Critical Trilogy

a critic's millennial journey


February 10, 2010.  Under the Full Moon, I visited the artist Dianne Bowen at her East Village studio.  I was told I would know the building because it has a plaque at the door stating that Allen Ginsberg lived there.  If there ever was a poem about the pent up Kundalini busting into the collective through the underground (Pluto square Saturn of 1955-56), it was Ginsberg’s Howl.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by

madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn

looking for an angry fix,

Dianne Bowen's "Dragonfly"; archival pen, charcoal, oil on Chinese embroidered silk on canvas

Dianne sent me the above image after I told her about the Margaret Fuller exhibition I am putting together as part of the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial. She used her camera to capture an underwater self-portrait and nearly drowned herself in the process.  “They are directly related to the dark female fighting to get out and out from under man-made conceptions.” That sums up Margaret’s struggle to break free of her role as the Dark Lady of early American letters!  Dark because Emerson didn’t pay her to edit his transcendental journal, The Dial — a job that nearly killed her!

Dianne Bowen's "Cherry Blossom"

These images embarked me on a post-Black Madonna narrative that I will be relating on this blog as part of the process of disseminating my own history with the Kundalini.  My father dedicated his life to understanding this feminine power, first through Reichian therapy, and then through Eastern mysticism.

Last Sunday, at the Unitarian Universalist Church which served as the birthing ground for my art theory, I spied a title in the used book sale: Joyce Johnson‘s Minor Characters, about her sexual awakening.  This intriguing story reveals an uptown Manhattan adolescent’s search for the Real, downtown, culminated in her entry into the Beat circle, where she met and fell in love with Jack Kerouac just as his star was rising.  He would become famous during the course of this relationship, from the Sept 5, 1957 publication of his book, On the Road.  On page 76, she writes about her friend from Barnard, Elise Cowen, who fell in love with Allen Ginsberg:

He takes her home that first night to his apartment on East Seventh Street and they make love — an act his analyst would have approved of and hers might have viewed quite negatively.  More wildness, more lack of self-respect and even of self-preservation — this too-quick nakedness, this giving yourself over to a stranger.  She’d done this too many times before, finding not love but only confirmation of worthlessness.  But this has a different meaning….She had read Go, of course.  Maybe that idea of Allen started there, with Stofsky:

A vision!  A vision! The words kept stinging into his consciousness

like quickening waves of fever. As he went on, almost running now,

he found himself haunted by the odd uprush of pity and rage

that had taken control of him during the moment in the bookstore.

It was love! he cried inside himself.  A molecular ectoplasm hurtling

through everything like a wild, bright light! And they were afraid,

almost as if they all suspected.

He had seen it clearly in an instant of pure clarity:

the chemical warm love that swam thickly beneath their dread.

What a description of the Kundalini!  The chemical warm love, elevated to the Third Eye as a moment of pure clarity!  And clearly, while Jack sought a language for this spiritual quest through his practice of Buddhism, a uninitiated young woman would approach this as the “forbidden” treasure (Pluto in Leo) of sexual surrender (Saturn in Scorpio)!  Dangerous because, as Elise discovered, the Kundalini energy is so incredibly addictive!

Elise Cowen introduced Joyce Johnson to Allen Ginsberg, who arranged a blind date between Joyce and Jack, whose immediate “sacred marriage” connection was profound, yet fleeting as Jack’s sexual liaisons were under constant assault by his incessant need to hit the road.  Yet, in 1957 the couple was blessed with the transit of Jupiter in Libra (falling on Joyce’s Sun and Jack’s Saturn).

How was this “sacred marriage” spirit grounded? Joyce revived the writer from his feeling of defeat, not being able to publish his eleven manuscripts (she was working for his one time literary agent) while giving him a crucial perch in Manhattan.  His previous lover, Helen Weaver, threw him out of her apartment.

After being in and out of mental institutions, no doubt to Kundalini outbreaks, Elise committed suicide by jumping out of her parent’s window under the line-up on her assaulted Aquarian Saturn in February 1962.  This image of the “fallen woman” archetype familiar to my Black Madonna readers, ends the book, revealing the importance of grounding the Kundalini.  Ironically, Allen Ginsberg saw to it that Elise’s hidden store of poetry was published after her death.  It seems these Beat women had to hide their own creative product least it interfering with their caretaking of the men.

Currently, we are under another Pluto square Saturn, a component of a T-Square with Uranus all year.  One thing I intend to do under this influence is reconfigure the history of the Beat movement in the context of the sacred marriage.   I certainly have plenty of research to draw on: the biographies of the Beat women, the latest of which is The Awakener: A Memoir of Kerouac and the Fifties, published last year by Helen Weaver, an astrologer with an analysis of Kerouac’s mutable cross across his natal chart, a ready image of the sacrificial Christ.  The title of Weaver’s book refers to the planet Uranus, which was opposed Keroac’s rising Moon, revealing an uncanny instinct to reflect the collective mood.   She writes: “I rejected him for the same reason America rejected him: he woke us up in the middle of the night in the long dream of the fifties. He interfered with our sleep.”

And don’t we need a new movement reflecting the collective urge to wake up from the long sleep of the corporate stranglehold on America?!


February 10, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Great post. I came across it by searching the term JACK KEROUC because, i figured, on a cold Sunday Afternoon, that was as good as anything to search for.

    Interesting take on the beat women. I will for sure take a look at that. It would give a very different take on that time. I mean, if not for those women, the men wouldn’t have survived and produced the work they did.

    Also, your last quote “I rejected him for the same reason America rejected him: he woke us up in the middle of the night in the long dream of the fifties. He interfered with our sleep.”

    Was amazing. This is very true. I’m not sure we are in the middle of a dream right now that we don’t want to wake up from. We might be in the middle of a nightmare that we want to wake up from

    Since you are into charts, and I really don’t have that much knowledge, I will tell you my B day is 6.3.73 – same days as Ginsburg.



    Comment by herzwords | February 14, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Christopher. I see you have a lot of karma with communication…you are working out with this message…learning to use words with precision and thereby expressing a gender free reality. I appreciate your thoughts here and adding to the dialectic of the “sacred marriage!! Thank you!

      Comment by Lisa Paul Streitfeld | March 11, 2010 | Reply

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