F o u r t h L l o y d P r o d u c t i o n s
Edited by Richard Lannoy
ISBN: 0-9 717806-1-7
Buy companion Volume Two
Biography of Lewis L. Thompson
From the introduction by Richard Lannoy
“Lewis Levien Thompson was born on January 13, 1909 in Fulham, then a London suburb. He spent most of his childhood in London, but never forgot the spell of enchantment which hung over the home of an aunt and uncle at the Priory, West Molesey in Surrey, where he spent many idyllic summers. Photographs show a sensitive and smiling boy in possession of a secret joy he could share with none. He had a conventional education for a middle class boy of those days up to the age of sixteen at Loughton School for Boys, was keen on drawing and showed some talent for the piano, but left without showing any great scholastic distinction. Along with his two younger sisters, Margot and Irene (known as Réné), Lewis had a strict Protestant upbringing. His mother had some Irish blood; his partly Jewish father, who came from Gosport, ran away at eighteen to join the Fifth Dragoon Guards, served in India and was later at the siege of Ladysmith, a grim and protracted event during the Boer War, with General Baden Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts movement, as his commander. “
Volume One of Thompson’s journals takes us into the wildly extreme and vibrating everyday world of the Indian sub-continent of the 1930’s and 40’s, through the poetic prism of a great spiritual aspirant and intellect bent on realizing the Presence of the Transcendent (Sahaja).
• We share his meetings with artists, personalities and remarkable sages of the time, including Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Anandamayi Ma, J. Krishna-murti and Sri Krishna Menon.
• We experience his attempts to integrate a Western heritage – Christ, Blake, Yeats, Rimbaud, Pascal – with the exigencies of Indian gnosis.
• We marvel at his self-invented writing yoga, whose bold vocabulary juxtaposes many levels of consciousness – waking, dreaming, visionary, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, tantra and vedanta.
The openness, fearlessness and freedom of the journals add an intimate context to his published aphorisms and poetry. Anyone interested in “the power which consecrates us beyond ourselves” will benefit from these journals.
TEMENOS ACADEMY REVIEW 2OO9 by John Hurrell Crook (pgs. 283-291)
Foreword To Lewis Thompson, The Journals of An Integral Poet
by Harry Oldmeadow, La Trobe University, Bendigo, October, 2006.
“The 20th century witnessed an extraordinary wave of Western pilgrims who travelled to the East in search of a spiritual wisdom no longer readily accessible in their own homelands. No doubt many of these seekers were drawn by the more exotic and ephemeral attractions of Asian cultures. But amongst their number were serious-minded wayfarers who, abandoning their former attachments and allegiances, plunged into the bracing depths of Eastern philosophy and spirituality. Some of the more dedicated aspirants in turn themselves became monks, yogis, sannyasis, teachers, rochis, and recluses. A few of these, in their Eastern guises, became well-known in the West—one may mention such figures as Sister Nivedita (Margaret Noble) Lama Anagarika Govinda (Ernst Hoffman), Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), and Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux).
Not the least remarkable of the many Europeans who underwent lengthy sojourns in the East was the English poet Lewis Thompson (1909–1949), who spent the last seventeen years of his short life in India. Thompson travelled extensively throughout the Indian sub-continent and came into close contact with various luminaries, including Ramana Maharshi, Anandamayi Ma, Aurobindo, Krishna Menon, Alain Daniélou and Krisha Prem. However, it was his inner journeys and the writings which sprang from them which mark Thompson as one of the century’s most intrepid spiritual explorers and as a ravishing mystical poet.
Throughout his years in India, practising the most severe self-discipline, Thompson produced a prodigious corpus of writings—some hundred-odd poems, an endless stream of aphorisms, an unbroken sequence of journals over the Indian years, a substantial body of letters, translations and various miscellanea, the whole Indian oeuvre amounting to some 3 million words, all of it meticulously organized and indexed by the poet himself. No one could doubt the seriousness with which Thompson took his vocation as a writer nor the tenacity and unwavering commitment he brought to writing itself as a marga, a spiritual discipline. Not without reason has Andrew Harvey described Lewis Thompson as ‘one of the most original, brave, brilliant and prescient of the pioneers of our contemporary mystical Renaissance’.
Lewis Thompson spent most of his adult life in poverty and obscurity. He met with some minor successes as a poet during his lifetime but, sadly, his writings as a whole have hitherto remained largely unpublished and unknown. More than three decades ago Richard Lannoy gave us that captivating tapestry of Indian culture and spirituality, The Speaking Tree. Since that time he has devoted much of his energy to a single-handed effort to preserve and make better-known these neglected writings, steeped in the traditions of both East and West. As part of this heroic endeavour Lannoy has edited and condensed Thompson’s remarkable journals which document his spiritual trajectory, often in incandescent passages which are both poetic and mystical—indeed, poetry has always been the medium par excellence of the mystics throughout the ages. Here we have the first volume, covering some of Thompson’s experiences in his early years in south India, his intimate and eventually troubled relationship with Sri Krishna Menon, and the first part of what was perhaps his most stunning achievement, the Benares Journal, spanning the last eight years of his life from 1941 to 1949. It is my fervent hope that, along with the 2001 publication of Thompson’s collected poems, Black Sun (also introduced and edited by Richard Lannoy), the long-overdue appearance of the first volume of the journal will earn Thompson his rightful place amongst the most arresting spiritual writers of the 20th century.”