Emily Dickinson on “The luxury to meditate”

by everlivingpoet

I found an Emily Dickinson poem today with some interesting, if merely fortuitous, wording. I like to think she’s talking about the luxury of seeing without knowledge, in the same vein in which Spinoza and Blake do. That is, it’s a luxury because the dualistic mind subsides. There’s nothing to grasp at. Only suchness. Dickinson couches this insight in the language of ecstatic Christianity (as Blake almost might) and in the language of romantic love (as Blake probably wouldn’t). It may in fact be a love poem couched in the language of ecstatic Christianity, but I like to think that what she means by “thee” and “Presence” and “Countenance” is one and the same as “luxury” and “sumptuousness.” That is, I like to think she’s not talking about any person or religion per se, but precisely about the “luxury to meditate.” As the great Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna described it:

Without annihilation and permanence,
With no coming and no going,
Not a unity, nor a plurality,
Fabrications quieted, the supreme bliss!

In a sense, it’s the luxury that’s right there when all forms of knowledge or naming (that is, all forms of partial attention or inattention) subside in silent pristine attention:

THE LUXURY to apprehend
The luxury ’t would be
To look at thee a single time,
An Epicure of me,
In whatsoever Presence, makes, 5
Till, for a further food
I scarcely recollect to starve,
So first am I supplied.
The luxury to meditate
The luxury it was 10
To banquet on thy Countenance,
A sumptuousness bestows
On plainer days,
Whose table, far as
Certainty can see, 15
Is laden with a single crumb—
The consciousness of Thee.