Cosmic Consciousness with Walt Whitman

Horace Traubel was a close associate of Walt Whitman and one of his executors. This is his contribution to the book Cosmic Consciousness by Maurice Bucke:

May, 1889. That overwhelming night, as I leaned over the railing of the ferryboat, lost this world for another, and in the anguish and joy of a few minutes saw things heretofore withheld from me revealed. Those who have had such an encounter will understand what this means, others will not, or will perhaps only realize it by intimation. I could not separate the physical and spiritual of that moment. My physical body went through the experience of a disappearance in spiritual light. All severe lines in the front of phenomena relaxed. I was one with God, Love, the Universe, arrived at last face to face with myself. I was sensible of peculiar moral and mental disturbances and readjustments. There was an immediateness to it all—an indissoluble unity of the several energies of my being in one force. I was no more boating it on a river than winging it in space or taking star leaps, a traveler from one to another on the peopled orbs. While I stood there the boat had got into the slip and was almost ready to go out again. A deckhand who knew me came up and tapped me on the shoulder. “Don’t you intend going off the boat?” he asked. And he added when I faced him and said “Yes:” “You look wonderfully well and happy to-night, Mr. Traubel.”

I did not see Walt till the next day, evening. In the meantime I had lived through twenty-four hours of ecstasy mixed with some doubts as to whether I had not had a crack in the skull and gone mad rather than fallen under some light and made a discovery. But the first words Walt addressed to me when I sallied into his room were reassuring: “Horace, you have the look of great happiness on your face to-night. Have you had a run of good luck?” I sat down and tried in a few words to indicate that I had had a run of good luck, though not perhaps the good luck he had in mind for me at the moment. He did not seem at all surprised at what I told him, merely remarking, as he put his hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes: “I knew it would come to you.” I suggested: “I have been wondering all day if I am not crazy.” He laughed gravely: “No, sane. Now at last you are sane.”

Between Two Stools

They say I can’t sit between two stools?
Every stick has two ends,
It’s true, I tend to forget the stick.

What is between two stools,
Between two notes?
Between between between … ?
We are, “Stuck in the middle again,”
Between clowns and jokers,
Between right and left,
Between ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’
Between tension and relaxation,
Between sleep and waking,
Between waking and being,
Between birth and death,
Isn’t this Life?

Is there anywhere else to be?

Coffee with Gurdjieff – Michel Conge

Many a time I found myself alone face to face with him, as he used to say, “for a good cup of coffee and to talk about this and that,” without having any precise question to ask him. Then I would say to myself, “This is a moment I mustn’t let slip by.” I would hunt around for some question to put to him. In the end I would say to him, “Sir, how should one understand this or that?” And then the most extraordinary part was not his answers, it was his silences. … They would last for minutes on end. … Then everything inside me would fall apart, my fine words, my eagerness to get an explanation, my wish to profit from being with him, and then … I found myself all alone. Many others had the same experience. There were those extraordinary silences in which one felt like some poor fool asking the wrong questions or putting the right questions in the wrong way. It gave tremendous depth to the talks with him. It brought out the, “knowing-understanding” sequence … and suddenly something was there. One must experience the tête-a-tête with one’s self to feel that one is most of time being passively towed by ones intellectual and emotional functions, but what is important is “to go and see for one’s self.” Gurdjieff did not answer, and by not giving an answer he answered much more.

From Facing Gurdjieff in Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man and His Teaching; Needleman & Baker (eds.)

By The Way by Hamilton Wright Mabie

How much of what is best and pleasantest in life comes to us by the way! The artist forms great plans and sets about great achievements, but when he comes to the hour of realization he discovers that the personal reward has come mainly by the way. The applause of which he dreamed, the fame for which he hoped, bring small satisfaction; the joy of the work was largely in the doing of it, and was taken in the long days of toil and the brief times of rest which were part of the great undertaking. To the man or woman who looks forward from the heights of youth, life seems to be an artistic whole, which can be completely shaped by the will, and wrought out with perfection of detail in the repose and silence of the workshop. In that glowing time the career of a great man appears to be so symmetrical, so rounded, so complete, that it seems to be a veritable work of art, thought out and executed without hindrance, and with the co-operation of all the great forces. Nights of rest and days of work, uninterrupted and cumulative, with bursts of applause widening and deepening as the years go by, with fame adding note after note to her hymn of praise, – is not this the dream of young ambition as it surveys the field from the place of preparation?

The ideal is not an ignoble one, but it falls far short of the great reality in range and effort. There is an artistic harmony in a great life; but it is not a conscious beauty deliberately evoked by a free hand bent only on the illustration of its skill; it is a beauty born of pain, self-sacrifice, and arduous surrender to the stern conditions of success. A bit of fancy lightly inspires the singer, and as lightly borrows the wings of verse; a great vision of the imagination demands years and agonies. A bit of verse, such as serves for the small currency of poetry, runs off the pen on a convenient scrap of paper; a great poem involves a deep movement of human life, — something vast, profound, mysterious. A great life is a work of art of that noble order in which a man surrenders himself to the creative impulse, and becomes the instrument of a mightier thought and passion than he consciously originates. There is a deep sense in which we make our careers, but there is a deeper sense in which our careers are made for us. The greater the man the greater the influences that play upon him and center in him; it is more a question of what he shall receive than of what he shall do. His life-work is wrought out in no well-appointed atelier, barred against intrusion, enfolded in silence; the task must be accomplished in the great arena of the world, jostled by crowds, beaten upon by storms, broken in upon by all manner of interruptions. The artist does not stand apart from his work, surveying its progress from hour to hour, and with a skillful hand bringing his thought in ever clearer view; for the work is done, not by, but within him; his aspiring soul, passionate heart, and eager mind are the substance upon which the tools of the graver work. Death and care, disease and poverty, do not wait afar off, awed by greatness and enthralled by genius; the door is always open to them, and they are often familiar companions. The work of a great life is always accomplished with toil, self-sacrifice, and with incessant intrusions from without; it is often accomplished amid bitter sorrows and under the pressure of relentless misfortune.

Yet these things, that break in upon the artistic mood and play havoc with the artistic poise, make the life-work immeasurably nobler and richer; the reality differs from the ideal of youth in being vaster, and therefore more difficult and painful of attainment. The easy achievement, always well in hand, and executed in the quiet of reposeful hours, gives place to the sublime accomplishment wrought out amid the uproar of the world and under the pressure of the sorrow and anguish which are a part of every human lot. The toil is intense, prolonged, and painful because it is to be imperishable; there is a divine element in it, and the work takes on a form of immortality. The little time which falls to the artist here is inadequate to the greatness of his task; the applause, small or great, which accompanies his toil is but a momentary and imperfect recognition of what has been done with strength and beauty. It is pleasant when men see what one has done, but the real satisfaction is the consciousness that something worthy of being seen has been accomplished. The rewards of great living are not external things, withheld until the crowning hour of success arrives; they come by the way, – in the consciousness of growing power and worth, of duties nobly met, and work thoroughly done. To the true artist, working always in humility and sincerity, all life is a reward, and every day brings a deeper satisfaction. Joy and peace are by the way.

By The Way Books – The Beginning

In the mid-1980’s our mutual love of books led us to a love of used and rare bookstores. We became regulars at all the used bookstores in the Atlanta area and vacation meant visiting rare bookstores as much as we could. While we built a personal collection of spiritual related writings and classics, we developed friendships with a number of rare bookdealers. In time, we began to hear there stories and how they started in this, for us, attractive endeavor. In the summer of 1987, this led us to conclude that we would like to venture into this little business activity ourselves and over the next few months we began developing plans for how we would actualize this inclination.

At this time, a friend of ours became enamored with the writer Hamilton Wright Mabie, an early Twentieth Century popular writer on art and literature. We too became brief fans of Mabie, both to read and to pursue in our used book haunts. Among Mabie’s essays is one titled By The Way. The gist of this essay was that the benefits of any artistic activity, or really any endeavor, comes from the activity itself, not the product, “What is good and great comes by the way.” As we appreciated this concept and thought it an appropriate reminder to hang on any new pursuit, we also were attracted to the multiple potential meanings of the phrase “by the way.” So we had the moniker for our ‘business.’

In the fall of that year, James had the opportunity to go to New Zealand for two months, for his job. Elizabeth, already thinking she wanted a new career (she was administrative assistant to the head of the Emory Clinic, at the time) and not about to miss this the opportunity to visit down-under herself, decided to quit her job, tag along to the other side of the planet, and think through what she wanted to be when we returned to the Northern Hemisphere. We lugged along a case of books related to Psychology and PhD programs, as her first thought was to go there. However, while in New Zealand, and on a vacation trip to Australia, the bookselling bug took fully and Elizabeth resolved to focus on it full time on our return.

(See related post for text of Mabie’s essay)

Henri Tracol Books in English

I wanted to put this brief bibliography together mostly to help resolve confusion around the contents of the three main books of Henri Tracol’s writings in English. The main point is simple, the most recently published, The Real Question Remains, Morning Light Press 2009, contains everything from the previous publications, except for one piece which originally appeared in Parabola.

However, in the interest of recording the bibliographic details, here is a rundown of the contents of each English publication in book form. Many of the pieces appeared separately in periodicals. I have not captured all of these details.

Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff: Man’s Awakening and the Practice of Remembering Oneself. Bray: Guild Press, 1968, 19 pages.

Second edition: Bray: Guild Press, 1968, 19 pages.
Reprinted, 1977.
Revised edition, Pembridge Design Studios, 1987, 18 pages.

Man, Heaven, Earth. Bray: Pembridge Design Studios, 1980, 13 pages.

Further Talks, Essays and Interviews. Bray, The Guild Press, 2003, 71 pages.
A note on the use of the word ‘master’
Yes, Memory . . .
Memory and Forgetting
The Study of Traditions
The Master
How to Remain Open?
At Gordes
In New York: The Critical Mind
In New York: Work on Oneself
At Armonk: Morning Talks
A Life  . . .  A Search
Let Us Not Conclude

The Real Question Remains: Gurdjieff: A Living Call. Sandpoint: Morning Light Press, 2009, 228 pages.
Foreword (by Tracol)
I: Disillusion and Dissatisfaction:
The Taste For Things That Are True
II: Studies and Questions on Culture and Traditional Perspectives:
Man, Heaven, Earth
A Born Seeker
Birth of a Sculpture
Individual Culture
In Search of a Living Culture
Why Sleepest Thou, O Lord?
Thus Spake Beelzebub
III: The Discovery of a Teaching:
Questions put to Henri Tracol by Luc Dietrich
Gurdjieff and the Science of Being
Between Flights
Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff: Man’s Awakening and the Practice of Remembering Oneself
Interview (With Robert Amadou for magazine Question de, No. 50, 1982)
A Question of Balance
Yes, Memory
Memory and Forgetting
The Study of Traditions
The Master
How to Remain Open?
At Gordes
At Armonk: Morning Talks
In New York: Work on Oneself
In New York: The Critical Mind
The Work in Life
IV: An Afterword:
A Life  . . .  A Search
V: The Real Question Remains . . . :
Some Reflections on What is Specific to Gurdjieff’s Teaching (Tracol’s contribution to Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man and His Teaching; in Further Talks, Essays and Interviews as Let Us Not Conclude)

First Edition Points of Gurdjieff’s Meetings With Remarkable Men

There can be confusion around identifying the true first edition of Meetings with Remarkable Men because a later edition was issued which seems to state it is the first printing. Here are details on how to identify the true first edition.

Meetings with Remarkable Men by G.I. Gurdjieff was first published in 1963 in London by RKP and in New York by Dutton. I assume the London came first. The Dutton edition states “First published in the U.S.A, 1963” and “Printed in Great Britain”. Dutton reprinted at least three times. I have seen Dutton printings that state “fourth printing”.

Sometime, I assume later than the fourth Dutton printing, in the late 60’s or early 70’s it was reprinted by University Books, a publisher specializing in inexpensive reprints of metaphysical, occult and religious titles. The University books edition appears to have used the first Dutton plates with very minor modifications. The only difference in the printing is that the University books edition states “Printed in the U.S.A.” at the bottom of the copyright page and there is a standard “No part of this book may be reproduced…” blurb in the middle of the page. The title page states “Dutton/1963” and the copyright page still states “First published in the U.S.A, 1963” with no other printing information. So it is understandable that many people mistake it for the first. 

The only other differences are in the binding, the paper size and quality, and the jacket.

  • The first Dutton has “Dutton” printed on the bottom of the jacket spine. The University Press edition has no publisher on the jacket spine.
  • The Dutton has quotations from reviews, most notably, including Frank Lloyd Wright, on the back of the jacket. The University Press edition has a listing of books from the “Library of the Mystic Arts.” The one fact that should make people question the authenticity of the reprint: it states “University Books (logo) New Hyde Park, New York” on the bottom of the rear of the jacket.
  • The Dutton has a price of $6.95. The reprint price is $5.95.
  • The first Dutton measures 8 3/4′ X 5 3/4′ X 1 1/8′. The reprint measures approximately 8 1/2′ X 5 3/4′ X 1 1/4′.
  • Finally, the cloth of the reprint is a pale blue with white threads in it, it is a coarse cloth and has Gurdjieff’s signature embossed in the front in gold. The first Dutton cloth is solid deep blue with the cover plain. 

Goethe – The Indenture

This text from Johann Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship is referred to in the novel as the Indenture – “Here is your indenture. Take it to heart, it is of weighty import.”

ART is long, life short, judgment difficult, opportunity transient.

To act is easy, to think is hard; to act according to our thought is troublesome.

Every beginning is cheerful; the threshold is the place of expectation. The boy stands astonished, his impressions guide him; he learns sportfully, seriousness comes on him by surprise.

Imitation is born with us; what should be imitated is not easy to discover.

The excellent is rarely found, more rarely valued.

The height charms us, the steps to it do not; with the summit in our eye, we love to walk along the plain.

It is but a part of art that can be taught; the artist needs it all.

Who knows it half, speaks much and is always wrong; who knows it wholly, inclines to act and speaks seldom or late. The former have no secrets and no force; the instruction they can give is like baked bread, savory and satisfying for a single day; but flour cannot be sown, and seed corn ought not to be ground.

Words are good, but they are not the best. The best is not to be explained by words.

The spirit in which we act is the highest matter. Action can be understood and again represented by the spirit alone.

No one knows what he is doing while he acts aright; but of what is wrong we are always conscious.

Whoever works with symbols only is a pedant, a hypocrite, or a bungler. There are many such, and they like to be together. Their babbling detains the scholar; their obstinate mediocrity vexes even the best.

The instruction which the true artist gives us opens the mind; for where words fail him, deeds speak. The true scholar learns from the known to unfold the unknown, and approaches more and more to being a master.