James Douglass’s spiritual take on JFK

What I like about James Douglass, author of “JFK and The Unspeakable,” is that he combines awareness of the newest evidence in the case with attention to the profound spiritual lessons at the heart of that event, which are still very much alive. You don’t have to be a liberal Catholic to appreciate the power of what he says.

Douglass spoke to the Thomas Merton Society of Canada in Vancouver this weekend.

From the Vancouver Sun story:

Douglass knew Merton, a monk and fellow pacifist whom he compares to Gandhi. Merton died in 1968, possibly by accidental electrocution, while attending an interfaith conference in Thailand, but he left a profound impression through his many writings.

“Merton is the lens through which I view the events I examine in the book,” said Douglass. “The title of my book is JFK and the Unspeakable; Merton wrote a book called Raids on the Unspeakable. The Unspeakable he was talking about was a kind of systemic evil we are in denial about that includes events like the Holocaust, the Vietnam War in its depth and breadth, as well as the assassinations that took place in the ’60s.”

The Unspeakable, he explains, is “a void,” “a personal and communal denial of what is actually happening,” “the dark abyss,” “a kind of systemic evil.”

Kennedy was trapped in this void of the systemic “unspeakable,” but had begun breaking away after a deep personal transformation that led to a turning toward peace, said Douglass.

“When you get to the question of the JFK assassination and deal with records that have been revealed (in recent years) you see connections so profound, that go so high, that Merton’s term the unspeakable becomes applicable.”


2 thoughts on “James Douglass’s spiritual take on JFK”

  1. While I couldn’t make the 2009 COPA Conference in Dallas, I did catch James Douglas’ important talk on line and thought it significant enough to transcribe it and post it at my blog, which Dave Ratcliffe picked up on and elaborated on further, adding additional text, footnotes and commentary.


    More recently RFK,Jr. mentioned the book during his interview with Charlie Rose.

  2. It is commendable that you have posted this piece. I have long believed that unless the investigation of Kennedy’s assassination includes this aspect of the human experience, we risk overlooking a major piece of the puzzle. The darker aspects of the spectacular murder in Dallas in broad daylight underscore the “shock” affect that Vincent Salandria drew attention to decades ago. I too believe that it was deliberately designed to make the lasting impression that it has on the collective psyche. It truly was an unspeakable act.

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