Without Our Passion We Shall Overcome Nothing

…it is the Holy Ghost we must live by. .. And the holy Ghost speaks individually inside each individual: always, forever, a ghost. There is no manifestation to the general world. Each isolate individual listening in isolation to the Holy Ghost within him /her…the Holy ghost says…Each must abide by itself, and correspond only within certain limits.

D.H. Lawrence, Studies In Classic American Literature

Nowadays society is evil. It finds subtle ways of torture, to destroy the life-quick… in a man [or woman].


As imagined by Thomas Mann, in his trilogy of novels based on stories from Genesis, Joseph-the-slave speaks his religious truth to the man whose property he now is, in words that reflect not old testament monotheism, but a decentralized sacrality worthy of Black Elk or perhaps the Great Mother : “…the world hath many centers, one for each created being, and about each one it lies in its own circle… about thee lies a universe whose center I am not but thou art. Therefore, both are true according as one speaks from thy center or mine…our universes are not so far off from each other…rather hath God interwoven them deep into each other, so you… journey according to your own ends…but [also]you are the means… in our interwovenness, that I arrive at my goal.”

Mann’s work reveals that at the root of religion, beneath the exoteric layers, there is invigorating vision, like this, so inclusive it includes the slave’s owner! The wondrousness of such vision, informed inwardly by the invisible “Holy Ghost,” is that it relies only upon human imagination. Its perennial, indigenous truth is always the same, at once liberating and inclusive, never robbing from nor excluding the other, neither his/her vitality nor dignity. Speaking this truth can cause alarm in those not ready to hear it, even though the motive be not primarily to convert but to defend the “life-quick,” the integrity of the passionate heart. Once upon a time, speaking it could get you crucified. But today, our imaginations so reduced, this “glad tidings” instead struggles against absorption into banality.

As the world now waits in helpless terror for the superpowers to decide the fate of life on earth in the war over Ukraine, D.H.’s talk about “life-quick” and the “Holy Ghost” may seem like absurd, superfluous concerns. True, they’re useless against Putin. But, these are the only concerns that can support our stand for humanity against western liberal banalizing reality that refuses to see American bombings of brown civilians are as evil as Putin’s. Completely within our individual power, the change to an imaginative basis restores individuality to the disconnected individualism of our isolated me-first lives under capitalism. Passion is ignited that cancels banal existence. Even if inward change cannot alter the fate of the earth, it can restore the reality of our humanity, neglect of which has brought us to this terrible point when honest people must ask if, morally speaking, western civilization deserves to continue.

In these early decades of the post-religious 21st century our pluralistic context resembles Joseph’s ancient middle-eastern world in its absence of a single dominant faith. However, having been decisively freed from mythic (religious) truth by enlightenment triumph, we’ve lost the means to connect with the animating passion for inclusivity that is not “woke” ideology, but comes from the de-centralized embodied domain of soul and myth. Outside of that archetypal story-that-empowers-subjectively, there’s only negation and the lesser passion of opposition. Cancel culture. Though useful for igniting activism and a critical spirit, passion against leaves no room for joy, the essence of peace and in-common good. Without our “life-quick,” we are powerless to resist either the corrosion of social bonds or loss of individual aspiring that have brought us to our current out-of-control reality – extremes of social injustice, climate catastrophe and ceaseless war. Without passion for, we shall overcome nothing.

The habit of negation steers us clear of the thoughtworld in which passion for social bonds is Absolute, which is religion. The most progressive liberals deplore religion for being anti-science, the cause of wars and basis for fundamentalism, a front for racism, etc. while the ones not against it are content with a banal (unimpassioned!) version of it. Is there then, among liberal Christians and post-Christians, say, any chance that a new faith might emerge, a decentralized one of individual intactness and interdependence that would unite people (slaves and slave-owners!) in passionate defense of the heart’s perspective, of healthy social bonds, and of the in-common biosphere?.

I nominate the Christians and post-Christians for the realization of this possibility – even though doing so may seem like a last resort! – because anyone conversant at all with the new testament might reasonably agree that Jesus – the man Christians believe was the Son of God who died for our sins – made the supreme sacrifice for the sake of that truth of interwovenness. He was pretty unarguably passionate – for a social good that amounts to socialism. We can get this even if we can’t buy the more fabulous layering onto his story. So, if Jesus was a small-‘s’ socialist, and socialism = the social good-for-all (that is, passion for) one might ask why has he not – using seminarian lingo – been truly “preached?” D. H. could speak out for the life-quick, for passion, why not the preachers, who are fully endorsed to do so by their Savior?

Instead of bringing people the Jesus that would speak to peoples’ longing for the in-common good, the One Big Union – to their passion – the liberal churches have surrendered Jesus to the right-wing fundamentalists and fascists who know how to use a heretical reading of the Christian Bible to make the very changes in society good liberals deplore, and “socialism” a dirty word!


Since leaving active parish ministry in 1989 I have both retained my respect for the religious function, even developing it in myself independently of a church, and deplored the lack of passion for the social good – the absence of any vibe whatsoever! – coming from mainstream churches around me. The Catholics do better at this than the protestants. But in all cases the passion, if there is any, is muted by what I can see only as the failure of people to take on the next step in religious evolution, which, as D.H. Lawrence saw, is an individual one and also a socialist, good-for-all one.

It was no church’s fault back in the ’80’s that, though I had attained all the proper credentials to be ordained Unitarian-Universalist, I was abominably ignorant inwardly. I badly needed a “vision quest,” which of course is not a seminary requirement! The congregation I served may not even have noticed the paper thinness of my knowledge. More or less I’d been hired as a stamp of approval on what everybody was doing, or inclined to do, already. The most grievous mistake I could make would be to use any religious language seriously – that is, to imply there was anything authoritative in all that bunkum. Such is the way we collectively detour around the Holy Ghost – that danger! – when we get too perilously close!

Indeed why should a thinking person still possessed with a glimmer of life-quick go to church for inspiration, for a message to quicken the soul, when you can listen to Kurt Elling sing in your own living room? Or otherwise watch the creative spirit in action in live jazz? Or when you can read online Revs. Chris Hedges, Cornel West, or Liz Theocaris, or encyclicals from Pope Francis – all quickened with passion? But those of us who live where we live, locally, starve for the socialist, good-for-all message that could resonate in our hearts and support us in our obstinate refusal to surrender our life-quick. What would happen if the professional clergy in the neighboring churches stopped being gatekeepers for the liberal class, suppressing the one message the soul longs to hear that it so happens was Jesus’s message?


Of course, not only Christians are accountable for not taking that next step in religious evolution – the difficult inward one. Needing comfort more than anything, even non-Christians adore profound-sounding words such as “love thine enemy,” but cannot get past words to the other reality hidden from us behind a mystifying metaphysical wall, the reality that quickens the soul. The fact is, that which we spend a great part of our lives doing, the job, the shopping, the home maintenance, the screen enthrallment, the video games, travel, etc., are not our truth, but only what we do with our time. They keep anxiety at bay, but also the “Holy Ghost.”

The modern predicament – Holy Ghost banished from the churches’ precincts, the imaginative impasse preventing the step that is inward and individual – makes the situation hopeless for passion on the local level. To follow one’s passion in such a negative environment is likely to end one up behaving recklessly, burning up like Icarus. As it has always been, so it still seems far wiser to pack up and leave the provinces and head to Paris and NYC if one wants to pursue one’s bliss. But what does this do to our dream of decentralizing, of returning to the local?

Recently I spoke with a young male friend about the disturbing case of a mutual acquaintance, a high school teacher named Dan who, our local newspaper reports, has been accused by a student of a sexual transgression. The transgression consisted, according to her account, of Dan’s putting two fingers in the girl’s jeans front pocket in front of the class. The school had dealt with the situation internally, but the mother is pursuing a civil complaint against him.

Dan is a longtime customer of our Cafe. To Orin and me, both former teachers, he’s always seemed extraordinarily dynamic, not limiting education to “coloring inside the lines” of state-mandated curricula. One might with justification have said of him, he taught with passion. For years he met with students, male and female, past and current, at our cafe; apparently they did not find him creepy. Pre-pandemic, he had become a volunteer with an impassioned theater project that brings NYC actors to perform Shakespeare with nonprofessional locals in a renovated barn south of Utica. As volunteer, Dan wore many hats enthusiastically; additionally, he brought students in to be involved in something exciting and real. He has already resigned from the theater and his 20-plus-year school-teaching career is likely finished.

A teacher following his/her passion is on his own; he’s done his job if students get good SAT scores. The rest – enthusiasm – is beside the point and very risky! To my friend I tried to say – without making excuses for Dan’s alleged action – how hard we make it for people with passion in a society that condemns it. I had expected he, usually slow to condemn, would be sympathetic to Dan’s plight.

Instead, he added kindling to the fire. He spoke cynically about the possibility of MeToos adding to the lynching fervor. Being a bartender, he’s overheard former students talk about Dan’s flirtatiousness. He did not pick up on my point about passion’s plight in our world. I suspect he, like the rest of us, has an ambivalent relation to his passion which makes him morally ambivalent, without a basis for taking – or having – a “side.”

The conversation revealed both the powerful taboo against passion, the Holy Ghost, and the social need for it. Since it left me immediately disheartened, the effect was to turn on myself for my naivete, my blundering talk about “passion” as if people can just “get me” immediately, etc. Boy am I Stupid!

This is what happens when we intentionally bring in the Holy Ghost’s witness among people who have not consented to believe. Those of us who are motivated by passion for, but isolated by its otherness, must face the dominant reality of negation unsupported. Even many people who read Chris Hedges’ morally inspiring jeremiads, are clueless as to the source of that passion. Does anyone wonder from whence comes Chris’s extraordinary passion for the social good? If I too am a center of the universe may I not also have access to that passion, and a duty to it?

At the level of the local, precisely because the local has been drained of its center, its intrinsic worth, by top-down centralized corporate reality and its media, by marketing and advertising that build off shame and belittlement, white peoples’ church is not for religion, but the comfort of banality. Jesus is demoted to a trauma counselor brought on the scene of the horror to keep people bravely going. Despiritualized, disensouled secular liberal reality walls itself off from god and goddess, from the reality of sin, of soul, of judgement, and from the great interwovenness, etc. It wants no part of knowing that religion and theology are not records of ignorance that civilization has, fortunately for us, overcome, but an evolution ongoing in immanence!

Might it not make a difference if religious leaders preached the Holy Ghost in our localities, so that genuine passion, genuine prophecy, might be heard, thrilled to, by those sitting in the pews, where now Truth Indivisible is avoided? However, restoring that Truth, means the center(s) must be restored, the religious leadership needed one that sees “about thee is a center I am not,” whose motive must be (gulp!) the Holy Ghost, not career. As improvisational art, religious leadership will defend the life-quick, the passion rooted in the soil of myth that is inwardly understood, cannot “manifest generally,” its truth verified solely in its power to quicken, and which makes people uncomfortable until they “get” its Great Mother blessing.

Last Friday sitting in our favorite bar, another young friend asked Orin and me what we’d felt like during the Cuban missile crisis. No need to wonder what he was thinking about! Instead of consoling – for who can? – I spoke angrily about these powerful leaders keeping the world in hostage, “scared to death.” He replied, “I’m not so much scared to death as scared of dying.” Well, okay. It’s human to be scared of dying. But here’s where passion for comes in. There’s more to our humanity than either being scared or trying to deny we’re scared. Can we now consent to joy, heeding the Muse, fire of our aliveness, such that we no longer can cooperate with her banishment?


Kim C. Domenico, reside in Utica, New York, co-owner of Cafe Domenico (a coffee shop and community space),  and administrator of the small nonprofit independent art space, The Other Side.  Seminary trained and ordained,  but independently religious. She can be reached at: kodomenico@verizon.net.