A man of mystery
September 25, 2011 by Bill
D.H. Lawrence was a most remarkable, uniquely gifted, man of mystery. I think that, over the years, my favorite reading has been biography and autobiography, especially of the most creative men and women in our long evolutionary journey.
D.H. Lawrence stands out of the crowd as one who, according to his friend, Aldous Huxley, “was always intensely aware of the Mystery of the world, and the Mystery was always for him divine.”
My memory takes me back to the time and place where this man first made entry into my consciousness – Taos, New Mexico in the 1970s. It was my custom to spend 3 or 4 weeks every summer in Taos, with my dear friends, Frank and Barbara Waters. Frank had just been nominated the second time for the Nobel prize in Literature and was in rare spirits. They told me I had to stop by the LaFonda Hotel on the square and see the erotic art of D.H. Lawrence.
I was well aware of his fame as the writer of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and so forth, and later realized that fame had tended to eclipse his paintings and artwork. He was a keen painter of life, and in his last years painting was his favored activity. With Frank and Barbara telling me much more about Lawrence it became obviously apparent that in Lawrence was a genuine and authentic Renaissance man.
In finding out more about Lawrence and his love of Taos I learned that he was adored by the Queen social bee, Mabel Dodge Luhan, who as a present of affection for him, gave him a ranch of thousands of acres outside Taos, that is still there today with many Lawrence memories and artifacts.
Lawrence created many beautiful and elegant love poems, as well as his erotic paintings. This has motivated some of the more moralistic thin-lipped in our culture to dismiss his talents, if you can imagine. Lawrence hated pornography. Sexual expression for him was a thing of beauty and life. I have never read a finer statement about Lawrence and sexuality than one by Aldous Huxley: “For Lawrence, the significance of sexual experience was this: that in it, the immediate, non-mental knowledge of a divine otherness is brought to a focus. Sex is something that makes for life… for divineness… and for UNION with the MYSTERY. Or as Kierkegaard put it: ‘There is a spiritual world beyond the ethical.’”
A fine example of his love poetry would be The Mystery:
I lift to you
My bowl of kisses,
And through the temple’s
Cry out to you
In wild caresses.
And still before
The altar I
Exult the bowl
Brimful, and cry
To you to stoop
And drink, Most High.
Oh drink me up
That I may be
Within your cup
Like a mystery,
Like wine that is still
Of you and me
In one fulfil
“My great religion,” he wrote, “is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong in our minds, but what the blood feels, and believes, is always true.” Lawrence disapproved of too much knowledge because it diminishes our sense of WONDER and sensitivity to the MYSTERY. He refused to “know” abstractly. He preferred to live. I commend to you a recent column I wrote on WONDER.
No other writer has so eloquently made me aware of the stupidity of living by FACTS, as has Lawrence. He constantly pointed out that behind facts are a far more relevant truth. Bertrand Russell has a reputation as one of our “great” philosophers, and yet Lawrence challenged him on his errors in thinking. He said, “Facts are quite unimportant. Only ‘truths’ matter.” Or there is “a truth of facts, and more importantly, a truth of truth.” Or again, as Kierkegaaard put it, “There is a spiritual world beyond the ethical that makes for life and union with the Mystery.”
For instance, many times I have stood on the shores of Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons, at sunrise, looking at the magnificence of the waterfall tumbling down from the Grand Teton. The truth of FACTS I know:
Water is only H2O, and the rocks I know by geological names, as well as the awesome Grand Teton. The truth of facts do nothing for me. But the “truth of truth” for me is that behind those facts is one of the most divine and glorious scenes that has filled my heart and my eyes with tears, overwhelmed by so much divine beauty. A truth of truth. A “spiritual world that makes for life and union with the Mystery.” That “something unknown doing we know not what” in Eddington’s words, that genius winner of the Nobel in Physics.
To Lawrence, the world’s mystery is continuously present to those who are awake and sensitive to the light of the miracles that flood their existence. But, the tragedy of most is that they live in a little puddle of light thrown by the gig-lamps of habit and vested interests.
I realize that I cannot possibly do justice to this monumental giant who lived among us, in one column and one introduction. My part TWO on D.H. Lawrence will appear in the very near future.
So I leave you with a few jewels of his thought:
“Life and love are life and love, a bunch of violets is a bunch of violets
and to drag in the idea of a point is to ruin everything. Live and let live,
love and let love, flower and fade in the natural curve of Mystery.”
“The human soul needs beauty more than bread.”
“Obscenity only comes in when the mind fears and despises the body.”
“Instead of chopping yourself down to fit the world, chop the world down to fit yourself.”