Poetry and Spirit Life
We shared poetry throughout our time together in Denver. Some people had brought, some came to us from colleagues by email.
We started on a note of moral high seriousness, followed by what may appear to be a very similar poem, yet sounding a somewhat different note.
THE JOURNEY TO THE EAST
Readings of Hermann Hesse’s Journey to the East provided many of the images for the first Odyssey held in 5th City sometime in 1968/69. I’ve borrowed the theme and poetry of the opening paragraphs to portray something of my experience of the Order. In this case the events alluded to are real, not fictional, and the language can only partially convey the reality.
“When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once that is it going to rain, and so it does. And when you feel the south wind blowing, you say that it is going to be hot, and so it is. You frauds! You know how to interpret the look of the earth and sky. Why can’t you interpret the meaning of the times in which you live? And why can’t you decide for yourselves what is right?” Jesus of Nazareth
It was my privilege following the great wars of the middle decades of the 20th century to join the enterprise of the Order Ecumenical. The mission of the Order was global in scope and also intensely local in its demonstration projects. The Order’s life has never been fully described or recorded in a single account. I doubt that any one individual’s effort to put his or her experience of the Order into words could convey the heights and depths of the Order’s existence much less express fully the task to which it had set itself. Only the archives located in the Order’s headquarters contain the comprehensive papers and files. And even these records, exhaustive as they are, cannot adequately document the variety and character of those families and individuals who joined the Order, their rich intellectual and celebratory lifestyle. This is to say nothing of the intense personal sacrifice and commitment made by many in their sojourn as Order members.
I come up against the very limits of language in attempting to talk about our enterprise. It was at once magical and mundane, a mix of life and poetry, march and waltz, existing in the present as well as the past and embodying ritual, celebration and grinding daily work. The Order’s mission took it into time and space, our ventures required forays into the middle ages, the near and distant future as well as setting forth from Chicago to all the continents. In our journeys we often paused for side trips to join friends and colleagues in music, festivals and ceremonies marking the passage of special time or zodiacal conjunction. I remember especially the advent of comet Kouhotek and the preparations which were made for this auspicious sign of the heavens. However, it was not unusual to find bands of our number at Wolftrap, on a week end at the Palmer House, or on a pilgrimage to the Isle of Iona. I was present with a group who set out to visit Bultmann on his death bed. I also set myself a personal goal to see Tillich’s New Harmony and visit the shrine of Huey P.Long. Others sought out Lawrence’s tomb in Taos.
Our leaders once diverted from the Helsinki World Council to witness the land of the Midnight Sun and traveled the great steppes and bogs of Scandia. My family was assigned for some time to the Great Down Under and eventually came into possession of Umbagai’s magic didgeridoo and even set foot on the mystical island of Rottnest in the Indian Ocean. Others had equally sublime and spiritual quests fulfilled.
Some of our number witnessed the great Summers of ‘67 and ‘71, traveled to the shores of Lake Gitcheegumee for a huge urban picnic and danced there with thousands. We experienced the power and unity song bequeaths to those who sing together. Time and again our voices rose and visions filled the Great Hall of Kemper as we experienced our common mind. Our colleagues experienced miracles when RS-1 was taught and many reported seeing Satan fall from Heaven. Such was the power of our corporate commitment.
Truly if I endeavor to give a full account of the Order and its life I would fill volumes. What could I say of the miracle of the 222 Campaign and the first deployment of leaders to Religious Houses across the world? And what about the penetrations into time and space accomplished by teams and individuals. We sat at the feet of Bruno and Theresa. Francis and John of the Cross were honored at our tables. We canonized Mumford, Mountain Rivera, Barth, Boulding, The-Great-One-Gleason, Bultmann, S.K., Tillich, Kazanzakis, D.H.L., Bonhoeffer, Little Big Man, and the Niebuhr brothers among others. We visited ancient Greece, the middle ages and projected ourselves into the next century.
We encouraged our children to join us in these many endeavors and to become comprehensive, futuric and intentional human beings. Although our efforts were not seen as remarkable by non-believers or the leaders of the world, we moved in a trajectory of glory across time and space. Not all our number survived. The expenditure of time and personal sacrifice was enormous and, at times, many lost faith and withdrew from the journey. Our efforts were daunted by the enormity of our undertaking: to reform the whole world and usher in a New Social Vehicle for the planet. The audacity of this vision required great patience, foresight and working in many strange and unnoticed places. Our colleagues, in small bands, could be found in the jungles of Cano Negro, the outback of Mowanjum, the river bank of the Southern Nile, the high-rises of Hong Kong, a fishing village in Formosa, the island of Je-Judo, the towers of New York and the halls of the Common Market.
Somewhere along the Way I lost my violin and strange dogs no longer bark at me. They ignore me.
- 10 Jan 2008
A Poem sent by Marguerite Theophil in India
Poetry read at the last session:
“The task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about which everyone sees.” Arthur Schopenhauer
- 06 Apr 2008