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Milton Klonsky, New York City Poet
by Margaret Ann Harrell

           Having tried to write an EHE[1] Autobiography, that ended up being a 444-page book (which ended "In the annals of unwritten history, a century waited. Down corridors of snow, standing in line, unborn children did. What kind of world would they be born into? What kind of universe, on the way, rather. A century waited its birth, in prayer"), I thought I finally knew how to encapsulate the important thing.

            There was one human being without whom my lifetime would certainly have had too many holes to make sense at all—holes waiting to be filled by this meeting. That after he died, material continued to stream in (and people) was only due to the fact (in my mind) that his "wake" had been so big. There was, up to this point, no end to the momentum and insight he set into motion. Especially almost requiring me to write a book which would expand, linearize, put into conscious depth his pithy statements, his analyses, that made him friends with much of the literary scene of his day, including Wyston Hugh Auden (who once, for lack of better road to him, became a lover of his estranged wife—an attraction, my friend later told me, he had detected was toward himself, unrequited).

            I have thus mentioned the power of the spirit of this man to attract. He caused one friend— And please allow me to start like this. I am going to jump very fast, once I get this established. He caused one literary friend, to giantize him in a repeatedly anthologized essay, "Milton Klonsky." One quote from that essay, to help us get some ground to stand on—a "testimonial"—and then we will be off, into my experience:

    "If ever there was a cat alone, not melodramatically, sobbingly, literarily, showily, but ice-locked in a moonscape beyond our knowledge and performance it was Milt[2] . . ."

           How can I summarize it?

           I met Milton in New York City in the mid-60s, and the attraction was immediate (like a series of "immediate" recognition-type attractions I have been lucky enough to have had).

           For 16 years I "studied" his words, excusing myself to run to the bathroom if out in public, in order to take down his words precisely as he said them. He said them, propelling their meaning through the air, digested and wound up tightly, so that there was nothing loose inside. I then, from the beginning—having decided he was the most interesting person I knew—made him my main character in what I considered to be my lifework. Of course, I could be blamed for wanting to "study" him, record him forever in an art form, not using his name (that came later).

           So I had a main character based on a real person. As an artist, I could make up some of the other characters, and did. But in this case, the protagonist was alive. I could compare that when da Vinci had to make the faces of Jesus and Judas in "The Last Supper," according to Giorgio Vasari's account, he hesitated. He searched. What faces could be models for this unique expression? Were there any? So for this character, my teacher, model (later I understood I had an "animus" pull, to some degree), my imagination was not so strong as the living experience. He said to me, for instance, which I have put into my character's mouth, in Volume One, word for word:

           "I don't settle. I alight. I'm much more volatile, I'm much more evanescent, I'm much more of a spirit than you can possibly imagine. And all this [it had a particular reference] turns me into so much more clay."

           Suffice it to say he was always inspirational and "grounded," in the sense that he digested (and set the course of an intonation into a vibration) before he spoke. (See the tribute of New York Times critic Anatole Broyard, on the "precision" in which he used language.) Meaning and expression were absolutely not only identical, but transformative in their construction. And I keep even now, especially now, reminding myself he left something he discovered uniquely about "chaos theory" (in 1971).

           Now, he died.

           It was 1981, in November. I had dreams in which I was concerned that he would die; they were timed to my first recorded dreams—in Aug. 1980. In the summer of 1980, in the USA, I bought Man and His Symbols, where Carl Jung directly challenged his readers that they must, at every cost, pay attention to their dreams. When I draw a big map of the surrounding gestalt in this group of years, I later realize that Dr. J. B. Rhine had just died (this is significant to me, for personal reasons, but it has the tiniest extra confirmation—in that for a couple of years the period of end-of-January/February had floods of dreams; this of course also sometimes corresponds to the great Shiva festival in India).

           Beginning to record my dreams, I had some of the Big Dreams, including a precognitive and lucid Dream of My Life. It was about my work; I got an award. Most interestingly (in the times ahead), I was unable to go beyond a particular written page. Like Prospero, the time came, when the page was turned, and not a single line of space was left for me to write on. Instead, in the succeeding pages, there was the illumination of a Museum of Great Paintings, awe-inspiring, unknown to the world, in the dream. Yet obviously masterpieces. I gazed over page after page, in marveling, as if looking at Rembrant, Velazquez—a whole room in the Prado in Spain. This "turning on of the light," which was necessary in order to see where there might be more space to write on, led me to understand that I was writing "in the dark," but that a day would come when I would realize this, and at that moment the light come on.

           After that, there would be no free space to write on, although perhaps that was symbolic of a style. Even turning backward, I would see half-pages of text being replaced with paintings from the Museum of unknown art. This was later to be followed by dreams of gazing at the sky and watching it move, into scenes impossible in "real life." Structuring itself into tapestries, that I knew, in the dream could not be created in that way. And yet, it was as if "I wandered lonely as a cloud" came to life.

           But we are talking about the Death of Milton. In Shamanistic lore, which I didn't know, the death of someone else can lead us into Initiation. It is the same in the Bible. Elisha, only because he was personally present, received the gift of Elijah.

           So I was not physically present. I had a dream in which my father told me he was "going home." And I, as if it were as clear as day to me, or as if I had been expecting it, asked no question at all. I only beseeched him "Don't go until I get there. I'm not afraid." Of course, who answered was not my human self, but some dream self; for I would have said, "Don't go." And things like that. But it was my human self also, for I so followed this period, in dreams (recorded and easy to refer to later, after "it happened," as Faulkner always puts it), I had a journal of day-by-day proceedings. It happened that I was in Blankenberg, Belgium, one November mid-afternoon, in 1981. All by myself, I watched a parade. Numinous. I was walking my dog. The band had signs: One was the Salvation Army. But the signs carried by the drummers and rest of the band read "Sons and Daughters of Neptune." It could just as easily have said "of Atlantis," in that there were so many probable references that could lead off from such a scene. So he had died. He had let me know—though I knew nothing whatsoever, "for a fact" until months later; for no one notified me. But this parade walked to the END OF THE BLOCK—which I later studied for the symbolism, the message, the acted-on "information" to be retrieved and detected. At the "end of the block," it turned around, and walked straight back toward me. Other things happened—such as my pocketbook shoulder band turned inside out, so that the shoulder "guard" was from the outside. I "felt" I was protected from the outside, not knowing why. Yet I was. I had been—as in later years I consulted varieties of information sources, including for the first time a psychic channel. Not knowing of this experience, she confirmed, "He's sending energy toward you. He's protecting you." It made sense, given the experiences and inner feelings—the dreams—I was having. Not to mention that in a writing parallel (before hearing of his death), I had written the death (and the supposed monumental impact) of my "fictional" character. I seemed to be able to "follow" (in some state, perhaps the dream state) the situations as they were unfolding over there, an ocean away. And later, much further. For I had been—in this way—"present" at the death; thus, able to receive whatever that condition offered. Which turned out to be lots of writing and lots of new levels of learning.

           I now know how real is the feeling, such as that which a Russian writer said about Tolstoy—that as long as that "old man" was alive, he had this special sense of being alive himself. For that reason, because of the "vibration" (a word I would not have used till many years afterwards), I needed him to be alive. I sensed he was dead. But I discounted the idea. He seemed indomitable. Someone death would laugh to think to approach. There was no worry, in that quarter (though unconsciously—or rather, consciously but unadmitted—I knew my inner sense correctly reported). In fact, I even dreamed of being present when he had a heart attack in the hospital, which did occur.

           But my rules were broken.

           Only after I consciously got the word, on the telephone, that he had died—and what the date was—did this experience break through the veil of unconsciousness. For an incredible period opened up, one I now know was a great privilege not likely to be repeated. He began to march into my dreams. I would be asleep. It would be the usual situation. Inexplicably, I would find out that he had not died. Sometimes he would stand in blazing colors. Once,  he said he was "coming back." Let me quickly say I had no prior experience in death literature, and the only workshops I attended began in 1983. In 1982, which is where we are in the story now, I had had no Indian guru experience, no workshops on spirituality. I was a "born" artist, knowing so as a child. I wanted to know everything—absolutely everything—from my own experience. This was one reason I had felt it absurd that he might die. It was as if my very existence was preconditioned by his.  I knew this, regardless of the fact that this did not mean marriage or a smooth, flawless romantic form of relationship (which he would, in fact, have preferred). But I preferred, at least for those years, that he teach me.

           Also, and we will get to this, if he was so intricately essential in taking me to a vibration I needed but had no technique to get to (and all his friends knew he radiated this), hadn't we some "plan" some "karma," some prior connection? I never thought to ask such questions till my responses pushed them toward me. But not quite yet. The presence of no one on the Earth, however much I loved them, would replace the fact that he did not walk the Earth. And so I was unable to imagine how I would survive. Later, it could occur to me, that perhaps in the "past," he "took me into his consciousness," and the mere presence reminded me, and I just "jumped there," thinking it the most natural and essential thing in the world. Like some anointing oil his very presence brought with it. I know I may seem to exaggerate, but I no longer care. I don't know how many more opportunities I will have to tell this story, and how convincing or compelling it will be if I do not tell it truly, as I understand it now. What might have been questions, for years, once they become convictions, can then be stated as the most natural things in the world, from within our world, where we are the harbingers of how we see. As he himself told me, "We see what we can see." That is, the optic nerve, he was explaining, begins in an extension of the cells of the brain. "Perception IS conception." And that William Blake had meant that when he said "I don't see with, I see thru' the eye." This became a small nutshell on perception ("we're tracked in," he said; he did not announce that he was referring to cloud chambers or anything that his wide-roving digestive powers might be using as the elementary background to the sentences, in using the word "track"; you had to trace back the location that the vocabulary originated naturally from, but the energy carried the meaning, and the vibration, even if the left brain felt uplifted and knew it knew—but knew not what specifically; just that this was, from now on, one of its own tenets about life, to be brought back up for examination later).

           By 1982, I was in continuous dream contact (there are many stories about this type experience, as for instance when C. G. Jung was visited by his deceased wife). He was sustaining me through this period and also preparing (it appeared) incidents on the outside that gave credence to the dream one. For instance, someone (in fact, a member of a professional association at a conference) "saw" him over my head. But these stories would stop us, taking over the space provided. The momentum never stopped. I felt disoriented, and for the first and only time in my life, "split," as to which to "believe" (in the sense of "integrate"). If to believe this radically experiencing side of myself, I had to change. Entirely. (It seemed a big shift then. Later, I would look back at it as the barest requirement, compared to what would come next.)

           By 1985, with a growing new path, I went to the Carl Jung Institute in Zurich, having realized that the entire framework of my writing had a Jungian format, as if I copied the archetypes without knowing it. I was in a full-blown "Confrontation with the Self," and the Institute knew all about those. It facilitated evolutionary human movements, in this the "home" location of the original, self-titled Jungian. We all know about Jung's "plunge into the unconscious," from which he retired the central seeds of such concepts as the Collective Unconscious.

           Before going to the Institute, I had a dream that I was to study a subject that had a half-gibberish title,  to be found in the Jung Library. In another dream, I was to take a baby to the mother who expected it. Literally, on the steps of the Institute, she waited. Though I had never seen those steps (just as I likewise dreamed I was to take a topic for research from the Library there, before even knowing there was a possibility of studying in English or taking courses at all).

           Hold it. Hold it, I shout to myself. Wait a minute here. The topic was "bipod metalism," some jabberwocky construction referring to "metalism" (alchemy), "bipod" (perhaps synchronicity as two locations or types of location, or even something to do with the quantum complementarity theory). An exciting idea breaks through, here. Italicizes itself. What I have just realized is that it was Freud's "Library" (his bookcase) where there occurred the spontaneous "loud retort," the "pistollike retort," when Jung and Freud were talking; Freud was disputing the existence of precognition and parapsychology in general; and the bookcase let out a loud "retort," two times, as reported by Jung—as if what we call the Akasha were jumping into the argument (or the whole history of the psyche and of knowledge), to say it held evidence to the contrary; I am half-joking. But I have just connected my own research topic (to be found in the Jung Library) with (possibly) the encounter at Freud's bookcase, as narrated by Jung, which can also be associated (evidentially) with the "bread knife" that broke into four pieces in Jung's cupboard—and that J. B. Rhine kept a photo of, writing that about it he was "frankly puzzled." So this Library where I take the topic of research was, at least, the same "kind" of place as where these other experiences, in the early history of both psychology and parapsychology, formally occurred, and I realize that only at this moment.

           Now: The Jung Institute. The Initiation, documented in Volume III of the series I have written.

           A year after beginning studies in the Zurich institute, I had an initiation. Because of this, I was pulled up into the consciousness of the Initiator, after several hours of attempting to get there—meditating, in bed. I long afterwards imagined this might offer some details of earlier esoteric initiations that were not recorded at the time, because I think it followed in the lines of some. At the time, of course, I couldn't have known. A dream had showed me that my father and mother wanted to fold and put away my clothes; wanting to be independent, I refused—then relented, when seeing the look in my father's eye. I woke, stayed in bed with my eyes closed, saw visions of various "stages" along the way of being pulled upward, over the next few hours—toward an opening (hole, tunnel, top of a cathedral like St. Peter's). And finally (for I was in suspended suspense, not knowing how long I must stay like this or what it would lead to), the atmosphere "broke." I was there—there was no doubt about it—in this consciousness.

           Inside this atmosphere, solitarily, the person whose consciousness I was in was writing a book. I was awed at the consciousness and at his plans. He was preparing something for the audiences of the future, going over what he wanted to say to them, in a stadium.

           I felt that finally my Initiator was showing himself; as it was the only link I had to my dead friend, then I would hold onto the link. Besides, Jungian classes gave us a preconditioning aptitude for Confrontation with the Self, including one teacher who tried to teach a class on it several times—never lucky enough to arrive safely the first day of class. One semester, he finally did arrive—I watched—in bandages, but there nonetheless. It was supposed to be awesome, perhaps life-threatening, individual, oneself, when this "confrontation" occurred.  I was in the perfect place for it. Zurich had backgrounded many such unreported initiations, probably, and the historical presences of such as Einstein, Jung—whose thought experiences went independently outside the normal boundaries of our present-day life. So this did too.

           To be brief: For a couple of years I was taught exclusively by this "guide." Only, my motives weren't those of curiosity. The person I believed in most was vouching to me that this was his recommendation. So at first he tried to make me remember times I had known him before. I failed miserably. I fasted, ate two teaspoons of honey a day, drank two glasses of water, practiced receiving dreams from him, studied them with him. Practiced sleep-deprivation. Practiced food-deprivation. Learned the beginning "ropes" of how to work in electricity, which was a specialty of his (practiced going out into the town, trying to find the person he had put into his energy; sometimes had also flashed me a picture of onto my conscious screen). Most of all, he showed me what would happen to him (to some extent, to me, to the Earth). He was not, of course, exactly the person I had known in life. He was much larger, although he could bring in the form of Milton. But he used that form to convince me to have this initiation. He said that he was going to be in new forms, and he would show me himself on a hill, as the Lone Ranger. He showed me a trailer with just the frame left, to enforce that I was not to depend on seeing him as he looked in this lifetime. Once I dreamed of Humphrey Bogart, with my face in his shoulder, and I would not let him go, which was the task at hand.

           Ultimately, he gave me the impression that he was in evolution. And I was determined to follow with my mind and heart so long as I could.   This was just the beginning. It was not a peak experience, after which things subsided and went back to normal. He cracked the egg of my mind. He had told me, as Milton, that there was a "psychic virginity." I knew that he had taken that. He had been the one to open my Third Eye, to show me experiences far beyond those I had imagined; for I had truly not thought in these areas and ranges. And he told me that this Initiation was from himself in a multiple form. He told me that he had three levels (that is, the person there with me; I do not say this is true forever at all), in which we could interact with disagreement and equal contribution. Then there was the fourth level. There, he was not to be questioned. That level was the Christ. Even the very first Christ

           And so I knew that this was my "fate," as Rilke put it. Even while being the artist and writer, I had had free will, etc. But from this point on, as Rilke said, I had "met my fate." It was no longer valuable to question that on some high level this was important to me, and that it was my soul who had me prepared for it, and the more I could accept it, the more I would learn why, from that level of energy. I had no idea at the time, that the world was immensely larger—that is, no idea from my own experience—and that this was the barest sketch of some of the types of experiences one might find oneself in, by staying open. All the while, as questioning as any skeptic could be, of what was in fact going on, holding on to the fragments of explanation one found—the outer and the inner. Watching as the "enfolded" (in the language of David Bohm) once more breathed and stretched, or shuddered—or shuttered—outward. And one saw. Saw much more, than one had ever dreamed. This was the path that led to completing the books that had seemed unable to come to an end. The pathway of standing high enough, to see the material that was to be "surveyed," measured, marked off, Plotted. Bringing the unconscious history into some historical consciousness.

           Later I learned to see it this way: how silly I would be, how ungrateful, me a mere human being, a mere mortal, to stand in question before things that truly happened, in grace and mystery, and that had a million confirmations, if one only cared to open the eyes and see them. But the point is difficult to make: the point is that it would be arrogant and overproud, if asserting one's will—which would then be the ego—to NOT STAND for what one had learned. If our soul asks us to do something, it is not the ego that does it or gets any benefit or recognition from it. The entire description of who did what changes. It was these kinds of questions and their implications—the structures they demanded—that I turned to. I tried to create a place, a mind, a consciousness where I made sense to me. I first taught myself I had the right—everyone did—to do this. It only later occurred to me that it was not about a "right" but about an absolute imperative. If knowledge is to move freely, unblocked, among all of us. I knew I had the right to make sense to myself. And in these beginnings, I learned to grow a consciousness inclusive of all life. Every life form has the privilege of there being a description in which they have value and deserve respect; and where, in drawing emotions from us, they teach us expansion of feeling—thus, force. Can teach us to go farther than we ever dreamed there was a place to seek. Can teach us subtleties that have their tangibilities, if we know where to look. So why did my friend come from out of the pastpresentfuture, to turn me upside down and tell me that unless I did this I could not follow a consciousness such as his. Being that it was a love story, I had better do this. More, the world would show me that what he said was true. The world would do this. In time, however. I had to start NOW. The motive was love. Not just of me—but also of me. Though more broadly, of the wider consciousness the world would need, and that this was one of the precursors of. I cannot begin to say how deep the roots were and how much grew from them, continuing from here. My impression while being one of deep awe was also one of stretching the space for all experience—on all levels. And not insisting that others go as fast or as slow as ourselves, because eventually we will experience all things, if eternity does exist. And we had better value the capacities we have and the priorities of ourselves in the form we are in now, letting that extend outward to the values of others. So these were the beginnings of understanding our human rights, I felt. One had the human right to develop a consciousness and perspective inside which one's own thoughts and heart made sense—and had, therefore and only therefore, the minimal energy they needed for subsistence. Everyone had this right. Well, this is not 444 pages. I will stop, while ahead.

                                This essay was written, to address a question for the Exceptional Human Experience Network This writer is a columnist in the three-times-yearly Newsletter format.


* For further background information, please also see pages titled From New York City: Letter to the Inhabitants and Coming to Terms with Milton Klonsky.

[1] Exceptional Human Experience, which is a Network. And also publications.              [Top]
[2] Seymour Krim (1991). What's This Cat's Story? New York: Paragon House, p.82. [Top]

The photographer of the Milton Klonsky Collection, who donated the originals from his studio in Brooklyn is Robert John. Photograph and web image Copyright © 2000 Robert John.


Last Modified on March 4, 2002
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