Me from Myself -- to banish

by Emily Dickinson


Original Language English

Me from Myself -- to banish --
Had I Art --
Impregnable my Fortress
Unto All Heart --

But since Myself -- assault Me --
How have I peace
Except by subjugating
Consciousness?

And since We're mutual Monarch
How this be
Except by Abdication --
Me -- of Me?

-- from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by Thomas H. Johnson

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I love the way this brief poem by Emily Dickinson perfectly pares her lines down to the essential words... maybe not even quite revealing every essential word. A few sharp, punctuated statements, and she says it all.

But what is this great 19th century American mystic saying? Reread the lines.

She is striving to "banish" herself from herself. It is an "assault" of "Me" by "Myself," and the only way to have peace is by "subjugating" or mastering "Consciousness." The solution: "...Abdication -- / Me -- of Me".

Written in a different century and different culture, this could be read as a Sufi poem of fana or ecstatic self-annihilation. It could be read as a Buddhist poem of mind dissolving to reveal Buddha mind, an Advaita Yoga poem of discovering the true Self.

Emily Dickinson is clearly playing with the two levels of self. There is the little self that most people think of as who they are, the identity that clings and sticks, that imagines itself trapped in the body and in time. And then there is the vast, unified Self, who resides everywhere without boundary, but whose seat or "Fortress" is found to be the heart.

To find the fullness life in the greater Self, the little self must fall away, it must be banished or "die" This is one way Christian esoteric tradition understands Christ's injunction to die in order to be reborn. This is the Sufi goal of self-annihilation in the Beloved. This the discovery of awakened awareness beneath mundane perception, the recognition of the true Self.

This is how Dickinson can tease us with her playful riddles, talking about banishing "Me from Myself" -- finding peace and an "Impgregnable... Fortress / Unto All Heart."



Recommended Books: Emily Dickinson

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, and Adrienne Rich Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
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Me from Myself