Dreaming with Goethe

Thanks, John. It is interesting to experience the pangs of mimetic desire play out within myself as we contemplate the possibilities. I appreciate that you have highlighted the lyric dimension, the greatness of the small, the minor gesture, and I believe you are right about the importance of this kind of focus.

I have thought: epic lyric? Lyric epic? I guess it doesn’t really matter and we’ll find out when I’m dead and gone what it all amounted to.

I really like the idea of a voice performance lab, enhanced by the play of multilingual acting and listening. I think a good translation of Faust could lend itself well to this type of activity, especially because Goethe can be so playful and funny. I don’t have a hold of Kauffman’s translation yet, but I am enjoying Randell Jarrell’s edition (of Part 1 only).

He notes up front:

Sounds like a bit of a curmudgeon, heh. :wink: And I’ve read some of that doggerel already, but Jarrell’s reads well so far and I would dare say the language sometimes even dances.

The dog video hits home. Our beloved terrier Mooby used to be aggressive like that with other dogs and small animals only. But with me and the girls, she would cuddle and love to be cozy. For years she slept in the bed at my feet under the covers. I have probably felt more purely intimate and at-one with Mooby than with any other creature on this planet.

Mooby has been completely blind, deaf, and unable to walk straight (she can only go in circles) for over a year now. We have to keep her in a kennel or penned in areas only since otherwise she gets stuck under furniture. She pees and craps in the house on a daily basis, and most nights I have to carry her out to relieve herself.

But she refuses to die. Something in her just keeps going—eating kibble, drinking water, wandering in circles, even howling in her muted voice sometimes—there is a will to live, and I think it is because she is still fulfilling her purpose on earth which is to be with us, keep us company through our darkness and disorientation in the maelstrom of the world. At least, that is the meaning I am giving her perseverance. Sometimes she still lets me hold her on my lap and our nervous systems settle into a warm buzz of sympathetic rapport.

There is little difference between a God lover and a Dog lover, in my book. It is a profound and noble service these animals provide, and I am eternally grateful to Mooby!



I hope we will find out while we are both still alive. I don’t see any big obstacles that can’t be overcome. Everything that is ripe wants to die and I am sorry to say I still feel underage, not old enough to sit at the big table, yet. But I do have a few moments of serenity and I notice that other persons expect that to happen when they see a person of my age. There is a kind of kindness that some persons manifest when they see a man with white hair sitting in the park. They are kind, they stop and strike up a pleasant conversation. Nothing too deep, but just pleasant enough to keep me going. I was kind, too, to children and elders, when I was younger some of my favorite people were in their sixties as I am now.

I’m encouraged that developmentalists claim that there is evidence that a new period of growth beyond the meta-paradigmatic can be triggered in elders if they get the right kind of stimulation from the social space. I’ve done lots of research on this and designed programs to facilitate this potential in my community work with elders. Poetry, especially lyric, read aloud, was extremely valuable way of connecting people to the supraliminal dimensions, the voice becomes like a dial we turn and have to adjust when we are looking for some classical music or slow jazz on the radio during a night ride home. The potential for word/music is there but you need to turn off the news, the left brained chatter about events from around the globe, that are packed with prepackaged information, and pseudo explanations, which is not at all what story telling is about. Stories are never about information. A good story or poem can be very layered and complex in ways that information never is. Plants, animals and art are much more than information but we live in a dark age where the fast buzz of info is all that there is. The pandemic has shut down the possibility of the golden years from happening. So much death, destruction, instability, rumor, a lack of style and grace.

About Faust. I have two translations, one is by a poet, Louis MacNeice. I have another one somewhere but will try to check out the Randall. Maybe just a few readings from several translations of the same passage might be fun.

I’m reading Walter Benjamin lately and he has much to say about Goethe in an essay about the novel Elective Affinities a novel about sexual tensions within bourgeois marriage. When love goes wrong, nothing goes right. Benjamin suggests Goethe is troubled by how the institution when imposed upon the erotic creates disaster and draws an analogy between this modern condition and what happened to the Wiemer Republic. This novel could be worth studying in tandem with Benjamin’s famous essay. I have yet to organize this project but it is on the back burner. It could, I imagine, hook up with Faust in an unpredictable way. Romanticism is very rich.

Last night I dreamed that a woman who was my mother was sitting on a throne on a pedestal. I addressed her in a formal diction. " Visionaries," I claim," are treated very badly by humanity."

" Can you say more?" she asks.

" I am one," I say," but it is a terrible experience. Visions come from the angelic aspect and this triggers the demonic aspect. And so we are in a struggle constantly. Humans are in between the demonic and angelic, we engage both aspects." I make a circular gesture around my heart center.

I feel that animals in general, and dogs especially, are angelic beings come to awaken our hearts to our deepest potentials. Sadly, they sometimes mirror our aggression but underneath that is often a very humble, resilient intelligence. And humility as the poet once said is endless. Keep those Goethean dreams coming…


Excerpt below is from a longer bio-lyric poem the biologist/poet/philosopher Barry Lopez who died 12/20. The “you” is Barry.

All things are made by wind. By water.

The boy you were and the man,

eye of water bird, dry branch, desert crystal—

light-music, masterpiece of polar ice—

the numinous interior real

as texture and color, as rock wolf cloud fire…

The anthropologist, Alan Walker, once said to you,

with his hands on the smooth skull

of an australopithecine, Barry, I can’t prove this

but I believe we sang before we spoke.


I’m sure this is accurate. Just as we spoke before we learned how to write. I reflect upon Walter Ong’s reflections upon the ennobling use of technology. Playing the flute is an art and it is also embodying a technology. A flute is an aesthetic object that the musician must become unified with. Originally made of delicate bird bone with holes drilled in it, the flute is an ancient object used to produce sounds that create moods, affects, cognitive feelings for participating minds. Writing, Ong insists, is a technology also. Writing minds are participating in a manipulation of pen and paper, or key strokes, and this hand/mind coordination changes our interiors and reading does much the same. The writer to write well must become a reader of her own writing. This complex arrangement of different kinds of self is what makes the modern mind possible. The practice creates a self reflexive turn, a capacity for going meta to the self, and a new world is possible, and a new danger, too. Fragmentation is easy. The difference between One and Zero is confused. An ancient feud we are still in the grips of, between spirit/matter, infinite/finite.

Using Ong’s logic here I would add that drawing is a technology, too, and I would go further and claim that orality is a technology. Speech comes out of the Voice, a unique arrangement between lungs, larynx, tongue, breath, pitches, eye/ear dynamics and all of this emerges out of a singing before speaking. We learn to babble before we speak, crawl before we walk, but the point is that these earlier formations are all happening upon and through the use of an organ of perception, a somatic techne. This is Goethe’s key insight. Those who think AI is a big deal don’t realize how the human body is already a highly evolved technology with a much vaster range than what can happen with computations and algorithms. Techne is an extension of our practice with sense organs. Each of us has a body and what we do with it can have huge consequences, vast influences. The body/voice is a portal into multiple dimensions and at different scales. Some have called this the twilight zone. The ‘I’ registers and makes possible a self aware phase space. Kind of weird.

Some meta-reflections upon your elegant, elegiac meta-poem, Ariadne/Maia, and thanks!


Dream report: My self-paced course of Goethe-studies embarked upon, I have read The [Strange, Dark, Twisted, Ridiculous, Macabre, Stormy-Drängy] Sorrows of Young Werther and would enjoy an opportunity to riff on this historically influential, and I believe instructive, novel with a small group of fellow readers.

What is it about this young man’s fantastical and violent travails that was so compelling to a time and age, or people of a certain social class or sensibility, which still endures critical appreciation and rewards aesthetic attention today?

There’s more to Werther than meets the eye, one suspects, deeper layers and sub-texts that my alter one’s sense of the character’s (or the author’s) historical relevance…as well our of own relation to this and the prior age. There is something here being said, it would seem, or that one might productively read into the novel, about tangled webs of social stricture and prisons of privilege, which may ring familiar despite the social distance from Goethe’s Romantic context.

We too are on the cusp of major, world-transforming revolutions and changes in the social order, with spiritual and artistic implications—I would like to explore these themes along with others in conversation. It would fun, too, to read some of our favorite or most compelling passages aloud, and discuss translation issues as well.

I see this as a prelude to Faust, and it is a short novel, so would be satisfied with one or two high-flying, deep-diving sessions, sometime after we have completed Bortoft’s book on Goethe’s way of science. @achronon, @johnnydavis54, @Douggins, @Ariadne ~ would anyone else be interested?


If I had another life, I’d love to read lots of deep books and discuss with you/Cosmoscienti!
Men who are full of feeling, sensitive, et al were and are so rare…as to seem strange
and ridiculous…all I remember from university days reading Werther.
If you record, maybe I’ll listen in later. But even more than W. I’d love to hear you
discuss something most relevant in our world now: Faust.
The first edition of Lathe of Heaven (Ursula LeGuin) would be worth very worth
seeing/discussing, if anyone might dream of a film discussion group (I have!)
Not because I don’t love reading! I read Richard Powers 600 page novel, Overstory
and listened to it on audio format. And would love to see it become a film.


Read with my Cousin in Ohio,what a Wild,Wonderful & Intense Reading
Experience.Ursula LeGuin was the first I heard say “Reading is Listening”
and That is the Truth,along with Music ,I find my ability to listen in conversation is Attuned in a Affective & Cogntive way by these ARTS!


While I understand your enthusiasm here, I’m politely skeptical (as we curmudgeons often are): different media, different messages, Mr. McLuhan might say. I found it a very powerful novel; well worth the time spent, but so full of tree lore that I wonder how effectively it could be condensed into a couple of hours of visually heavy presentation … but, hey, what is creativity for? I found it noteworthy that Suzanne Simard, to whom @MarcoMasi linked us in the Wholeness of Nature 5 thread, was very likely the model for Overstory’s Patricia Westerford.


I’m game. (I’d be dealing with the German text of course, which might be of relevance when translation’s a topic.)


And I understand your skepticism, so many bad movies made from good or great books! BUT the original Lathe of Heaven for me showed that a film of a complex and deep story CAN be made into a really good film, and thus get out to many many more people. Which is not a trivial consideration given our world situation, yes? I am confident Richard would never give rights to any group not able to do make his book into a film at least as good as Lathe of Heaven (the newer version was a failure), I am talking about the one from the mid-70s I believe, originally a PBS production) Anyway, I love the medium, myself, though am often disappointed in specific efforts, I do feel it can be (now) much more influential on culture than a big fat book that feels unapproachable to most people.


I liked the PBS movie and Le Guin worked as a consultant on that project. She had some insights into how fiction turned into film. These are two very different but related mediums. Since reading fiction has lost prestige over the last century it is still the major source of inspiration for the film industry. I call it an industry as it is still run on the same factory model as our medical, agricultural and educational systems do. That may change as tech evolves and more persons have access to networks that were once monopolized by aesthetic tastes of the wealthy few. The corruption in that industry has been on display for the last couple of years. Netflix I understand is doing the Powers story. I discontinued Netflix to protect my fragile psyche from the depressing, nihilistic productions that they pump out. Unfortunately, those nihilist trends have not stayed in the warped imaginations of the Netflix world but has become the norm that most people, with their masks and malcontents are bombarded by. Maybe something else can be created by Netflix. But I still have no interest in renewing my contact with them. I have found my quality of life, even during this pandemic, has risen as I have stopped searching through their archive for something interesting. I do hope the next generation of artists can integrate a Goethean way of doing film. I try to read a book first before I see the movie. A bad novel can make a good film but a bad film can ruin a good book. Read the novel first. Powers novel is on my shelf.


I think a zoom call that covers Goethe in a comprehensive way might be more Goethean than to look at single works. I am interested in Elective Affinities and the essay written by Walter Benjamin. He relates that novel to the suppression of the erotic in that society and the subsequent collapse the Weimar Republic in his own time. I read Werther years ago and can get up to speed but I am most interested in" going meta" with Goethe and exploring his poetry, fiction and the history of his impact upon future generations. In other words, I want to zoom out into multiple works and beyond. Also, Goethe had a huge influence upon Beethoven, Berlioz and Mahler. How he shaped the arts of his future ( including ourselves) interests me the most. Practically, we might want to do a show and tell zoom call. Bring your favorite Goethe and riff upon your inspiration in a supportive group. Not everyone has to have read everything. That would be way too demanding. My question-what are the meta- patterns that continue to connect us to Goethe? And what difference does knowing that make? I would like to do something really artsy fartsy rather than just scholarly and cerebral. And we can do both at the same time.


Unless there was Ur-work we could look at—the instance worth them all. I suppose that would be Faust. But I would not mind reading Elective Affinities myself, and even that Benjamin essay, before getting into Faust. I want to hang out with Goethe this summer, shoot the aristocratic breeze which still lingers fragrant (and fetid) over the stormy centuries, while there is still some relative calm in my life and as respite from grittier tasks.

Dreams are in the air. I/we will be re-reading @Ariadne’s book, too, this summer—and all you (participating here, or wishing to be) are invited. It is called See Your In Our Dreams and I am working on a page for this event. I would love to read Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, too. I have not before… and I recall seeing somewhere that Jeremy Johnson is hosting a reading of that book in the near future, or previously offered one. The very, very first reading group we hosted on this platform was for The Dispossessed, a reading which deeply affected me and continues to inform my thinking about the temporality and politics of Cosmos.

I am going to step back, take a breath, allow for space and a swirl possibilities, like cream in coffee… an artsy-fartsy show-and-tell / talk-and-listen egghead-friendly lit-fest might be just what Dr. Faustus ordered.


I have looked at the Randall translation of Faust and might be fun to read out loud the first big scene between Faust and Mephistoles and then ask Marco Massi and Ed read through the same scene in the German original. As we are looking for the patterns that connect it might be a good way to start up the next Cafe. This would be simple to do and may put us in touch with the resonant whole of Goethe’s magnum opus.


I am actually most interested in Goethe’s scientific work/philosophy around patterns in the cosmos and especially plant intelligence.

The following is an excerpt from a longer excerpt from Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm. And this book is one I personally would love to discuss eventually. As I’ve said, I cannot afford to buy the books I would love to read, but I happen to already have this one and it’s one of my favorites.

"The deep intelligence possessed by plants has been explored, and discussed, by many people of note over the past several centuries, including Goethe, Luther Burbank, George Washington Carver, Masanobu Fukuoka, Jagadis Bose, and the Nobel Prize-winner Barbara McClintock. Nevertheless, their research and findings have usually been dismissed, irrespective of its competence. As Brenner et al. comment about Bose (and the concept of plant intelligence in general) . . .

Boses overall conclusion that plants have an electromechanical pulse, a nervous system, a form of intelligence, and are capable of remembering and learning was not well received in its time. A hundred years later, concepts of plant intelligence, learning, and long-distance electrical signaling in plants have entered the mainstream literature. . . . Nevertheless, the concept of plant intelligence [still] generates a considerable amount of controversy. [1]

The discomfort among reductionists has been so extreme that, as Baluska et al. (2005) note, for a very long time, the reports of a sophisticated plant nervous system was labeled as pseudoscience and doomed for oblivion. [2] Research indicating intelligence in plants, whenever it appeared, irrespective of the source, was consistently attacked by mainstream researchers as mystical, a romanticization of the natural world, or as anthropocentrism.

But really, when you think of it,

we have a lot more in common with a plant than a car.

Mechanomorphismthe projection onto Nature of a mechanical natureis a lot more ridiculous than the idea of plant intelligence ever could be

As Anthony Trewavas once put it, The use of the term vegetable to describe unthinking or brain-dead human beings perhaps indicates the general attitude [toward plants]. [3] In consequence, most of the work by Goethe and the others has been ignored, and in many cases forgotten. Even Barbara McClintock, whose work on corn transposons eventually earned her the Nobel Prize, was ostracized for over a decade, because of the discomfort her work caused. And while her work was eventually recognized, her methodology, like that of Goethe et al., has been dismissed. As one of her colleagues once put it . . .

I respect McClintocks work; I just dont like her mysticism

Despite this, plants, it turns out, really are highly intelligent and yes, they do have a brain. Its just that no one ever looked in the right place. Oh, wait! There was someone, a long time ago, who did look in the right place.

His name was Charles Darwin.


Darwin commented in one of his last works, The Power of Movement in Plants, that

It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the tip of the radicle thus endowed [with sensitivity] and having the power of directing the movements of the adjoining parts, acts like the brain of one of the lower animals; the brain being seated within the anterior end of the body, receiving impressions from the sense-organs and directing the several movements. [4]

This book of Darwins, his second to last, has been long ignored. It contains some of the most powerful insights about plants since Goethe’s work nearly a century before. (Jagadis Bose, during the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries would take it considerably further.) Darwin had two genuinely deep insights that are paradigm altering: 1) that the root of the plant is in fact its brain; and 2) that the plant is using sensitive, and intelligent, analysis of its surroundings to navigate through the soil.

But Darwins insight was just the beginning; depth analysis of plants since the turn of the (new) millennium is finding that their brain capacity is much larger than Darwin supposed, that their neural systems are highly developed in many instances as much as that of humans, and that they make and utilize neurotransmitters identical to our own. It is beginning to seem that they are highly intelligent perhaps as much or even more so than humans in some instances. (They can even perform sophisticated mathematical computations and make future plans based on extrapolations of current conditions. The mayapple, for instance, plans its growth two years in advance based on weather patterns.)

But, that cant be true. They just sit there when we kill them

(yeah? and no matter how fast a human runs, the lion still finds him tasty.)

Increasing numbers of researchers, in a multiplicity of fields, are beginning to acknowledge that intelligence is an inevitable aspect of all self-organized systems that sophisticated neural networks are a hallmark of life. Some researchers are becoming quite vocal in attacking what they call the brain chauvinism of the old-school (male) scientists who are still clasping firmly to their bosom (26A) the shreds of twentieth-century scientific certitudes. Kevin Warwick, a cyberneticist, observes succinctly that, Comparisons (in intelligence) are usually made between characteristics that humans consider important; such a stance is of course biased and subjective in terms of the groups for whom it is being used. [5] In other words, rationalists, who have long attacked the concept of intelligence and awareness in Nature as antirational Romantic projection, have been themselves been merely looking at and for their own reflection in the world around them and, of course, finding the world wanting."


What we are slowly discovering is that intelligence, reason, mind is not in the brain. Cognition is prior and inherent in the physical manifestation. There is now lots of evidence that suggests this. We now know also that there is a ‘basal cognition’ in single-celled organisms as a scientific fact. But the modern physicalist neurocentric paradigm is so deeply rooted in our … well… our brains… that all this continues to be ignored. Maybe we will need neurosurgery to eradicated it. :laughing:


Obviously, I agree with you. BUT I don’t think our generally mistaken take on reality is rooted in the brain, it is rooted in body and senses, culture/language, our entire physio-entological being, and to some unknown extent, in the actual “memory-like” processes that give rise to new human and non- human, individuals and “tendencies” that in turn feed back into Evolution itself.


During the time of which I posted about in a lengthy aside, I had been listening to this great offering of prose on the meandering roads to the campsite. (quick aside: I too have a limited funds for books and opt for a less expensive e-copy, then utilize an app, Evie, for reading the text; hence audio is available for most books . . . it can lead to profound listening experiences . . . I suspect though that Buhner’s style is best read on page though and will be purchasing the book soon) His opening autobiography is a refreshing journey into that which depicts the over(arching)story of what occurs when we encounter nature and that meandering path that may lead us back to ki, to use Potawatomi à la Robin Kimmerer.

Akin to Psychedelic Mike (and an underarching theme of the book, this seeking access to the Divine), I had utilized a catalyst during this meandering drive and found myself increasingly attuned to his words; his personal distaste for the edugenic harm schooling caused; his rebellion; and the education waiting to be received. What really transported me into the imaginal realm was his depiction at the beginning of Chapter 1 of just that: the experience of entering “a world that lies underneath and behind the one that most of us see every day.” “Everything seemed to have become more itself. Everything seemed charged with meaning, some deep meaning that i could feel but not understand, at the time, with my mind.”

Plant intelligence merges with animal intelligence merges with sky intelligence (the clouds had turkey feather patterns on that drive) merges with the tilt of the steering wheel around a bending branching in the road merges with memories of times meandering in forests. What roots any emerging experience of the full canopy of the ever-present is the child’s gaze; the child’s listening to world music with a still-eyed stare (eyes are offline). Buhner makes use of a Goethe quote "To know how cherries and strawberries taste, ask children and birds.

I finished Werther last night. A prose written by a child’s meandering heart. And a budding adult with a keen eye for the primacy of a child’s world-vision, the world at their fingertips, tipsy drunken. I suspect wine was a catalyst for Goethe and his genius. I noticed the ebbing and flowing of Werther’s emotional decanter was uncorked in time with the seasonal changes. Spring brought a fever dream. Winter brought a bullet to a head with a headstrong Lebensekel (life-disgust). In Mann’s Lotte in Weimar, a depiction of a much later encounter between Charlotte and Goethe, long after the resentment that followed after Werther’s publication, Goethe plays the role of a complex soul, child still in residence but a world-weariness directed towards the petty puppet show that was strung around him. Goethe was quite the dreamer. I think in this thread we are doing more than just dreaming with Goethe. Perhaps we can enter ever further into that Becoming of his era, not only finding the parallels between his spheres and ours but by entering into that imaginal realm and find him lying in the grasses with important people like you and me, sharing stories and tastes and visions.


Yes. I live with similar situation. Because the illusion of “safety” works better in the mental when it leaves out the other realms, especially body/feeling where the most vulnerable experiences and experiences of vulnerability are aroused. Can be almost unbearable/terrifying, CB says, to be a single-point in a perspective with a vanishing point. And yet to be flesh and blood and feeling is every more terrifying, some of us even preferring to be machines or brains in boxes than to fully accept our flesh-feeling interconnected experience. But as we speak and hear and see and feel and know from WITHIN the aperspectival wholeness of Being, fear lessens, no matter the “objective facts”, is only one among an amazing array of “energies” to explore relationship with.


I’ve read Buhner’s book more than once, and will likely read it again. For me the sensual aspects of physical reading complete the fullness of experiencing him/his visionary structuring/restructuring. But I LOVE audio books too, which somehow evoke a very different experience via exactly the same words! That’s kind of amazing. The audio “experience channel” saved my sanity for many years when I could not physically read. Then it became a mode of relationship as I taught/guided people in meditation-related experiences, which then evolved into co-experiences, dropped roles of teacher and student. Now I use the word “listening” to mean a much wider sensory-spiritual receptiveness, which is quite active/creative, too, though that action is not front and center. It’s how I do everything: listening, waiting, changing course, circling back around…
I am not remembering many dreams, but I do know that Dreaming does not require being asleep. It requires opening to the deep regions, though, the delta territories, which psychoactive plants are so adept at helping us do!
I hope you can come to the See You In Our Dreams discussion group (Michael, too, are you here??, whether you’ve read the book or not. If you’d like a copy of the paperback book, I can send you one for free, just email me your physical address and it shall appear in your mailbox. (I do have a dream of turning SYIOD into an audio version someday somehow…)
But now I have to float back down into zoomland for an Eco Vista meeting!