Dickinson’s Rupture and Resurrection as a Shaman Healer

We are recounting the life and work of Emily Dickinson in light of the shaman archetype.  First, she underwent a kind of rupture that resulted in a nervous breakdown, then she rose flying “like a shaman” and offered her gifts of poetry and insight to the world.  

One of her insights concerns the awareness of the Cosmic Christ.  Dickinson tells us where “glory” is to be found (theologically “glory” or doxa in Greek is for all practical purposes a synonym for the “Cosmic Christ” or our Buddha Nature).  

The glory of a new day. Photo by Kyle Cottrell on Unsplash.

You’ll know it—as you know ‘tis Noon—

By Glory—
As you do the Sun—
By Glory—
As you will in Heaven—
Know God the Father—and the Son.
By intuition, Mightiest Things
Assert themselves—and not by terms–….
Omnipotence—had not a Tongue—
His lisp—is Lightning—and the Sun—
His Conversation—with the Sea—
‘How shall you know’?
Consult your Eye!  

Here Dickinson is putting meat on the bone of the term Logos or “word of God.”  The word of God is everywhere, especially in our intuition and in nature where the sun and lightning and sea unveil the Divine which is truly here and now.  Yes, “the kingdom/queendom of God is (already) among us” (Jesus) and Yes, “every creature is a word of God and a book about God” (Eckhart).  She sees herself as “a second Christ, a second Jacob”—and this is in fact the teaching of the Cosmic Christ lineage, that we are all “other Christs.”  Mystics like Eckhart, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day have said exactly that.  So too did Paul at the origin of the Christian movement.  Emily writes:

“Title divine—is mine!…

Royal—all but the Crown!”   

“Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, pray with us…” Combined photo of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Uploaded to Flickr by Felton Davis.

How distant mainline Christianity has wandered from what Dickinson and these other mystics were experiencing.  She challenges us to see “a Soul at the White Heat.”  Here one might recognize a reference to the Cosmic Christ revelation at the event of the Transfiguration on the top of the mountain where both “glory” and “whiteness” are witnessed by Jesus’ disciples (See Mark 9. 2-8).  She is invoking the Cosmic Christ as a deeply democratic experience available to all and not just to Jesus.  Emily’s white wedding gown may also refer to her own transfiguration experience.  In identifying with a “newer—nearer Crucifixion” than that of Jesus she is also invoking her Cosmic Christ experience.  

Her shaman’s wound, her Cross, says Herrmann, is that of unrequited love from both certain women and men in her life–but so too was her inability to get published in her lifetime—a grievous suffering ensued.  In her via negativa state, she tasted deeply of the Dark Night of the soul through suffering and grief.  We are told “she felt abandoned entirely by God and her anguish went deep.  Her image of Christ is sky-wide and filled the All.”  Hers is a Cosmic Christ that suffers. 

*Steven Herrmann, Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times (Kingfisher Press,2018)

**Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, # 420, 1072, 553, 365.

See Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ.

Banner Image: “Untitled” Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

Do you see the “glory” (or doxa) or presence of the Cosmic Christ (or image of God; or Buddha Nature) also in nature all about us?  And yourself as a “second Christ”?  (or Buddha?  Or Image of God?)  And “white heat” in the midst of your work?

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

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5 thoughts on “Dickinson’s Rupture and Resurrection as a Shaman Healer”

  1. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    In today’s DM, the words intuition and nature reverberate like a bell rung in my heart. Feminist spirituality and it’s movement down from the medevial ages has held and kept safe this bell, amidst patriarchal oppression and suppression. The mystics, the shamans, the poets know the sound, the language, the imagery and voice that can only be heard and seen through these gifts of intuition and nature. I am grateful for all those whom have trusted in this reality and whom have courageously guarded these gifts, this way of coming to experience the glory of God, to the point of laying their own lives down. Thanks to many, we all can still sense the bell being tolled, calling us too, to accept, receive and respond to these gifts of intuition and nature, that resurrect and manifest the beauty, goodness and glory of God intuited within our own natures, which is also there in others and all of creation, even if at times hidden behind distressing disguises.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Thank you again for your comments, Jeanette. I too want to protect and preserve the words of intuition and nature, as well as the feminist spirituality that has come down to us, all the way from medieval times, amidst patriarchal oppression and suppression. As yo say, the mystics and poets know that it can only be heard and seen through the gifts of intuition and nature. And I too am grateful for those who have guarded these gifts that are calling us to accept, receive and respond to these gifts of intuition and nature. Thank you so much for your comment!

  2. Avatar

    In your book the Tao of Thomas Aquinas, (which I love as much as as your book on Julian Norwich) I was struck by your writing that “contemplation . . . is being in the presence of LOVE.” And that is a powerful teaching for me: I see myself surrounded by Love, engulfed in Love, and I see Love everywhere in beautiful Nature all around me, in people that I meet on my walks, and the glory of it all fills me with deep joy!

    And. of course, that means the Cosmic Christ is everywhere! Even in these dark times, and in the midst of all the chaos and destruction that we have created. But I like to also focus not on my own struggles on the way, but “dwell on the GOODNESS of God within” where I find “complete power, wholeness, power, reverence, nobility , preciousness, and honor.” This is gradually reversing all the negative tendencies I grew up with, and deep joy and peace and love are replacing all the doubts about myself, all the concerns about doing “the right thing,” and I feel so blessed to be able to grow in this direction before I die! Thank you, Matthew!

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Thank you for your comment Vivian. I too have enjoyed Matthew’s THE TAO OF THOMAS AQUINAS, and even more his big book on Aquinas which is titled, SHEER JOY. And you say that when you see the beauty in Nature that it fill us with “deep joy!” And you also say that “deep joy and peace and love are replacing all the doubts about myself… and I feel so blessed to be able to grow in this direction before I die!” And I say Amen to that. God bless you Vivian!

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