America: A Case Study
The Machine Will Never Triumph, part three
This, the final introductory chapter, uses the concrete example of America to showcase, in brief, some of the major themes of this study. Lawrence’s major poetic work on America is The Evening Land.
1.1. The Evening Land
The sun sets in you.
Are you the grave of our day?
Shall I come to you, the open tomb of my race?
I would come, if I felt my hour had struck.
I would rather you came to me.
For that matter
Mahomet never went to any mountain
Save it had first approached him and cajoled his soul.
You have cajoled the souls of millions of us
Why won’t you cajole my soul?
I wish you would.
I confess I am afraid of you.
The catastrophe of your exaggerate love,
You who never find yourself in love
But only lose yourself further, decomposing.
You who never recover from out of the orgasm of loving
Your pristine, isolate integrity, lost aeons ago.
Your singleness within the universe.
You who in loving break down
And break further and further down
Your bounds of isolation,
But who never rise, resurrected, from this grave of mingling,
In a new proud singleness, America.
Your more-than-European idealism,
Like a be-aureoled bleached skeleton hovering
Its cage-ribs in the social heaven, beneficent.
And then your single resurrection
Into machine-uprisen perfect man.
Even the winged skeleton of your bleached ideal
Is not so frightening as that clean smooth
Automaton of your uprisen self,
Do you wonder that I am afraid to come
And answer the first machine-cut question from the lips of your useful
Put the first cents into hinged fingers of your officers
And sit beside the steel-straight arms of your fair women
This may be a withering tree, this Europe,
But here, even a customs-official is still vulnerable.
I am so terrified, America,
Of the iron click of your human contact.
And after this
The winding-sheet of your self-less ideal love.
Like a poison gas.
Does no one realise that love should be particular, individual,
This boundless love is like the bad smell
Of something gone wrong in the middle.
All this philanthropy and benevolence on other people’s
Just a bad smell.
Yet, America, sometimes
Your elvishness, elves wanton, elves wistful;
Your New England uncanniness,
Your western brutal faery quality.
My soul is half-cajoled, half-cajoled.
Something in you which carries me beyond
What we call human,
Carries me where I want to be carried…
Or don’t I?
What does it matter
What we call human, and what we don’t call human?
The rose would smell as sweet.
And to be limited by a mere word is to be less than a hopping flea, which
hops over such an obstruction at his first jump.
Your horrible, skeleton, aureoled ideal
Your weird bright motor-productive mechanism,
A dark, unfathomed will, that is not unJewish;
A set, stoic endurance, non-European;
An ultimate desperateness, unAfrican;
A deliberate generosity, non-Oriental.
The strange, unaccustomed geste of your demonish, New World
Glimpsed now and then.
Nobody knows you.
You don’t know yourself.
And I, who am half in love with you,
What am I in love with?
My own imaginings?
Say it is not so.
Say, through the branches
Of all your machines,
Say, in the deep sockets of your idealistic skull,
Dark, aboriginal eyes
Stoic, able to wait through ages
Say, in the sound of all your machines
And white words, white-wash American,
Deep pulsing of a strange heart
New throb, like a stirring under the false dawn that precedes the real.
Demonish, lurking among the undergrowth
Of many-stemmed machines and chimneys that smoke like pine-trees.
Modern, unissued, uncanny America,
Your nascent demon people
Lurking among the deeps of your industrial thicket
Allure me till I am beside myself,
“These States!” as Whitman said,
Whatever he meant.1
Not as upbeat as de Tocqueville, but nearly a hundred years later, when some of de Tocqueville’s fears that the strident individualism of Americans might deteriorate into an assimilated uniformity, had begun to appear. We live in the Kali Yuga, the Iron Age, also known as the End Times, without knowing when the final hour of the cycle will occur, but with enough revelations to know that great changes are coming. How fitting that the metaphorical sun sets in the west, when we can see that the end of Western Civilization will end on its western-most shore. Modern life will come to an end soon, either through a return to the ways of primordial wisdom, or through the end of most, if not all, human life on this planet. Since America did so much to foster our modern weltanschauung, it will be the grave of our way of life, a grave leading to an endless night, unless… But solutions often come from problems, and there is a certain magnetic draw from America that could enable the germ of our salvation to emerge from the source of our potential destruction.
The symbol of America is the machine, and the symbol of the machine is the man who has achieved complete identification with the machine, namely the robot. Vast numbers of American men and women are acting more like robotic automatons, biologically living, but soulless.
There is, however, another America, the aboriginal America whose spirit still survives, the pre-European America; the America where man and earth coexisted in harmony. Can this aboriginal America reawaken and save our day? It can only be hoped. but as for America as it existed in his time, Lawrence could only state: “I don’t believe in America, I believe in it less and less. It is a bad, soulless, mechanical country.”2 Each country has its nationalists, but the nationalists in America tend to be particularly virulent, claiming that America is a promised land. Lawrence had this to say:
To me, the thought of the earth all grass and trees — grass and no works-of-man at all — just a hare listening to the inaudible — that is Paradise. Do you think I imagine your Yankee-land Paradisal? — The last word of obscene rottenness contained within an entity of mechanical egoistic will — that is what Uncle Sam is to me[…] God, I don’t want to be sane, as men are counted sane. It all stinks.3
When the world is turned upside down, those who are sane can become insane and vice-versa. Since America has become a largely insane mechanical country, more of its people have become largely insane, which may explain the rampant use of mind-numbing drugs and anti-depressants. For a man like Lawrence, an eminently sane man, his wish not to be sane in America was a wish to be separate from the amorphous hordes of insane machine-people. Life in America for many has become tantamount to slavery; many of us must work and live in constant fear that income or insurance is not lost. This incessant fear and anxiety has created a quality of life that is not even worth the name life. “[E]very day I live I feel more disgust at the thing these Americans call life. Ten times better die penniless on a gold-field.”4 Europe, though largely cut off from her pagan past, and losing touch with her Christian past more and more by day, still has reminders of tradition in the form of art and architecture. But America is crude and driven by most of its elite only for profit. “Crude America is very crude. The spirit of place, uncurled and uncombed, is a disagreeable thing, here. Curled and combed it is no better. It is a devastating country: lays waste to the soul and gradually hardens the heart.”5
The only major source of vitality in America is its Native American roots. Despite the atrocious genocide perpetuated by European settlers, many Native Americans are in touch with the spirit of the American continent. If nature itself is animated by vital forces no longer seen or acknowledged by most Americans, which I believe is the case, perhaps the natural disasters now so frequent in America is the revenge of those animate spirits of the land for the crimes against the land and humanity by the European settlers. Perhaps, in time, the Native American spirit will reawaken and triumph, as Lawrence described:
Now the Indians in America are lying low. They are sending up no shoots of life. Not yet. But their roots are deep, their roots are very deep, and when they start to grow upwards, it will be like an earthquake to the white man’s world of factories and machines. Life is still a tree, […] it is not a collection of aeroplanes or a swarm of insects.6
What is Life? Only Life is life. Artificial intelligence is a misnomer, for nothing artificial can ever be intelligent. There is more wisdom in the branch of a single tree than in all the machines and factories of the world combined. The Native Americans were full of Life, and despite the forced adoption of Christianity, they kept many of their traditions, yet today it is not Christianity that threatens their very existence, but mechanism, materialism, and the Machine. Lawrence writes:
Christianity itself was collapsing, the great Anti-christ of mechanism and materialism was ruling. And the natives of America, who had never yielded their final hope of fulfilment, through all the centuries, now saw the last letter of their doom looped in iron letters across their country. Christ would never destroy them. But the Anti-christ of industrialism, commerce, mechanisation, and fathomless greed, this would destroy them. The white Christ would never be their death. But the white Anti-christ would certainly be death to them.
Was it to be borne? Was it to take place? Would the Great God who is Father of all gods, Father of all the gods and of all the multifarious races of men, would He allow it?7
It is being allowed, but for how much longer one may never know. Even though the blood descendants of the aboriginal peoples of the Americas may no longer have the vitality needed to save the world, there may come a new breed of spiritual aristocrats who draw inspiration from the aboriginals. One of the purposes of this book is to give impetus to the formation of a new class of spiritual aristocrats, or sun-men as Lawrence called them. What may foster the creation of such aristocrats will be discussed in later chapters. It must be borne in mind that the system cannot be reformed, but revolution can only be helpful if it is founded on Lawrencian principles. Fascism, socialism, and communism can not do much to make things better in the long run. As Lawrence put it: “[T]here are only two great diseases in the world today, Bolshevism and Americanism: and Americanism is the worse of the two, because Bolshevism only smashes your house or your business or your skull, but Americanism smashes your soul.”8
America really was the great death-continent, the great No! to the European and Asiatic, and even African Yes! Was it really the great melting pot, where men from the creative continents were smelted back again, not to a new creation, but down into the homogeneity of death? Was it the great continent of the undoing, and all its peoples the agents of the mystic destruction? Plucking, plucking at the created soul in a man, till at last it plucked out the growing germ, and left him a creature of mechanism and automatic reaction, with only one inspiration, the desire to pluck the quick out of every living spontaneous creature.
Was that the clue to America? […] Was it the great death-continent, the continent that destroyed again what the other continents had built up. The continent whose spirit of place fought purely to pick the eyes out of the face of God. Was that America?
And all the people who went there, […] all the colours and the races, were they the spent people, in whom the god impulse had collapsed, so they crossed to the great continent of the negation, where the human will declares itself “free,” to pull down the soul of the world? Was it so? And did this account for the great drift to the New World, the drift of spent souls passing over to the side of godless democracy, energetic negation? The negation which is the life-breath of materialism.—And would the great negative pull of the Americas at last break the heart of the world?9
The opposite of God is nothingness, and the most perfect embodiment of nothingness is the machine, which negates everything and crushes all life. Most humans today are grist for the mills, and are being ground exceedingly small; we are like olives being crushed under massive stones, yet what emanates from our wasted bodies is black, like black oil that fuel the machines that operate in the factories that blacken our skies and poison our waters, and the country of nothingness is America. Trouble is coming. The futurists and technophiles try to convince the masses that more tech, such as ”green tech” is the answer, but therein lies only our doom.
To the vast white America, either in our generation or in the time of our children or grandchildren, will come some fearful convulsion. Some terrible convulsion will take place among the millions of this country, sooner or later. […] For it is a new era we have now got to cross into. And our own electric light won’t show us over the gulf. We have to feel our way by the dark thread of the old vision. Before it lapses, let us take it up.10
Lawrence worked tirelessly to found a spiritual community he termed Rananim. Much more will be devoted to this later in this book, but for now, suffice it to say that we need Rananim more than ever, and that this text proposes a blueprint for communities based on Rananim, whose mission will be the gathering of “the dark thread of the old vision.” Those who enter Rananim communities will exit America’s rat race and learn to be sane once again, which means developing a vivid and personal relationship with the Gods.
[I]n the United States, the gods have had their teeth pulled, and their claws cut, and their tails docked, till they seem real mild lambs. Yet all the time, inside, it’s the same old dragon’s blood. The same old aboriginal American dragon’s blood.
And that discrepancy is a strain on the human psyche.11
None of what we are saying is going to be popular, so I humbly ask my readers to open their hearts and minds to the possibility that much of what they believe is false. How free can America be if an author is “cancelled” simply for voicing an unpopular opinion?
Freedom anyhow? The land of the free! This is the land of the free! Why, if I say anything that displeases them, the free mob will lynch me, and that’s my freedom. Free? Why I have never been in any country where the individual has such an abject fear of his fellow countrymen. Because, as I say, they are free to lynch him the moment he shows he is not one of them.12
Lawrence understood that every place on this planet has its own special spirit—presiding deity, if you will—and all peoples, across the globe should learn to settle down and commune with the land they become a part of, for there are few needs greater than the need for roots and rootedness. Once one has put down roots into the soil and developed a kinship with the spirit of place, only then can the shoots begin to grow upwards vertically towards that which is.
Every continent has its own great spirit of place. Every people is polarised in some particular locality, which is home, the homeland. Different places on the face of the earth have different vital effluence, different vibration, different chemical exhalation, different polarity with different stars: call it what you like. But the spirit of place is a great reality. The Nile valley produced not only the corn, but the terrific religions of Egypt.13
Just as Greece produced Homer and Arabia produced Islam, America gave birth to the great nature religions of the indigenous peoples inhabiting North and South America. The Spirit of America did not produce the machine; instead it was the settlers’ rape of the land that caused the spirit of place to curse the people of the land, both the indigenous and immigrants, with pure mechanism. Mechanism is not from the divine, therefore cannot partake of permanence. As such, machines will one day disappear from this planet. As Lawrence writes:
But there it is: the newest democracy ousting the oldest religion! And once the oldest religion is ousted, one feels the democracy and all its paraphernalia will collapse, and the oldest religion, which comes down to us from man’s pre-war days, will start again. The sky-scraper will scatter on the winds like thistledown, and the genuine America, the America of New Mexico, will start on its course again. This is an interregnum.14
When things are bad, and they most certainly are bad now, one can adopt a stoical attitude and take solace in the knowledge that truth always wins out in the end. (Vincit omnia veritas.) The Gods are good, so one should turn away from the machines and turn back towards the old, primordial ways of knowing. The basis of sanity is rootedness. Without roots, home, and tradition, all things are possible, even the most depraved. The European settlers in America severed their roots to their own culture and the roots America’s indigenous peoples had to theirs, while embracing the mechanistic God of modern science and technology. But this unwitting embrace led to a kind of slavery of the of the people, mentally, to pure, unadulterated mechanism.
All this Americanising and mechanising has been for the purpose of overthrowing the past. And now look at America, tangled in her own barbed wire, and mastered by her own machines. Absolutely got down by her own barbed wire of shalt-nots, and shut up fast in her own “productive” machines like millions of squirrels running in millions of cages. It is just a farce.15
The metaphysic of a nation is deeply important to the trajectory of that nation. Greece lived while its metaphysic was tied to living reality and the pulsing of blood, but as soon as thought became abstracted and philosophy became separated from poetry, the nation’s greatness withered. America is not metaphysically materialist, but is idealist in the sense that all thought must proceed rationally, from the head.
[T]he most idealist nations invent most machines. America simply teems with mechanical inventions, because nobody in America ever wants to do anything. They are idealists. Let a machine do the doing.16
Self-help, spiritual retreats, woke culture, etc. will do no good without a fundamental change in consciousness. Even getting back to nature, off-grid living, and similar movements are symptoms of the disease rather than precursors to the cure for our present ills. One must get back to nature, and one should live off grid, but it must be done with the right connection to tradition, the right spiritual attitude, the right metaphysic, and with the intention of putting down roots, or it will be fruitless.
White Americans do try hard to intellectualise themselves. Especially white women Americans. And the latest stunt is this “savage” stunt again. White savages, with motor-cars, telephones, incomes and ideals! Savages fast inside the machine; yet savage enough, ye gods!17
Lawrence writes: “All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”18 That is an apt description of the modern American psyche, but why is the average American this way? Lawrence has an answer:
Now there are two kinds of oneness among mankind. First there is that ecstatic sense, religious and mystic, of uplifting into union with all men, through love. This experience we all know, more or less. But, secondly, there is the hard, practical state of being at one with all men, through suppression and elimination of those things which make differences—passions, prides, impulses of the self which cause disparity between one being and another. Now it seems as if, in America, this negative, destructive form of oneness predominated from the first, a oneness attained by destroying all incompatible elements in each individual, leaving the pattern or standard man.
So that whilst Europe was still impulsively struggling on towards a consummation of love, expressed in Shelley or Verlaine or Swinburne or Tolstoi, a struggle for the mystic state of communion in being, America, much quicker and more decisive, was cutting down every human being towards a common standard, aiming at a homogeneous oneness through elimination of incommutable factors or elements, establishing a standardised humanity, machine-perfect.19
The equality of America is a leveling equality; an equality that destroys rather than saves. We are not all equal and never shall be so. We should have food, shelter, and necessities without the need for work, but America doesn’t provide these necessities. Instead, people are told they are equal before the law. The only true equality is between machine parts. If one man has more qualities of virtue and nobility in him, that is the greater man, and to pretend to ignore those qualities in deference to equality is stupidity.
R. S. Thomas wrote the following poem about America:
The queen sat on the throne of England,
Fingering delicately the bright stones
Of its handrail. The heads rolled
In the English dust. The queen smiled.
Meanwhile in America a Red Indian
Fitted a coloured arrow to his bow
And took aim. The brush turkey fell
In a storm of feathers. The Indian went home
Silently to his skin tent
By the lake to expiate the sin
Of its killing. Over the steaming entrails
He saw the first white man come with his guns and jails.20
The freedom, liberty, and democracy that America was founded on have only brought death and destruction to this world. We will end this chapter with a poem from Robinson Jeffers, written during one of his stays in Taos, NM.
I watch the Indians dancing to help the young corn at Taos pueblo. The
old men squat in a ring
And make the song, the young women with fat bare arms, and a few
shame-faced young men, shuffle the dance.
The lean-muscled young men are naked to the narrow loins, their breasts
and backs daubed with white clay,
Two eagle-feathers plume the black heads. They dance with reluctance, they
are growing civilized; the old men persuade them.
Only the drum is confident, it thinks the world has not changed; the
beating heart, the simplest of rhythms,
It thinks the world has not changed at all; it is only a dreamer, a brainless
heart, the drum has no eyes.
These tourists have eyes, the hundred watching the dance, white Americans,
hungrily too, with reverence, not laughter;
Pilgrims from civilization, anxiously seeking beauty, religion, poetry;
pilgrims from the vacuum.
People from cities, anxious to be human again. Poor show how they suck
you empty! The Indians are emptied,
And certainly there was never religion enough, nor beauty nor poetry here
… to fill Americans.
Only the drum is confident, it thinks the world has not changed.
Apparently only myself and the strong
Tribal drum, and the rockhead of Taos mountain, remember
that civilization is a transient sickness.21
This book’s aim is to diagnose the “transient sickness,” and begin the search for a cure.
Jeffers, Robinson. The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Edited by Tim Hunt. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2001.
Lawrence, D. H. Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays. Edited by Virginia Crosswhite Hyde. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. Quetzalcoatl. Edited by Lois L. Martz. New York: New Directions, 1998.
———. Studies in Classic American Literature. Edited by Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. The Letters of D. H. Lawrence. Edited by James T. Boulton. Vol. VIII. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. The Plumed Serpent. Edited by L. D. Clark. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. The Poems. Edited by Christopher Pollnitz. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
———. The Selected Letters of D. H. Lawrence. Edited by James T. Boulton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Thomas, R. S. Collected Poems. London: Orion Books, 2000.
D. H. Lawrence, The Poems, ed. Christopher Pollnitz, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 241–44.
D. H. Lawrence, The Selected Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. James T. Boulton (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 129.
D. H. Lawrence, The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. James T. Boulton, vol. VIII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 76.
D. H. Lawrence, Quetzalcoatl, ed. Lois L. Martz (New York: New Directions, 1998), 48.
D. H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent, ed. L. D. Clark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 44.
D. H. Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays, ed. Virginia Crosswhite Hyde (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 110.
D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, ed. Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 15.
Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays, 181.
Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, 30–31.
R. S. Thomas, Collected Poems (London: Orion Books, 2000), 241.
Robinson Jeffers, The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, ed. Tim Hunt (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2001), 380.