Earlier this week, a post in The Green Study, one of the most intelligent and articulate—also compelling—blogs in the ‘sphere, triggered in me a spark of a long-forgotten poem. I searched for it on the Internet and was surprised to see that it’s not easy to find—anywhere. I finally found it buried in a couple of old documents from the ‘70s. One attributed the poem to Barry Stevens; another printed it with no attribution. Elsewhere, I found a reference to the poem, saying that it was written by Peter Goblen and first appeared in Barry Stevens’ 1970 counterculture book, Don’t Push the River (it flows by itself). I think this latter attribution is correct. I considered the poem wise when I was in college, and still do.
It troubled me that the poem is virtually lost to us and I wanted to re-introduce it to intelligent people who might appreciate it. I originally viewed it only as a warning about religious extremism, but I see today that it speaks to religious, political, ideological, and even lifestyle zealotry. Maybe you’ll find it thought-provoking, too.
Beware the seeker of disciples
all proselytizing men
all who claim that they have found
the path to heaven.
For the sound of their words
is the silence of their doubts.
The allegory of your conversion
sustains them through their uncertainty.
Persuading you, they struggle
to persuade themselves.
They need you
as they say you need them:
there is a symmetry they do not mention
in their sermon
or in the meeting
near the secret door.
As you suspect each one of them
be wary also of these words,
for I, dissuading you,
obtain new evidence
that there is no shortcut,
no path at all,