Sunday, 13 February 2011

The exertion of will ~ more about D H Lawrence and Mabel Dodge Luhan

Lawrence's remarks to Mabel about the exertion of the will as quoted in the previous article refer to a fundamental sticking point in their friendship, which I outline in this one: it's a very clear example of what can go wrong if we exert our will power to control others.

I am grateful to Mabel for being so open about her attitudes and experiences, so what follows is in no way intended to belittle her.  Having a strong tendency to exert my own will-power on situations, even for what I see as 'the best outcome' or 'the common good', is something I have had to learn to curb and guard against.  I do not advocate sitting back in a passive way when we see that 'good works' need to be done; I'm saying that this requires us to exert ourselves in other ways, even in our prayers, or perhaps especially in our prayers.  We each need to live our own lives.  What follows is a selection of excepts from what Mabel has written that are so speaking on this topic:  

It was Mabel who initiated the friendship, writing to Lawrence from New Mexico inviting him to come and stay.  The year was 1921.  She described to him in detail the pueblo Indians of the area and the unspoilt beauty of the landscape.  Her motive, however well-meaning, was political: she wanted him to see the unspoilt beauty of both and to write about them.  She thought this would help protect them from encroachment by white officialdom and so on.  In her book she relates:
"I tried to tell him every single thing I could think of that I felt would draw him - simple things as well as strange ones..." (page 16)
Lawrence and his wife Frieda initially expressed enthusiasm and then hesitated - for months. 

Mabel writes:
Through the months while Lawrence and Frieda hesitated about coming to Taos, I willed him to come.  [...]  This was not prayer, but command.  Only those who have exercised it know its danger.  And, as before, I had Tony with his powerful influence to help me.  I told him we must bring Lawrence to Taos because he could do a great deal to help the pueblo. [...]  His instinct somewhat opposed it.  [...]  But I overruled him, and he gave way - and together we called Lawrence.  (page 43)
So even Mabel herself recognised the danger of her actions.  In response I have to say "Mabel, this was Very Bad of you!"  To consciously exert one's will over another through their unconscious self is one of the worst forms of trespass; it's abuse and a form of vampirism.  I have written about vampirism in my article Energy drop-off and related issues.

However, Lawrence was up to the challenge: he chose his own timetable and once arrived also chose his own agenda, firmly refusing to be drawn into performing the wishes of anyone else.  This did not make him a comfortable house guest - far from it!  He recognised Mabel's controlling personality for what it was and challenged her about it repeatedly.

A little further on in the book she makes her thinking of that time crystal clear:
...It was his soul I needed for my purpose, his soul, his will, his creative imagination, and his lighted vision....
     I was always trying to get things done: I didn't often even try to do anything myself.  I seemed to want to use all my power upon delegates to carry out the work.  This way - perhaps a compensation for that desolate and barren feeling of having nothing to do! - I achieved a sense of fruitfulness and activity vicariously.
     Whenever you hear anyone criticized [...] for wanting power and using it on others, don't blame them.  It is only because they haven't learned yet to use it upon themselves.  So desperate is our need, on this planet of achievement, to return to the universe all we have taken out of it that when we haven't learned just how to do it ourselves, we try to make others do it for us if we can.
     I wanted Lawrence to understand things for me.  To take my experience, my material, my Taos, and to formulate it all into a magnificent creation.  That is what I wanted him for.
     When this crept gradually into his consciousness I don't know.  I certainly tried to hide it.  (page 77)
And here we arrive at the nub of the problem - she tried to hide it.  If we are bent on controlling others we should in all honesty be open about it and then let others decide whether that's their scene - or not.

Naturally these currents of energy produced tension in the way Frieda and Lawrence related to her.  After one such upset Lawrence and Frieda packed their bags for departure:
"There is destruction here," Lorenzo shot in.  "There is a queer menace in the air.  Oh, there's a witches brew on this hill!  And the Indians struggle against it - and I will fight it, too,  Yes.  I value my own little bit of life, and I will fight for it.."  (page 96)
Nevertheless, despite this and other ruptures, some of long duration, they persisted with their friendship.  Lawrence wrote to her in 1923 from Mexico:
...Don't trouble about the Indians.  You can't "save" them: and politics, no matter what politics, will only destroy them. ...I tell you, leave the Indians to their own dark destiny.  And leave yourself to the same...
     I also fight to put something through.  But it is a long slow, dark, almost invisible fight.  Yet, little by little, I win...
     ...I was your enemy.  But even saying things against you - and I only said, with emphasis and in many ways, that your will was evil masquerading as good, and I should still say this of your will: even as an enemy I never really forsook you.  There, perhaps I have said too much.  But don't think, even so, you can make a fool of me.  (page 120).
He perfectly understook unconscious connections and was not intimidated by her.  Indeed she quotes him as saying in another subsequent letter:
Let us keep an invisible thread between us.  (page 121)
So Mabel and Lawrence certainly provided a measure of support for each other.  Well, that's fine - if it's a conscious thing and an open one.  It's when such a connection is taken and used without permission that it's trespass.

Of course, there are times when we recognise this sort of connection between ourselves and another as existing independent of our conscious minds or our will.  If we do, the best thing is to be respectful, and to undertake to carry our own weight, and to keep the exchange of ideas and assistance out in the open and in the physical world.

People seeping into each other can be so draining and in my view likely to be the cause of at least a portion of human illness and disease.

To all who might lean on or manipulate me I say: be clean: live your own life and let me live mine.

Coming back to the book, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it, and recommend it most highly to other Lawrence admirers.  I enjoyed sitting quietly with this book, like a companion, and having new fresh thoughts presented in this lively and thought-provoking manner.  I could identify with much of its content.  I haven't read such a book for a long time.  It afforded me a peaceful sense of being more the person I really am.  So thank you, Mabel and Lawrence.  Rest in peace.   

Full title details are: "Lorenzo in Taos", by Mabel Dodge Luhan, published by Martin Secker in London, 1933.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A passage from a letter D.H. Lawrence wrote to Mabel Dodge Luhan

The remarkable book, "Lorenzo in Taos" by Mabel Dodge Luhan, came to me from the collection of a dear aunt and uncle, who have now passed on.  In it, the author chronicles her friendship with Lawrence which spanned the last six years of his life.  I rate Lawrence as one of the top thinkers and writers of the 20th century, and am very happy to add this faded and rather battered book to my collection.  

Here is an extract from page 118 which struck a chord when I read it yesterday.  It's from a letter written by Lawrence to Mabel in October of 1923; I have copied it exactly as it is given in the book:
You have striven so hard, and so long, to compel life.  Can't you now slowly change, and let life slowly drift into you.  Surely it is even a greater mystery and preoccupation even than willing, to let the invisible life steal into you and slowly possess you.  Not people, or things, or action, or even conscious: but the slow invasion of you by the vast invisible god that lives in the ether.  Once you know that, you will never feel "out of work," as you say.  And it's only a change of direction.  Instead of projecting your will into the ether of the invisible God, let the invisible God interpenetrate into you. - After all, it's not a mere question of washing dishes.  It's the soul's own mystery.  And one can make a great, great change in all one's flow of life and living, from the power of output to the mystery of intake, without changing one's house or one's husband.  "Then shall thy peace be as a river."   And when it comes, like a river, then you won't feel out of work or unliving."
I find these thoughts wonderfully relaxing.

I'm not surprised that Lawrence's writings met with such widespread criticism during his lifetime.  He thought deeply and in an abstract way which is foreign to most people.  I'm similar in this respect and find myself constantly working to transpose what I think into something that I hope others will understand.  

Full title details are: "Lorenzo in Taos", by Mabel Dodge Luhan, published by Martin Secker in London, 1933. 
Note: the quote about peace being as a river is from the Bible, Isaiah 48:17,18.