They were meant for you, too, apparently! :-) There are many lovely collections of Mary Oliver poems that you will likely find in the poetry section of any local (or dare I say it, big chain) bookstore.
Enjoy your journey!
Midwestern Love and light,
Good points everyone. Some men do manage to develop too, btw. ;)
As for the spiral, it's everywhere. See my publicist Geoff Ward's book, Spirals: The Pattern of Existence.
St. Augustine, the first and foremost framer of sign theory in the West, formulates it this way, "The soul turns upward in conversion with God, or downward in aversion." The motion is always spiral. You move upward and inward toward insight or downward and outward toward disunity, fragmentation, and dissolution with all that's perverse.
To get a good grasp of this very traditional Christian application of a universal truth, you might read my book on Milton, esp. the beginning--and then see how Milton employs it very creatively in his great epic poem, Paradise Lost.
My book is titled Perversions, Originals, and Redemptions in Paradise Lost.
Hello Thomas, Good to see you here! I have to tell you that nobody has suggested that I read Milton since my undergraduate Renaissance professor almost 20 years ago now (and he was not very convincing to me at the time!).
I am interested in this dualistic imagery that you've touched upon--upward/downward; heaven/earth; inward/outward. The downward/outward/earthward seems to carry a negative connotation. Am I wrong? Something from which to "turn" away and to strive and struggle against? Why is that? Here is a line from Autobiography of a Yogi that I just read this morning, "Knowledge of 'good and evil' refers to the cosmic dualistic compulsion. Falling under the say of maya through misuses of his feeling and reason, or Eve--and Adam--consciousness, man relinquishes his right to enter the heavenly garden of divine self-sufficiency." I bet Milton may have a thing or two to say about that, eh?
I've always loved an image in a poem (don't ask me the name of it now) by Lucille Clifton in which she proclaims that we are "here on this bridge between star shine and clay," implying that we (humans) are the spiral that bridges and brings unity between both the yin and the yang (the heaven and the earth) and that there is, in fact, great wisdom and divinity in this mortal clay of Gaia Earth. The spiral within the human body is often reflected in Vedic traditions (kundalini rising through the chakras) and even Western medicine (the coiled serpent symbolizing medical science/art).
Much to think about on a Sunday morning before I've even read the New York Times! Thanks!
Namaste from the Midwest,
Milton and Augustine are much wiser than people for awhile thought. Milton, as you probably know, was labeled as outdated and a terrible sexist. But he really isn't. For one thing he said that the woman should be head of the household if she were the more intelligent and godly of the pair. Eve is far better at intuitive wisdom than Adam who shines in more traditional reason. And so on.
The motion outward and downward is not toward earth but toward perversity, that is, twisting of the right patterns set out by God and shown in the relationship of the Father and Son, not only in Heaven but on earth--and to a lesser extent by Mary and the true Church--that is, all who truly follow God.
Milton separates the visible from the invisible--that is, true--Church, which intertwine and compete through time. All who remain in Communion--unity--with the Divine are members of the true Church. Those who do not--no matter how many rituals and pretenses they display are not. They follow the first perverter of all patterns--the original disuniter--Satan. They and he, according to Milton, will not suffer eternity in Hell but be dissolved, that God might be all in All, as 1 Cor. 15.28 promises. It's illogical, according to Milton, to think that fragmentation and disunity can remain.
The traditional Christian views are much closer to Buddhism than is commonly thought. Evil subsists rather than exists because only that which remains in God, who is the creator of all, shares existence. Evil is a sub-creation, following the sub-creator, Satan. One must look to the true patterns to see the distortions. It is not true duality, since all is based on a Monistic system.
If you'd like a signed copy of my Milton study, which I think you'd find insightful and fascinating, write me. I'll make you a deal. I'm sure you can also find copies on Amazon.
As you probably realize I'm certainly not opposed to truths wherever they are found. Often we are talking about the same--or very similar things--in our various approaches to Truth. In other words, Truth is Truth, wherever you find it. That's why we need meaningful dialogue.
I have several times approached universities around Denver with some course I'd like to teach which are literature based to help people get at these issues. DU was very interested in doing a joint program with an inner city organization. I want to pair up traditional university students with those coming from other backgrounds. 9/11 hit and all funding was frozen. Since then no one has been interested. Even the long-term President of the Colorado Medical Society said the Medical School would be very interested since docs need better training in the humanities.
I don't lecture much, only giving little talks when things need to be clarified and explained. But I do expect my student to read and discuss in a reasonable and civil manner.
It seems that many English Depts don't want to get involved in religious/spiritual issues, esp. in our current climate. All the more reason we need such course in my way of thinking.
If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I like counseling/coaching and writing, but I have lots to share on the literary front.
Here is the Preface to my Milton book, Steph. It lays the groundwork.
In his epic Paradise Lost, Milton employs, extends, and deepens the typological scheme that he believes embodied in, and known by a close comparison of, the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The seeds of typology were contained in various Old Testament comparisons of God and his city and its covenant-abiding members versus the non-covenant abiding ways of the wicked, typified by Egypt and, even more, by Babylon. Typology was further elaborated upon, and nailed to a Christian center, in the writings of St. Paul, and to a lesser degree those of St. John, and expanded by certain church Fathers, especially St. Augustine, the first and foremost framer of sign theory and the most elaborate discoverer of Christian typology in the West. Like Augustine, Milton believed that knowledge of the typology and sign theory that God himself established and embodied everywhere is crucial, not merely decorative. It goes directly to the mind as well as the emotions of the reader enabled by grace and study to be fit, though few.
Without reading properly God’s signs, true wisdom cannot be had. Nor can a genuine, hard-won self that grows out of grace, faith, and right actions based on diligent study and passing the tests presented to us that show the few though we be, approved of God. While Milton is dubious about the possibilities of a redeemed community composed of such individuals on earth, he affirms that without proper reading of God’s signs and therefore understanding and embodiment of his ways, a true and righteous community can never begin to grow on earth as in Heaven.
Regardless of whether one is Protestant or Roman Catholic, for the Christian of every sort typology and semiotics show forth God’s eternal ways and truths, his essential beauty, goodness, and proportion. Words, above all else, embody this system, words which function like Christ, the Word, who by his Incarnation makes visible the invisible actions, words, and things of God.
In his attempt to justify God’s ways—ways eternally embedded in language, endorsed by Christ, who is eternally the Word made flesh, and embodied in the universe of his epic—Milton, like Augustine, returns to Genesis because it records the earthly beginnings, as well as the seeds of the end, of humanity’s pilgrim journey. At that time, all that shares true being will again be caught up in God, their author, their maker—their Poet. For as Ephesians 2.10 argues, the Christian is God’s workmanship. God’s handiwork will become, ever more literally, through the many expanding and contracting rings of meaning, God’s carmen, his poem, his universe, ultimately the very embodiment of himself and his ways.
Then, and only then, will God’s people, few as they may be, fully understand and make evident that a true sense of self is gained not by separation from Heavenly communion, from the spiritual center that gives all else meaning, but rather by remaining within it, for it signifies God’s eternal covenant. Once fallen, separated from God and proper understanding of him and the ways and signs that point always to him, we realize—that is make real—only through grace, inspiration, and hard work, just as we should not mistake the Son for the Father—still God—or the Spirit for either of them—that we become ever more ourselves by tuning ourselves as fit singers of God’s song mysteriously within him and of him forever. Earthly time, chronos, is thus caught up in the eternity of kairos. Fit readers remember—thus embody in ourselves, and for God—this spiraling motion inwards and upwards in conversion, through the function of properly inspired memory, reading rightly always God’s signs, which are everywhere. Finally, if faithful to study to show ourselves approved of God, making choices patterned upon those in the Godhead, embodying the Word within, we too will enjoy, and truly participate in, the beatific vision, having moved properly from sight to insight, from earthly time to eternity, where all is present.
Significantly, Milton chooses not to end his major works on—or even show us—the rather broad-brushed beatific visions favored by Medieval writers like Dante. While still a Christian affirming the all-encompassing import of communion, firmly connected to his historical roots, Milton is also a product of Renaissance and Protestant individualism. He paints individuals in carefully delineated strokes who are somewhere in the process of gaining a deep and abiding—genuine—self, whether on earth or in heaven—and within God himself, the center of everything. There all has begun, for all has been created from God’s very self. And there in him all will end.
Because Christianity deemed the Hebrew scriptures the Old Testament, which are then fulfilled and rightly understood in the Christian writings of the New Testament, I have used these traditional terms in this book. Christian writers very early began distorting Hebrew beliefs and texts to fit their political and theological agenda. The Christian scriptures contain seeds of anti-semitism, for they paint the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day as opposers of God, especially God incarnate in Jesus the Messiah (a blasphemous twisting of the Jewish concept of messiah, who could be anyone anointed by God for a specific task; nor would in some manner stoop to take on flesh and become human, even dying for humanity).
Although Christian typology embodies the essential distortions of the Christian faith—so that one can say that Christianity is related to Judaism (with other influences), but it is not merely completed Judaism, as many present-day Christians seem apt to think—typology was historically important, for it evidences the ways in which the Christian West conceived reality. By ignoring typology, or refusing to see its presence—and the belief that God, and even, more that Christ, is the center of all, for without faith in Christ, and accompanying good works, there can be no salvation—we do not make the anti-semitism and exclusivism that Christianity has too often encouraged go away. Only by acknowledging these negative aspects of the faith, and dealing with them in a sensible manner, can we move to something better, more ecumenical and humane.
Denver, Colorado Thomas Ramey Watson
30 May 2006
That preface of yours is a dissertation in and of itself! Or perhaps an abstract of a dissertation? I am not sure I am ready to return to Milton (even though it has been 20 years now), but I'll keep you in mind once the hankerin' strikes. I've been thinking of returning to some John Donne, however. Got anything on him?
You are right about English Departments (I haunted a couple or two in my academic career myself) and their lofty disdain for spirituality. I don't know if it is the academic who just cannot get out of the way of his or her own brain, but English departments are quite full of snobby atheists who will not even engage in a conversation about spirituality, which is so profoundly odd to me considering that literature and poetry are seemingly meant to bridge us to the subtleness of spirit, Love (whatever that means), and gods? Perhaps it is placing too much of a post-modern (or maybe even modernist) lens on the pursuit of academics even when studying periods like Medieval, Restoration, Renaissance, the Romantics (!!) that so beautifully yearn to explore the spiritual. And don't forget Americans like the Thoreau, Emerson, and Walt Whitman--hello?!
Namaste from the Midwest,
I don't get it either. Never have. They seem afraid to tackle such issues.
That isn't true of the evangelical colleges but they're another story. If you veer from their doctrinal notions they don't want you around. The Catholic universities seem similar. They'll all take advantage of you but as far as granting you tenure, or even a tenure track position, if this is your main concern, you are going to have a hard go of it.
Donne relies on the spiral notions, and so does George Herbert. I have an article on Herbert in fact, “God’s Geometry: Motion in the English Poetry of George Herbert,” George Herbert Journal, 9, No. 1 (1985), 17-26. About my article, Mark Taylor, author of the Herbert study The Soul in Paraphrase, writes, “it makes a substantial contribution to Herbert studies; it is learned, cogently argued, and well written.”
I was looking to see if I had a copy I could past to these boards but I don't think I do. I remember once scanning it for a friend, but I don't know where the scan is.
I found a copy of the Herbert article and scanned it for you, Steph and others.
I can't figure out how I can insert the pdf or image file.
I can also post the article as a .jpg or .tif file but I cannot figure out how to do that using the icon above.
Can someone help me?
Hi Thomas, Why don't you e-mail it to me in pdf? firstname.lastname@example.org
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