Allen Ginsberg was the ninth witness to testify for the defense in the Chicago Conspiracy trial and the first who tried to explain to the jury why at least two of the defendants had decided to come to the Democratic National Convention in the first place. The preceding defense witnesses had testified that whatever violence they had seen in Chicago had been the fault of the police, not of the demonstrators. But Ginsberg, who had been involved in the early plans to protest the Convention, was in a position to talk not simply about what he had seen in Chicago but about the intentions of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin as far back as February, 1968, when the plan to stage a Festival of Life—to contrast with what Hoffman and Rubin called the Democratic Convention of Death—had first been discussed. Since the defendants were on trial for having conspired together with the intention of causing a riot in Chicago, Ginsberg’s testimony about these early plans promised to be important. For this reason as well as for the general curiosity about the famous poet, the courtroom, when he arrived, was filled with spectators and reporters.
Ginsberg, wearing white tennis sneakers on his somewhat pronated feet, entered Judge Hoffman’s courtroom late in the afternoon of December 11, 1969, and walked, slightly slouched but with a bouncing, cat-like gait, to the witness stand. From a sling over his left shoulder a large, woven purse swung at his hip. Facing the bench as he proceeded to the witness stand he paused, pressed his palms together, touched his fingertips to the bottom of his wiry, black beard, and made an elegant little Oriental bow in the direction of the defendants as well as toward the Judge who stared down at him from his high backed armchair. Ginsberg then took his seat and began to explain, under examination by Leonard Weinglass, one of the two defense lawyers, how he had traveled to India to study the religions of the East, whose mantras and other chants had been known to calm large assemblies of people.
Weinglass’s aim was to qualify Ginsberg as a witness who not only spoke out of deep religious convictions but whose spiritual speciality was the pacification of turbulent souls. However, Mr. Foran, the United States Attorney, soon tired of this discourse and upon his objection, which Judge Hoffman sustained, Ginsberg then began to explain how he had first heard from Hoffman and Rubin about their plan to stage the Festival of Life, a sort of rock concert which, they hoped, would attract thousands of young people whose exuberance, presumably, would create a humiliating counterpoint to the pious duplicity of the official Convention.
The aim of Ginsberg’s testimony was not simply to show that the intentions of Hoffman and Rubin had been essentially peaceful—that the disturbance they meant to create was a disturbance of the spirit, a kind of artistic assault against the political philistinism of the Democratic Party: he also wanted to explain to the jury what the defendants mean by what they call their “life style,” for it is this “life style” according to the defendants, and not the alleged transgressions set forth in the federal indictment, for which they feel they are being tried. What the defendants hoped Ginsberg could convey to the jury was that the violence arose at the Convention because the authorities recognized in this “life style” a powerful challenge to their own faith in a dying civilization, that this civilization had become a burden to the spirit and a hazard to life itself, and that in their panic at this recognition the police and public officials responded with guns, clubs, and tear gas, and finally with the indictment under which the seven defendants are being tried. What Ginsberg’s testimony meant to imply was that the official reaction to the Festival of Life was an unusually violent form of theatrical censorship, an example of the ageless assault upon the lamb of truth by the wolf of custom.
To convey such a notion to a jury composed mainly of Cook County housewives is a formidable business—requiring something like an effort at religious conversion—and it is unclear how well Ginsberg succeeded, if he succeeded at all. The jurors, with one or two exceptions, seldom betray their feelings, and perhaps, after three months of testimony, few of them have any feelings available to display. To complicate matters further, Ginsberg had to testify within the rules of evidence as Judge Hoffman narrowly and often whimsically interpreted them, and under the continual objections of Mr. Foran, sustained almost invariably by the Judge, whose compliance with the objections of the Government had by now come to seem habitual.
Moreover, while Ginsberg insisted that the spiritual ingredients of this “life style” were the values of peace, love, and freedom, the outward signs were the uncombed hair, the magenta shirts, the crimson trousers together with the antic behavior which Hoffman and Rubin displayed in the courtroom as well as the obscene and often violent language which was attributed to them by a succession of police spies, paid informers, and undercover agents who had testified during the first nine weeks of the trial.
Nevertheless, Ginsberg addressed the jury with much assurance and in a clear, somewhat musical voice. When Weinglass asked him to describe a speech he had made in Lincoln Park early in the week of the Convention, Ginsberg explained that he had chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra for about fifteen minutes in order to calm the crowd and that he then recited a poem by Blake. To this Foran objected, apparently for fear that Ginsberg would once again chant the Mantra as he had done earlier in his testimony, on which occasion a federal marshal, hearing the booming voice, like a giant cello, and the strange words, leapt to his feet and, in the opinion of several spectators, made as if to reach inside his coat for his gun.
Judge Hoffman, misunderstanding the grounds of Foran’s objection, sustained him anyway and unaccountably ordered the reference to William Blake stricken from the record. At this point Weinglass made the most of the confusion and asked Ginsberg to recite Blake’s poem without chanting it. Before Foran could object again Ginsberg proceeded to recite, in bravura style, Blake’s “Grey Monk,” a poem of nine quatrains which includes the lines “But vain the sword and vain the Bow,/They never can work War’s overthrow./The hermit’s prayer and the widow’s tear/ Alone can save the World from fear./ For a Tear is an intellectual Thing,/ And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King.”
Throughout this recitation, the most apparently hostile of the lady jurors, one whom the defendants call Mrs. Wallace after the Alabama Governor—the ample, peroxided night manageress of a cafeteria, whose permanent scowl flickers through her jewelled sunglasses and whose thin mouth in an inverted V, painted red between her heavy, milk white cheeks—turned her eyes from the witness stand, heaved her bosom and appeared to hold her breath as if the air had been contaminated by the poet’s voice.
The defendants, on the other hand, agreed that they were delighted by Ginsberg’s testimony, for as one of them had said earlier in the trial, “We consider our jury to be the young people of the country—the young people of the world,” of whom hundreds would line up each day in the cold outside the Federal Building waiting for seats in the courtroom. Whatever impact Ginsberg’s testimony might have on the actual jury meant less, according to the defendants, than the impact it would probably have once the press—and especially the underground press, which was well represented in court during Ginsberg’s appearance—had begun to transmit it to the country at large.
Furthermore Abbie Hoffman had derived from McLuhan the idea which he repeatedly expressed and which the other defendants accepted in one degree or another, that events do not exist only in themselves but have a kind of second life as imaginative reconstructions, made like works of art by skilled propagandists, which are then implanted by the media in the public consciousness. History, Hoffman has said, is compounded of “myth and propaganda”—of moral fantasies artfully disseminated. What the defendants hoped, therefore, was that Ginsberg’s testimony, in what Hoffman would call its mythic versions, would soon be propagated by the underground press and, like the events of Convention Week itself, combine in a continuing moral drama with accounts of death in Vietnam, the killing of Fred Hampton, the pollution of air and rivers, the vacancy of public education, and the dishonor of public men and confirm, in the minds of its youthful audience, their own sense of political and cultural crisis.
Ginsberg’s testimony lasted a day and a half. Throughout the morning of the second day Special Agent Stanley of the FBI, who had been assisting the prosecution during the trial, could be seen at the government’s table examining first one then another small paperbound book. These proved to be copies of Ginsberg’s volumes of poems and the agent, a burly, soft-eyed Southerner with a smoothly frozen face, as if his jaws and eyelids were dosed with novocaine, was hunting, as it later turned out, for poems by Ginsberg with which Foran during his cross-examination later in the day could challenge the poet’s religious credentials.
This tactic proved a failure since, far from embarrassing Ginsberg by the homosexual references which agent Stanley’s studies had revealed, Foran supplied the witness with an occasion to lecture the jury on his poetic intentions and particularly on his and Whitman’s idea that political brotherhood might arise from a kind of universal physical communion. These little lectures, which appear in the following transcript, were given without condescension and with such good nature that even the so-called Mrs. Wallace seemed pleased.
A further consequence of Foran’s tactic was that Weinglass, when he came to reexamine the witness, was now free, under the rules of evidence, to ask Ginsberg to recite from his poem, “Howl.” This Ginsberg did and when he came to the lines, “Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Moloch the heavy judger of men!/ Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgement!” he wheeled in his chair, pointed an outstretched finger at the seventy-four-year-old judge, and, in a booming voice, completed the passage, “Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!/ Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb! Moloch whose blood is running money!” and so on. Startled at first, the shriveled judge recoiled in his high backed chair but then, in what seemed a deliberate gesture, flung his knotted hands up to his face, in the style of the old Yiddish theater and succeeded if not in matching the poet’s performance, at least in reminding the spectators that political theater—what the defendants call guerrilla theater—is not the exclusive province of the defendants and their witness.
But the most serious deficiency of Foran’s frivolous cross-examination was his failure to explore with the witness—whom he was later overheard to call a “goddamned fag”—the effect in practice of the revolutionary rhetoric which Ginsberg had attributed to Hoffman and Rubin. What in fact happens in the world—or happened in Chicago—when the virtues of love, peace, and freedom are defined by someone like Hoffman to mean actual love-making in Lincoln Park, as well as the direct acknowledgment that America has failed, morally as well as politically, in Vietnam, and that the idea of property—together with property itself—should at once be abandoned? And what blame befalls the instigators of such fantastic demands for seeming to speak literally and so permitting a sensational and provocative press to alarm the people and alert the police of Chicago that an army of long-haired radicals is on its way to the city to agitate for this extraordinary cause?
Abbie Hoffman had said that “here in Chicago…we are tried for our language…the language and imagery of our generation are on trial.” But this argument is disingenuous or insufficiently subtle. It does not, for example, answer the government’s argument that some language may, in fact, be criminal: for example, language which directly leads an angry mob to attack policemen or, as the defense would reply, language that urges policemen to beat all young men with long hair. Thus there remained after Foran’s pointless cross-examination concerning Ginsberg’s sexual interest, an unsettled question: whether to accept the witness’s essentially literary account of the events in Chicago, as if what had happened there had been no more than a kind of political theater to which the police reacted hysterically, or the government’s more sinister interpretation of the connection between these events and the defendants’ often rude and provocative language.
Later in the trial, when Hoffman himself took the stand, Foran’s aggressive assistant, a damp and literalminded lawyer named Schultz, whose wheedling tone and thrashing arms would make all language seem directly criminal, set out to explore this connection in detail by making Hoffman admit that he had never bothered to explain to the Deputy Mayor, with whom he was negotiating for a permit to stage the Festival of Life in Lincoln Park, that the proposed “love-in” and the free use of drugs, which the newspaper had described as central to Hoffman’s plans, were in fact intended only as a joke which a foolish press took seriously.
But Schultz’s examination was not illuminating. It was as if a student of accounting (Schultz holds a degree in tax law) had stumbled into a class in metaphor and demanded gloomily to know whether the instructor had ever measured the topless towers of Ilium. What emerged is that a court of law—and especially Judge Hoffman’s clumsy and whimsical court—is no place to investigate the vexed relations between language and action. Yet this relationship rests not only at the heart of the present trial—the question being how seriously to take the defendants’ revolutionary rhetoric—but at the heart also of a larger cultural problem of which the trial is an important symptom.
Ten years earlier, in the summer of 1960, in the same courtroom where the conspiracy trial is now being held, the same Judge Hoffman was asked to adjudicate a complaint brought against the Post Office by the publishers of Big Table, then a new literary magazine in Chicago. The Post Office had refused to mail the magazine’s first issue because it included excerpts from William Burroughs’s novel Naked Lunch, a work which the postmaster considered obscene. After deliberating for five months the Judge declared that while “the dominant theme or effect of [Naked Lunch] is that of shocking the contemporary society, in order perhaps to better point out its flaws and weaknesses,” the work itself did not appeal to “lustful thoughts” and was therefore within the law. In support of his decision he referred to testimony on behalf of the book by such authorities as Allen Ginsberg and Lionel Trilling, as well as to the following observation of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, “Judges, no less than legislators should observe, without prejudice, what is going on in our changing society, averting through such alertness treating the law as a petrified body of shibboleths.”
Thus Burroughs’s novel, with its descriptions of opium dreams and insane policemen, its celebration of hashish and its assault upon the values and manners, to say nothing of the language, of humanism, its disgust with the law and the deeper sources of social order, owed its first public exposure partly to Judge Hoffman, who, though he may have been looking over his shoulder at the leanings of the Seventh Circuit, nevertheless added to his opinion the liberal sentiment that Naked Lunch might even have what the courts call a redeeming social value. It might “shock” its readers into noticing “flaws and weaknesses in their society,” and thus, by implication, perhaps lead to their correction.
There is no evidence that Naked Lunch did actually “shock contemporary society,” much less than it “pointed to flaws and weaknesses” that its readers might not have discovered on their own. Judge Hoffman’s view that Naked Lunch might tend, presumably in a wholesome sense, to awaken society to its flaws, suffers the same defect as the postmaster’s idea that Burroughs’s book might hasten social decay by encouraging lustful thoughts and perhaps even lustful actions among its readers. Both assumptions are vulgar. They reflect a naïvely specific idea of how books may affect the behavior of their readers, a fallacy which the recent anti-riot act carries to grotesque extremes when it declares that the intentions of an author, as a jury may infer them from his words, can be the direct and criminal cause of the illegal behavior of others at an indefinite remove in time and place from the occasion on which the words were first written.
What in fact happened when Judge Hoffman allowed Naked Lunch into the world is that Burroughs’s book soon took its place beside works by Norman Brown and Paul Goodman, Wilhelm Reich and Ginsberg himself, and became part of a radical criticism of Western puritanism. It became for its readers part of the literature by which they might attempt to understand certain developments in the culture, including, for example, their own interest in hallucinatory drugs, which, one assumes, the present generation would have cultivated whether Burroughs had written or not.
There was, however, a sense in which books like Naked Lunch perhaps did make a kind of indirect political difference, for together with much else in the culture, including especially the music, they helped to sanction an intensified and coarsened kind of public rhetoric and thus widened the cultural distance between the radicals, such as Hoffman and Rubin, who adopted this new language, and the rest of society. One effect of this has been to agitate or inflame more conventional citizens, and especially the police; to “shock” them as Judge Hoffman might say, but not into new degrees of social awareness so much as into new and perhaps even violent defensive reactions. In the radical jargon, Judge Hoffman, when he allowed the publication of Naked Lunch, may have failed to see the powerful contradiction between the permissiveness of the First Amendment and the way in which such freedom, when expressed in unconventional language, might offend the sensibilities of people who prefer a more orderly view of the world, to say nothing of those who want simply to ignore, in the words of the Seventh Circuit, “what is going on in our changing society.”
“No one ever thought,” Professor Lionel Trilling recently said—ten years after he had added his testimony to that of his former student, Allen Ginsberg, on behalf of Naked Lunch—“that when…writers [i.e., Yeats, Lawrence, and Gide] represented violence as interesting or beneficent they were really urging their readers on to bloody actions. But now violence is proposed or justified on moral as well as psychological grounds. In our time it seems quite natural to act out what were once thought of as moral fantasies.”
It is unclear from this whether Professor Trilling means that readers have recently begun to act out violent fantasies now presented to them by writers on moral or psychological grounds, or whether people on their own have simply become more violent and are carrying out in the real world ideas and propositions which had once been found only in books. Whatever he means, he is bothered, apparently, that the rough beast which Yeats had once proposed as an interesting literary idea has now seemed to materialize, so to speak, in the person of Mark Rudd slouching toward Low Library or as Abbie Hoffman alighting from a plane in Chicago; that writers like Burroughs and Ginsberg are no longer content simply to print their “moral fantasies” in books but now find it “natural” to act them out before thousands of protesters in Grant Park, as Ginsberg relates in the following transcript.
Professor Trilling’s idea seems to be that violence which derives from moral ideas—what Roman Catholics call a just war—is a peculiarity of our time and that such violence has a different quality from violence which is merely brutal; that what he calls moral fantasies add an unusual dimension to violent behavior and such behavior should, perhaps, be stuffed back into literature where, in his debatable view, it had been confined in earlier times. A difficulty with this fastidious concern with extreme rhetoric and the behavior which occasionally reflects it, is that it has apparently led Professor Trilling to overlook the violent acts of governments—themselves sometimes inspired by moral fantasies but more often by mere brutality—to which much rhetorical dissidence—a lot of it not violent at all—is, after all, a response.
It is unlikely that Professor Trilling shares the assumption of the anti-riot act that violent images and ideas might literally be traced as the specific criminal cause of a subsequent bloody act, no matter what the distance between the writer and the criminal, or that the intent of a writer who proposes or justifies behavior that may contribute to violence can be the basis of an indictment against him. Such a view would, for example, require, if one accepted it, that the moral fantasies of anti-communist intellectuals, and not the direct orders of political leaders who happened to share these fantasies, be held responsible for the bloody actions in Vietnam.
Yet there is something squeamish in Trilling’s view that the moral ideas—or fantasies as he calls them—of political dissidents in our time have merged with a violent reality. It is as if he too had come to take literally the violent political rhetoric of the moment and regarded it, as the authors of the anti-riot act, in a cruder way, had also done, as the moral equivalent of violent action, as if the moral rhetoric implicit in the occasional violent acts of political dissenters, and not the violence itself—their own and the official violence which often stimulates it—were the true object of moral or judicial scrutiny.
The present dilemma has arisen not because otherwise sane people have found it natural in these times to act out certain violent literary or moral ideas, for people have always behaved violently, with or without the help of moral ideas. What seems more likely than Professor Trilling’s notion is that the present political and biological crisis, in which many people feel that life itself is at stake—or as Ginsberg says in his testimony, that the planet is endangered—has stimulated some of these people, including many writers, to adopt a rhetoric of resistance (sometimes desperate and violent but often not) since they feel it is a matter of saving lives and they are naturally alarmed.
An extreme case in point is the testimony of Linda Morse, a young revolutionary, who followed Ginsberg to the witness stand. She explained that she had attended a Quaker school, had won a Kiwanis award for decency in her native Philadelphia, and had come to the Chicago Convention a convinced pacifist. After what she saw of the police in Chicago, however, she decided that “we had to defend ourselves or be wiped out.” What she meant by self-defense emerged under cross-examination by Mr. Schultz, the dogged assistant prosecutor. Schultz managed to elicit from the tall witness, whose neat blond hair fell to her shoulders and who, unlike Ginsberg, didn’t look like a radical at all, that she practiced at her new home in Berkeley with an M-1 rifle and a carbine, that she was ready to kill and die for the revolution, that she hoped to destroy the American educational system, and that, in Schultz’s own phrase, she was ready “to tear the country from limb to limb.”
By contrast with Ginsberg’s lively testimony, Miss Morse’s was flat and, despite her fixed smile and small, cheerful voice, rather sullen; flattened not only by Schultz’s literal-minded cross-examination which attempted to show that Miss Morse’s rifle proved the existence of a revolutionary conspiracy of which the defendants were the central committee, but also by Miss Morse’s own failure to grasp the fanciful aspect of her revolutionary posture, a failure which may have confirmed for some of the jurors the prosecutor’s theory that Miss Morse and her friends would find it quite natural to act out their moral fantasies, a theory with which Miss Morse would, it appeared from her testimony, most likely agree.
One wished at this moment that Linda Morse and Allen Ginsberg could, in disregard of the rules of evidence, have taken the stand together in contrapuntal testimony, for what has so far emerged from the Chicago Conspiracy trial is a riddle whose obscure answer lies somewhere between the truly revolutionary advice of Blake’s dying hermit—“But vain the Sword and vain the Bow”—advice to which all the defendants, despite their present militancy, have at one time or another subscribed, and Miss Morse’s melodramatic response—with its echoes of Lenin and Fanon—to her own defeated pacifism.
The testimony by Allen Ginsberg which is reprinted here is abridged by about a half. Repetitive passages have been deleted and so have most of the objections and the arguments concerning them made by Mr. Foran.
BY MR. WEINGLASS:
Q: Will you please state your full name?
A: Allen Ginsberg.
Q: What is your occupation?
Q: Have you ever studied abroad?
A: Yes…. In India and Japan.
Q: Could you indicate for the Court and jury what…your studies consisted of?
A: Mantra Yoga, Meditation exercises, chanting, and sitting quietly stilling the mind, and breathing exercises to calm the body and to calm the mind, but mainly a branch called Mantra Yoga, which is a yoga which involves prayer and chanting.
Q: How long did you study?
A: I was in India for a year and a third, and then in Japan…at Daitokuji Monastery…. I sat there for the zazen sitting exercises for centering the body and quieting the mind.
Q: Are you still studying under any of your former teachers?
A: Yes, Swami Bahktivedanta… I have seen him and chanted with him the last few years in different cities, and he has asked me to continue chanting especially on public occasions.
Q: Have you received any special permission with request to the chanting from the persons under whom you have studied?
A: Yes, from Zen Master Roshi Suzuki, San Francisco Zen Buddhist Temple, who gave approval to my chanting of the Highest Perfect Wisdom Sutra, Prajna Paramita…
And also from Swami Bahktivedanta and Swami Satchitananda of New York, also from the school of Dr. Rammurti Mishra,…a yogi who was the adviser of the New York Yoga Society, by whose disciples I have been initiated as a Shivite…
All of these involve chanting and praying, praying out loud and in community.
Q: In the course of Mantra chant, is there any particular position that the person doing that assumes?
A: Any position which will let the stomach relax and be easy, fall out, so that inspiration can be deep into the body, to relax the body completely and calm the mind, based as crosslegged.
Q: And is…the chanting to be done privately or…in public?
MR. FORAN: Oh, your Honor, I object. I think we have gone far enough now to have established—
THE COURT: I think I have a vague idea of the witness’s profession. It is vague.
MR. FORAN: I might indicate also that he is an excellent speller. [To simplify matters for the court stenographer Ginsberg had spelled out the names of his Indian teachers.]
THE COURT: I sustain the objection, but I notice that he has said first he was a poet, and I will give him credit for all of the other things, too, whatever they are….
Q: Mr. Ginsberg, do you know the defendant Jerry Rubin?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: Could you identify him seated here in this courtroom?
A: Yes, the gentleman with the Indian headband….
Q: Do you recall where it was that you first met him?
A: In Berkeley and San Francisco in 1965 during the time of the anti-Vietnam war marches in Berkeley….
Q: Did you have any further occasion in the year of 1967 to be associated with Mr. Rubin?
A: Yes. I saw him again at the human be-in in San Francisco. We shared the stage with many other people.
Q: Would you describe for the Court and jury what the be-in in San Francisco was?
A: A large assembly of younger people who came together to—
MR. FORAN: Objection, your Honor.
THE COURT: Just a minute. I am not sure how you spell be-in.
MR. WEINGLASS: Be-in, I believe. Be-in.
THE WITNESS: Human be-in.
THE COURT: I really can’t pass on the validity of the objection because I don’t understand the question.
MR. WEINGLASS: I asked him to explain what a be-in was. I thought the question was directed to that possible confusion. He was interrupted in the course of the examination.
MR. FORAN: I would love to know also but I don’t think it has anything to do with this lawsuit….
THE COURT: I will let him, over the objection of the government, tell what a be-in is.
A: A gathering together of younger people aware of the planetary fate that we are all sitting in the middle of, imbued with a new consciousness and desiring a new kind of society involving prayer, music and spiritual life together rather than competition, acquisition and war…. There was what was called a gathering of the tribes of all of the different affinity groups—political groups, spiritual groups, Yoga groups, music groups and poetry groups that all felt the same crisis of identity and crisis of the planet and political crisis in America, who all came together in the largest assemblage of such younger people that had taken place since the war in the presence of the Zen Master Suzuki [whom] I mentioned before, in the presence of a number of Tibetan Buddhists and Japanese Zen Buddhists and in the presence of the rock bands and the presence of Timothy Leary and Mr. Rubin.
THE COURT: [To Mr. Foran] Now having it explained to me, I will hear from you.
MR. FORAN: I object, your Honor.
THE COURT: I sustain your objection….
Q: Now do you know the defendant Abbie Hoffman?…Would you identify him for the jury?
A: At the corner of the table on your right with the wine-colored jacket….
Q: Now calling your attention to the month of February, 1968, did you have occasion in that month to meet with Abbie Hoffman?
Q: Could you relate to the jury what was discussed between you and Mr. Hoffman at that meeting?
A: We talked about the possibility of extending the feeling of humanity and compassion of the human be-in in San Francisco to the City of Chicago during the time of the political convention, the possibility of inviting the same kind of younger people and the same kind of teachers who had been at the San Francisco human be-in to Chicago at the time of the convention in order to show some different new planetary life style than was going to be shown to the younger people by the politicians who were assembling….
Q: Do you recall what Mr. Hoffman said in the course of that conversation?
A: Yippie!—among other things. He said that politics had become theater and magic; that…the manipulation of imagery through mass media…was confusing and hypnotizing the people in the United States and making them accept a war which they did not really believe in; that people were involved in a life style which was intolerable to the younger folk, which involved brutality and police violence as well as a larger violence in Viet Nam, and that [we] ourselves might be able to get together in Chicago and invite teachers to present different ideas of what is wrong with the planet, what we can do to solve the pollution crisis, what we can do to solve the Viet Nam war, to present different ideas for making the society more sacred and less commercial, less materialistic, what we could do to…improve the whole tone of the trap that we all felt ourselves in as the population grew and as politics became more and more violent and chaotic….
Q: Do you recall him mentioning anything about any rock and roll bands?….
A: Well, he said that he was in contact with John Sinclair who was the leader of the MC5 rock and roll band, and John Sinclair and Ed Sanders of the Fugs would collaborate together and invite a lot of rock and roll people, popular music such as Arlo Guthrie [and] Phil Ochs…Mr. Hoffman asked me if I could contact the Beatles or Bob Dylan and tell them what was afoot and ask them if they could join us so that we could actually put on a really beautiful thing that would turn everybody on…uplift everybody’s spirit and show…actually what we were actually feeling…delight instead of the horror that was surrounding us.
Q: Now did he ascribe any particular name to that project?
A: Festival of Life….
Q: After he spoke to you, what, if anything, was your response to his suggestion?
A: I was worried…whether or not the whole scene would get violent. I was worried whether we would be allowed to put on such a situation. I was worried whether…the Government would let us do something that was funnier or prettier or more charming than what was going to be going on in the convention hall.
MR. FORAN: I object and ask that it be stricken. It was not responsive.
THE COURT: Yes. I sustain the objection.
THE WITNESS: [To Judge Hoffman] Sir, that was our conversation.
THE COURT: I direct the jury to disregard the last answer of the witness….
MR. WEINGLASS: Your Honor, I would like to be informed by the Court how that answer was not responsive to that question. It seemed to me to be directly responsive.
MR. FORAN: Your Honor, he asked him what he said and he answered by saying what he was wondering.
THE COURT: Worry.
THE WITNESS: Oh, I am sorry, then. I said to Jerry that I was worried about violence—
THE COURT: I have ruled on the objection. Ask another question if you like. [Judge Hoffman almost invariably sustains objections made by the government, even though, as in this case, he occasionally misunderstands the basis on which the prosecutor has objected.]
BY MR. WEINGLASS:
Q: Now during that same month, February of 1968, did you have occasion to meet with Jerry Rubin?
A: I spoke to Jerry Rubin on the phone, I believe….
Q: Will you relate to the Court and jury what Jerry Rubin said to you.
A: Jerry told me that he and others were going to Chicago to apply for permission from the city government for a permit to hold a Festival of Life and that he was talking with John Sinclair about getting rock and roll bands together, and other musicians, and that he would report back to me and try to find a good place near where we could either meet delegates and influence delegates or where we could have…some kind of central location in the city where people could sleep overnight so we could actually invite younger people to come or come ourselves with knapsacks and sleeping bags, somewhat as turned out at the Woodstock Festival of this year….
Q: Mr. Ginsberg, do you recall anything else that Mr. Rubin said to you in the course of that telephone conversation?
A: He said that he thought it would be interesting if we could set up tents and areas within the park where kids could come and sleep, and set up little schools like ecology schools, music schools, political schools, schools about the Viet Nam war,…history schools, [schools] with yogis.
He suggested that I contact whatever professional breathing-exercise Yogi teachers I could find and invite them to Chicago and asked if I could contact [William] Burroughs and ask Burroughs to come also to teach non-verbal, non-conceptual feeling states.
Q: Now you indicated a school of ecology. Could you explain to the Court and jury what that is?
A: Ecology is the interrelation of all the living forms on the surface of the planet involving the food chain—that is to say, whales eat plankton, little organisms in the ocean, tiny microscopic organisms called plankton, larger fish eat the smaller fish, octopus or squid eat shell fish which eat plankton, human beings eat the octopus or squid or smaller fish which eat the smaller tiny micro-organisms….
MR. FORAN: I think that the question is now responsive. I think that—
THE COURT: Yes. We all have a clear [idea] now of what ecology is.
THE WITNESS: Well,…what would have been taught…is how [this ecological process] is being destroyed by human intervention and messing it up with pollution.
BY MR. WEINGLASS:
Q: Now you also indicated that Mr. Rubin mentioned non-verbal education. Will you explain what that is to the Court and the jury.
A: Most of our consciousness, since we are continually looking at images on television and listening to words, reading newspapers, talking in courts [like] this, most of our consciousness is filled with language, with a kind of matterbabble behind the ear, a continuous yackety-yack that actually prevents us from breathing deeply in our bodies and sensing more subtly and sweetly the feelings that we actually do have as persons to each other rather than as to talking machines.
Q: Now, Mr. Ginsberg, on March 17, 1968, where were you?
A: I took part in a press conference at the Hotel Americana…[in] New York City.
Q: Who else was present at this press conference?
A: Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were there as well as Phil Ochs, the folk singer, Arlo Guthrie, some members of the USA Band, Bob Fass, who was a sort of Hip psychedelic radio announcer on the FM station and a leader of the intellectual culture in New York was there; some members of the Digger groups….
Q: Did you yourself participate in that press conference?
A: Yes. I stepped to the microphone also….
Q: Would you explain what your statement was.
A: My statement was that the planet Earth at the present moment was endangered by violence, over-population, pollution, ecological destruction brought about by our own greed; that the younger children in America and other countries of the world might not survive the next 30 years, that it was a planetary crisis that had not been recognized by any government of the world and had not been recognized by our own government, nor the politicians who were preparing for the elections; that the younger people of America were aware of that and that precisely was what was called psychedelic consciousness; that we were going to gather together as we had before in the San Francisco Human Be-in to manifest our presence over and above the presence of the more selfish elder politicians who were not thinking in terms of what their children would need in future generations or even in the generation immediately coming or even for themselves in their own lifetime and were continuing to threaten the planet with violence, with war, with mass murder, with germ warfare, and since the younger people knew that in the United States, we were going to invite them there: and that the central motive would be a presentation of a desire for the preservation of the planet. The desire for preservation of the planet and the planet’s form, that we do continue to be, to exist on this planet instead of destroy the planet, was manifested to my mind by the great Mantra from India to the preserver God Vishnu whose Mantra is Hare Krishna, and then I chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra for ten minutes to the television cameras and it goes:
“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
[At this point Ginsberg began to chant in a loud, musical voice. The spectators were startled. A marshal leaped to his feet and flung his jacket open as if to reach for his gun.]
Q: Now in chanting that did you have an accompaniment of any particular instrument?
MR. FORAN: Objection as immaterial. He wants to know if there was accompaniment of an instrument.
THE COURT: By an instrument do you mean—
MR. KUNSTLER: [Mr. Kunstler is also a lawyer for the defense] Your Honor, I object to the laughter of the Court on this. I think this is a serious presentation of a religious concept.
THE COURT: I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it because…the language of the United States District Court is English.
MR. KUNSTLER: I know, but you don’t laugh at all languages….
THE COURT: I didn’t laugh. I didn’t laugh.
[The Judge had, in fact, been laughing.]
THE WITNESS: I would be happy to explain it.
THE COURT: I didn’t laugh at all. I wish I could tell you how I feel. Laugh, I didn’t even smile.
MR. KUNSTLER: Well, I thought—
THE COURT: All I could tell you is that I didn’t understand it because whatever language the witness used—
THE WITNESS: Sanskrit, sir….
THE COURT: Sanskrit?
THE WITNESS: Yes.
THE COURT: Well, that is one I don’t know. That is the reason I didn’t understand it….
Q: Mr. Ginsberg, I show you an object marked 150 for identification, and I ask you to examine that object….
[Weinglass hands the witness a wooden object shaped like a shoe box and painted red. This proves to be a kind of harmonium which Ginsberg begins to play.]
MR. FORAN: All right. Your Honor, that is enough. I object to it, your Honor. I think that it is outrageous for counsel to—
THE COURT: You asked him to examine it and instead of that he played a tune on it….
MR. FORAN: …things that have no conceivable materiality to this case, and it is improper, your Honor.
THE WITNESS: It adds spirituality to the case, sir….
[Shortly thereafter Court was adjourned for the day. Ginsberg resumed his testimony the following morning and continued throughout the day.]
Q: Now in the early part of August, 1968, did you have occasion to talk with the defendant Abbie Hoffman?
Q: Now will you relate to the jury what Abbie Hoffman said to you in the course of that telephone conversation?…
A: He said literally, “The city officials are not granting us a permit and are hanging us up and dangling it in front of us and trying to discourage us from having a public assembly in Chicago during the time of the convention,” that he would continue applying to City Hall for permission and that possibly they might even call off the festival if they absolutely could not get permission, but would continue to the last day applying and try to get cooperation from the city.
Q: Now does that exhaust your recollection as to what Abbie Hoffman told you on the telephone that day?
A: No. He told me that if I were coming east, could I stop in Chicago and…visit City Hall and talk with Mr. Stahl.
[Stahl is the Deputy Mayor with whom Hoffman and Rubin had been negotiating for a permit to stage the Festival of Life in Lincoln Park.]
Q: And what did you say in reply to that?
A: I said I wasn’t sure but I would try. If I could get a plane ticket from San Francisco to New York that would stop over in Chicago, I would stop over for a day and visit everybody I could…. I told him I was scared so I wanted to look out, gaze out over the scene, because I hadn’t been in Chicago in a long time. I wanted to see what it was like, what the streets were like, what the people were like, and also if I could make a date with the Mayor’s office and talk with him….
Q: Now directing your attention to the following day which is August 13th at approximately 5:30 in the afternoon, where were you in the City of Chicago?
A: I went up to City Hall to the Mayor’s office…[and] I met with Mr. Stahl who said he was the Mayor’s assistant….
Q: Not going into any conversation, Mr. Ginsberg, did anything occur or happen during the course of this meeting?
A: I chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra to Mr. Stahl…as an example of what was intended by the Festival of Life and I asked them to please give a permit to avoid violence.
MR. FORAN: I object to that and I ask that it be stricken.
THE COURT: The last words of the witness may go out and the jury is directed to disregard them….
Q: Do you recall what time of day you arrived in the City of Chicago on the 24th of August?
A: Around 2:00 or so, mid-day, 3:00.
Q: Do you recall where you were on that day at 4:00 p.m.?…
A: I went to a meeting at the free theatre across the street from the Lincoln Park.
Q: Who was there?
A: Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Ed Sanders, Stu Albert, and many other people whom I didn’t know, people who were working on the Youth International Party festival….
Q: Did you hear the defendant, Jerry Rubin, say anything at this meeting?
A: Yes…. Jerry Rubin said that he didn’t think the police would attack the kids who were in the park at night if there were enough kids there, that he didn’t think it would be a good thing to fight over the park if the police started fighting with the kids,…that as far as he was concerned, he wanted to leave the park at night and would not encourage anybody to fight and get hurt that evening if the police did physically try to force everybody out of the park. That was on Saturday night, the first night when people would be in the park.
Q: Did the defendant, Abbie Hoffman, say anything at this meeting?
A: Abbie Hoffman said the park wasn’t worth fighting for, that we had on our responsibility invited many thousands of kids to Chicago for a happy festival of life, for an alternative proposition to the festival of death that the politicians were putting on, and that it wasn’t right to lead them or encourage them to get into a violent argument with the police over staying in the park overnight. He didn’t know, he said he didn’t know what to say to those who wanted to stay and fight for what they felt was their liberty, but he wasn’t going to encourage anybody to fight, and he was going to leave when forced himself….
Q: At approximately 10:30 that night, where were you?
A: I was in Lincoln Park.
Q: And what occurred in Lincoln Park at approximately 10:30, if you can recall?…
A: There were several thousand young people gathered, waiting, late at night. It was dark. There were some bonfires burning in trash cans. Everybody was standing around not knowing what to do…. There was a sudden burst of lights in the center of the park, and a group of policemen moved in fast to where the bonfires were and kicked over the bonfires.
Q: Then what—
A: There was a great deal of consternation and movement and shouting among the crowd in the park, and I turned, surprised, because it was early. The police were or had given 11:00 as the date or as the time—….
Q: When you observed the police doing this what, if anything, did you do?
A: I turned to Sanders and said, “They are not supposed to be here until 11:00.”…
Q: Without relating what you said to another person, Mr. Ginsberg, what did you do at the time you saw the police do this?
A: I started the chant, O-o-m-m-m-m-m-m, O-o-m-m-m-m-m-m. [Ginsberg chanted this in a very loud voice, like a giant cello or a foghorn.]
MR. FORAN: All right, we have had a demonstration.
THE COURT: All right.
MR. FORAN: From here on, I object.
THE COURT: You haven’t said that you objected.
MR. FORAN: I do after the second one.
THE COURT: After two of them? I sustain the objection….
MR. FORAN: I have no objection to the two Om’s that we have had. However, I just didn’t want it to go on all morning.
THE COURT: The two, however you characterize what the witness did, may remain of record, and he may not continue in the same vein.
Q: Did you finish your answer?
A: I am afraid I will be in contempt if I continue to Om…. We walked out of the park. We continued chanting the Om for at least twenty minutes, slowly, gathering other people, chanting, Ed Sanders and I in the center, until there were a group maybe of 15 or 20 making a very solid heavy vibrational chant…that penetrated the immediate area around us, and attracted other people, and so we walked out slowly toward the street, toward the Lincoln Park Hotel….
Q: What was occurring in the park at the time you began your Om chant?
A: A great deal of swift and agitated motion in many different directions without any center and without any calm.
When we began chanting…there was one central sound and one central rhythmic behavior vocalized by all the people who participated and a slow quieting of the physical behavior of the people…slowly moving out of the park. They all moved in one direction, those who were involved in the chanting, out of the park and away from the police calmly without running and without physically agitated behavior….
Q: Now at approximately three o’clock…[on Sunday afternoon] where were you?
A: By the loud speaker in the center of the park where there was the MC5, a Detroit rock group led by John Sinclair who was at the microphone. So I came up to John Sinclair who had been arranging the music part of the day and asked him if I could do a bit of chanting on the microphone.
Q: And what occurred at that time?
A: I was introduced on the microphone and for about fifteen minutes chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra with the harmonium and then chanted a poem of William Blake in order to calm the crowd and to advise those who were of a violent nature—
MR. FORAN: Objection, your Honor.
THE COURT: I sustain the objection. The reference of the witness to his having spoken or chanted a poem of William Blake may go out and the jury is directed to disregard it.
Q: Could you just state without chanting the poem of William Blake to the jury?…
[Whereupon the witness recited Blake’s “The Grey Monk.”]
Q: What, if anything, did you do for the remainder of the time that you were in the park?
A: First I walked around away from the loud speaker’s system and the rock and roll music that was going on to the center of the park where suddenly a group of policemen appeared in the middle of the younger people. There was a great mass of policemen going through the center of the park. I was afraid then, thinking they were going to make trouble—
MR. FORAN: Objection to his state of mind….
Q: What did you do when you saw the policemen in the center of the crowd?
A: Adrenalin ran through my body, I sat down on a green hillside with a group of younger people that were walking with me at about 3:30 in the afternoon, 4:00, sat, crossed my legs and began chanting O-o-m. O – o – m – m -m . O – o – m – m – m . O-o-m-m-m.
MR. FORAN: I gave him four that time.
THE WITNESS: I continued chanting for seven hours….
Q: When you chanted during this period of time, were you joined in the chant?
A: Yes, many people joined me…. The group shrank and increased as the day went on. Toward dusk there must have been…about 100, 200 people…joining and going around, but there was a permanent group that stayed with me of about 50 people who continued chanting in unison….
Q: Now, at approximately 8:00 p.m. that evening, where were you? This is Tuesday night, August 27.
A: I came with a party of writers to the unbirthday party of President Johnson at the Coliseum in Chicago….
Q: Now, when you arrived at the Coliseum, did you see any of the defendants present?
A: Yes…. Abbie Hoffman….
Q: Did you talk to him at that time?
Q: Will you relate to the Court and jury what occurred when you talked to him?
A: I went down and sat next to him and kissed him, and pointed back up at Jean Genet, who was there, and told Abbie that Genet was there, and signaled to Genet so they would see each other because they had met previously….
Q: Now, when you left the Coliseum, where, if anywhere, did you go?
A: The group I was with, Mr. Genet, Mr. [William] Burroughs, and Mr. [Richard] Seaver, and Terry Southern, all went back to Lincoln Park.
Q: What time did you arrive in the park?
A: 11:00, 11:30.
Q: What was occurring at the park as you got there?
A: There was a great crowd lining the outskirts of the park and a little way into the park on the inner roads, and there was a larger crowd moving in toward the center. We all moved in toward the center and at the center of the park, there was a group of ministers and rabbis who had elevated a great cross about ten-feet high in the middle of a circle of people who were sitting around, quietly, listening to the ministers conduct a ceremony.
Q: How many people were there?
A: It must have been about a thousand….
Q: And would you relate to the Court and the jury what was being said and done at that time?
A: The ministers were telling whoever wanted to participate in the ceremony to sit down and be quiet, and when singing was done, to sing in unison. There were a few people who were making more disturbing noises. The ministers were trying to calm them down and have them sit down. Everybody was seated around the cross which was at the center of hundreds of people, people right around the very center adjoining the cross. Everybody was singing, “We Shall Overcome,” and “Onward Christian Soldiers,” I believe. They were old hymn tunes.
Q: After the service was over, what if anything occurred at that place?
A: The cross was lifted up. At the other side behind the circle that we were observing as we were seated—I was seated with my friends on a little hillock looking down on the crowd which had the cross in the center—and on the other side, there were a lot of glary lights hundreds of feet away down the field. The ministers lifted up the cross and took it to the edge of the crowd and set it down facing the lights where the police were. In other words, they confronted the police lines with the Cross of Christ.
Q: Where were you at the time that occurred?
A: I stayed sitting on the hill, watching the scene below me….
Q: And after the ministers moved the cross to another location which you have indicated, what happened?
A: After…a short period of time, there was a burst of smoke and tear gas around the cross, and the cross was enveloped with tear gas, and the people who were carrying the cross were enveloped with tear gas which began slowly drifting over the crowd.
Q: Now prior to that…did you hear any announcement on any type of speaker equipment?
A: No, none at all.
Q: Were you told to get out of the park?
A: I heard no announcement saying to get out of the park, no.
Q: And when you saw the persons with the cross and the cross being gassed, what if anything did you do?
A: I turned to Burroughs and said, “They have gassed the cross of Christ.” ….
Q: …What did you do at that time?
A: I took Bill Burroughs’ hand and took Terry Southern’s hand, and we turned from the cross which was covered with gas in the glary lights that were coming from the police lights that were shining through the tear gas on the cross, and walked slowly out of the park.
Q: On Wednesday, the next day, at approximately 3:45 in the afternoon, do you recall where you were?…
A: Entering the Grant Park bandshell area, where there was a Mobilization meeting or rally going on.
Q: Did you enter the area alone or were you with other people?
A: No, I was still with the same group of literary fellows, poets and writers.
Q: Where did you go in the bandshell area?
A: We had started out but couldn’t get there early because all the entrances to that area…were blocked off by policemen saying that we couldn’t enter. So we had to go all the way down south to the bottom of the park and enter over a wooden trestle. So when we entered, we all went and sat down in the center of the crowd, waiting, watching.
Q: And did you at any time later get up to the bandshell stage?
A: Yes. I walked up to the apron or front of the stage and saw David Dellinger and told him that I was there and that Burroughs was there and Jean Genet was there and that they were all willing to be present and testify to the righteousness of the occasion and that we would like to be on the stage…
Q: Now when the rally was over, did you have occasion to talk with Mr. Dellinger?
A: Yes. I went down off the platform into the crowd that was forming for the peace march then and saw Mr. Dellinger…. He looked me in the eye, took my arm and said, “Allen, will you please march up front in the front line with me?”
Q: And what did you say to him?
A: I said, “Well, I am here with Burroughs and Genet and Terry Southern,” and he said, “Well, all of you together, can you form a front line and be sure to stay behind me in the front line, be the first of the group of marchers?”…
Q: After you walked the several blocks, what occurred?
A: We came to a halt in front of a large guard of armed human beings in uniform who were blocking our way, people with machine guns, jeeps, I believe, police, and what looked to me like soldiers on our side and in front of us.
Q: And what happened at that point?
A: …The march stopped and we waited not quite knowing what to do. I heard—all along I had heard Dave Dellinger saying, “This is a peaceful march. All those who want to participate in a peaceful march please join our line. All those who are not peaceful, please go away and don’t join our line….”
Q: Did you go over with him or did you remain behind?
A: Yes, I went over with him, took his arm for one moment and also brought a little armful of flowers that had been given us as we left the bandshell.
Q: And what did you do with the flowers, if anything?
A: Mr. Dellinger and the city agents, city officials and police heads were talking together, negotiating, and whenever they seemed to me to be agitated, I took the flowers and put them in between their faces, shook them around a little….
Q: [Then] what, if anything, did you do?
A: I got up to walk away with Mr. Dellinger from the march. I think Mr. Dellinger announced that the march was over and had been victorious inasmuch as the Government had simply forced us to abandon our citizen’s right to have a peaceful assembly for redress of grievances and there was nothing we could do about it at that point. We had offered ourselves to be arrested and were not being arrested and so we were going to disperse and move on. Mr. Dellinger declared the march over and so we began dispersing….
Q: Where did you go when you left?
A: I started walking north past the bridges but I wanted to get out onto Michigan Avenue by the hotels but couldn’t because all of the bridges were blocked with soldiers. So I kept going further and further north until I ran into tear gas. There was gas on the street—in the park, even though…nothing was happening, and people were just trying to get out. I was blocked and couldn’t leave, couldn’t leave the area, couldn’t leave Grant Park, and continued walking north, lost Mr. Dellinger—….
MR. WEINGLASS: I have no further questions.
THE COURT: You may cross-examine.
MR. FORAN: Your Honor, I have to get some materials to properly carry on my cross-examination of this witness. It will take me some time to go downstairs to get them.
THE COURT: How long will it take?
MR. FORAN: I think at least several minutes, your Honor, ten, fifteen minutes.
THE COURT: Are you suggesting we recess?
MR. FORAN: I would think possibly yes, your Honor, because I would just get back up here and get started.
THE COURT: You mean recess until the afternoon?
MR. FORAN: After lunch.
THE COURT: All right. We will go until two o’clock.
MR. WEINGLASS: Your Honor—
MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, we have witnesses who are leaving the country this afternoon who are presently here. I don’t think there should be any delay in the cross-examination…. One is leaving the country tomorrow morning and must testify or we lose him forever, and the other has to return to the West Coast.
THE COURT: I have granted the request of the defendant—
MR. KUNSTLER: We asked for five minutes two days ago in front of this jury and you refused to give it to us….
THE COURT: You will have to cease that disrespectful tone.
MR. KUNSTLER: That is not disrespect; that is an angry tone, your Honor.
THE COURT: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. I will grant the motion of the Government.
MR. KUNSTLER: You refused us five minutes the other day….
THE COURT: You are going to have to learn.
MR. KUNSTLER: I am trying to learn.
THE COURT: I have given up trying to point it out to you.
MR. KUNSTLER: Why the different treatment?
THE COURT: I will not sit here and have you assume a disrespectful tone to the Court.
MR. KUNSTLER: This is not disrespect.
THE COURT: Yes, it is.
MR. KUNSTLER: I am asking you to explain to the defense which claims it is getting different treatment, why a simple request of five minutes was not granted….
THE COURT: Mr.Kunstler—
MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, what else can I think?
THE COURT: I have admonished you time and again to be respectful to the Court. I have been respectful to you.
MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, this is not disrespect for anybody but—
THE COURT: You are shouting at the Court.
MR. KUNSTLER: Oh, your Honor—
THE COURT: Shouting at the Court the way you do—
MR. KUNSTLER: Everyone has shouted from time to time, including your Honor. This is not a situation—
THE COURT: Make a note of that, please. I have never,—
MR. KUNSTLER: Voices have been raised—
THE COURT: I never shouted at you during this trial.
MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, your voice has been raised.
THE COURT: You have been disrespectful.
MR. KUNSTLER: It is not disrespectful, your Honor.
THE COURT: And sometimes worse than that.
THE WITNESS: O-o-m-m—m.
[A climactic moment in Ginsberg’s testimony. Mr. Kunstler had indeed raised his voice, so had Judge Hoffman. The atmosphere was extremely tense, with marshals on the alert and the courtroom itself verging on chaos. Suddenly Ginsberg began to chant and the courtroom was instantly silenced.]
THE COURT: Will you step off the witness stand, please, and I direct you not to talk with anybody about this case or let anybody speak with you about it until you resume the stand at two o’clock, at which time you are directed to return for further examination.
MR. KUNSTLER: He was trying to calm us down, your Honor.
THE COURT: Oh, no. I needed no calming down….
BY MR. FORAN:
[What follows is Mr. Foran’s cross-examination, which took place in the afternoon.]
Q: Now, when did you start this kind of special study of chanting, Mr. Ginsberg?
A: I met a Swami Shivananda in 1962 in Rishikesh,…India, which is where the Ganges comes out of the Himalayan Mountains and into the Gangetic Plain—at an Ashram of Shivananda: and he had the Mantra, the Hare Krishna Mantra, printed in a book and he pointed my attention to it.
Q: Was your attention called to that originally because of your interest in poetry, or because of desire for spiritual uplifting, could you say?
A: Swami Shivananda was a poet also, and I told him I was a poet, and he gave me a book called the “Raja Yoga For Americans.” He pronounced the word “Om” as part of his ritual.
Q: In the discipline, there is a similarity of beauty of sound in poetry and in chanting?
A: Yes. …The poem, “Bhagavad-Gita,” you know, which is “The Song of God,” which is the Bible in India, has as its main character Krishna, who is the person talked about in the Mantra, Hare Krishna.
Q: So in a way, some of the chants are poems in themselves.
A: Yes, they are identical. Chanting and religious scripture in India, as [they are] in the West, [are] identical…. Our Bible is written in Hebrew poetry, too.
Q: And that combination of chanting and poetry has as its purpose a sort of spiritual uplifting of the audience?
A: Physically, really to locate and center you in your body and regulate your breathing so that you calm your breathing, calm your metabolism, and become aware of what is around you.
Q: I meant more than just the chanting, itself. I meant the kind of combination of the poetry and the chanting, the recitation of the poetry and the beauty of the sound, itself.
A: The recitation of poetry has a secret purpose of regulating your breathing, therefore, regulating the body chemistry, regulating the metabolism, and calming the breathing, actually to calm the breathing, and make it steady and even. Simultaneously the poetry, like the Hare Krishna Mantra, suggests images of the blue-bodied God Krishna, preserver of the world….
Q: You were named as kind of the Yippie religious leader…. Do you think in whatever sense you would like to put it that is a fair designation of your connection with the Yippie organization?
A: No, because the word leader was one we really tried to get away from, to get away from that authoritarian thing. It was more like—
Q: Religious teacher?
A:—religious experimenter, or someone who was interested in experimenting with that, and moving things in that direction….
Q: Now, in the course of your work, itself, Mr.Ginsberg, you go around to various places and recite your poetry…and chant?
A: Yes, I try to begin by invoking some deeper spirit than intellectual language. I begin really to try to calm my own body, calm myself by chanting, and to calm the audience a little so that they’re aware that I am here, that they are sitting there in their bodies, and that we are together in the same room and sharing our feelings.
Q: So when you, like in Lincoln Park that Sunday afternoon, when you chanted, and when you recited some of William Blake’s poetry, that combination of chanting and poetry, was within the context, as you see it, Mr. Ginsberg, of generating a spiritual and physical uplift to the audience?
A: Not so much an uplift, but a calm, a feeling of ease and relaxation to eliminate tension, to eliminate anxiety, to eliminate hysteria, to eliminate the hallucination of scary images of police with—
Q: Within that concept of yours as you designate yourself as the religious experimenter of the Yippie Organization, and I don’t mean to be tricky at all about this, I mean just to use words that are perhaps—
Q:—familiar, this concept of physical calmness and acceptance is a part of the religious experience that you were attempting to experiment with and teach?
Q: And both your poetry and chanting are a part of that same religious experimentation concept?
Q: Now when you went out to the Coliseum and you met Abbie Hoffman, you said when you met him you kissed him?
Q: Is he an intimate friend of yours?
A: I felt very intimate with him. I saw he was struggling to manifest a beautiful thing, and I felt very good towards him….
Q: Now, you testified concerning a number of books of poetry that you have written?
Q: One of them was the Empty Mirror.
A: Yes, a book of early poems written [from] 1946 to 1951….
Q: In the Empty Mirror, there is a poem called, “The Night-Apple”?
Q: Would you recite that for the jury?
A: I would have to have the text to recite it. It is a very short poem. If you will give me the text, I will be glad to….
Q: …Could you recite that poem to the jury?
A: Yes. “The Night Apple.”
Last night I dreamed
of one I loved
for seven long years,
but I saw no face,
only the familiar
presence of the body:
sweat skin eyes
feces urine sperm
saliva all one
odor and mortal taste.
Q: Could you explain to the jury what the religious significance of that poem is?
A: If you would take a wet dream as a religious experience, I could. It is a description of a wet dream, sir.
Q: Now, I call your attention in that same [book] to page 14.
Q: That has on it the poem, “In Society”?
Q: And is that one of the poems you have written, Mr. Ginsberg?…
Q: …Can you recite that poem to the jury?
A: Yes, I will read it. “In Society.”
I walked into the cocktail party
room and found three or four
talking together in queertalk.
I tried to be friendly but heard
myself talking to one in hiptalk.
“I’m glad to see you,” he said,
looked away. “Hmn,” I mused.
was small and had a double-decker
bed in it, and cooking apparatus:
icebox, cabinet, toasters, stove;
the hosts seemed to live with
enough only for cooking and
My remark on this score was under-
stood but not appreciated. I was
offered refreshments, which I
I ate a sandwich of pure meat; an
enormous sandwich of human
I noticed, while I was chewing on it,
it also included a dirty asshole.
More company came, including a
fluffy female who looked like
a princess. She glared at me and
said immediately: “I don’t like
turned her head away, and refused
to be introduced. I said, “What!”
in outrage. “Why you shit-faced
This got everybody’s attention.
“Why you narcissistic bitch! How
can you decide when you don’t
know me,” I continued in a
and messianic voice, inspired at
last, dominating the whole room.
It is a record, a literal record of a dream as the other was a literal record of a dream.
Q: Can you explain the religious significance of that poetry?
A: Actually, yes.
Q: Would you explain it to the jury?
A: Yes, one of the major yogas or yoking—yoga means yoke—is bringing together the conscious mind with the unconscious mind and is an examination of dream states in an attempt to recollect dream states no matter how difficult they are, even if they include hysteria, sandwiches of human flesh, which include dirty ass holes, because those are universal images that come in everybody’s dreams.
The attempt in yoga is to enlarge consciousness, to be conscious that one’s own consciousness will include everything which occurs within the body and the mind.
As part of the practice of poetry, I have always kept records of dreams whenever I have remembered them and have tried not to censor them so that I would have all the evidence to examine in the light of day so that I would find out who I was unconsciously.
Part of Zen meditation and part of yoga meditation consists in the objective impersonal examination of the rise and the fall and disappearance of thoughts in the mind—all thoughts, whether they be thoughts of sleeping with one’s mother, which is universal, or sleeping with one’s father, which is also universal thought, or becoming an angel, or flying, or attending a cocktail party and being afraid of being put down, and then getting hysterical. In other words, the attempt is to reclaim the unconscious, to write down in the light of day what is going on in the deepest meditation of night and dream state—so it is part of a yoga which involves bridging the difference between public, as in this courtroom, and private, subjective: Public, which is conscious, which we can say to others in family situations, and private, which is what we know and tell only our deepest friends.
Q: Thank you….
Q: You also wrote a book of poems called Reality Sandwiches, didn’t you?
Q: In there, there is a poem called, “Love Poem on Theme by Whitman”?
Q: After having refreshed your recollection, would you recite that to the jury?
A: “Love Poem on Theme by Whitman,” Walt Whitman being our celebrated bard, national prophet. The poem begins with a quotation of a line by Walt Whitman; it begins with Walt Whitman’s line:
“I’ll go into the bedroom silently
and lie down between the
bridegroom and the bride,
those bodies fallen from heaven
stretched out waiting naked
arms resting over their eyes in the
bury my face in their shoulders
and breasts, breathing their
and stroke and kiss neck and
mouth and make back be
open and known,
legs raised up crook’d to receive,
cock in the darkness driven
tormented and attacking
roused up from hole to itching
bodies locked shuddering naked,
hot hips and buttocks
screwed into each other
and eyes, eyes glinting and charm-
ing, widening into looks
and moans of movement, voices,
hands in air, hands between
hands in moisture on softened lips,
throbbing contraction of
till the white come flow in the
and the bride cry for forgiveness,
and the groom be covered
with tears of passion and
and I rise up from the bed
replenished with last
intimate gestures and kisses
all before the mind wakes, behind
shades and closed doors in
a darkened house
where the inhabitants roam
unsatisfied in the night,
nude ghosts seeking each other out
in the silence.
Q: Would you explain the religious significance of that poem?
A: As part of our nature—as part of our human nature—we have many loves, many of which are suppressed, many of which are denied, many of which we deny to ourselves. He said that the reclaiming of those loves and the becoming aware of those loves was the only way that this nation could save itself and become a democratic and spiritual republic.
He said that unless there were an infusion of feeling, of tenderness, of fearlessness, of spirituality, of natural sexuality, of natural delight in each other’s bodies, into the hardened materialistic, cynical, life denying, clearly competitive, afraid, scared, armored bodies there would be no chance for spiritual democracy to take root in America—and he defined that tenderness between the citizens as, in his words, an “Adhesiveness,” a natural tenderness, flowing between all citizens, not only men and women but also a tenderness between men and men as part of our democratic heritage, part of the Adhesiveness which would make the democracy function: that men could work together not as competitive beasts but as tender lovers and fellows.
So he projected from his own desire and from his own unconscious a sexual urge which he felt was normal to the unconscious of most people, though forbidden for the most part to take part.
“I’ll go into the bedroom silently and lie down between the bridegroom and the bride.”
He projected as he did in another poem, orgy, City of Orgies, as he called New York, he projected physical affection even to the sexual—or his phrase is “physical affection and all that is latently implied” between citizen and citizen as part of the Adhesiveness which would make us function together as a community rather than as a nation “among the fabled damned of nations,” which was his phrase in the essay “Democratic Vistas.”
Walt Whitman is one of my spiritual teachers and I am following him in this poem, taking off from a line of his own and projecting my own actual unconscious feelings of which I don’t have shame, sir, which I feel are basically charming actually.
THE COURT: I didn’t hear that last word.
THE WITNESS: Charming….
BY MR. WEINGLASS:
[Mr. Foran having completed his investigation of the connection between the poet’s sexual and spiritual interests, Mr. Weinglass then commenced his redirect examination.]
Q: Do you have a poem before you entitled “Howl”?
A: No, I don’t have that. It is in another book than this one.
Q: Can you recall that poem without reference to the other book?
A: I can’t recite it all. I know fragments of it, yes.
Q: Could you recite to the Court and jury the fragments that you can recall?
A: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro
streets at dawn looking for an angry
angelheaded hipsters burning for the
ancient heavenly connection to the
starry dynamo in the machinery of
who poverty and tatters and hollow-
eyed and high sat up smoking in the
supernatural darkness of cold-water
flats floating across the tops of cities
who bared their brains to Heaven
under the El and saw Mohammedan
angels staggering on tenement roofs
who crossed through the United States,
cross country seventytwo hours to
find out if I had a vision, or you had
a vision or he had a vision to find
who were expelled from the academies
for crazy & publishing obscene odes
on the windows of the skull,
who broke down crying in white
gymnasiums naked and trembling before
the machinery of other skele-
who were dragged off the roof waving
genitals and manuscripts,
who screamed with delight in police-
cars for committing no crime but
their own wild cooking pederasty
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars
boxcars racketing through snow
toward lonesome farms in grandfather
who moved through universities with
radiant cool eyes among the scholars
of war hallucinating Arkansas and
who coughed on the sixth floor of
Harlem surrounded by orange crates
who protested the narcotic tobacco
haze of Capitalism,
who chained themselves to subways for
the endless ride from Battery to
holy Bronx on benzedrine until the
noise of wheels and children brought
them down shuddering battered
bleak of brain all drained of brilliance
in the drear light of Zoo…
What sphinx of cement and aluminum
bashed open their skulls and ate up
their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans
and unobtainable dollars! Boys
sobbing in armies! Children screaming
under the stairways! Old men weep-
ing in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Mol-
och! Moloch the loveless! Moloch
the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse
and Congress of sorrows! Moloch
whose buildings are judgement! Mol-
och the vast stone of war! Moloch
the stunned governments!
Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose blood is running
money! Moloch whose soul is electri-
city and banks!
Moloch whose smokestacks and anten-
nae crown the cities!
Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless
hydrogen! Moloch whose name is
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch
in whom I am a consciousness with-
out a body! Moloch who entered
my soul early! Moloch whom I
abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light
streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments!
invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries!
demonic industries! monstrous
They broke their backs lifting Moloch
to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios,
tons! lifting the city to Heaven
which exists and is everywhere about
Dreams! adorations! religions! illumina-
Ten years’ animal screams and suicides!
Real holy laughter in the river! They
saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy
yells! They bade farewell! They
jumped off the roof! to solitude!
waving! carrying flowers! Down to
the river! into the street!
February 12, 1970