Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, March 22, 1892

     At W.'s at 8:22 and in his room for a few minutes. He was not asleep soundly. His eyes trembled open as I entered. He murmured a "good morning," but I decided not to press my presence.

     Talcott Williams writes with his last fund remittance: "I enclose my check for a dearly loved service."

     1:20 P.M. Longaker in to see me. Just from W.'s. Advised me to get the bed. "Can the folks manage it?" "O yes! Why not? And it will be much like a blessing to Mr. Whitman." Longaker had in his hand a copy of Harper's Magazine, the "Death's Valley" poem appearing there and the two portraits (Alexander's), one as frontispiece and both travesties. Longaker remarked, "In spite of the many pictures of Whitman, it will be difficult 50 years hence to identify him from them—perhaps because of their unexplicity." How had he found W. this morning? "About

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as usual—neither worse nor better. He talked a little more than is customary."
What of McAlister? "I think he understands now. He blames you for it all." I saying, "Well, that makes it easy for you two to work together. I am willing to shoulder the blame." "I asked him frankly if he thought it was necessary for both to call every day and he admitted it was not." "Wasn't that conclusive?" "I think so." Much other talk of same purport. Will send me bulletins tomorrow for Bucke. These details involve me in a lot of troubles. McAlister evidently has no tender feeling towards me. He denied with L. the other day that he had ever said he was open to the questions of reporters, which is a denial of fact or an impeachment of his memory.

     6:10 P.M. Water-bed just preceded me. Makes a very small package. I upstairs and into W.'s room. No one else about. A little talk with him. Copy of Harper's in next room. I took in and mentioned to him. He asked, "How does the poem look? And the portraits—what of them?" "Poor enough." "So I should suppose." Had he any desire to send any copies out? "None at all—none at all." And again, "It's a pity about the portraits: they go about, far and near, on an irreparable errand." I said, "That poem is one of your best. It is keyed way up." "You think so? It will take a place with the rest?" "Surely, surely: it plays so grandly with its theme—with Death." "Good! Good! You remember what I said the other day about Death?" "Yes, I wrote it down as I sat here." "Oh! So you did. Well, that contrast follows me a good deal these days."

     His face painfully worn and pale. I inquired, "You have passed an easier day?" "No, not in the least: my days are dreadful—dreadful." "With pain?" "No, not pain: a frightful goneness—a feeling as if everything had slipt from under me." I protested, "But you seem cheerful." "Do I? I hope I do, especially as there's nothing else to be." "You do not care to look at the Harper's now?" "No, I'm not up to it." "I am allured by its handsome print." "So you might be. But just leave it on the table till morning. I may have a chance and feeling for it then." Any letters? "Few—I get a few. But they most of them pass in

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and out, if in at all. Oh! I am too helpless. These things have all become impossible."
He had read papers today—even with some attention—referring to death of Prof. Parker, attached to the community. "It is tragic," he said, "an early fall—inexplicable. But why do I say that: what is not?"

     Mrs. Davis came in at this moment to tell me that Warrie had the bed ready. (We were to experiment with the water-bed to see how it would float.) I turned to W. and gave him my "Good night," which he returned, raising his hand, which I kissed as he pressed mine—that hand so cold today and he so pale! I hurried downstairs. We found all well with the bed—that it would work. I then went uptown and home, finding there a couple of letters from Bucke, dated 20th, both—and both a part of our affair here. Likewise a postal from Baxter.
March 20th, 1892
Strictly private

My dear Horace:-

As you know I am writing on what I call "Cosmic Consciousness." Of all men who have ever lived, I believe Walt Whitman has had this faculty most perfectly developed. I am anxious therefore to obtain from him some confirmation or some correction of my views on the subject and I ask you to read this letter to him and get from him if possible answers (however brief) to the series of questions with which it ends.

1 The human mind is made up of a great many faculties and these are of all ages some dating back millions or many millions of years, others only thousands of years, others like the musical sense just coming into existence.

2 As main trunk and stem of all the faculties are (1) consciousness and (2) self consciousness the one many millions of years old the other dating back perhaps a few hundred thousand years.

3 What I claim is that a third stage of consciousness is now coming into existence, and that I call "C.C."

4 Of course when a new faculty comes into existence in any race at first one individual has it, then as the generations succeed one another more and more individuals have it until after say a thousand generations it becomes general in the race.


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5 "C.C." dates back at least to the time of Buddha—it was this faculty that came to him under the Bo tree some two thousand five hundred years ago.

6 Christ certainly had the faculty though we have no record of how and when it came to him.

7 St Paul and Mohammed had it and we have pretty full details in both these cases of the time and manner of its onset, and we can plainly trace the effects of their illumination in their writings. P. refers to faculty fully and explicitly.

8 The faculty seems to be much commoner now than it used to be. I know six men who have had it in more or less pronounced development. NB. A man may have it for half a minute or off & on for years & for days continuously.

9 Whatever Walt may say to you about it every page of L. of G. proves the possession of the faculty by the writer.

10 Not only so but he describes the onset of the faculty, its results and its passing away, and directly alludes to it over and over again.

11 The faculty always comes suddenly—it came to W. suddenly one June day between the years 1850 and 1855—which year was it?

12 Was the onset of the faculty accompanied by a sensation of physical illumination? As if he were in the midst of a great flame? or as if a bright light shone in his mind?

13 What did he think of the new comer at first? Was he alarmed? Did he think (or fear) he was becoming insane?

14 Here follows (15-16 etc) a brief description of the onset of "C.C."—is it fairly correct or will Walt suggest some alterations or additions?

15 The man suddenly, without warning, has a sense of being immersed in a flame or rose colored cloud or haze—or perhaps rather a sense that the mind itself is filled with such a haze.

16 At the same instant or immediately afterwards he is bathed in an emotion of joy, exultation, triumph.

17 Along with this is what must be called for want of better words a sense of immortality and accompanying this:-

18 A clear conception (in outline) of the drift of the universe—a consciousness that the central over-ruling power is infinitely beneficent, also:-

19 An intellectual competency not simply surpassing the old but on a new and higher plane.


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Just as science rests on reason, just as society rests on love and friendship, and is high or low according to the presence or absence of these, so religion rests on "C.C."

It may be said indeed in a very true sense that all that is best in modern civilization depends on the light that has shone by means of this faculty on half a dozen men—of these few men W.W. I believe is really chief and on him will rest a higher civilization than we have yet known—but meanwhile (while this is building) "C. C." will become more and more common, and his prophecy of other and greater bards will be fulfilled and by means of the spread of the same faculty an audience will be supplied which will be worthy of its poets.

Tell W. that I beg of him to give me through you a little light to help me forward with my present task.

With love to W. and to all his friends,

RM Bucke


Did not get down to Mickle Street again. Busy the whole evening, writing a great number of letters and postals.

     I did not open the subject with W. but Warrie told W. later on that we had the water-bed. He offered no objection, simply said, "Oh!"


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