Hemingway and the soul

Some years ago, I contributed to a monthly on-line magazine called The Meta Arts. It occurs to me, it may be worthwhile to share the columns that appear particularly relevant to our time today. And, as July 21 is Hemingway’s birthday, let’s listen to Papa’s late-night thoughts one night in Africa, thinking about the soul.

Hemingway and the soul

My recurring theme is that our culture, by turning its back on its spiritual roots, has lost contact with the reality of spiritual (that is, non-physical) life. In so doing, it has lost contact with reality, for how can you understand the meaning of things if you systematically disregard a significant portion of what exists? And how can you know who you yourself are, if you systematically discard millennia of tradition and scripture designed to teach that aspect of things?

In reaction to our culture’s downgrading of spiritual knowledge, some have turned to fundamentalism: blind belief. But this won’t do either. If you don’t know, you don’t know, and neither blind belief nor blind disbelief substitute for knowledge. And our culture is not teaching that knowledge, because it has forgotten where to find it.

In short, materialist civilization is lost, and those who are fated to live in it are lost too, no matter how intelligent, no matter how insightful, unless and until they free themselves from this delusion. As an example, I offer a long quotation from Hemingway’s posthumously published True at First Light, which was pieced together by his son Patrick.

“And I thought sitting up awake in the African night that I knew nothing about the soul at all. People were always talking about it and writing of it, but who knew about it? I did not know anyone who knew anything of it nor whether there was such a thing…. Once I had thought my own soul had been blown out of me when I was a boy and then that it had come back in again. But in those days I was very egotistical and I had heard so much talk about the soul and read so much about it that I assumed that I had one. Then I began to think if Miss Mary or G.C. or Ngui or Charo or I had been killed by the lion would our souls have flown off somewhere? I could not believe it and I thought that we would all just have been dead, deader than the lion perhaps, and no one was worrying about his soul…

“Did Miss Mary and GC have souls? They had no religious beliefs as far as I knew. But if people had souls they must have them. Charo was a very devout Mohammedan so we must credit him with a soul. That left only Ngui and me and the lion.”

(True at First Light, pp. 172-173)

Hemingway’s ponderings about the soul strike me as sincere and quietly troubled. Let’s itemize his puzzlement:

  1. He didn’t know anything about the soul, didn’t know anyone who knew anything about it, or if it even existed.
  2. He had thought that he had experienced his soul leaving his body (in his near-death experience during World War I) but as a grown man he now doubted it.
  3. He couldn’t believe that people had souls that, when the person was killed, flew off somewhere.
  4. He assumed—having no knowledge and knowing no way to attain that knowledge—that his wife and his friend GC had souls (if anyone had souls) because they were good people, even though they had no religious belief.
  5. He assumed that Charo, as a devout Muslim, had a soul.
  6. As he said wryly, that left “only Ngui and me and the lion.”

But the soul doesn’t “fly off somewhere,” and we all have souls, whether we are good or bad and whether we have religious belief or not. The soul may be defined as what is created when spirit enters into matter in a specific time and space—when we are born, in other words. And yes, in this sense even the lion has to have a soul. But our times don’t even remember the difference between spirit and soul!

Concepts such as those illustrated in “A working model of minds on the other side” on my blog (frankdemarco.wordpress.com) might or might not have convinced him, but they would have given him something to chew on, something more tangible than blind faith or blind disbelief. But he had nothing like that available to him. In so many ways his troubled reflections illustrate the terrible burden our dying culture put on people in the 20th century, and continues to put on people today.


8 thoughts on “Hemingway and the soul

  1. …..Frank, thanks! So very TRUE told….

    All of a sudden I am “unto” the metaphysics about UFO`s
    ( all over again ) in these days. Peculiar enough my own ” awakening began with UFO stories ).
    And it is because Paul telling to be with the Starlines Courses at TMI ( I envy him ).

    I did NOT knew anything about an UFO Conference held in Norway in 2014 at all( in the city of Bergen ).
    But the TMI friends of Paul`s gave a YOUTUBE link to the International UFO- Conference in Bergen held two years ago: I have NEVER known anything about one called OMNEC ONEC before. She is the main speaker, an american lady who is telling she coming from Venus.

    IF someone in my youth, or maybe even today ( if you are a norwegian citizen ) were telling such “things”…… as coming “from other star-systems”…… They would immediately to become locked in the asylum
    by ” the men in white coats ” ( back then all of the hospital employees wearing white coats ) —
    And as I am a very curious person decided in to order the compilation of three books written by the lady from Venus called Omnec Onec ( born as Sheila in USA in 1955 ) from Amazon book store.
    NEVER to have received a book from Amazon THAT FAST…..But it was reprinted in the american language in GERMANY. And was delivered promptly in my mailbox within a week ( ask any native German citizen about Norway and they will know all about us ).
    The book is titled as ” The Venusian Trilogy — From Venus I came — Angels Don`t Cry. ”
    By to read the book becoming happy again….AND, it is not far from what you are telling here Frank.
    B & B, Inger Lise

    1. Haha, I got an email from the osho university in holland today – advertising a workshop by – can you guess? Omnec Onec, of course. Never heard of her. And had not read your post before. Just trying to catch up now after being offline. What am I supposed to make of this? Do these strange confluences mean something? Or is it just underlining how little we know? And how life can wring us any which way it wants.

      1. OBS ! Hi again.
        Correction about the first name for the midwife from Finland: It is RAUNI – LEENA LUUKANEN.
        I had to search my book shelves to find one of the old books. My book is printed in 1982 in the Norwegian language. The title of the book is: “There is no death.”

        B & B, Inger Lise

  2. Pretty funny is it not Kristiina ?

    And it is very true what Frank says about Colin Wilson and the coincidences.

    But do you know what ? Back in the 1980 thies a lady, a midwife, from Finland became famous in Scandinavia because she was telling about her own encounters with UFO`s. It is Dr. Marja-Leena Luukanen.
    And later on she have written some books about her experiences. I have met her twice at some Conferences once upon a time, back in the 1980/90 thies.
    Hm, she was quite an impressive lady at the conferences, a masterful and an authoritative lady. She was the kind of person you do not want to tell ( or to argue with ) in being wrong about anything ( smiling )…..
    The Swiss ” expert ” Erich Von Danecken was there as well.

    Both of them highly convinced about these things. They were both solid as a rock in their convictions…..and some very authoritative figures. Maybe it is needed ?

    LOL, Inger Lise

    1. Yes, I have not seen her, but know about her – she has passed (in physical form) now. One of the pioneers of that kind of things. That definitely requires a strong character.

      But it is so amusing for my brain, these weird coincidences. My brain wants to say: It is just…(frantic search for som viable linear story) and sometimes that search does not yield anything even remotely plausible. So the brain gets grumpy and a bit worried. The hegemony is shown for what it is – a flimsy story cooked up from leftovers of all and sundry. And in Jungspeak this “it is just..” is a mother complex, or should I say the destructive mother rearing up its’ head. To devour all that is not alive enough to tell it off.

      1. Thank you in telling this Kristiina.
        I did not knew about Rauni Leena`s ” passing over to the other side ” at all. But I have the funny memories about hers anyway. She was one of her kind ( of character )….a rather tough one that is. Rauni – Leena gave a good damn in conventionalism about anything (laughs).

        Well, psychology is very interesting, especially when looking at personalities. Or, perhaps, rather the development of individualism.
        LOL, and B & B, Inger Lise.

  3. As I was reading these comments, these thoughts popped into my head.

    Just because something happens on a regular basis, meaning that it is not rare, we often combine it with other beliefs to arrive at an erroneous perception.

    Such as it can be with coincidences. Of course, I’m not offering any new insight here to the participants in this discussion, who are quite “awake”!

    Coincidences happen all the time. They are as we say, commonplace. There is unlikely even one person who has not experienced first hand some kind of coincidence.

    The determinant in perceiving this phenomena for most people is a belief system that hinges upon our separation, our aloneness. They conclude it is merely a matter of chance, a finite but low probability event, that given enough opportunities, there will inevitably be a few occurrences.

    Without the belief of separation, we would remember that our connectedness and our “oneness” has to be working all the time. Just because we move our awareness away from it to focus on our objective world (that we produce) doesn’t mean that the internal workings cease. It’s just that we’re not paying attention.

    When something happens like these “coincidences”, we are presented with the choice to be brought back to the nature of reality as it is, versus the way we may have been interpreting it.

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