Studs Terkel Interviews Allen Ginsberg, 1976 – part one

[Studs Terkel (1912-2008)]

We’ve already featured the classic 1959 Studs Terkel  WFMT radio interview with Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso in seven sections – here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

We also featured Allen and Philip Glass on Studs Terkel’s show in 1990 – here and here

We’ll be featuring, in the coming weeks, a third, a 1975 session with Allen and William Burroughs

but, first, this weekend, this, (courtesy George Drury and the remarkable trove which is the Studs Terkel Radio Archive) – Allen Ginsberg’s interview with Studs Terkel, November 29, 1976

We’ll break the interview down into two sections (on the grounds of space), but the whole interview may be listened to –  here

It’s lengthy but worth pursuing,  Allen talks ‘Sixties politics and makes the bold and challenging statement – “That maybe all the anxiety created in Chicago (because it kind of torpedo-ed (Hubert) Humphrey and the Democrats in (19)68, may have led to..oh..to the election of  (Richard) Nixon (because he just got in by a hair’s breath).. “.all the noise made in Chicago perhaps prolonged the war. You know about that? Have you thought about that? – that the blood of Vietnam rests not only on Nixon and Kissinger and everybody else, but also on us (the peace protestors)”!

Allen, just back from a Buddhist retreat is in town for a ceremony by the Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpie Dorje

[Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)]

ST: I think one of the most generous-hearted, as well as the most generously-gifted of American poets is Allen Ginsberg, and I suppose when you hear the name Allen Ginsberg   (I’m guessing now it happens to many people), there’s a smile. It’s not a smile that’s a put-down, just a smile, because I think there’s an openness of his spirit that leads to this that is so needed today and…

We’re here with Allen Ginsberg, my guest, who’s passing through town and..

AG: For the third time..

ST: For he third time, and we’re going to go back. After this pause, we’re going to go back to something, when first you came..

AG: 1959

ST: (19)59. You with Gregory Corso

AG: And Peter Orlovsky

ST: And Peter Orlovsky – But of this in a moment, after this message..

Allen, Allen Ginsberg, so much has happened. Let’s hear .. It was just after Sputnik..

AG: Yeah,,,,

ST: You..

AG: …about 1959, I came through Chicago with a couple of poets

ST: And three of you came in the studio. I remember that. It was at elsewhere it was at 221 North La Salle Street and you were reading full of vitality, and I was kind of a wise-guy. I really was, you know, kind of a wise-guy, because the word “Beat” had just come into being and there was a sort of a put-down of many of the poets of your world. (your world, it was always our world)

AG: Well, probably I think we asked for it, since we were so aggressive. So we’ve all mellowed..

ST: Let’s hear…. You’re reading a poem

AG: Yes, I was reading a poem written on the day that the first Russian Sputnik went up –[Allen begins reading from “Poem – Rocket]  – “moon no longer old, my eyes are new, moon now attainable/no longer Romeo & Juliet, forgotten Sadfaced moon impossible/in drunken river soul of Loony Pierre/ new Moon possible disc in Heaven we get to first in all the ageless/constellations of names –/as all is possible, as god is possible, so we’ll reach another life./ Moon Plotinus politicians earth weeping and warring in eternity/tho’  not one star disturbed by the screaming madmen from Hollywood /oil tycoons from Roumania, controllers of petroleum, making secret /deals with flabby green Plutonians./ Slave camps on Saturn, Cuban revolutions on Mars?/Old life and new side by side, will Catholic Church find Christ on Jupiter?/Will Mohammed also rave in eternity?/Will Buddha be acceptable on the stolid planets?/Or will we find Zoroastrian/temples flowering on Neptune…”  

ST: And as it goes… And I was thinking, seventeen years ago..it’s amazing..to listen to you..the voice (still)

AG: I was still talking about Buddha then.

ST: Yes, but also how appropriate now,

AG: Yeah.

ST: Now a little more than seventeen years since we met

AG: It’s a little more than that actually , sixteen, seventeen, eighteen…

ST: Eighteen ..oh.. so much has happened….

AG: Well, I’ve gotten grey-bearded, you’ve got a little more white-haired, you’ve written books…

ST: ..well… to you and the world!.. ..to you, me and the world!

AG: Yes, the world has gotten…younger.

ST: The world has gotten younger…  There was… Here.. you were.. There’s your harmonium and you were trying to make things peaceful in that wild hot August week of 1968 in Chicago when things were not peaceful, and you were trying, and you lost your voice with the effort, I remember that.

AG: Well, I was chanting then.

ST: You were chanting.

[Allen Ginsberg chanting in Chicago, 1968]

AG: I was doing a Buddhist chant, actually – The “OM”, that year…

ST: You  have a…

AG: …And then what was interesting then was a couple of years later, I got more involved with meditation. So I got a little better, got my act together better – the OM act, so to speak –  And working with a Buddhist meditation teacher who was more of an expert in mantra than I was, I said that “Well, “OM” didn’t work too well in Chicago, there was a lot of tear-gas, what shall we use for Miami in 1972? . So he said, “Why don’t you try something that sounds more American, like AH!” – so in Miami, I went with David Dellinger and the peace protestors (and) we tried AH! (Allen proceeds to demonstrate, alongside harmonium accompaniment, the AH! mantra)

ST: And how did that affect the Miami police?

AG: Well, actually it was a little better because there was less tear-gas on the spot then. What we did was a group of us who were protesting the war marched up the street. But then there was.. all of a sudden, we were joined by a whole gang of people in army-fatigue uniforms, who looked like Veterans For Peace but weren’t, who were probably part of those COINTEL government infiltrators, who started overturning trash cans…

ST: That’s interesting.

AG: …..and who weren’t part of our march and just suddenly came in from a side-street and joined us in the middle of the marchers who were walking along the street and chanting “AH! ” (they were calming the scene). So then we had to stop and put back the trash cans. And they started pulling the plugs out and like.. opening the hoods of cars and stopping  the cars and buses. So we were a little perplexed. So, finally, we sat down in the middle of the street and chanted “AH!” , (about a hundred of us). And then, the cops came and surrounded us and put us all in a meat-truck and took us to jail!

ST:  And that you say that, that’s very interesting, in the view of finding out  now in the files that are being asked, by different people, through the Freedom of Information Act

AG: Yes

ST: ….that those who were trashing and turning things over, commiting violence, were, a great many, employed in the government.

AG: Yes

ST: So they were agent-provocateurs is what they were.

AG: That’s an old old old trick, which people were warning us about at the time but I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t believe that they’d have the chutzpah, the nerve.  I got my papers from the government under the Freedom of Information Act

ST: You did?

AG: So I have..  I have some of my FBI file ..some of my CIA file, some of my Drug Department file, like (the) Narcotics Bureau.   There are some funny things in it.

ST: Do you have ..I was about to say.. do you have a pretty…. a lot of pages?

AG:Oh, I’ve got about seven hundred pages of stuff.

ST: Oh you do. That’s very good

-from Allen Ginsberg’s FBI files]

AG: Very little about Chicago, strangely. They didn’t give it to me. I know that they said they gave me everything, but the main thing probably that I did that was..that got me into government files was here in Chicago and there’s hardly anything, so they’ve got it all. But one thing they do have which is funny is, 1967, is a paper from the Narcotics Bureau in New York to the Federal Bureau in Washington saying, “On this date we received a photograph of Allen Ginsberg in an obscene posture. For possible future use, we are filing it in a locked sealed envelope in the New York department”!  (the) New York drug bureau. Then..

ST: I’ve got my… I’m sorry..

AG: You’ve got yours?

ST: No not my FBI, I have Army Intelligence files. The year I was in the Air Force, 1942-43, a one-hundred-and-seventeen pages, for which they want seven dollars and thirty-five cents!

AG: The whole thing or just a page?

ST: Well for that seven dollars and… the fee is seven dollars, thirty-five cents, they said, because of the xerox copies. I haven’t…

AG: Did you send it?

ST: Not yet

AG: Not yet?

ST: I’m debating the matter.

AG: No, it’s interesting. No, it costs…  It’s worth seven bucks to get your papers…I spent about a hundred on mine.

ST:  Yeah, I may send it. Seven dollars, thirty-five cents it costs.

ST: They were spying on me and one was “when he parts his hair” (you won’t believe this, this is true) his hair is black. (I read that rather wistfully!), “his hair black”, it was ’42-43. And then it said, “hair parted towards center but inclining towards left of center”, (the parting of the hair). So I thought that was interesting..

AG: Suspicious…parting his hair left of center!

ST: I thought that was interesting. Another was, oh, he uses phrases like.. like… it’s says, oh “he’s very loyal. We think he’s marvelous and very loyal, even though he seemed a little too interested in the betterment of the poorer classes.  To quote them, “even though” – “nonetheless” , he’s loyal. So I thought that was very funny, but you have some, you must have some very amusing ones

AG: I got some weird things in it. I.. At one point, I had interrogated Richard Helms, who was the head of the CIA, and I’d met him at a party, and I was involved with a lot of research tending to point to the fact that the CIA really was involved in dope-traffic from Indo-China, and I got into a funny conversation with Helms in Washington at a cocktail party..

[Richard Helms on the cover of Time magazine, Feb 24. 1967]

ST: And that’s in it?

AG: Well, no, it’s all suppressed, except for my letters to him. We’d made a bet, actually, saying If the CIA was involved in Long Tieng Airforce Base in Xiangkhouamg Province, which is a CIA air-base where they had the secret neoarmy during the war. If our helicoptors and Air America was involved in bringing opium in Long Tieng (and that was a trans-shipment point), and if I could prove it, then he would have to sit and meditate for an hour a day for the rest of his life.

ST: Is he doing it?

AG: Well I don’t know if he’s doing it – I finally sent him some papers proving it – And then, if not, I would give him my little Buddhist scepter. little vajra.

ST: He better start buying some saffron pillows

AG: But none of that is in the files…

ST: Nothing in the files.

AG: …but there are letters from him to me saying, “Are you meditating yet?” !

ST: So he’s he’s.. so Helms is spied on too in those files!

AG: No..he just turned the letters over and put them in my file.

ST:  He just turned….  By the way. on that subject of CIA and the drug traffic, you know the book by (Alfred) McCoy?

AG: Yeah, I helped him work on that.  I did research for that.

ST: And that was pretty… citing chapter and verse.

AG: Yeah, Alfred McCoy. It’s called The Politics of Heroin in Indo-China [The Politics of Heroin – CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade] 

ST: That’s it.

AG: … and it showed all the lines of the French intelligence and the American Intelligence and their historical role in working with narcotics dealers to fight “the Commies”. That was their motive. They thought they’d fight “the Commies” and make some money on the side that they could put into their little secret operations.

That never has been totally investigated by Congress,

ST: You know, Allen, before I ask you read some of your poems today. It’s been seventeen, eighteen, years since that first time that you read that poem..

AG: “Howl”?

ST: ..right after Sputnik..

AG: Oh, that one

ST:  I’m thinking thoughts now (your own thoughts) as to which way we’ve gone (as you look at it). You’ve been in the middle of so many events of our day… Your feelings?

AG: Okay, I’ll tell you. The one thing I was most interested in back in the ‘’Fifties was some change of consciousness in America, like some un-fixing on the materialistic grabbing aggression competition, and I think more and more that that..some element of space has come in, that people are able to look around and see themselves and take a look at their own egotism, At least for myself, I’m able to.. beginning to want to.. judge my own grabbing and aggression and ignorance. So I think the net result of all the peturbation and bohemian squabbling and political activism has, maybe, been some healthy disillusionment with the authority of the government, and the authority of our machinery, and the authority of capitalism, or, the authority of politics even, and maybe some introduction of ..oh..meditation, or awareness, or thinking thrice (thinking twice, and then maybe thinking a third time about what is our reality, what’s our political reality, what’s our personal reality).

[Anti-Vietnam War peace protester]

ST: So you do see emerging possibly a healthy sort of questioning of institutions hitherto unquestioned?

AG: Well. it’s not just institutions, it’s a healthy questioning of self itself, about ego, a healthy questioning of our ego, national ego, personal ego.. You know, a healthy questioning of nationalism, authoritarianism, police-state-ism, but also a self..   I mean, even the Left has had to go through a bankruptcy, in a sense the Left has realized that all this. .all the noise made in Chicago perhaps prolonged the war. You know about that?  Have you thought about that? – that the blood of Vietnam rests not only on Nixon and Kissinger and everybody else, but also on us!

ST: (But) do you feel..do you feel that?

AG: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s about time I said something like that. That maybe all the anxiety created in Chicago (because it kind of torpedo-ed (Hubert) Humphrey and the Democrats in (19)68,  may have led to..oh..to the election of Nixon (because he just got in by a hair’s breath)..

[Police attack demonstrators outside of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago]

ST: I have to ask you a question,..

AG: And then, Nixon…

ST: I’m sorry..

AG: You remember Nixon escalated the war, doubled it, and the Left was so angry at the Liberals and Humphrey for their part in the war that they wouldn’t vote. And that may be why Nixon got in and that may have prolonged the war. So, in a sense, everybody in America is bankrupt, everybody has this funny karma

ST: I have to ask you one question, that’s an imponderable..

AG: Yes

ST: Had Humphrey… this is a question no-one can answer, a conjecture…

AG: Had Humphrey got it would he have done anything?

ST:  Had Humphrey been elected.. Just a moment, see… Remember, the whole.. since the Cold War began, and a bi-partisan policy, and Republicans accusing Democrats –  the McCarthyism –  of twenty years of treason,  Democrats leaning back so far as to outCold War Republicans, you see, and therefore, would…

AG: Yeah..

ST:  ..would that war have ended with Humphrey at that time , or would the fear have been so great – “Hey, we’ll  be accused of treason again and giving in”. would it not.. who knows. continue?

[Richard Nixon, Anna Chennault, & Henry Kissinger]

AG: You hit it right on the head. I agree with you. But there was one little piece of history that came out during Watergate that was funny. Remember, there was a lot of surveillance (Nixon had a lot of surveillance) but then he accused (Lyndon) Johnson of doing surveillance on Anna Chennault  (because Anna Chennault  had been telephoning (President)  Thieu in Vietnam saying, “don’t make a deal with Johnson and Humphrey, wait till Nixon gets in and we won’t end the war”.  Johnson, apparently, had been trying to make a deal with Thieu that he would have a coalition government with the Viet Cong. And Earl Brash, (you remember him?, he was one of (Mayor) Daleys people, here in the City Hall..)

ST: Earl Bush

AG: Bush,  Bush

ST: Bush

AG:  Bush.. Yeah, remember him?

ST: He spent some time in the pokey, since, by the way..

AG: Well, at the time..  I came here before the Convention, (and) was talking to him, saying, “Actually, we’ve got to, protest the war, that’s why we’re coming”. And he said, “Listen, there’s a secret that’s passed down. They’re going to try and end it. You guys are doing it (wrong), you guys are making a mistake. We’re really try and end it.”  That was what he thought was going on.  So there was, I think, a genuine attempt, (for the election, for political reasons). See, this is why Johnson quit, because he realized he was his war policy was..

ST: Yeah but don’t you think.. getting back to the point you made.. so there’d  be no questions, (there’ll be many questions raised that we don’t answer, but,..)  don’t you think that the protesters, through the years, war-protesters, helped shorten the war in America?

AG: Well, I would be almost willing to say, everybody’s bankrupt, nobody was right. You know, why not leave that much space for everybody to be wrong and start all over, It’d be rather interesting that way. In the sense that, well, I think, actually, the protesters may have prevented the Atom Bomb from being used. On the other hand, they torpedo-ed Humphrey and maybe elongated the war for years

ST: Well we don’t know. The question I’m asking is did it?..

AG: On the other hand, on the other hand, if they didn’t torpedo Humphrey and elect Nixon by mistake, we wouldn’t have had Watergate (which was a good thing). So it’s all so complicated, you know.

ST: Many things come into play.

AG: Nobody’s controlling the universe, finally.

ST: One question is raised though (and yours is a good question, we must, of course, question ourselves) but…

AG: Sure,  First question ourselves!

ST: …but the other thing, the other thing is…

AG: Why, is that too reactionary?

ST: …if I allow what you say to go unanswered…

AG; Yeah.

ST: …it might put off people..

AG: Discourage people.

ST: … from dissenting, when dissent is needed (when a policy they think is amoral, or horrendous, or inhuman) and that’s the aspect…

AG: Okay, but  here’s what I was proposing – that the dissent has to be on the basis of something that doesn’t create so much anxiety. In other words, on the basis of some less aggressive.. more non-aggression in the dissent. Dissent and clarity. More clarity and less aggression (which is actually.. that was a big lesson of the “Sixties anyway –  Everybody got confounded by their own aggression and finally withdrew a little bit). So when you were asking, what did I think had happened after all that..

ST: Yes

AG: (I think) people are beginning to allow space to look at their own aggression and to look at their own grabbing and egotism with both dissent, or confirmation of police-state as the excuse for, you know,  power pushing around So, from that point  of view, I’m interested in Buddhism…

ST; Yeah…yes.. You’re here, by the way, during the.. this visit, this conversation, you’re here  under the auspicies of a…

AG: Dharmadhatu – which is a local Tibetan-style Buddhist meditation center, who are sponsoring a visit, on late January, 1977,  of a dharma king, that is a(n) old yogi that has sort of reincarnated in their tradition (or there is that tradition of reincarnation over centuries bearing the same meditation message and the same methods of sitting and observing.

ST: ….which leads to a question that you are the perfect person to ask.  There’s… I’m disturbed a little.. I’d like to talk to you about campus life at the moment (I’m not disturbed about that, I’ll ask you about that in a moment) but I’m disturbed in a growth of what may be ersatz religious movements (not the Buddhist movements to which you’re referring – I’m thinking in the airports, you know, you know, you run into the.. Hare Krishnas and the freaks, and others…)

[Hare Krishnas meeting their guru Srila Prabhupada, San Francisco airport, 1974]

AG: Yeah,  yeah..  I like their singing. I don’t like their aggression. I don’t like their aggression, I like their singing,

ST:  And I’m curious to know about their….   Ah, ah… You find agression there?, aggressiveness?

AG: A certain amount of it. Basically, you see, the problem is, I think, they’re theistic. Buddhism is sort of secret, (don’t-tell-anybody!), Buddhism is basically a non-theistic observation of phenomena, rather than a theistic one, so there isn’t quite that same push to clamp a ceiling down on everybody.

ST: I’m thinking of  something else – the proliferation of these…. well, lets say ersatz religious movements (in some cases, genuine), So many…

AG: From the Buddhist point-of-view, they speak of it as “Spiritual Materialism

ST: That does not knock many of the young out of the box, as far as participating within the world of reality. That is, the world  where dissent is essential (as you say, dissent that is non-violent, of course, and non-aggressive).

AG:  No, non-aggressive. You can have a little violence there if it was.. if you weren’t hung on it, if you weren’t attached to it…

ST: Not putting others down because of their disagreeing with you, in a sense, then…

AG: Yeah, well, I think it’s a question of not using the dissent for an aggrandizement of your own ego.

ST: Yes , but coming back to…

AG: Self-righteous,(ness) rather than…

ST: Self-righteous, yes..

AG: …is the problem (which is the problem, I think, probably, with the theistic religious sects also. What’s interesting about what’s going on with Buddhist dharma is that it’s a…I think the first time there’s been introduced some kind of meditation practice that doesn’t depend on a God as a reference point, but depends on one’s own individual awareness. And that”s an old old old tradition (in Tibetan-style, it goes back to the ninth- or tenth-century, (some great yogi poets, Milarepa among them) .  Do you know of  the Tibetan Book of the Dead?

ST:  …. (know) of it, I haven’t (practiced)..

AG:  (Timothy) Leary was using that quite a bit in relation to psychedelics, back in the ‘Sixties.

ST:  Didn’t help him much, did it!

AG: Well, he didn’t have very good instruction in it, because most of the doctrines in use of that is oral instruction (what they call “whispered transmission”, from teacher-to-teacher-to teacher-to disciple, over the centuries. It goes back a long way.).  So this guy they call the Karmapa lama, who’s the head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism is coming over to America to show himself off, and he has a crown which he displays (which the Chinese Emperor gave him in the Fourteenth Century), which is supposedly woven of the pubic hairs of sky goddesses, the sight of which, when displayed, brings instantaneous salvation (because the crown is empty – So anybody looking at this empty crown realizes there’s no thing to be fixed up, there’s no ego to be…)

[His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981)]

ST: Allen, I’ve got to be..

AG: Yeah.

ST: I’ve got to ask you…

AG: I’m talking in symbolic terms (here)..

ST: I know.  I assume you are.. symbolically.. we’ll come back to (that)..

AG: Yes

ST:  The feeling.  “Self-righteousness”, of course, has been one of the flaws in so many of us, no matter what our ideology.

AG: Well, not having a “self” to begin with, what’s there to be righteous about? – So the real problem is the fixation on the defense of the territory of the self, or an ego, o ar…

ST: There must be “self” must there not?

AG:  Well…

ST: I mean, are you speaking of an end to “self”?, are you speaking of a dissolution of “self”?

AG: Yeah, I think we’re going to have to deal with that sooner or later.

ST: Well, can’t there be both? Can’t there be a “self” (and this is the thing we’re talking about (here)  Self, plus an awareness of the community of which the self is part, that is, both individual plus the communal awareness. Isn’t this what it’s about? Whereas, there is a “self”, there is… there are individuals and our individual psyches, are there not?

AG: I’m beginning to wonder.

ST:  I mean, are you speaking of a dissolution of…

AG: I’m beginning to wonder Actually, you know where I’m coming from now? – Since October 10th, (where we’re now talking sometime mid-November, late-November), I’ve been, since October 10th, in a retreat situation with several hundred other, or a hundred other. meditaters, who have been sitting, eight (to) ten hours a day, paying attention to breath (the out-breath, actually – this is a traditional classic method of meditation). paying attention to the breath coming from the tip of the nose and dissolving into space, in front of us, and examining thoughts that rise out of the self, while trying to focus in one spot on the breath – doing that ten hours a day – And I (just) got out of there the-day-before-yesterday  to come here to give this reading, and then I’m going back there for another (period).

[Land o’ Lakes Buddhist seminary, Wisconsin, 1976]

ST: Great. but how’s that going to stop the threat of nuclear-reactor plants!  – [laughter]

AG: No, now wait a minute, we’re talking about self, remember, we weren’t talking about nuclear reactors.   Well, it takes a  lot of “selves” to spread a nuclear reactor, remember?

ST: No, I’m thinking about…

AG: Slow down.. slow (down)..

ST: You know what I’m talking about…

AG: Yes..

ST: I’m talking about how…will…

AG: Slow down. Step-by-step..

ST: Alright.

AG: If you..  The question is, you know, “how do you deal with the self?” – That’s what our question was, how do you deal with it? Now your formulation was there is a self and then there is outside (society)..

ST: I ‘m saying…aren’t  both parts of the reality of our existence?

AG: And I was saying that in a way you’re making it a kind of duality thing going, it might be easier and better and more useful (even from the point of view of being a bodhisattva, taking care of society) to look a little deeper and figure out whether there is a “self” to begin with, to get to some deeper sense of where we are and  what our emotions are. And the only way you can do that…  Say, for instance, somebody wants to protest and can’t know whether protest is aggressiveness, anger, or whether it’s something that’s not going to create more anxiety. So I would.. I’ve been for a long time recommending that, say, peace-protesters, actually do, about an hour of sitting every day, observing the flow of consciousness and observing the rise of anger, observing  the nature of thought, observing the nature of “self”, actually, or the phenomena of “self”, sitting, confronting “self”. So, the question, how do you do it? – The Hare Krishna people were singing all the time (so they don’t see anything, in a way). I like the Buddhist form because it’s relatively empty.

ST: I have to ask you.. a step further. Not, not too removed from this, but just going on to one… before we.. before we have a pause and ask you for some poetry.

AG: Yes. Singing about “non-self”!

ST: As we’re talking…  I’m thinking about “non-self”.. As you’re talking, I’m thinking about you, knowing the campuses of the country as well as anybody, having lectured, and talked, and sung, and read poetry, and participated, in so many…

AG: And I’m still travelling around..”I’m doing it a lot .Probably will be doing it more this year too

ST: So, as the thought today, the prevalent thought, prevailing thought, is that “God! Silence again!” – Silence of the ‘Fifties, Participation in the ‘Sixties . Recession, Depression, Fear (of).., so, kids trying to make out (for themselves) rather than being pro bono publico, pro bono public.  What..? – Is it the ‘Fifties, or is there something else going on?

AG: I think it’s an examination of the “self” that’s going on, that’s really deep and important, and I..I think that unless you get this trick thing I’m talking about, you’ll get depressed. There is something good happening, I think, which is the introduction of some sense of dharma, some examination of what’s the real ground of being. You’ve got to remember that the protest movements of the ‘Sixties rose out of a question about a new consciousness in the ‘Fifties, that came out of visionary experiences of the ‘Forties. (It was a funny kind of breakthrough of a new consciousness in the late ‘Forties, spread, in the form of Beatnik-ism, in the mid-“Fifties, and then took maybe a somewhat aggressive social form in the ‘Sixties  – the aggression got nipped in the bud by Kent State and a few other traumatic  social agent-provocateur shocks, plus disillusionment that the aggression maybe could have led to a greater complication of  the scene). So, (in) the ‘Seventies, people had to go back, to the home territory, or inside their heads, and say, “Now, what’s going on?” – Okay, so what is going on? –  So the question now, I think, with the ‘Seventies, is.. it is not, I think, a reactionary, retrograde, withdrawal into “self”  – (except, as it is encouraged by stupidity, you know, I mean, like, “these guys ain’t doing nothing, you know, they’re just going back to themselves and drinking beer”). But there’s also a beginning to..  what I think is happening, a clearing of the ground inside people’s heads, and (some) attempting to find a basis of social action, or of generosity towards others, that’s a little more impersonal in the sense of not grounded on passion, grabbing, aggression, and ignorance.

ST:  Paradoxically, at the time, not as personal but yet quite personal in the basic sense.

AG: Right. Yeah..well, you see, impersonal in the sense of sort of not being an assertion of self-righteousness

ST: So then, you do see then, then you see hope?  Yours is a hopeful approach..?

AG: Well, I do think..

ST: …without being a pollyanna..

AG: The desire to work with hopelessness, the desire to deal.. to see the situation.. I think the situation is actually hopeless. And I think that’s the ground that we should all start from. Like, recognize a certain… I mean, it’s hopeless in the sense that all the activity in the ‘Sixties screwed things up maybe? – or just complicated things, as much as anybody else was complicating, all the Left activity, So, if one were to begin and go back to the very beginning and start all over again, without the illusions of self-righteousness, that might be very interesting, instead of just pursuing, pushing, the same Johnny-one-note of “I’m-angy-at-the-nationaluniverse”, because it’s like anger at the national universe, it’s not… you know, it’s almost anger at mommy and daddy, and all that. So, there’s got to be a clarification. Then, I think there will be real social action of a nature that will cut through a lot more clean. Because, remember, the entire society’s going  to be faced by power-failure, energy-failure, by..what? – 2000?  [sic}?  2040? – So this is a long-range thing we’ve got to prepare for. It’s not just like, overnight, you know, we’re going to have a revolution. We’ve got to prepare for a kind of emptying out of aggression against nature that’s been taking place for a hundred years and it may take, like, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years to cool all that down, think in a long-range (which is why I’m interested in, and keep coming back to, the Buddhist view, which is an ancient view of several thousand years old, of trying to let things settle, and taking action on the basis of a non-anxious.. slow-down. Slow down in observation, slow everything down.

ST: Well, this might be a spiritual approach to A.J.Muste‘s non-violent pollical approach?

AG: Yeah, well, I think Muste had good sense there.Muste I knew and I liked. He had good sense.

ST: Allen Ginsberg

AG: Muste was a.. (for people who don’t know, who are listening to this), he was.. what?…head of the Quaker pacifist group?

ST: He was the head of Fellowship of Reconciliation

AG: Yeah

ST: And he, by non-violent (and not aggressive non-violence but active non-violence) was able to make his points…

AG: Yeah

ST: …very effectively, (and even to those who might have the clubs and the guns). Now a question often comes up and we needn’t go into this (the unanswerable, the imponderable), could he have done that against (Adolf) Hitler. I remember Muste once said,   “If you can’t love Hitler, you can’t love anybody” – which caused quite a furore! – He was implying, of course, that to get at that illness,  one must get into the heart of it  (which you’re talking about, too)

AG: Well, I think..  One Buddhist view of that is also,.Hitler is also a sentient being, but, on the other hand, he is such a heavy egotist that he probably… that the dissolution of his ego would be, like, a tough job, and he might, you know..  That’s why they speak of reincarnation, as, since, someone with an ego like Hitler might just cling to it so heavy it would be like a whirlwind in the dust to get reincarnated.

ST: Of course,  once you get the phenomenon of Nazi-ism itself, the phenomena of Fascism itself, then, of course, it’s another aspect entirely.

AG: Yes.  yes.  I wanted to sing a song..

ST: Sing a song and then we’ll have a slight pause and then some poetry

AG: What..if we have time..

ST: Oh no, we have time. Sing a song and we’ll pause after the song.

[Allen accompanied by harmonium proceeds to sing Gospel Noble Truths]

to be continued

 

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