“Offering” photo by Bruce Donehower
Last night — in a hybrid meeting on the porch — we celebrated the completion of sixteen months of weekly Zoom meetings for friends and members of the Section for the Literary Arts & Humanities.
Our in-person literary group was joined by friends and members from afar, who Zoomed in. Multiple monitors, a video camera, and high-end microphone were used to connect. It worked great! (Except for the live music, which never sounds good on Zoom, really.)
Our next meeting will occur in the autumn. The date has not been set. Send your thoughts and ideas to me, if you wish.
A St. John’s Summer Solstice Celebration in the Garden with Umstülpung!
Our theme for the evening was “Umstülpung”—quite a mouthful in English. It’s a word whose meaning, “inversion,” also carries the connotation of “a deep opening process of turning a social field completely inside-out and outside-in, of upending things.”
We began the evening celebration with the poem “Holy Longing” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as translated by American poet Robert Bly. For educational and cultural purposes, here is Bly’s translation of the famous poem.
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
Because the mass man will mock it right away,
I praise what is truly alive,
What longs to be burned to death.
In the calm of the love night,
Where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
A strange feeling comes over you
When you see the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught
In the obsession with darkness,
And a desire for higher love-making
Sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter,
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
And, finally, insane for the Light,
You are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced
This: die and become,
You are only a troubled guest
On the dark earth.
— “The Holy Longing” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, translated by Robert Bly
This was followed by a reading of a poem by Walt Whitman, “A Summer Invocation.” Here are the opening lines . . .
Thou orb aloft full dazzling,
Flooding with sheeny light the gray beach sand;
Thou sibilant near sea, with vistas far, and foam,
And tawny streaks and shades, and spreading blue;
Before I sing the rest, O sun refulgent,
My special word to thee.
Hear me, illustrious!
— Walt Whitman, “A Summer Invocation”
Hannah-My-Hedgehog / A New Publication!
The evening included the premiere of a new publication from SageCabinPublishers.com an original, brief, whimsical fairy tale based on the Grimm collection — an initiation drama of “Umstülpung” — quite suitable to the season of the summer solstice when the year inverts in a marvelous seasonal lemniscate dance. This tale was chosen for its affinities with the Great Mother — She who is celebrated so often by Novalis.
The great secret is revealed to all,
and it remains forever sublime.
Out of pain is the new world born,
and the ashes are dissolved into tears
for a draught of eternal life.
The heavenly mother dwells in all,
so that every child may be immortal.
— Novalis, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, translated by Bruce Donehower
What Happens Next?
Well, personally, I plan to spend my summer with Goethe. He and I have just arrived in Rome, and Tischbein has given us a knowing wink and conspiratorial grin. Things look promising! Free at last!
“This is going to be great fun. The rumor that you are in Rome has already spread and aroused the curiosity of the artists about the only foreigner whom nobody knows.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey
Poetry Salons Take Hold in Fair Oaks Community!
We’re very happy to see that the Section work has inspired friends and neighbors in Fair Oaks to host poetry salons in the community this summer— just as we were excited to see how Goethe’s Fairy Tale was taken up so enthusiastically this year in the community. That is how the esoteric work of the Section for the Literary Arts and Humanities of the School for Spiritual Science should work into the life of the world, as I understand it. May the reader flourish!
New Moon Salons
For many years now, the local Section group in Fair Oaks has sponsored New Moon Salons that consist of music, poetry, art, and conversation. We transitioned these salons to Zoom during Covid for reasons of social conscience — and we will continue these events — perhaps live, perhaps in a hybrid medium as we did last night, perhaps again on Zoom. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile . . . Poets (and possibly fiction writers): Look forward to more regular, ongoing writer salons of original creative works when our meetings start up again in autumn.
The Literary Arts / A YouTube Channel
I set up a YouTube Channel called The Literary Arts so that friends and members who are wishing to follow the videos of lectures, celebrations, salon events, and presentations can find these easily in one place. I’m in the process of populating the contents — we have so many! These videos already exist on Vimeo — and the links are in the meeting summaries. But I thought that it would be helpful to have a curated site devoted exclusively to contents arising from our ongoing and deepening Section literary work and projects. This has been requested by friends and members.
Click this link to open the Channel.
The Literary Arts and Humanities Section of the School for Spiritual Science in North America is planning to host an online Zoom event for friends and members in North America — and elsewhere. More information about this near-equinox event, including date and time and Zoom credentials, will be made available later in the season.
“Poets and Landscapes”
Now in the concept stage: a Literary Arts project that will focus on literatures of California and landscapes in which such literature was imagined. This project will involve travel and hiking. Hikes will vary from very easy to very strenuous. (I’m assuming the Covid crisis will remain in abatement — if not . . . ) The project will host a close experiential look at the play between nature, elementals, and the being human. We will poetically and actively attempt to embody how landscape influences the creative word. We also will devote attention to the interpreted influences of Buddhism and Taoism on the imaginations of contemporary writers and poets in California and elsewhere, once and future.
Guest Speakers at the Literary Arts
I have calendared several guests speakers, who will be with us when our meetings start up again in autumn.
Regularity and Location of Future Meetings
TBD. Let’s see how the world spins. Meanwhile, sanguine and undaunted, we process our way to the Bridge!
“Today I rambled through the city in my usual fashion, noting many points which I hope to describe more fully later, for now, unfortunately, I have not the time.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey
He finds the blue flower; it is Matilda, who sleeps and has the carbuncle. A little girl, their child, sits by a coffin and renews his youth. “This child is the primeval world, the close of the golden time.” “Here the Christian religion is reconciled with the Heathen. The history of Orpheus, of Psyche, and others are sung.
— Novalis, Heinrich von Ofterdingen (Ludwig Tieck’s notes on the completion of the novel)
“But friend, we come too late. It’s true that the gods live,
But up over our heads, up in a different world.”
— Friedrich Hölderlin, Bread and Wine