"Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road"

“’You boys going to get somewhere, or just going?’ We didn’t understand his question, and it was a damned good question.”
—On the Road

Lord Ganesha as depcited by the poet <???> in a letter to Kerouac.

For some devotees of Jack Kerouac, seeing the scroll on which he typed On the Road is perhaps a bit like what viewing a relic of a favorite saint is for others. After all, he did once tell an editor that he couldn’t alter the book’s manuscript because it had been inspired by the Holy Spirit. A portion of the 120-foot scroll—whose ending Potchky, Lucien Carr’s dog, ate—was recently unfurled and on view in “Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road,” at the New York Public Library; a fascimile of the scroll is still on view for a few more weeks, along with a glut of journals, artworks, photographs, and writings culled from this and other icons of the Beat generation. It’s a feast of a show, reaffirming some myths about Kerouac and his work—lots of drugs, but dutifully in the name of spiritual exploration—while dispelling others—so much for “spontaneous prose”: while he did type the scroll in three weeks in April 1951, he had been composing it for much longer with drafts and notes. Scattered throughout the exhibition are some of Kerouac’s personal belongings, like a harmonica, an unfinished pack of chewing gum, and Buddhist bells, all of which take on a similarly fetishistic appeal behind their glass cases.

Kerouac was always clear about what he wanted the Beat movement to stand for: a spiritual and sexual liberation aimed at transformation, a revolution in consciousness that would alter the country. He wrote in a diary entry under the heading “The Ideal of the Beat Generation”: “Beat doesn’t mean tired, or bushed, so much as it also means beato, the Italian for beatific: to be in a state of beatitude, like St Francis, trying to love all life, trying to be utterly sincere with everyone, practicing endurance, kindness, cultivating joy of heart.” He himself failed to live up to the ideal in many ways—anti-Semitism, homophobia—and eventually came to feel that his fellow Beats (Ginsberg, Burroughs, Cassady, Carr) had betrayed the ideal and him. But much of his writing, particularly On the Road, is still revered for its portrayal of the road trip as quintessentially American, and as symbolic of a spiritual journey. Words from On the Road like “for life is holy and every moment is precious” might seem hackneyed in another context today, but when Sal says them, the cynicism fades, at least a little.

A letter from Ginsberg, who describes his view on meditation, Nisargadatta is mentioned.

The same letter from Ginsberg, handwritten, describing his view on meditation, Nisargadatta is mentioned.

Kerouac painting: The Face of the Buddha.

For Kerouac, writing was a spiritual discipline, and the exhibition attempts to trace how his interpretations of Christianity and Buddhism influenced changes to the manuscript for On the Road (there are three typescripts, heavily altered in response to prudish, libel-phobic editors as well as Kerouac’s own reinterpretations of his experiences and friendships). Raised in a Roman Catholic household, he began studying Buddhism and the sutras in the early 1950s, supposedly having had the dharma revealed to him in a library in San Jose when he opened a book on Eastern literature; Buddhism’s emphasis on the transitory nature of existence strongly appealed to him. He wrote extensively in his journals about its teachings and about meditation, a practice that played off his interest in dreams and consciousness. In one notebook he writes of a “Dawn Samadhi—The dreamless sleep,” in which he experiences “a vision of Citta-Vritti-Nirodha.” Yet his own spin on Ishvara Pranidhana, or devotion to God, was expressed strongly in his journals as well as his artwork; and by the late 1950s he had shifted from being a “Christian Buddhist” to a “Buddhist Christian.” Kerouac’s struggles with identity and spiritual beliefs help explain why writing was such an essential outlet for him, and why his work continues to resonate with so many readers.

It’s a pleasure to roam among all these works and figures, from Gary Snyder’s Rinzai-influenced poetry to photos of William Burroughs looking swank in Paris. Embedded in all of them are layers of stories. But if you can’t make it to the show, there is an accompanying book, by Isaac Gewirtz, the show’s curator. Or better yet, start by reading Kerouac’s own words.

Kerouac painting: Samadhi.

Kerouac inspiration: Bodhidharma.

They discuss DMT at Millbrook.

Exhibition link. Catalogue. Kerouac's spiritual texts in archive at NYPL.


posted by
Sandra Ban

TAGS — art, Beat, Buddhism, Christianity, Kerouac, Literature, On the Road, Potchky, writers

Add Remarks

Please be nice.

Your name is required.


An email address is required.


 


Remember this information



What You May Have Recently Missed

Thu 28 Feb
2008

"Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road"

12:12 AM

REMARKS (0)

“’You boys going to get somewhere, or just going?’ We didn’t understand his question, and it was a damned good question.”—On the Road For some devotees of Jack Kerouac, seeing the scroll on which he typed On the Road is...

Fri 15 Feb
2008

Radha St. Denis

11:54 AM

REMARKS (0)

Dance is spiritual expression —but not all dancers explore the spiritual in quite the way modernist pioneer Ruth St. Denis did. This we discovered when searching with the keyword “yoga” at the New York Public Library’s picture archive (Check...

Sat 02 Feb
2008

Abdi Assadi | Shadows on Groundhog Day (A Souljerky Yoga Vine Podcast)

03:49 PM

REMARKS (2)

Abdi Assadi's wonderful new book, Shadows on the Path, is an unflinching and inspiring discussion of spiritual seeking and crisis in today's world. Through Abdi's generous and colorful personal history, and via a cavalcade of lurid client stories culled...

Mon 28 Jan
2008

Ultraculture Journal One

11:22 AM

REMARKS (1)

Real magic happens when you drop the bullshit and remember that you’re God. Just like everybody else. No ritual required. So what are you doing? Jason Louv, Mokshadelica, Ultraculture Journal One Jason Louv, of Generation Hex infamy, has recently published...

Fri 18 Jan
2008

Chai And Bhakti Collective Roll-outs

05:41 PM

REMARKS (1)

First off, a big shout out to Kaustubha Das. If you haven't already tuned into the sweet nectar at the freshly incarnated Bhakti Collective blog, you're in for a treat. Kaustubha Das has been curating a wonderful blend of punditry...

Thu 17 Jan
2008

At Equinox: Yoga Your Freak On

08:16 PM

REMARKS (0)

I don't know how Equinox even expects people to finish watching this. Further comment is redundant. Why doesn't Equinox just hire her? Equinox ad link. (Thanks, Antonio!) YouTube contortionist link. (Thanks, Alan!)...

Tue 08 Jan
2008

Green Hermeticism

11:44 AM

REMARKS (1)

The Brooklyn Rail ran a great discussion between Souljerky-fave Peter Lamborn Wilson, David Levis Strauss, and Christopher Bamford on "Green Hermeticism" —a smart effort to infuse a (much needed) spiritual dimension into today's popular Green movement. Convincingly, they assert...

Thu 20 Dec
2007

Yoga Swami Baba Ramdev Honors BKS Iyengar

11:36 AM

REMARKS (0)

Swami Ramdev (yo), the Rishikesh-based pop yogi media sensation and guru recently visited BKS Iyengar (yo) in Pune during Iyengar's 89th birthday celebration. “You are the ‘Bheesma Pitamaha of Yoga’!...I have been yearning to meet you for long. Finally, the...

Tue 18 Dec
2007

Youth Without Youth

09:49 AM

REMARKS (0)

Does consciousness require language? What governs the cyclical nature of time and memory and consciousness? Does cinema mirror the memories in our life? Are there breaks in the continuity of time and space wherein consciousness might escape from the...

Fri 14 Dec
2007

Matsyendra, Robert Heinlein, And Stranger

12:37 PM

REMARKS (1)

Sometimes the interwebs get all gooey. Like when you're searching for books about the ancient, tantric, Jonah-like, fish sage Matsyendra (after whom the pose matsyendrasana is named) at Amazon, and a page from Robert Heinlein's 1961 classic Stranger In A...

Linked Title
Advertiser's Ad text here
www.advertiser-url.com

random photo

Inspiration

First and foremost our gratitude goes out to Astanga Yoga New York & Sri Ganesha Temple, without which the Sri Ganesha Tea & Book Stall would never have incarnated. Secondly our deepest respect and praise goes to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. We are also indebted and inspired by the efforts of Namarupa Magazine. For further inspiration, check out our links. test

Tags

2012, A.G. Mohan, Abdi Assadi, academic, acupuncture, Adidas, Advaita Vedanta, advertising, age, aggression, Aghora, Aghori, ajna, Alan Moore, Alan Watts, alchemy, Aldous Huxley, Alice Coltrane, Allen Ginsberg, altar, Alzheimers, Amazon, ambient, America, American Heart Association, Ammachi, amulet, Amy Winehouse, Anandamayi Ma, ancestors, anger, animal sacrifice, animation, animism, ants, anxiety, apocalypse, apple, archaic revival, archeology, archive, Ardh Kumbh, army, art, asana, ashtanga yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, astronaut, astronomy, astrophysics, astroturfing, atheism, athletics, Atlanta, atlantis, atonement, attention, audio, Aum, aum shinrikyo, automobile, Avalokiteshwara, ayurveda, Ayurveda, ayyahuasca, B flat, B. Alan Wallace, babas, back, Barnaby Harris, baseball, BBC, Beat, Beatles, beauty, beauty pageant, beckham, Beliefnet, Bengal, berlin, Bhagavad Gita, Bhairava, bhajan, bhakti, bhangra, Bhutan, Bible, Bikram Choudhury, bitch, BKS Iyengar, blip.tv, blogs, blood, blue, Blue Buddha, bodybuilding, Bollywood, Bombay, books, booze, Borges, Boston Globe, bovine, Brahma, Brahma Sutras, brain, Brion Gysin, Brooklyn, Bruce Sterling, Buddha, Buddhadharma, Buddhism, Burning Man, business, caffeine, Calcutta, California, Cambodia, Canada, cancer, capitalism, Carl Gustav Jung, Carl Sagan, Carnatic music, cave, celebration, celebrity, ceremony, chai, chakras, chandra, charles manson, charms, Chi, Chicago, Chicago Tribune, children, chillums, China, Chinese government, Chinese Medicine, Chogyam Trungpa, Christian Science Monitor, Christianity, Christmas, churches, citta, clapping, classroom, clay, Cleveland Clinic, clocks, clothing, clumps, coffee, color, combat, comics, commerce, commune, communes, communication, commuting, compassion, concentration, condaleezza slice, condom, condos, conference, consciousness, conspiracy, consulting, consumerism, contortionists, contract, cooking, copyright, Cornel West, corporations, cosmology, court, cow, craze, crazy wisdom, crime, criticism, crow, cult, cults, culture, cure, currency, D.H. Lawrence, dabawala, Dalai Lama, dance, Daniel Dennet, Daniel Loeb, Daniel Pinchbeck, dark matter, darshan, David Byrne, David Lynch, David Milch, daydreams, death, debate, debunkers, deity, Deleuze, delhi, demographics, demonstration, depression, Depression, deprogramming, Derek Ireland, desire, Details, development, devil, Dewy Cox, dharma, Dhuni, diet, digestion, digital, disco, Discover Magazine, Discovery Channel, disenchantment, Disney, divinity, diwali, DJ Rekha, DMT, doctor, documentary, dogs, dollar, Donnovan, Donovan, doomsday cults, Douglas Rushkoff, Dow Jones, dreadlocks, dream yoga, dreaming, dreams, druids, Durga, DVD, dwarf, Dzogchen, ear, Earth, eco, economics, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Stern, edge, education, ego, egolessness, Egypt, elderly, electricity, Elvis, empire, Empire State Building, emptiness, England, enlightenment, environment, Episcapalian, Equinox Fitness Club, Erik Davis, ESPN, eternal, ethics, event, evolution, existential, exoskeleton, experience, extraterrestrials, eyes, fabric, face, facial yoga, farming, fashion, Father Yod, feritlity, festivals, fetish object, fiction, fight, film, fire, fireworks, fist, fitness, five senses, Flash, flicker, Flickr, flickr, fly, food, fool, Fourth Way, France, Francesco Clemente, Francis Ford Coppola, Frank Morales, free, fuck, Fuck Yoga, funeral, fungus, futurism, GABA, gallery, Ganapati, Ganesha, Ganesha Baba, Ganga, Ganges, Gaza, gear, generosity, genetic engineering, geohistory, Georg Feuerstein, George Harrison, George Soros, gift, global warming, glossolalia, glow, god, God, goddess, goji berries, Goldie Hawn, Google, gossip, government, Grady McMurtry, graffiti, Greece, Greek, Greek gods, Greek Orthodox, green, green hermeticism, grime, Groundhog Day, guided mediation, Gujarat, gunas, Gurdjieff, guru, Guru Nanak, gymnastics, hair, Hakim Bey, Hanuman, happiness, hard core, HBO, health, heavy metal, hedge funds, hermeticism, high, Himalayan, Hindu, Hinduism, Hinjew, hip hop, hippie, history, Hitler, holiday, Hollywood, holy, home furnishings, Homer, homosexuality, Hong Kong, hot nude yoga, householder, Huffington Post, human, humanity, humans, humor, hungry ghosts, I Am, Ian Astbury, ice, idealism, illuminated manuscript, illusion, images, india, India, Indiaspora, Indology, infinity, injury, inorganic, inspiration, intelligence, intent, internet, IPO, Ira Cohen, Iron Maiden, irony, irritation, ISKON, Islam, Italy, J. Krishnamurti, Jai Uttal, Jamaica, Janmaashtami, Japan, Jason Louv, Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Fallwell, Jesuits, Jesus, Jewish, JG Ballard, jihad, JK Rowling, jnana, john ashcroft, John Coltrane, John Law, John Lennon, Jonas Meka, journalism, Judaism, judge, Julius Evola, Jung, justice, Kah Ra Shin, kaivalya, Kapal Nath, karma, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Keaunu Reeves, Keith Dowman, Kerala, Kerouac, ketamine, Kevin Costner, KGB, kirtan, koan, Korea, Krishna, krishna core, kundalini, Kundalini Yoga, kung-fu, Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi, LA Times, lan Watts, landlord, landmarks, landscape, language, laughter, Laura Huxley, law, lecture, levitation, library, life, life extension, lifestyle, light, lila, lingam, listening, Literature, LiveScience, logo, Lord Rama, lotus, love, LSD, lucid dreaming, Lululemon, lunar, lunar video, Ma, machine, Madlib, madness, magical thinking, Magickal Childe, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Mahendranath, mantra, maps, Maragatham Ramaswamy, marathon, marijuana, marketing, Marshall McLuhan, martial arts, Martin Scorsese, mashup, Master Ren Guang Yi, materialist, mathematics, Matsyendra, Matt Stone, matter, media, mediation, medicine, meditation, mela, memoir, memory, Merzbow, Metal Machine Music, meteor, meteors, MIA, Michael Clayton, Michael Pollan, Miguel Serrano, military, milk, mind, mind control, Mind Hacks, mindfulness, miracles, Mircea Eliade, mirror neurons, modernization, monad, money, Mongolia, mongolia, monkeys, monks, moon, Mooshika, morality, Mos Def, mountain, MP3, mp3, muppets, murti, muse, music, Muslim, Mysore, mystic, mysticism, mythology, nada, nadis, Naga, Nagarjuna, Nagas, Nalanda, Namkai Norbu, NASA, Naths, nazism, Neil Young, Nepal, nerves, nervous system, neti pot, neuroscience, new age, New Scientist, New York City, New York Post, New York Public Library, New Yorker, Newar, NFL, Nick Madrid, Nintendo, nirodaha, noise, non-profit, nondual, noodle, Norway, nothing, NPR, nueroscience, NYC, NYT, observation, occult, Oedipus, Olympics, Om, On the Road, Oneironauticum, optical, organic food, orientalism, Orissa, Osho, outsourcing, Owsley Stanley, oxygen, paganism, pagans, pain, painting, Pakistan, Pallestine, Pankaj Mishra, pantheism, paradox, paranormal, Passover, Pat Robertson, Patanjali, patent, path, peace, perception, performance art, Peru, PETA, Peter Guttridge, Peter Lamborn Wilson, pets, pharmaceuticals, philosophy, photography, physical culture, physics, pilgrimage, pitcher, PJ O'Rourke, plain english, play, podcast, poetry, police, politics, pollution, pornography, portrait, pot, Potchky, potter, practice, prana, Prana brand, pranayama, prayer, Preah Maha Ghosananda, prehistory, press, prisons, procrastination, products, profile, prosperity, prostrations, psychedelia, psychedelics, psychology, puja, puppets, purusha, puzzles, pyre, pyschogeography, quantum theory, quote, R. Buckminster Fuller, R. Sharath, Rabbi, Radha, radical, radio, raga, Ram, Rama, Ramadan, Ramayana, Ramdev, Rampuri, rant, Rastafarian, rats, RAW, reality, reality tunnels, red, reincarnation, religion, research, retreat, Rev Run, review, rice, Richard Gere, Rick Ross, Rick Rubin, rickshaws, Ricky Williams, rings, Rishikesh, ritual, rivers, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Beer, Robert Heinlein, Robert Svoboda, Robert Thurman, robzombie, rockers, Rodney Yee, roller derby, Rolling Stones, Rudolph Stingel, Rudy Rucker, runners, running, Russell Simmons, Ruth St. Denis, sacred, sacrifice, saddhus, sadhana, saints, Salon, Salvador Dalí, samsara, Sanskrit, sanskrit, satan, satellite, Saturday, Saturn, Savitri Devi, scandal, schools, science, science fiction, Scientific American, Scientology, sculpture, seasons, seedmagazine, Segway, self, selfless, semiotics, sensationalism, Sepia Mutiny, service, Sesame Street, Seva, sex, shadow, shakti, shamanism, Shambhala, Shani, Shankacharya, Shaolin, sheep, shelter, Shilpa Shetty, Shiva, shoka asahara, shout-out, shunyata, sickness, SIdd Fynch, Siddhartha Shah, siddhis, Sikh, simulation, sin, Sinagpore, Sir Richard Bishop, Sita, Slate, sleep, smashan, smell, snakes, software, solar, solstice, soma, sound, soundtracks, South India, South Park, soy, soybeans, space, space travel, spielberg, spirit, spiritual, spiritualism, spirituality, sport, sports, Sri Chinmoy, Sri K Pattabhi Jois, Sri Lanka, stain, Star Trek, start, stealing, Stefanie Syman, stereotypes, Stonehenge, straight, street, stress, string theory, student, study, style, suffering, Sufi, Sufism, sugar, suggestion, sun, Sun City Girls, surgery, Surya, swami, Swami Ramdev, swastika, symbolism, symphony, tabloid, Tai Chi, tantra, tased, taser, tatoos, tattva, tea, teacher, teaching, teastall, technology, teen fiction, telephone centers, television, temple, temporal, Terence McKenna, terrorism, Thailand, the 60's, The Brooklyn Rail, The Cult, The Guardian, The Matrix, The Met, The Simpsons, The Source Family, the street, The Wire, Thelema, theory, Theory of Everything, Theosophy, thetan, thoughts, tibet, Tibet, Tibetan, tiffin, time, Time Magazine, Times Square, Timothy Leary, TKDL, Toby Sifton, tofu, Tom Cruise, top 10, tourism, toxic, toys, tradition, trailer, training, Transcendental Meditation, transgender, Transrealism, tree, Treehugger, Trey Parker, trick, trident, Trinidad, triphala, truth, tshirts, Turmeric, TV, UBUWEB, UG Krishnamurti, underground, uniform, universe, university, unreal, urban culture, urban dreamscape, USA, USDA, Utne, Varanasi, Vatican, Vedas, vegetarianism, velvet, vending, veterans, video, video games, vinyasa, violence, visionquest, Vivekananda, vogue, vridian, VS Ramachandran, Vyaas Houston, waking life, Walmart, war, Washington Post, water, Wavy Gravy, wealth, wedding, weddings, weird, Wes Anderson, western, white rabbit, Wicca, Wii, Will Smith, witchcraft, witches, woodstock, work, world, worldview, worship, writers, writing, WSJ, Ya Ho Way 13, Yama, yamas, Yo-Yo Ma, yoga, Yoga Action Squad, yoga criminals, yoga gear, Yoga Inc., Yoga Journal, yoga mats, yoga mom, yoga products, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Sutras, yoga teaching, yogi, Yogi Bhajan, youth, Youtube, YouTube, Zakir Hussain, zen, zombies, Zulu

Categories

  • articles 115 posts
  • raga dvesha 396 posts

XML Feeds You Us

Subscribe to our RSS feed!

Credits

Foremost credit goes to my wife Erin for her tireless patience + support of this endeavor. Thanks to Barry Silver for the artwork in the above banner and for his friendship, to Robert Beer for the illustrations. Thanks to Eddie Stern for his ongoing support and for providing inspiration. Thanks to my fellow farmers at One Digital Farm for help growing this.

The Last Words