Meister Eckhart, upending centuries of neo-platonic tainted dualistic religious teaching, said simply, “nature is grace.” His brother Thomas Aquinas, said, “The greatness of the human person consists in this–that we are capable of the universe.”
So too, Dickinson’s sense of the sacredness of nature extends to the holy marriage of psyche and cosmos. In this powerful poem she celebrates both.
The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—
The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—
Here she is acclaiming the cosmos and our capacity to relate to it along with the likeness between the human and Divinity—our consciousness (what she liked to call “circumference”) approaches that of God, being only slightly different, “as syllable is from sound”.
Dickinson, like Walt Whitman and many intellectuals of her day, was indebted to the important book Cosmos by Prussian scientist and explorer of South America, Alexander von Humboldt.
One can only imagine how excited she would be to hear the new discoveries of the universe from today’s science and to praise the universe and its 13.8 billions years of creativity and expansion.
In another poem she speaks again of the “bashful” relationship between heaven and earth, Divinity and us.
….Heaven is shy of Earth—that’s all—
Bashful Heaven—thy Lovers small—
Years ago the great Biblical scholar Kris Stendahl attended a workshop I was conducting on the “Cosmic Christ” and he approached me afterwards and said to me, “every time one sees the word basileia (Kingdom) in the New Testament, one has the right to translate it as creation.”
Emily Dickinson knew this in the mid nineteenth century. She knew it as all mystics know it, from her experience.
Dickinson talks of God as “Mother” or “Mama” as in this passage in which she retranslates a familiar Gospel text to embrace the Divine Feminine.
Mama never forgets her birds,
Though in another tree—
She looks down just as often
And just as tenderly
As when her little mortal nest
With cunning care she wove—
If either of her ‘sparrows’ fall,
She ‘notices,’ above.
She continues her critique of the fall/redemption, patriarchal and judgment-oriented Christianity that proposes a Peeping Tom sort of Divinity which she sees all around her in a poem where she tells us: “I don’t like Paradise–/Because it’s Sunday –all the time—”.
If God could make a visit—
Or ever took a Nap—
So not to see us—but they say
Perennial beholds us—
Myself would run away
From Him—and Holy Ghost—and All—
But there’s the ‘Judgment Day’!
Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, # 632, 703, 164, 412.
See Steven Herrmann, Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times (Kingfisher Press,2018), p. 4.
See Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas, pp. 21-24
Banner Image: “Stargazing” Photo by Photo by Chris Leggat on Unsplash
Do you agree with Dickinson that the brain, the soul, the consciousness of a human being is as large or larger than the universe and god-like? What follows from that?
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