(Religion &) LSD (Allen Ginsberg)


My mom clipped me an essay in the New Yorker by Zadie Smith about Joni Mitchell with reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Kierkegaard. The essay reflects on this thing called literary taste, and the kinds of shifts to which it is subject. This little “sidebar” caught my eye, where Smith writes:

“In 1967, another poet, Allen Ginsberg, stopped at Tintern Abbey. He had gone to Wales with his British publisher, Tom Maschler, to stay in Maschler’s cottage and take acid in the Black Mountains. Those were the glory days of British publishing. Ginsberg wrote a poem about the trip, ‘Wales Visitation.’ The ground he stood on was ‘brown vagina-moist,’ and the thistles he saw had a ‘satanic…horned symmetry.’ In other words, he had a typical Ginsberg epiphany. I like the poem , though, not when he’s describing the things he sees but when he’s examining the manner of the seeing; that is, the structural difference between what he he saw that day, attuned, on acid —What did I notice? Particulars”

This has everything to do with a certain kind and quality of religion. What I like about this citation from Ginsberg is the conjunction between epiphanies, literature, perception, structural difference and taste as they all revolve around “particularities.”

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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1 Response to (Religion &) LSD (Allen Ginsberg)

  1. efmooney says:

    Does religion revolve around historical fact, the Law, community, and “the Universal”? Not exclusively. “A certain kind and quality of religion — the conjunction between epiphanies, literature, perception, structural difference and taste revolving around particularities–interests me.”
    Zadie Smith knows that the author of Fear and Trembling calls himself a poet, an improvisor who tries to sing the sublime psychedelic weirdness of a particular father (Abe) related to his heavenly father and both related to a son. The author, Johannes de silentio, has four epiphanies about how that mess might be imagined — none of which work satisfactorily. The difference between faith and non-faith, fealty and murder, can’t be captured in an image or proposition. The quality of religion escapes dicta, history, or institution and has to do with having everything change and yet be the same. Everything changes on Mt Moriah yet everything remains the same. Zadie Smith is to Joni Mitchell as we (or Johannes de silentio) are to Abraham. No one can understand how or why she (he) hits us like a ton of bricks.

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