[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
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.”
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.
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!
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.]
Chief Seattle (c.1786—1866) is said to have written to President Franklin Pierce, in 1854, in response to his offer to buy Indian land and provide the Indians a reservation in place of it. This version is from Outdoor California, November—December 1976. I’m including it in this website because, for one thing, it is a profound example of what it’s like to live in the moment, to have an ” intense vision of the facts” all day long. My dialogues with Steven frequently explore the connectedness of all things, just as Seattle does here, how all things really are one thing. If you don’t think so, consider your belly button. But also notice that Seattle’s feelings are a part o;f his words. His ideas are feelings. His feelings are ideas. No separation. You can feel the strength his centeredness gives him.
WE MAY BE BROTHERS AFTER ALL
How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us.
If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees caries the memories of the red man.
The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man — all belong to the same family.
So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will he our father and we will be his children. So we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us.
This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred, and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lake tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my fathers father. The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.
We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves behind, and he does not care. His fathers graves and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright heads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.
I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand.
There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring or the rustle of insects’ wings. But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond, and the smell of the wind itself, cleansed by a midday rain, or scented with the pinon pine.
The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath — the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes, Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench. But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all life it supports.
The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where even the white man can go to take the wind that is sweetened by the meadow’s flowers.
So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition: The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers.
I am a savage and do not understand any other way. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.
What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.
You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
This we know. The earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
Even the White man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all; we shall see. One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover: our God is the same God. You may think now that you own him as you wish to own our land, but you cannot. He is the God of man, and his compassion is equal for the red man and the white. This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The white too shall pass, perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.
But in your perishing you wiIl shine brightly, fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this Iand and for some speciaI purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man. That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all sIaughtered, the wild horses tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. The end of living and the beginning of survival.
One thing we know. Our God is the same God. This earth is precious to him. Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see.
[In this dialogue I wanted to think through how to engage the minds of an audience, however small or large, wherever people gather, in online blogs, at conferences–for whatever reason. I called the process the marketing of ideas. Some teachers and thinkers do their thinking out loud in the presence of a group. It can be effective, and from talking with Steven, I thought William Everson might have used that approach in his Birth of a Poet classes at UC Santa Cruz, when Steven was a TA.
M: You told me earlier what it was
like to be in Everson’s “Birth of a Poet” course at UC Santa Cruz.. How did he
actually conduct the class? You referred to him giving his meditations. Would
he actually generate them right there during a session?
H: Well, he didn’t
bring notes. He never spoke from any kind of an agenda. He might bring a book
or two. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a
Thousand Faces was the main text for the course. We would read a chapter
every week. And he would bring some of his poems and read some of them aloud
when the spirit moved him.
A thinking process that I really like
Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher
whom I mentioned earlier,
used to have sessions in his rooms at Trinity
College, I think it was, at
Cambridge. He would just start in and develop a dialogue with whoever was
there. He did his original
thinking in those sessions, carrying on thought experiments
on the spot, “doing philosophy”
as he called it, generating his thoughts as he went
along. I think that’s similar to what you and I are doing here.
We’ll start out, and we’ll say, “Let’s see where this leads,” and we follow that through.
It’s a thinking
process that I really like. That’s why I was asking you about Everson because it sounds like he was comfortable
with just sitting down and generating the session
went along. Someone else
who did that sort of thinking was Krishnamurti.
The Purpose of Dialogue Is to Enter into an Energy Field
H: Can we tie this in with
McTaggart’s The Field. In the opening
pages she’s talking about an energy field. Whether we’re talking about cells or
whether we’re talking about the place of thought in the mix, that’s the
QUOTE: “Doing philosophy” isn’t so much pointed toward arriving at some
great concept for other people
as to enter into this energy field, this
genius field, if we want to define genius in
that way, where everything is understandable and understood.
H: I think what you’re getting at
is the way to do it, you know, what McTaggart’s getting at, what she points out
in the introduction: that she’s writing for the general reader.
H: And I think what you’re getting
at is how to make a conference like I put on at UC Santa Cruz in honor of Bill
Everson applicable to the ordinary person.
The Marketing of Ideas
Yes, I’m very interested in that, because I think that’s the biggest
challenge. But I do think
there are ways to do
it—by this sort of dialogue for one. I think a person could get good at it.
I was talking earlier about marketing, and the idea is that you want
to get whatever it is you’ve discovered – un-covered, I’d say–across
to the public. That’s the biggest
thing for me right
now, figuring out how to do that.
For example, when I was
discussing a manuscript with
a McGraw-Hill editor, he said
you don’t want to write the
greatest book that is never
read. How do you get people
to read it? I’m interested in the concept of marketing.
can segue directly to your concept of spiritual democracy. How do you get people interested enough to enter
into a dialogue with your book, with the
ideas put forth there? Marketing isn’t only something for Madison Avenue; it’s for people like you and
me too. That may sound
crass but not if you think of how
the great spiritual forces in the
world told their truths. Madison Avenue could learn from them! You, Steven, are very likely to be going forward with ideas
we’ve been exploring, through workshops
and programs and books and
all kinds of venues. So finding ways to present what you have
to offer–the marketing of
your idea–will be a key to your success. You have a clear picture of
the concept of spiritual democracy.
So now you have to market
that, that is, get it across
to ordinary people., As you know,
Christ, Buddha, shamans, mullahs,
poets, they all used everyday
and they told stories, parables, aphorisms, and the like. I don’t
think you’ll find academic
language anywhere in their teaching. Since
I still want as many people as possible to engage with the ideas in Realms of
Gold, thousands of people,
I’m going through and clean up
the way I come across
Reader and Writer, Speaker and Audience, Teacher and Students, in Harmony
to market it is the
key. That’s what I was
getting at. In the sense I’m using the term, marketing
is simply a matter of communicating your ideas.
That’s why I’m
experimenting with the Internet. I can get feedback within a
day or two. You could call it test marketing, and you can keep editing
and adapting till you and your
readers are in harmony. One
thing I do know is you don’t want to bore
people to death, if you’re doing a YouTube, for example, you don’t want to record more that
ten-minute video. Also, I’m adding ideas from my book Get Your A Out of College to my website and connecting it to aspects of Realms of Gold. It would center directly on how to get through
school without being bored to death, but the same approach applies to getting
through your life without being bored.
The same approach
works for both.
One’s Investment in the Process
The first question is Why are they
bored–Why is anybody bored in life?! So I’m starting off with the matchstick
puzzle. I can get a lot of mileage out of that simple little puzzle. In solving the puzzle, everyone
in a group, of whatever size, has an investment. The big pay-off is an insight into
their own selves. For you and me, that’s
also in the direction of spiritual democracy. That’s the secret of a good class, getting everyone to invest a piece of themselves into the mix. Did Everson
do that? Did he invite them to participate, or did they just sit quietly and listen?
H: Some took notes, some were just
sitting quietly and listening, some were half asleep, lying down. But for the
most part, everybody was quiet. There was no discussion, no question-and answer
M: If I were you I would begin to
concentrate on how to do presentations that are absolutely riveting. (Sometime,
we ought to have a dialogue on how to do that.) I know you’ve seen the video of
Jill Bolte Taylor at a TED session. That talk was tailored for the TED style
that was attracting ardent participants. A presenter wasn’t allowed to talk for
more than eighteen minutes. It would be instructive to study their technique.
I’ve read that people couldn’t tear themselves away from those presentations.
H: Yes, everybody who comes to any
presentation wants an experience, and the key is to sharpen the techniques, and
that opens it up to an actual experience. And it’s transformative. When it
comes down to it, people are looking for an entrance way into the Field.
M: Exactly. And we’re back
to the Field again. Nice segue.
Providing a Channel to the Realms of Gold
H: And so the gift of the
presenters is to provide a channel for that. And the best way to do that is
through language that captivates the audience, electrifies.
M: It does seem
to be the most effective way, and there are many reasons for saying that.
H: It could be
music, if you were a musician.
Thought Is Physical.
Yes, music would open it up,
but I’m not so sure without cognitive processes, linguistically putting what you know into a physical form, that
the transformation would go forward. There is this fundamental value of
conscious thought, the fact that
thought is physical. That seems like a central fact–that a thought is embedded in
the physical brain through synapses of electrical energy and that thought affects the entire organism, and that that organism is at the center of everything. So, then, a
thought affects, not just
the organism, but everything else as well. That’s an understanding
that we’ve been building over
H: As for music, I think Beethoven
got that physicality in the Ninth Symphony when he put Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” Ode an die Freude, in the last
movement. He saw that he needed conceptual ideas to bring the brotherhood of
humanity together, to unite the world with the joy and love of the Cosmos… Oh,
on another note I want to show you a picture I just had reproduced. It ties in
with what we’re discussing.
[Steven goes into another room and brings back a photo of doors he discovered in some cliff dwellings in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.]
I really like that. I like the colors and everything about it. It reminds me of that
picture of the cosmic
explosion of the shaman in the
cave, going back farther and
farther toward infinity.
That’s great, isn’t it, like going forever into the soul.
H: It is, isn’t it? My brother, Richard, just edited this Doorways picture, photographed at Chaco Canyon in, I believe, 2007. Rich’s edit brings out the Gold. This picture is now a meditation on some of the subjects we’ve been discussing together, the Field, spiritual democracy, light, Cosmic Christ, indigenous Americans, poetry, vocation, and Realms of Gold.
I have a sense of entering into multiple dimensions when I look at it. There are four doorways, leading where? Notice also the golden light that appears to be burning at the top entranceway on each of the first three doorways.
Painting the Life of Things
What the artist does in a painting is meld his spirit with shapes and colors, and the result is an illumination of the life
of things there, specifically in the brush strokes but also the illumination of thing-ness in general. The spiritual forces which have made it–the artist’s spiritual force
Force, the energy,
he releases and imprisons on the canvas. That
could just as well be captured in a photograph like this as
well as in poetry or music. I’ve seen
Ansel Adams’ great photographs, the ones
that are lit with piercing glances. But once I bought a big coffee-table book of his
photos, not the ones
himself had chosen but one’s
someone else had
put together after his death. Well, they simply did not have that
force, those cosmic forces.
That was a great learning experience for me. I gave the book
to the Salvation Army.
Lit with Piercing Glances
Well, back to connections. What I’m getting
at is that you’ve been filling in a lot of blanks with me about the artists
and philosophers, about paleontology, archeology, anthropology and all the
connections among them,
the Joseph Campbell work, and Jung, of course… I was looking up the lines of Marianne Moore, for you actually, “It must
be ‘lit with piercing glances / into the life of things” that
Lawrence Ferlinghetti put at the beginning
of his book, When I
Look at Pictures. Then I ran across this
Sorolla painting and click, click, click, all those separate things came together–and
were connected all along. So what’s been happening
is, like the Sorolla paintings, our Samuel Miller
[1807—1853] boy and girl primitives
I told you about and our discovering
the originals in the de Young, those isolates coming together into a lovely pattern. All
that brings to the fore the question of these things being
random, or emerging because we are primed
and ready to receive them.
And if that’s so, then there’s
a key here about how to see the world more clearly.
Important shifts in thinking often occur in interesting synchronicities.
I was just thinking of the reference to Ferlinghetti because of the Everson Centennial and that
article that was in the San
Francisco Chronicle about Ferlinghetti just the week before, and you mentioned
you had read his book. This idea of coincidences–McTaggart actually uses the word synchronicity. She has a chapter on sharing dreams, and the German phrase for it is Das ganze
Feld. This is interesting. I picked up her book
again and I actually opened it
up to this exact page, and I want to read this to you: “Important shifts in
thinking often occur in interesting synchronicities.”
Just that opening line . . .
M: Um Hum.
The Light from the Far Door
This idea of shifts in
thinking… I took that picture in 2007 when we were
in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. It’s
where the ancient astronomical site was situated strategically for the Anasazi
culture; it’s where they had
their kivas; the largest kivas in the Southwest were in this very canyon. This is a doorway inside of
one of the pueblos that has this interesting
symmetry to it.
What I like about it so much is
the light that comes through from the far door. It’s fully illuminated.
M: Yes, it is!
H: If you go through the
succeeding doorways it looks like it’s opening into a golden light, a realm of
M: Um, hum. It does, doesn’t it!
In a way it’s a metaphor for what we’ve been talking about,
like going into the field of the unconscious. I think it’s fair to say that the
Zero point field is a zone
of mystery in the collective unconscious Jung was talking about. It’s an energy Field.
M: I think Jung would have been
happy with that.
H: He would have.
Science, the Foundation for the Intuition
That would have reinforced what he was saying.
In fact, it grounds his intuitions
in a way. You said last time that
he proved the collective
unconscious. I thought you said that with some assurance. I would have said before that the
objective psyche was a theory, though a very compelling one.
But I thought, without having
looked into it deeply, that he
had amassed a tremendous amount of anecdotal information and
empirical evidence. But
connecting it with the Zero point
field really illuminates the work
he did and gives it grounding
in the so-called hard sciences.
Well, Jung thought Einstein’s
work was exciting. They knew each other, and Jung
understood what Einstein was working on. Jung had him to his home for dinner
a few times. He knew
a number of famous physicists. In fact, Jung analyzed over
of Wolfgang Pauli.
Pauli is the
physicist who helped Jung work on his
monograph on synchronicity and gave him some
scientific inspiration for his ideas. You know that passage we just looked at about thinking being stimulated by interesting
synchronicities, such as your picking up that Ferlinghetti book.
That’s an example
of what Jung is talking about.
M: And it goes on
all the time.
Finding that interesting link to the artist that you were unaware of.
Yes. I had both Ferlinghetti’s When I Look at Pictures and the painting over our bed and had seen them both, and then
just this week those two
seemingly discrete pieces of information
came together. They were floating
in separate spheres, and now they
merged into one larger sphere, both now in conscious awareness.
H: Yes, finding that interesting
link to the artist is an “ah ha” moment.
M: Well, it’s quite a delight for this to happen. By the way, I brought you this copy of When I Look at Pictures because there’s a Klimt in the book that Ferlinghetti accompanies with a poem he wrote after looking at the painting. He does this with twenty other famous paintings. So, I’m going to ask you to look at the painting closely, really closely, and then read Ferlinghetti’s poem. I used to do this with my classes. We’d do the surface-features game with the painting. Each person would point out one detail in the painting, and we went around several times. One of my students sent me a postcard from Europe later on. It was a Klimt. She had seen a painting in a museum and knew instantly that it was a Klimt. That class sent a lot of Klimt specialists out into the world! So that’s what happened to me. When I leafed through Ferlinghetti’s book and saw the “Promenade on the Beach,” I said to myself “I know that artist! That’s who painted our picture!” so from Ferlinghetti I learned his name was Joaquin Sorolla (1863—1923). Then I had the good luck to find ours among over 400 of Sorolla’s paintings on a website on the Internet. I could feel it all pulling together, like reading a good detective novel, all the clues coming together. So, look at the Klimt as long as you like and then the poem.
M: About your doorways picture here, the way I look at
pictures, without even thinking
about what you described–which is a nice add-on for me and which I probably would have come to eventually–for me, first of all, is colors
the frame of the photo…
If I saw that in a gallery I’m sure I’d like
to have it. You said you just had it
H: I’ve had it all these years and
only recently put it on a web page I did, and it looked so good I decided to
have it enlarged.
The Synaptic Flash
M: I think we can take what we’ve been saying right back to memory and the Field. All these things are there in the Field, not in some physical past but here in this moment, all of them; they’re all here and available for that synaptic flash of connection. How this works is exciting to consider. What keeps coming back up for me is that poem by Yeats that you called to my attention several months ago. It’s called “Memory.”
One had a lovely face, And two or three had grace, Buit charm and face were in vain Because the mountain grass Cannot but keep the form Where the mountain hare has lain.
What he talks about is what remains where the hare has lain. Charm and face are in vain. In vain because what’s durable is the hologram, the impression on the field. It’s the imprint on the self–I could say, on the cellular structure–that remains. So the physical woman fades away, but the imprint remains. After all, as Einstein said, reality is an illusion, albeit a very compelling one.
As I read through The Field it becomes clearer and clearer that, though I stub my toe and it hurts, what we call physical reality is a way to get at the energy field that is our true home. I can’t think of any argument that can refute that fact.
H: The world picture,
too, is an interesting thing to start with.
I’m going to throw you a
curve now that the Giants
just won the 2012 World
Series. [Both laugh.]
This is something Everson said when I was
interviewing him. You know
that Confucius said a picture is worth
a thousand words. Everson
said, “Confucius said a picture is worth a thousand words,
but it took words to say it.”
What do you think about that?
Too Cozy with Our Conclusions
Huh! We should always take our selves down a peg or two. We get too cozy with
our conclusions, and we stop
looking. For me it constantly comes back
to the realization that you can sort things out and come up with
a profound statement. But you have to
throw it back into the mix. You have
to refresh your ideas, breathe new
life into them. Someone
was talking about words and
things, words and things. “No,” someone else responded, “Words
ARE things.” They are
physical just the way
my so-called flesh is physical. And, it does seem unarguable that the entire physical world is indeed the Zero point field,
or we could call it energy, though that’s probably too broad a term for a physicist.
describes a fascinating experiment in which
immunologist put strong
amounts of an antibody in a
water solution, made a solution of one tenth
of that and poured
it into the next
bottle, put one tenth of that
into the next pure water and so on to see the minimal amount needed.
out that the weaker the solution the more powerful the
effect till they couldn’t find the antibody at all in the final solution–it
was virtually pure water–but
it still had the most powerful effect. The water had
the memory of the antibody. The mountain grass could not but keep
the form where the hare had lain. That’s fantastic.
What I draw from that is that
everything is based on memory. It has nothing to do with the physical act. It’s
what’s carried over from that. Once
you get the knack
of tapping into the memory
field, you can use it to deal with
going to Safeway. I can see that
trip as a human hologram
flowing through a memory field. It’s mind-boggling. Gee,
I think that’s a keeper:
Resistance to New Ideas
That’s a fascinating idea, and McTaggart mentions a critique
published in Nature expressing some doubt. So often in science
you find resistance thrown at the researcher in order to force the researcher
to prove the theory.
It can be a powerful deterrent
to presenting new ideas. The researcher
risks alienation of his fellow
scientists. I think this idea is powerful because it shows,
going back to Jung and his idea
of the collective unconscious, how many
people tried to discredit him.
M: Oh, yes, to this day.
H: I had
a little experience of this myself when I was doing research
at John F. Kennedy University, after taking Everson’s course. I set out to prove the theory of the vocational archetype,
because I believed that this
idea of the Field
is something that anybody can
experience through a vocation. Vocation
is the doorway into the field,
into the realms of gold.
It has to be a way whereby an equivalence or equality is achieved through shared fields.
That’s what I mean by spiritual democracy. You could use field as a metaphor,
vocational fields, to verify that.
In the Poetic Mode at Cocktail Parties
Could you hold that thought?
When I go to a cocktail party, the
kind I would like to go to would be among
people who realize that they are bringing a field, and I am bringing a field, and the idea is through
language to bridge those fields so that the fields
can merge. What does happen instead, almost always, is that you talk in
superficialities. But one of my
games is to gently slip
beneath that level when a crack opens. That happened recently.
Someone was asking me about what I do.
They are always asking that. I told her about my latest book. She wnted
to know what it was
all about. I said, “Well, it’s
about a lot of stuff, but what I
could say is that when we are having this dialogue, we have the
opportunity to move beyond a more general level to talk
at a more intense level. As we go about our
lives, we have the opportunity
to experience them more intensely.” She said,
“I think I would like your book.” I said, “I know
you would like what I’m
talking about.” I do, because everybody
I hope that didn’t distract you too much.
The Cocktail Party
No. In fact, it gets right
back to what I was talking about through another interesting segue and that’s something my
former Jungian analyst Don Sandner had read. He had been
a literature major. While he
was deciding what profession to pursue, he read a book
called The Cocktail Party.
M: Oh, yes, T.S. Eliot.
H: In it, the protagonist finds his calling to psychiatry. The cocktail party is the theme of the book. [First performed in 1949 in London, the play received considerable critical approval,] So Don decided to pursue a career as a psychiatrist based on that play. I think those types of interesting stories between the fields of literature and psychiatry and psychology intrigue me because of the bridge among fields.
Yes. What you have done
is bridge a whole lot of fields. And by the way, doesn’t the word field as
used in describing a
profession add a new depth to the more conventional meaning of it!? You center
on Jungian psychology, but that involves almost everything
H: My research studied
the way vocation is confirmed through the dream life and how powerful dreams
can be in the career decision-making process.
M: Is that what you were getting
at when you said you were doing that research at JFK University and ran into
The Nuclear Symbol
H: I developed this hypothesis and
I was using the empirical method of the nuclear symbol, that there is a nuclear
symbol at the core of the human psyche. It’s filled with energy. The
personality, you could say, is an energy field. So dreams from very early
childhood or memories, as you were saying, from early development are often
associated with this act of vocational discovery. Jung had a very powerful
dream at the age of three that helped confirm his vocation.
M: Do you remember what it was?
Memory in the Cell
H: Yes, He was out in a field and
he found and underground cavern going down into a chamber. He went down into it
and found a very large phallus seated upright on a golden throne. So there’s
the gold for you. It was a very large phallus. And it had an eye looking
motionlessly upward and aura of light around its head. This is a three-year-old
QUOTE: Psychic Antibodies
He remembered this dream
in mid-life. But Jung’s vocation was discovered earlier than that recollection of his early childhood memory. This discovery was made through a dream that he had that led him
to specialize in medical science in
his early twenties. He had many interests he could have followed—
archeology, philosophy—and the dream
helped him specialize. But he was always pursuing a scientific vocation. That was his
primary vocation, science. He was like these scientists in the way he approached
his work. This idea of an antibody memory that
you were just talking
about intrigued me because
about four years ago I sent a paper to the Journal of
Analytical Psychology called “Psychic Antibodies.” I got this idea intuitively through a poem I wrote back in 1989 or
1990 called “King Snakes.” The king
snake has its own
internal antibody against
rattlesnake venom. Intuitively
I also saw something related
to that in my study of children’s fantasies,
in their sand-play fantasies. And I’ve seen it in dreams as
well. What you’re talking about
is a memory in the cell itself, the
antibody as a memory. That reminds me of my hypothesis
of psychic antibodies. I think that
theory is in advance of where our
field is right now. My paper was returned. It wasn’t
quite the time for its emergence. I’ll publish it someday. The idea
that the psyche has
its own anti- toxins that can fight against psychic
infections that come from the environment,
social field, the cocktail
party. A critical teacher, for example, can plant a
very toxic idea that you’re not worth
anything. So you have to find your own inner connection
to the self to protect yourself against
M: That brings
me to this thought I have
every once in a while. When I think
of these dialogues we’ve been having, I think, These are really good; these are profound. Then I think, What would
somebody like Wittgenstein, the
philosopher I told you about earlier, or Jung, think about what you
and I have been saying? Would they
punch holes in these ideas? Would
they think our ideas are shallow or ill conceived?
H: I don’t think so.
M: Well, that’s what comes over me
sometimes. It would be like some big-shot in the field stepping in and
ridiculing your work.
H: And it has to be presented in a way that is very readable and flows. The other thing is that we seem to be on a track that appears to be moving toward something.
But I think if I were editing it, I wouldn’t want to take
out the stumblings. Sure, we should
cut out the stuff that doesn’t
move the play forward, probably a third or more.
But you want that
exploratory process. It’s like going
into a good novel or a play. That carries a What’s going to happen next? engagement.
H: I do agree with that. I’m
excited about where we’re going with this idea about marketing spiritual
democracy right now.
This Is the Way You Need to Go.
M: Well, I have
those waves of doubt that come over me, but then the antibodies kick in and I
think, Well, screw it! I think the vocation is saying, This is the way it’s
going here, pal; this is the way you need to go.
H: That’s good.
M: I find these dialogues pulling
together everything that’s gone on before. And that’s really nice.
H: I just sent one of the poems from the journals I’ve kept over the years to Norbert Krapf, who was the poet laureate of Indiana. He said it’s a great poem. I called it “Wholeness,” but I re-named it “Psychological Age,” because I was talking about our entering a new age.
Do you want to
know how to heal yourselves from the overwork of civilization? Watch your
dreams. Wake up at 4:30 A.M., on consecutive summer mornings. Read a good book,
look at old pictures, paint, dance, or write poetry.
Do whatever it is you have wanted to do for a long
time. Do not hesitate even for a moment.
Have a light breakfast, exercise a bit, open the
doors and windows of your
house. Let the air and the sound of the birds rush in to penetrate
the morning silence.
whatever happens in the workday world cannot shake you from your discipline.
For in the morning you are
Do not expect yourselves to
be masters of the Art,
Do not expect
Dante, Shakespeare, or Michelangelo. Know that we have entered a psychological
We can all be poets and
artists now, after Whitman.
will not be great, like the great masters were great; but we will be great like
You can use poetry to gather
up the seeds of your wholeness now.
For what is
truly great in us now is the psychological; that is what is truly great in this
century after Jung and Everson..
It will take many poets working together to put down
the meanings of analytical psychology into poems.
will produce artists and poets who will be true representatives of
psychological consciousness for centuries to come.
It is the
Democracy of the body and soul that matters now, Not the eloquence of our
The men and
women who will lead us into the future Will be bearers of the same essential
Poetry and art are means to individuation and wholeness.
kind of an age is it? And what’s the aim of this new age? I don’t like the term
“New Age” so much. It’s got all those connotations that have a ring of
I Know All About That.
That’s the problem I see here.
You could probably go out on the
street and find some
twenty-five-year-old who could
recite exactly what you and
I are saying, and it would
all be superficial with him.
Sure, he would say, I know all about that, blah, blah,
blah. And he could lay it out for you, and it would
be totally superficial. And that’s
what’s annoying, because they are “getting it,” but they’re
not getting it at all. It’s the new jargon.
Everything that you and I
are exploring is not grasped. They might know of the Zero-point field. They’ve seen plenty of science-fiction movies where
you go back in time, and so forth. “Oh, yeah,
yeah, I know all about that.” But
they don’t. That bugs me. But
that is the veneer you have to chop through.
Let’s go back to vocation. The only way you can get to it is to calm down and stop knowing everything and let yourself go through those passageways in your Doorways photo, or into a cavern deep inside yourself. I don’t know if you’d need an axe or just some quiet meditation. Of course, it could be either.
That brings me to distance viewing, which is discussed in The Field too. I think there’s enough evidence to say that people really can sit here and visualize something going on in Poland, or in Pennsylvania, in great detail. Some people are really good at it, but ordinary people can learn to do that too. I’ve never done it, but I never really set my mind to it either.
H: People have their own
M: Yes, I agree,
but the researchers who conducted some of the experiments tried out randomly
selected people, and they could be trained to do it, too, with a little bit of
They call it distance viewing. The
CIA had some amazing results using a couple of guys who were known to be
especially talented in it.
H: There are clairvoyants who can do that.
Clairvoyance — Clear Vision
M: Right, but they
tried ordinary people like Clark and Steven and got statistically good results
with them, too. That’s the significant thing for me, the implication that we
may all be able to tap into the field and access connections with music, math,
anything humans pay attention to.
I think everybody, under the right
conditions, has access to ESP phenomena.
This is something Jung was studying back in the first quarter of the last century. I did my dissertation
at Rosebridge Graduate School where
I got my doctorate working with
Jon Klimo who was the chairperson.
He wrote the book Channeling.
He’s become internationally famous
for that book.
He speaks of the
idea of distance viewing. He studied a lot of the research out there in this
It’s fascinating. ESP, of course,
is part of parapsychology. I think we do have a capacity in the mind for that
and there are people who become specialists in it.
M: You may live to see it become
part of our everyday lives.
H: We are seeing it.
Channeling does provide techniques for people to develop these cognitive
M: What if we began that with
kids in grade school?
H: Yes, children are open to that
reality too. That’s what I was getting at. I learned how to observe empirically
the psychic phenomenon of psychic antibodies in children’s sand-plays. They
were actually creating portraits, getting back to pictures of psychic
antibodies in the sand tray. I was taking pictures of this real phenomena with
my camera. I have some of them on slides.
M: Could the kids
learn to use their antibodies deliberately?
H: They did, and
that played a part in their transformation.
M: Becoming whole
H: Exactly, becoming whole again
and healing the psyche.
M: Maybe this is connected, but something that’s been driving me nuts lately is this 2012 election. I read in the San Francisco Chronicle two days ago that I’m not the only one. Lots of people are feeling very anxious about it. I think this is something new. I’ve never seen this kind of behavior among voters before, not to this level. People are frantic. They can’t take their minds off it. One woman said she’ll wake up at three in the morning and go check the Internet to see what the latest word on it is.
H: That’s interesting, but I’m
not getting as caught up in it, for some reason.
M: Here’s what I’m getting at,
though: the collective opinions out there almost infected me. I started getting
H: That’s exactly what Jung means
by psychic infection.
M: I despise getting that
psychological disease. I had that kind of infection one other time in my life.
I resolved I would never let that happen again.
H: That’s a
psychic antibody working for you.
M: Yes, that’s
exactly what I think is going on.
can be psychic protection against intrusive antigens. The psyche has its own
immune system. And it needs to be protected.
It Has to Wash Away.
M: You can’t just say I’m not
going to be upset. It has to wash away. But you have to set it in motion.
H: And washing away is the right
metaphor for what we’re talking about. I got this also from looking at a movie,
and that was The Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy throws water on the witch. She says, “I’m melting.” She washes away.
M: The insights in that movie are
profound. I looked up the author, Lyman Frank Baum [1856—1919], and it turned
out he wrote children’s books. But I don’t think anything else came close to
the understanding of psychology he displayed in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Sometimes, I think, conditions in the
field are so synchronous the writer seems almost to be taking dictation. Frank
Herbert did that in his book Dune. He
never came close to it before or after.
Liquidation of a Complex
H: That’s called liquidation of a
complex, but I use it in terms of a toxin. This is actually medical
terminology. Toxins are liquidated through water. Water is used to wash away.
M: And to add to that, thinking
about the memory the water holds, you could take away that particular antigen
completely, and the memory in the water
would do the trick.
The psychic antibody is a
memory. That’s powerful, and I’m glad you called attention to that chapter because I hadn’t read
that closely. I skimmed it this morning, and it’s interesting.
Well, I was losing
track of what the Field is
all about, and I started re-reading it more thoughtfully. My problem as a thinker is that I can’t
keep track of all these details.
I have to do what we’re
doing. I have to bring
them to the surface through dialogue, through reflection. So, yes, the
memory in the cell is exactly the same thing Yeats was describing in his poem. I have
to wonder how he could be
so insightful, so aware. “One has a
vision. One would like
He had a poetic sensibility, an ability to capture a unitary picture of the world.
M: Yes, but how could he possibly
know what these scientists worked so hard to discover or come to understand. As
a poet, it’s pretty damned amazing, don’t you think?
Zero at the Bone
Not really. What it
to something like what I call a vocational archetype. I know the
term doesn’t quite work for
you. Maybe another phrase will emerge
as we talk. But let me just finish my thought. We were
talking about, for example, the
Zero point field, and Emily
Dickinson wrote, “Zero at the
bone” and capitalized the Z. “The lightning
struck me every day,” she says elsewhere.
It entered her and lighted her within with these bolts of
illumination. And that
was the energy field that she had tapped into. You
see the same thing
in any field where there’s excellence, brilliance. We saw it this summer again with
Usain Bolt when he ran that
100 meters. It’s become
a cliché, the lightning
symbols. Let me return
to what I was saying earlier
about fields, a field such as track and field, and an athlete like Usain Bolt can help clarify
what I am getting at. They called him Lightning Bolt.
He’s the fastest
man in the world in the
100 meters. When you see a race like the
one he ran this summer, that kind of excellence is
a manifestation of the field
in action. The same
with language. Sometimes
when two people are thinking together and enter the Field and drop down into
it, lights can go on and people can get a feeling for it. I think that’s what
people really want.
Merging the Physical Being and the Field
You need to know consciously what you’ve been experiencing
and what that’s all about, and then you can do it
yourself. I want to tell you, though, as I was sitting here that
I realized in answer to your
question of when this got going for me that it probably got going long before I thought it did. I majored in mathematics and English, and people would say they were so different. But I said, no, they
interact with each other. As I began to see connections between them, it
reinforced both of them. So I was seeing all things as
connected even then, even then. I don’t know if
it goes farther back to when I was a little
boy. I guess I didn’t exclude anything from my realm of interest. It could have
been gardening or carpentry or
painting a house or whatever. As far
as I could see, it seemed to be the same stuff, involving your physical being in the Field, which of course is infinite.
as you were saying, when two people start discussing this the way Wittgenstein would be doing philosophy, with ten or twelve
people in a room, you begin to open up that Field. That might be what
Everson was doing in his meditations.
You, Steven, were the other
part of the dialogue. You were engaged. People taking notes,
I would say, were not doing it as
well. I don’t know about the guys who were half asleep. Maybe they were doing
it better. They might have been absorbing it in a way they weren’t aware of.
H: I think finding ways of making this accessible is a great idea. We could explore TED more.
Cocksure Certainty—the Enemy of Clarity
M: There’s an article in the New Yorker I might be able to dig out
for you about how TED works. As
I said, they are always booked. [Of
course, as I edit this dialogue in 2019, TED has expanded almost exponentially.] But people know they will be getting a presentation
that’s going to be extremely fascinating. I’ve also seen an article that finds
its flaws, which is fine, because we need the debunking as well, as you were
saying earlier. This is what I was telling you earlier because every once in a
while something comes over me that says This is ridiculous. We need that
leavening to keep ourselves from becoming too cocksure. We need to be more
gentle about it all.
H: Modesty is a key to it.
Fresh, Open, Like a Child
M: If not, you
become a zealot. Like one of those crazy fundamentalists who don’t doubt their
own self-assurance. You always have to come to each new dialogue like a child,
fresh, open. Then the Field becomes accessible. You can release yourself from
its grip. It doesn’t matter what happens on November 6. On the other hand, I
feel sorry for you younger people who will have to live through Romney if he
gets elected. [Laughs.]
H: You’ll have to live through
it too, Clark
True, but America will be almost irredeemable by the time he’s done!
H: I don’t think he’ll win.
Besides there’s the women’s vote! How many women want to vote for someone who’s
planning to take control of their bodies?
Planting a Redwood
How could any woman? I don’t understand that. How
could they let anybody do that to them?
I must say one thing the
anti-abortionists did make me think
about is what a life is.
To say you can’t stop a fetus from growing is like saying you can’t stop a
grain of corn from growing. It’s
a sin that it doesn’t grow.
It fell on fallow ground. I know
that sounds harsh, but my point
is that we take life all the time, some of it brutally. I know that for most women, when they have an abortion, it’s a major, major
problem. It’s not something
you do lightly. And that’s the key to it.
H: Hearing you talk about the
grain of corn, reminded me of the redwood trees. I was out yesterday with Lori
planting four new redwood trees out along the trail here, four four-foot
redwood trees. It felt so good to put those trees in the earth and water them
and to know that those trees will outlast our generation, even seven
generations, 2000 years perhaps. Whatever we do to the Earth, those trees will
hopefully eventually outlast it all.
The Labor Is the Point, Not the Fruit.
M: That’s a beautiful thought, but as I was saying earlier, we don’t have to have that thought in order to plant a tree. There is a story in Image about an old farmer who was planting a fig tree when the king came by and asked how old he was. A hundred, he replied. Well, let me know if you live long enough to see it bear fruit. Well, he did and took a basket of the figs to the king. But living to see the fruits of your labor wasn’t the point. The point is that you do this and you’re participating in it. It’s what’s going on right now that’s the value. If you live long enough for some figs, that’s really great, but that’s not the point.
Excuse the expression, but I want to fall in life. I want to stay in the park the singer’s voice sweetening the afternoon.So I write afternoon. Not the word, the thing. —from “The Alphabet in the Park,” Adelia Prado
and I are sitting in Steven’s living
room. The sun is hitting a piece of
stained glass that’s moving gently in the circulating air. The dialogue that
ensues delves deeper into the process of seeing more intensely, and with
greater and greater awareness what lies all about us. It leads as well to a deepening understanding
of what can be called cosmic morality.]
Herrmann: I’m noticing this
beautiful movement of the prism of light reflecting from the sun, these
spherical colors moving about the room.
McKowen: Look at that!
H: You don’t get that very often
where the sun hits it just right.
M: It’s like magic almost. Look at it going over the ceiling.
Light and Darkness in the Human Psyche
H: They do represent something of that refracted light that is at the core, the center, of the human psyche that wants to emit its own radiance. The forces of darkness do want to interfere with that illumination in the world and are actually envious. Envy, I think, is a big part of the human shadow, and whenever a great light does appear in the world, you are going to find a Judas Iscariot. You’re going to find a regime that wants to squash a Hafiz or a Rumi, poets who are all about light and about love and bringing that source of universal energy to the world. H: I think our discussions are hitting the nail on the head with regard to our nervous systems, which is to evolve toward greater and greater awareness, and part of that is becoming aware of the human shadow. It’s a moral task. Nietzsche said that Zarathustra had committed the greatest error in human history with the invention of morality, the postulation of the duality between good and evil, the powers of light and the powers of darkness. As you know, the history of the Middle-East and the West emerges out of that foundation–which is the history of the world. Whether or not morality belongs, nature is what we’ve got to live with. And it’s certainly here for a reason. I don’t think it’s an error, as Nietzsche said. I think it’s also part of human beauty that gives light to the cosmos.
Well, maybe he was thinking of it in the way that I object to, a kind of code
of behavior, an abstract set of rules.
Knee jerk morality, as I see it, is about as poisonous as you can
get. Natural morality is another thing
altogether. As I experience myself, I
have to take into account how I feel about my behavior. As I said in our last dialogue, that behavior
has to fit with the rest of me. The
whole package has to be unified. A
unified personality, I think, is a moral one.
That’s how I would define morality.
That allows for Gauguin going off to the South Seas and leaving his
dependents to fend for themselves. I thought
he was being moral, as I define the word.
He had to do that. You’re setting the agenda today. Do you have something in mind?
I want to read you a poem by Hafiz and then read you a dream I had. The poem addresses the theme of spiritual democracy that we’ve been talking about. It’s at the center, too, of my new book and at the center of my research on Whitman, Melville, Dickinson, and Jung. It’s called, “I have learned so much.”
I have learned so much from God That I can no longer call Myself A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew. The Truth has shared so much of Itself with me That I can no longer call myself A man, a woman, an angel, or even pure Soul. Love has befriended Hafiz so completely It has turned to ash and freed me Of every concept and image My mind has ever known. Ladinsky’s translation
The Beating Heart of the Universe
M: Perfect. That’s just perfect.
It speaks directly the the theme of my book Spiritual Democracy. Here’s another one that’s very beatiful, a shamanic poem for you” Now the sky-drum plays All by itself in my head Singing all day long “Allah, Allah, Allah.” –“The Gift, ”Ladinsky’s translation
So there’s the cosmic drum of the
Universe playing by itself in the head of the poet-shaman, beating its eternal
rhythm in three beats: “Allah, Allah, Allah.” The sky-drum is a metaphor for
spiritual democracy: the unity of the human soul with the universal God that
beats like heart everywhere. Whether one sings all day Krishna, Christ, Buddha,
Shiva, or Allah, it is the same universal drum that intones in the sky.
A Non-Verbal Illumination
M: People like Hafiz and Rumi and
others get past conceptual experience and a non-verbal illumination takes its
place. The person is wholly there
without any kind of description of how it works. Did you just discover Hafiz? You hadn’t mentioned him before.
H: I read the book The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master, translated by
Daniel Ladinsky, all the poems, and I liked them. I had known about Hafiz, but I’d never picked
up a book of his poems before. As I believe
I mentioned earlier, in 1844 Emerson was reading Goethe’s translations of Hafiz
into German and translated them into English. In his journals he translated
over two hundred poems by Hafiz! He was the most highly regarded poet by
M: My god, to think that was
going on in America in the 1840s, and America was privy to that information.
H: Well, as you know, Melville
was reading Emerson and so was Whitman.
M: Think what an influence that
Eastern poet had in our culture–that probably not one in a million knows
H: Actually, I’ve heard that
Hafiz is the most popular poet today in what was once Persia. In Iran he is the most famous Sufi poet. More copies of his collected poems sell in
Iran than the Koran.
H: That’s how popular Hafiz is there.
I later emailed my Iranian friend,
Sasan Eyhaie, about this 14th century poet:
Sasan: He is considered the king of poets in Iran. He literally
perfected Persian poetry to its utmost beauty and love. He is the only poet I
know of who repeatedly speaks of the elder of Mogh, a Magi elder, perhaps one
of his teachers?! He is nicknamed Hafiz since it means the rememberer. They say
that’s because he knew Quran by heart! They say the last 10+ years of his life
he did not go anywhere and was in prayer the whole time.
M: What’s the matter with their
people and our people that there’s this powerful force of love right next to
the murderous tendency?
H: That’s what you were saying
before we started to record.
M: Yes, this yin yang is working almost too dramatically on our country and Iran. [A reminder: This transcription was recorded in September 2011. A lot has happened since then. Use Google for updates!]
H: Can you imagine if Walt Whitman sold better in the United States than the King James Bible?
Reading Poets in Their Deepest Sense
M: Well, when I was growing up, Whitman was in all the sixth-grade readers. But I don’t think the people who put him in there knew what he meant. It sounded good to them, but they didn’t get the deep meanings. And that’s possibly the problem. The problem is we need to read these people in the deepest sense instead of superficially. I suppose that’s the common thread that runs through these dialogues you and have been having, tuning ourselves up so that we’re more awake during the whole day and pay more attentions to ordinary conversation, instead of being half asleep, so to speak.
H: That is the problem. I am
hopeful, though, given that fact that Sufism is more popular for Iranians than
fundamentalist Islamic interpretations of the Koran; the Middle-East appears to
be on the verge of a miraculous transformation.
Poets like Hafiz appear to be leading the way out of the morass of
morally-laden and worn out Koranic laws.
M: That’s what we’ve been saying,
talking about this urge of the spirit to come forth in every creature, the urge
to realize itself, to real-ize itself.
There’s this demand, whether people know it or not, including
fundamentalists who don’t understand that what they really want to do is
actualize their own spirits. It’s
confusing to them, so they think they have to punch things and break them. Maybe there’s some way to get past that.
H: I think that’s absolutely
correct. Every human being wants to
actualize his or her own inner light.
And these poems are all about that, realizing one’s inner light, one’s
own truth. That includes coming into
relationship with the Beloved, with a capital B. For Shams and Rumi, that was something
between them. Just like Hafiz and
Attar. Attar was Hafiz’s teacher for
forty years. Between them, there was
this breakthrough of a universal force that he describes in his poems, which
like Rumi’s, was a profound opening of the heart and of love emerging,
accompanied by light, tremendous light. That’s something that Whitman speaks
about in Section Five of “A Song of Myself,” when he’s lying on the grass and
realizes that light. The lover comes and
opens his shirt, exposing his heart at the bosom bone. He said he had an experience then that transcended
all the art and argument of the Earth.
In other words, it was an experience of cosmic unity, the beating heart
of the universe or what Hafiz calls the sky-drum. That is a pure shamanistic
experience, an ecstasy. Hafiz says: “I know the ecstasy of the falcon’s wings /
When they make love against the sky” (Ladinsky, 57). That is a surpassing kind
M: “All the art and argument of
the Earth.” Perfect.
The problem for most people is that they stop at the image
M: I think the problem for most
people is that they stop at the image.
They think they’ve found it when they have the image in their hands.
H: The image is the direct
channel to the light.
M: Yes, but if you stop there,
then you may become a fundamentalist.
H: Well, exactly.
The Image as a Gate not an End Point
M: They use the image as the end
point, but it’s only the gate.
H: Take that poem of Hafiz, “Now
the sky-drum plays / All by itself in my head.”
The great Sufi master puts himself in accord with the Universal force of
the drum, the beat. He does not play the drum; the sky-drum plays in his head!
It does not matter so much what the poet shaman sings. It could be OM. For
Hafiz it is Allah. Sufism is the mystical sect of Islam. The point is the
sky-drum can beat in any person’s head if one attunes to the unitary force in
the cosmos. The problem is that if the fundamentalist’s thumping of the Koran becomes
the drum, then what’s lost is the sky.
Then what’s lost is the transcendence.
M: That’s well put.
H: The drum, the drum of the
universe, which is the drum of Shiva.
Shiva beats the drum of time.
It’s the same drum of the shaman.
M: So our problem is our settling
for the little world rather than the great world.
H: It’s exactly what the problem
is. If the Book becomes everything, then one never writes one’s own book.
M: That’s good.
H: It’s basically what poets
teach, and it’s what Whitman taught.
It’s what Emerson taught.
M: I mentioned this drive within the human being for the
spirit to actualize itself. It’s that
Dylan Thomas poem:
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower Drives my green age.
It’s the same force.
I’m thinking how grass will come up through concrete, thick concrete.
Amazing. Well, it’s that force in the
universe that just demands to find its way to the light.
I felt their existence as themselves to be of infinite value and I rejoiced in it.
Agape and the Cloth of Gold
The dialogues I’m gradually adding to this website keep circling back to the intensification of experience. There are things anyone can do the allow that to happen, but sometimes, if we’re lucky, it floods over us and we don’t have to do anything. In fact, there is nothing we can do. It’s involuntary, and it lasts awhile and then gradually fades. But we never quite forget it either, and it remains a reminder of how life can be experienced without our fingers crossed. I was reading Humphrey Carpenter’s biography of W. H. Auden the other day and ran across such a wonder moment that Auden experienced in 1933 and remembered and wrote about some thirty years later. Carpenter writes: “He had never been happier. It was perhaps this, together with the fact that he was in love, that led him to experience a quite novel sensation one June evening.”
One fine summer night in June 1933 1 was sitting on a lawn after dinner with three colleagues, two women and one man. We liked each other well enough but we v,./ere certainly not intimate friends, nor had any one of us a sexual interest in another. Incidentally, we had not drunk any alcohol. We were talking casually about everyday matters when, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, something happened. I felt myself invaded by a power which, though I consented to it, was irresistible and certainly not mine. For the first time in my life I knew exactly — because, thanks to the power, I was doing it — what it means to love one’s neighbour as oneself. I was also certain, though the conversation continued to be perfectly ordinary, that my three colleagues were having the same experience. (In the case of one of them, I was later able to confirm this.) My personal feelings towards them were unchanged — they were still colleagues, not intimate friends — but I felt their existence as themselves to be of infinite value and I rejoiced in it.
I recalled with shame the many occasions on which I had been spiteful, snobbish, selfish, but the immediate joy was greater than the shame, for I knew that, so long as I was possessed by this spirit, it would be literally impossible for me deliberately to injure another human being. I also knew that the power would, of course, be withdrawn sooner or later and that, when it did, my greeds and self-regard would return. The experience lasted at its full intensity for about two hours when we said good-night to each other and went to bed. When I awoke the next morning, it was still present, though weaker, and it did not vanish completely for two days or so. The memory of the experience has not prevented me from making use of others, grossly and often, but it has made it much more difficult for me to deceive myself about what I am up to when I do.
Here’s another wonder moment from Sidney Field’s Krishnamurti The Reluctant Messiah. An American teenager in the 1920s, Sidney met the spiritual leader, then in his twenties, through his family, and was invited to attend a camp gathering at Ommen in the Netherlands and a pre-camp gathering at Castle Eerde. Sidney’s moment took place there one morning during a talk by Krishnamurti.
At some point during the talk, something extraordinary happened to me. For no apparent reason I experienced a sudden outburst of intense joy in the region of the heart. I went on and on in increasingly strong rhythmic waves until I thought I would have to open my mouth and shout for joy. I was reminded of Irving Pichel’s laughter in Lazarus Laughed—only this was the real thing, uninvited unsought, possessing my entire being. It was an experience that practically lifted me out of my body, something I had never felt before or thought I could ever feel.
After the talk most of the guests took advantage of the sun-drenched morning and went out into the woods for short walk before lunch. I stayed by myself, hoping preserve the fragrance of that indescribable moment as long as possible. Alone and undisturbed under the leafy shade to a tall elm, I felt the joyous force quieting down to the rhythm of my breathing, bringing with it a sense of great peace and up-welling love. As the days passed, it receded into the background. I looked forward to my forthcoming walk with Krishnaji in the hope that he might be able to ignite again the inner spark that had given me such a great high a few days before. I longed to be swept up again in tha joyous flame that had made the world appear purified and innocent, as if it had just come into being that morning.
After the meeting in Eerde, Sidney visited Paris, London, New York and Chicago and then took a train home o Hollywood. Here he recounts his second wonder moment:
Paris, London, New York, Chicago—they were exciting and fun for a young man embarking upon life, but hardly the appropriate ground upon which to cultivate that rare spiritual flower I had found at Eerde, which now seemed a faraway dream. I boarded the Sunset Limited in Chicago on my way back to Hollywood, depressed and discouraged, wondering whether I would ever again touch that deep and purifying force.
One day I was standing against the side railing in the open section of the observation car, traveling fast through the New Mexico desert. I was not thinking about anything in particular, just taking in the vast monotony of the desert scene, hot and dusty, when a giant sunflower growing beside the railroad tracks, a few inches from destruction, brushed rapidly past my face, incredibly close, its golden face momentarily shutting out the world. Like a coiled spring, the great Joy, self-exiled these past few weeks, leaped out of me, as if to greet the daring flower beside the railroad tracks—a joyous sunburst to the glorious sunflower!
The train sped on as I watched the magnificent bloom slowly fade and disappear in the distance. Outwardly nothing had changed. The same dull, fat people still sat in the observation car, watching the same hot, dusty desert. Yet, miraculously, everything had changed for me. The heightened awareness revealed a desert that was a marvel of beauty. The people around me, fat and ugly, had somehow acquired a quality I had not been aware of before, something, perhaps, deep down in them, that touched the life of the lovely flower they hadn’t even noticed. Truly, it was a startling, marvelous experience, once more totally unexpected. I wondered how long it would last, but I promised myself not to worry about that now.