Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Curation #52 from my Kerouac bookshelf: The Scripture of the Golden Eternity by Jack Kerouac

Item #52 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this 1994 2nd printing by City Lights of Jack Kerouac's Scripture of the Golden Eternity. It's just over 60 pages and approximately 4-3/4" x 6-1/4". This copy is in very good condition and the provenance is uncertain (although I likely bought it from Amazon). TSOTGE was written in 1956 and first published in 1960 by Corinth Books (first printing available from ebay.com for just over $100). It was republished in 1970 with an introduction by Eric Mottram and in 1994 with an introduction by Ann Waldman. This edition includes both introductions.

Kerouac's actual text (66 numbered "scriptures") runs from p. 23 to p. 61. As Mottram describes it, TSOTGE is
Kerouac's statement of confidence in his oneness with the universe of energy and form, a confidence to which his whole being swelled. (p. 8)
Waldman said TSOTGE is
fueled by Kerouac's discerning meditation on the nature of impermanence and consciousness, subtle like the dharma it invokes. (p. 6)
The story goes, according to Waldman, that Gary Snyder was the catalyst for this book, telling Jack in 1956, "'All right, Kerouac, it's about time for you to write sutra'" (p. 1).

Given its size, TSOTGE presents as a quick read, but there is a lot to mediate on here and one could revisit it endlessly, especially as a meditative or reflective spiritual tool. However, it is only a tool.

According to Gerald Nicosia in Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, after he wrote TSOTGE, Jack showed it to Locke McCorkle (bonus points if you know what his pseudonym was in The Dharma Bums) and said, "'While I was writing this, I thought I knew what it meant, but now I don't know anymore'" (p. 517).

As Jack says in Scripture #45:
When you've understood this scripture, throw it away. If you cant [sic] understand this scripture, throw it away. I insist on your freedom.
It's okay to have doubts, as Jack did, but it's a holy thing to put your beliefs in writing. And as any good Buddhist teacher would tell you, words are just the finger pointing at the moon.

Pardon me now while I go re-read The Scripture of the Golden Eternity.

Below is a picture of Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (2nd item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

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