Happy Birthday to Walt Whitman, Bard of 7th Chakra Numinosity

We have been talking about the shadow side of the 7th chakra whereby humans make decisions not to build community but to unravel it, to replace basic order with unbridled chaos, killing rather than supporting one another, hating rather than loving. 

Symbol of the 7th chakra, Sahasrara. Wikimedia Commons.

And this is what so often makes headlines—the bad news and not the good news.  Hatred often born of self-hatred giving birth to violence and killing of innocents.

Coming up for air, therefore, it is good to meditate on the good news of the sacred, the healthy chakras, so that we do not drown in the evil news.  Walt Whitman helps us to do that.  

In many ways he is a poet of the Seventh Chakra for he had a vision of expanded community and deep ecumenism and interfaith a century ago.  Today is his 203rd birthday.

In his excellent study on Walt Whitman: Shamanism, Spiritual Democracy, and the World Soul, Jungian analyst Steven B. Herrmann tells us that shamanism, the first religion, played an especially important role in Whitman’s religious consciousness.  Says Whitman:

Walt Whitman at about 50, 1869. Photo by G. Frank E. Pearsall. Wikimedia Commons.
Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between ancient and modern,…
Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic procession, rapt
…beating the serpent-skin drum,
Accepting the Gospels, accepting him that was crucified, knowing
assuredly that he is divine.

Herrmann comments that Whitman provides 

a major rather than a minor miracle in the history of religious ideas; one that simply cannot be celebrated enough.  It illuminates spiritual realities that are only now beginning to take hold in the World Soul.  Before Christian ministers began preaching about racial equality, religious equality, the equality of women, and the equality of homosexuals, Whitman was beating his drum in the New Churches of God.  

A “cosmic consciousness” comes alive in Section 44 of “Song of Myself”:

My feet strike the apex of the apices of the stairs,
On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps,
All below duly travel’d, and still I mount and mount.
“Staircase.” Photo by Colin Tsoi on Flickr.

Whitman achieves a kind of “cross-cultural objectivity through his perpetual soul-flights” which is based on shamanism.  

Whitman never sought to replace Judeo-Christianity with a religious vision of his own.  He sought to infuse the churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples of the world with his own athletic spirit, to electrify them with living energy of the Bi-erotic soul and body. 

The talk today about religion vs. spirituality seems parallel to Whitman’s vision.  In Herrmann’s words, 

post-modern people need what poet-shamans have: direct access to the collective psyche without mediation from any external religious symbols.  The reason this may be so is that religious symbols have had their meaning, the numinosity depleted, so that they have for many peoples lost their original soul-force.*

See Steven Hermann, Walt Whitman: Shamanism, Spiritual Democracy, and the World Soul, pp. 250-253.

See also Matthew Fox, “Misdirected Love in the Seventh Chakra,” in Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 359-368.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars. – Walt Whitman.” Image by Andrea Koerner on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree that Walt Whitman qualifies as a “poet of the 7th chakra”?  And that post-modern peoples need what poet-shamans have because for many the religious symbols have had their numinosity depleted, “having lost their original soul-force”?

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12 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Walt Whitman, Bard of 7th Chakra Numinosity”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, I see that we have two questions in our Queries for Contemplation today. The first is:
    “Do you agree that Walt Whitman qualifies as a ‘poet of the 7th chakra’?” Yes, of course–and in him, the 7th chakra in the Hindu sense of the word–that is, in the sense of a fully realized being, and if you don’t believe me just read the following lines out loud, that you already read silently above, for he writes:
    Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between ancient and modern,…
    Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic procession, rapt
    …beating the serpent-skin drum,
    Accepting the Gospels, accepting him that was crucified, knowing
    assuredly that he is divine…
    And secondly, you ask us: Don’t “post-modern peoples need what poet-shamans have, because for many, the religious symbols have had their numinosity depleted, ‘having lost their original soul-force’?” Again, “Yes!” And what the poet-shaman has to offer is “direct access to the collective psyche without mediation from any external religious symbols.” And I might add that, many people who grew up in non-religious homes often don’t even know what the religious symbols mean anyway.

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      Richard, you make reference to chakras here, but what are chakras other than a continuum of spinning energy centers (prana) vibrating at different frequencies in the body, the highest of which is the crown chakra? As the entire created order, visible and invisible, material and spiritual, light and darkness is vibrating on a continuum of this light energy, and therefore has the property of consciousness, not sure why u took exception to my characterization of such in a previous DM comment. Reiterated here, underscored by Matthew in today’s DM, my point was merely that this view harmonizes with the modern scientific understanding of the created order, the subject matter of quantum physics. Non-dual consciousness sees the connection. Separation consciousness cannot. Along with the mystics, the transcendental poets, Whitman among them, were inspired by an awareness of this incandescent vibratory continuum of light energy within and all around them. Their enlightened spiritual eye (7th chakra) saw all things as one on this continuum, and in in the various shades of this luminosity. Again quoting Tesla, a scientific genius of early last century much ignored and maligned, “Everything is the light. If u want to know the secrets of the universe, study energy, frequency and vibration.” This energy that is vibrating is light energy. Like chakras, it vibrates at different frequencies in the created order on a continuum, proportional to the distance from the purity of its Source in the divine.

      1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
        Richard Reich-Kuykendall

        Joe, I know you wrote the book the THE AMBIENT CHRIST, but it seems to me that being a Social Worker in no way qualifies you to be an authority on quantum physics or science. I think we all can benefit from some learning from true physicists, but the problem is that a “some” knowledge without a knowledge of the true complexity of a field that has been developing for over a hundred years, can be dangerous if it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Its better to speak from the disciples that we are authorities in. I am a theologian and teacher of World Religions but I defer to my scientist friends to speak and teach on scientific subjects of which they are the experts. That’s why I have a problem with much of what you write. Though you are free to write whatever you like, remember I too am free to to respond however I will as well.

  2. Avatar

    The frolicking in the hay that is caught in the poem of Whitman was experienced by me when our young granddaughter did just that when visiting a Maze in a park in Texas.

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    I agree that alot of people need what poet-shamans have. However, I’m less inclined to agree that religious symbols have had their numinosity depleted, having lost their original soul force. The depletion and loss of numinosity and soul force, in my opinion falls upon the human side, due to humanities disconnect from God, through the rejection of religious institutions… as well as the disconnect from one’s own numinosity and soul force.

    A large portion of humanity does not know how to engage in a reflective, meditative and contemplative manner, as a spiritual practice, or as a means of experiencing and encountering the Divine. Many also do not understand the symbolic language of metaphors and analogies, due to rationalization and reasoning being the dominate form of perceiving.

    What lies dormant, is the intuitive, imaginative and creative expressions of perceiving. The domination and the superiority of the masculine and the oppression and suppression of the feminine, is the cause of this imbalance, resulting in the disconnect, depletion and loss of the numinosity and soul force, present in it’s essence within themselves, others, all of nature and all religious/spiritual symbols.

    We see this depletion of numinosity and loss of soul force being mirrored, in the devaluing of the classics within the arts, poetry, and the other expressive mediums of story-telling… now replaced with lifeless and souless reality TV… the subliminal messaging in the mass marketing of consumerism, as well as an utter decline in the quality and mastery of the medium, within the arts themselves.

    Modern technology has also contributed to the depletion of numinosity and the loss of soul force… by severely fragmenting humanities attention span… resulting in many being unable to focus in a reflective, meditative and contemplative manner, on any one thing for any length of time. Learning to be present to the moment, aware, engaged and responsive, to any one symbol, there to be seen and ackowledged, is now becoming a foreign concept to many, especially the younger generation.

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      Yes, Matthew and Jeanette, there has been a mounting depletion of numinosity/awareness of the Sacred historically up to the consequent present tumultuous times in our inner and outer lives, especially in Mother Nature and all Her living creatures, and in our spiritual multidimensions and our evolving multiverse Cosmos… We’re aware that some of the main roots/causes of this mounting depletion has been the continued insidious toxicity historically of masculine/patriarchal values and institutions with its destructive effects and human suffering, especially on children, women, and nature… Fortunately there have also been many manifestations and loving examples in human history that God’s Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Truth~Life~Healing~Power~Creativity~Renewal~Justice~Peace~Beauty~Joy~Mystery… Is still very much Alive Within and Among Us… The many mystics, shamans, saints, justice and light workers, common loving humanity, … — past & present — have been an inspiration to all of us to help us maintain a Living Faith in our compassionate lives with one another. Our eternal evolving Souls are not alone nor separate in God’s Diverse Evolving Loving Oneness/Cosmic Christ Consciousness….

  4. Avatar

    I was a little distracted at first. I think you meant that today is Walt Whitman’s 203rd birthday since he was born in 1819. Once I looked that up I could concentrate on what you were saying. – It is amazing to me how each piece of the puzzle reminds us how we are all interconnected in God’s Love. I wonder if the people in the World will ever wake up to this reality and stop the hatred and violence.

      1. Phila Hoopes

        It’s been corrected on the post here – unfortunately once the email has gone out the only correction can be made with a followup email. My apologies for not catching the error.

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