Postmodern Supernaturalism:Ginsberg and the Search for a Supernatural Language
This essay traces the development of Allen Ginsberg's poetics in the sixties, in particular, his use of Hindu and Buddhist chant as a theoretical basis for his writing. Tracing this development reveals how Ginsberg synthesizes an anti-representational theory of writing borrowed from William Burroughs with a conception of the poet as supernaturally empowered. This synthesis in Ginsberg's work is set next to popular religious movements of the sixties that, like Ginsberg's poetry, turned to meaningless or empty language as a privileged site of supernatural power.
I. The Politics of Om
When Allen Ginsberg testified at the Chicago Seven trial in December of 1969, Judge Julius J. Hoffman and his Federal District Court saw before them the figure who defined Beat poetry in the popular imagination. Ginsberg appeared in 1969 as he had since his return from India in 1963 and as he would for most of the next two decades: a countercultural figure, a thin man with full beard, heavy-framed glasses, and long hair cascading from the edges of a growing bald spot. This was the Allen Ginsberg who had returned from that sixteen-month stay in India ready to turn poetry into a spiritual practice that would parallel, and in his personal life take the place of, the exploration and transformation of consciousness that he had long sought through the use of visionary drugs.
It was this spiritual practice of poetry that brought Ginsberg to the Chicago Seven trial in the first place, as I will demonstrate below. But more importantly, I will argue in this essay, it is the spiritual practice of poetry at the center of his testimony—a formal practice that relies on the supernatural to account for poetry's efficacy in the world—that defines Ginsberg's general significance in the sixties. My point will not simply be that Ginsberg must be understood as a spiritual or religious poet; indeed, this point has been made by others and comes as little surprise to anyone who has read Ginsberg's poetry. Rather, I will argue that the way Ginsberg imagined his poetry as spiritual, in the context of the trial and in the years leading up to it, reveals a set of beliefs about language and the supernatural that have remarkable affinities with, and also raise a challenge to, understandings of language emanating from other sectors of American culture in the sixties. Specifically, I will show how Ginsberg's spiritual poetry intersects with beliefs about language common to poststructuralism—which was at the time moving from European intellectual circles into American universities—and to a popular form of religious renewal that transformed American churches during the sixties and seventies. I will argue that [End Page 269] his use of what I will call a supernatural formalism for political purposes—epitomized by the acts that resulted in his appearance at the Chicago Seven trial—demonstrates, further, the social and philosophical implications of the conjunction between religious belief and language upon which his work relies.
As the prosecuting attorney pointed out in the Chicago court room, Ginsberg was listed under "religion" on the letterhead of the Youth International Party Festival of Life, led by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, which had planned and carried out the demonstrations in Lincoln Park during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Or as that attorney, Thomas Foran, put it, he was, on the letterhead, "named as kind of the Yippie religious leader." Ginsberg took exception to the idea that he was a leader, suggesting that the organizers of the festival "really tried to get away . . . from that authoritarian thing. It was more like . . . religious experimenter." Despite this anti-hierarchical demurral, however, Ginsberg immediately clarified his role to be exactly that of a countercultural leader. When Foran attempted to tie Ginsberg closely with the Yippies, asking whether Ginsberg played this role of "religious experimenter" in the Yippie "organization," Ginsberg agreed but also expanded the scope of his influence: "Yes," he replied, "and also in the context of our whole political life, too."1
Grandiose as it sounds, Ginsberg was not exaggerating his public visibility or overplaying the relationship between his spiritual status and his political activities; he had become an instantly recognizable figure in "our whole political life" by 1969, partly because he had indeed come to be seen as a "spiritual leader" for the counterculture.2 That status was reflected in the degree to which he was hounded by police and border officials during his extensive travels over the preceding decade, but also manifested itself in more benign ways. His picture, projected to enormous size, was used to advertise the 1967 opening of a popular club in Austin, Texas, for example, a club that became a center for the particularly vital countercultural and student activist contingents at the University of Texas.3 The counterculture had become closely allied with—if not identical to—political activism by the end of the sixties, a conjunction embodied in Ginsberg's public and increasingly vociferous opposition to the Vietnam War.4 But in the Chicago Seven trial Ginsberg's reputation as a spiritual leader, not a political leader, was the pretext upon which Thomas Foran attempted to discredit him, despite the political nature of the demonstration that resulted in the prosecution of its organizers. By emphasizing Ginsberg's "religious" status, and then revealing to the court exactly what seemed to count as religious in Ginsberg's poetry and practice, Foran relied on the most conventional of religious outlooks to provide the unspoken model to which Ginsberg would be compared and found wanting—or, rather, the model to which he would be compared and found offensive. [End Page 270]
For those unfamiliar with Ginsberg's role in the 1968 demonstrations that occasioned the trial of the activists known as the "Chicago Seven," it is worth reviewing the details. Ginsberg's help with—or to be more precise, his endorsement of—the Festival of Life had been sought by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin as they planned what they probably knew would be violent demonstrations.5 Though Ginsberg had reservations about the gathering, especially when Hoffman and Rubin were unable to get city permits for the Festival, he agreed in principle that there should be an alternative expression of political will to offset what he and others on the Left saw as a conservative and pro-Vietnam War Democratic convention. He did see his role as spiritual, or perhaps I should say that for him, the political was the spiritual. He had announced before the Festival, in a New York underground newspaper, that participants should embrace the calming power of Buddhist and Hindu chant if occasions of fear, hysteria, and violence arose at the gathering. "In the case of hysteria, solitary or communal, the magic password is Om, same as Aum," the announcement explained, "which cuts through all emergency illusions. . . . Ten people humming Om can calm down one hundred. One hundred people humming Om can regulate the metabolism of a thousand. A thousand bodies vibrating Om can immobilize an entire downtown Chicago street full of scared humans, uniformed or naked."6 Making good on his promise, if not on the exact effects of Om, Ginsberg led crowds of people in the chant during moments of confrontation between police and demonstrators, at one point chanting continuously for seven hours with a shifting group of demonstrators. His performance during the demonstration lived up to Hoffman's expectations; Ginsberg's official association with the organizers of the event—emblematized by his name on the Yippie letterhead—lent credence to their claims of peaceful intention.
In seeking to discredit those peaceful intentions as reflected in Ginsberg's conduct, Thomas Foran's cross-examination of Ginsberg attempts to cast the chanting of Om as part of a repugnant and sexually perverted hippie religious practice, as antisocial in its own way as the verbal abuse hurled at the police by other demonstrators. Foran accomplishes this in two ways. First, during Ginsberg's initial testimony, he objects to any mention of the Hindu and Buddhist contexts to which the Om and the Hare Krishna chants (both of which Ginsberg used during the demonstration) belong. He successfully objects, for instance, when Ginsberg is asked to translate the Sanskrit texts of the chants, and objects even to the mention that Sanskrit is used, like Latin, as a ritual and sacred language. The judge himself responds dismissively when he is told in what language Ginsberg is chanting. "What is it?" he asks; "Sanskrit," Ginsberg replies. "Sanskrit? . . . Well, that is one I don't know."7 The effect is to make the chants appear to [End Page 271] be nonsense, Sanskrit to be gibberish, and to make Ginsberg seem like a crackpot.
Second, Foran takes pains in his cross-examination to connect the chanting—now effectively emptied of its specific religious meaning—with Ginsberg's poetry. He establishes first that Ginsberg chants and reads his poetry regularly, at the same time and "for the same purpose," making the "poetry and chanting . . . part of that same religious experimentation concept."8 (Ginsberg points out, to little effect, that "religious" is the letterhead's term, not his own.) By linking chant and poetry so closely, Foran can, and does, then turn to the poetry to supply the meaning of the chant, in essence replacing the translation of Sanskrit to which he successfully objected with the text of some of Ginsberg's most sensational lyrics. For his examples Foran chooses "Night Apple," a poem describing a wet dream; "In Society," a poem describing a dream in which the poet chats with "queers," chews a sandwich of human flesh which includes "a dirty asshole," and denounces a woman as a "narcissistic bitch"; and "Love Poem on a Theme by Whitman," describing the poet lying down between the bridegroom and the bride and proceeding to have ecstatic sex with both. Foran asks Ginsberg, in each case, to explain the "religious" meaning of the poem. And Ginsberg does, with characteristic sincerity, though it is not lost on him that his exegesis will only stick if the court "would take a wet dream as a religious experience."9 Through Foran's triangulation of chant, poetry, and poetic exegesis, the content of the poetry is implied to be the content of the chant, and by extension, to be the substance of Ginsberg's religious practice and leadership.
Foran's effort to make the content of the poetry into the content of the chant was a distortion of Ginsberg's notion of chant, but only because, from Ginsberg's point of view, the chant transformed the meaning of poetry, rather than the poetry transforming the meaning of chant. Foran casts chant as gibberish and then fills it with the meanings he finds expedient from Ginsberg's poetry; Ginsberg takes the characteristics traditionally associated with Hindu and Buddhist chant—the ability to yoke body and consciousness, the power to dispel illusion, the capacity to transform the chanter into the god whose name he chants—and transfers them to his poetry, in part, as I will show, by making poems that aim (in theory, at least) to evacuate the kind of referential content that proved so useful to Foran. In doing so, Ginsberg uses the kinship between poetry and chant to advance an idea of poetry that moves beyond meaning into what I will argue had become, by the time of the Chicago Seven trial, a fantasy of supernatural efficacy centered on the power of sound.
Let me note, before going any further, that the fantasy I describe here is articulated throughout the sixties in Ginsberg's audacious and colorful style, a style that blends humor and irony with a penchant for [End Page 272] performance and the grandiose (this should be clear even from the court-room quotations above). Though the newspaper announcement about Om chanting, to take one example, holds out a fanciful image of chant's effects, the basic premise behind this use of chant is one, as I will argue, Ginsberg deeply believed. On other occasions, as we shall see, Ginsberg uses similarly exaggerated scenarios to spin out the implications of his poetic practice. Like the famous effort to levitate the Pentagon in 1967, or Jerry Rubin's idea of running a pig for president in 1968, Ginsberg's acts and statements are sometimes theatrically absurd. That said, this quality of his discourse does not belie his underlying beliefs, but rather (as he surely intended) makes those beliefs all the more palpable, their logic all the more apparent. Hence, despite the humor that is inherent in much of what I will quote here, I will suggest that a serious, and culturally important, understanding of language as supernaturally efficacious emerges from his writing in the sixties. Because Ginsberg jokes about himself as a holy man does not mean that he does not, at bottom, believe that he is a holy man; because Ginsberg is flamboyant about claiming supernatural powers for his poetry does not mean that he does not, at bottom, believe that the poetry does indeed have such powers. The personal pain of the crisis that occasions some of these beliefs attests to Ginsberg's ultimate sincerity. I turn to that crisis next.
II. Eliminating Subject Matter
The construction of an efficacious poetry had preoccupied Ginsberg since his return from India in '63, where he had gone to confront a spiritual and poetic crisis—a crisis occasioned, in part, by Ginsberg's encounter with his friend William S. Burroughs's cut-up method of composition. The poetic practice Ginsberg presents to the District Court in 1969 is produced by Ginsberg's eventual synthesis of Burroughs's linguistic theories and a corresponding supernatural structure transmitted within the traditions of mantra chanting he studied in India. Ginsberg's journals from his early days in India describe his frustration with Burroughs and Burroughs's new compositional method. On Friday, 13 July, 1962, after writing a fragmented but lyrical description of a day disordered by afternoon sleep, morphine hangover, the cries of street vendors, and "the fan whirling overhead for the last 12 hours" Ginsberg finds "Everything random still, as any cut-up. Burroughs it's already a year still haunting me. I slept all afternoon & when I woke up I thought it was morning, I didn't know where I was. I had no name for India." Three days later, he returns to the thought: "I should write Burroughs I'm still stuck in the heart by the cut-ups & still atrophied back where I was in Tangier & not moving anywhere."10 [End Page 273]
The "cut-ups" which had "stuck" Ginsberg "in the heart" were of course the new novels Burroughs was assembling at the time using his famous compositional method. Burroughs had developed the method with the collage artist Brion Gysin in Paris in the late fifties. By cutting up pages of newspapers or magazines Burroughs and Gysin had found that the random juxtaposition of words from successive pages produced what they took to be radical new meanings. The method combined literal and metaphorical ideas about how language means: taking the spacial metaphor that claimed meanings were to found "behind" words, Burroughs and Gysin translated it into a literal manipulation of the material word, cutting the word away and looking behind it to find what they thought of as the hidden, transgressive, and ultimately truer meaning.
For Ginsberg the evacuation of authorial control and intention implied by the cut-ups was devastating. After all, his major poems to that point had been based on a powerful prophetic speaker who spoke an intelligible, if unorthodox, truth to a suffering nation. This was a speaker who, in a 1949 poem modestly titled "Psalm I," celebrated the "majestic flaws of mind which have left my brain open to hallucination" and went on to imagine his writings would be "rediscovered when the Dove descends."11 In "Howl," the speaker takes on the mantle of prophetic speech suggested by that early poem, and becomes a latter-day Jeremiah in order to catalog the corruptions of present-day America. Reinforcing the Old Testament prophetic aura, the speaker of "Howl" invokes the Old Testament idol, Moloch, as the embodiment of an American society that he says in a 1956 letter to the reviewer, Richard Eberhart, "confounds and suppresses individual experience."12 Ginsberg takes on the role of the psalmist, too, in "Howl," especially in "Footnote to Howl," where the poet's sacralizing voice makes all things holy: "Holy! Holy! Holy! . . . The world is Holy! The soul is Holy! The skin is Holy!" and so on. Most grandly, the speaker describes his own work as divine, himself as one "who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images / juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual / images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of / consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omipotens / Aeterna Deus" ("Howl," Section I, 130). The poet in these lines is nothing less than Genesis's YHWH.
In "Kaddish," a more intimate vision—that of elegy—somewhat tempers Ginsberg's flights of rhetoric, but the notion of a single, powerful, embodied, and yet transcendent, poetic speaker remains, his role now to redeem the death of Ginsberg's mother, Naomi, by praying a new version of the traditional Jewish memorial prayer, the Kaddish. At the end of Section II Naomi becomes "Naomi of the Bible— / or Ruth who wept in America—Rebecca aged in Newark" and her son [End Page 274] becomes "David / remembering his Harp, now lawyer at Yale / or Sval Avrum—Israel Abraham—myself—to sing in the wilderness toward God—O Elohim!—so to the end" ("Kaddish," 224). The poem at this point is interrupted by "Hymmnn," in which, even more directly than in "Footnote to Howl," we hear a psalmist praising God: "Blessed Praised Magnified Lauded Exalted the Name of the Holy One Blessed is He!" The poem closes with the ecstatic call, "Lord Lord Lord," alternating with the cries of the crows over Naomi's burial ground. The explicit invocation of Jewish religious tradition, the calls toward divinity, and the verbal power on display throughout the poem—power not just to invoke the divine, but also to represent the most moving human details of the life of mad Naomi—together give us a singular poetic speaker filled with the ancient authority of scriptural and liturgical tradition.
"Kaddish" is Ginsberg's last major poem written before his encounter with Burroughs in Tangier, and it is the speaker represented there that most closely resembles Ginsberg's sense of himself as poet at the moment of that encounter. For all the authority he had accrued to himself in "Howl" and "Kaddish," then, Ginsberg was bowled over by Burroughs's new method. Or, rather, he was bowled over precisely because of the authority he had accrued in the earlier poems, an authority whose very structure was rendered meaningless by his friend's innovation. He took the cut-ups as proof that his old ways of writing were mistaken, and that he must think anew about his poetic methods. (It remains a question why Ginsberg accepted Burroughs's method as a revelation, why he took it up as a major challenge to his poetic practice.13)
A week before the journal entries I cite above, Ginsberg discusses his poetic methods at greater length, the occasion being his lover Peter Orlovsky's birthday and a birthday poem Ginsberg composes. "To P.O.—July 8, 1962," a small lyric poem, sonnet-like on the page, describes their room, the objects cast about, Peter coming in, wet-haired, from a shower. After a break in the page, Ginsberg goes on to reflect upon the poem in the context of what he calls "Poetry XX Century." Twentieth-century poetry, he argues, is
devolving into examination-experiment on the very material of which it's made. they say 'an examination of language itself' to express this turnabout from photographic objectivity to subjective-abstract composition of words a la Burroughs. . . . Now poetry instead of relying for effect on dreaminess of image or sharpness of visual phanopoeia—instead of conjuring a vision or telling a truth, stops.14
By his own lights, Ginsberg's conclusion—that poetry "stops" when faced with its materiality—seems inaccurate, for he goes on to list writers who have successfully "eliminat[ed] subject matter altogether," including Stein, Kerouac, Ashbery, Burroughs, Corso, and Artaud.15 [End Page 275] He also cites spiritual practices, such as Tantric Buddhism, which he takes to be doing the same thing. Thus, though Ginsberg is discoursing upon poetry in general, that last claim about poetry stopping is more self-descriptive than diagnostic of the century, and the self-description demonstrates the depth to which he has been affected by Burroughs. In fact, it resembles the satirized description of the writer in Naked Lunch, called in to be the "Artistic Advisor" for "Doctor Berger's Mental Health Hour." "'Send in the cured writer'" the technician calls; "'He's got what? Buddhism? . . . Oh, he can't talk.' . . . He turns to Berger: "'The writer can't talk. . . . Overliberated, you might say.'"16 Ginsberg feared that the liberation from subject matter that he himself imagined and desired would nevertheless leave him as speechless as Burroughs's cured writer.
The fear of abdicating authorial intention was not a problem for Burroughs, or, oddly enough, for Norman Mailer, who invoked precisely this aspect of Burroughs's method when he was called to testify on behalf of Naked Lunch in the novel's 1966 obscenity trial. In the "Atrophied Preface," which comes at the end of Naked Lunch, Burroughs describes personal and authorial agency as a battle between demonic possession and alien moral control. He begins by espousing a kind of documentary realism, claiming that "There is only one thing a writer can write about: what is in front of his senses at the moment of writing . . . I am a recording instrument. . . . I do not presume to impose 'story' 'plot' 'continuity.'"17 But this in fact looks more like the condition of "possession," which he uses as a foil to refine his notion of authorial agency:
"Possession" they call it. . . . Sometimes an entity jumps in the body—outlines waver in yellow orange jelly—and hands move to disembowel the passing whore or strangle the neighbor child in hope of alleviating a chronic housing shortage. As if I was usually there but subject to good now and again. . . . Wrong! I am never here. . . . Never that is fully in possession, but somehow in a position to forestall ill-advised moves. . . . Patrolling is, in fact, my principle occupation. . . . NO matter how tight Security, I am always somewhere Outside giving orders and Inside this straitjacket of jelly that gives and stretches but always reforms ahead of every movement, thought, impulse, stamped with the seal of alien inspection. . . . 18
For Burroughs, realism is demonic possession. The power relations so vividly evoked by his patrolling consciousness, exiled from the body, striving to prevent the body from performing the most horrific of crimes, translate in Naked Lunch into the junky's relationship to junk, the police's relationship to the deviant, the psychopathic murderer's relationship to moral constraints. And it is this fraught relation of power that generates writing: "The writer sees himself reading to the mirror as always. . . . He must check now and again to reassure himself that The Crime of Separate Action has not, is not, cannot occur. . . . .[ . . . ] when the reflection no longer obeys. . . . Too late to dial P o l i c e."19 [End Page 276] Writing here always threatens to disobey, but this propensity was understood by Burroughs as the very essence of verbal art. It is this conception of art that led Burroughs to the cut-up method in the first place, evidenced by the fact that Naked Lunch was written prior to his discovery of the new method.
Indeed, these were the terms Norman Mailer used to describe Naked Lunch in his testimony before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts in the summer of 1966. The compositional method Burroughs used, especially its seeming evacuation of authorial agency, was, for Mailer, what allowed Borroughs's prophetic visions to emerge. Mailer explains that "one of the mysteries" of writing is the fact that "one's best writing seems to bear no relation to what one is thinking about." The "work" of great writing "is done while you sleep; the discipline of writing is almost to keep from interfering with that creative work that is done by the unconscious."20 Though Burroughs takes his terms from the power relations of the culture and from the supernatural—from madness and the straightjacket, from junky and police, from demonic possession—and Mailer finds his in psychology—in the conscious and the unconscious—both find the engine of creativity in the abdication of intention, or at least, in the struggle between intentions arising from different or opposed origins within or outside the body. Tellingly, Mailer also argued that "William Burroughs is in my opinion—whatever his conscious intention may be—a religious writer," clearly calling on the status of religion (just a Thomas Foran did) to legitimate his claims about the novel's value. Naked Lunch, according to Mailer, thus revealed "the destruction of the soul" and gave a "simple portrayal of Hell," a "vision of how mankind would act if man was totally divorced from eternity."21 What seems to be a qualification to his claim that Burroughs is a religious writer—that he is so "whatever his conscious intention may be"—is really more like a qualification for that status, revealing that Mailer, like Ginsberg after his Indian crisis, finds the religious in the moment when intention is evacuated.
So, while Burroughs defied Ginsberg's conclusion that abandoning intentionally generated meaning and subject matter would make writing "stop"—producing in short order a trilogy of novels using the cut-up method—Ginsberg did not immediately find a way to embrace the end of subject matter so conceived. Though he felt that "nobody can seriously go on passionately concerned with effects however seeming-real they be, when he knows inside all his visions & truths are empty, finally," he nevertheless cannot see beyond visions and truths. He takes Peter's birthday poem as a case study:
I seem to be delaying a step forward in this field [elimination of subject matter] and hanging on to habitual humanistic series of autobiographical photographs (as in the last writing on Orlovsky's Birthday)—although my own Consciousness has gone beyond [End Page 277] the conceptual to non-conceptual episodes of experience, inexpressible by old means of humanistic storytelling.
Ginsberg's poetic impasse coincides, then, with a spiritual one he had reached in recent visionary drug trips: he repeatedly encountered a serpent-figure that seemed to threaten his dissolution during the trip. He fears stepping across that line into "disintegration" and "chaos," and he aligns such a step with a poetry empty of meaning. To embrace that condition would be to embrace the disoriented moment of waking in which he has "no name for India." The cut-ups, the serpent, and the moment in which words are lost stand in for the same dissolution of self. He seeks for a spiritual answer to both questions—how to continue in poetry and how to continue the development of his consciousness—by asking every Indian guru he can find for advice.
III. Make Mantra of American Language
The answer Ginsberg finds in India, after all the conversations with gurus and practice in meditation with Gary Snyder in Japan, might be summed up in a line from one of his major post-India poems, "Wichita Vortex Sutra." There, Ginsberg writes that we must "make Mantra of American language now." The line has a specific meaning in the context of that poem, which I will address below, but we can also take it as indicative of Ginsberg's entire poetic effort between his return from India and the end of the decade. Before anyone saw the poem "The Change," which announced his new approach to poetry and self, they saw the sign of the change in Ginsberg's mantra chanting. Immediately upon his return to the United States, he attended a poetry conference in Vancouver where, with characteristic over-the-top enthusiasm, he did almost nothing but chant the Hare Krishna mantra. Chant became a routine part of his readings and he experimented on a number of occasions, well before the 1968 Democratic Convention, with using chant as a political tool—most dramatically in negotiations between the Hell's Angels, who supported the war, and the Vietnam Day Committee, which was planning an anti-war protest march in Oakland in November of 1965.23 At the same time, he experimented with chant within poems. The clearest example is "Hūm Bom," from Planet News: 1961—1967 (1968), Ginsberg's first post-India [End Page 278] collection.24 The poem takes actual English words—the words "whom bomb," repeated throughout the poem—and cues the reader, through the phonetic spellings in the title, to take them not for their meaning but for their sound. The diacritical marks in the title—marks that originate in Sanskrit—underline the centrality of sound and align the poem with Hindu and Buddhist mantras. The effect of the poem is then that of a resonant chanted mantra, in which the words produce a sound meant to transform the listener into a person of peace. Of course Ginsberg is making a kind of pun: the content of the poem, which shifts from the lines "whom bomb? / We bomb you" to "whom bomb? You bomb you" (568–69), proclaims why one should abandon modern nuclear violence (because to bomb the other is really to bomb yourself). The actual sound of the poem is meant simultaneously to effect that political or moral transformation by means of its intrinsic power. In the yogic tradition, from which the majority of Ginsberg's notions about sound and breathing come, vibrations produced in the body can transform the consciousness directly, bypassing the intellect. Indeed, the intellect itself is, through the yogic discipline, revealed to be mechanical, thoughts being no different from other kinds of sensations the body experiences. By transforming words into vibrations Ginsberg gives us one fairly straightforward example of what it might mean to make mantra of American language.
Other poems, in The Fall of America: Poems of These States, 1965—1971 (1972), make language into mantra less through actual sound than through compositional method. For example, the long title poem was composed by using an Uhr tape machine so that Ginsberg could record the lines in the same time frame that he composed them aloud, broken by his natural breaths and pauses. He would shut off the tape at each break, the click thus produced on the tape marking the pauses and supplying the cue for the written line-break when Ginsberg sat down to transcribe the poem. This method of composition had two aims. First, it brought Ginsberg's long-standing effort to make poetic composition spontaneous one step closer to the ideal of the poem spoken live, eliminating the slow work of writing or typing so that the lines could flow out onto the "page" of the magnetic tape just as they were spoken. Second, and more importantly, Ginsberg believed that in achieving this degree of spontaneity in the written record he could reproduce in the reader the exact state of consciousness in which the poem was composed.
This belief is rooted in his understanding of how consciousness and breath work: as vibration and sensation come and go in the body, as thoughts (another kind of sensation) come and go, the body and the consciousness now yoked together through the practice of yoga are both transformed.25 The listener or reader is then imagined as functioning not unlike the tape recorder, responding mechanically to the [End Page 279] vibrations produced by the poet's spoken words, reproducing also the cadence of breath in which those words were originally spoken. (One might recall here Burroughs's image of the writer as the "recording instrument" of reality, cited above. In Ginsberg's version the reality emanates from the poet.) Ginsberg is less interested in producing particular thoughts in the mind of the reader or listener than he is in producing what he calls, in interviews, "the movement" of thoughts in a certain cadence through another's consciousness. The poem taken thus by the listener or reader as a mantra, to form and direct the movement of consciousness and the vibration of the body, replicates the poet himself. To put the point in Ginsberg's own words: he describes the line of poetry as "not so much a unit of sound as a unit of thought . . . it also turns out that if you vocalize the thought's also a unit of sound and that somehow or other the squiggles for the units of sound are identical to the squiggles of thought. And they're just as interesting as units of sound as units of thought."26
The transmission of these squiggles is precisely the mechanism Ginsberg describes when he talks about how his political poetry might affect people. He wishes not to persuade his listener, but to make the listener arrive at a consciousness that coincides with Ginsberg's but that nevertheless appears to arise from the reader or listener himself. "It isn't necessary for my word to like quote overwhelm or convince, unquote, anybody else," Ginsberg explains to Paul Carroll in an interview, "it's just necessary for me to place my word out there, not to overwhelm but to clarify other people's sane thought, or to make it conscious or to bring it to the surface of their minds, so they say: Oh, yeah! That's what I think too! Why didn't I say that before?"27 The squiggles that denote the unit of sound, identical to those for the unit of thought, bring the thought into the listening mind viscerally rather than intellectually. What is more, as he explains to Michael Aldrich, those squiggles can sometimes achieve an effect in and of themselves. "The rhythmic . . . units . . . that I'd written down [in "Howl" and "Kaddish"] . . . were basically . . . breathing exercise forms . . . which if anybody else repeated . . . would catalyze in them the same pranic breathing . . . physiological spasm . . . that I was going through . . . and so would presumably catalyze in them the same affects or emotions."28 Indeed, with all their rhythmic pauses it is as if even Ginsberg's words in the interview can recreate the physiological spasm that constitutes, for Ginsberg, a thought.29
Michael Aldrich, in this same interview, restates Ginsberg's claim in such a way that the separation of sound and meaning, as well as their absolute identity, becomes apparent. "If you're going Dumpty dumpty dumpty dumpty dumpty dum it's different than if you're going daahh, duhhh, dummm, duh-dummm," he suggests. Ginsberg, as if to show just how much difference sound can make, offers his own sonic example: [End Page 280] "Or, if you're going Bum! ba-ta TUM, BUM: BUM, ba-da-DAA . . . / BOM, bata BOM BOM, BOM bata DAA . . . ."30 Ginsberg seems to feel he has made the point stronger with a far more imaginative example, and this is the case despite the fact that neither "dumpty dumpty" nor "Bum! ba-ta TUM" can be said to mean in any intellectual sense. In the methedrine trip poem from Planet News, "Television Was a Baby Crawling Toward that Death Chamber," we see a comic vision of such an effect: Ginsberg jokes that the "macrocosm-machine" hooked up to the brains of the "human dragons" who fly bombers, "picks up vibrations of my thought in this poem—the attendant / is afraid—Is the President listening?" (276) The vibrations of sound have a power in and of themselves, regardless of their semantic meaning.
For all its clanging political invective, then, Ginsberg's political poetry is meant to produce a desired outcome not by asserting a principle or policy in which one can believe, but by producing people in the image of the poet's mind. The trip poems—especially the frequently incoherent methedrine poems—attempt the same thing, bringing the expanded consciousness of the trip directly to the reader's mind. These poems are imagined as a kind of ontologic reproduction, closer to birth than to representation because they bring about a state of being rather than simply transmitting thought. They are imagined as taking the existing person and bringing them into being as Ginsberg's double.
Political content raises a question, though, about why what I am arguing is an anti-representational poetry often seems so obviously thematic. The obviousness of Ginsberg's poetry in the sixties may well account for why most studies of his work break off just as he leaves Tangier for India, why "Howl" and "Kaddish," both of which are more linguistically and metaphorically complex and thus more consistently repay the practice of close reading than many of his later works, are often argued to contain within them already the whole trajectory of Ginsberg's poetic development in the sixties and beyond.31 Indeed, Planet News and The Fall of America were received with tepid reviews, most of which looked for the distinctive prophetic and lyric language of "Howl" and "Kaddish" and found it only sporadically, if at all.
"Wichita Vortex Sutra" makes the case for the thematic content of an anti-representational language by casting itself as a speech act. In the poem, Ginsberg declares the end of the Vietnam War, a speech act he imagines has the power to effect the historical situation it declares. This is not a speech act in the Austinian sense (about which more later), where convention and other conditions surrounding an utterance make speech into an act, but a religious speech act, which is imagined to have supernatural effects. As Ginsberg explains to Michael Aldrich in 1968, to make mantra of American language does not mean [End Page 281] (as Aldrich had suggested) that "we should literally start chanting the lines for mantra purposes." Making language into mantra instead involves sound that is the thing itself.
One function of a mantra is that the name of the god is identical with the god itself. You say Shiva or Krishna's name, Krishna is the sound of Krishna. It's Krishna in the dimension of sound—so if you pronounce his name, you, your body, is being Krishna; your breath is being Krishna, itself. . . .So I wanted to—in the English language—make a series of syllables that would be identical with a historical event. I wanted the historical event to be the end of the war, and so I prepared the declaration of the event to be the end of the war by saying 'I hereby make my language identical with the historical event, I here declare the end of the war'—and set up a force field of language which is so solid and absolute as a statement and a realization of an assertion by my will, conscious will power, that it will contradict—counteract and ultimately overwhelm the force field of language pronounced out of the State Department and out of Johnson's mouth. When they say 'We declare war,' their mantras are black mantras, so to speak. . . . So I pronounce my word, and so the point is, how strong is my word?32
Obviously not strong enough, in 1965 when the poem was written (or rather, spoken to the tape machine), to end the Vietnam War. Of course, there is an element of play and humor in Ginsberg's audacious claims, here as elsewhere, but the empirical failure of his word, humorously intended or not, did not deter Ginsberg from pursuing a poetics of mantra. Ginsberg does give varying explanations during the sixties for how poetry works, what it does, what effects it can have on the listener, the reader, and the one who speaks the poem. In some cases he calls the power of chant, and by extension the power of poetry, a scientifically explainable phenomenon, having to do with the stimulation of certain nerve centers in the body. In a 1968 Playboy interview with Paul Caroll, Ginsberg describes the elements of his early poetry that he thought of as transcendental or visionary as being, in hindsight, "really literal realism, simple common sense," what Carroll rephrases as "prophetic perceptions rather than visionary imaginings."33 Ginsberg agrees: "Although there are all sorts of intellectual-mystical-theological potentials involved in chanting a mantra, on its simplest, most Americanesque level, it's just like singing in the shower or an interesting phys. ed. that can get you high."34 Describing what he called a "trance" that he achieved after chanting Om for six hours during the demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, he claims that "it wasn't mystical. It was the product of six continuous hours of chanting OM, regularizing breathing and altering rhythmic body chemistry."35
Ginsberg's account of his physiological experience notwithstanding, within the same interview he describes using the Om to effect a "complete formal exorcism of the [Democratic] convention" at the moment when a priest in the convention hall begins to pronounce a [End Page 282] benediction upon "all this massacre and hypocrisy."36 "I stood up and went into some kind of fit of total ecstasy and started chanting Om over and over again. . . . It was a ritual to exorcise all demons in sight, including myself. . . . It was white-magic theater; it helped to break up the mass hallucination of political respectability that the priest's prayer created for the convention as a whole—if only for a few minutes." At the conclusion of the interview he suggests that the answer to state-sponsored violence would be to "cast the Devil from the hearts of the swine." "I prophesy that the only way to reverse the apocalypse is white magic, because the apocalypse itself is incarnate black magic. What would be the effect of total sacramental harmonious shamanistic ritual prayer magic massively performed in the American or Russian political theater? . . . . Exorcism. We need [. . .] magic politics to exorcise the police state." Paul Carroll notes that the chanting, which Ginsberg describes as being like "a religious service," did not stop the violence, and that people saw him not as an exorcist but as a nut when he chanted Om during the convention's benediction. Though Ginsberg corrects him, claiming that chanting did, in fact, stop a good deal of violence, he concedes that "to succeed, it would have required an unbroken circle or at least a majority of participants in order to set up mammal-vibrations strong enough to be irresistible."37
The variety of Ginsberg's explanations for the efficacy of poetry and chant reflects not only his own scatter-shot, syncretic, and continually evolving approach to spiritual practice (he was, indeed, an experimenter) but also an ambiguity at the heart of Hindu and Buddhist practices. While some strains of these traditions present chant as a physiological exercise, whose spiritual effects are the result of or coextensive with physical effects, other strains emphasize the ways mantra embodies a divine or supernatural being or force that is then transferred, though the sonic medium, into the devotee. While some scholars of religion cast these traditions as "natural" and thus distinct from the "supernatural" theistic religions, such distinctions have always been difficult to maintain. Ginsberg himself shifts back and forth between natural and supernatural versions of poetic efficacy. The return to the body announced in "The Change"—where he resolves to live comfortably in his own mortal, homosexual skin—ostensibly ruled out the search for the supernatural or the divine, replacing these with acceptance of self and what is clearly, in that poem, a deeply psychologized version of Hindu and Buddhist meditation traditions.38 Previous commentators on Ginsberg's post-India transformation argue that he is liberated to write in a new way when he abandons what one critic, Paul Portugés, calls the "supernatural" visionary paradigm—derived from Ginsberg's vision of Blake and his readings of the Bible and Christian mystics—that defined his early poetry's religious vocabulary.39 I would argue that abandoning Blake's supernatural visions or [End Page 283] those of the Old Testament is not the same thing as abandoning the supernatural altogether. "Wichita Vortex Sutra" and the poems surrounding it in Ginsberg's two sixties collections clearly contradict any claim that the supernatural is fully replaced by the "natural" of Buddhist practice. Instead, supernatural poetry of the kind proclaimed in "Wichita Vortex Sutra" makes ever grander claims that require a conception of language as magically, supernaturally, efficacious.
Thomas Foran's effort in the Chicago Seven trial to use the representational content of Ginsberg's poetry to fill in the content of the chants he recited during the Festival of Life reverses the process Ginsberg intends to set in motion when he declares that we must "make Mantra of American language." Ginsberg uses the supernatural structure of mantra to make a "white-magic" poetry—a poetry efficacious even (or especially) in the moments where narration and traditional structures of meaning (representations, narrative logic, the seeming-real he writes of rejecting in his Indian journals) fall away. This makes it possible to sustain the nonsensical elements of a poem like "Television Was A Baby," overtly political poems like "Wichita Vortex Sutra" and dream transcription of the kind he defends under Foran's cross-examination within a single poetic project, within one linguistic understanding. This move is only made possible by the abandonment of reference in the indexical sense in favor of what must be understood as a formal notion of meaning. Ginsberg may ultimately be best described as a formal poet, despite his protests against High Modernist poetic form, since it is the literal form of the sound, the particular assemblage of "syllables," that carries the weight of what Ginsberg imagines the poem to do. We might call this a supernatural formalism.
There are several points to be made, then, about the story of Ginsberg's poetic transformation in the sixties. It should by now be clear to readers familiar with poststructuralist theory that his transformation relates directly to Derridian, de Manian, and Lacanian understandings of language. While the materiality of language for these theorists represents a challenge to meaning construed in an idealist paradigm and to what Derrida called, in Of Grammatology, the metaphysics of presence, it does precisely the opposite for Ginsberg.40 His rediscovery of the material word—particularly its sound—through Burroughs's cut-ups, and the elimination of subject matter that for Ginsberg goes along with that rediscovery, ushers in a poetics of absolute presence, and a metaphysics that has more in common with Hinduism's Brahma or the incarnate Word of St. John's gospel than with the seemingly secular world of deconstruction. I say "seemingly," because I have argued elsewhere that both Derrida and de Man, far from evacuating human presence from language, instead personify language in the most radical sense, imputing to language, in Derrida's case, mortality, and in the [End Page 284] case both of Derrida and de Man, a consciousness and autonomy only imaginable in personal terms. In this sense one might argue that deconstruction already entails a kind of supernaturalism—or, if you will, a kind of animism.41 The case of Ginsberg suggests that it is a mistake, then, to see the materiality of language as being any challenge at all to an idealist conception of language—at least, that is, when the letter or the sound is fortified with supernatural power.
Of course, Ginsberg was not the first poet to posit an identity between word and thing, nor to turn to sound as the carrier of a distinct ontology that goes beyond reference, and neither was he the first to suggest that the effect of the poem on the listener was not to persuade but to formulate well what the listener already thought. Alexander Pope famously brings sound and sense together to explain the latter effect of poetry: "The Sound must seem an Echo of the Sense, What oft was thought but ne'er so well exprest." William Carlos Williams, a mentor of Ginsberg's, imagined a poetic language (especially in Spring and All) that aspired to the status of things, and Ezra Pound, also important to Ginsberg's development, spoke of the "audible forms" of poetry as aspiring to the condition of sound as distinct from speech. In modernism, then, but also as far back as the eighteenth century and romanticism, poets have attempted to reimagine the relevance of poetry by turning to its objectness and, in some cases, imbuing that materiality with occult significance. What is perhaps most interesting about Ginsberg's version of this move, then, is first the way it translates into a politics of coercion even in the context of the counterculture's legendary tolerance. The idea that a poem's sound will render listeners as passive as tape machines and inspire not thoughts but a replication of the poet himself, reveals a political contradiction at the heart of Ginsberg's practice, which is ostensibly about freedom and self-expression and the value of all persons. The contradiction stands despite the poetry's evident failure to have the effects Ginsberg (sometimes playfully) wishes, and the fact that he insists he is not trying to "overwhelm" his listeners. The second significant aspect of Ginsberg's version of the modernist move towards the poem as object, as I will show in the final section of this essay, is how it intersects with a resurgent mysticism in American religious life in the sixties, a resurgence that also suggests, in another sector of the culture, a certain interchangability between coercion and tolerance.
IV. Sixties Religious Formalism
In the early seventies the popular spiritual writer Alan Watts might have been ventriloquising Ginsberg when he criticized the Roman Catholic Church for abandoning the Latin mass for a vernacular liturgy. Writing in a 1971 preface to his newly reissued spiritual classic, [End Page 285] Behold the Spirit (1947)—which had urged a mystical understanding of religion—he argues that in translating the mass the church made liturgy an occasion for "filling one's head with thoughts, aspirations, considerations and resolutions."42 The substitution of English for the Latin, which many parishioners did not understand (though the use of Latin-English missals had been widespread since their introduction in 1925), allowed the content of the liturgy to be apparent over and above its purely verbal form. For Watts, who during the sixties came to argue for a pantheistic mysticism to replace what he saw as a desiccated Christian practice, the experience of God could only arise when the person was possessed by God and thus became God. In turn, this could only happen if reason, and rational understandings of language in particular, could be overcome. And so while many reforms in the Roman Catholic Church, to take Watts's example, revolved around the renewal of liturgy to make it more accessible, more understandable, less formal and less rote, Watts was recommending reform in the opposite direction and not because he was a conservative. Unlike those who found the language of the Church dead once its meaning had been drained through formula, repetition, and the continued use of a "dead" language, Watts urged renewal through increased formalism of the sort I have called, in Ginsberg's case, supernatural formalism. Propositional content was the enemy of true religious experience for Watts, just as for Ginsberg, true political activism entailed not persuasion so much as possession of the listening crowd.
Alan Watts was not the only religious thinker in the 1960s to advance such a position. Indeed, a significant movement in American Christianity during that decade centered on the spiritual gift of glossolalia, and, as I will show, evinced an equal disregard for propositional content in the matter of religion. This "charismatic" movement within Christianity (called by some scholars "Neo-Pentecostalism"), distinct in history and practice from what are called the "classical" Pentecostal churches, such as the Assemblies of God, and from the black and Latino Pentecostal strains that had emerged in the early twentieth century, was touched off in 1960 at an Episcopal church in Van Nuys, California.43 The priest of the parish, Dennis Bennett, prayed with some of his parishioners and received what is known as "the baptism in the Holy Spirit," a second baptism or conversion experience usually signaled (as it was in Bennett's case) by the manifestation of spiritual gifts, most notably glossolalia. In his enthusiasm for that powerful new experience of faith, Bennett preached on the subject to his congregation; soon after, amid some uproar from the parish and the diocesan leadership, he resigned from the church to pursue his charismatic ministries outside the institutional structures of the Episcopal church. The Bishop of Los Angeles quickly banned speaking in tongues under church auspices. [End Page 286]
Bennett's experience demonstrates one reason why the charismatic movement was important in American culture in the 1960s. Speaking in tongues was for the first time being practiced by white, middle-class and elite church-goers—epitomized by the traditionally upper-class Episcopal church in which Bennett served. No longer the province of a small (if rapidly growing) white, working-class minority in classical Pentecostal churches, or of Blacks in holiness churches, the experience of Holy Spirit baptism and of speaking in tongues spread even as far as blue-blooded Yale University.44 In October, 1962, after two campus visits by the charismatic preacher Herald Bredsen, members of the evangelical Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship prayed for Holy Spirit baptism and began to speak in tongues. (They were soon referred to as "GlossoYalies."45) Given Pentecostalism's social rise, it was reported on by mainstream national media and claimed a newly prominent place in the American cultural landscape.46
The fact that Dennis Bennett left the Episcopal Church soon after his charismatic conversion belies a critical, and perhaps surprising, characteristic of the new movement that then spread out from California to Christian churches—both Protestant and Roman Catholic—around the country. Typically, charismatic converts were advised to remain within their own church traditions, to use the baptism of the Holy Spirit to enliven those traditions. After Holy Spirit baptism the believer was not to leave his or her church but rather to become a better member of it. This stance was facilitated by the fact that Charismatics rejected many of the cultural practices of previous revivalism, especially the "clean living" ethic (no smoking, drinking, dancing) and the disdain for contemporary culture. The Charismatics focused instead on the "attitude of heart" of the believer.47
What is remarkable about the movement, then—and has been well-documented by one of the movement's most prominent historians, Richard Quebedeaux—was its ability to bring together doctrinally various believers, to offer them a transforming experience of God, and to send them back, seemingly unchanged on doctrinal matters, to their own churches. Quebedeaux writes that "apart from specific theological and behavioral expectations a given church or fellowship group may impose on its own adherents, Charismatic Renewal as such has no mandatory or even optional statements of faith, and does not require compliance with any set code of conduct. Neo-Pentecostal unity is unity in a great deal of diversity."48 He goes on to cite several well-known charismatic leaders who explicitly argue against the importance of doctrinal agreement. Ralph Wilkerson, for example, pastor of Melodyland Christian Center, an enormously successful charismatic church founded in 1960, argued that they were "too busy in Anaheim winning people to Jesus to get involved in arguments over doctrine. The most important thing is to get our spirits right with one [End Page 287] another, and this can only be done through the crucified life."49 Wilkerson regularly participated in concelebration of the Eucharist with Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Assemblies of God, and other ministers, and sometimes with several at once.50 Such blurring of doctrinal boundaries, especially at the moment of the Eucharist, was frowned upon in most mainstream denominations (and in the Roman Catholic Church, forbidden); the fact that Wilkerson could find priests and pastors from these various traditions to break the bread with him testifies to Quebedeaux's core observation. Shared experience of the Holy Spirit trumped any insistence on doctrinal agreement.51 Indeed, cultivating an "attitude of heart," "get[ting] our spirits right with one another," and living the "crucified life," required minimal doctrinal agreement.
Quebedeaux also speculates that the very generality of the Holy Spirit became useful not only in the cause of ecumenism but also in solving problems within main-line churches themselves. Noting (as many Catholic scholars and historians have) the centrality of the Holy Spirit to the framing and deliberations of the Second Vatican Council, he suggests that "One can, perhaps, argue that Vatican II's stress on the Holy Spirit was the result of the failure of all other legitimations for doctrine, social policy, etc. When legitimations (papal infallibility, for instance) fail or become suspect, then the Holy Spirit might be a very useful (extremely general and unspecific) legitimation for any cause or policy."52 This suggestion would certainly meet with opposition within some Catholic circles, but it is also clear that Rome embraced the charismatic revival in its own ranks and looked upon it as a central building block of ecumenism during the early seventies at exactly the moment when, as the Catholic sociologist of religion Andrew Greeley has shown, American Catholics were responding negatively to the Humanae Vitae encyclical (1968) banning birth control, and leaving the church in droves.53 While I cannot claim that the two phenomena are causally linked—that Rome embraced charismatic renewal to compensate for the unpopularity of the encyclical—the historical coincidence suggests that the non-doctrinal appeal of charismatic renewal balanced other forces in the church that were severely dividing Catholics on doctrinal matters. Greeley suggests, moreover, that those who remained in the church through the time of greatest attrition (from the encyclical until about 1975) did so not because of doctrinal belief but out of loyalty and the fact that, as he puts it, they "liked" being Catholic; those more concerned with doctrine and agreement left the church.
The very doctrinal pluralism of this intense and overwhelming Christian experience—so intense that, as I have noted, it was likened to first conversion at baptism—was echoed in the practical matter of glossolalia and its role in the church. St. Paul had been wary of its misuse [End Page 288] in the Corinthian church, urging believers there to desire prophecy over the gift of tongues, because the former addresses other people, the latter only God, and thus the former builds up the church while the latter builds up only the individual. He proclaims that he would thus rather "speak five words with my mind, so as to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue."54 Given this history, many contemporary believers considered it an inappropriate gift to exercise within the public rites of the liturgy, though some churches permitted it when the speaking was accompanied by translation, as St. Paul instructed the Corinthian church to do. Translation, however, was not only rare, but also regarded, even by believers, as seldom being useful. The translations were usually such general pronouncements—about the love of God, or God's desire for the faithful's commitment—that they added little to the message of any service. The conventional wisdom on glossolalia for the charismatic movement, then, was that tongues were most legitimately used as a "private prayer language," a language in which the soul could speak to God without involving the distracting and distracted intellect.55 One writer, who seems to be trying to preserve a sense of its ordinariness, described glossolalia as a "meditative non-rational form of prayer, wrongly confused by non-specialists with ecstatic experiences."56 The soul knew what it needed from God, and in the syllables of glossolalia the soul asked.
It should be said that the lore of the movement always included counter-examples, where a person began to speak in tongues and, as in the Pentecost described in the Acts of the Apostles, he or she happened to be telling God's good news in the language of a foreign person who happened to be listening. But these stories were sometimes discredited even by participants in the movement, and those who did believe them nevertheless did not think that commitment to glossolalia as a spiritual gift in the contemporary church required that one believe that all tongue-speakers were actually fluently speaking, without training, a language foreign to them.
Both the disinclination to demand translation of glossolalia in practice, and the lack of emphasis on the claim that glossolalia functioned in the same way it had for the apostles in Acts, echo the movement's broader lack of emphasis on the propositional content of belief. That is, while glossolalia was, for the charismatic movement, language without a meaning intelligible to the person who spoke it, the experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit was a moment of conversion largely without doctrinal consequences. This is not to say that those who underwent this second baptism did not change, nor is it to say that the charismatic movement had no consequences for the churches in which it took root. Indeed, the response of Dennis Bennett's bishop, in banning glossolalia, is indicative of the repugnance with which [End Page 289] many who did not embrace Holy Spirit baptism responded to their newly enthusiastic tongue-speaking brethren. Rather, it is to say that a single movement, and a single, identifiable religious experience, served to motivate and promote a variety of doctrines, many of them (as in the case of Roman Catholic and Protestant doctrines) conflicting. At the same time, Holy Spirit baptism represented a religious experience that looked like ecstatic possession, where the believer is completely overwhelmed, and his or her tongue taken over, by the power of God. If this doesn't seem as distasteful or coercive as the idea of Ginsberg taking possession of his listeners, it is only because God is God, and Ginsberg is not, his holy protestations notwithstanding. Like Ginsberg's vision of a supernaturally efficacious poetry, the Charismatic movement combined the ultimate experience of supernatural possession with an evacuation of content from language such that pluralism of belief could continue to thrive in the face of a common subjection to God.
What we might call the linguistic and doctrinal logic of the charismatic movement and the arguments about language that we find in the writing of Alan Watts thus share central characteristics with Ginsberg's beliefs about poetry and language in the sixties despite the obvious, and important, differences in world view between strictly Christian believers and syncretic believers like Ginsberg and Watts. Ginsberg's embrace of language as non-representational coincides with Watts's appeal to mysticism as the engine for the church's renewal (though by the 1970s, Watts had left the church and no longer took its reform as his main task). Like Ginsberg, Watts took many of his ideas about the spiritual properties of language from Hindu and Buddhist traditions (Watts was a Buddhist for many years before becoming an Anglican priest). Indeed, Watts was an admirer of Ginsberg. And one advocate of the charismatic movement, C. F. D. Moule, could have been describing Ginsberg's understanding of poetry when he compares glossolalia with "poetry, whose meaning could never be properly conveyed by interpretation."57 Interpretation was far from Ginsberg's notion of how poetry worked. Though one could certainly talk about poems (and Ginsberg did, at great length) that talking would never be the equivalent of the specific syllables of the poem itself—endowed, as they were, with Ginsberg's "white magic."
I would note that J. L. Austin, whose performative language can look so similar to the formal and supernaturally efficacious language I have observed in Ginsberg, Burroughs, Watts, and Charismatic Christianity specifically argues against any notion of the speech act as "spiritual." This is partly because a spiritual understanding of speech acts would render them not performative but descriptive of inner states, and thus no different from any other statement (some understandings of glossolalia take this form). More importantly, however, Austin calls the inner spiritual states invoked in such an objection to [End Page 290] his theory "fictitious."58 His secular skepticism sets Austin apart from the believers I have been discussing up to this point, but it is nonetheless significant that Austin's ideas are first presented in what would be close to their final form at Harvard in 1955, as the William James Lectures, and are first published in 1962. That is to say, Austin's work on the question of performativity in language—begun in 1939—comes together and gains a wide audience at roughly the same time that Ginsberg is developing his own version of performative language and Dennis Bennet is speaking in tongues in Van Nuys. It is also the case that part of what interests Austin in performative language is precisely its socially coercive power. If for the New Critics the poem would not mean but be, for these writers language would not mean but do, and, for those I have focused on, its doing would be above all supernatural.
Ginsberg himself, starting out on the cross-country drive that would occasion the poems of "these states" in The Fall of America (1972), registers how the understandings of language I have been describing were, literally, in the American air in the sixties. The poet, driving south from the Canadian border down to San Francisco and L.A., hears glossolalia coming to him over the radio: "[A]t Santa Barbara exit / the Preacher hollered in tongues / YOUR NAME IS WRITTEN IN HEAVEN." What follows are other voices that might be described as other tongues in an American glossolalia. He hears "Lodge" speaking from Saigon: "'We are morally right, / we are Morally Right, / serving the cause of freedom forever giving these people / an opportunity . . . almost like thinking'— / He's broadcasting serious-voice on Xmas Eve to America." And finally, "Entering Los Angeles space age" the poet hears "three stations simultaneous radio— / Cut-Up Sounds that fill Aether, / voices back of the brain" ("These States: Into L. A.," [Christmas Eve, 1965], 379) As if manifesting the poetic crisis Ginsberg had faced down in India four years earlier, both the poet's "brain" and the very "Aether" of California are permeated with Burroughs's cut-ups in sonic form.
Reproducing the multiple simultaneous radio broadcasts Ginsberg reinforces the feeling that the words in the air are somehow beyond intelligibility even when the speaker is not "hollering in tongues." He leaves intact sentence fragments—such as "almost like thinking," above—and in general presents the reader with language torn from the context that would make its sense apparent. The formal unintelligibility and fragmentation of language is a constant presence in the poems of this collection and culminates in "Wichita Vortex Sutra," where the words of politicians and others are said simply to be "language," signaling how, in that poem, language is emptied of content in order to display the occult power of the word itself. At this early point in the cross-country poetic journey, however, the content of fragmented [End Page 291] speech remains in play. Content matters in this poem because Ginsberg is out to suggest how clear and grammatically complete speech might also be unintelligible, not formally, but politically. On one hand the poet hears glossolalia and detached sentence fragments, which are formally unintelligible, on the other hand, he records propositions, such as the claim that U.S. actions in Vietnam are "Morally Right," that make no ethical or moral sense. The other voices Ginsberg notes in the concluding verse paragraph of the poem, which include the "voice of a poor poverty worker," "Evers' voice the black Christmas march," and reports of the "Mass Arrest of Campers Outside LBJ Ranch" (379) connote the clash of beliefs that characterize the sixties' political landscape, the existence of points of view so at odds with one other that debate—which relies on mutual intelligibility—is given over to demonstration, protest, and repression.
In this poem the formally and the politically nonsensical are not yet rendered utterly, and utterly formally, alike as they are in "Wichita Vortex Sutra," where the speech of all is rendered simply as "language," and we are not told what, exactly, each voice says. We see the two kinds of nonsense here in the process of coming together, as debate between incompatible positions is given over to formal inclusion. Not only are the glossolalic voices of America included, often verbatim, in the poem proper, but the poet also turns to his signature repetition to smooth out differences between unlike elements. Like a Beat Santa Claus (beard included) Ginsberg wishes a "Merry Christmas" to all in this poem: "Merry Christmas to Mr. & Mrs. Chang Kai Shek," "Merry Christmas to President Johnson & pray for Health," "Merry Christmas to MacNamara . . . to Ho Chi Minh grown old. . . Merry Christmas to rosycheeked Mao Tze Tung . . . Merry Christmas to the Pope & to the Dalai Lama Rebbe Lubovitcher / to the highest Priests of Benin, / to the Chiefs of the Faery Churches / Merry Christmas to the Four Shankaracharyas, / to all Naga Sadhus, Bauls &Chanting Dervishes from Egypt to Malaya—" (377–78). The repeated greeting—satirical, even silly—ultimately tends towards redemptive inclusiveness on the model imagined by Whitman in his catalogs. The specifically Christian celebration of God's incarnation in Christ shifts from being part of American kitsch to being the poet's hail of cosmic good will, an affirmation of all beings and all beliefs. It is as if, on Christmas Eve, 1965, the divine has become incarnate not in the one man, Christ, but in all of creation equally.
Both satire and good will are on display in Ginsberg's poetic version of glossolalia; Ginsberg takes the voices of an American holy night and attempts to redeem them by incantation, by taking the syllables of that "Aether," in all their incompatible, nonsensical glory, and putting them into the poem under the sign of the incarnate Word. If there is political critique in the Christmas greeting—and I think there is meant to [End Page 292] be critique—it is critique of a peculiar kind, in keeping with the version of pluralism on display in the Charismatic movement. It is critique that does not argue against, seek to unite, or seek even to interpret, opposing points of view. Rather, the incantation of cosmic good will—the poet's whimsical "Merry Christmas"—is left as the sole counter to the claims of Lodge and MacNamara and their like.
I want to suggest, in closing, that Ginsberg's success as a public figure in the sixties has to do with the supernatural and indiscriminate good will embodied in this poem's Christmas greeting. And so, while Ginsberg's fame in the sixties no doubt has many sources—among them his relentless schedule of public readings, his willingness to grant interviews, his embrace of the counterculture, his tireless promotion of his friends' work, and his growing political vociferousness—I think his fame is also linked to the popular mystical understandings of language that so closely mirrored his own conception of poetry. While the poetry he wrote after his return from India would never achieve the literary respect that his earlier work had garnered, and continues to receive, it was nevertheless the poetry that fueled his fame (Ginsberg won the 1974 National Book Award for The Fall of America, which is considered by many critics, even those who admire his entire ouvre, as a less successful collection59). This is precisely because, in the context of increasing interest in both mysticism and the materiality of language, his poetry held out a view of language that allowed it to become mystical to the same extent that it became primarily material, to escape the baggage of propositional content without losing its worldly—and otherworldly—power. And as The Fall of America itself demonstrates, Ginsberg's poetry acquired this power at a time when the impossibility of reconciling opposing visions of reality on the Left and the Right was shaking American politics to the core. Just as supernatural formalism allowed for both tolerance and coercion to coexist in religious experience and in Ginsberg's poetic vision, it also became a technology through which political critique could trade argument for incantation.
Amy Hungerford is the author of The Holocaust of Texts: Genocide, Literature, and Personification (University of Chicago Press, 2003). She is currently working on two projects: a study of postmodern religion and theory as these relate to American literature since 1945, and a student text, The Cambridge Introduction to the American Novel Since 1945. She is an associate professor of English at Yale University.
1. Chicago Seven Trial testimony, in Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews, 1958-1996, ed. David Carter (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), all quotations on 235.
2. See, for example, Ginsberg’s interview with Bob Elliot, for the Washington University campus paper Freelance, 3 March 1967. Elliot’s first question makes reference to this fact. "In anticipating your coming here, the reaction of many people was not so much to you as the poet, but rather as a spiritual leader. How do you react to this?" Ginsberg replies, "I don’t know, it’s kind of pleasant....Sure, I’ll be a holy man. I’m holier than Cardinal Spellman probably" (Interview reprinted in Spontaneous Mind; quotations on 67). [End Page 293]
3. Doug Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 256.
4. On the relationship between the counterculture and political activism in the sixties, see Rossinow. Rossinow shows how student groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), who in the early sixties disdained the counterculture as simply frivolous, drew closer to the "freaks" as they embraced culture—as distinct from institutions and government—as a legitimate realm for and target of political action. This shift made someone like Ginsberg seem political even when he was simply reading poetry.
5. Rubin and other organizers of the festival anticipated the violence but had not communicated this to Ginsberg, probably because they knew that Ginsberg would not participate in a demonstration intended to be violent. See the account in Michael Schumacher, Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography of Allen Ginsberg (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), esp. 510.
6. Quoted in the context of the Chicago Seven trial testimony, Spontaneous Mind, 234.
7. Chicago Seven Trial testimony, Spontaneous Mind, 214. Judge Hoffman was notoriously hostile to the defendants and defense witnesses in the trial, and was later rebuked when the verdict in the case was overturned along with his many contempt of court rulings regarding the participants in the trial. See Doug Linder, "Famous American Trials: The Chicago Seven Trial" at http://www.umkc.edu/famoustrials (c. 1995–2004).
8. Chicago Seven Trial testimony, Spontaneous Mind, 235.
9. Ibid., 238.
10. Ginsberg, Indian Journals, March 1962–May, 1963: Notebooks, Dairy, Blank Pages, Writings (New York: Grove Press, 1970), 42-43 ("everything random"), 45 ("I should write").
11. "Psalm I" from the collection Empty Mirror: Gates of Wrath, in Allen Ginsberg, Collected Poems, 1947-1980 (New York: HarperCollins, 1984), 18. Collected Poems hereafter cited parenthetically.
12. See To Eberhart From Ginsberg (Lincoln, Massachusetts: Penmaen Press, 1976), 32.
13. It seems plausible that Ginsberg could have simply disagreed with Burroughs and carried on with the poetics he established in "Howl" and "Kaddish." It may have been his relationship to Burroughs, and the latter’s forcefulness and charisma, that persuaded Ginsberg that the cut-up method must be taken seriously. Indeed, Ginsberg took most things (ideas, novels, poems, etc.) seriously if they emanated from a beloved friend.
14. Ginsberg, Indian Journals, 38–39.
16. William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch, with foreword by Terry Southern (1959; New York: Grove, 1991), 125–26 (ellipses in original).
17. Ibid., 200; original emphasis and ellipses.
18. Ibid., original emphasis and ellipses.
19. Ibid., 202; original emphasis, spacing, and ellipses.
20. Transcript of selected testimony, from "Naked Lunch on Trial," in Burroughs, Naked Lunch, xv (all quotations). This last reflection seems to conflict with Mailer’s assessment, a moment earlier in the trial, that on a second reading he "began to feel that ... there is more to his [Burroughs’s] intent" than he "had ever recognized before; that the work was more of a deep work, a calculated work, a planned work. In other words, the artistry in it was more deliberate and more profound than I thought before" (xiv). Perhaps the "intent" he refers to here is unconscious intent, and the calculation, planning and artistry was to be found in Burroughs’s willingness—his deliberate decision—to write in such a way that unconscious intent could be made manifest (Mailer says he did not know exactly how the book was written, but that he had heard several different accounts).
21. Ibid., xvii (all quotations).
22. Ginsberg, Indian Journals, 38–39; original emphasis.
23. In a last-ditch effort to avoid confrontation over the march, the VDC and the Hell’s Angels agreed to meet for a combination negotiation session-party at the home of Sonny Barger, leader of the Oakland chapter of the Angels, to be moderated by Ken Kesey. When tensions showed no sign of abating, Ginsberg took out his harmonium and started chanting the Prajnaparamita (known as the "Highest Perfect Wisdom" chant); soon one of the most belligerent of the Angels joined in with his own version of chant, and the evening [End Page 294] quickly took a turn for the better. In the end the march was able to go forward without interruption and the Angels were able to walk away from the confrontation without losing face. This account can be found in Schumacher, 454–55.
24. Though the publication dates of Planet News (1968) and The Fall of America (1972) place these collections at the end of the decade and into the seventies, the poems within them were composed between Ginsberg’s return from India and the end of the sixties, and were well-known to the public throughout those years because of his frequent readings and interviews. Ginsberg did not hoard poems, but usually made them public in one way or another soon after they were composed.
25. For an excellent brief summary of the varieties and characteristics of yoga and of chant, see Mircea Eliade, "Yoga," and Sanjukta Gupta, "Mantra" in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade, 15 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 15:519–23 and 9:176–77, respectively.
26. Spontaneous Mind, 127.
27. Ibid., 154; original emphasis.
28. Ibid., 141–42; original ellipses.
29. It is worth noting that in this passage Ginsberg is characteristically rereading his early work to coincide with his latest theories of language, perhaps in the interest of making his poetic project appear seamless over time, or of enlisting the popularity of his older poems to serve his newest enthusiasms. For example, when Ginsberg writes a foreword to the 1976 publication of his 1956 letter about "Howl" to Richard Eberhart, he disavows his earlier "insistence on a divine self rather than a relatively heavenly emptiness" but goes on to suggest that "it was implicit that mindfulness insight and perfection of Self would lead to no-Self." (See Ginsberg, "More Explanations Twenty Years Later," in To Eberhart From Ginsberg [Lincoln, Massachusetts: Penmaen Press, 1976], 12). Following Ginsberg’s lead in this causes one to miss the distinctive difference between the prophetic poetry of "Howl" and "Kaddish" and the poetry of emptiness and materiality that I argue defines his post-India work. See also note 31, below.
30. Spontaneous Mind, 142.
31. Tony Trigilio, for example, argues that the "Lord" and "Caw" at the conclusion of "Kaddish" signal the "Ah" of the later poetry: the non-referential material-transcendent prophetic language. I take the point that the Caw—as well as the "incomprehensible manuscripts," "scribblings, "yacketyyak," and babble of "Howl"—might be read as pointing towards a Buddhistic emptiness, and Ginsberg certainly did study Buddhism (on Kerouac’s advice) in the fifties before and during the writing of "Howl" and "Kaddish." But in the sources Trigilio cites to support his reading Ginsberg is looking back at "Howl" and "Kaddish" from a markedly more Buddhist perspective, reading those poems in light of his later practice. Ginsberg seems invested in making his early poems contiguous with his later poems by the mid-sixties, even, but especially by the 1980s (the date of the annotations to "Howl" that Trigilio frequently cites). Trigilio is attentive to the difference between "Howl" and "Kaddish," and the ways the later poem alters, revises, and develops the version of prophetic language Trigilio finds in "Howl," but he does not apply that same sensitivity to reading Ginsberg’s later comments on both poems. In the context of his discussion, Triglio provides a useful overview of various critics’ responses to Ginsberg’s Buddhism. See Trigilio, Strange Prophecies Anew: Rereading Apolcalypse in Blake, H.D., and Ginsberg (London: Associated University Presses, 2000), esp. 131–49, where Trigilio relies heavily on Ginsberg’s 1986 annotations to "Howl" and interviews from the sixties through the eighties; 139, for critical citations on Buddhism; and 172, where he aligns the "caw" and "Lord" from "Kaddish" with the Buddhist "Ah" from the later work. Paul Portugés, for his part, marks a strong distinction between Ginsberg’s post-India poetry and the early work that made him famous by emphasizing the difference between Ginsberg’s discipleship to Blake (and the vision of Blake that served as his poetic inspiration during the first decade of his writing) and his post-India discipleship to Buddhist teachers. Nevertheless, many of the readings in the first part of the book, which examines the poetry from 1948 to 1961, during Ginsberg’s discipleship to Blake, focus on Buddhistic aspects of the early poetry, deploying, as do Trigilio’s readings, Ginsberg’s own later rereadings of his early poems (see, for example, the reading of "Kaddish" as a "physical poetry" [End Page 295] centered around the breath, which Portugés supports by referencing Ginsberg’s 1972 version of "How Kaddish Happened"; in Portugés, 80–81 and 172, n. 62). In the context of the 1976 interviews with Ginsberg that constitute the second half of the book, on the subjects of Buddhism, mantras, and drugs, he and Ginsberg on a number of occasions look back on the pre-India poetics as having been committed to the same kinds of awareness and understandings of language inherent in the post-India work. Besides these reflections, Portugés’s interviews with Ginsberg on Buddhism and mantra chanting are taken up largely with the details of how Buddhistic practice has translated into the poetry. He argues elsewhere, as I do here, that Buddhism is a way for Ginsberg to circumvent the rational mind. See Portugés, The Visionary Poetics of Allen Ginsberg (Santa Barbara: Ross-Erikson, 1978), esp. Part I, ch.V, and all of Part II; and also "Allen Ginsberg’s Paul Cézanne and the Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus," Contemporary Literature 21 (1980). John Lardas’s study of the Beats’ Spenglerian notion of religion and history is another example of an analysis that defines Ginsberg’s spiritual poetics by the early work: his study breaks off by the late fifties, and insofar as it addresses Ginsberg’s work in the sixties and beyond it focuses on his psychedelic experimentation (assigning Buddhism to Kerouac) and assimilates that to what Lardas has argued is Ginsberg’s early Spenglerian religious outlook. Ginsberg’s Om chanting in Chicago in 1968, for example, is dismissed by Lardas as a caricature of religious sensibility, corrupted by celebrity. See Lardas, The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), esp. 32 (for dismissal of Ginsberg’s OM chanting), and 231 (for the Beats’ ongoing Spenglerian outlook). A notable exception to these critics’ tendency to read Ginsberg’s work as expressing one essential outlook can be found in John Tytell’s Naked Angels (1976), an early attempt to account for the Beat movement and the importance of its major writers. Tytell, providing detailed readings of Ginsberg’s poetry from the first collection through Fall of America, is less concerned with making these collections cohere around one poetic project than with revealing the evolution of a poet he sees as part of a major tradition that includes the Romantics, Emerson, Whitman, Pound, Williams, and even Eliot. For Tytell, Ginsberg’s Buddhism is part of a larger thread in the poetry that seeks to embrace all of life without judgment. As such, Buddhism is a force in the poetry that moderates the anger Ginsberg also mobilized (especially in "Howl," "Television was a Baby Crawling Toward that Death Chamber," and in the poems of Fall of America). See Tytell, Naked Angels: The Lives and Literature of the Beat Generation (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976).
32. Spontaneous Mind, 152.
33. Ibid., 174.
34. Ibid., 177.
35. Ibid., 178.
36. Ibid., 184.
37. Ibid., 183 (all quotations).
38. When Ginsberg describes what the return to the body in yoga and meditation means to him, he invariably speaks of calming the emotions, accepting one’s humanity, ceasing the anger and the critical judgments that impede the disinterested love of all things. Nevertheless, as I will argue, a residue of supernaturalism remains, one which is especially revealing of more general understandings of language as supernatural in the sixties.
39. Portugés, 95–96.
40. "The metaphysics of presence" denotes the assumption that language implies a human speaker; Derrida argues against this assumption.
41. See my The Holocaust of Texts: Genocide, Literature, and Personification (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), esp. chapter 3, "Nuclear Holocaust and the Literary Victim."
42. Alan Watts, Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion (New York: Random House, 1971),xii.
43. It should be noted that the Charismatic movement was not just an American phenomenon, though it originates in this country and, as I will show, it has a particular history with specific implications for American literature and culture. The movement had an impact on churches all over the world during the sixties and seventies, especially in Latin America. On the movement world-wide, see Welcome, Holy Spirit: a Study of Charismatic Renewal in [End Page 296] the Church, ed. Larry Christenson (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1987); The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, ed. Stanley Burgess (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2002); Between Babel and Pentecost: Transnational Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America, ed. André Corten, Ruth Marshall-Fratani (London: Hurst & Company, 2001); David Lehmann, Struggle for the Spirit: Religious Transformation and Popular Culture in Brazil and Latin America (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press; Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996); Perspectives on Pentecostalism: Case Studies from the Caribbean and Latin America, ed. Stephen D. Glazier (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1980) and Women and Twentieth-century Protestantism, ed. Margaret Lamberts Bendroth and Virginia Lieson Brereton (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002).
44. For an excellent account of these churches and of the roots of American Pentecostalism in the first half of the twentieth century, see Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).
45. Richard Quebedeaux, The New Charismatics (Garden City: Doubleday 1976), 58–59.
46. This is not to say that the phenomenon was exclusively the province of white, middleclass America during these decades. Indeed, charismatic practice also grew among Christians of color as well, though this did not result in the sort of media attention produced by Episcopalian tongue-speakers and Glosso Yalies. On the history of Pentecostalism among African Americans, see Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century, 2nd ed. (1971; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), ch. 9; David Michel, Telling the Story: Black Pentecostals in the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.: Pathway Press, 2000); Arthur E. Paris, Black Pentecostalism: Southern Religion in an Urban World (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1982), a case study of Black Pentecostalism in Boston. On the role of women and people of color, see Women and Twentieth-century Protestantism, ed. Margaret Lamberts Bendroth and Virginia Lieson Brereton (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002).
47. "Attitude of heart" quoted from Robert Frost, respected Neo-Pentecostal teacher, in Quebedeaux, 134.
48. Ibid., 107; original emphasis.
49. Ibid., 124.
50. Ibid., 133.
51. Quebedeaux’s examples of explicit statements to this effect are numerous and fascinating. Howard Ervin, whom Quebedeaux describes as "a chief theological spokesman for Neo-Pentecostalism" argues that doctrinal conformity is not so much an impossible ideal of unity as an actual barrier to Christian faith. "An anti-supernaturalism ‘theology’ has no solution, only theories, for the human predicament, which is basically man’s alienation from God ... On the other hand, a doctrinaire theological orthodoxy is not a serious option. It is essentially a refurbished scholasticism whose concept of metaphysical reality has congealed in abstract definitions and propositions. It is too prone to confound definition with essence," (Ervin, These are not Drunken, As Ye Suppose [Plainfield, N.J.: Logos International, 1968], 225–26, quoted in Quebedeaux, 127). Quebedeaux also points out that many who attended charismatic "Christian Centers" like Melodyland (established in 1960; in 1969 it moved into a defunct theater across the street from Disneyland) in fact have two religious affiliations—one to the center and another to what he calls an "historical" denomination (Quebedeaux, 122).
52. Quebedeaux, 230 (n. 6).
53. See Andrew M. Greeley, The Catholic Myth: The Behavior and Beliefs of American Catholics (New York: Scribner, 1990).
54. See 1 Corinthians 14:1–39.
55. As C. F. D. Moule writes, "The gift of tongues, as it is known today, seems usually to be a spontaneous welling up of a special language. It is not recognized as any known language ... [For the private individual] it is, it would seem, a significant outlet of pent up praise or emotion too deep, too intense, for words: it is a perfect mode of private devotion.... what is offered as interpretation.....is often very general; and although it may have independent value, it can hardly be more successful as an interpretation of the tongues themselves than the notoriously hopeless attempt to describe the ‘meaning’ of music of ballet, of a poem, or of abstract art" (Moule, The Holy Spirit, 87, quoted in Gervais Angel, Delusion or Dynamite?: [End Page 297] Reflections on a Quarter-century of Charismatic Renewal [Eastbourne: MARC, 1989], 118).
56. Walter Hollenweger, quoted in Quebedeaux, 129.
57. C. F. D. Moule, The Holy Spirit (London: Mowbrays, 1978), 87, cited in Angel, 102
58. See J. L. Austin, How to Do Things With Words, 2nd ed., ed. J. O. Urmson and Marina Sbisà (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975), 10.
59. John Tytell, for example, sees it as less accomplished than the previous sixties volume, Planet News, and certainly more despairing, Ginsberg having become "Disoriented" from the yogic joy of his previous verse. See Tytell, 255–56. [End Page 298]