the  person up in front is the teacher. There’s never a kind of meeting halfway. What you were doing was evoking an I/Thou relationship with the soul and not just treating them as students. Actually you were talking to the teacher in them, too.

I/Thou = One.

M: It’s interesting that you bring that up, because I was looking at Buber’s I and Thou book, not reading it but thinking about the title. When that book came out years ago [1923], people got very interested in having dialogues about it. Now when I think about it, I think, That’s so obvious! You know, there isn’t any I/Thou. There’s just One.  This separation Buber was  talking about, this separation is so artificial to me now, there isn’t any separation whatsoever. It’s  absurd to even talk that way, because it’s a oneness that’s going back and forth.

H: Well, I think that’s what he was getting at.

M: Yes. He was. But the audience of his day was thinking, Wow! What do you mean!? I am separate. That guy over there is a different being altogether. That’s what he was fighting against, but that to me is absurd. I think the I/Thou is still a strong concept with most people.

H: Buber said you can have an I/Thou relationship to a dog. Or a tree.

M: Well, that’s where I go with this idea. But we have to wrap our senses around the tree to the point where our two entities merge. That’s it.

H: You know, I’m going to go out and fence those redwood trees, because I don’t want the goats eating them.

M: Let’s print it this way, Steven:

I'm going out and fence
those redwood trees
because
I don't want the goats
eating them.

If you want to be an environmentalist, you can start there.

H: Karl Staubach had something to say about trees.

M: Oh, yeah! He really does see them as fellow beings and not as lesser beings. That’s critically important. I see them that way, too, but not to the depth that he does. I still have  work  to do!  Well, sometimes I do feel that empathy. That Chief Seattle letter to Franklin Pierce that I put in my book Thinking about Thinking does bring me up close to what must be natural for Karl.

H: Whitman said those redwood trees had a soul in “Song of the Redwood Tree.” When the teamsters cut down that big tree in Mendocino and Whitman read about it…

M: There should have been a national mourning.

H: Yes, “A song to spiritual democracy,” and that’s the beauty of language. True compassion. Now, there’s compassion for you. Whitman’s compassion extended from Camden, New Jersey, all the way over to Mendocino, California. That’s how big his compassion was.

M: It can only reach out to that extent by getting to know, first, the birds, trees, shrubs and bugs  in your back yard. They are the envelope you walk around in.  That’s your exoskeleton, after all. You are made up of those elements.

…the birds, trees, shrubs and bugs  in your back yard. They are the envelope you walk around in.  That’s your exoskeleton, after all.

H: Whitman never set foot in California. He never saw a redwood tree. He only got as far as the Rockies.

M: That’s pretty good for an Easterner. I knew guys in New England who never got beyond Massachusetts.

Miracles Everywhere, Everywhere

H: He certainly wrote a beauty when he penned that poem. And that was a vision. Like  Yeats  said, you want another, and there was another for Whitman. Whitman’s was so large that he saw miracles  everywhere.   I  mean,  everywhere!   Everything  was a miracle.    And I think you can develop that part of the brain.

M: There you go! I think you’re right.

H; I want to take my thought a little bit further about Whitman’s  compassion for the  redwood tree. I was working on my manuscript and tending the redwood trees out in the Park here  right next to our home.  I had a dream there was an enormous  redwood tree right outside my  window.  It was towering and the tree was speaking to me and it was thanking me for doing this work.

M: When was this?

H: It happened about two months ago. The tree had compassion toward me. I considered, Was this the soul of the redwood tree speaking to me?

M: Yep. That redwood tree in your dream was telling you that it shares life with you, that you and it are—scientifically and poetically—one life. We have to arrive at that shared passion. And I’d say com-passion is not too farfetched a word for that relationship. When we cross over to that level, we get our ecologist’s license.

“God Shed His Grace on Thee.”

H: I began to think that my ego, my perception of myself was being altered. You know, we think that our little acts, the things we do in life, as little acts of compassion. But that was a big act of compassion, for that big tree to have compassion toward me, and  thankful  praise for the  couple of little trees I planted. I think  that  these trees  have a consciousness of their own.  What  we did to these trees, butchering these trees in these hills, is heart breaking. That’s still here, just like the tragedy of what we did to the Indians, the grief of nature.

A tree doesn’t need to have a brain because a tree itself is a brain

M: Let me just pause and think about that a little bit. I love the idea of the redwood conferring its grace on you. In Intelligence in Nature, Jeremy Narby says you can think of it this way: A tree doesn’t need to have a brain because a tree itself is a brain. Because if you are a brain . . .

H: Let me tell you, there’s a consciousness in that tree.

M: Yes. And if the tree itself is a brain, it doesn’t need a brain. A tree is an intelligent organism, just as your being is an intelligent being functioning on its own quite comfortably in the Earth, thank you very much. Your cells have intelligence all by themselves. They know exactly what to do. They don’t have to consult with a command center up in the skull.

H: Those trees know how to create water. They go up into the fog belt and they water their own roots.

M: And if a tree doesn’t like where it is, it can move over to where’s it’s nicer.

H: That’s what Karl Staubach said!

M: That’s true, that’s literally true. The walking palm tree really does: [Here’s a quote: “The tree slowly “walks” from shade to sunlight by growing new roots toward the light and allowing the old roots interfering with its wanderlust to die.”] You’ve seen trees lean in a certain direction. It’s the same thing.

H: And they create oxygen. This atmosphere we breathe, this beautiful air. What are we doing? Deforestation. Getting back to spiritual democracy, Humboldt was a great inspiration to Emerson and Whitman and Darwin and Muir. One thing Humboldt was very concerned about was deforestation in Ecuador and other parts of South America. This was in 1804. We’re  talking about the father of the ecology movement.

Alexander von Humboldt– This was in 1804. We’re  talking about the father of the ecology movement.

M: That was quite a vision, wasn’t it, to see the implications of deforestation. If you have a narrow view of your world, you might think, So what if we kill of a lot of trees in South America?

Gigantic Sky Rivers

[From the San Francisco Chronicle, 12/5/14, “The cutting of trees, the scientists say, is hindering the immense jungle’s ability to absorb carbon from the air—and to pull enough water through the tree roots to supply gigantic ‘sky rivers’ that move more moisture than the Amazon river itself.”]

H: We’re killing ourselves.

M: I think we probably are killing off the planet. But I think the universe would probably experience it like a kernel of corn not materializing. This planet is a speck, after all, in the scheme of things.

One thing about your work is that your patients actually seek you out and they actually pay you. So you have a highly motivated audience. Everybody who comes to you. You see them on-on-one, like Socrates.

H: Well, you could say college students are paying the school to educate them. And believe me, it’s expensive. I know of patients who are a hundred thousand dollars in debt!

M: Just think. When you came to Diablo Valley College, it was free.

H: It was free.

M: It could still be that way, but it’s those strange, practical brains we were talking about. They cannot envision the value of having that stranger be educated. They can’t see the  connection.  They don’t see their own self-interest being destroyed by creating these horrible hoops you have to go through. But as I said, I don’t think kids know they’re going to college because of what you and I think it’s all about. Now, I know that, yes, their souls demand to be liberated, but I don’t think kids do go to college, as a rule, with that kind of awareness. Where would they ever get it? They don’t get it in their schools.

H: I’m talking about my own experience, of course… I had the good fortune of ending up in your class.

M: You also had the good fortune of having two highly educated parents.

H: Yes, both taught foreign languages at DVC and then I met Katherine Taylor and William Everson.

M: Most kids come out of homes that don’t even read novels, or look at art, or anything that points towards the liberation of the human spirit.  They think  that what they’re feeling is an urge to have a good time, and that you do that by having a lot of loud music, all sorts of superficial stuff that doesn’t penetrate to the spirit but actually diverts them from that. Their instincts are right, of course. The Spirit does indeed want a place to have a good time, a wonder-full time, but that wonderful time is that place of gold vermilion at the heart of matter, the fire of the atom’s core.

H: Well, you’re right about my parents. My mother was reading Camus, she was reading Jung. You took her French class at DVC. She read Camus in French and English.

M: I wasn’t at that level!

H: Back to what you were saying. You know, you’re challenging my basic hypothesis that every student who took your class, every student who was there, was looking for a vision.

M: Well, challenging in that they were consciously looking for it.

H: Well, maybe not consciously.

M: There were a few people that maybe with a bit of background…

Looking for a Vision

H: I think everybody, at least in their unconscious, is looking for a vision.

M: Oh, my, yes! I’m sure we agree on that. Here’s the other thing that I think is true. Yes, every one of those people is looking for a vision, despite having lived through a superficial world that their parents were living and so forth, everything on the surface, nothing of the soul, nothing touching the heart of being. In my home I never heard my parents talk about anything, anything  at all, being beautiful. I should add, though, that that Scotch-Irish environment may have modeled for me a taste for beauty, my mother in her flower garden, my father in taking  us five kids  on hikes up in Chestnut Ridge just out our backyard on a Sunday afternoon. My sense of nature must surely have been nurtured in that household.

H: And that brings us back to compassion. I wanted to ask you a question. I was looking on Wikipedia trying to find more on the background of the word…

M: When were you doing that?

H: Yesterday.

M: Because I’ve just been thinking about that word.

H: That’s interesting, because as we’ve been saying, there is a Field, and I think at times in these dialogues we seem to be receptive to the activation of this Field.

M: Yes.

H: Well, I was thinking about blue whales just this week, and you think blue whales are interesting.

M: That’s very interesting!

Leaps of Shadow into Light

H: I was thinking that there must be a reason why the Buddha, when he was asked by his disciple, what is the teaching of the Dhamapada, what is the basic teaching? He said it can all be summed up in one word, compassion. So that’s interesting. When you think about a person like that, a person who’s been enlightened, and who sees the world in a particular way, like Walt Whitman did–because I think he’s the American Buddha.

What we’re talking about, that part of the brain, the neuro anatomy being that developed, that it “leaps out of shadow into light,” some kind of light that transcends that negative part of the brain that you were talking about, that suddenly compassion encompasses everything. Buddha had compassion for everything.

M: That’s well put. Yes, some go so far that they wouldn’t step on an ant, and so forth, because they have that com-passion. We go ahead and eat meat, but some Indians did thank the deer who provided them with that meat. That’s the key, isn’t it? To have this enveloping com-passion so that you know what you’re doing when you eat anything, anything at all, when you’re making love, when you’re typing a transcript! So I think to say I would never step on an ant is stupid, but when you step on him, you have to realize what you’re doing. You realize the chain of life that’s involved. This walking around with awareness is a key.

…when you step on him [an ant], you have to realize what you’re doing. You realize the chain of life that’s involved. This walking around with awareness is a key

H: Some kids these days live in places where they have gates around their houses. They live in downtown, here in Oakland, and it’s a war zone down there.

M: It sure is. I drive through there.

H: A few have no contact with nature. Yet here’s Joaquin Miller Park right here. It’s  only  a couple of miles from their homes. They could come up and be in nature and sit under a redwood tree. When I grew up we were always barefoot. We were always running through the fields. We had as much nature as you could possibly want.

M: I know.

H: The way to school was…

M: A walk through the park!

transformed out of these wonderful chriysalises.

H: I saw monarch butterflies every year–transformed out of these wonderful chrysalises, caterpillars that had been an egg. I remember watching the whole process. Beautiful!

M: Back to the practicality of what we’re talking about, we have to do some stage magic to trick people into this way of perceiving or of experiencing whatever’s going on right now. It’s not necessarily a trick so much as catching their eye.

H: Well, a little bit of the Trickster is O.K.  The Native Americans  really valued the Trickster as a divinity. I think it’s a part of it, but “catching the eye,” follow that up. That may be the larger part. How do you catch the eye of a student?

Running to Nature’s God

M: Here’s an example. You learn how to participate in the established order—how to invite your soul into the midst of a marketplace environment. You don’t mess with that.  But within that, you go ahead and work on your vocation. Anyway  I have a friend  is  a very good Catholic.  He  runs to church a lot.

H: He runs to church?

M: I’m just joking about that.

H: Well, that’s an interesting way to put it because I have a quote here from Meister Eckhart. I think we all want to run into Nature’s God.

M: I see your point.

H: I was just reading a sermon of Eckhart’s. He said we all want to run into peace.

M: What did he mean by that? Do you have the piece handy?

Eckhart, the Master Craftsman

H: It’s quite amazing actually. Meister Eckhart certainly isn’t the Catholic Church, but people do find peace in the Church—many are magnificent, really—and whatever you find peace in, that’s where God is. Because that’s one of the experiences one has when one is in God. And God’s  inside of us. That’s where Eckhart comes in. He was a master craftsman of German vernacular language and a master poet.

The Ebullient Spirit

M: It sounds to me, from how you describe his sermons, like he didn’t craft them so much as generate them on the spot? As though it came bubbling out of him.

H: That’s a good metaphor for it. He does speak of it as bubbling. That’s one of the synonyms for ebullient, ebullience.

M: Oh, yes. Well, there are a lot of words like that, directly inspired, for example.  When you trace them back to their roots, you get the poetic power of such words. I think last time we talked about what Jung said in his introduction to Suzuki’s book, that it would be difficult to practice Buddhism in our Western world  because we  weren’t  prepared for it, but I argued that the information has always been in the Christian world. If you read scriptures the way I think you could, Zen Buddhism was in my Sunday School class. The teachers didn’t know it, but that’s what I was getting out of it. It’s the oneness, it’s all that Zen and Buddha embody.

Beyond Knowledge — Love, Compassion

H: You were absolutely right on. Jung, of course, says that. Who did he quote in that essay but Eckhart? Let me read you this. “To know what the soul is? One needs supernatural knowledge. …We know a little about this but not very much. What the soul is in its ground no one knows. What one can know about it must be supernatural. It must be from grace. That is where God  works compassion. I say that beyond these two, knowledge and love, beyond these, there is compassion. In the highest and purest acts that God works, God works compassion.” Now, that’s pure Buddhism right there.

M: Yes. Do you think Eckhart was using the word God metaphorically?

H: I’d have to think about that.

M: The Christians annoy me with the idea of a personal type of God.

H: Well, that’s why Eckhart distinguished between God and the Godhead.

M: Ah. OK.

M: The Christians annoy me with the idea of a personal type of God.

H: Well, that’s why Eckhart distinguished between God and the Godhead

Leaving God for God

H: The Godhead is nothing. It’s the transcendent dimension beyond God. He says, “My highest prayer will be leaving God for God.” By that he means God for the Godhead.

M: Yes. That’s their vital distinction.

H: Atman for Anatman.

M: Earlier, you used a synonym for satori. What was it?

H: Oh, Ananda.

Illuminating Our Facts

M: OK. And Ananda is bliss. In passing, I should tell you, when people hear about the things I’m interested in, say, “Oh, let me bring you this  . . .” And I think, No, don’t bring me  anything else. I don’t need  it.  This is not  helping.  All I need to do is sit down and  explore this.  I have plenty of material. Plenty of material. What happens a lot with our dialogue is that this is an enriching of what we’re doing.

H: You said something last time that I wanted to ask you about. You were talking about looking  at my face, or looking at me and seeing sunlight. Then you talked about seeing sunlight in all  your students’ faces. What do you mean by sunlight?

M: I mean the concept first. Sort of like the concept of God, I guess. You start with the concept that I know you are sunlight. I know that you are. That’s what you’re made up of physically.

H: That’s the part I wanted to know more about. How am I made up physically of sunlight? I know it’s true that these plants couldn’t exist without sunlight.

From Concept to Pure Energy

M: Well, there are several levels of that idea. The Earth is literally a piece of the Sun, literally, every bit of it is sun-stuff. The so-called elements.  What you really are is energy.  That, I think, is a concept that we can all grasp, although we may  not sense it consciously.  So I can start there. I can see you as a concept. But then when I relax a little, I see you as pure energy. That’s not a mystical thing. But it feels mystical sometimes when I see people sitting in McDonalds. Don’t  take it too deeply, but sometimes I sense it pretty strongly.

H: What do you sense?

 Bundles of Sunlight Sitting Around Sipping Coffee

I sense that this old guy eating his muffin and enjoying it, some old lady with all her rings, sitting looking out at the Bay, I realize, I realize, what they are. These manifestations, these little bundles of the universe sitting around, I realize that.

M: Well, I sense that this old guy eating his muffin and enjoying it, some old lady with all her rings, sitting looking out at the Bay, I realize, I realize, what they are. These manifestations, these little bundles of the universe sitting around, I realize that.

I sense that this old guy eating his muffin and enjoying it, some old lady with all her rings, sitting looking out at the Bay, I realize, I realize, what they are. These manifestations, these little bundles of the universe sitting around, I realize that.

H: If that’s true, and I do think you’re right, because we started focusing our dialogues after you asked me to read McTaggart’s The Field. And of course there we’re talking about energy  and light. The whole book starts with light. Why then is more than half of the brain operating in this negative field that you were talking about earlier? What’s going on? Why are human beings so preoccupied with negative thinking patterns?

M: Uhhh. That’s good! [Laughs]

H: These plants I don’t think have any negative thinking patterns.

M: Oh, I think they do.

H: Do they? Tell me about that.

M: It’s what you said. The negative is where the stuff isn’t.

H: They know where not to go.

M: They know what’s not there.

H: Why are human beings so out of touch with knowing what’s good for them?

M: Ummm.

H: That’s a big question.

M: Well, I’ll have to ponder that a little. Why are we so screwed up? [Laughs] We seem to be the most screwed up of any aspect of our universe.

H: Robinson Jeffers said that civilization had taken a wrong turn somewhere.

M: A goodly portion of it, yes. It’s like people who want to go to war all the time. People in Bush’s administration had those kinds of brains. They couldn’t envision anything else. I have to fall into the universe in order to escape from this delusion.

It’s like people who want to go to war all the time. People in Bush’s administration had those kinds of brains. They couldn’t envision anything else. I have to fall into the universe in order to escape from this delusion.

Yes, I think compassion would be the capacity for inclusion of that as part of myself.

H: Absolutely.

M: And of course this can’t be faked. It truly has to be a change in me.

H: And that’s the running into peace. Go in peace. It’s about going into a quiet, silent, meditative place where you can find your center again. And letting go is key. Let go of any external fights that are keeping us from being at one.

[A short break] Active Imagination

H: Lori and a colleague are doing some teaching on active imagination in analysis. By that she means the practical application of it in the psychotherapy process. For example, a patient comes in, has had a dream, and wants to do some kind  of exploration about the meaning of the  dream. So she starts with an image–because that’s all we can ever start with. The students meditate on  the image. You allow the image to unfold, either through the use of expressive arts, such as drawing with pastels or with colored pencils, or maybe sand play. Or movement, where she brings the image into movement so that one becomes the image. One embodies the image to move, and one is the image. Or one vocalizes it. One writes. One allows it to have a voice.

M: That’s exactly what I was trying to do, not necessarily conscious of it, but always trying  to get people into catching on to what they’re actually doing.

What you’re describing reminds me of what we were saying earlier about wrapping the senses around the facts, but here it’s wrapping them around the image. So how long did they talk?

H: Each about three hours.

M: Wow!

H: We had breaks, and  we  had exercises.

M: So it was a well-worked up presentation.

H: Oh, yes, and it was participatory. We went out in the garden and we did different movements. And it was really wonderful. In a sense you were using forms of active imagination in your class.

.

Dialogue # 18: Whales, Dolphins, Joaquin Miller, and Definition Tyranny

August 12, 2013

[In this dialogue, Steven and I take a look at human cruelty — toward each other, toward other animals, and the indifference that allows the destruction of the world’s great forests and of the land itself.  I suggest the idea of “the other” in human thinking is the basis for such wholesale destruction.  A powerful antidote appears to lie in  the healing power of spiritual democracy. The discussion ranges from Melville’s great ecological novel, Moby Dick, to the spiritual transformation of Joaquin Miller among the Indians of Mount Shasta, to the rich symbolism of  the Golden West and the Golden Gate, and to the influence of the great transcendental thinkers of the Atlantic states — and Walt Whitman’s vision of beauty in all religions.]

The Horror of Objectivity

But when you see a picture of the tiny whale boat next to this huge creature, how would you have the nerve to actually try to kill it and bring it alongside of your ship?

M: That’s a marvelous book about Moby  Dick you have on your coffee table. [Moby Dick, A Picture Voyage, edited by Burt, Thomas and McCabe.] There are some wonderful pictures in this book of the trying process and of a crew actually going after a whale.  You really get the feel of it, the scale of it. It’s one thing to read about it, and you do get the idea that these whales are immense. But when you see a picture of the tiny whale boat next to this huge creature, how would you have the nerve to actually try to kill it and bring it alongside of your ship?

H: And not only kill it, but…

M: Just the sheer labor of it…

H: Cut the head off, cut up the huge slabs of fat…

M: Just to keep going with this a bit, there’s a new movie out, Black Fish (2013), about this orca, this whale, that killed his attendant. He had been captured as a baby and was 32 years old. Well, I’d say he finally got fed up with that. He killed her and tore her apart. Whales as you know are very, very smart. And you know the great seas of the world are their homes, not some tiny cage where they are expected to perform parlor tricks for gawking audiences. Well, this whale had had enough. This horrible event and others like it are bringing to a head the practice of imprisoning wild animals for the entertainment of human beings. Well, the reviews referred to a documentary, The Cove, that came out in 2012; it was filmed in 2006. It’s about this hideous process in Japan of driving dolphins into a little cove where they can’t  get out and then men in four or five boats  set about killing them, killing them, killing them. The sea runs red, literally red.

H: That’s horrible.

M: They try to keep the public from seeing that. The entire area is heavily guarded. But an American team set up a plan, almost like Navy Seals, and managed to record the whole picture of this hideous, hideous thing. They were able to show how Japan has been able to penetrate the National Whaling Society and fix it so that the whaling industry can keep on going. So year after year, the society won’t do anything about this. Japan even pays off various countries to deny  there is any danger to these creatures. No problem. Well, in the last scene of the movie, the man who headed up the team is seen walking into the Society’s annual conference with a TV strapped to his chest with the footage of the cove murders playing across the screen. Oh, and here’s a good one: They take dolphin meat and palm it off as some other kind of meat for school lunches! It’s full of mercury. The Japanese government has allowed these dolphin killers to sell this contaminated meat for school lunches.

H: That’s a tragedy! The organizations that are trying to stop the killing of whales and dolphins are doing the kind of work that Melville was interested in.

M: And Joaquin Miller, of course–anybody who thinks very much about it. There’s no logic to any of this. It’s ironic.  In the process of destroying whales and dolphins, the methods they use are also destroying the sea life in the ecosystem that feeds the human race.

H: Of course. It’s all interconnected. When you kill sharks, for example, you’re killing the top predator on the food chain that’s part of the harmony of the ecosystem. Everything was  in balance. The Indians saw this, and of course Moby Dick is an ecological novel; it focuses on the crimes of an industry.

Spiritual Democracy Is Not Possible in Isolation.

M: You could almost say it advocates stopping the whaling industry. When he makes such a vivid picture of what a whale is and how smart it is, I think he’s really saying, You pursue these creatures at your peril. And to take it in the larger context that you’re taking it in, that peril is not just to you yourself but to the entire interconnected system. You know, I was thinking of the ecosystem and everything else. That’s at the heart of these dialogues, Steven. spiritual democracy hinges on it.

The Self, the Center of the Ecosystem

So my point is this: You can’t kill a dolphin if you think of him as yourself, any more than you would kill yourself…

You can’t kill a dolphin if you think of him as yourself.

I don’t know about our work, but I think as we talk together, you talk of spiritual democracy, and I talk of universal intelligence all being one thing. It’s pretty much the same thing. But let me just emphasize that we humans have been having this discussion ever since we began being conscious of our thoughts. What is our relation to everything else?  Is  there a hierarchy of quickened matter, indeed between the quick and the so called inanimate? It seems simple enough to me. If I see myself as separate-from, then I’ve opened the door to all these atrocities. Most dangerous of all is having an intellectual conception of the ecosystem without wrapping our senses around it. That’s how we’re able to watch an orca at some  aquatic circus and not throw up. Well, that’s quite an essay! Have I distracted you too much?

Most dangerous of all is having an intellectual conception of the ecosystem without wrapping our senses around it.

H: It’s a good entrance into talking about Joaquin Miller and this being his centennial–1913 the year of his death–and finding that little book, that little jewel, The Building of the City Beautiful, is reminding me of where I started in 1995 and 1996, when I was reading Miller…

M: Fill me in. What was the time-line that led to that interest?

H: Well, I had been building a background for the Miller interest from early in my undergraduate work with Bill Everson. My doctorate year was 1995. I was thirty-nine when I wrote my first essay on Dickinson.

M: Ah, yes. Thirty-nine or so is when I should have started my literary readings, because I think a young mind, especially a provincial mind such as mine, isn’t that ready to receive the art. I received a lot of it viscerally, emotionally, but not with the surrounding awareness that you can bring to it at the age of thirty-nine.

H: Well, I was introduced, of course, to Everson when I was twenty-five.

 M: So you already had that. And perhaps at twenty-five you were more intellectually and spiritually mature than I was at that age, but in my particular case I hadn’t really taken full charge of my entity till my late thirties. I think that’s true of lots of people.

Vocational Dreams and Nuclear Symbols

H: So I already had that. And that was there in the background, and through my pursuit of the master’s degree in clinical psychology. And then that led to my writing my master’s thesis on vocation and vocational dreams in early adulthood. Then I went down to interview Everson when I was in my mid-thirties. My dissertation was on vocational development in childhood. I used case studies of children in residential treatment, here in Oakland, at Lincoln Child Center. They were my patients who became subjects for the dissertation study on where these occupational themes begin. So when I later went to look at Melville’s biography, for example, I found that at the age of five he went into his father’s study, and there was a painting of a great whale, and it was being harpooned. He used to sit and meditate by that picture. So that image was with him from the age of five onward. In addition to that there were what I call nuclear symbols of his vocation that emerged at a very early age. Around four he had a dream…

M: Nuclear symbols would be things like special dreams…?

H: Not only dreams. Black Elk heard a voice at the age of five. A bird spoke to him from a tree. Whitman heard the song of the mockingbird as a boy. He saw it flitting to and fro from the nest looking for its mate, and that became the call to his vocation.  Those are examples of what I call the nuclear symbol. I was able through my clinical research to come up with a hypothesis and then see it in literature, see it in poetry, and through these poets write out of that empirical knowledge of how a vocation starts in early childhood. But it was all kind of interconnected and the conversations with Everson were a re-opening of that chapter in my life when I was Everson’s TA and looking at these dreams of vocation at the college entry level.

Happenstance, Synchronicity, and Serendipity

Woodminster Amphitheater: Jack London, Joaquin Miller, “…and they met right here in Joaquin Miller Park.”

But the discovery of Joaquin Miller happened pretty much naturally. Nobody directed me to Miller. When I was at Lincoln Child Center, I used to go and sit by the fountain, by the cascade that was built for the writers of California. I didn’t know it at the time, but that whole amphitheater, Woodminster Amphitheater [about a mile from Steven’s home], was dedicated to the writers of California. It all started with Jack London and Joaquin Miller who started the California Writers Club–which I’m going to become a member of, by the way. It started in 1909, and they together came up with the idea of the small circle readings, and they met right here in Joaquin Miller Park. So the discovery of Miller was a happenstance, a synchronicity, or serendipity.

M: What you’re laying out here are quite a few “happenstances”! You happen to buy your house right up against this park. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, being right here at Joaquin Miller Park is going to have an influence on you. And what you came to discover is exactly about the things you’ve been working on. It fits in perfectly.  And there are other coincidences of yours I can’t recall right now, but I remember there were a few. Weybridge Court [where Steven lives], as you know, fits in with E. M. Forster; it was the place where he wrote A Passage to India, and  as you know, there’s a poem of Whitman’s with that title. And so on. The net has to be there to receive these influences, but you were primed for that. Did you discover Shasta before you started reading about Miller?

Active Imagination

Lake Shasta Dam: “We would go up there in  the summer, usually around two weeks. My father had a boat, and we  used to go  water skiing.”

H: My father and mother used to take the four of us up to Lake Shasta. We would go up there in  the summer, usually around two weeks. My father had a boat, and we  used to go  water skiing. You could see Shasta from the lake. So the Shasta region was imprinted on my psyche. While I was writing about Joaquin Miller, I took my son camping on Mount Shasta, and that was the first time I brought back a number of memories about being up there. I had just read Life Amongst the Modocs [Miller’s book]. What opened my mind to the importance of Miller’s whole work was his 1905 book The Building of the City Beautiful. It really is what Jung calls an active imagination. The dialogue with the soul, the anima [the feminine part of an individual’s true inner self, reflecting archetypal ideals of conduct] appears to Miller right at the beginning of the book. She’s a Russian Jewess, Miriam…

M: It’s like Dante’s Beatrice.

H: Very much so. You could say he made a shift to the feminine. His first anima figure was this Native American woman he married, Sutatot. But at that point he was still projecting his soul- image outward.

M: Yes, he wove her into his novel.

H: That’s the projecting of the anima onto an actual woman.

M: Let me interrupt. Did you see the two-hour documentary on the Lewis and Clark expedition? The heroine of that journey was a Native American woman. Sacajawea  was a fantastic woman, and I think that journey could not have succeeded without her. Sixteen years old and pregnant when she led these thirty-eight Eastern white men across the Rockies, one of the most arduous of journeys from the headwaters of the Missouri all the way to Oregon. Thirty-eight  men on that  trip and only one of them died and that was from a burst appendix.

Sacagawea: Sixteen years old and pregnant when she led these thirty-eight Eastern white men across the Rockies, one of the most arduous of journeys from the headwaters of the Missouri all the way to Oregon.

H: That’s fascinating. That was the beginning of spiritual democracy in this country’s development. She carried that lineage, and Miller like Lewis and Clark had an anima figure who’s an actual woman.

M: Yes.

The Raping of Nature

H: A Native American woman whom he projects this anima onto. And there he comes into connection with the mythology of the Shasta Indians–about the mountain, the great Teepee, the Great Spirit. He has this dream he talks about in Life Amongst the Modocs, the coming together of the tribes and creating a kind of unified front against the forces of civilization that are basically doing what Melville was pointing out just a little bit earlier in Moby Dick, which is raping nature, taking the women, and killing. The paradox about Miller is this shift from being a gold miner in the Shasta region, then becoming an Indian fighter and being hit in the face by an arrow that just about killed him.

M: Maybe in a way it affected his perspective …

H: In the long run, you could say he did, although the tragedy is that he later engaged in the Pitt River battle. He said he even led the bloody expedition and made it a success. And that’s a tragedy.

M: Well, it is, but I guess in his story there’s this dramatic shifting in his way of looking at things. Even when he was a gold miner he was sensing things that maybe his fellow miners were not seeing. In Life Amongst the Modocs, he says, “I was born with a nature that did not fit the molds  of other men.”

H: Definitely. He had a very poetic sensibility.

Ecology and the Role of the Poetic Eye

M: Yes, that comes through in Life Amongst the Modocs. His poetic eye. I’ve never seen better travel writing. If you want people to know what Shasta’s like, hand them that book. These travel pieces you read in the newspaper, they’re so artificial, so unfeeling. Then here’s the beautiful poetic prose.

H: Yes, and once he moved here, to the Oakland hills and began to build–he moved here in 1886, after staying in Washington D. C. for three or four years.

M: Why was he there?

H: He was looking for his muse. He didn’t find her there. Of course, his muse was always in the West, always on the Pacific Basin.

M: Apparently.

H: He stayed with Longfellow and visited Walt Whitman twice. Whitman had great hopes Miller was going to be the great Poet of the Far West–which would fulfill his dream of the poets to come.

M: Maybe he did, but maybe people didn’t receive the message.

An Indigenous Vision

H: I think Whitman was disappointed because he didn’t quite live up to what he had hoped. Of course, Whitman died before he published this book The Building of  the City Beautiful in 1905.  In fact, this book was begun in 1893. Whitman died in ‘92. Melville as well, same year. Melville and Whitman were contemporaries. They were born the same year and died in the same year. Miller was a younger man. When he went to see Whitman, Whitman had just published his great manuscript on spiritual democracy, “Democratic Vistas.” This was before Miller visited London and became famous almost overnight and was called the Poet of the Sierras. But Miller brought back to Oakland an indigenous vision of spiritual democracy. It was not influenced by Whitman.  It was completely original. It was aboriginal. It was located in the mythologies and  rites and rituals of the four tribes of Shasta. For four, five, years up there he was learning the way and  life of the Indians, and it’s in this book as a kind of a myth you could say that’s given to him later by this figure Mariam, who’s the divine feminine voice that speaks to his soul, not just the realms of gold of the imagination. It’s the real thing.

I don’t know if you got a chance to read those two poems I sent you? Miller would immortalize himself as a Pacific Coast poet in one of his best poems cited in the Complete Poetical Works, “The California Poppy.”

The California poppy (golden poppy, cup of gold, or California sunlight) is our thirty- first’s State flower, which grows abundantly in the valleys and foothills of the  Pacific Coast of our United States from Washington to the border of Mexico. Its deep golden-orange flowers span four inches across, with four petals that open to the sun’s glow during daylight, and close during nighttime. When their colors shine during the day from February to September, they radiate with a brilliant sheen. Today the California poppy is pictured on welcome signs along highways entering California. Like Mt. Shasta, Miller helped put the poppy on our maps. In “Dawn at San Diego,” Miller’s quest for the burning bush and Holy Grail ends in the Far West in golden sunsets and finds ultimate peace, as he did on “The Heights,” in our beautiful, golden wild flower:

Such efforts to equate the whole Earth with the goodness of spiritual democracy and its gold-colored hue culminates The Building of the City Beautiful, where Miller writes:  “Man’s books are but man’s alphabet; / Beyond and on his lessons lie–/ The lessons of the violet, / The large, gold letters of the sky”

M: That captures it.

Spiritual Gold, the California Poppy, and the Golden Gate

H: That said, he finds the Holy Grail here in the California poppy, the California state flower. He finds it in nature just like John Muir did. So he’s actually taking the British poets further than the “Sailing to Byzantium,” finding the gold in the imagination, the emotional sphere. He’s  finding  it everywhere in all of Nature surrounding this whole realm. So this is really an evolution, you could say, of the quest for gold down in the cities. He finds it here, actually looking out through the Golden Gate.  That to him is the golden sunset.  He’s actually arrived.  He contemplates that in these beautiful passages, looking out across the Oakland plain, across Alameda, right over your house there. He’s looking out at the ships, through the Golden Gate, towards the  opening that goes to Japan. He writes about this in such a beautiful way.

M: Yes, we could use such writers in the Sunday travel section!

The Strip-mining of the Soul

H: What he did was to transform the quest for the material yellow metal, as the Native Americans called it, into a quest for the spiritual gold, which is the gold of what Whitman calls Spiritual Democracy. The remarkable thing is that Moby Dick was written as a commentary on the California Gold Rush. It was written in 1850. And  Ahab  is  a metaphor for the material rape of the continent in quest of gold, the White Whale. That’s not just my intuition. That’s actually an agreed upon literary interpretation of the novel from a number of literary critics, and so here is Joaquin Miller who is the younger man, younger than Whitman and Melville; he comes along, he was actually there and he tells us what happened. He saw what you read about in Life Amongst the Modocs. He saw the killing of all the salmon up there, on the McCloud River, and the Indians starving because their main source of food was gone. The trout turned up on their bellies in the rivers and died. He saw the strip mining and saw it was the strip-mining of the soul. In “Lessons Not in Books” he says: “Man’s books are but Man’s alphabet.” So he’s finding the gold of God’s lessons in nature. The gold is everywhere. You just have to see it.

So he’s finding the gold of God’s lessons in nature. The gold is everywhere. You just have to see it.

M: Yes. The point, I think, is that what he’s describing is not metaphor. It’s what I would call that-which-is, which is even more grizzly in modern whaling, and the cove in Japan red with the blood of dolphins.

Sweet Divinity Everywhere

H: The real thing. He’s found the place of spiritual democracy. I was touched. This is about the experience of zen. Enlightenment is about seeing divinity everywhere. Here’s the other golden passage in Behold, the City Beautiful. He has a little poem before each of the chapters. This one’s from Chapter 16.

 The sun lay molten in  the sea
Of sand and all the sea was rolled
In one broad, bright intensity
Of gold and gold and gold and gold.

He’s looking through the Golden Gate at the sunset. He’s looking at the real thing. He’s found his place of spiritual democracy. You know, I was  thrilled when I found this  little volume. I got it on Amazon, and it’s in mint condition.

M: You’re very lucky to have that. It’s beautiful. I think I’ll see if I can get a copy. A less than perfect copy would be fine! Blake says “If the doors of perception were cleansed, man would see everything as it is, infinite.” Well, the doors of perception are shut because of the language barrier. We let the alphabet interfere. There isn’t any curtain there. But the  language  process serves as one. We must keep coming back to get rid of that barrier.

…the doors of perception are shut because of the language barrier. We let the alphabet interfere. There isn’t any curtain there. But the  language  process serves as one.

H: Miller struggled with the whole problem of success and failure. He lived through the 1906 earthquake.  He saw the loggers come back to these Oakland redwoods for a second time and take a double cut.

M: When did he die?

H: 1913. Everson was born in 1912. He was around at a very important moment, just before the outbreak of World War I. This was when Jung was beginning his Red Book. Jung was just beginning to discover active imagination. Well, The Building of the City Beautiful is all about active imagination.

M: That’s quite something.

H: Yes. Well, this is what some of these novelists were doing. Melville was doing the same thing in Moby Dick.

M: I think I know the answer to this, but why would Jung think active imagination was such a swell thing?

The Images of Instinct

H: Because it connects one to the collective unconscious and the unity of the cosmos. And that’s where wisdom resides. In the unconscious, in the universe. These archetypes that are images of instinct are there. Now, if we can get in touch with animal powers, which Native Americans had direct contact with, then we might get animal intelligence. Those are images of the instinct. The mother learns wisdom from being a mother and parenting her child.

M: Well, apparently.

From Silly Girl to Motherhood, a Rite of Passage

H: The instinct clicks in, the intuition and sense.

M: I’m always reading about these grandmothers who have such amazing wisdom. And think, they were silly girls at one time. How do they get this?! It must be what you’re saying.

H: Well, I think that with age does come wisdom.

M: I think pregnancy must surely give women–many, certainly not all–a leg up on wisdom. We males need a rite of passage or a knock on the head. [Laughter]

Precognitive Dreams

H: Yes. There’s research on mothers’ dreams. For example, I was at a course this weekend, and somebody in the audience was talking about a mother who had a dream that was precognitive; she had this dream the night before the death of her child. We see this  in the research, sometimes across a span of 3000 miles. Somebody here in California may be dreaming about the death of her child, and then it happens in New York. These things are not that unusual.

M: I’ve read scores and scores of reports of such occurrences.

Directed Thinking, Fantastic Thinking

H: I liked what you said about the alphabet. When we  can get past the  literal, directed, thinking, in which we can get past the word, fantasy thinking, that is what  Jung was  interested in.  When  he wrote Symbols of Transformation, he talked about two kinds of thinking, directed thinking and fantasy thinking. This is fantasy thinking, what he later called active imagination. And that’s where wisdom comes in.

The Wisdom of Trees

At the center of Miller’s book there are a number of things, but a couple I’ll talk about. One is forestry and what he learned from Native Americans about trees. As you know, he was responsible for having planted 70,000 trees up here in the East Bay hills and even in San Francisco, in the Presidio. He was the founder of Arbor Day. He was on the Council for American Forestry. He was very much interested in the relationship between trees and humanity and said that there’s a wisdom in trees and that we’re here to tend the trees, not the other way around. Trees are not here just to serve us. [Gilgamesh destroyed a sacred forest with dire consequences.]

“Where do we learn this? America owes ever so much to the Indians for their care and skill in forestry. But for the savage, so called, we would have found but a barren wasteland along the Atlantic sea coast.”

M: It does seem that humans and trees are fundamentally merged. I’d have to get my senses wrapped around the idea, though, about the Biblical certainty of that.  But in actual fact, I don’t see how we could have pulled it off without them!

H: Miller learned forestry among the Indians of Mount Shasta. He learned  directly  the importance of trees. And we now know scientifically that redwoods are oxygen producers. They store more carbon dioxide in their massive bulk than any other tree. And they are antidote, really, to global warming. Miller somehow intuitively knew this. That’s what you call instinctive knowledge in the unconscious. And it’s not just something he learned intuitively; he learned it directly from Native Americans. When we destroy trees, we destroy ourselves. When we destroy the habitat, as the gold miners did to the McCloud River and great Sacramento and all of those tributaries that were the source of food, then we’re destroying ourselves, and Melville was doing the same thing in Moby Dick: teaching us how to be modest and wise stewards of the Earth and sea. When we kill the whales, butcher them–Ahab is an industry for the production of oil…

M: You were saying earlier, the broader view of him is that in pursuing gold, money, stuff to put in your pocket, you lose track and become obsessed with the process itself.  That becomes a kind of hate that you build into yourself. So you build up that I against you again.

H: I / it.

M: Yes, I/It is better. Well I/Everything Else! By the time he takes that last voyage, he is an obsessed, sick soul.

H: Totally.

M: I think you’ll be able to answer this, but who says Man was created to take care of everything? I like doing it and I feel good about it, but what force created me to take care of stuff?

H: When you say stuff, what do you mean?

M: The universe. The environment I live in. I can answer this for myself. It sounds like a deity.

Churches Illuminated by Whale Oil

H: Well, when you talk about living in harmony with nature, there is an intelligence in nature. I think we both agree on that.  There is intelligence  to the  way ecosystems work. The trees–there  is a certain kind of intelligence in the way they produce oxygen, the way in which they take in carbon emissions, the way they create an atmosphere in which we can live, in which everything can live. We know this. To circle back to your question, we know we  have to live  in harmony with nature because we see what’s happening as a result of fossil fuels. The irony of our discussions about Moby Dick is that whales were the primary source of oil in 1850.  Churches  were illuminated by whale oil. We’re still in quest of fossil fuels, of oil in the Middle East. And Ahab is continuing on his reckless quest.

M: “Reckless” is a good word there.

H: To continue raping and monopolizing the natural resources in nature. Now we’re finally getting it that the effects of all this are these terrible storms on the East Coast.

M: Yes. But even if we didn’t cause any of that, it would not absolve us from taking care of our universe, our planet. What I was getting at is Who made me in charge?  But I think  I can answer it for myself.

H: Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean it makes you in charge of anything, but it does mean we all have to live in harmony.

Being in Charge Is Being in Harmony.

M: Well, I’ll come back to it-that we are, I am, in charge–in this sense: It makes me in charge because I know I’m at the center. Of this universe, my universe, the universe, a universe. I’m at the very center of it. I’m in charge of that because I know it. And you are in charge because you know it.

H: That’s a shamanistic realization. Black Elk said the same thing.

When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the west,  it comes with terror like a thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier; for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm. —From Black Elk Speaks

M: What about this bird out your window there? Is he in charge? I think he is, because he lives in harmony with nature.

H: Right.

M: He’s not doing it perhaps in the same way I am, but I have the option. I now have the burden  or blessing of being aware of all this. So I have to shape up here. Well, I don’t have to. I can ignore it. But then I’m hurting myself. So that’s my view. Again, I cannot bear the idea of an external deity running this.

A Cosmic Harmony

H: I see what you’re getting at. That’s getting at spiritual democracy. You don’t have to  be a  Deist or believe in a Deity. You could be an apostate. You could be an atheist. And still see that everything… there is a cosmos, there is a harmony within it. We do have to wake  up ultimately  and when we do have an inner spiritual realization, that is the first peace, as  Black Elk says, that  is the peace that you realize that you are the center of the universe.

M: So you say, Now what do I do?

Peace at the Center

H: And feeling and experiencing the peace and harmony of living in relationship to the environment and with nature and with all of the animals as our kin. Then there’s a realization of that the Great Spirit is at the center of all things. There is a spiritual presence. Whether you want to call it a god or enlightenment or light or an energy–which is more a scientific idea of it these days–sure there is a light at the center of things. There is a golden light that we can realize and that’s what Miller’s book is all about, bringing this kind of awareness to light. He spent two or three hours in the morning writing poetry. The rest of his day he was working on his stone monuments or cultivating trees.

M: But as soon as you invent a god–and that’s what religions do, every one of them– I’m out of here.

H: I take a somewhat different view. I’ve learned this from Whitman and Melville and Miller as well. There’s a great quote in Moby Dick about realizing the goodness and the beauty in all religions. So what if they want to create a new god out of their images? Every culture does this.

M: Well, there’s the problem, every one of them: The problem is, Yes, create a god. That’s fine. As soon as they do that, then they say, Your god is no good. Mine is better. I was watching a debate between Christopher Hitchens and a god guy. Hitchens took him apart because the history of religion, of organized religion, is a bloodbath. The bloodbath of the cove in Japan I was telling you about.

Cosmic Divinity by Whatever Name

H: Whitman had this big idea to solve this problem. You don’t have to get rid of the deity. You can, but not everybody wants to. Whitman’s point is that we accept everybody’s conception of a deity and not assume ours is any better. I think that’s the realization right there we now need. Along came Alexander von Humboldt in 1844 with his scientific vision of the cosmos. This is what Whitman and Emerson were writing about, this sudden realization that science can come up with a conception of our relationship with the unity of the entire cosmos. Black Elk had been talking about the same thing when he talked about us being at the center of the universe and realizing that we are the center of the universe, and at the center of that is what he called the Great Spirit. That’s what the Sioux did. If they want to place the Great Spirit at the center, that’s fine with me. That’s a divinity, you could say.

M: Let me just complete this thought, though. OK. You said there are people who want to have this situation. Why do they want that?  As Hitchens  was saying, they  want  to be subservient.  They want somebody to take charge outside themselves. They move the center to some kind of guiding force, whatever you want to call it, but it tells me what to do. And according to Hitchens and me, that makes me a slave.

You said there are people who want to have this situation. Why do they want that?  As Hitchens  was saying, they  want  to be subservient.  They want somebody to take charge outside themselves. They move the center to some kind of guiding force, whatever you want to call it, but it tells me what to do. And according to Hitchens and me, that makes me a slave.

H: Well, that’s a projection of a god image outward, outward onto some external object. Definition Tyranny

M: Exactly. That’s why these people flock to church, in order to have that “out-there” tell them what to do. It absolves them of the responsibility of husbanding the Earth themselves. I will do what you tell me, Boss, because if I don’t you’re going to really get mad at me. I find that just repulsive. I can’t do anything about it, and I understand the  poor, sad souls, but they really have to get rid of definition tyranny and let loose, let go. I think that’s what you would say at bottom, that you have to let them have their religion.

H: Oh, absolutely. That’s the whole beauty of spiritual democracy. Whitman’s  realization is that all are equals.

M: Sure.

Absolutism in Religion

H: There is not superiority, no better than. Your belief is as good as anybody else’s.  I think there’s something about that that neutralizes this war of religions that  you’re talking about, the war of the better-than. My god is the god, the absolute. Jung was really big on tearing down and confronting directly the absolutism of religion. At the center, what  did he  place at the  center? The Self. Now, the Self is an archetype that’s in you, and that’s what you’re talking about. And it’s in the person next to you, the I and the thou. So you see, it’s everywhere. This is really, I think, a solution to the bickering and backbiting that goes on in spiritual debates.

M: It’s almost ridiculous.

H: Not almost. It is!

M: But a dialogue among religions, if you could have such a thing, would be lovely. But they don’t have dialogues. You have attempts to force the other guy  to submit to your view.  Every one of the so-called dialogues is a power play. Everyone is trying to force the other guy to admit he’s right. The god-fearing guy says to Hitchens at the end of the debate, “You hate God. God loves you.” And his followers in the audience clapped. He thought he’d won the argument.

Go Outside and Look at the Stars.

H: That’s a great segue to “When I Heard the Learned Astronomer” which we looked at earlier. In 1865, right after the Civil War, Whitman writes this beauty. What happens  in the poem?  He’s in the audience, and it’s all about astronomy, the new science. Science is the new God. The astronomer’s got it all figured out with his charts. Whitman feels sick and tired. He goes outside  to look at the stars. He doesn’t argue  with the learned astronomer. He goes outside to look at the stars. That’s really the key here. We all have a vision. We all have to find out what that  vision is.  When we do, we can bring our own contribution to this discussion. There’s no argument.

M: Give me a punch line. I have to go home now. [Both laugh.]

H: Well, get the book and read it and maybe we can have a discussion about it when we get together next time. In a sense, it’s Joaquin Miller’s wisdom stored up from all the years that comes out of the Gold Rush. It’s interesting how much forestry is a part of it and the process of creating the kind of spiritual gold that comes from having a symbolic life through visioning methods. We talked about methods that can help students toward seeking their own vision in the field of literature. To learn from someone like this how to engage in active visioning, there’s  some gold in the teaching.

To Release Our Capacity for Active Imagination

The idea of a Universityi:To learn how to activate or release your capacity for active imagination.

M: What you just said probably is the conclusion: To learn how to activate or release your capacity for active imagination.


Dialogue # 17: Compassion, Bliss, and the Quest for the Ground of Being

June 10, 2013

In this dialogue, Steven and I continue examining the role of compassion in the Spirit’s quest of a ground of being in the physical world.  Then we look at how a liberal education might aid this process or how a university might interfere with it.  We go on to talk about how  he shaman, the roshi, the teacher and the therapist go about their work.]

Spiritual Democracy in the Realms of Gold

H: Clark, let’s take a minute  to talk about turning these  dialogues we’ve been having into a book. I feel we’ve been developing a great theme as we interweave our two emphases, mine Spiritual Democracy and your thoughts that you put into your Realms of Gold manuscript. And they overlap beautifully.

M: I do agree. For me, going back and forth as we do, fills in the picture of how things are that’s been my focus throughout my life, even before I was consciously aware of it. But I think the way these dialogues work, they are indeed like a stage play. They may seem like friendly casual chats, but every one of them rises to a peak and comes to a point, just the way a play is structured. So I think this structure, a dialogue between two people about how the cosmos works –you, Steven, a Jungian therapist, and me, talking with you as I used to do with human souls who  would appear  in my college classes every semester. I do know thousands of them loved this process.

Melville’s Great Whale of a Novel and All the Barnacles

H: One thing we were touching on–and we circle back to this theme a few times–is what people really want to know about is the therapeutic nature of language, in terms of keeping a journal or taking an English course… I think what’s behind all this is compassion.

M: Well, I’d put it that people, their selves, their spirits, most assuredly do want the kind of  therapy that’s perhaps only available through language. But, my, yes, I’m glad you bring in compassion.  That’s a word I’ve  thought  a lot about, com-passion.   People confuse  that with pity–which is almost the polar opposite. You and I are well aware of the drive of the Spirit for a voice.

H: Because, you know, the language-shaper is really, in his or her deepest foundation, hoping the reader will really catch on. You’ve used that phrase a number of times in  our dialogues. And when a reader does catch on, then she realizes suddenly that this could actually change her life. So there’s a certain compassion the author has in writing a book, I think, toward the intended reader, because ultimately com-passion is suffering with. So, as you said earlier, about not wanting to be a slave, in some way there’s a labor of love. I think  that’s  part of this  ship that we’re all on, as Melville says in Moby Dick, “We all need to scratch each other’s backs.” We’re all slaves on the ship. And we’re wedded to our vocation, and in a sense that means work, and work always means some kind of suffering. And it means some kind of sacrifice. You and I could be out playing golf right now, but instead you’ve chosen to be here at 8 A. M. It takes  energy and effort and will to be here. But it also takes intelligence and it takes compassion.

M: I’d like to put in a few touches to the idea of com-passion, though. I’m resisting the word “suffer.” Maybe if we use it in the 16th century meaning, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” that would be fine. It does require effort, it does require sweat or at least full attention. Let’s take up the word “passion”, though. If we say “compassion,”  generally people do associate  it with the idea of suffering, but I think in com-passion, there’s a passion that’s being shared, not necessarily in the conventional sense of suffering. There’s a kind of joy involved. To me compassion is almost equal to love in the deepest, richest sense. Love doesn’t make it seem like hard work; you just do it. I have that scattered all over Realms of Gold. I guess I’d say that I don’t feel pain digging a ditch in my back yard. I don’t really mind that. I’m actually glad to have my shoulder to Sisyphus’s boulder.


It doesn’t matter whether  I get there or not. I’m going to just keep walking.

There’s a case of a rugby player whose plane went down in the Andes. Most of the people were killed, but a dozen or so weren’t and this one person, Nando Parrado and his friend Roberto Canessa chose to walk out for help. They weren’t even dressed for the extreme cold of 12,000 feet, only their sneakers and a light jacket. They did get out, and  did get  help, but Parrado said that what kept him going was his love for his father. He said to himself , It doesn’t matter whether  I get there or not. I’m going to just keep walking. And that’s what he did. But that’s com-passion, that deep love beyond mere affection. This is the ground of being really, functioning in a human being. I think of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, even Bobby Kennedy in his later years. They don’t feel like they’re cleaning up human excrement, wading through those foul smells, because they’re overcome by com-passion. It’s not at all like I feel sorry for you. It’s participating in this life up to your neck. How does that sound?

H: That sounds good.  I was thinking of the role of the psychotherapist being similar to that  of an English teacher, in the sense that a psychotherapist works out of compassion.

M: Yes. Well, whether it’s a teacher, a clerk at McDonalds, a social worker, a spouse, it has to begin with compassion. It can’t be faked and it can’t be done mechanically from a rule book. Com-passion, passion with.

H: People come to us because they need our help. They are suffering. Every student comes to the English teacher because she’s looking for help with language. She’s looking for help in being a better writer so she can get a degree, so she can get a job and work in the world, and maybe be a writer, maybe become a poet. So that work you’re doing is  really directed at the  foundation of her being. Evoking that is the main thing.

A Therapy of Health

M: Well, evoking is exactly the right word, yes. But let me add a little to the idea, at least regarding students who would arrive in my college English classes. I came to see the atmosphere in my classes and a kind of therapy of health. I didn’t think of those fellow human beings as ailing but rather as fellow adventurers, bright-eyed and alive. Yes, their spirits were yearning to be free, yes indeed. And college can be and should be what that’s all about.  So, if these young people were feeling confined, it was because they were under the yolk of practical people’s expectation of them. But I think, too, that at some level they all had a joyous anticipation of this Western-style rite of passage.

H: With joy, joyous participation. Compassion is about bliss, actually.

M: I think that’s exactly right.  You’d think the horrors some of the great martyrs suffered would  be without mitigation, insufferable agony. But as  someone  pointed out, when you see paintings of a saint in ecstasy, that’s that step beyond agony, the transformation into ecstasy.

You have noticed that the truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping.
When people are already in despair, maybe the laughing face is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better for them to see.”
— From Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt, 1932

You’d think, this is terrible, but as someone pointed out, when you see a picture of a saint in ecstasy, that agony and ecstasy are almost identical. I said in one  of our  dialogues that  I think the ecstasy kicks in at a critical instant and transforms into pure, pure, timeless joy, a different dimension altogether. I do think that’s the case. But don’t ask me to test it out! [Laughs]

H: In those paintings, yes.

The Quest for the Ground of Being

M: In those paintings you see exquisite participation in the act of being, I think you could say. I wanted to add that we go to college so that we can take charge of our own language, or voice, as you would say. You want to take charge of your own vocation, which emerges through language.

H: That’s right. Through language, through the  act of speaking,  and  through  vocalization the Self emerges. Vocalism, as Whitman called it is the way to make this emergence happen.

M: I think, as I said, as I always say, everybody wants that. What art has to do is trick them into realizing that. That is, it comes over us when we’re doing something else.  All of a sudden you say Oh!

As I said, I don’t think kids come to Diablo Valley College wanting English. They come because they have to take it as a required subject. The institution itself thinks we have these kids in freshman English so they can write, so that they can become cogs in the wheel, to be able to write reports and stuff like that. Many teachers have forgotten the reason for a university in the first place, which is to look out at the world in a larger sense, to do what we’re talking about. The whole purpose of a higher education is to “know thyself.” That’s what  it’s about.  Everybody  now talks about it as if it’s to get a job.

H: To get started, everyone does need a vision. And that’s why Yeats said after you have a vision, you want another. And that’s it. I think the helpful thing about looking at these American poets and the English poets for models is that they all have a vision that’s their own. Every student who comes into an English class who reads that line will want to have a vision, will wonder about it, will wonder what he’s talking about.

The Shaman’s Art

M: You have to present it in such a way that he or she can’t help wondering about it. That’s where the shaman’s art—or the roshi’s or Jungian therapist’s or the English teacher’s at Diablo Valley College– comes in.

H: The psychotherapist is in the same boat. The patient hears about dream interpretation, about active imagination, about vocalism. They want to know how to do it. They want something practical. These dialogues you and I are having demonstrate one effective and uncomplicated way a way to engage the imagination through speech, even just a casual dialogue like the one we’re having right now.

A Dialogue with the Self

M: I want to throw this into our dialogue while we’re talking about it. In the classes I realized at some point that I never talked to students’ surface features. I always talked to their souls. We talked to each other via our souls. I noticed this really strongly when the kids would be having a party; they reverted to their superficial selves. In our classes we only talked to each other in that deeper sense, that authentic voice back and forth. That’s what’s so powerful.  I didn’t  know at the time that that’s what I was doing. It was just what I did.

H: It was a true dialogue.

M: Yeah. Exactly.

H: Most students have and I/thou relationship to their teachers. They are students and the  person up in front is the teacher. There’s never a kind of meeting halfway. What you were doing was evoking an I/Thou relationship with the soul and not just treating them as students. Actually you were talking to the teacher in them, too.

I/Thou = One.

M: It’s interesting that you bring that up, because I was looking at Buber’s I and Thou book, not reading it but thinking about the title. When that book came out years ago [1923], people got very interested in having dialogues about it. Now when I think about it, I think, That’s so obvious! You know, there isn’t any I/Thou. There’s just One.  This separation Buber was  talking about, this separation is so artificial to me now, there isn’t any separation whatsoever. It’s  absurd to even talk that way, because it’s a oneness that’s going back and forth.

H: Well, I think that’s what he was getting at.

M: Yes. He was. But the audience of his day was thinking, Wow! What do you mean!? I am separate. That guy over there is a different being altogether. That’s what he was fighting against, but that to me is absurd. I think the I/Thou is still a strong concept with most people.

H: Buber said you can have an I/Thou relationship to a dog. Or a tree.

M: Well, that’s where I go with this idea. But we have to wrap our senses around the tree to the point where our two entities merge. That’s it.

H: You know, I’m going to go out and fence those redwood trees, because I don’t want the goats eating them.

M: Let’s print it this way, Steven:

I’m going out and fence
those redwood trees
because
I don't want the goats
eating them.

If you want to be an environmentalist, you can start there.

H: Karl Staubach had something to say about trees.

M: Oh, yeah! He really does see them as fellow beings and not as lesser beings. That’s critically important. I see them that way, too, but not to the depth that he does. I still have  work  to do!  Well, sometimes I do feel that empathy. That Chief Seattle letter to Franklin Pierce that I put in my book Thinking about Thinking does bring me up close to what must be natural for Karl.

H: Whitman said those redwood trees had a soul in “Song of the Redwood Tree.” When the teamsters cut down that big tree in Mendocino and Whitman read about it…

M: There should have been a national mourning.

H: Yes, “A song to spiritual democracy,” and that’s the beauty of language. True compassion. Now, there’s compassion for you. Whitman’s compassion extended from Camden, New Jersey, all the way over to Mendocino, California. That’s how big his compassion was.

M: It can only reach out to that extent by getting to know, first, the birds, trees, shrubs and bugs  in your back yard. They are the envelope you walk around in.  That’s your exoskeleton, after all. You are made up of those elements.

H: Whitman never set foot in California. He never saw a redwood tree. He only got as far as the Rockies.

M: That’s pretty good for an Easterner. I knew guys in New England who never got beyond Massachusetts.

Miracles Everywhere, Everywhere

H: He certainly wrote a beauty when he penned that poem. And that was a vision. Like  Yeats  said, you want another, and there was another for Whitman. Whitman’s was so large that he saw miracles  everywhere.   I  mean,  everywhere!   Everything  was a miracle.    And I think you can develop that part of the brain.

M: There you go! I think you’re right.

H; I want to take my thought a little bit further about Whitman’s  compassion for the  redwood tree. I was working on my manuscript and tending the redwood trees out in the Park here  right next to our home.  I had a dream there was an enormous  redwood tree right outside my  window.  It was towering and the tree was speaking to me and it was thanking me for doing this work.

M: When was this?

H: It happened about two months ago. The tree had compassion toward me. I considered, Was this the soul of the redwood tree speaking to me?

M: Yep. That redwood tree in your dream was telling you that it shares life with you, that you and it are—scientifically and poetically—one life. We have to arrive at that shared passion. And I’d say com-passion is not too farfetched a word for that relationship. When we cross over to that level, we get our ecologist’s license.

“God Shed His Grace on Thee.”

H: I began to think that my ego, my perception of myself was being altered. You know, we think that our little acts, the things we do in life, as little acts of compassion. But that was a big act of compassion, for that big tree to have compassion toward me, and  thankful  praise for the  couple of little trees I planted. I think  that  these trees  have a consciousness of their own.  What  we did to these trees, butchering these trees in these hills, is heart breaking. That’s still here, just like the tragedy of what we did to the Indians, the grief of nature.


A tree doesn’t need to have a brain because a tree itself is a brain.

M: Let me just pause and think about that a little bit. I love the idea of the redwood conferring its grace on you. In Intelligence in Nature, Jeremy Narby says you can think of it this way: A tree doesn’t need to have a brain because a tree itself is a brain. Because if you are a brain . . .

H: Let me tell you, there’s a consciousness in that tree.

M: Yes. And if the tree itself is a brain, it doesn’t need a brain. A tree is an intelligent organism, just as your being is an intelligent being functioning on its own quite comfortably in the Earth, thank you very much. Your cells have intelligence all by themselves. They know exactly what to do. They don’t have to consult with a command center up in the skull.

H: Those trees know how to create water. They go up into the fog belt and they water their own roots.

M: And if a tree doesn’t like where it is, it can move over to where’s it’s nicer.

H: That’s what Karl Staubach said!

M: That’s true, that’s literally true. The walking palm tree really does: [Here’s a quote: “The tree slowly “walks” from shade to sunlight by growing new roots toward the light and allowing the old roots interfering with its wanderlust to die.”] You’ve seen trees lean in a certain direction. It’s the same thing.

H: And they create oxygen. This atmosphere we breathe, this beautiful air. What are we doing? Deforestation. Getting back to spiritual democracy, Humboldt was a great inspiration to Emerson and Whitman and Darwin and Muir. One thing Humboldt was very concerned about was deforestation in Ecuador and other parts of South America. This was in 1804. We’re  talking about the father of the ecology movement.

M: That was quite a vision, wasn’t it, to see the implications of deforestation. If you have a narrow view of your world, you might think, So what if we kill of a lot of trees in South America?

Gigantic Sky Rivers

[From the San Francisco Chronicle, 12/5/14, “The cutting of trees, the scientists say, is hindering the immense jungle’s ability to absorb carbon from the air—and to pull enough water through the tree roots to supply gigantic ‘sky rivers’ that move more moisture than the Amazon river itself.”]

H: We’re killing ourselves.

M: I think we probably are killing off the planet. But I think the universe would probably experience it like a kernel of corn not materializing. This planet is a speck, after all, in the scheme of things.

One thing about your work is that your patients actually seek you out and they actually pay you. So you have a highly motivated audience. Everybody who comes to you. You see them on-on-one, like Socrates.

H: Well, you could say college students are paying the school to educate them. And believe me, it’s expensive. I know of patients who are a hundred thousand dollars in debt!

M: Just think. When you came to Diablo Valley College, it was free.

H: It was free.

M: It could still be that way, but it’s those strange, practical brains we were talking about. They cannot envision the value of having that stranger be educated. They can’t see the  connection.  They don’t see their own self-interest being destroyed by creating these horrible hoops you have to go through. But as I said, I don’t think kids know they’re going to college because of what you and I think it’s all about. Now, I know that, yes, their souls demand to be liberated, but I don’t think kids do go to college, as a rule, with that kind of awareness. Where would they ever get it? They don’t get it in their schools.

H: I’m talking about my own experience, of course… I had the good fortune of ending up in your class.

M: You also had the good fortune of having two highly educated parents.

H: Yes, both taught foreign languages at DVC and then I met Katherine Taylor and William Everson.

M: Most kids come out of homes that don’t even read novels, or look at art, or anything that points towards the liberation of the human spirit.  They think  that what they’re feeling is an urge to have a good time, and that you do that by having a lot of loud music, all sorts of superficial stuff that doesn’t penetrate to the spirit but actually diverts them from that. Their instincts are right, of course. The Spirit does indeed want a place to have a good time, a wonder-full time, but that wonderful time is that place of gold vermilion at the heart of matter, the fire of the atom’s core.

H: Well, you’re right about my parents. My mother was reading Camus, she was reading Jung. You took her French class at DVC. She read Camus in French and English.

M: I wasn’t at that level!

H: Back to what you were saying. You know, you’re challenging my basic hypothesis that every student who took your class, every student who was there, was looking for a vision.

M: Well, challenging in that they were consciously looking for it.

H: Well, maybe not consciously.

M: There were a few people that maybe with a bit of background…

Looking for a Vision

H: I think everybody, at least in their unconscious, is looking for a vision.

A taste for beauty

M: Oh, my, yes! I’m sure we agree on that. Here’s the other thing that I think is true. Yes, every one of those people is looking for a vision, despite having lived through a superficial world that their parents were living and so forth, everything on the surface, nothing of the soul, nothing touching the heart of being. In my home I never heard my parents talk about anything, anything  at all, being beautiful. I should add, though, that that Scotch-Irish environment may have modeled for me a taste for beauty, my mother in her flower garden, my father in taking  us five kids  on hikes up in Chestnut Ridge just out our backyard on a Sunday afternoon. My sense of nature must surely have been nurtured in that household.

H: And that brings us back to compassion. I wanted to ask you a question. I was looking on Wikipedia trying to find more on the background of the word…

M: When were you doing that?

H: Yesterday.

M: Because I’ve just been thinking about that word.

H: That’s interesting, because as we’ve been saying, there is a Field, and I think at times in these dialogues we seem to be receptive to the activation of this Field.

M: Yes.

H: Well, I was thinking about blue whales just this week, and you think blue whales are interesting.

M: That’s very interesting!

Leaps of Shadow into Light

H: I was thinking that there must be a reason why the Buddha, when he was asked by his disciple, what is the teaching of the Dhamapada, what is the basic teaching? He said it can all be summed up in one word, compassion. So that’s interesting. When you think about a person like that, a person who’s been enlightened, and who sees the world in a particular way, like Walt Whitman did–because I think he’s the American Buddha.

What we’re talking about, that part of the brain, the neuro anatomy being that developed, that it “leaps out of shadow into light,” some kind of light that transcends that negative part of the brain that you were talking about, that suddenly compassion encompasses everything. Buddha had compassion for everything.

M: That’s well put. Yes, some go so far that they wouldn’t step on an ant, and so forth, because they have that com-passion. We go ahead and eat meat, but some Indians did thank the deer who provided them with that meat. That’s the key, isn’t it? To have this enveloping com-passion so that you know what you’re doing when you eat anything, anything at all, when you’re making love, when you’re typing a transcript! So I think to say I would never step on an ant is stupid, but when you step on him, you have to realize what you’re doing. You realize the chain of life that’s involved. This walking around with awareness is a key.

H: Some kids these days live in places where they have gates around their houses. They live in downtown, here in Oakland, and it’s a war zone down there.

M: It sure is. I drive through there.

H: A few have no contact with nature. Yet here’s Joaquin Miller Park right here. It’s  only  a couple of miles from their homes. They could come up and be in nature and sit under a redwood tree. When I grew up we were always barefoot. We were always running through the fields. We had as much nature as you could possibly want.

M: I know.

H: The way to school was…

M: A walk through the park!

H: I saw monarch butterflies every year–transformed out of these wonderful chrysalises, caterpillars that had been an egg. I remember watching the whole process. Beautiful!

M: Back to the practicality of what we’re talking about, we have to do some stage magic to trick people into this way of perceiving or of experiencing whatever’s going on right now. It’s not necessarily a trick so much as catching their eye.

H: Well, a little bit of the Trickster is O.K.  The Native Americans  really valued the Trickster as a divinity. I think it’s a part of it, but “catching the eye,” follow that up. That may be the larger part. How do you catch the eye of a student?

Running to Nature’s God

M: Here’s an example. You learn how to participate in the established order—how to invite your soul into the midst of a marketplace environment. You don’t mess with that.  But within that, you go ahead and work on your vocation. Anyway  I have a friend  is  a very good Catholic.  He  runs to church a lot.

H: He runs to church?

M: I’m just joking about that.

H: Well, that’s an interesting way to put it because I have a quote here from Meister Eckhart. I think we all want to run into Nature’s God.

M: I see your point.

H: I was just reading a sermon of Eckhart’s. He said we all want to run into peace.

M: What did he mean by that? Do you have the piece handy?

Eckhart, the Master Craftsman

H: It’s quite amazing actually. Meister Eckhart certainly isn’t the Catholic Church, but people do find peace in the Church—many are magnificent, really—and whatever you find peace in, that’s where God is. Because that’s one of the experiences one has when one is in God. And God’s  inside of us. That’s where Eckhart comes in. He was a master craftsman of German vernacular language and a master poet.

The Ebullient Spirit

M: It sounds to me, from how you describe his sermons, like he didn’t craft them so much as generate them on the spot? As though it came bubbling out of him.

H: That’s a good metaphor for it. He does speak of it as bubbling. That’s one of the synonyms for ebullient, ebullience.

M: Oh, yes. Well, there are a lot of words like that, directly inspired, for example.  When you trace them back to their roots, you get the poetic power of such words. I think last time we talked about what Jung said in his introduction to Suzuki’s book, that it would be difficult to practice Buddhism in our Western world  because we  weren’t  prepared for it, but I argued that the information has always been in the Christian world. If you read scriptures the way I think you could, Zen Buddhism was in my Sunday School class. The teachers didn’t know it, but that’s what I was getting out of it. It’s the oneness, it’s all that Zen and Buddha embody.

Beyond Knowledge — Love, Compassion

H: You were absolutely right on. Jung, of course, says that. Who did he quote in that essay but Eckhart? Let me read you this. “To know what the soul is? One needs supernatural knowledge. …We know a little about this but not very much. What the soul is in its ground no one knows. What one can know about it must be supernatural. It must be from grace. That is where God  works compassion. I say that beyond these two, knowledge and love, beyond these, there is compassion. In the highest and purest acts that God works, God works compassion.” Now, that’s pure Buddhism right there.

M: Yes. Do you think Eckhart was using the word God metaphorically?

H: I’d have to think about that.

M: The Christians annoy me with the idea of a personal type of God.

H: Well, that’s why Eckhart distinguished between God and the Godhead.

M: Ah. OK.

Leaving God for God

H: The Godhead is nothing. It’s the transcendent dimension beyond God. He says, “My highest prayer will be leaving God for God.” By that he means God for the Godhead.

M: Yes. That’s their vital distinction.

H: Atman for Anatman.

M: Earlier, you used a synonym for satori. What was it?

H: Oh, Ananda.

Illuminating Our Facts

M: OK. And Ananda is bliss. In passing, I should tell you, when people hear about the things I’m interested in, say, “Oh, let me bring you this  . . .” And I think, No, don’t bring me  anything else. I don’t need  it.  This is not  helping.  All I need to do is sit down and  explore this.  I have plenty of material. Plenty of material. What happens a lot with our dialogue is that this is an enriching of what we’re doing.

H: You said something last time that I wanted to ask you about. You were talking about looking  at my face, or looking at me and seeing sunlight. Then you talked about seeing sunlight in all  your students’ faces. What do you mean by sunlight?

M: I mean the concept first. Sort of like the concept of God, I guess. You start with the concept that I know you are sunlight. I know that you are. That’s what you’re made up of physically.

H: That’s the part I wanted to know more about. How am I made up physically of sunlight? I know it’s true that these plants couldn’t exist without sunlight.

From Concept to Pure Energy

M: Well, there are several levels of that idea. The Earth is literally a piece of the Sun, literally, every bit of it is sun-stuff. The so-called elements.  What you really are is energy.  That, I think, is a concept that we can all grasp, although we may  not sense it consciously.  So I can start there. I can see you as a concept. But then when I relax a little, I see you as pure energy. That’s not a mystical thing. But it feels mystical sometimes when I see people sitting in McDonalds. Don’t  take it too deeply, but sometimes I sense it pretty strongly.

H: What do you sense?

 Bundles of Sunlight Sitting Around Sipping Coffee

A little bundle of the universe , sitting around

I sense that this old guy eating his muffin and enjoying it, some old lady with all her rings, sitting looking out at the Bay, I realize, I realize, what they are. These manifestations, these little bundles of the universe sitting around, I realize that.

M: Well, I sense that this old guy eating his muffin and enjoying it, some old lady with all her rings, sitting looking out at the Bay, I realize, I realize, what they are. These manifestations, these little bundles of the universe sitting around, I realize that.

H: If that’s true, and I do think you’re right, because we started focusing our dialogues after you asked me to read McTaggart’s The Field. And of course there we’re talking about energy  and light. The whole book starts with light. Why then is more than half of the brain operating in this negative field that you were talking about earlier? What’s going on? Why are human beings so preoccupied with negative thinking patterns?

M: Uhhh. That’s good! [Laughs]

H: These plants I don’t think have any negative thinking patterns.

M: Oh, I think they do.

H: Do they? Tell me about that.

M: It’s what you said. The negative is where the stuff isn’t.

H: They know where not to go.

M: They know what’s not there.

H: Why are human beings so out of touch with knowing what’s good for them?

M: Ummm.

H: That’s a big question.

M: Well, I’ll have to ponder that a little. Why are we so screwed up? [Laughs] We seem to be the most screwed up of any aspect of our universe.

H: Robinson Jeffers said that civilization had taken a wrong turn somewhere.

M: A goodly portion of it, yes. It’s like people who want to go to war all the time. People in Bush’s administration had those kinds of brains. They couldn’t envision anything else. I have to fall into the universe in order to escape from this delusion.

Yes, I think compassion would be the capacity for inclusion of that as part of myself.

H: Absolutely.

M: And of course this can’t be faked. It truly has to be a change in me.

H: And that’s the running into peace. Go in peace. It’s about going into a quiet, silent, meditative place where you can find your center again. And letting go is key. Let go of any external fights that are keeping us from being at one.

[A short break]

Active Imagination

H: Lori and a colleague are doing some teaching on active imagination in analysis. By that she means the practical application of it in the psychotherapy process. For example, a patient comes in, has had a dream, and wants to do some kind  of exploration about the meaning of the  dream. So she starts with an image–because that’s all we can ever start with. The students meditate on  the image. You allow the image to unfold, either through the use of expressive arts, such as drawing with pastels or with colored pencils, or maybe sand play. Or movement, where she brings the image into movement so that one becomes the image. One embodies the image to move, and one is the image. Or one vocalizes it. One writes. One allows it to have a voice.

M: That’s exactly what I was trying to do, not necessarily conscious of it, but always trying  to get people into catching on to what they’re actually doing.

What you’re describing reminds me of what we were saying earlier about wrapping the senses around the facts, but here it’s wrapping them around the image. So how long did they talk?

H: Each about three hours.

M: Wow!

H: We had breaks, and  we  had exercises.

M: So it was a well-worked up presentation.

H: Oh, yes, and it was participatory. We went out in the garden and we did different movements. And it was really wonderful. In a sense you were using forms of active imagination in your class.

.

Dialogue # 16: The Emerging Self, Journal Writing, and Reflective Writing; Meister Eckhart, Dag Hammarskjold, Herman Melville, and Tamerlane

April 22, 2013

–Thoreau

[In this far-ranging dialogue, Steven and I  continued talking about practical ways of inviting the Spirit into daily life. All sort of connections began popping up among major Eastern and Western thinkers– as well as the cumulative thought of thinkers of past decades and millennia.]

Therapeutic Writing

M: Let’s talk about writing as a way of extending or deepening the sorts of subjects you and I talk about. You use what I loosely called therapeutic writing. Do you use journaling with all your patients?

H: I do use it with everybody. Not everybody is able to use it in a consistent way the way I do. Sometimes they’ll use it for a month or two. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have a homework assignment. It’s just a suggestion. They don’t have to use it.  I frame it as a method that can be used to help the therapeutic process. Depth is the key.

Bringing to the Surface What Makes Things Sparkle


My therapy seemed to start with everybody being just fine, and what we did was to release or bring to the surface what’s fine about them.

My therapy, as I looked at it from  a distance, seemed to start with everybody being just fine, and what we did was to release or bring to the surface what’s fine about them

M: I’ve been thinking about therapy in general. I remember years ago thinking it all through, and I thought that some therapy involves someone coming to you with an illness, perhaps an emotional discomfort of greater or lesser intrusion on that person’s daily life. So the therapy would be to help them get better. My therapy, as I looked at it from  a distance, seemed to start with everybody being just fine, and what we did was to release or bring to the surface what’s fine about them. So we would be working on the stuff that makes things sparkle–which we all do have within us, as we’ve noted in our dialogues, and in the language I use in my manuscript, it’s the realms of gold that we’re mining. There’s nothing wrong. Let’s  say you feel shame.  There’s nothing wrong with that. Let’s see how we can use that. I wouldn’t actually say that, but the experience we’d be going through would allow people to take possession of whatever’s going on in them and own it. I didn’t say any of this. I’m articulating it as we’re sitting here, but that’s essentially what would happen. Essentially, that’s what you and I talk about. We talk of people going out the door every day, and there’s someplace they have to be and those things we do, and maybe your wife gets mad at you, and all the stuff we stub our toes on. And rather than thinking This is just plain terrible; life is a big pain, you think, This is what it is; let’s work with it. Everything’s great. And not fake it. Just take hold of life and live it.


Just take hold of life and live it.

There’s nothing wrong.

Well, back to journal writing. Here’s what I think. A person has to come to me with something he or she wants, and then I can respond to it. I can’t tell that person what they need. They have to initiate it somehow. Then I can say, “Well, you know what, ..”  Or, “Why  don’t  you try this . . .?” Imagine how it would go if I started by saying, “I know what’s  wrong with  you. Now let me fix this up.” That’s essentially what teachers do all the time. The kid comes in, and the teacher says, “You don’t know how to write.” That kid doesn’t know how to write. I’m going to show him how to write. The kids say, “No, you’re not!” whether he knows it consciously or not. The reason is what you would say: The Self wants to have its own voice.  It  doesn’t want to use someone else’s voice. It will refuse it. Whether anyone  is conscious of this insistence or not, no matter what good intentions may be at play, there’s a fundamental mistake in thinking that there’s something wrong with that person. And there’s an essential mistake in thinking you can help that person. That person in the midst of your environment can do a lot for himself or herself. What your job is is to set up an environment where this Self can come forth.

I think you do that in your work. The kid comes in and plays in the  sand box.  You  let that playing blossom, as I understand it. Do other Jungians use journaling?  Do any  use writing the way you do?

The Intensive  Journal in Jungian Therapy

H: I don’t know that anyone does in the way that I do. But there are many who do use some form  of writing as part of their therapy. The journal method in Jungian psychology  really starts  with Ira Progoff, The Intensive Journal. He’s the one who popularized it.  He was describing it about the time you were doing your courses. Progoff was a social psychologist. He wrote a book called Jung, Synchronicity & Human Destiny. He went to  Zurich to  interview Jung,  and  later became an Intensive Journal guru and gave these workshops.

M: I had read a book of his, along with two or three dozen other books on writing. All kinds of little ideas would pop in here and there. Now I see why it’s significant in your work, because it’s very much tied in to Jungian psychology.

H: I didn’t discover Progoff till right before I went to U.C. Santa Cruz. It was that time liminal between DVC and U.C. Santa Cruz when I was reading all the Jungian texts I could get my hands on. Progoff of course was very popular at the time.

M: But just think, you’ve been using this technique, possibly back to when you were a student at DVC.…

H: That’s what I wanted to speak with you about. I think my influences are pre-Jungian.

M: Yes.

H: The first time I read anything by Jung, I think, was in Image, a quote from Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. I was spontaneously developing my journaling technique in English 122.  You had written in the margin of my journal, “This style reminds me of Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings.” So I picked up a copy. Interestingly, I went back and re-read the whole book last week and realized that it’s too limiting to say my journal method is Jungian.

M:                          That’s right.

Dag Hammarskjold’s Spontaneous Diary Writing

Dag Hammarskjold

H: Markings was a journal method Hammarskjold  was  using on his  own spontaneously.  It  was in a diary format, but it was where he wrote down his thoughts. He didn’t publish it in his  lifetime. He left it in his desk drawer for his friend and colleague to publish after his death. Markings is unique in that, first of all, he  was the second Secretary General of the UN and was very much  in the forefront of shaping history, peacekeeping between nations. The interesting thing is that it was at the same time that I discovered Meister Eckhart. Hammarskjold, as you know, has numerous quotations from Eckhart. I looked that up and found more information about it. I think it’s significant in terms of tracing the background of the method  that I use and  I think  similar to the method that you picked up–through perhaps your reading of Hammarskjold as well and maybe Progoff,’s The Intensive Journal. And  Progoff  studied Meister Eckhart, and Jung was  a student of Meister Eckhart…

M: My, my, my!

Cross Fertilization: Jung, Zen, Eckhart, Hammarskjold, Progoff, Steven, and Clark

H: And wrote a very important essay on Eckhart in 1921 in his book Psychological Types. And that’s why I had you read that introduction by Jung on Zen and Suzuki’s Zen Buddhism, because when Jung was asked to write that introduction of the book by Suzuki, he wanted to find a figure in the West who could illustrate what Jung felt at the time  was a direct parallel of the experience of Satori in the Zen experience. Hammarskjold as you know writes  haiku in Markings.

M: Well, I may have known, but it’s been thirty  years.  I hope I still have it on my shelf, because it is a valuable book to me.

H: Well, the haiku is all in the back.

 M: I don’t even remember that.

H: Yes, it’s all here. He was very influenced by Zen as well as Taoism as well as Christian mysticism. In fact, Martin Buber writes that he was told by Hammarskjold–they  were friends– that Hammarskjold had two books by his bedside. One was Eckhart; the other was the Psalms.  That was very moving to Buber because it showed that for Hammarskjold this integration of the Old and New Testaments, the wisdom literature, created a kind of synthesis for Hammarskjold that culminated in his ideas about dialogue in the UN and peacekeeping, because of the tracing of all this back to Isaiah he found a friend in Buber who could bridge the two.

M: Two things while we’re on the subject: First, I presume you’re aware that Hammarskjold died in a plane crash.

H: In the Congo.

M: Ruth heard the announcement on the radio. And it came over her that he was killed, that it wasn’t an accident. She had this strong sense of that even though she was not particularly interested in the UN. I regard that as significant, because she just uttered that to herself, “He was killed.”

H: Oh! That happened in 1961. I was five years old. So you were married?

M: Yes, we were married in 1953, so that was seven years into our marriage, but my point is that at her young age she had not been involved in the intellectual life at all. She was an RN.

H: That’s interesting because his book hadn’t been published yet. It came out in 1964.

The Intensity of Opposites

M: That makes her sense of his being murdered even more interesting. So she must have been somewhat aware of international politics. You could say that a peacekeeper like Hammarskjold–possibly Kennedy in a way, certainly Bobby–they bring forth opposites, don’t  they?  People want to destroy that, and do. It seems to come to a head the more powerful a force is–like Gandhi, the more someone will rise up in opposition, people will want to gun him down, for some reason Jungians understand. Getting back to Jung and his introduction to the Suzuki book, you said Jung wanted to find a parallel in Western thinking to the way of Zen. I noticed at the time of Jung’s introduction, he felt it would have been extremely difficult to breach the mind-set of the West, to introduce the Eastern way of seeing into our culture. But I think it’s decades now and that is no longer true. People like you and like me incorporate it in our daily lives, and we don’t have any problem with it. But I do think our culture functions on a very mechanical, simplistic way of looking at the Universe. It seems regressive to me because it has neglected or forgotten all the gorgeous thought of the transcendentalists of the mid-19th century, all those artists you’ve been writing about, beginning with Emerson, and we go back to some kind of superficial living that is so empty.

H: Empty.

M: So anyway, I think we can find among the Catholic priests who didn’t want to contradict Church dogma, and then in Luther, and I could go back to Shakespeare–there was always this Zen-like vision of how we are put together as creatures of the universe. It came bubbling up because it will bubble up no matter what the prevailing circumstances are.  These visionaries had to find some kind of a way to put it in language the Church could allow.

H: I think Eckhart just spoke his truth and didn’t concern himself with the repercussions from Rome.

M: But look what he had to put up with. These inquisitors would say, OK, you can put this much in but not that. They kept on doing it with Copernicus, Galileo. “You can have this, but not too much. Too much makes us nervous.” Even Whitman wrote too much truth for  Emerson’s comfort! We’re still at it today. But now, we have the  culture itself as our constraint.  We pull our punches. We rarely speak what our Selves want to express. It was exactly the same at the college.

H: Well, as you know, a teacher at DVC took exception to my  interpretations  of Shakespeare, so I got out of that class in a flash.

M: That was a good move. I gave my opinion in my first essay in graduate school, on Tennyson, and I got a D. I never got a D again, but also I didn’t give my naked truths again, not  in any school course. I couched everything in their conventional language.

H: You played the game. It’s like getting your A out of college in your book.

M: Yes, the experience was very educational, but it was simply because I didn’t like Tennyson, and I still don’t.

H: Alan Watts quoted him in that speech you transcribed. Tennyson used to say his own name, Alfred, Alfred, Alfred–Alfred who?

M: Sure.

H: And somehow by saying his name over and over, he began to see beyond language.

M: Sure, just because I don’t like his style doesn’t mean he didn’t say some good stuff. I didn’t like his sing-songy kind of verse.

The Eternal Ground of Being Disguised as a Human Being

H: And he got the funny feeling, Really Alfred? Who are you? And then suddenly it came over him that he was the eternal ground of the world in disguise as Alfred Tennyson

M: It’s a great discovery on his part.  But I’d take great insight from anybody, even my  enemies. I don’t hate Tennyson; I just don’t like the style of most of his poems.

H: I don’t either. I don’t normally read Tennyson.

M: His style is so polished and mellifluous.

H: That’s why Whitman had to come along and break open the line with free verse.

M: But a precursor to Tennyson was Keats, and he was writing sonnets with very precise meter  and rhymed verse and it’s very compelling. Tennyson puts me to sleep. I do have a short verse of his in Image, “Flower on a crannied wall / I pluck you out of the crannies. If I but knew what you are / root and all / and all in all / I should know what God and man is.” That’s fine.  I like that one, nice and short. But then in other poems, he goes on and on.

H: Getting back to Suzuki and Eckhart and Zen, I have a question for you. Your book Image I would say is very Zen.

The Zen of Image, Reflections on Language

I should have called it The Zen of English.

M: So would I in retrospect. Now, looking at it, I think, Why didn’t I call it The  Zen of English?

H: [Laughs.] Well, it is, in a sense. But I wanted to question you on that because your title is Image.

M: Reflections on Language.

H: You know, the state of Satori is an image-less state.

M: Well, sure.

H: But that’s what they’re trying to convey. And that’s why Jung quoted Meister Eckhart.  But then I read Jung’s letters to James Kirsch about satori and about Zen, and he’s very critical in his letters about masters who say they can have an experience  of nothingness  or emptiness  without an image. Jung says that’s impossible; you can’t have an experience without an image. You can’t experience emptiness with an image. Here we go. The whole focus of your book is on the image, reflections on language. And what’s missing is the emptiness at the center. I’m sure it’s there throughout the book. I think Alan Watts talks about it, the whole idea of the Ground of Being is very cosmic, and he talks a lot about it, Tillich, Paul Tillich, the Ground of Being, the Godhead. That’s all from Eckhart.

M: This is wonderful. When I was teaching I’d bring in ideas from wherever I found them; they could have been lying on sidewalks somewhere. But I sit here and marvel at your knowledge of everything that went  into  those  ideas, years, bios of the sources, their interconnections.  It’s  fun to see them all pieced together. But there’s another aspect; it’s the very fact of those connections–which is implicit but never explicit in all the pages of Image, for example ¯and in any one instance. Your work makes the idea physical.

Journal Writing as a Method of Emptying the Mind

H: And it comes together in the journal method. This is what I wanted to get to, that’s what I was articulating in my piece that I sent to you–and in another piece I wrote—that the journal method for me is the method or technique for emptying the mind. Because when  you do that, you get beyond image. You get beyond any kind of representation or form, and you
go back to that eternal Ground of Being,  which is an imageless state of being.  And  that is what the Eastern masters called satori, enlightenment. And I think that’s what Alan Watts is trying to convey in his talk that you and I discussed–which you captured in your transcription. Did you yourself transcribe this?

M: Yes.

H: This is valuable.

M: I think so too.

H: It’s a culmination of Watts’s thinking.

Alan Watts

M: Well, as I said, he just stood there. No podium. No notes. It was  gorgeous. He did have a mike because it was a big audience. Just imagine, though, the college had that man come and talk to all those un-awakened ones. Some of them were a bit more aware. But everybody would come back to their offices, and then they would parse it and analyze it. Instead of saying, My God! the feel of this, the feel of it! What else do you want? Anyway, Alan Watts did a beautiful job. So then I did get the permission. I don’t remember how.

H: Getting back to Image and to emptiness, there are images all over it. Yes, there is some emptiness, too. I like that. There’s empty space.

M: Oh, yes. In fact, there are a couple of pages  with nothing at all. As for all the images, there  was a senior editor at Macmillan. He was an older guy, and I suppose whatever we  were doing was OK with him as long as it was selling, but anyhow when he got to that page where there was nothing, he went Whew! Look at the very back. There you have an all-white page and then an all-black one.

H: Well, yes, that’s the Zen experience right at the very end of the book. So back to my  question. Do you think Jung is right that you can’t have an experience of nothingness without an image?

Satori is imageless but the telling of it cannot be.

M: He’s right and wrong. Simultaneously. He’s right because they still have a foot in this world and you can only report what you experienced, and that becomes image immediately. You translate it back into image. But when you’re sitting there in that state, imagery is simply not involved. You become a musical instrument, and you’re vibrating. You are the universe singing. You’re not thinking about anything at all. Thinking is all about imagery. So sure, no imagery in nothingness. But I don’t think that calls for argument. I do think Jung himself had been in that state probably lots of times.

H: Sure.

M: And think of when he was doing his work on this, think of the traditions surrounding him, the work of Western thinkers and philosophers. That would force him back into that disciplined kind of mindset. And he was trying to articulate something so foreign to their kind of discourse. So, he’s right. We can sit here and talk about it and describe it, and  that’s  all imagery.  Even when it’s abstract, it’s still imagery. Language is imagery. When you translate your voice into words, you’ve moved into the perceived imagistic world.

H: That’s the Word coming out of the Ground of Being. Yet the Ground of Being itself is nothing, if Eckhart is correct, and I think he is, beyond image. It is interesting to note in this regard that astrophysicists have now theorized that the whole universe came into being from Nothing.

M: It’s such a beautiful thing for those ancient Hebrews to dream up. How did they put it? “In the beginning . . .?

H: “Darkness was on the face of the Deep . . .” M: Right. The passage I’m thinking of goes,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

H: “Then God said, Let there be light” –going from darkness to light.

M: In the beginning was the Word. So in the beginning of our kind of stuff, our kind  of reality, was the Word. Yes, before that was the light. In the beginning, words, language, imagery. That’s the crux of this issue of essence and nothingness. So even in the Bible, we have this Zen kind of thinking. So it was there all the time for these people running to church every Sunday. There’s  all they need to know in that one little passage–if they would just pay attention. Instead someone is droning on and on numbing their minds, putting them into a stupor. No wonder they don’t get it. The church apparently tried to do something with it in the liturgy. That’s the whole thrust of your piece on therapeutic journaling. The whole idea of liturgy, as you know, is to try to bring  you into that state. If you’re good at it… I know of very few people who are.

H: Meister Eckhart was… He could deliver a sermon that would put you right into a state of peace and stillness.

M: Yes. You could do that with imagery. Some  people can walk into a room, and  there’s a kind of aura around them. Krishnamurti was like that. If you were at all attuned, you’d get it right  away. He blew this young friend of his, Sidney Field, off the planet–just by being there.  Now  that I think back on it, I think my classes were set up that way, a kind of liturgy of music and imagery. I’d even sometimes say, “Everybody, shut your eyes and pay attention to your breathing.”

Meister Eckhart

H: My journal writing method that I wrote about was something I developed much later than your class. Even after having read Hammarskjold. I had to discover my own way and my own technique. This was when I was a Jungian. I had read Jung by this time, and Progoff. And I had studied under Everson for many years. I think it was in the late 80s or early 90s that I began journaling again. In the 90s I began a poetry journal that evolved into a more prose-like method. And I think the influences of Eckhart where always there. I think you know I wrote my senior thesis on Meister Eckhart. I read the sermons, and the sermon itself is a kind of journal entry. I think many of us learned from him. Hammarskjold certainly did. He had him by his bedside. Every morning he read him. And Jung loved Meister Eckhart, though what Jung wrote is somewhat limited. Another analyst who writes about Eckhart is John Dourley. He’s the best writer on Eckhart in the Jungian field. I wrote my thesis in 1981-82. I read most of Meister Eckhart’s sermons. I read all I could find by the great Eckhart scholars. Now we  have  newer works about Eckhart, one that I just ordered is by a Buddhist scholar, Walsche, and he translated all of the German sermons. These are magnificent translations. There’s a new  interpreter, McGuin, and he’s the foremost Eckhart scholar in the world right now.

Journal Writing as a Way of Having a Breakthrough Experience

So I’m getting back to Eckhart and catching up with the latest works, and I see how my intuition in 1981 was way in advance of where scholarship was at that time. And it’s all based on the Word. Eckhart would start, for example, with a line from the New Testament or the Old Testament, and he would meditate on that, and it would become a  way for him to  then develop his theme and arrive at a new breakthrough. This idea of a breakthrough is very important. The journal technique I use–and the one you were using–is a way of having a breakthrough  experience. I think you were trying to convey that to your students. It’s becoming clearer to me that the focus you brought in through Image makes the bridge for me to Eckhart and Jung in certain way, because it was a form of active imagination in a sense that you were trying to move your students to experience through experimentation.

M: OK. You start with a line, as Eckhart did, and use it as a means of meditating and playing into something. You’ll recall I brought up Wittgenstein in one of our dialogues.

H: I have a very good friend who’s a scholar of Wittgenstein, but I haven’t read him.

Thinking Out Loud


Wittgenstein

M: Well, this is what I’m getting to: I didn’t have to know much about Wittgenstein, just what I told you about his little gatherings of students in his rooms at Cambridge. As I said in one of our dialogues, he would come in and he would “do philosophy.” It  was similar to what Eckhart did. He would do his thinking as he went along. He would be generating his thesis right there. “OK, I’m thinking about X . . .” and then he’d starting rolling into that. I don’t remember if there was any dialogue with the students at that point. Basically he was just thinking out loud. But what he was doing, in our metaphor, was writing his reflective journal, or his mythopoetic journal. I don’t remember if he was using technical language or not, but the upshot was the same. He did exactly what Eckhart was doing. As you said, you got back into your journal writing at a certain point. I use it when I need it. I use it to resolve problems or if I want to work out some idea. I can really discipline the thinking, and reflective writing leads me right into that channel. In ten or fifteen minutes I’m rolling.

H: Wittgenstein himself probably was influenced by Eckhart because, of course, as a German philosopher he had read Schopenhauer, and Schopenhauer was the first to draw parallels between Eckhart and Hinduism and Buddhism.

M: Oh, my!

H: And so a lot of the scholars who later saw this parallel had seen references by Schopenhauer. I’m sure Jung had  seen references, too.

M: OK and there were writers like Hesse.

H: Herman Hesse.

M: When was Hesse writing Siddhartha?

H: Hesse was analyzed by Carl Jung in Zurich. So he wrote Siddhartha after his analysis. So it was probably in the forties or early fifties. [First published in English in 1951]

Collective Thinking from All Directions

M: Talk about interconnectedness! We sit here talking about these figures in our culture–Oh, yeah, he knew so-and-so. And so and so knew A and B and M! But I think I benefit from all  those connections without knowing any of the major players or knowing very little about them. Because–because they created an impression in the grass, and all I had to do was just be here to receive it. The cloud in which I am enveloped is made up of all these guys, and the sense of their collective thinking comes in from all directions.

An Atmosphere of Thought

H: And that gets back to the writings of Chardin and the noosphere. He talked about it as an atmosphere of thought. That’s a very important idea, too, because it does seem that things are coming together, and the West Coast is a focal point you could say for this kind of thinking about the connections between East and West. Watts, of course, was one of the great representatives of this.

M: He’s a good example of how the mind can be really pure while one’s life can be messy. He had girlfriends. His marriage failed. All kinds of problems.

Another thinker I admire tremendously is Albert Camus, and they say in his personal life he wasn’t nearly as pure–let me change that to clear. I can add people like Christopher Hitchens and Philip Roth. I don’t know if you read him or not? Portnoy’s Complaint?

H: No.

M: You might enjoy that book because the narrator is telling all this stuff to his therapist. The chapters are all therapy sessions. It’s all about masturbating, to start with.

H: Oh, my.

M: The reason that this is significant is that readers might be put off by the subject, Let’s not hear about that. But it’s really an act of independence by this little boy. It’s the Self demanding  freedom, and crushing rules and  restrictions of this Jewish household.  For this young boy, it was a breakthrough, with all the risks involved.

H: Well, it’s all there in Walt Whitman, and it’s all there in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Speaking on Moby Dick, I want to draw a parallel to the moment in American history we’re currently experiencing subsequent to the Boston Marathon bombing [April 2013]. You know these two young men who…

M: Yes.

Tamerlan

H: Well, the older brother, who’s now dead–his name was Tamerlan.

M: Oh, yes. Go ahead.

Tamerlane

H: Well the interesting thing is immediately when I learned that, I went back to my Moby Dick because I had read a book on Melville’s use of a Middle-Eastern text and was well aware of the fact that one of the key historical figures upon whom the character of Ahab was formed, you could say, was the figure Tamerlane. Tamerlane was a mogul, an Emir, who lived in the 14th century and was one of the most feared conquerors of central Asia. And Poe has a famous poem “Tamerlane.” The name comes from Timur Lung, or Timur the Lame. He lived from 1336, which is right after Eckhart’s death, to 1405. He envisioned the restoration of the mogul empire of Genghis Kahn. He lived in what is now Uzbekistan. He received his name when he was a young man when he was shot in the right leg and right hand by two arrows because he was  caught  stealing a sheep. So he was crippled and lost two fingers. But he was terribly feared in Africa as well as in Europe and China and many parts of the Middle-East and Asia because he left a wake  of destruction everywhere he went and was responsible for millions of deaths.

Melville, the Nuclear Symbol, and American Poetry

So getting back to Melville and American poetry, which is what a lot of our talks have been based on, and the whole idea of spiritual democracy that I’ve brought in through Whitman’s big idea. The figure of Ahab was formed on this character of Tamerlane. In Chapter 50 of Moby Dick, Melville says in the opening section, “So Tamerlane’s soldiers often argued with tears in their eyes whether that invaluable life of his ought to be carried into the thickest of the fight.” So Ahab, who’s in chase of the White Whale, is referred to throughout here as a mogul. His  first mate Starbuck is referred to as an Emir. Here’s an interesting passage in Chapter 109 to finish up what I’m saying here. When Starbuck is pulling his pistol out to try and kill Ahab, which is what should have happened to Hitler, Ahab then picks up his musket, points it at Starbuck and says, “There is one God that is lord over the Earth and one captain that is lord over the Pequod. On deck!” He barks orders at the first mate. This is the kind of dictatorship aboard the ship. The Pequod’s wood could only be American; the oaken hull is all American wood. Ahab is an American captain. That he is characterized after this historical figure is significant. The fact that this young man had been given the name Tamerlane is significant because of the historic meaning of that name. Tamerlane was a Muslim, you could say, who wanted to conquer the world. So  here’s this young man acting out this “inheritance.” What did he do? He and his brother blew up many athletes–who lost their limbs, their legs.

M: Oh, boy!

H: Ahab walks on a whale-bone stump. He’s lame, he’s crippled, like Tamerlane. Also, “The Sermon” at the beginning of the book, chapter nine, takes place in Boston, of course, the famous seaman’s vessel where Father Mapple gives his Sermon to the sailors before they go out on their whaling ship. It all takes place in Massachusetts, the whaling capital of America. That this bombing took place right there is a tragic and awesome synchronicity that sends chills up  my spine, because we’ve got an epidemic here, and we have seen it’s terrible reality since 9/11, and the FBI knew about this young man and didn’t do something about it. They didn’t have enough evidence, but the Russians did send us a heads-up. So Melville was on to something significant, even in 1850 and 1851, and American poetry is at the center of a miraculous transformation. That quote that I read you by Ahab is the complete antithesis of spiritual democracy. There is one God that is lord over the Earth–well, there you go. That’s the complete antithesis of spiritual democracy that Whitman celebrated.

M: Yes. It’s an arresting thought. The name Tamerlan was given I would guess by his parents. That word would be very significant to them, and they were handing it to this kid.  Whether  he paid a lot of attention to his name or not, I would say that name would influence him to the point, indirectly or directly, where he began to see himself as an avenger or someone who had to straighten things out, and so forth.

H: For the shadow side of Islam.

M: And again, it represents that arrogance that there’s one God, and I’m it.  And I’ll  kill you if  you don’t accept this God. So Ok, there’s that.  Oh, I wanted to ask you, was  it a natural interest in Moby Dick? How did you come to be very involved in that work?

H: I was in analysis with a Jungian analyst, Donald Sandner, and he had encouraged me to write my book on shamanism in American poetry which began with my Everson book, which you read.

M: Right.

H: And Jeffers. He said, If you’re going to write a book on American poetry and look at the shamanic idea in American poetry, as I had set out to do in 1995, then I was going to have to include an analysis not only of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, not only Emily Dickinson’s Complete Poetry and letters, but I was going to have to read Moby Dick, because that novel, he said, was the core text of American literature. And he’s right. And I think it’s Melville, when we talk about mythopoetic, who was using the visioning method to write that novel.

M: Yes, he was. But, Sandner, he’s an analyst, how did he…? Oh, yes, you told me he had had a literature major before becoming a Jungian.

H: At the University of Illinois. He read The Cocktail Party; he decided then and there to become a psychiatrist.

M: Right, right.

H: But he never let go of his interest in English literature and American poetry. He was fascinated with what I was bringing him to analysis–all this new insight I was gaining through Whitman and Dickinson and Lawrence. And of course Everson and Jeffers. But he insisted that I had to read Moby Dick. I did and I became a Melville scholar, you could say.

M: I think you probably had a little epiphany around the time you were in my class–sometime around then, maybe after–you had a vision, and ever since then, you’ve been running your own show.

...and was a cook on the Island of Nordesrney

H: It was after your 123 course that I went to Germany and was a cook on the island of  Norderney. Right before then I had started to enter into my first Jungian psychotherapy with Katherine Whiteside Taylor. It was right before that when I was doing Hatha and Kundalini Yoga and experimenting with different types of meditation that I had, not an epiphany, but a mystical experience.

M: When you started doing Yoga, how old were you?

H: I was twenty.

M: As I recall, when I was reading your journals, you were already thinking independently, taking charge of yourself.

H: I wouldn’t say I was in charge at twenty. I was very receptive to an experience.

I didn’t quite have a vision yet, as Yeats put it, “One has a vision.” I had my vision as U. C. Santa Cruz. The mystical experience came first. That transformed my consciousness for good, but my vision took time to develop. I needed to find my master and becoming Everson’s TA at UCSC  was an unforgettable experience.

M: Yes, that makes sense. I think what happened was you were already doing it, and then you realized what it was.

H: I was beginning to do it, exploring all these new ideas that you had put forth in Image. Of course, I discovered Jung through Image, but then I read three-quarters of the Collected Works during that liminal time between DVC and UCSC. It was the influence of Jung that gave me the epiphany of what my vision was. You’re right. It  was a Jungian vision.  It  was at work in me,  but I didn’t know what it was until I met Bill.

M: Back to spiritual democracy. Your spirit was demanding to have its voice. “I want out. I don’t want to be voiceless!”

H: We do sit at a master’s feet for a while, and then we have to break out. That’s what Eckhart refers to as breakthrough, durchbrechen in German. It’s something that breaks through the psyche and soma from the Ground of Being. This is an Eckhardian concept, a notion that’s uniquely his.  It is what Jung in his essay called the Satori experience. What he means by this is that something new is born into the world. It’s basically a new idea. Image was a breakthrough, a synthesis for yourself. As I said, it’s got a very Zen focus.

M: Well, there’s some truth in what you say. I leaf through it and I think Where did I get all that stuff? The book is brimful of ideas from all over. I marvel that I had collected such a trove.

H: I think it’s the kind of integrative mind  that was working in Alan Watts, that was working in  the transcendentalists. Everson was working on it. Whitman picked it up and he really did synthesize it. Of course, Moby Dick is a masterwork of synthesis. Not only does Melville have Tamerlane as a prototype of the character of Ahab, but he had Hafiz, who wrote at the same time. Hafiz is a Sufi master who wrote  about spiritual democracy  in the  Middle East.  There you go. So he juxtaposes Hafiz with Tamerlane and Ahab.  And  he’s  saying dictatorships are going to  fall. What’s going to emerge  is this other strain of Islam, which is  Sufism.  And  it’s happening,  by God. My Iranian hairdresser tells me Hafiz sells more copies than the Koran! I think Image is an attempt to synthesize the best occurrences of spirituality in the East and West. Hammarskjold quotes Rumi in Markings. Did you know that?

M: No!

The Eternal Moment

H: Listen to this quote from Hammarskjold, “It is now in this very moment that I must pay for all that I have received.” The accent on now–you could say it’s very Zen, but it’s also Eckhartian. Eckhart uses the Now throughout much of his sermons, the eternal moment. I mention his book again because he includes Sufism. That’s why Martin Buber was so impressed with Hammarskjold’s mind when he was taking on Ben-Gurion regarding this Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Middle-East. Buber took on Ben-Gurion and called him Ahab in a letter! But of course he was referring to the Biblical Ahab who worshiped false prophets. And to add to the confluence of ideas, Buber’s biographer wrote one of the best essays on Moby Dick. So the influences of American poetry include Martin Buber. And Hammarskjold was encouraging Buber to read Steinbeck! So American prose and poetry were involved in the thinking of someone like Hammarskjold. One of the many things I admire about Buber is that he was an advocate for nonviolence. Martin Luther King Jr. took Buber’s works with him into the prison in Montgomery, during the Civil Rights marches. Hammarskjold was translating Buber’s I and Thou into Swedish when his plane went down. Oh, and one more connection. Buber wrote his dissertation on Meister Eckhart and three other medieval Christian mystics! You can see how Eckhart was  at the center  of a lot of these major figures’ thinking, thinking that transcends national boundaries. You see it in this interesting and very valuable extract in Alan Watts’s talk. It’s very Eckhartian.  This talk is some of Watts’s best thinking.

M: And compressed into thirty minutes!

H: Like an Eckhart sermon, you could say, but in his own way. I read his autobiography, In My Own Way by the way, when I had my epiphany. When I was coming back from the island I was reading his great autobiography on the train. I was very moved by it. When I say epiphany,  I  mean an experience, a mystical experience that we all have. It came through a big dream.

M: I’ll give you another example of a concept with me, beyond a concept. You’re sitting here  as the essence of Steven Herrmann, an essence that’s all about sunlight. You are compressed sunlight. I tease people by saying, “Did you know that Steven’s all about sunlight?”  Every once in a while I see these bundles of energy floating around–or I choose to let that happen. So the other day I was in McDonalds in the morning and I’m leaving and I look over and see this old  guy eating his toast, and I see a young Chinese couple kind of close together, some old Anglo- type woman and whatever she’s doing. And I was thinking, Oh, my God! There they all are, all these little bunches of starlight, and it was really kind of neat. I remember doing that at the college one time. I had been irritated about all these teachers and their boring attitudes about education and  curriculum,  and so forth.  So we’re in the auditorium.  All  the faculty are sitting there.  I’m in the back, looking at them. Here are all these gray-haired people sitting around, and I think, Oh, God! They’re just human beings. Why am I so irritated at them? And I suddenly had this compassion swell up for their limited, ignorant behavior. I just felt a kind of warmth for them then. Generally, I was at great odds with them.

H: This was a little epiphany you had. People Are Doing the Best They Can.

M: Every once in a while I realize people are doing the best they can.

H: Well, that’s right. That is right. Once you have an experience like this you do feel compassion. You can’t help but feel it. Part of it comes out of one’s own suffering.


The larger one’s sphere of compassion, the closer one is to oneness.

M: The larger one’s sphere of compassion, the closer one is to oneness.

H: Here’s another thought with regards to the sunlight metaphor. This new discovery that the universe is made up of dark energy, dark matter. This idea of dark energy  is pretty fascinating. We talk about sunlight energy. What about the dark energy? This is what Meister Eckhart gets  into and this is what Nothingness might be to the  Buddhists, this movement beyond the  sunlight, to the darkness that precedes it. We’re talking about something else that we can’t comprehend because we don’t know it, but there’s something out there, as well as in here, that  is  the Ground  of Being. And that is a dark energy.

M: Yes, light comes out of the dark energy, doesn’t it? Light comes out of darkness. Yet, it doesn’t actually come “out of.” It is it in another form. Yes, that’s the whole idea.

H: You have that visually on pages 380 and 381 in Image. Thingness and No-thingness

M: Yes. I wanted to bring the book back round to that central concept. “And the light was coming into the world,” and so on. We have to remind ourselves just about every day of this fundamental situation of thingness and no-thingness.

H: The poet-shaman, who best represents this dark energy that’s illustrated here  on Page 381 is Jeffers. Nobody speaks of the dark energy like Jeffers.

M: That’s right, at least none that I know of.

H: He represents something that we haven’t quite caught up with yet in West Coast literature.

M: Well, unfortunately, people like Jeffers just don’t quite connect with the general public, with the main body of literature, with literature majors, and all the emphasis that tends to veer away from the dark energy work.

H: Well, he’s beginning to emerge again. What’s that you have there?

M: Oh, it’s a little gift for you. It’s Karl Staubach’s way of introducing numerology to his students. I had talked about it with him some in the past, but after you and I delved into it last time, I asked him exactly how much credence he gave to it and how he described it. So, of course, I got a one-page outline of it all from him in the mail a few days later.

H: I remember Karl very well. I took his course on mythology. He was very good.

M: He’s one of the best you can get.

H: I still have my journal from his class.

M: Well, here’s what I wanted to pass on to you, this last quote here. He told me he started learning about numerology when his wife Rosan was into it. He was just looking over her shoulder, seeing what she was up to, how she used it to get into people’s psyches. She would connect with people that way. But here he says, “My version of numerology was designed to get students to write with interest about their own beautiful selves and come up with ideas they otherwise would not think of.”

H: That’s great.

M: Now, here’s what I wanted to tell you. We didn’t get a chance to discuss this this time, but I cannot yet come to the certainty that you have about the role of various patterns of numbers in revealing how the universe works.

H: I’m not sure I’ve come to any conclusions about that either.

M: When you talk about 7s and 5s and so forth, there seems to be more of a certainty than I yet have. However, what Karl said in that paragraph I just read to you is exactly how I could use numerology to great advantage.

Numerology and Destiny Numbers

H: I don’t intend to talk with certainty about some of this. I’m very uncertain about much of numerology. “Destiny numbers” –now that’s a concept I’m very interested in. I want to see what he has to say about destiny, because you know that’s what I’m interested in as well.

[Karl Staubach is an authority on mythology and taught the subject sometimes at Diablo Valley College. Here’s his take on what to make of numerology: As
in mythology (the study of myth), it doesn’t matter whether you “believe” it or not; the results are just as good either way.]


In the study of myth, it doesn’t matter whether you “believe” it or not; the results are just as good either way. –Karl Staubach]

in the study of myth, it doesn’t matter whether you “believe” it or not; the results are just as good either way.]

M: OK, if you have about five more minutes, here’s a little game to play: Think about how to get people interested in doing reflective writing. We both know that would be a good thing for them to do.  Let’s  say the question is How can we get them to do that?  Now, I’m going to say there is  a page in Image that will respond to that question. It will tell you exactly what to do.  Now we  have to find that page, and we will find it randomly, but it will be just what we’re looking for.

H: What you’re doing is using Image like the I Ching. M: That’s exactly right.

H: Um, hum. That’s a great way to wind up our talk for today

For me, the message is, Come off it!

[I tried the idea later at home. The random page number in Image came up 109. That turned out to be a collage of photographs: Eight or nine of chimpanzees scratching their heads, wearing funny hats, smoking a cigarette, part of an impressionistic lithograph of a fetus, also an impressionistic sun and an eclipse, an artist’s variation on Demuth’s “Figure 5″ with several figure 5s superimposed on a pentagonal star in a white circle, four more paintings of pentagonal stars, a photo of a whimsical ceramic sculpture that had been done by a Diablo Valley student. So how was that an answer to my question of how to get people interested in doing reflective writing? Well, there is no way the page is suggesting a typical college English writing assignment. But, considering what Steven and I had been discussing in this dialogue and throughout our talks, the page could have been made for us. For me, the message is, Come off it, be playful, let the topics mingle as they wish, don’t be too cerebral. What the page does is open up the options and avenues of thought that might not otherwise be considered.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lo Shou

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

M: [Checks it out] True enough.

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

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

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

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

Ho Tu

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

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

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

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

Reality, The Shared Memory of the Race

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

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

The problem is the carryover.

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

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

Something to Wrap the Senses Around

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

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


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

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

Reflective Writing as a Flashlight

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

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

M:  That’s  right.

The Necessity of One’s Own Path

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

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

Getting the Feel of One’s Facts

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

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

M: That’s right.

Catalytic Rhythm and Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

Active Imagination

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

M: Talk about “active imagination.”

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

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

Rhythm, Vision, and Discoveries

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

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

We Want at Least a Glimpse

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

M: That’s it!

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

Nourishment for the Soul

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

H: You’ve been changed.

To Live in Eternity’s Sunrise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poetic Science

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

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

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

Lasting Moments

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

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

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

M: Right.

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

M: [Chuckles.]

Seeming Isolates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M: [Both laugh]

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

She has found her rhythm.

M: Yes, that’s a nice bridge.

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

Wrapping the Senses Around the Facts

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

Separate Realms of Gold /One Realm

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

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

Hooking Up with the Eternal Center

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

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

M: Yes.

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

M: Yes, yes.

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

You Become a Melody.

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

You become a melody.

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

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

M: [Laughs]

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

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

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

On the way to school

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

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

Stardust Memory—Trailing Clouds of Glory

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

Entering the Realm at Will

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

“An Antique Volume Written by Faded Men”

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

M: [Laughs.] Ooh.

The Bible and the Hubble Telescope

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

Bunched Up Sunlight

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

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

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

That Electrical Feeling, the Mind on Fire

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

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

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

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

A Matter of Making Connections

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

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

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

A Way to Take Charge

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Understand, Make a Poem

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

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

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

The Widening Gyre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Journal—a Place for the Imagination to Play

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

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

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

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

Toward a Feeling of Unity with the Cosmos

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

Teaching as Dialogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

H: Did you have anything about dreams.

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

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

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

Keep a Dream Journal.

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

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

Meaningful Chance

[In one of our dialogues, Steven reminded me of a talk by Alan Watts, “The Crisis in Religion,” the I had transcribed and later included in my book Image, Reflections On Language (1973). The college had had Watts as a guest lecturer when I was a new teacher there. In our dialogues Steven had described Whitman’s vision of an emerging spiritual democracy and about what religions in the future would be like.  Here was Watts speaking to the faculty of community college over a hundred years later describing the shifting center of gravity in late 20th century religion.   But the fun part is the number of coincidences that popped up when I began digging into the Watts talk. 

I’ve circled back numerous times to the astonishing usefulness of things that just happen to fall off the shelf.   The following interchange of emails is as delightful example that.  I think you might want to be on the lookout for meaningful chance in your own going and coming.

Here are some the emails.]

Saturday at 8 January 23, 2014 I wrote:

“OK: Watts said in the new religions God would be that circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. The poem about the center and the circumference is on page 127 in Image. It’s by Alfred Noyes:

"Where?" said the king,
O, where? I have not found it!"
"Here," said the dwarf, and music echoed "Here."
"This infinite circle hath no line to bound it;
Behold its strange, deep center everywhere.

(Steven, I know nothing about Noyes, but I think I’ll Google him!)

Later that day I emailed this to Steven:

“Get this! This is the result of my Google search on Noyes:

The lines of Alfred Noyes the Watts cited are in the last stanza of “The Song of Jeppe” in a long poem called “Watchers of the Sky.” Wow! Talk about coincidence! Noyes, English, lived from 1880—1958, and spent years in the US. Watchersoftheskies.com is the name of my website, and it’s from the Keats poem! I found the following description of Noyes’s visit to the Mount Wilson Observatory.”

“Noyes adds that the theme of the trilogy had long been in his mind, but the first volume, dealing with “Watchers of the Sky”, began to take definite shape only on the night of November 12, 1917, when the 100-inch reflecting telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory was first tested by starlight. George Ellery Hale, the man who conceived and founded the observatory, had invited Noyes, who was then in California, to be his guest on this momentous occasion, and the prologue, subtitled “The Observatory”, gives Noyes’ detailed description of that “unforgettable,. night”. In his review of “Watchers of the Sky,” the scholar and historian of science Frederick E. Brasch writes that Noyes’ ‘journey up to the mountain’s top, the observatory, the monastery, telescopes and mirrors, clockwork, switchboard, the lighted city below, planets and stars, atoms and electrons all are woven into, beautiful narrative poetry. It seems almost incredible that technical terms and concepts could lend themselves for that purpose.”

Then Steven emailed back to me:

“The coincidence regarding Noyes and Mount Wilson is an astonishing one in light of our chats on the American poet-shamans and my book on spiritual democracy, as well as yours on Realms of Gold. This is fascinating! I don’t see how others could possibly comprehend its significance for us. Robinson Jeffers had graduated from Occidental College, then a small Presbyterian school in Los Angeles, in 1905, at the age of 18. He had studied biblical literature, Greek, rhetoric, and astronomy, which included visits to Mount Wilson and Echo Mountain Observatories.

Behold its strange, deep center
Everywhere!

In 1906, at the age of 19, his family relocated to Switzerland, where he studied philosophy at the University of Zurich. The big 100-inch Hooker telescope on Mount Wilson Observatory, built in 1917, the following year, so enlarged his understanding of the scale of the universe that it simply ignited Jeffers’ mind ablaze and forced him to press further into the psychic and cosmic depths of spirit and matter for a living symbol that could describe what he felt and intuited and sensed to be the vast limitlessness of space. By gazing into the black crystal, Jeffers gave birth to a new religious symbol, pregnant with meaning: a God of endless Violence, Shiva as the cosmic Destroyer of the Universe, over Christ. Jeffers carefully turned Whitman’s visions of spiritual democracy in on themselves and in many ways his visions of center and circumference are very much like Dickinson’s, which are centered, as I said, on Volcano symbolism, cosmic force, and boundless Night.

My point is that with the American poet-shamans the notion of center and circumference that Shelly glimpsed on the Mont Blanc were eclipsed by the new discoveries in science. California played a major role in this. The coincidence of all of this is mind boggling!

Pregnant with meaning

The location of the “Doorways” photo that I sent to you many moons ago was taken at none other than Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, an ancient Anasazi astronomical observatory. On June 29, 1977, a year after I took your course, English 123, and a week after the summer solstice, a young female artist made her way up Fajida Bute, at the southern edge of Chaco Canyon, and discovered a unique solar-lunar calendar there hidden amongst the rocks! After passing a narrow chimney populated only by rattlesnakes, up the west side of the butte, she spotted two engravings of spirals with a center and circumference carved into the rock face, where light refracts through vertical slabs to strike the center and the circumference on each of the two Solstices, summer (center) and winter (circumference)! This butte is about a mile from the famous “doorways,” or what I suggested were doors to the realms of Gold. You have to see it to believe it! Google it and let me know what you think. Synchronicity abounds in these chats. These acausal coincidences are pregnant with meaning. The two spirals illuminate exactly what we are talking about.

[It should be noted that these emails had been forgotten and fell into my  hands “by chance” when I was looking for something else, a grid of a “magic” square, the Lo Shou—which Steven introduces in our 15th dialogue—in which the digits 1 one through 9 are so arranged that they always add up to 15, with digit 5 in the middle. Magic or not, there are certainly more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy. It’s wonder-full even if it isn’t magic.]