1973 Jack Kerouac Conference – Part Two

The remarkable Salem State College Jack Kerouac symposium. Part 2. Here’s a transcription of the first ten minutes. Gregory continuing to be mischievous again, Allen insisting, vigorously, on Kerouac’s bodhisattva quality and transcendental genius.

SS: (Steve Salvo, moderator) ..We could do with a little more order. I don’t mean to sound destructive, non-creative or non-spontaneous but I’d like very much for Allen to finish and then I’d like to address a question to Mr Holmes [John Clellon Holmes].

AG:Yeah I did want to .. I had something very definite to put forth.

GC: If this is going to be a banquet of knowledge, let’s hit it, gentlemen. Nobody has to say, you “wanna ask Mr Holmes a question”, you know, I mean, just rattle, you know. I think so.. you guys are dead-heads, man. You’re representing a tribute to a friend of mine, Mr Kerouac, and look at you guys, sitting up there like that. You never even knew him in your lifetime! You, didn’t know him, in your lifetime, Mr Latham [biographer, Aaron Latham], did you? Alright. So join in and easy ..Don’t down me when I open my mouth..

CJ (Charles Jarvis) : We love you, Gregory.

AG: Presumably (even) Aaron Latham is (also) being laundered by eternity.

GC: I don’t want a Greek to love me! Beware of Greeks wearing shorts!

AG: Presumably Aaron Latham is being laundered by eternity in his research into Kerouac also..

GC: I think he’ll do good, Al.

AG: ..and being transformed also into the angelic presence that Kerouac prophesied. But what I wanted to point out was that..where did the presumption of angelic presence come from?, where do we presume that we are angelic presences?. The key is in the text that Professor Jarvis read at the end (of his presentation), which is the description of an actual phenomenal, phenomenological, experience that Kerouac had, of an entry into the ground of being, an experience of satori, an actual experience. He was, I think, the first American novelist that I know of, that actually, in words, attempted to present the profound, sublime, magical experience of dharmakaya, as it’s called in Buddhism, (or “grace” in Christian terms), to explain in detail, to propose it, with a physiological explanation of tingling of feet, with a metaphysical explanation, a ripple, in a great void of knowledge, a ripple of activity, which disperses itself again..

GC: Ripple, a drinking man, Allen. Ripple is great. (You) ever drink Ripple?

AG: ..so that..so that the question is, for a later generation, who have had both natural experience and acid, how recognizable is his experience of the ground of being to everybody? I think (that) almost everybody has had it. Yeah. [to Charles Jarvis] Could you read that again?

CJ: That last passage?

AG: That last passage of Kerouac, because I think that’s, like, the key to his consciousness, and the key to what transformed American consciousness, because he sounded that one note of the very basic modality of consciousness, which is at the base of everybody’s knowledge, base of everybody’s brain.

JCH: One proof that it’s there, is that it’s transferable..

AG: Yes.

JCH..transferable from his work, which is why we’re all sitting here.

AG: Yes.

CJ You want to hear part of this?

AG: The very last paragraph.

CJ: [reading from Kerouac’s On the Road] – “And for just a moment, I had reached the point of ecstacy that I had always wanted to reach,,.these ripples of mind..” [the video momentarily disappears, but returns] – Essentially, he remained the little boy that he was in Moody Street (Lowell), growing up in a French Canuck Catholic home.. [to Allen] – I’d like to have you respond.

AG: Yes. I don’t agree with you, because his strongest consciousness, his strongest faith, his strongest writing, was precisely what you read, which is something very..like tough as a tree, profound, very ancient, nothing to do with a wounded boy, having to do with a completely matured bodhisattva prophet. The..it.. wasn’t a side-voyage into Zen. The terminology of that last presentation was paraphrases and eloquences built on Buddhist terminology..

GC: He was the only strong man I know who would never hurt anybody.

CJ: Of course, you know (in) Dr.Sax, he writes about..

GC: The only strong man I know who never hurt anybody. Dr. Sax is there to read, but you don’t hear this, you hear it now. He was the only strong man who, in this life-time, 43 years on the planet here, never hurt no-one

CJ: But you know he writes in Dr Sax about statues turning around, you’re.. you know..

AG: Yes.

CJ: And that, of course, is just, basically, his entire Christian faith.

AG: Yes.

CJ: Very strong, and still..

GC (to Stanley Twardowicz.) Hey, open your mouth, Stanley. You ain’t said a word yet, Stan

SK: Not me. I’m (just) here for the show.

CJ: In Dharma Bums, he talks about Christ and Buddha together, you recall.

AG: Yeah, I wasn’t saying.. the terminology he used in the great passages..in great passages of visionary description..the specific visionary incident that he had is described in The Scripture of The Golden Eternity, which I read last night, and this is another paraphrase of same, I think.

GC: Gentleman, if that guy was so great, did he really hit the shot what life’s about, what really goes down? You think he did?

AG: Yes. Yes. In a few moments. – and then preserved (those) very clearly, And then transmitted them, transmitted it, both by description of the incident, and by application of that consciousness to his everyday life.

GC: So he was a checker-out-er. He spooks me like this Jesus guy does, you know. I mean, him and Jesus, he had this freak..come by….he didn’t have to come through cunt by dick. In other words, he had to be born through.. not through the beautiful cock and the cunt…he had to come out of cunt, but the cock had no way in it, It’s the same spooky thing. That’s what screwed Jack up, the Catholicism.

AG: Yeah, it’s (screwing) you up now!

GC: It’s true

AG: Getting back to..

GC: Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, who was that man? Who was that?

AG: Who was what?

GC: Who dat guy?

AG: Who dat guy? Dat guy was bodhisattva then, I say!

CJ: Right.

AG: My impression of him in his coffin was of an extraordinary doll, made of meat, with no life in it. The intelligence had escaped and become generalized throught the planet – that he had, literally, appeared, somewhat as a magical figure, to have perception, transmit perception, transmit that one cosmic perception, and, his work done, drank himself out. In other words, I saw finally..I had one..

GC: How long you think he’ll last? you know, in memory?

AG:..I had one notion of Kerouac for a moment as having deliberately gone through a drunken dumb show in order to present just one major perception, clarify it, transmit it, sort of Buddha-like, bodhisattva-like, and then disappear, with great horror, as an edifying lecture, an edifying example of the mortality of…

GC: No way, He was poor simple human bones, a poor human being, who did his shot, that’s all

AG: That passage that he (Charles Jarvis) read was not poor simple human bones, that was like elevated sublime super-human bone – heaven-bone! that was heaven bone!

GC: Heaven-bone I won’t take ..I’ll take a super-human bone? A heaven bone? – Wo ist himmel? Wo ist himmel?

CJ: I was just saying, Mr Ginsberg, what I read (and you had me read again) I consider one of the finest passages in the English language, catching this very elusive..feeling, it’s a feeling more than anything else, a sensation..

AG: It’s a body sensation that could be lifted and put back into William James’ Varities of Religious Experience as a classic presentation of a leap of mind into the great abyss.

CJ: Exactly.

AG: See it in Mexico City Blues, more extended as a presentation

Jack Kerouac at Salem State. When you’ve finished watching the above video, there’s also a brief part 3 here.

and here’s  a link to several photographs from the occasion.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *