Saturday, April 17, 2010

5. The Way Into the Flowering Heart II. A Revelation of Interior Presence

A Revelation of Interior Presence

Hymns and folk art transmit the tale of this inwendigkeit* of two great proponents, Jacob Boehme (1575-1624) and Johann Arndt (1555-1621). Boehme's Lily Age studied its cultivation. The basics of such thought show symbols on pottery, tools, chests and linens to be a revelation of interior presence. What God had to do with materiality was a crucial question. Boehme said creation revealed itself to itself, "inward illumination was the only basis for spiritual growth." He celebrated internal absolution, inward Baptism and inner union with the divine, and identified entirely different languages of these worlds. Robert Bly cites him in Light Around the Body, "for according to the outward man, we are in this world, and according to the inward man, we are in the inward world....Since then we are generated out of both worlds, we speak in two languages, and we must be understood also by two languages." Bly cites the same lines in The Insanity of Empire (13), but these two languages are in doubt for there is no inner language of thought. Thinking so is another cause of the blindness Bly preoccupies (Part IV). Thought is the overheard voice.

*takes the inauthenticity and blindness of the contemporary unreflective mode of existence and appeals to a turning inward, a cultivation of the depths of subjectivity in an effort to gain a superior concept of experience. (Walter Benjamin. An Aesthetic of Redemption.)

The inner life got both occult and the mundane dismissals. Pennsylvania German elite defended their ideas by saying, "we are a little slow, and perhaps too conservative to be very brilliant." Robert Bly presumes to describe his better, Wallace Stevens, and his Pennsylvania German family as "upper middle-class German Americans [who] appear to be successful repressors of the dark side" (A Little Book on the Human Shadow, 66). Bly received supports and grants for such criticism. He was made the darling, Stevens however did not resist the flower. When his sister told him their grandparents were "not Pennsylvania Dutch, but...born in Germany," he said, "I am not prepared to accept my sister's statement that my mother's grandparents were born in Germany...I don't know that my mother ever really said it and, if she said any such thing, she could only have said it on the basis of something told her by her mother" (Letters, 416). Presumably this means he thought they were born in Pennsylvania and were "Dutch." What that is of course begins the telling of many tales which at base are of the flowering heart. Stevens argues the hearsay of generations by splitting High German and Pennsylvania Dutch: "My mother's father, John Zeller, was born in Berks County on October 21, 1809," and "my mother spoke Pennsylvania Dutch." This ancestry appears in the blood of his poems from "Complacencies of the Peignoir" of Sunday mornings to his "weekends...potting things up and bringing them indoors so that the room in which I sit in the evenings now looks like a begonia farm. I have other plants upstairs and down and all over the place" (Letters, 473-4). Have a look at Wallace Stevens, Naturalist in this regard and Wallace Stevens and The Bed of Old John Zeller and then at his late in life baptism that was squelched by the establishment that it contradicted. Bly might approve a Sufi dance, but no baptism except the pagan ministers who baptize the wind, which is what happened to flowering heart, it 2-ply, 4-ply doubled and blew up in the world until everybody thought they'd gotten one. But we came to wonder at the naivete in believing that the bursting stalk above the eyes takes root into the brain and waves the life of the waving world into the heart again. That's not what happened, not what was meant at all. To the contrary, we lost a third part of the atmosphere (Banquet of God).

Mundane critics such as Bird, Wentz and Weiser force reason against this emotive heart. Bird quotes Weiser that "highly religious texts cannot be taken at face value as if every Dutchmen (sic) spent his life on his knees" (O Noble Heart, 20). Of the higher order of Dutchman Robert Bly says Stevens "followed a pattern that has since become familiar among American artists: he brings the shadow into his art, but makes no changes in the way he lives" (Shadow, 77). You think Bly changed in the flash, in the twinkling of eye? This however is the same Stevens who said that if "we should meet a monsieur who told us that he was from another world, and if he had in fact all the indicia of divinity, the luminous body, the nimbus, the heraldic stigmata, we should recognize him as above the level of nature but not as above the level of the imagination" (The Necessary Angel, 74). Such words and worlds transform.

Facetious asides such as Weiser's about Dutchmen on their knees communicate the English grievance against the Germans, that they were uneducated boors, but really they were visionary transcendentalists a century (1730) before New England. Pennsylvanians reveled in their peasantry even while faulting themselves for lacking education, but the difference between Pennsylvania and Massachusetts in belief and education is guilt. The puritan second and third generations were consumed with it (Perry Miller, Errand Into the Wilderness, 15). If the flowering heart and its sanctified natural presence were denatured by this later malaise, Anabaptists had long before shunned public celebration of the inner word world. When disbelief became an epidemic among their critics the exfoliations on quilts, chests and hearts stopped, struck down as absurd as
The way into the flowering heart
inside the flowering man
is over the inside itself,
inside the new found land.
In this unique view of natural vegetative man celebrating a flower, the Pennsylvania Dutch were inherent environmentalists of the first order. But  Pennsylvania transcendentalism was ignored. Thoreau is credited with founding the wilderness movement in his "Huckleberries" (1862) and "Walking" (1851), from which a Puritan Origin of the American wilderness movement is extrapolated. Nonsense. This is like saying The Taliban Started the Free Speech Movement. Such misdirection is all dragged from a phrase in Thomas Morton's New English Canaan (1637), "nature's masterpiece," and from unpublished notes of Edwards in the "beauty of the world," more worship at the English chapel as the source of American culture. Puritans saw nature as a "vast and howling wilderness" in that bully phrase borrowed from Deuteronomy, but see How American Sounded here or The Columbia Guide to American Environmental History here. In Jonathan Edwards' three pages in the back of Miller's edition of 1948, The Beauty of the World (unknown until 1948),  "images of divine things in the beauty of the world" make the corporeal resemble the spiritual. Bodies and nature reflect, as in Psalm 19, the planets and sun. The "complicated proportion" of green, white and blue are like the relation of sight, sound and smell which "vibrate" the human organs. These "mutual consents," are resemblances, influences of "lily," waves, woods, plants, flowers and light upon the "holy virtuous soul." So "the more complex a beauty is, the more hidden is it." One "loves life for its natural and reflective resonances of the greater." In this "consists principally the beauty of the world." The manuscript however, in the back of Perry Miller's edition, was unpublished.
Transcendentalism proposes to creation that it reflect the divine. Once every hundred years, English advocates claim it: Morton, in 1650, Edwards, in 1750, Thoreau, Emerson, in 1850, as founders of English Environmentalism. But “the full blown rose of mystical transcendentalism blossomed in Pennsylvania a full century before New England’s scrawny plant began to bud” (Stoudt, 1966, p. xix)." Scholarship is often merely sleight of hand. Pennsylvanians were transcendentalists en masse a hundred years before the nineteenth century movement in New England:

"An awareness of German culture was a recent development in New England when the Transcendental movement began. Unlike New York and Pennsylvania, where large numbers of immigrants from Central Europe had settled in the eighteenth century and German traditions were well known, in New England few could read German until the early nineteenth century. Translations of German literature were not generally available, and uninformed opinions of German culture were largely negative. In the second half of the nineteenth century however the situation began to change...." Howard E. Smither (A History of the Oratorio: The Oratorio in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1979, IV, 430).  

Vogel's German Literary Influences, but not much else seems to have appeared to illumine the hundred years of Pennsylvania transcendentalism before New England. If we are serious about the transmission of transcendentalism from Boehme to the Puritans we cannot bypass the Germans in Pennsylvania who had long before taken him up, stitched him into their quilts, which involves also the translation of William Law and the illustrations that Dionysus Freher reproduced in the four volume Boehme English translation.

Considerations of the mystical Pennsylvanians include:

Michel de Certeau, Michael B. Smith. The Mystic Fable.
Andrew Weeks. German Mysticism from Hildegard to Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Also, Boehme, An Intellectual Biography.
James E. Force, John Christian Laursen, Richard Henry Popkin. Milleniarism and Messianism in Early Modern European Culture.
Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly. The Cambridge History of German Literature.
Hopkins on nature as sacrament . The objects of praise and the tools of praise in Ruskin. Thus inscape as an inwendigkeit, Hopkin's inscape from Duns Scotus, much appreciated by Merton, relates to Tolkien and implicates Blake.

Discussion also here and here of the natural world as sacrament.
On innerness this dissertation by Sigrid Hackenberg.

The true practice of conflict in the eighteenth century, from Beissel to Sauer, was inward, but outwardly measured or expressed.

If we are hindered in the natural by societal measures of the Pennsylvania German there is also hindrance in the supernatural by philosophical mysticisms.

Everything depends on the right search term: Puritan Wilderness.

Consider that these are all in quotes:

"Only the most habitually critical students are likely to get what you're talking about when you suggest to them that "wilderness" is not a name like "mountain" or "river" that refers to common features of nature, but a lens through which nature is perceived. Wilderness is, in short, a "socially constructed" idea. Your job is to help them deconstruct it." Second level voyeurs undress, find sss....

This analysis by J. Baird Callicott, Priscilla Solis Ybarra mistakes the part for the whole, the puritan interpretation of wilderness for the biblical one, but so does their source, Roderick Nash. Wilderness and the American Mind (1967/1982), "that wilderness is an important biblical theme, the "antipode," on the spectrum of good, bad, and indifferent places, to the paradisaical Garden of Eden.

It would be much more to the point to say these were biblical interpretations. These scholars derive the conservation movement from the puritan's "vast and roaring wilderness" and William Bradford's "hideous and desolate wilderness full of wild beasts and wild men," the opposite of the case. There is disregard of the Beauty of the Way in already century old puritan philosophy.


Looking For Work
The imagination is the difference between the mind and the hands. The trail to the interior translates language, dimension, memory and sense.

This figure, Looking For Work, pretends that those who walk there have had their tongues cleansed. That's why his back is turned. Maimonides says the imagination needs to be sanctified, that  idols, Dereviannye idoly, set up in the contrasts of language enacting literature  make the mind of this people dull, stop their ears and shut their eyes.  The house must be occupied or vagrants and strangers will move in with vandalism, dumping, teenagers, gangs. To prevent unclean spirits it is not necessary to sweep clean and put in order; it is necessary to occupy. Vacancy is an omission whose overthrow is a commission, as the Lindisfarne Gospel (950 A.D.) says, "alla woepeno his zenimeth. . .& reafo his todaelde" (OED). Reafo his todaelde means “plunder his entire house” (Luke 11.22) and thereby set in order.
With this sanctifying and cleansing, hands begin, mind shapes, brain directs angle and line. How is sanctified light found? This does not require consciousness.

Imagination can make a bird, a plant, a tree without it. Idols manufacture imitations all the time unrelated to what imagination seeks. Language is like marble. Sculptor Michelangelo looks into marble to see David. Words are more difficult. A seraph brings a coal to Homer, the Aeneid, Chinese mountain snow, David's meditations, Satchmo. Imagination translates the great that extends beyond sight. Will must speed faith in praising. How talk to the outer world from the inner when there is no language of thought? Thought  made into language  assumes it speaks what it thinks, but thought is not languaged. That this occurs after translation is a glaring assumption. The medium of thought is image. Efforts to track this, as perhaps Bach in his Voices of the Turtledoves (2003), devoutly read German sources into English, but neither German nor English bespeak the inner world.

When we see inside something we think it  remarkable, as if this were the spirit of the thing. The spirit differs from a literal, say in song, where it sings the spirit of the song, not literally perform the music and words. This breaks the expectation of the literal that surrounds the interpretation of the song. There is no literal score to poetry. It directly speaks the spirit.

Since translation of thought to language is like a performance, a prosody that departs from expected diction and line is prima facie of spirit, but never had a literal version against which to test itself. This is one step closer to the Original, but still not the Original. What Mahalia Jackson sings as the spirit of the song Just a Closer Walk is closer to the experience of the words than the words. This shows the difference of the inside and outside. Louis Armstrong said this song gave The Beatles Let It Be. The Japanese word, kotodama, celebrated by Barry Lopez in his acceptance speech for the National Book Award for Arctic Dreams, signifies that each word has a spiritual interior.

Bible is here continually equivocated for Puritan. According to Nash, the Bible consistently characterizes wilderness as "cursed" land, "the environment of evil," a "kind of hell" on earth. "The Puritan settlers of New England, steeped in the Old Testament biblical worldview, believed they found themselves in such a "wilderness condition" of continental proportions. It was their God-ordained destiny to transform the dismal American wilderness into an earthly paradise, governed according to the Word of God.... "

Callicott and Ybarra say: to hear Nash tell it,

"seventeenth century [Puritan] writing is permeated with the idea of wild country as the environment of evil." Certainly one finds Puritan fear and loathing of wilderness in William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, and many other seventeenth-century Puritan writings, such as Michael Wigglesworth's God's Controversy with New England (1662), and Cotton Mather's Decennium Luctuosum: An History of Remarkable Occurrences in the Long War Which New-England Hath Had with the Indian Salvages (1699). While it would be an exaggeration to claim that a celebration of the American wilderness and its indigenous peoples could be found in Thomas Morton's New English Canaan (1637), one does find there a much more sympathetic portrayal than in its contemporaries."

"Thoreau here opposes Nature to civilization, wildness to culture, and himself to his pious audience. Thoreau, a close associate of Ralph Waldo Emerson is, like Emerson, labelled a Transcendentalist. It's not entirely clear what Transcendentalism was—elements of Platonism, Hinduism, Romanticism, Deism blended together—but it seems pretty clear that it was a far cry from Puritanism.

"This idea that wilderness is a human constuct is all of 15 years old, "the romantic sublime, imported largely from Europe, coupled with a more homegrown celebration of the American Frontier as a domain of individualism."

David Williams. Wilderness Lost: The Religious Origins of the American Mind (1987).

Annette Kolodny. The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience (1984) asks rhetorically how the more benign view of the natural world presented by other [the German] European colonists was to be reconciled with "the historical evidence of starvation, poor harvests, and inclement weather."

The essence of the flowering heart, in the words of Michael S. Bird, is that "the world of natural and even humanly constructed beauty is never pronounced evil (21). His justification for saying so is that this "would hardly be consistent with the biblical account of creation and the making of 'a world and its things' deemed to be good."

End note

The divisions of in and out, like energy and matter, male and female, mind and body, earth and heaven, activity and rest, age and youth, viewed as opposites, justify all the worst attitudes seen in the separatists where behaviors, dresses, fashions were ruled in or out. These go from hook and eye vs. buttons and zippers to velcro politics, gender, ethnicity, celibacy and tantrism, all politics. In Pennsylvania Dutch imagination a decorative principle becomes an aesthetic of life.

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