I just read Mitch Albom’s recent nonfiction memoir, HAVE A LITTLE FAITH about an African American and a Jew.
What if our beliefs were not what divided us, but what pulled us together? In “Have a Little Faith,” Mitch Albom offers a beautifully written story of a remarkable eight-year journey between two worlds–two men, two faiths, two communities–that will inspire readers everywhere.
Albom’s first nonfiction book since “Tuesdays with Morrie”, “Have a Little Faith” begins with an unusual request: an eighty-two-year-old rabbi from Albom’s old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy. Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he’d left years ago.
Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor–a reformed drug dealer and convict–who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof.
Moving between their worlds, Christian and Jewish, African-American and white, impoverished and well-to-do, Albom observes how these very different men employ faith similarly in fighting for survival: the older, suburban rabbi embracing it as death approaches; the younger, inner-city pastor relying on it to keep himself and his church afloat. As America struggles with hard times and people turn more to their beliefs, Albom and the two men of God explore issues that perplex modern man: how to endure when difficult things happen; what heaven is; intermarriage; forgiveness; doubting God; and the importance of faith in trying times. Although the texts, prayers, and histories are different, Albom begins to recognize a striking unity between the two worlds–and indeed, between beliefs everywhere.
In the end, as the rabbi nears death and a harsh winter threatens the pastor’s wobbly church, Albom sadly fulfills the rabbi’s last request and writes the eulogy. And he finally understands what both men had been teaching all along: the profound comfort of believing in something bigger than yourself. “Have a Little Faith” is a book about a life’s purpose; about losing belief and finding it again; about the divine spark inside us all. It is one man’s journey, but it is everyone’s story.
The original vision of childhood is a sense of wonder at everything. I have seen that sense of wonder in my children. I must have had that, too. I recall being fascinated with many things as a child, enjoying playing with fire and water and digging in the earth and building things especially model airplanes.
When I was five my parents took me to see the film “Cabin in the Sky.” Ethel Waters a big black woman, had the lead role. In fact all the actors were blacks. I was frightened by a figure that appeared in little Joe’s nightmare who had horns on the top of his head and called himself Lucifer Junior.
My mother used to leave we with a Mexican lady, Maruca Martinez, wife of the painter, Alfredo Ramos Martinez, in the afternoons to be taken care of. Mina, her maid, frightened me by telling me that if I was not good she would throw me down the stairs into the hands of the boogey man in the basement. Coquitta, (really Maria) their daughter who was crippled from polio frightened me too. I wanted to be part of a family, but I did not belong anywhere.
Sometimes my mother also left me with the sculptor, Jane Rosen, and with her mother’s friends like Tante Nana and Fraulein. I hated the old ladies in black veils. She also left me at the convent on West Adams with Mother Valerean. She left me with Gwen in the desert and left me at Big Bear Boys Camp where I was very homesick and frightened. She sent me away to boarding schools. The message I got was “You’re no good. We can’t do anything with you. We don’t want you. You don’t deserve anything of your own. We don’t love you. Nobody likes you.”
The only positive people I can recall in my early life were my grandparents Elmer and Katie Staude, in Texas, and Betty Frank. I did not like my mother’s motherland her entourage in Los Angeles. I remember being sent away from them because I made too much noise.
I loved to read. The first book I remember reading on my own, with help from my mother who read to me a lot was Robin Hood. There was also a book of fairy stories and legends I enjoyed. I particularly liked the stories of St. George, of Perseus, and of the Dragon.
While I was away at mass, with my mother, my father would stay home and listen to Wagner. I decided that Grand Opera was his religion, and it seemed to be much more exciting than the boring masses I had to attend with my mother.
Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation meant little to me. They were rituals I went through to please my parents. I found going to Church was very boring.
At age 8 I was sent to a Catholic military school, St. John’s where I was indoctrinated with traditional Catholic catechism and internalized guilt feelings regarding sexuality. The nuns frightened me with their images of Hell and the Devil who I feared would punish me if I was not a good boy.
FDR died in 1944. My grandfather died at about the same time as did a young boy who lived next door to me, John Clyde, Andy Clyde’s son. That was my first encounter with death.
In early adolescence I awakened to a sense of the spiritual through poetry and the first stirrings of love in my heart. For me God has always been most approachable through the body of a woman. It is She that evoked wonder in me and led me to turn to him, our creator, in gratitude.
I attended Catholic school for a few months when I entered adolescence in order to prepare for confirmation. I recall that I was fascinated by the emerging sexual beauty of some of the young women in the class, but I was taught that it was sinful to have “lustful” thoughts about women. One should not notice their bodies, I was told, but think of spiritual things instead. I felt guilty about masturbating and was told by the priest to hold a rosary in my hand. The pain would prevent me from continuing. It didn’t. I struggled against these sexual temptations for many years.
At Webb School I was also required to take classes in the Bible as literature. This bored me, but I enjoyed a class in comparative religions in my senior year taught by Mr. Wilson. He had pictures of figures from Greek myth on the walls of his classroom. It was with him that I first developed a real interest in the meaning of myths and symbols. I also was fascinated with the stories told in Bullfinch’s Mythology and particularly the stories of adventures, heroic journeys and the like. When I got to Webb I had an ambition to read every book in the school library, and I just about did. (It was a small library).
As a boy I was impressed with the poetry of the English romantic poets. I think this set the tone for my worldview and religious ideas and feelings. I feel there is a strong continuity between my early romanticism and my later idealism. I have never felt willing to accept mundane reality as it is, as the only world we can know and experience. Already as a youth I accepted the notion of multiple realities and the Buddhist view of the world as an illusion, though I often get caught up in identifying with my own personal suffering and am unable to practice this view in my daily life.
When I was about 15 years old at the end of my sophomore year at Webb School, I traveled to Europe with my parents for the first time. My mother was already in Europe when my father and I left. We sailed from New York on the Liberté, a luxury liner of the French line. I never had so much food in all my life. Tony had an affair on the ship as he had done on the train going from LA to New York.
When we arrived at Le Havre my mother was waiting for us with a little English car a Humber Hawk. We drove through Rouen to Paris. The sky was grey and it rained and rained. The sky reminded me of the skies in some of the French impressionist paintings I had seen in our living room at home. France was more or less as I had imagined it would be. I recall the strange smells in our first Paris hotel room, and the strangeness of the old lady who watched us through a veiled glass door as we entered the building where mother had rented a small apt for us. I learned that such women are an institution in France called the conscierge.
I recall the smell of French coffee and pain au chocolat. In the mornings I had hot chocolate rich with fresh milk and hot croissants. Like a puppy I explored the unfamiliar sights and smells in the neighborhood.
Mother had acquired an escort, Gerard, and his attractive wife or mistress Paulete. I developed a crush on her and enjoyed dancing with her despite the fact that she smelled of garlic. Her full breasts bulged out of her low cut black chiffon dress. I fantasied that I would like to make love to her, but I did not yet know how.
I recall going with my parents to the bar at the Ritz Hotel. I ordered a Coke and Bisquit. I anticipated getting a coke and cookies but instead they served me coke with brandy in it. I felt betrayed and spit out the coke in disgust and made a scene.
We set out in the car and drove south to Tours, Poitiers and the Chateau country which we explored for several days before heading south into Provence. I was particularly enchanted with Carcasonne, which conformed to my image of medieval France. I had just completed an elementary course in medieval history at Webb and now felt thrilled to see a real medieval town complete with towers and encircled by a high stone wall.
I learned of Simon de Montforte and the Cathars and the Courts of Love of the Troubadours. These tales fascinated me and I determined to learn more about medieval France someday. I still love medieval towns and medieval art and history.
The objective of our trip, from my mother’s point of view, at least, was to see as many beautiful churches in France as possible. I can’t remember them all. I had the feeling of being dragged around France from church to church like Eloise in New York. I was impressed with Chartres, Ronchamps and St. Paul en Vence.
We drove on over the Alps to Italy via the Dolomites and Cortina d’Ampezzo. I developed a crush on a pretty American girl there. We played tennis and I longed to play with her tits which I watched bobbing like tennis balls before my eyes.
We left there too soon for mty liking heading South into Italy. We stopped in Verona and in Venice where we stayed at the Royal Danieli and visited the Lido. Later we went to Florence Pisa and finally to Rome. By this time I had eaten too much Italian ice creamn and got sick. I spent most of the time we were in Rome sitting on the toilet or lying in bed in the hotel.
On our return journey we stopped again in Paris and visited Montmartre where I made the acquaintance of a delightful character named Mimiche. He ran a little joint restaurant near the Lapin Agile. He played the cello and told dirty stories. I recall the climax of one story when he unzipped his pants and pulled out his pecker and waved it at the audience. I later discovered that this long thing was not his pecker at all but a rubber. It was some time later before I learned what condoms are used for. At that time I thought it was like a rubber glove.
We then took the Golden Arrow train to London, across the English channel, the luxury boat train of those days. We rode in first class, of course, and I loved how we were served tea and sandwiches. I loved high tea and later had it at the Grovsnor House in Mayfair, where we stayed. I have always enjoyed London. We returned to the USA at the end of summer and I returned to school at Webb in the fall.
I traveled all over the world through my imagination, reading adventure books, horse stories, classics, whatever I could get my hands on. What I wanted to understand really was myself and other people but it was a long time until I discovered psychology. My first study of human nature was through literature. One of my favorite books from my high school days was Jean Christophe, though I never read through all the volumes of the entire long novel.
In my late adolescence I became more committed to writing and to spirituality.
I had been lonely at boarding school up until my junior year when I began dating Nancy Palmer, a girl who lived up the street from us in Hollywood.
I would like to describe the atmosphere I experienced during my last year in high school when I was 17 years old. I was editor of the school paper, The Blue and Gold, and had finally carved out a small place for myself at the school. At the end of the year upon graduation I was awarded a prize for having read more extra books than any other student. I was proud that I had my name in most of the books in the Webb School library. My grades were never extraordinary and I did not get into Princeton the college of my first choice but I did get into Duke so I went there.
After I graduated from high school I spent the summer in England as an exchange student with the Experiment in International Living program. That was a turning point in my life.
I sailed on a student ship, the Arosa Kulm and returned on the Arosa Star. It was lots of fun, but very different from the luxury liners I had sailed on before with my parents. We sailed from the port of New York. This was the first time I was traveling so far away from home alone. I was excited and anxious. What adventures lay ahead for me? I was to be plaed in an English family in Plymouth in Devon. I enjoyed the English lifestyle very much. Thus began my lifelong love affair with England.
I first began to take a serious interest in the divine and to feel some relationship to Jesus Christ when I was 17 or 18 years old, during my first year at Duke University. At that time I became seriously interested in mysticism and began to read everything I could about it.
I thought I wanted to be a writer, so I thought I would major in English. I found the English professors too pedantic, however, so I switched to history. There was one English professor I liked very much–Russell Fraser, who had a student literary discussion group that I participated in with relish. It was called Areopagus, after the original Supreme Court of Athens.
One person was particularly influential on me among my college teachers. That was Dr. Harold Parker, a brilliant modern European historian. From him I first discovered that history was not so much a collection of facts but the interpretation of the relationships among these facts. Equally important for me as mentor at this time was Prof. Ernest Nelson, who was a specialist in Renaissance and Reformation history.
My freshman essay was on Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther. I tried to demonstrate that Werther was a symbol of his age and that Goethe managed to resolve his own personal inner conflicts through his creativity. I had my own share of personal emotional problems at this time myself.
I went to college in the South because I knew that so many of the great modern American writers came from the South and I wanted so much to be a writer. At Duke I sought to write for the Archiveliterary magazine but my work was not published there. Instead I wrote copy for the Playbillprograms. I have always been better at re-working material than creating it from scratch.
I recall my first year Duke where I made friends with young men like Bill Spann, Rusty Stahlnacker and Tyson Underwood, Fred Chappel and Reynolds Price.
Tyson came to visit me in California during our summer vacation in 1955. He had stopped at the bus station en route and dyed his hair black.
My first sexual experience was with Betsy, a beautiful blonde southern belle, in the college dorms. She was so sweet. Yet I rejected her after a while and went for Joanie, a dark haired beauty who I met on a blind date arranged by my roommate, Dick Phillips. I felt so close to her and we had good sex, but afterwards I felt guilty. I went to confession as soon as possible after I had sex.
I was also troubled by what I was learning in my philosophy classes. I wanted to find out my own identity. my values and beliefs. I loved history. I had good teachers like Prof. Harold Parker, Bill Holley and Ernest Nelson, the Renaissance and Reformation scholar. I admired him very much. In my sophomore year I took a class from him on the foundations of Western Civilization.
I will never forget that class. We read Heroditus and Thucydides and Sophocles and St. Augustine. I have always loved the Greek classics.
When I was supposed to go to work for Brunswig Drug Company, the summer after my freshman year, I could not face it and read Greek tragedies as a way of protesting my fate. Eventually I got a summer job as a law-clerk instead.
I enjoyed the chamber music concerts. I remember one concert in particular in which I was making love to Betsy in the adjoining ladies lounge while the quartet was playing.
I felt guilt about sex and confusion with the secular modern philosophies I was being exposed to at college. In fear and defence I fled to a Catholic Jesuit university where I was guaranteed of being taught the TRUTH. However, I was disappointed with the philosophy and theology I was taught there.
In my sophomore year in college my mother gave me a book by a Benedictine monk, Father Bede Griffiths, The Golden String. It meant a lot to me. This was the first time that I saw that a religious quest could be taken seriously by an intellectual, which was what I aspired to be someday. At this time I also first read St. Augustine’s Confessions. He became one of my lifetime heroes. Soon afterwards I read The Outsiderby Colin Wilson, which introduced me to Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Pascal and other existential thinkers who became my heroes as well. I was also fascinated by the life and thought of Nietzsche.
When I entered my first year of college I was supposed to join the ROTC but I did not want to. I did not have the courage to say no directly, but I resisted letting the orderly take a blood sample from me. He told m I had better get used to it because there would be a lot of such experiences of such unpleasantness ahead for me in the military. On this basis I decided not to enroll in ROTC. My advisor taught Russian Lit. so I enrolled in his survey of Russian Lit instead. Here I encountered Lermontov, Pushkin, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Thus began my lifelong interest in Russia and in Russian history and literature. (Later in graduate school I specialized in comparing modern Russian and German intellectual and cultural history).
At the end of my sophomore year I transfered to Georgetown. The summer between Duke and Georgetown I drove a traveling bookshop around Cape Cod. Got to know soem interesting people on the Cape including Paul Chavchavadze, a Russian emigré writer. I’ve always had a weakness for Russians.
I was scheduled to go to Europe at the end of my Junior year but instead so as to be near Joanie Knowles I spent the summer working as a counselor at the Big Toe River camp with the crippled children. I see a familiar Pattern here of sacrificing an activity which requires my being alone and taking a risk with loneliness for the security of staying in a familiar place in order to stay with a girl or woman I love.
Beginning in the fall of 1956 I transferred to Georgetown University in Washington DC.I recall reading Jung and Freud and philosophy and searching for the truth and listening to Fr. William Lynch lecture on literature and philosophy. Also Father Martin D’Arcy, Dr Rommen, reading Samuelson and Schumpeter and studying the History of Economic and Political Thought.
I found the Thomism and Scholasticism at Georgetown dry and boring. Instead I turned to the French existentialists and to exploring philosophy through literature. I found great inspiration in a literature class taught by Fr. William Lynch.
To this day literature is my favorite way to access philosophical and religious or spiritual ideas. I enjoy encountering ideas in the contest of personal drama. The evocative images speak to my heart. On the other hand for religious feeling I prefer sacred music. I had some courses in philosophy of religion with Father Martin D’Arcy who I found inspirational, but he was often over my head.
The one philosophical work I remember reading in college that really opened up new vistas on religion for me was William James’ Varieties of Religions Experience.Even today I can hardly think of a work of greater significance for me for James introduced me to the psychology of religious experience. I also became interested in the psychology of Freud and C.G. Jung at this time, as I was looking for a therapeutic alternative to Thomistic psychology.
I recall discovering a different kind of spirituality with Fr Damasus Winzen OSB at Mt Savior. I want to mention one person and a place that had an influence on my spiritual development–Father Damasus Winzen, at Mt. Saviour, a Benedictine community in Elmira New York where I made several retreats before I went to Europe. “Incline the inner ear of the heart and listen to the world of God” Benedict said in the prologue ot his rule. Through Father Damasus and Brother Gregory I discovered the Fathers of the Church, such as St. Augustine, St. Jerome and Origin, and came to appreciate the beauty of the Bible and the Liturgy. At Mt. Savior I sometimes had the sense of being in the presence of God, of experiencing wonder and gratitude at his majesty and glory. With the Jesuits this had been only an intellectual concept for me. Among the Benedictines I experienced it in my heart.
In my senior year in college I became interested in French literature and philosophy, particularly after reading Wallace Fowlie’s book, A Guide to Contemporary French Literature.This led me to embark for a year of study of French literature in Paris. However I did not really know French well enough to read the literature or criticism in the original for enjoyment. I did read some Camus and Claudel and some other modern French writers and even wrote a play modeled on Claudel’s work while I was in Paris. I was still troubled by guilt feelings about sex. It took some years of psychoanalytic therapy to finally move beyond that place in my spiritual and emotional life.
When I arrived in Paris in the summer of 1958, after graduating from Georgetown, a young Frenchman I had met on board the student ship I had sailed on from New York suggested that we find a small hotel and share a room. He did not have much money, he said, so he offered to show me around Paris if I would pay for his meals. He knew just the place. It was on the Left Bank, right near the Place St. Michel. The hotel was small and clean but our room was tiny and the bedsprings sagged to the floor when I lay on the bed–as French hotel beds so often do. We stayed there two or three nights and explored Paris during the days. One morning when I got up I found to my surprise that my “friend” Gerard had disappeared. This was right after I had told him I was getting worried about how much money I was spending. He left we with the entire hotel bill to pay. I felt angry and disillusioned. This was a preview of other similar experiences I was to have in the future.
I felt delighted to be in Paris and was determined to learn French properly. I began by attending a course at the Sorbonne, but found it was too much work so on hearing about a pilgrimage going to Brittany I decided to join that. It was run by Pax Christi, a group that grew up after World War Two to help young persons heal the wounds and overcome the stereotypes left from war propaganda and experience.
After the Pax Christi pilgrimage I went to Grenoble to study French.I first visited Germany in the summer of 1958. I was studying French in Grenoble. My parents were traveling through Europe and invited me to meet them in Düsseldorf. We traveled down the Rhine by train and got off in Stuttgart where my father picked up a Mercedes he had ordered in America. It was quite a ritual picking up the Mercedes. I resolved then that someday I would get a Mercedes of my own. We drove to Munich where we visited my “brother” Pierre and then drove on to Salzburg and on to Vienna. There my mother made a diatery cure in a hospital and she and her doctor decided that it would be good for me to make the same cure so I did. What was peculiar about her cure was that instead of following the hospital regime she had a hot plate under her bed with which she cooked her own supplementary meals.
I had been eating too many pastries and pommes frites in France and Germany and had become constipated. The doctor created a culture from my stool and injected this culture into my rectum thereby creating new bacilli to move along the stool through my intestines. I have never suffered from constipation since. My bowels work like clockwork.
I returned to Paris in the fall ready to study. At first I tried to stay in a Benedictine monastery but they through me out after I came home late a few times. I then stayed in a Catholic boys college on the Rue de Vaugerard. After a short time I was thrown out of there also because I did not mix well with the other boys and also refused to adhere to the early curfew imposed on residents of the college. I t reminded me of my life at Georgetown University, until I had escaped and gotten an apartment off campus.
I then moved to a hotel on the Boulevard St Michel around the corner from the Sorbonne. I enrolled in a course on French literature for French teachers from abroad. The lectures were over my head and I could not really do the assigned reading much less write the required essays. I dropped out after a couple of months. While I was in the course I met a nice young American called Greg who had a flair for languages and seemed to know not only French but German Spanish and Italian. He played the guitar and seemed more able than I to live on his own. I admired him and enjoyed our few meetings together. I also got to know a few other students who were friendly enough, but most of the time I felt isolated and alone. This was to be my primary experience in Paris and most places thereafter, feeling isolated and alone.
I spent most of my time in Paris either reading in my room or walking the streets exploring the biways of Paris. Eventually I met an attractive young French girl, Denise, and tried to develop an intimate relationship with her. We never got beyond holding hands. As a good Catholic boy I had ambivalence about sex as she did as well. But I wanted her to be my girlfriend anyway and she refused.
I was lonely in Paris and felt forlorn as the winter set in. One time an old friend of my mother’s Midu, invited me to visit her in her room at the Crillon hotel. She greeted me in a neglige and lay invitingly before me on a chaise longe. I was very uncomfortable, I felt like the boy in the Graduate with Mrs. Robinson. I couldn’t respond to her. Though she was very beautiful she was old enough to be my mother and had a son older than me who I had once played with. I later learned that my “brother” Pierre had had an affair with her. My mother later told me that she was a nymphomaniac.
In time I got to know a group of German students in Paris, outsiders like me. I found them much more open and friendly than the French. One of them invited me to spend Christmas with her in Heidleberg. Another German girl I had met during the Pax Christi pilgrimage wrote inviting me to visit her in Westphalia; so I decided to spend my Christmas holidays in Germany. This was to be a white Christmas.
I had acquired a Porsche as a Christmas present from my parents. I decided to try it out on the winter roads of France and Germany. I went to Westphalia first, driving Northwest from Paris into Germany via Saarbrucken. I went to visit Ingrid, a slim blonde, but when I found she had another boyfriend I cultivated her plump motherly girlfriend Maria. I later wrote a one act play about my relationship with Maria. From Westphalia I proceeded South to Heidleberg. It snowed in Heidelberg while I was there. It was beautiful. I stayed only a few days and then went on to visit my brother Pierre who was then staying in Mulhouse near Basel.
I drove down the highway along the Rhine and suddenly became terrified when my car skidded out of control and I almost landed in the Rhine. I was terrified and telephoned Pierre swearing that I would not drive anymore even if it was Christmas eve and I wanted to meet him. He encouraged me to drive slowly and carefully and to come along. I did and arrived in Mulhouse with no further mishap. Pierre and I talked a long time about our plans and prospects for the coming year. He had just finished studying design in Basel and was going to move to Munich to open an office there with his friend and partner Klaus Oberer (Obei). I was going to write the great American novel in Paris. I returned to Paris shortly after New Year’s.
So I spent my first winter in Europe. It was too cold for me and I longed for the warm sun of Southern California. After over twenty years in Europe I still have trouble with the winter cold.
In Paris I got to know another German girl. We had a Platonic relationship, which was all I felt capable of because of my guilt feelings about sex but when I learned she was screwing other guys I decided to try my luck as well. She was agreeable after a long petting session, but when it came to it I ejaculated before I could even enter her. I felt so guilty about all this that I rushed to confession the next morning. My brother had a more casual attitude to it. Wash it and its as good as new he would always say. But like Lady Macbeth though I washed and scrubbed it I could not wash away the stain of sin in my consciousnesses. For this it took the magic of priestly authority.
The most extreme example in my life of this compulsive behavior was one time when I actually felt so guilty that I told a girl while I was inside her that what we were doing was sinful. She thought I was joking but eventually I convinced her I meant it. she pushed me out and pushed me away. I could not understand why and begged her to let me continue making love to her. She said I was crazy. I ran to a priest and got absolution and then came back to her to try to talk her into making love with me again. It took me many years to overcome these guilt feelings about sex.
At St. Severin in Paris I had my first experience of “worker priests” Through them I learned to think of my workplace as my altar. I learned from Pere Villart at St. Severin that there was a way of taking the mystery and grace we experienced gathered around the altar at mass out into the world of everyday life.
I returned to California in the spring after my winter in Paris. I did one term at Stanford University studying drama and playwriting and then transferred to Claremont Graduate School in Southern Calif where I studied ancient and modern history. I got on the defensive about my religion and wrote papers for my grad seminar in Renaissance Studies in which I tried to show the truth of the Catholic faith embodied in Dante’s Divine Comedy.This was not well received by my professors at CGS. I wrote a master’s thesis in History on “Jacob Burckhardt’s Philosophy of History”.
The next year 1960, at UC Berkeley, I tried to confront modern historicism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis head on but had a hard time holding on to my Catholic faith in the process. I was fascinated with Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity and by Marxist sociology of knowledge. As I was also interested in philosophical anthropology I finally decided to write a dissertation on Max Scheler, a German Catholic philosopher and sociologist. Work on Scheler, particularly his philosophy of religion helped me find a better intellectual footing for my faith. Gradually, however, my faith and commitment to Chirstianity got lost in other concerns. I remained a Catholic but psychotherapy, particularly Freudian, Jungian, and Gestalt psychology, replaced Christianity as my principal frame of reference for a long time.
Reading offers us opportunities to travel, moving our eyes without moving our feet.—John Raphael Staude
“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” — Mortimer J. Adler
Reading offers the unique power to transport us to other worlds. Books are passports that offer us a free trip to other lands both real and imagined. For some, books also become an escape, taking us out of a miserable and mundane life and into a new place where anything is possible, including a happy ending. I divide all readers into two classes; those who read to remember and those who read to forget. The following quotes were selected from Sarah S Davis, A Reader’s Library of Book Quotes: For Librarians, Writers, and Bookworms Everywhere . Broke by Books Press. Kindle Edition.
In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.” — Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life
“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” — Garrison Keillor
“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.” — Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
“Books were my pass to personal freedom.” — Oprah Winfrey
“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” — Mason Cooley
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” —Stephen King, On Writing
“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book.” — J.K. Rowling
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” — George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
“I go to books and to nature as the bee goes to a flower, for a nectar that I can make into my own honey.” — John Burroughs, The Summit of the Years
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” — James Baldwin
“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” — W. Somersat Maugham, Books and You
Davis, Sarah S.. A Reader’s Library of Book Quotes: For Librarians, Writers, and Bookworms Everywhere . Broke by Books Press. Kindle Edition.
“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.” — Jane Smiley, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel
“Reading brings us unknown friends” — Honoré de Balzac
“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” — Ernest Hemingway
“I love books. I like that the moment you open one and sink into it you can escape from the world, into a story that’s way more interesting than yours will ever be.” — Elizabeth Scott, Bloom
“I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.” — Victoria Schwab, This Savage Song
“You forget everything. The hours slip by. You travel in your chair through centuries you seem to see before you, your thoughts are caught up in the story, dallying with the details or following the course of the plot, you enter into characters, so that it seems as if it were your own heart beating beneath their costumes.” — Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
- ✦Books are everywhere; and always the same sense of adventure fills us. Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.” — Virginia Woolf in Street Haunting
“I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print, the way you crawl through a fence, and go to sleep under that beautiful big green fig-tree.” — Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“Books and doors are the same thing. You open them, and you go through into another world.” — Jeanette Winterson
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss
“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” — Neil Gaiman
“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” — William Styron
“Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.” — Author Unknown
“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.” — Carl Sagan
Writers all have access to the same alphabet, but what makes a writer a storyteller is the way they wield these letters to craft a compelling story. These quotes embrace the power of storytelling and the writing process that each author embarks on to tell stories.
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” — Madeline L’Engle
- “There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.” — Sharon L. Alder
- “The good, the admirable reader identifies himself not with the boy or the girl in the book, but with the mind that conceived and composed that book.” — Vladimir Nabokov
- “A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth.” — Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale
- “Writers are the exorcists of their own demons.” — Mario Vargas-Llosa
- “It’s a rare book that wins the battle against drooping eyelids.” — Tracy Chevalier
- “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.” — Mark Twain
- “There’s a hunger for stories in all of us, adults too. We need stories so much that we’re even willing to read bad books to get them, if the good books won’t supply them.” — Philip Pullman
- “You look like a protagonist.” — Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park
- “You don’t really understand an antagonist until you understand why he’s a protagonist in his own version of the world.” — John Rogers
- “It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.” — William Faulkner
- “If you’re silent for a long time, people just arrive in your mind.” — Alice Walker
- “Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.” — Marcel Proust, Time Regained
- “Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.” — Plato
- “Those who write are writers. Those who wait are waiters.” — A. Lee Martinez
- “I have no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left for me.” — Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway
- “The first thing that distinguishes a writer is that he is most alive when alone.” — Martin Amis
- “Capture your reader, let him not depart, from dull beginnings that refuse to start” — Horace
- “I believe that a writer is a person who writes. An author is a person who has written.” — Dean Wesley Smith
- “Every great love starts with a great story…” — Nicholas Sparks
- “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” — Philip Pullman
- “The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.” — Henry Green
- “Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.” — Willa Cather
- “You can fix anything but a blank page.” — Nora Roberts
- “All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” — Leo Tolstoy
- “When someone is mean to me, I just make them a victim in my next book.” — Mary Higgins Clark
- “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” — Joan Didion
- “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” — Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works
- “A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” — Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
- “To hell with facts! We need stories!” — Ken Kesey
- “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.” — Ernest Hemingway
- “[I]t is the wine that leads me on, / the wild wine / that sets the wisest man to sing / at the top of his lungs, / laugh like a fool – it drives the / man to dancing… it even / tempts him to blurt out stories / better never told.” — Homer, The Odyssey
- “Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.” — Michael Shermer
- “Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream—making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is the very essence of dreams…” — Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
- “A slavish concern for the composition of words is the sign of a bankrupt intellect. Be gone, odious wasp! You smell of decayed syllables.” — Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
- “Your tale, sir, would cure deafness.” — William Shakespeare, The Tempest
- “I have always held the old-fashioned opinion that the primary object of work of fiction should be to tell a story.” — Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
- “You want to tell a story? Grow a heart. Grow two. Now, with the second heart, smash the first one into bits.” — Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
- “I got this story from someone who had no business in the telling of it.” — Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes
- “What tales do you like best to hear?’ ‘Oh, I have not much choice! They generally run on the same theme – courtship; and promise to end in the same catastrophe – marriage.” — Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
- “They weren’t true stories; they were better than that.” — Alice Hoffman, The Story Sisters
- “Sometime reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” — Jean Luc Godard
- “Every story, even your own, is either happy or sad depending on where you stop telling it.” — Wiley Cash
- “There’s always, there’ll always be, more story. That’s what story is…It’s the never-ending leaf-fall.” — Ali Smith, Autumn
- “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” — C.S. Lewis
- “What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.” — John Updike
- “What an author doesn’t know could fill a book.” — Holly Black, Lucinda’s Secret
- “There are words and words and none mean anything. And then one sentence means everything.” — Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
- “Literature can remind us that not all life is already written down: there are still so many stories to be told.” — Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin
- “When I want to read a novel, I write one.” — Benjamin Disraeli
- “I learned to write by reading the kind of books I wished I’d written.” — Barbara Kingsolver
- “Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.” — Boris Pasternak
- “Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.” — Octavia E. Butler
- “You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.” — Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
- “In the end, we’ll all become stories.” — Margaret Atwood, Moral Disorder and Other Stories
- “I would never read a book if it were possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it.” — Woodrow Wilson
- “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.” — G.K. Chesterton
- “A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it or offer your own version in return.” — Salman Rushdie
- “Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself.” — Angela Carter
- “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” — Toni Morrison
- “A good book has no ending.” — R.D. Cumming
- “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” — J.D. Salinger in The Catcher in the Rye
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne
✦ “Read. Read. Read. Just don’t read one type of book. Read different books by various authors so that you develop different style.” — R.L. Stine
Sarah S Davis, ed. A Reader’s Library of Book Quotes: For Librarians, Writers, and Bookworms Everywhere . Broke by Books Press.
In the Introduction to his book on Memoir writing entitled Inventing the Truth Willam Zinser observed that: “This is the age of the memoir. Never have personal narratives gushed so profusely from the American soil as in the closing decade of the twentieth century. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone is telling it. The boom has its ultimate symbol in Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt’s account of his squalid childhood in an Irish slum. In its literary shape it’s a classic memoir, recalling a particular period and place in the writer’s life.
“It also hit the double jackpot of critical and popular success, winning the Pulitzer Prize and perching at the top of the bestseller lists for well over a year. Beyond all that, it’s the perfect product of our confessional times. Until this decade memoir writers tended to stop short of harsh reality, cloaking with modesty their most private and shameful memories. Today no remembered episode is too sordid, no family too dysfunctional, to be trotted out for the wonderment of the masses in books and magazines and on talk shows….
“If the books by McCourt, Hamill, Karr, and Wolff represent the new memoir at its best, it’s because they were written with love. They elevate the pain of the past with forgiveness, arriving at a larger truth about families in various stages of brokenness. There’s no self-pity, no whining, no hunger for revenge; the writers are as honest about their own young selves as they are about the sins of their elders. We are not victims, they want us to know. We come from a tribe of fallible people, prisoners of our own destructiveness, and we have endured to tell the story without judgment and to get on with our lives.
“Such tolerance, however, is no longer an American virtue. The national appetite for true confession has loosed a torrent of memoirs that are little more than therapy, the authors bashing their parents and wallowing in the lurid details of their tussle with drink, drug addiction, rape, sexual abuse, incest, anorexia, obesity, codependency, depression, attempted suicide, and other fashionable talk-show syndromes. These chronicles of shame and victimhood are the dark side of the personal narrative boom, giving the form a bad name. If memoir has become mere self-indulgence and reprisal—so goes the argument—it must be a degraded genre.
“The truth is that memoir writing, like every other kind of writing, comes in both good and bad varieties. That’s the only standard that matters. Whether the authors of certain notorious recent memoirs ought to have revealed as much as they did, breaking powerful taboos and social covenants, isn’t finally the issue. The issue is: Is it a good book or a bad book?
“A good memoir requires two elements—one of art, the other of craft. The first element is integrity of intention. Memoir is the best search mechanism that writers are given. Memoir is how we try to make sense of who we are, who we once were, and what values and heritage shaped us. If a writer seriously embarks on that quest, readers will be nourished by the journey, bringing along many associations with quests of their own.
“The other element is carpentry. Good memoirs are a careful act of construction. We like to think that an interesting life will simply fall into place on the page. It won’t. We like to think that Thoreau went home to Concord and just wrote up his notes. He didn’t. He wrote seven drafts of Walden in eight years, piecing together by what Margaret Fuller called the mosaic method a book that seems casual and even chatty. Thoreau wasn’t a woodsman when he went to the woods; he was a writer, and he wrote one of our sacred texts.
“Memoir writers must manufacture a text, imposing narrative order on a jumble of half-remembered events. With that feat of manipulation they arrive at a truth that is theirs alone, not quite like that of anybody else who was present at the same events.”
William Zinser. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir (pp. 5-6). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
Since this blog is going to be about travel experiences and related subjects, I want to quote these three paragraphs from the first chapter in Frances Mayes book A Year in the World:
“The urge to travel feels magnetic. Two of my favorite words are linked: departure time. And travel whets the emotions, turns upside down the memory bank, and the golden coins scatter. How my mother would have loved the mansard apartment we borrowed from a friend in Paris. Will I be lucky enough to show pieces of the great world to my grandchild? I’m longing to hold his hand when he first steps into a gondola. I’ve seen his freedom burst upon him on hikes in California. Arms out, he runs forward. I recognize the surge.”…
“Travel pushes my boundaries. Seemingly self-indulgent, travel paradoxically obliterates me-me-me, because very quickly—prestissimo—the own-little-self is unlocked from the present and released to move through layers of time. It is not 2006 all over the world. So who are you in a place where 1950 or 1920 is about to arrive? Or where the guide says, “We’re not talking about A.D. today. Everything from now on is B.C.” I remember the child who came out of a thatched shack deep in the back roads of Nicaragua. She ran to touch the car, her arms thrown up in wonder. She would have looked at the headlights turn on and off all night. You are released also because you are insignificant to the life of the new place. When you travel, you become invisible, if you want. I do want. I like to be the observer. What makes these people who they are? Could I feel at home here? No one expects you to have the stack of papers back by Tuesday, or to check messages, or to fertilize the geraniums, or to sit full of dread in the waiting room at the proctologist’s office. When travelling, you have the delectable possibility of not understanding a word of what is said to you. Language becomes simply a musical background for watching bicycles zoom along a canal, calling for nothing from you. Even better, if you speak the language, you catch nuances and make more contact with people”…
“The need to travel is a mysterious force. A desire to go runs through me equally with an intense desire to stay at home. An equal and opposite thermodynamic principle. When I travel, I think of home and what it means. At home I’m dreaming of catching trains at night in the gray light of Old Europe, or pushing open shutters to see Florence awaken. The balance just slightly tips in the direction of the airport. I’m looking out my study window at the San Francisco Bay, the blue framed by stands of eucalyptus trees. The wind, I imagine, blew across Asia, then across Hawaii, bringing—if I could smell deeply enough—a trace of plumeria perfume. The western sun makes a grandiose exit in the smeared lavender-pink sky—a Mrs. Gotrocks gold orb sinking behind sacred Mount Tamalpais. The bay water, running into the ocean! Washing all the miraculous places. With the force of an earthquake, a wild certainty forms in the center of my forehead. Time. To go. Time. Just go. I asked an impulsive question, What if we did not go home, what if we kept travelling? Should you not listen well to the questions you ask out of nowhere? Only in looking back do you find those crumbs you dropped that marked your way forward.”
Mayes, Frances. A Year in the World . Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.
INTRODUCTION. I’m a former college teacher, artist, and a confirmed Europhile. Having been invited to teach in Europe in the early seventies, I left the University in Berkeley, California, which is my alma mater, to teach history and sociology on US military bases in Germany, having no idea that my teaching career would keep me living as an Ex-Pat in Europe for the next thirty-five years, with regular annual vacation visits home.
When people learn that I lived in Europe for so long, they usually inquire enviously how I managed do that, and which European country I loved most. So I’d like to answer those questions now. I looked upon myself as an independent scholar with my well-stocked mind and teaching and research experience for rent each year in whatever country I decided I wanted to get to know better.
GERMANY. As a published and experienced teacher and scholar, I got to teach in several different European countries. In Germany I lived and taught in Berlin, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Bitburg Airbase in the Moselle River area and Freiburg am Breisgau in the Black Forest.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA. I also had the pleasure of living and working in Eastern Central Europe both before and after the Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989. In Prague, I had an apartment in a medieval stone tower overlooking the river, the bridge, and the castle. The main disadvantage was that thee was no way to get a telephone installed in that gorgeous old stone tower. I taught courses on Sociological Theory and on the Social Psychology of Creativity at Charles University there. It was founded in the early thirteenth century, making it the oldest university in Central Europe.
SWITZERLAND. In Switzerland, while I was studying Analytical Psychology at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, I learned that a small American college in Lugano, only a couple of hours away by train, was looking for a part-time Psychology Instructor, so I applied and got the job. My greatest take-away from that experience was my seduction of one of my beautiful students, Kathy C. who later became my wife and lived with me in England, where I taught for almost ten years.
ITALY. But before I discuss my career in England, I want to mention some of my experiences in my favorite European country, Italy. I began my sojourn in Italy without a job, living in Florence, and studying art history while learning Italian, such a beautiful language! Florence is perennially amazing, full of surprises no matter how long you live there. I was very fortunate to find an apartment on a hill overlooking the city and next door to Lord Acton’s stupendous villa and museum-worthy art collection. The food in Florence’s restaurants is fresh and often imaginatively presented. As you can imagine, I gained a kilo while living there.
To support myself I found a job teaching Italian History to American students from Dickinson College in Florence enrolled in their Junior Year Abroad Program. The following year while still living in Florence, I commuted twice a week to Bologna, where I did the same thing for third year students at Johns Hopkins University. I had some great adventures in Florence and Bologna which I intend to reveal in a later blog post.
Before I finish my account of my experiences in Italy I want to narrate that the next year I moved to Rome to take up an exciting opportunity to teach a political science course on Contemporary Italian Politics for the American University in Rome. That fall, before my teaching duties began, I moved from Florence to Rome not only because of my job, but mainly to be near my new Roman girlfriend, Giuliana M., who I had met at an international conference on “Love in Renaissance Italy” held in Naples the preceding spring.
The story of our remarkable love affair and train travels all over Europe will be told in due course. I want to mention now that after falling in love, practically at first sight, to solidify the bonds of our relationship, we spent a long honeymoon-like summer living and lovemaking on the fabled Isle of Capri. I feel so grateful now to have had such memorable experiences.
GREAT BRITAIN. Finally, the last country, where I spent many happy years, is Great Britain whose literature I had devoured passionately ever since high school. I began my European travels in England already in 1954. I got bitten by the travel bug then, after I graduated from high school, when I became an Exchange Student in the Experiment in International Living Program that assigned me to live with a modest English family, the McMillans, in Plymouth in Devon, near Cornwall. I still remember our postal address there which was 3 Tor Close, Hartley, Plymouth, Devon, England, Earth, Our Universe.
I didn’t get my first teaching job in England until 1974. Back in Germany then, I had decided that I really didn’t really like teaching on the US military bases. So I sought to arrange something better for myself for the next year. I sent out a batch of cover letters accompanying my resumé to various universities in the London area and this I soon received an invitation to be a Visiting Scholar in Residence at the famed London School of Economics and Politics, a preponderantly Labour Party oriented division of the University of London, that traced its lineage back to George Bernhard Shaw and the early Fabian Socialists. This gave me some status in the academic world and a nice office to write in, but no income. Fortunately Brunel University in London also responded to my letter. They invited me to teach courses on The History of Social Thought and Comparative Sociology, which I did for several years until I ran into some difficulties with my work permit as a foreigner, after which Brunel let me go. Determined to return to Europe soon, I moved back home to Berkeley to get my ducks in a row.
Before I close this post I’d like to ask any readers who also have lived anywhere abroad for a few years to share your thoughts and your travel experiences with me. I plan to write a memoir detailing my experiences in Europe and in America in the decades of the seventies, eighties, and nineties. Whatever you’d like to share by way of thoughts, feelings, and/or memories would be most welcome.
James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist” has had a powerful impact on me every time I’ve read it. It’s similar to D. H. Lawrence’s autobiographical novel, “Sons and Lovers,” which I also read in my twenties and felt inspired by. Both of these autobiographical novels opened my mind and heart up to the idea of becoming a writer and being, like them, a creator of larger worlds of experience out of stories deriving from one’s family history and one’s personal experiences. We all tell stories to get at the truth about ourselves and our experiences. That’s what has always motivated me to write, and to read biographies, memoirs, novels, etc. and to watch movies sit.coms and plays—to learn more about ourselves and others.
“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” appears at first to be the usual coming-of-age novel, like “Wilhelm Meister,” ”To Kill a Mockingbird,” or “A Separate Peace”. But Joyce’s novel is only similar to others on the surface. The plot of “Portrait” follows the youth of Stephen Dedalus, as he grows from a child to an adult But underneath that narrative a deeper story is unfurled.Through his imaginative use of the English language Joyce invites his readers to see the infinite in and through through the finite, as William Blake, whom he so admired, did. “A Portrait of the Artist” is truly a great autobiographical novel, a model to learn from and to emulate.
The book also touches on many of the major issues of Ireland in the early 20th century, including Irish nationalism, home rule, a Jesuit education, and the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. These issues however are of secondary importance; what Joyce focuses on is Dedalus’s cognitive, emotional, and spiritual development— learning to deal with the influences that are pushing and pulling him in various directions.
There’s a wonderful scene in the book called “the bird girl scene” where Stephen, the narrator, is watching this young woman standing on the beach. It is an incredible moment, erotic, artistic and worshipful all rolled up into one. He had the intuition and the know-how to be able to put a string of words together so as to point to a much bigger meaningful picture, like any great poet would.
In a later section, the adolescent Stephen, who has been indulging himself with excessive, rich food and in sex with prostitutes, attends a Roman Catholic retreat. Being a Roman Catholic myself, I can assure you of the accuracy of the voice of the uncompromising priest, whose HELLFIRE speech is far worse than anything in Dante’s INFERNO and will leave your head spinning. Is this the religion of the gentle loving and all-forgiving Jesus? I’m afraid not!
However, in my favorite section Joyce describes Stephen’s solitary trek into the countryside during which he brings himself into accord with the universe and is blessed with an epiphany (Joyce’s term) of a young woman standing ankle deep in a river, whose beauty touches his soul, but whom he has no desire to possess physically.
Joyce later uses the term from Thomistic philosophy, AESTHETIC ARREST, to identify this moment of maturity.
A PORTRAIT ends with a most satisfying feeling of finding one’s own true vocation, having already achieved the freedom to follow it. It’s breathtaking!
In Joyce’s next novel, ULYSESS, the protagonist is still Stephen Daedalus, but now through further experiences in the wider world he has returned to Ireland, a wiser but a sadder man. But that is another story.
A PORTRAIT is one of the most beautiful novels ever written, or at least, that I have ever had the opportunity to read and re-read. One dimension of that beauty are the frequent passages of luminous poetic prose; however, other passages lack any trace of poetry. This is because the prose style of each sections reflects the CONSCIOUSNESS of Stephen Daedalus. This is not yet the STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS technique of Joyce’s two last novels, “ Ulysses” and “Finnigan’s Wake,” but it was a big step toward it.
My maternal grandfather, Lucien Napoleon Brunswig (1854-1943) was born in Montmedy, in Alsace in the Northeast of France, in 1854, and was educated at the College of Etain.
Apparently the teenage Lucien was confident that his future lay in the United States for he came to the New World with his parents by ship to New York in 1871 after France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War on a one-way ticket. Although he didn’t have much work experience, he soon found a job as an apprentice to a U.S druggist in a drugstore.
In 1875 at age 21 Lucien opened his own drugstore in Atchison, Kansas. The reason he was in Kansas was that that was as far as the railroad tracks heading west went. After a year of business in Kansas, Lucien sold his first drugstore and moved to Fort Worth, Texas to try his luck there.
In Fort Worth Lucien opened a new drugstore that not only sold retail but also dealt with wholesale pharmaceuticals. Within 5 years the business was producing $350,000 in annual sales! Business took Lucien to many places and one of those places was Independence, Missouri. There he met and married Annie Mercer. The newly married couple made their home in Fort Worth and they soon added children.
Everything seemed to be going well for young Lucien, but unfortunately, through a slip up, one of his staff accidentally gave a mother poison rather than the prescribed medicine he should have dispensed to her, and the child died. This terrible mistake cost Lucien his good name and his reputation fell apart; so he had to move out of Fort Worth.
Fortunately, at that time, George Finlay, the owner of a well-established wholesale drug firm in New Orleans invited Lucien to join him as a partner. So Lucien sold his Fort Worth business and joined Finlay in the newly constituted firm of Finlay and Brunswig.
A year later, in 1885, Finlay died and Lucien took over the entire wholesale drug firm which then became the L. N. Brunswig Company. In 1887 he took on a partner by the name of Fred W. Braun who was going to play a significant role in his life some years later..
While he lived in New Orleans he had served as a Police Commissioner from 1895-1899; Vice-president, Anthenee Louisianais; Member, Louisiana Historical Society; President, French Society; and had served as Vice-President for the Board of Trade.
Lucien and Annie had 5 children – 3 girls and 2 boys. The year of 1892 became a pivotal year for Lucien. That year marked the death of one of his young sons – a son who also bore the name of Lucien N. Brunswig. This death was a terrible blow to Annie Brunswig. The child’s death was too much for her to handle. She overdosed on laudanum, the marajuana of the day, and gradually declined in health. Within a month she, too, was dead.
Not to be daunted, Lucien, an ambitious and courageous young Jew—he was only five feet tall— soon moved on with life. Prior to the death of his wife and child Lucien had been looking toward the West. In 1887 Lucien dispatched Braun to Los Angeles, and within a year a prosperous business was established there.
Mr. Braun believed that the future of the company lay in the West. In 1890, while Lucien was still in New Orleans, he sent Braun out to San Diego to set up another branch office of the company there. In short order more branches were opening and operating in California under the direction of F.W. Braun.
Meanwhile in 1900, at the beginning of the new century, Lucien decided to sell all his assets in New Orleans and to retire back in his homeland, France.
He booked passage for himself and his family and a couple of African American servants on a luxury liner sailing from New Orleans. He took his new wife, Marguerite, and their baby daughter, also named Marguerite, onto the ship and they sailed for Europe with no intention of ever returning to America.
Lucien established himself in Paris, first at the Hotel Bradford where many New Orleans people went. He hoped that his wife would feel at home there. That year he and the family traveled extensively in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.
In Rome they visited the Pope (Pius IX). Young Marguerite was very impressed when the Pope blessed her and touched her head with his hand. Thus began her lifelong fascination with Popes and the Church.
After their visit to Rome the family returned to Paris. During the family’s first year abroad together Lucien had engaged a black slave, Mona, to take care of little Marguerite.
When Lucien traveled in Europe, he always carried with him a trunk full of barbells and exercise equipment that the hotel porters had to carry upstairs in each hotel..
Lucien concentrated on photography. He felt he needed a hobby. He went to the verascope company and took lessons in how to take good pictures. He spent all his time in Paris exploring various quartiers and taking photos of all kinds.
They stayed in Europe for over two years.
In 1905 the family came back to New Orleans, where they were warmly welcomed back to their old house in the French Quarter after a two year absence.
Little Marguerite was three at the time they returned to the states. She spoke only French and was know as “the little French girl.”
Lucien had sold his old business in New Orleans; so he decided to move to California and take up the drug business again in partnership with his former employee, Fred Braun.
After a short visit in New Orleans in the autumn of 1904 the family took the train to San Francisco. At that time the only civilized city in the West was San Francisco, which was then know as “the city”. L.A. was little more than a country town at that time. In S.F. they stayed at a comfortable old hotel, but unfortunately, when the S.F. fire broke out, it burned down destroying all of the family’s belongings.
In the summer of 1905 they vacationed in Carmel enjoying the beach and the beautiful Monterey Coast. At this time Carmel was just beginning to become fashionable. They stayed at the beautiful old Del Monte Hotel In Monterey. There they made good contacts for future relationships in San Francisco and L.A. In the fall they returned to San Francisco.
On Feb 1906 the day before the San Francisco earthquake and the fire, Marguerite, Sr. departed with her daughter and the governess for New Orleans for the Mardi Gras season. From there they intended to proceed to New York and then to Europe.
Meanwhie, Lucien stayed in San Francisco. The San Francisco fire destroyed his burgeoning business, so he went south to L.A. Prudently, he did not tell his absent family about his move to L.A. until he joined them in Europe for Christmas.
Young Marguerite spent Christmas in Germany n Dillingen on the Danube.with her governess Fraulein Gerstenmeyer’s family. Meanwhile her mother stayed in a sanitorium because she’d had a minor nervous breakdown.
In 1907, early in the New Year, the family moved to Los Angeles, where the Brunswig Drug Company headquarters had been established for Lucien by Fred Braun.
Young Marguerite now had to learn English and to go to an American school. Because of her strong French accent, she was often teased and ridiculed because she appeared to the other children to be so “different.”
According to my mother, my grandmother was never in love with my grandfather. She tolerated him, but she did not admire him. Why did she marry him? For money. She later reproached herself for this. She stayed in the marriage, however, hoping thereby to provide her daughter, Marguerite, Jr. with many advantages and comforts which she knew she could never supply without a rich husband like Lucien.
She’d been brought up very strictly in New Orleans in a snobbish wealthy Creole family of twelve. They were very tight aristocracy. They felt that nobody else was good enough to interact with them. They only visited among themselves and their relations.
Marguerite, Sr. was sensitive like a delicate plant, and could easily be hurt , very easily hurt. In fact, Lucien hurt her all the time, just being himself near her. She always said that it was the iron pot breaking the clay pot. She put up with it but often got even in a very subtle way. She pretended she’d taken it, but then she’d slip out the back door and escape. She never faced a thing directly but slipped out and then did as she pleased behind her husband’s back. My mother disapproved of her for her dishonesty and cowardice.
In 1907 Lucien bought out Mr. Braun and the business was renamed Brunswig Drug Company. At this time he also sold his company in New Orleans. Established in Los Angeles in 1907, the Brunswig Drug Company grew at a phenomenal rate. Soon the company became the leading pharmaceutical distributor in the western United States.
The company eventually expanded to many countries in the Pacific realm. The company also took on new products, such as perfumes and cosmetics. The business would boom during World War I and later during World War II because of its strategic geographical location.
While in Los Angeles Lucien served as Director of the Bureau of Americanization; Director of a number of Franco-American Relief Societies during World War 1; Chairman, Pacific Coast States American Field Ambulance Service; Chairman, Pacific Coast, Fatherless Children of France; Chairman, American Committee for Devastated France; President, Alliance Francaise in Southern California; President, Lafayette Society of California; Delegated by the Minister of Public Instruction in France to co-operate in the scholarships for young French students to American Universities and Colleges; Director of the College des Etats Unis, in Paris; and he served as Chairman for the Sunshine Houses of France for the U.S.A.
In 1914 young Marguerite was taken to Europe to enter boarding school in Montreux Switzerland on Lake Geneva. There she mingled with the children of the idle rich. Her mother and her governess accompanied her. In the summer she traveled with her mother into the alps. The war broke out in August and they were trapped in neutral Switzerland; they felt like prisoners in the hotel for weeks As they could not get money from the U.S. at that moment, they had to ask for credit from the hotel. After a few anguished days, however, they finally received it.
Delighted with this turn of events, they felt they were set free and soon hey decided to take a train to Florence, Italy, where they stayed with friends in a villa in the heart of the city.
Young Marguerite loved Italy, particularly Florence. Eventually, they sailed from Genoa on an Italian ship bound for New York. From New York they took the train to New Orleans, where they stayed for a brief visit before proceeding on to their new home in the exclusive Wilshire District which bordered on downtown Los Angeles where the new Brunswig Drug was located.
All too soon the rebellious teenage Marguerite was enrolled and installed in a strict convent school in Menlo Park run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, which she hated and always compared in her imagination to a prison. The chapter in er autobiography dealing with this period is entitled “Convicts in the Convent”.
There she remained feeling alternately rebellious and suicidal during the First World War. At this time her deep depressions really in earnest. Like her mother and her mother’s mother, she discovered depression as a way of facing and dealing with her unhappiness. Solemn daily prayers were customary at the convent and questioning clerical authority or Catholic dogmas was simply not tolerated.
At the drug company, Lucien had two secretaries, Miss Brown, the receptionist who was stationed outside his office, and Mrs. Patterson, his pretty secretary, inside his office. He was amorously involved with Mrs. Patterson. As a rich man he found that beautiful women played upon his sympathies to get money out of him for charities like the L.A.County Museum and the Symphony Assoc. which he gave to generously every year.
Lucien was a colorful person, much respected by his employees despite his personal peculiarities and his autocratic ways. Many of his employees were foreigners–Belgian, French, Swiss, German, Italian, Mexican. He could be generous or unpredictably notoriously stingy,. At Christmastime, for example, he made a fool of himself by giving people as gifts his old neckties with gravy stains on them. He was like another Jack Benny in that regard.
In 1917 at 63, Lucien found himself too old for military service in the War but he wanted to do his part in the fight against les bosches for the allies so he sailed to France and served as a volunteer for 8 months for the “Friends of France.”
When he returned to the USA from France, Lucien continued to be involved with helping those that had been impacted by the war. This was just the tip of the iceberg in his service to his local community and to his country and to his homeland.
One time in L.A. in 1919, after the war Lucien planned to give a big party to impress a French general. He wanted to meet him because he hoped that through him he could get promoted to a higher rank in the Legion of Honor. He was only a lowly non-commissioned officer and wanted to become a commander. So he planned this party to impress and entertain the general and he confidently assured the general, who had a weakness for beautiful young ladies, that his wife, Marguerite, would attend without consulting with her first.
Marguerite detested his pushy behavior and ambitious social climbing-so she simply planned not to appear. She didn’t tell him of her plans, however and let him order the dinner and plan everything, without letting him know that she would not be attending the party. In the end the general didn’t even show up—perhaps he smelled a rat”— but the party went on while Marguerite remained discretely “unavailable” to the guests, and had the servants bring her a dinner tray to her room.
She had no intention of appearing. so Lucien was left holding the bag, without either his wife or his guest of honor. The party went on anyway. It had to. Somehow, Lucien never learned the lesson. Some people would have learned the lesson not to push things, but he was very controlling and stubborn when he wanted to do something, he’d insist on doing it his way, regardless. His wife usually skipped out the back door, because she was afraid to confront him directly.
Lucien was a collector. During his travels he amassed a personal library of over 6,000 volumes, all of them bound uniformly in bright brown calf’s leather. Some of these were original manuscripts obtained from monasteries in Europe. He even collected an original manuscript from the hand of William Penn. Before his death Lucien had donated over 1,000 volumes from his collection to the University of Southern California.
When they moved to Los Angeles in 1906 Lucien and Marguerite bought a beautiful multi-room villa at 3528 West Adams Blvd. In all, it had 16 rooms with 6 bedrooms, a ballroom, a chapel for daily mass, a library, a fencing room, and a top-floor conservatory as swell as extensive gardens both in front and in back of the main building.
The from entrance was guarded by two large stone lions that I used to ride when I was visiting my grandparents. The gardens included two levels, with reflecting pools stocked with Koy fishes, bubbling fountains, and imported French and Italian statuary.
A tennis court and pavilion were on the fourth level and the stables were on the bottom, or fifth level along with a large playhouse for little Marguerite in the form of an elegant French Chatau. Hen she grew older and developed an interest in the arts, this chateau was removed and replaced by a handsome wooden studio building.
Lucien was also a founder of the Cercle Catholique Francais, a local French-American volunteer organization that provided aid to recent immigrants from France. Coincidentally, when Robert Furlong, the mayor of Vernon, left West Adams in 1958, he sold his house on Van Buren Place to Lucien’s Cercle Catholique Francais.
Lucien had a stroke in 1928, and went to the French resort of Aix-les-Bains for a cure.
During the last decade of his life, in his eighties, he was in semi-retirement. He came to the office at 10 and left at 12 when he went to lunch. In the afternoon he usually went home for a rest.
He had a prostate operation in 1938 and was sick during his last years recuperating at home under care of his nurse, Madeline. He died on July 17th, 1943 at age eighty-eight in Los Angeles. After Lucien died, his body was interred in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. His widow, Marguerite, lived on for three more years in the old mansion on West Adams where she died on Sept. 30th, 1946 at age 84.
But what happened to his Brunswig Drug Company? In 1969 the Brunswig Drug Company merged with the Bergen Drug Company to form Bergen-Brunswig. Some years later in 2001, this company in turn merged with the AmeriSource Health Corporation to from AmerisourceBergen. In 2018 Amerisource Bergen ranked 24th on the Fortune 500 list and employed 10,000 employees. Sales for the Corporation were $78 billion. What a testament to Mr. Lucien Brunswig!
My mother had been crushed as a girl, first by her patriarchal and overbearing father and then by the Nuns of the Sacred Heart Convent, where she spent her most influenceable and vulnerable adolescent years. She told me many times later while I was growing up, and enduring boarding schools myself—at that time the nuns broke her will to live,
Her young innocent spirit was crushed like that of a wild and spirited stallion. They brought her to her knees, so that eventually she had a complete nervous breakdown when she was in her late teens!
Like her weak compliant mother–also named Marguerite–my mother spent much of her life depressed , while constantly seeking relief from her emotional pain through the ministrations of doctors, priests, and friends.
In those days there were no effective meds to treat depression or other mental and emotional states familiar to us today.
Like many other Christian women of her day, Marguerite got her main emotional support from her spirituality and also from her creative activities. By surrendering to what she called her “muse,” [an inner daimon or spirit figure] she could put aside her inner suffering for a while and throw herself relentlessly into her art.
When she entered into her newly constructed studio and put on her artist-identity, she became another person, strong, often brilliant and charismatic.
This brought her so much success during her twenties and early thirties. She was even interviewed by a young Texan “stringer”(amateur journalist), Tony Staude, who was later to become her life partner, and my stepfather, whose part-time depression job, [besides selling Florsheim shoes and clothes in the men’s department at the then glamorous Harris and Frank Men’s Department store] was to report to the folks back home in Fort Worth on the doings of the rich, famous, and glamorous stars ,script writers, actors, directors, producers, and other Hollywood notables.
In the mid-thirties, Marguerite was actually accepted for a one-man show in one of the leading galleries in Paris. However, shortly before this show was to take place, she had another serious nervous breakdown, and decided suddenly to abandon the project and to return to America, explaining her withdrawal from the competition as being due to her fear of the rise of Fascism in Europe. So she had her sculptures packed up and shipped back home to Los Angeles, where she returned to her family mansion on West Adams Blvd.
After her return, Marguerite suffered another long bout of depression. To escape from these terrible feelings of helpless powerlessness, self-recrimination, regret, and despair, Marguerite began to go to the lively and colorful Mexican cafes and entertainments on Olivera St.
There, through a mutual friend in Los Angeles, George Polkinghorn, Marguerite met a handsome young Mexican musician, Carlos del Prado, who soon became her lover.
Scandalous! Here she was sleeping with a MEXICAN! What if her parents ever found out? She, a lily white spoiled Jewish princess, and heiress, and a constantly chaperoned Catholic debutante, a High Society figure!
This clandestine affair seems to have gone on for almost a year, until the “inevitable happened,” and Carlos got her pregnant. He wanted to marry her immediately, Carlos later told me, and when I asked my mother years later, she confirmed Carlos’s story, but she said, marriage then, to a Mexican (!) was simply an impossible and unrealizable project, even if she was pregnant with his child, and he had the wealth to support her, because she feared losing her large inheritance and being disowned by her family if she ever married a Mexican, even if he was an upper-class Mexican!
At that time a mixed marriage between an Anglo and a Chicana was viewed by the white elite strata as guaranteed social death, much as was marrying a Negro, a Native American Indian, a Hindu Indian, a Hawaiian, or any other people of any race than Caucasian. It was simply not to be considered.
One night in her bedroom in the family mansion, when Carlos slipped secretly into her bedroom and stayed through the night, the young relatively innocent society girl who became my mother conceived me. Upon discovering that she was pregnant Marguerite consulted a priest in the confessional and was told that she was in danger of going to Hell and that she must say goodbye to her lover immediately and promise the priest hearing her confession that she would “never ever see Carlos again.” She felt so anxious, guilty, and frightened that she readily agreed to his conditions before receiving absolution for her sins, and sent him a religious card, a picture of Jesus with sacred heart exposed, which Carlos gave me on the day I met him in Mexico City 20 years later. On the back of this holy card Marguerite wrote, “Good-bye, Carlos. We must never meet again. Good-bye!” Of course they did meet again, many times again, in fact, even after my birth, too, but that’s another story for another chapter.
Several months pregnant, but not yet showing, Marguerite departed for New York, ostensibly to study art history at the Met, and sculpture and painting techniques with Prof. Leo Katz. We know now, of course that Marguerite also departed LA for NY to hide her pregnancy from her family and friends. Her mother, who knew nothing about the pregnancy, insisted on accompanying her to Manhattan, and lived with her, along with her brother Walter, for the first few months she was there. After six months Marguerite managed to induce her mother to return to Los Angeles, while she stayed on in New York. It was there, while waiting for me to come into the world that Marguerite conceived the idea of a modern cathedral church skyscraper to be built in a cruciform structure. Lloyd Wright, (Frank Lloyd Wright’s son), designed and built a model of this dream cathedral for her, but it was never to be. The War intervened. Afterwards, she scaled the project down and in the early 1960s Marguerite hired the San Francisco architects Bob Anshen and Steve Allen to build her a small modern chapel in Sedona, Arizona, instead.
At the end of her life my mother declared that these were the two products of her creativity of which she was most proud: the contemporary style church that she had built and her clandestine baby, whom she had secretly birthed, sequestered away out of sight for a few years, and then legally adopted, and raised as her only son in Hollywood.
The sixties were the most significant decade in my life. During this decade I married, had my obligatory two kids, and divorced, and in the sixties I launched my career. Born in 1937, I was 21 in 1958 when I graduated from Georgetown with a double major in philosophy and political science. I earned my MA from Claremont Grad School in 1960 and my Ph.D. from Berkeley five years later in 1965. Both my graduate degrees were in History.
In the fall of 1960 at age 23 I began my Ph.D. studies at UC Berkeley, the matrix of my awakening, where I lost my intellectual and political virginity, and finally gave up praying to the Virgin Mary to help me stop masturbating, often visualizing the Queen of Heaven as my desired sexual conquest, simultaneously pleading with her to fulfil–or to quell–my unruly passions, feeling tons of Catholic guilt either way, of course.
During the mid-sixties, as a UC Berkeley Ph.D. though extremely reluctant to leave Berkeley when the burgeoning nascent radical movement, symbolized by the Free Speech Movement was under way, I did the customary required tour of duty away from my Mecca, Berkeley, teaching in the provinces—at Duke in North Carolina and at the recently established experimental campus of the University of California in Riverside, California—(as my French intellectual heroes Sartre, Levi-Strauss, Foucault, and de Beauvoir, et.al. had temporarily left Paris in their early postgraduate years), but by 1968 I gratefully finagled my way back to the mothership, my chosen Heimat, Berkeley.
So I was fortune to be on hand when all hell broke loose in the fall of 1968 and was able to witness at first hand the simultaneous student political, sexual, cultural, and counter-cultural revolutions that went down there in 1968 and 1969.
My liberal Republican worldview was already formed within my unconscious by the time I finished prep school and was given a strong Roman Catholic flavor by my Jesuit and lay teachers in the Government Department at Georgetown in the late fifties at the height of the Cold War. As an aspiring Roman Catholic intellectual, I grew into manhood with a strong intellectual foundation in the Bible, scholastic philosophy and theology, classical Ancient Greek and Roman history, philosophy and literature, the history of Western philosophy, and political and economic thought, AND a strong sense of mission to “explore and elaborate the implications of Christianity for our times” [Georgetown’s mission statement] AND a commitment to confront the “false doctrines” of atheistic Marxism and Communism, which I took very seriously.
Over the years my understanding of Marxist theory and practice have deepened, matured, and evolved, and I have gradually come to appreciate the analytical striking power of Marxian social theory and ideological analysis in a way that I could not have imagined earlier, any more than I could have foreseen the collapse of Soviet Russia and Soviet-dominated World Communism in 1989. I was in Germany when that iron curtain, that intractable wall that I had leaned my shoulders against and confronted most of my life suddenly crumbled and collapsed across Eastern Central Europe. When it did, I fell down in confusion with it, and found that I had to work hard to construct a new political and personal life mission after “the enemy” had disappeared and with it my polar reckoning points.
In 1960, because we were in the midst of a Cold War anti-Communist Crusade, at UC Berkeley I specialized in German and Russian history and international relations, hoping to serve my country as my beloved president John Fitzgerald Kennedy urged us to do in his famous inaugural address. Remember: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”? I hoped to become a diplomat or a spy. Certainly not just another academic!
In order to pursue my post-MA studies in German History I took an intensive-German course at the Monterey Institute of Foreign Study during the summer of 1960. The Institute drew much of its faculty and audio-visual learning technology from the nearby US Amy Language School. Classes were held in the halls of the charming old Franciscan Monterey Mission buildings full of memories of old California history.
My girl friend, Laurie Smits, from Los Angeles, got a job teaching English at Monterey High and rented a little house in Carmel to be near me, as I had rented a room near the Institute. I enjoyed the German classes, spending time with Laurie, and living in Carmel. We had a lot in common then—she’d studied American history and literature at Smith–and we enjoyed arguing about history, literature, philosophy and religion.
Both being virgins and afraid of real intimacy or sexual intercourse, we found arguing to be the safest form of interaction. Laurie was very good at it, having been well trained in intellectual combat by her aggressive scientist father who had wanted a son to fight with intellectually and made do with her.
In the fall Laurie took up a teaching job in San Francisco and got an apartment in the Marina district, while I went to Berkeley to begin my doctoral studies at the university and shared an apartment with a Swiss graduate student, Franz Meier, a heavy beer drinker, who was majoring in economics and business administration.
I enjoyed my classes at UC, particularly the lectures in History 144, Modern European Intellectual and Cultural History, given by my favorite professor, Carl Schorske. Luckily, I was chosen to be his teaching assistant, which made me recognizable wherever I went on campus since he attracted a large multidisciplinary audience. Besides conducting discussion groups with his students, through this position I was able to have lunch with Carl regularly after his lectures. At Robbie’s Grill, our regular luncheon Stammtisch on Telegraph Ave Carl gave me the fatherly nurturing attention, intellectual guidance, and emotional support from a male authority figure that I had craved all my life never having received it from either of my fathers.
It was at those informal luncheons with my mentor off campus as much or more than in the impersonal university lecture halls and in the small discussion classrooms at Berkeley that I took on the mind, methods and manners of a modern European intellectual and cultural historian and the broad multidisciplinary approach that has characterized my work ever since.
In my doctoral studies I specialized in German and Russian intellectual history and in Historiography, the history and methodology of historical writing, which I still find fascinating. I also enjoyed my classes in medieval, Renaissance, and seventeenth century intellectual and cultural history, which provided me with material to explore for the rest of my life, and which I am still teaching today at UCSD.
Taking a big gamble, and filled with anxiety, I took my comprehensive written and oral examinations after only one year and a half of coursework, and to my surprise and relief, passed with flying colors. I then took off for Germany to write my thesis and soak up the suds, history, art, music, women, and culture.
Summing up my lifelong study of German history, what I have learned about Germany and the Germans is that the German concept of KULTUR has remained to this day a term that seems distant from–if not actually contrary to– politics. For Germans, the notion of “culture” is as redolent with warm feelings and associations as that of “politics” is ambivalent, cold, foreign, alien, and suspicious. In recent historical memory for Germans today the history of the Weimarer Republik suffers endless criticism and it is despised as weak and a failure, but on the other hand “Weimarer Kultur” [of the same time] is remembered nostalgically in memoirs and in literature and film as a “creative age of great unfulfilled promise” that still contains potentials for further creative development.
This delusional overrating of “culture” has played a very significant–mostly destructive–role in German history, politics and society, which were not as well developed in Germany as in other western societies. When culture was accepted as a valid substitute for politics, the absence of morality in the public sphere was easily accepted as well, and this gradually led to the fascist dream of creating a “theatrical state.”
The brilliant cultural sociologist Walter Benjamin, who died by his own hand in the Pyrenees while trying to escape from the Gestapo in 1940, was the first to make the distinction between ‘the politicization of culture” which was characteristic of Communist regimes, and the “aestheticization of politics” which was part of fascist ideology and inspired fantasies of the creation of a “theatrical state,” as in the ancient Roman Empire with its spectacular public rituals and activities like the Olympic games and publicly-viewed bloody gladiatorial contests
This aesthetic appeal of public political and religious demonstrations led many intelligent potentially critical bystanders to regard German politics and propaganda demonstrations as a form of ritualized theatre, without thinking about the consequences in the very real social and political world. For them form was of more significance than content and awareness of the Nazi crimes left them not so much morally appalled as aesthetically disappointed.
In the spring of 1962, with the blessings of my thesis director, Carl Schorske, I flew directly to Germany to begin work on my dissertation, which was to be an intellectual biography of a famous German philosopher-sociologist, Max Scheler (1875-1928) who had died prematurely in his 50s relatively unknown in the United States, as very few of his most important works had been translated. When the Nazis came to power they forbade reading or publishing his works; so it was really only in the 1950s that studies of Scheler’s thought began to come out and there was no biography of Scheler available anywhere, not even in German. It was a wide open opportunity for me.
I had actually wanted to write my thesis on the great nineteenth century German philosopher and cultural historian Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911), who during his lifetime and long after, even today has had a continuing influence in a broad range of scholarly disciplines and made important contributions to such diverse subjects as hermeneutics and phenomenology, aesthetics, psychology, and the history and methodology of the social sciences (die Geisteswisensschaften) whose works on German pietism and romanticism had fascinated me, but as my professor thought that Dilthey might prove too difficult a subject for a novice like me, I accepted as my second choice, Max Scheler, one of Dilthey’s students, who I had never heard of, but soon discovered was equally difficult to encompass and fully understand as Dilthey would have been.
As I began reading Scheler’s works I was immediately struck by his observation that “today, perhaps for the first time in history, mankind is totally LOST, beyond all former traditional intellectual anchors and reference points. He feels completely alone in the universe, and no longer even knows what it means to be a human being as such or among other sorts of beings. Man is more of a problem to himself at the present time than ever before in all recorded history. [Today] there seems to have arisen a new courage of truthfulness—a courage to raise the essential question [what is man?] without any commitments to any intellectual or spiritual or scientific traditions that have prevailed up to now. Whereas in former times there always remained a generally accepted and taken for granted frame of reference to which all individual differences could be referred, the task facing us today, he said, was nothing less than to create from scratch a new philosophy of man (philosophische Anthropologie) for our time.”
Deep in my guts I felt the applicability of his words to my own confusing–no longer stable–existence and crumbling traditional Catholic world view. As a Catholic at a large secular public university, I had been struggling from the day I commenced my post-graduate studies to protect my fragile faith against the onslaught of the terrible dreaded enemy—the atheist-relativists like Marx, Weber, Nietzsche and Freud—who I also admired and who I had to discuss sympathetically in my seminars with my students almost every day. As a man of God, what was I to make of Nietzsche’s assertion that “God is dead!”? And of Marx’s claim that religion was nothing but a lie, an ideology, perpetrated by the rich and powerful to dupe the ignorant masses? And of Freud’s telling analysis of how we use God images to fill our longing for lost primary love objects and to fight off our fears of death and oblivion? Worst of all, the growing iconoclast in me loved these provocative ideas, while the child of God shrunk back into the shadows in fear and trembling, ashamed of his seemingly uncontrollable terrible other side that he couldn’t silence or shut down. So I found with Peanuts that when I faced my worst enemy, it was me, or to speak more accurately an unwelcome unacknowledged uncontrollable unpredictable part of me of which I was both ashamed and afraid.
Since Scheler, a Jewish convert, known as “the Catholic Nietzsche” was–at least for a good part of his life– a highly respected professional Roman Catholic philosopher, ethicist, cultural critic, and sociologist, I hoped that in studying his life and works, I might be able to work through and resolve my own personal intellectual dilemmas and moral difficulties.
I should have been forewarned that Scheler might be a dangerous model to follow when I came across this recollection of him by his friend Ludwig Curtius, the classicist:
“Scheler was the one German philosopher in whom personality and theory were deeply intertwined. His infinitely sensitive depth of feeling and his rich and painfully vulnerable nature registered all the various currents of our time like a tuning fork, and he responded to them out of the confusion of his own personality, and his synthesizing expansive mind. He took part in all the impurities of our time as well, and his need for salvation and his endless search for God along ever new paths sprang from the guilty entanglements of his erotic life.”
When the archbishop demanded an explanation from Scheler upon learning that he was having sex with both his male and female university students as well as living in a virtual ménage a trios with Maerit, his wife, and Maria Scheu [shy], his graduate assistant [who it was well-known was not really Scheu at all!] while lecturing on ethics to Catholic clergy and young seminary students at the University, Scheler’s too-clever-by-half-answer was to liken himself to a street sign. “I point the way, but I don’t go there myself.” The archbishop was not amused.
After spending a decade reading and translating Max’s writings, I found myself sometimes unconsciously imitating some of Scheler’s ways of thinking and behaving. Like Max Scheler in the early 20th century, and Bill Clinton later, I found it impossible for me to resist acting out my seemingly uncontrollable sexual impulses with my students, which almost cost me a job at one point, as it had nearly cost Scheler his professorship in Cologne. As my life unfolded in midlife, like Scheler I found that I could not continue to accept the sexual restrictions the Church imposes on the life of a divorced Catholic, and I withdrew from my original infatuation with– and obedience to–the Roman Catholic Church, moving to the more open and less restrictive Episcopalian fold.
When I arrived in Cologne on the train from the airport in the summer of 1962, I met with some professors from the Philosophy Department at Cologne University, where Scheler had taught. They were very kind to me and provided me with access to the university and departmental archives, and even gave a small reception for me in which the golden Rhine wine was served in gleaming glasses tied with festive red ribbon bows.
I then wandered along the Rhine after the reception ended, and with no plans in mind walked right into the gorgeous new opera house. I was lucky to get in without a ticket, because the performance had already begun and no usher was anywhere in sight to take tickets. What I saw was Richard Wagner’s Das Rhingold in a fantastic modern production designed by Wieland Wagner, the master’s grandson.
Throughout Germany I visited many people who had known Max Scheler. Wherever I went, I was greeted with welcoming open hearts. His former students and listeners remembered him fondly and were delighted to tell me charming stories about him. From them I discovered that to really appreciate the phenomenon that was Max Scheler one had to experience his extraordinary personal presence. Whereas Socrates had spoken of himself as a gadfly and a midwife, Scheler seems to have fancied himself a puppeteer. Ernst Kammnitzer, one of his former students explained the metaphor:
His philosophical equipment—the world and his head—he had always with him, as a strolling player has his little theatre… [Like] a vagrant mummer who needs no preparation, nor any of the appurtenances of a big theatre, Scheler didn’t require any special sets or settings. Given an audience, whether in a café or a lecture hall, he became creative and set his ideas dancing. He might be sitting with a companion, his head impishly cocked to one side, watching on the inner stage of his mind the drama of the world. He often squinted at his puppet’s play, which was really his own, of course, always with half an eye locked on his listener, or better, spectator. Like a stand-up comedian, again and again, by an interjected question—wie? or nicht wahr?—Scheler assured himself of holding his companion’s attention and of the effects of his clever intellectual moves. He had the gift of making present what is often called ‘abstract’.It was simply magic! He was truly a magician of the mind/spirit (Geist ). Like Mephisto, what he called forth from the spirit realm came, and now and then one could see a glint in his eyes, indicating a triumphant feeling of joy that he was being obeyed. In an instant, like a skilled hypnotist, he could transform the environment, fill it with his ideas, and make them dance to his tune. He called these public performances “Doing Phenomenology.”
The half an eye for the spectator was Scheler’s good eye. A stigmatic defect of his right eye gave the impression that it was focused on the world of ideas or on the Infinite.
As there was no published biography of Scheler available anywhere when I researched, wrote and published mine. So I had the good fortune to become the “go to” Scheler man for over a dozen years until several other English language Scheler books appeared.
After interviewing some of Scheler’s former students,I met and interviewed Maerit Fürtwaengler, Max Scheler’s second wife, in Heidelberg. I later met and interviewed Maria Scheler (née Scheu) in Munich. She had been one of his students in Cologne and became his assistant and his lover. After several years of this ménage a trios, Maerit divorced Max and he moved in with Maria. When he died, the two women fought bitterly over who should have his wedding band. Maria tore it off the corpse and kept it. According to legend, they also fought over possession of his brain which had been extracted from the corpse and analyzed by scientists. I believe that Maria got this trophy as well.
Particularly helpful to me among Scheler’s former students were the philosopher Helmuth Plessner, in Bonn, the political scientist, Arnold Bergstrasser in Freiburg, and the philosopher/sociologists Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, in Frankfurt.
That was the beginning of my lifelong interest in the work of the famous neo-Marxist social scientists of the Frankfurt School. After meeting Adorno and Horkheimer, I later became acquainted with other Frankfurters who had a strong influence on my evolving world view, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, who I used to visit at the height of his glory in La Jolla, while I was teaching in Riverside in 1966-1967, and Leo Loewenthal, the sociologist of literature and culture who later settled in Berkeley where he became Chairman of the Sociology Department and who I worked with when I did my post-doc in sociology there in 1968.
After my initial interviews with Maerit I realized that I needed to improve my German, so I went to Munich, where I enrolled at the Goethe Institute. The secretary placed me in the school in Achenmühle, a tiny village near Rosenheim, about 30 miles east of Munich. Meanwhile, Laurie followed me to Munich uninvited—determined to “get her man,” and got herself placed by the Goethe Institute in a lovely little spa town, Bad Aibling, not far from my boring hellhole.
Boy was I surprised the day I received a sweet card from Laurie from Bad Aibling inviting me to come visit on the weekend if I had nothing better to do, and quoting some lines from Saint Exupery’s “le Petit Prince” which touched my heart, but which I don’t remember now. Of course I went. I was a sitting duck. We had some nice times together, and curious to find out what sex with her might be like, I finally broke down and asked her to marry me.
I was there in Achenmühle for two months and then returned to Munich where I lived at a Pension on the Biedermayerstrasse. In Munich, besides seeing Laurie regularly, I often visited my friend Pierre Mendell (who was like a brother to me) at his graphics design studio. My parents came to visit us for Christmas and we all went to midnight mass at the neighborhod church near the pension amidst dozens of Christmas trees illuminated by lighted candles. Nobody does Christmas like the Germans do!
After my parents returned to the states I was feeling lonely in Munich and asked Laurie to agree to sleep with me since we were officially engaged. She said “No. You gotta marry me first.” I loved it in Germany but she insisted on getting married back in California. I agreed–with much reluctance. In fact the wedding was almost cancelled several times, and the item that determined our fate was believe it or not—the printed wedding invitations. Since they had been printed, I was told by my mother-in-law-to-be that there was no going back on my decision now. Like it or not, I must go through with it!
Throughout our married life–which lasted only five years–I found myself unable to stand up to Laurie. Eventually I left her.
We were married in San Marino, in Southern California on Feb. 23rd, 1963, and we honeymooned in Big Sur, which is a wild coast south of Monterey, about midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
We lived in Berkeley for a few months in the spring before we returned to Europe in June. Back in Germany, we lived in Ziegelhausen in a romantic little cottage near the banks of the river Neckar to be near Heidelberg and Maerit Fürtwaengler, without whose help I never could have written the book I did
I tried to mix with the history graduate students in Professor Conze’s historisches Seminar seminar at Heidelberg University, but I felt that I was an outsider, as always. This has been the basic pattern of my life. Even today I feel I am an outsider.
In September, somewhat reluctantly, we returned to California, where I had lined up a job to teach Western Civilization at a small Catholic girl’s school, the College of Notre Dame located in a beautiful old mansion in Belmont near Stanford. The students were not too swift, but that was okay, because I didn’t have enough time to adequately prepare my classes since my priority was to complete my dissertation by the end of the academic year if possible.
Laurie taught high school in the city, and we lived in a small apartment on Greenwich Street in San Francisco and spent a lot of time hanging out at the famed City Lights Bookstore and in Italian restaurants and cafes in North Beach. Sex with frigid Laurie never amounted to much, but she did manage to get pregnant by June somehow, after many manipulative strategizing moves, and much patience and tolerance of her resistance to sexual intercourse on my part.
“Just relax lay back, take a deep breath, hold your nose, close your eyes, count down slowly from 100 and think of the future of our family, dear. It’ll all be over in a jiffy. I promise.”
The following fall (1964), I took up my first full-time teaching position–at Duke University where I had once been an undergraduate student. I taught four sections of the introductory modern history course which began with the Renaissance and went up to World War Two and beyond.
Our first son, John-Mark, was born on Oct. 6th, soon after we got settled in Durham, called for no reason I can imagine “the city of exciting stores.” He was a healthy child with very strong lungs to let everyone know of his needs. When we had married, in the Roman Church, Laurie, an Episcopalian, reluctantly had signed a document agreeing that our children would be baptized and raised Catholics, so the baby was soon baptized and accompanied me to mass, which I still attended dutifully in those days.
In the summer of 1965 I got a grant to return to Europe. I went to Munich to study Russian images of Weimar Germany. I worked at the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich. We lived in Bogenhausen in an apartment that belonged to the German film star Sabina Sesselman. I had a very fruitful summer doing research in Munich and then returned to Duke for my second year there in the fall.
While teaching at Duke I made friends with a great Catholic intellectual layman, Wallace Fowlie from the Department of Romance Languages. It was his Guide to Contemporary French Literature that had inspired me to go study in Paris when I finished my undergraduate studies at Georgetown in 1958. He was a wise and inspiring Catholic layman, and discussions with him helped me strengthen my faith as a Catholic intellectual.
One time he gave a talk on the philosophy of Jacques Maritain who he knew personally, which impressed me immensely because Maritain was a Catholic writer that I admired. I had recently read his autobiography, The Peasant of the Garonne and read his wife’s delightful memoir, We Were Friends Together as well.
Wallace became a very good friend and mentor to me. I stayed in touch with him for several years after I moved on from Duke and still treasure the signed copies of the wonderful books he gave me and later sent to me as they came out, especially his delightful perceptive study of the childlike imagination of the adolescent poet Arthur Rimbaud, and his life of Mallarmé, for whom the goal of life was to transform his every experience into poetry. Wallace planted seeds in my soul that are only now taking root and sprouting.
That summer (1973) we took off from London headed for the continent in search of Jung and fun. We went by train from London to Paris and then to Lugano. From there I wrote “Am here in Lugano again—feeling very much at home—staying in a beautiful villa overlooking Lago di Lugano and enjoying Castalia (the Jung –Hesse conference). Among the guests here I have particularly enjoyed
Rabbi Herbert Wiener, whose book 9 and a Half Mystics you must read. He gave a beautiful Sabbath service on Saturday. On Sunday everyone went to mass at the little country church here in Montagnola and visited Hesse’s grave in the church yard afterwards.
Harvey Cox, Prof of Comparative Religions from Harvard is also here. He’s giving a series of lectures on the Bahavagad Gita. I met him some years ago when he lectured at Duke in 1965. He has acquired a beard and hippie clothes since, but is still as brilliant as ever. Then June Singer, the Chicago Jungian who just published her new books The Unholy Bible on Blake and Boundaries of the Soul on Jung, is here.She will be lecturing this morning.There is one core-key lecture each day. Gene Nameche, the director and a real soul brother gave a talk on Hesse and his grandfather—very moving—last night outside by candlelight. I am scheduled to give the core-key lecture on Jung on Thursday morning.”
After Castalia we travelled on to Munich and Vienna and from thence to Graz (Grüss aus Graz!) and then settled in the Salzkammergut at Strobel am Wolfgangsee, not far from Salzburg. We also went south to Venice and from there into Yugoslavia, visiting Lubliana and Pirano.
In mid August I attended the Eranos Conference in Ascona. I wrote home: “Here I am back on my own ground in Europe. I feel very much at home here in Ascona.”
I had no idea then that I would eventually be living there! I found the lectures interesting. I particularly enjoyed Gilbert Durant, Prof.of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Grenoble who had just published a book on The Structural Anthropology of the Imagination. He was a disciple of the great Gaston Bachelard. “We recognized that we were kindred spirits at once and I look forward maintaining contact with him.” Another interesting man was Prof Ernst Benz a Protestant theologian from Marburg. How tortured and obscure the German language can be in contrast to French clarté-bien raisonné. Then today—best of all—a Zen Roshi spoke on “The Interior and the Exterior of Zen” with simplicity, sincerity and profundity that (in my mind at least) put all the other scholars to shame. All in all, it was a worthwhile experience.
“I tried to get more information from Frau Jaffe,(from Zurich) Jung’s former secretary and editor of the Jung Letters, but she’s determined not to reveal anything other than what she brings out in print. I think she’s jealous and possessive thinking that she alone has the right to work on Jung.But I had a good talk with Jim Hillman, an analyst also from the Jung Institute, whose work I admire. He encouraged me to continue writing my Jung book, saying he thinks it will be very good to have a sympathetic outsider’s perspective on Jung. He’s pretty fed up with the idealizing Zurich cult of Jung himself.”
We returned to London in the fall, and settled in Lambolle Road in the Belsize area above Swiss Cottage. We loved it there. It was so centrally located.
We decided to stay in London for Christmas in 1973.
We had spent a lot of money on our travels in the summer and felt the need to conserve our resources. My mother sent me a generous Christmas gift plus the $500 which she sent each month. I bought a nice hi fi music system with it. Meanwhile I submitted a budget to the trust asking them to increase my income from twelve hundred to fifteen hundred a month and begged my mother not to interfere in this. The trust turned me down.
I enrolled in a training program with the British Association of Psychotherapists headed by Marianne Jacoby so as to become a certified Jungian analyst. The program took three years. As part of my training I continued my analysis with Richenda Martin. I was scheduled to have my first patient (under supervision) in the fall. The tuition was $500 per year plus the cost of my analysis. I wrote Tony some of the reasons why I wanted to become an analyst. One of the most important is that as an analyst I can be financially independent and can live where I want (eventually San Francisco) “I am also finding that thinking of myself becoming a therapist has given me a new perspective in reading Jung for my book. It makes me less of an outsider and will give me greater confidence and more connections as a person and a writer.”
I love literature, and began reading my favourite authors from a Jungian perspective. I wrote an essay on Nietzsche, Jung and Hesse which I called “The Daimon of Creativity.”
I was hired to teach Comparative Sociology at Brunell University and was invited to lecture on Jung to the History of Ideas Seminar at Oxford after Christmas. I also lectured on Fritz Perls at the Tavistock Clinic relating him to Humanistic and Existential Psychology.
Through my work on Scheler and Jung, Mann and Hesse I began to feel that the generation born in 1875 was “my generation,” my specialty. But “in my conversation with my intellectual history colleagues at Oxford I felt quite keenly how far away my own orientation has grown from the taken for granted world of most of my colleagues in history and the social sciences. They would probably call me a romantic or an idealist.
I find that one of the deepest differences between me and them is my religious belief and my commitment to my own personal vision as expressed artistically (symbolically) rather than in purely rational terms. It has been hard for me to accept the consequences of this my own inner truth. As long as I was seeking to fit in to external standards I could not hear and follow my own inner truth. Having begun to do this now, I feel the next step is for me to work out a way of holding on to this and yet being able to live in the world, to be in the world but not of it .”
In May I went to Amsterdam for a Dutch Philosophical Congress, for the session on Max Scheler and to lead a Gestalt Group and also to visit my friend Prof Alvin Gouldner from Washington University days. I found the Dutch more spontaneous than the English and wrote home that “for me right now doing therapy with people who want their lives to be more fulfilling is much more satisfying than either philosophy or sociology discussions.”
I was getting established in the international growth center circle doing workshops at places like Esalen in Europe. I was scheduled to do a workshop in German in Munich in September. “Sometimes I feel impatient,” I wrote, “in that I’m already being a successful as a Gestalt therapist when I am only an apprentice Jungian analyst.” My writing was progressing slowly, but I found it hard to get back into it after my travels.
In October I began a series of six lectures I gave on the topic “Consciousness in Self and Society” in which I presented my ideas of humanistic sociology to an audience of people interested in humanistic psychology at Quaesitor, a growth center in London. At the same time I began teaching a course on “Sociology for the Pastoral Ministry” at the Richmond Fellowship.
On October 1st we moved from Lambolle Rd. in Swiss Cottage up into the center of Hampstead to Redington Road. And we were feeling stressed financially. I wrote home: “We are on an absolute minimum expenditure budget now as we are still paying for the fantastic travels of the summer—Norway, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Toronto, Montreal and California! It was expensive, but it was worth it. We both got so much out of it! And now that winter is settling in upon us again we are taking time to digest and integrate all or experiences and recent acquisitions. Fortunately I took meant photographs and films, so we can re-live and enjoy our wonderful travels again and again and share them with others less fortunate than we. Thank you again for your hospitality to me and especially to Kathy. You took such good care of her while I was “about my Father’s business” in Canada (I had attended the world congress of sociology in Toronto.)The experience of California has really changed Kathy—as she is the first to admit. There she met ‘real people’—warm and friendly and imaginative—that she had seldom encountered before either in the East or in Europe.”
The new abode on Reddington Road was a delight. “It has great possibilities as an artist’s studio being unusually large with huge high windows to let in the natural light. Kathy and I have decided to decorate it very very simply making the most of the feeling of vast spaciousness in the living room. In a Zen way I like the idea of keeping everything simple—the walls almost empty—to make room for decorating them with images from my own inner life—from my psyche, as Jung would say.It’s amazing how much most of us externalize our experience ignoring the riches of the inner man within.”
“I am presently selling everything I don’t need—especially books—which I had accumulated in the last few years when I felt so insecure and had projected myself into things that I then bought as if to be building up a “collection of bits of myself.” (I recognize the voice of my analyst in these words). Zen,Christ and Richenda have helped me to recollect that we do not need to lay up riches here on earth where dust corrodes them, but rather to rest in the Sacred Heart and Mind of Our Lord, building the Kingdom of God within our own souls. One really needs so little to live beautifully! And I have accumulated so much excess and unnecessary baggage along the way on my Quest!
So now this autumn as we celebrate the Harvest time, I am consolidating essentials and selling or giving away to the needy everything I do not really need. I feel it is sinful and selfish and psychologically unhealthy to horde things (books) as I have done. It is time to embrace Our Lady Poverty, as St.Francis did.
Speaking of hoarding, I am watching the squirrels outside my window gathering nuts and food to pack away for the winter. They know just what they need. They don’t take too much—just enough. Would that man (I) was so wise instinctively.
“I am so delighted with my study here; I want to describe it to you. I call it ‘the tree house’. You’ll understand why in a moment. The Living Room is very large, as I told you , with very high ceilings and windows to let in the natural light. Well high up near that light trap is my study in the minstrel gallery. I’ve even put a picture of a medieval minstrel on the balcony railing to reinforce the idea. (Unfortunately real live minstrels are hard to find these days!) Anyway, there is a tiny stairway at the far corner of the living room . I crawl up this stairway to my loft, minstrel gallery, firebox, study therapy room (I have a couch here for my patients) and now that I have got a pot of ivy growing up the pole by the staircase ascending to the gallery and a nice window box of geraniums hanging out in front as in Austria—I call my nook up here ‘the tree house.’”
“To me trees firmly rooted in the ground with their branches reaching up to the stars and heavens are an image of man—rooted in his own inner depths and in the Love of God and reaching out to share God’s love and Grace with his fellow creatures like St Francis whose feast day we recently celebrated. (Oct 4th)”
Now that I have started my own garden inside.my apartment I appreciate more your love of gardening of growing and planting, Madole, which you do so well. I feel filled with love and appreciation of you today, Madole. I wish I could give you a big hug and kiss right now. So take this expression of my filial love and admiration for you (a fellow artist and seeker) from afar from your son.
PS Your Butterfly card with the lovely quotations from Blake and St Paul just arrived. Thank you! I look forward to reading your promised letter containing ‘food for thought and action’. My first reaction to your words was one of fear and dread—as I foolishly felt that old fear that you were about to withdraw the $500/mo we count on. But I know you won’t go back on your promise and your stated wish to share some of your wealth with me now before it is taken away in taxes later. You know how I suffered from the push/pull, giving with one hand and taking away with the other that you and Tony did to me with the Big Sur land PLEASE don’t let me down again now that I’ve begun to TRUST YOU and get over my pain and mistrust. Pax Christi!”
We loved the place on Reddington Road in Hampstead, but in November, 1974 we were kicked out of that flat after three months because I got too much candle smoke on the ceiling. We had one more flat in Hampstead before we left England, at 32 Ferncroft Ave. We were there for six months.
As usual, I was worried about money. In December 1974 I wrote home that I had not heard from the trust but “appreciate your reassurance that everything will work out so I can continue my training analysis here and have time to continue writing my book…I want very much to bring it to completion within the next year I would appreciate if you would abstain from commenting on it in your letters, Madole. I am doing the best I can. Prodding is not necessary and only produces a contrary spirit in me. I hope you are enjoying yourself and your own creative work.” After Christmas I wrote Thank you for your generous Christmas present.The money was very welcome indeed.” I was feeling lonely and wrote: “These days we both prefer staying alone together…rather than making further futile efforts to establish contacts here. Am making the best of it knowing that next summer we will be able to return to California for good.”
What about my three year training program? I decided to abandon it. I was just too lonely in London, as I had been in Zurich.
On Dec.28th 1975 I wrote my mother: I love you and hope we will be able to get along better after I return to California next summer. I hope you understand that the resentment you sensed last summer comes from my own inner struggle to free myself from my dependence on the mother imago within. It spills over into my attitude towards you against my will. I know that you do love me and want to be my friend and I am working on my own inner self in order to become more capable of carrying on an adult relationship with you henceforth.
“I appreciate your agreeing to continue depositing $500 per month into my bank account through July. I feel it is a terrible burden that generates resentment in me when you give me the financial support I need with strings attached. It is infantilizing and very destructive for me. That is why I have asked you to give me the money freely, simply because I need it to live here now, because you want me to have it—not to prove to you or to anyone that I can do anything or that I have been ‘a good and faithful servant’ as in the Parable of the Talents (which she loved to quote to me). Of course, I am writing my book and I intend to complete it, but the situation where I am constantly on trial and being called to account for myself must stop now. I feel confident that you understand. I don’t want you to ‘believe in’ me—because then I would have to try to live up to that belief and that produces more resentment and destructive results—no, I simply want you to love me and accept me as I am. As I see it this is the only way for us to be friends with each other. A friend is someone you can be yourself with, because a friend accepts you as you are rather than imposing on you the demand that you be what they think you ought to be. I am not an extension of you, but an autonomous being with my own inner direction just as you are.”
At the end of the year 1975, I wrote a friend, Henry Ramsey, summarizing my progress on the book. I had written seven chapters. The one I was working on at that time I called “World War Within.” Since the chapter dealt with Jung’s inner struggles during the First World War. In the chapter I sought to recount Jung’s inner journey and to show how it formed the basis for his later work. As an historian I sought to place Jung’s inner quest in the context of other related literary, cultural and artistic developments such as Expressionism and phenomenology. I also sought to analyze the sources of Jung’s creativity and the relations between illness, social catastrophe and artistic creativity through a comparison of Jung and Mann and Hesse during this period.
“The question about the psychological sources of creativity interests me very much right now. I have found a great release of my writing block through changing my pattern of work and allowing myself to roam freely from chapter to chapter in my manuscript, depending on what interests me, as opposed to forcing myself to stick to one chapter until it is finished. By doing this I have changed my inner coding of my activity from ‘work’ to ‘what I want to do.’ Furthermore, by going into my own depression and deadness repeatedly I have begun to discover my own creativity that was hiding behind this deadness. I found the key that opened the door in painting and drawing which I am doing a lot of thee days. I have even drawn pictures of the contents of books I wanted to fall back on to show myself that I really have it inside me now and don’t need to waste my time with endless research! I’m moving along at full steam and hope to have a good first draft of the whole book completed by August.”
I was painting a lot in those days and put up some of my pictures on the walls, particularly the ones with Native American themes. I came to believe that painting and music were modes of expression I could use to let my inferior functions come through. I was blocked when using my intellect alone and having gone as far as I could with that function for the present turned around and dropped down to a more primitive sensuous level and was able to bring into play my sensation and feeling functions. Above all I made progress in my writing when I let my Red Man (Indian) write for me. He is the intuitive one, brother of Raphael What I like best about painting is that I don’t know what is coming next; it just comes along all by itself.
I am sure that Kathy’s accepting attitude helped. Before I always felt inhibited by the internalized critic-mother, the professional artist. It is important to me now that I can protect my drawings from her corrections and improvements. I will never forget the drawing of Pooh I once made that my mother painted over giving it a better shape and then stuck up as my work. I am at a point now where I can create my own shape structure and form and do not want anyone to ‘improve’ me. I still find the mandala structure of a closed circle inhibiting, and prefer to paint from a central point outward develop freely without having to work within the limits of a closed circle. However I feel OK about the limits of a square or rectangular sheet of paper. I like the feeling of having the full space of the page.
I was getting to know some of the images in my unconscious through my drawings, dreams and fantasies I hoped that in coming to terms with these I could free myself and my mother from the projections I put onto her that distorted our relationship. Writing to my analyst I described the following fantasy: I closed my eyes and saw an owl appear before me. It was grey-blue with large black eyes. I remembered what Jung said about not letting an image get away until you have gotten its message; so I kept the owl before me and watched. Pretty soon I saw my mother step out from behind the owl figure, which I now saw as a large idol, with an altar at its feet. My mother bent down nearby and started digging and planting little plants, My two sons appeared and helped her.I had the sense that they were carrying on their normal activities in Big Sur. Meanwhile I remained in contact with the owl idol and saw myself bowing down before it and asking humbly as if speaking in fear and trembling before a god ‘What can I do to please you? How can I satisfy you?’ the owl god answered: ‘Nothing you do will ever be good enough. You can never please me. This is what you live for, to love, honor and obey me. I have spoken.’
As I mused over this fantasy I had a clear sense of how I still keep myself locked into this punitive system, and how it is I who hold on to my image of my mother inside me now whereas she has let go and is carrying on her own adult life. I am held in servitude to this demanding inner deity. I hate him/her/it, and yet I fear it and do not break free. The resentment engendered by this delusional system spills over into my relationship with my real mother when I am in contact with her, though I don’t with to hurt her and actually love her and would like to be more loving when I am around her.
On January 30, 1975 I wrote my mother telling her how much I love her and reporting that I had fallen in love with a new “lady”—painting and drawing. “You introduced me to her in my childhood and in our home. Today looking around my empty flat I saw the walls covered with my pictures! Can you imagine? Not other people’s pictures, as I’ve had for so long, but my own!
I take it for granted that I’m no good yet but I feel encouraged that this great French painter, Jean Dennis Maillert, that I met at Maria’s has taken an interest in my painting and even Maria said “You have very good ideas, powerful images, John.” And that’s it .I have the imagination and I have vision. I love to write to photograph to draw and to paint whether in words or music or visual images. My “Portrait of Jung” is coming along marvellously well since I gave up trying to do a book to satisfy the critics and sociologists and decided instead simply to sing my song no matter what. I write well and I enjoy writing. I know this is my main medium, but I enjoy painting too. I use it as an exercise in contacting and meeting my “lady” creativity la belle dame sans merci.”
Kathy has gone to New York to visit her family and I miss her, but I am getting along well thanks to dear Maria and Richenda and my own internal family and friends such as Plato, Blake, Dante and Jung. I am in good company here in my study…and I have been enjoying getting to know Jean Dennis Maillert. Today I took the plunge and decided to have Jean Dennis do a portrait of me. He is truly a great artist, a famous portraitist in France, here in England in bad shape financially because of family problems. His God was once Degas, then Cocteau and more recently Max Ernst now that Picasso is dead. So he is going to do my portrait. Only a charcoal sketch because that alone costs more than I can really afford, 250 pounds! As I look at it having your portrait done is like having your horoscope made The value of the ‘chart’ depends upon the artist.”
If the sketch is really outstanding I might later want him to do it in oil, but that costs 1000 pounds so it is out of the question for me now. Even so, his works are going to be shown at the National Gallery in May, and maybe his portrait of John-Raphael may be hung there too. It doesn’t really matter to me, but it would be fun if it happened.
When the work was finished, I was disappointed. “What I learned is that it its more satisfying and salutary for me to continue to work on my own self-portraits (trees, animals, the Big Sur coastline, whatever I draw) than to have a ‘professional’ do a portrait of me. I put up the portrait yesterday in the living room and studied it. One can study if for a long time. It says a lot, perhaps too much. Unfortunately I don’t think he quite got ‘me’ but then I really would not want him to have “me” anyway. I belong to my Self now and I will no longer serve any other master. Nietzsche put it all so well in the end of Book one of Zarathustra when he wrote: ‘Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves; only when you have all denied me will I return to you. One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil’
“Yes I learned a lot from Jean-Dennis. But I find that he and his work rather ‘overshadow’ me .Therefore tomorrow morning I am putting his portrait of Raphael in the closet to make from for my own creative work.”
“Today I told Richenda that seeing my drawings on the wall I at last could honestly think of myself as an ‘artist’, too. She encouraged me to channel this excitement I now feel about painting back into my writing, and I agreed and am doing that as best I can right now, though I must confess that painting has got me tight in its web and I can well imagine that for a while painting and drawing will be more exciting than writing. But that is a matter that will work itself out.”
It was a cold winter and on Feb 27th 1976 I wrote gratefully that “spring has come—and I hope to stay. The heath where I roam daily—trees having replaced bookstores as my favorite haunts—the heath is resplendent with bright yellows and oranges, blue, magenta, purple and red flowers blossoming up everywhere adding a dash of colour in fields of green grass all around us. It is most beautiful, a most welcome change from the heavy deadening atmosphere of the university tombs where I spent so many years!”
“Today I went to hear a lecture on intellectual history by a brilliant young man, Martin Jay, who now holds the position Schorske had when he was at Berkeley. He is Schorske’s successor. He is my age and we are on friendly terms, though I only met him recently. Yet I slipped out of his lecture early in order to go back to my beloved trees and squirrels in the heath. I would much rather study the shapes and forms, structures and colours of trees and plants, to watch the gentle graceful movement of the birds, squirrels and deer and converse with my friends in the animal kingdom than to listen to or discuss what most intellectuals seem to thrive on. I now marvel that I ever could have been so narrow. Looked at functionally most intellectuals’ conversations and debates hardly differ from the pettiness and meanness of pub gossip or locker room chatter. It is usually just another ego trip.
“Yes Mother, I have changed a great deal during the last year. It was only a few days ago that I became aware how much this change in me is now consolidated. There will be no more turning back. I have finally ‘found myself’. Not for a minute do I doubt that there will be many changes in my life ahead, and I look forward to continual growth and change. To remain too much the same is to grow old….We must learn that through our creative imagination we can enter into everything transforming ourselves, renewing ourselves continually.
My study of Jung has helped me discover my own center or Self and I have begun to draw on this Self as a guide, as Jung suggested that we do, as Jesus Christ did….All this brings me face to face with a practical dilemma. I seen now that I am a person of strongly artistic temperament and inclination, not a terribly practical person, but a very imaginative and creative person. Unfortunately, in our society such as it is now constituted such a person like myself is bound to have a difficult time in many ways, particularly in supporting himself. Up to now I have supported myself through teaching, but this year I feel rather like the painter who, to support himself gives painting lessons, but his heart is not in it. He wants to be painting his own pictures, from inside his own soul, not instructing young people who have quite different interests and experience and objectives. So I have pretty much decided not to look for another teaching job for next fall, but simply to return to my home at Anderson Canyon Big Sur and live there very modestly and attempt to get by on my small income I get automatically from the trust. I do not want to be dependent on you for financial support after my return. I appreciate your help now but I want to be financially independent as soon as possible, certainly before the end of next year. So there is the dilemma. I don’t want to take on another teaching job, but I must find some way to support myself, at least until, hopefully, I can live off the royalties from my creative work.”
Meanwhile I wrote and submitted a very scholarly article to a scientific sociology journal, Theory and Society. The article was entitled “From Depth Psychology to Depth Sociology: Freud, Jung and Levi-Strauss.” In the article I compared and contrasted Jung and Levi-Strauss’s approaches to the interpretation of myths and symbols. I find it interesting looking back on it now how on the one hand I could have been feeling so anti-intellectual and at the same time written the most intellectual paper I ever wrote! I got an enthusiastic letter of acceptance from Prof. Collins who wrote: “Your recent work radiates energy and real imagination. What I found fault with in your Scheler book…was that it did not go beyond history. I sense that the Jung book will be more than Ernest Jones on Freud and more than Mitzman on Durkheim or Weber; that it will be more intellectually and personally a statement to the current world…”
I spent the year in seclusion preferring to commune with my own muse and with my own internal figures than to engage in small talk with the people I was acquainted with in London. At that time I was struck to discover that both Freud and Jung went thorough a similar period of withdrawal, if not several, during their lives, and that these periods were either their most creative ones or led to a creative overflowing afterwards. I felt that this was what is happening to me.
I was pleased with the understanding I had acquired of Jung’s character and his relationships with Freud and Hesse. Nevertheless, I felt that I could never know C.G. Jung the way people knew him who were close to him. I felt torn between my conscience as an historian, bound by sticking to the facts, the evidence, however meagre, and the writer or creative artist who can image and create a ‘higher or ‘poetic’ truth that may be more accurate than could be any reconstruction based solely on documentary evidence. Furthermore I had my own ideas, beliefs and values which I wanted to communicate in my writings. “Where do these come in legitimately in my Jung book?” I asked myself. “It is going to be a very personal book. I hope it will be read by people from many walks of life, not just academics. But I will be satisfied if it is as highly regarded as Jones’ Freud or my even as solid as my Max Scheler. In many ways I am finding Jung more difficult to deal with than Scheler.It is not so much that he is a more complex thinker as that I have changed in the intervening decade as I am now aware of so many more dimensions of human experience to pay attention to and to account for in my biographical research.”
“At the moment I am having a fabulous time pouring through the classical Greek myths and fables and nineteenth century fairy tales and even the works of great writers like Dostoevsky, and Daudet, Maupassant and Robert Louis Stevenson as examples of archetypal symbolism… I am also getting a great deal from Zarathustra now that I have learned how to begin to interpret visionary material.”
In the spring of 1975 I organized my first international transdisciplinary conference. The theme was: “Consciousness in Self and Society.” I invited twenty scholars I knew from London, Paris and Berlin to attend the conference, which was held at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park near Windsor Castle. In the Call for Papers I posed the following topics for discussion:
“What is the nature of human consciousness? And what are some of the implications of recent discoveries about consciousness for our personal and inter-personal and transpersonal experience?’
“Most conferences have the aim of a meeting of peers of similar professions, attitudes and specializations. We do not have this aim. We propose a dialogue which will be cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural and which will confront directly the individual/social and mind/body dichotomies. Dialogue will address itself to the grounds of common human concern in several areas:
1.the nature of consciousness
2.Work, leisure and creativity
3.Family, Sex Roles, Basic Human needs
4. Transpersonal, Spiritual dimensions of consciousness
“Our intention is to stimulate dialogue with the maximum of participation by conferees. Each day there will be several Lectures presented by specialists to provoke discussion around the theme of the day. In the afternoon we will split into small discussion groups to pursue themes of interest This mini-society experience will be an experiment to foster integration of the substance of each day’s activities. In the evening we will reassemble as a united body to draw things together for the entire community. We hope to use the conference as a source of ideas about human relationships as well as to explore the outer regions of contemporary knowledge about consciousness in self and society.
The program included the following lectures: John Staude (Brunell University) “The Nature of Human Consciousness,” Zygmunt Bauman. (University of Leeds) “Emancipatory Consciousness and Society Consciousness, Richard Grathoff, (University of Constance) “Biographical Frames and Social Consciousness, Herminio Martines (Oxford University) “Consciousness of Time and Change in Social Theory” Paul Walton “Consciousness and the Production of Consciousness in the Mass Media” (University of Glasgow), Hans-Peter Dreitzel (Free University of Berlin) “In Search of Authenticity,” Lillemor Johnsen, “Personal Growth, the Body and the Unconscious” (Oslo), John O’Neil,(York University, Toronto) “The Self and Embodiment in Montaigne,” Zev Barbu (University of Sussex) “Consciousness and Imagination: On the Limits of Self-Transcendence,” Fred Blum (London. Society of Analytical Psychology) “The Development of a New Consciousness”, John Crook (University of Sussex) Personal Change and Enlightenment: East and West, Christian Delacampagne (Paris) “The Transpersonal Basis for Society” and Geoffrey Whitfield, (University of Sussex) “Personal Transcendence in Zen, Christianity and Gestalt Therapy”.
The conference was a success. It was attended by about forty people. Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park is a royal hunting lodge and very handsomely appointed. The food was not very good but other than that everything went well and everyone was delighted and thankful to me for arranging the conference. I planned to publish the papers and submitted them to Routledge but they decline to publish them, so I started my own academic journal Consciousness and Culture and published some of the papers in my journal.
After the conference was over we rested up at The Compleat Angler Inn in Marlow on the Thames and then we packed up our things, put them in storage, and flew to California in time to attend my mother’s 40 year retrospective show at the Janus Gallery in Los Angeles.
I have had very good times in London over the years. I loved walking around Hampstead, a writer’s paradise, in the footsteps of D.H. Lawrence and Katharine Mansfield. Plaques on the walls everywhere remind one of the famous people who were there before us. I used to eat at a delightful Italian restaurant in Hampstead and also at San Carlo in Highgate and to go weekly to analysis with Richenda at her flat in Chelsea near the King’s Road.
But in a letter written from Marlow on April 21st I wrote: “Kathy and I are delighted to be leaving England at last. We may come back for a visit, but I hope not to ever live here again. I still can’t believe that we really are going to get away for good tomorrow.I’ll only believe it when we are on the plane bound for New York.” I had no idea when I wrote that that fifteen years later I would return to England and work there for six years in the nineties!
I had been teaching sociology to priests and nuns at the Richmond fellowship, but decided to give this up at the end of the spring term. Richenda, my analyst, was away and I ran into difficulties with my supervisor at the British Association for Psychotherapy. My response was to leave.