Reading Rexroth

I’ve been reading Kenneth Rexroth lately and enjoying him a great deal. In his long poem (200 pages!) The Dragon and the Unicorn I found in one small section two statements of belief that I’ve held myself for quite some time. They’re related. The first one is this:

A real religion is not
Believed in, it is practiced.

I think that’s an important idea. A lot of Christians think that all you have to do is believe in Jesus, and you’re covered—which isn’t true. You have to put the principles he taught into practice—and they’re tough ones. You can’t understand religious ideas any other way. You can’t take your understanding from a book. Books get messed with. More importantly, religion—real religion—is ineffable, and no book can contain the ineffable. It’s only there to get you started.

The second statement is:

Neither Augustine nor Karl Barth
Are religious men. They are
Emotionally unstable

I don’t know anything about Karl Barth, but I’ve had a gripe with Augustine for a long time. He wasn’t a saint; he was an intellectual. And while not the first, he was one of the biggest distorters of the teachings of Christ. He was, in part, trying to make the new religion palatable to the Empire, which has nothing at all to do with spirituality. It’s a perversion of it.


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3 Responses to “Reading Rexroth”

  1. Ken Knabb Says:

    Numerous writings by Rexroth are online at


    • markbittner Says:

      Yes. I have this bookmarked. I’ve dipped into it a few times, and I know I’ll be back.

  2. Chandani Diaz Says:

    Thank you for that! We Hindus are ACTION people – you make your own KARMA – just saying “Shiva is my Saviour” isn’t going to cut it!….your fate is determined by your acts, not by who you believe in. We (Hindus) respect all faiths and believe there is only ONE God – there isn’t a special Presbyterian God or Jewish God or Hindu God or Catholic God…’s all ONE. One of the kindest persons I ever met was a Muslim – she was (died of a brain tumour) Turkish and helped over 300 kids with clep-lip (spelling?) because her husband was a doctor….she persuaded many doctors to help; even after he died she still persuaded doctors to help these kids from Peru to Nepal. One of the meanest persons I ever met was a person who declared “Jesus Christ is MY PERSONAL SAVIOUR and I am going to heaven because I declare Him my Savious!” – she lied, cheated, sabotaged but felt that she was not accountable for any of her actions because she “accepted Jesus as her Saviour”. I just can’t follow that rhythm of philosophy. “Oh, I sell crack cocaine as a living and get people hooked and destroy FAMILIES, but hey, it’s OK – because JESUS is my Saviour!” – no, I think not.

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