Dickinson on “Infinity” & a Creation-Centered Trinity

Jungian analyst Steven Herrmann recognizes Emily Dickinson’s calling as “as a poet of the Infinite.”*  “Infinity” may be Emily’s favorite name for Divinity, she employs it often, and no doubt it derives from the scientific study of Humboldt who spoke of an “infinite cosmos.” 

A colony of hot, young stars emerges between two dove-like arms of the Orion nebula, a “happening place where stars are born.” Photo by NASA/JPL-Cal-Tech

Emily also links Beauty, which we discussed yesterday, with Infinity.

Estranged from Beauty-
none can be-
For Beauty is Infinity—

We are dependent on Beauty to live and to be. 

She sees the infinite as always present, thus panentheism.

The Infinite a sudden Guest
Has been assumed to be—
But how can that stupendous come
Which never went away?

The Infinite (which is also Beauty) is omnipresent and never absent.  Every mystic knows this.

Infinity also lies in the human heart, our capacity for love.  Dickinson criticizes scientists who spend so much time analyzing and classifying nature that they “turn the heavens into scholastic skies!”  In doing so, they can easily neglect the beauty and wisdom inherent in nature. 

To me, this parallels Einstein’s criticism that the rational mind can too easily displace the “intuitive” mind.  Left brain dominating right brain, as happens in so much education that Einstein bemoaned.  “Don’t neglect the heart—and beauty—and our infinite capacity for love!” Dickinson is shouting.

“Dawning Love.” Photo by Filipe Almeida on Unsplash

The Life we have is very great.
The Life that we shall see
Surpasses it, we know, because
It is infinity.
But when all Space has been beheld
And all Dominion shown
The smallest Human Heart’s extent
Reduces it to none. 

Furthermore, “To see the Summer Sky is poetry.” Divinity and Infinity go together:

Expanse cannot be lost—
Not Joy, but a Decree
Is Deity—
His Scene, Infinity—

In Dickinson’s time and place the Trinity was a hot topic that engendered much debate.  Is Divinity triune or one?  The Unitarian church was born of that debate after all.  She alters the patriarchal debate around the Trinity with all-new—and far more ancient—imagery.  In a sort of aikido move, she sidesteps the theological niceties entirely by creating her own Trinity, based on non-anthropocentric creation, and challenges both arguing parties with new language and fresh insight that moves beyond anthropocentric religion.

A Monarch butterfly rests after eclosing from its chrysalis. Image by Kathysg from Pixabay

In the name of the Bee—
And of the Butterfly—
And of the Breeze—Amen 

This is not a theologically simplistic prayer—something deep and sophisticated is at work here.  She is supplanting an anthropocentric and person-centered Trinity with a creation-centered one. 

After all, the Bee keeps creation going by pollinating flowers and grasses, thus represents the Creator; the Butterfly undergoes a life, death and resurrection cycle comparable to the Paschal mystery of Christ as it evolves and even dies in its evolution from caterpillar to cocoon to beautiful (but short-lived ) winged creature; and the Breeze is wind just as Spirit is breath (“spirit,” “wind” or “breeze” are the same words in the Biblical languages as well as many languages in Africa and around the world and the Spirit came at Pentecost in the form of wind). 

*Steven Herrmann, Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times , p. 9.  This book makes a solid contribution to any effort to draw out Dickinson’s spirituality from her life, her times and her poetry.

Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson,, #1309, 1162, 1472, 10, 18.

See Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times;

See also Matthew Fox, Original Blessing.

Banner Image: “Bumblebee at work” Image by ajs67 from Pixabay

Enter into Dickinson’s naming of the Trinity.  Sign yourself in that name.  What does that say to you?  What does it bring forth from you?

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

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Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
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3 thoughts on “Dickinson on “Infinity” & a Creation-Centered Trinity”

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, Thank you for your “Thank you”–it means a lot to us when we can connect with you spiritually!

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