Remembering a Life in a Dream

Eugene%20Taylor 1 - Remembering a Life in a Dream

Editor’s Note: On May 25, 2013, various founding members, regular contributors, and guest contributors to the New Existentialists joined other family members, friends, and colleagues to celebrate the life of Dr. Eugene Taylor, a member of the Saybrook University executive faculty, a member of the faculty at Harvard University, and one of the founding members of the New Existentialists, who passed away in January 2013. We gathered at the Swedenborg Chapel across the street from the Harvard campus in Cambridge, MA, a place that was near and dear to Taylor’s heart. Not only did Taylor consider the Chapel his spiritual home, thanks to his fascination with Emanuel Swedenborg, a 17th century Christian mystic, who influenced Henry James the Elder, as well as his sons Henry and William James, and much of the Transcendentalist movement, but also because the chapel hosted the lecture series that formed the basis for his own dissertation research and eventual PhD.

In addition, Taylor was instrumental in helping to get the chapel associated with Harvard’s official campus United Ministries as well as hosting Tibetan groups there, most famously while the president of China was speaking across the street on the Harvard campus. Inside the chapel, there is a photograph of Taylor with the Dalai Lama.

Among the many people paying tribute to Taylor was Ed Mendelowitz, Saybrook faculty member and a founding member of the New Existentialists as well as a dear friend of Taylor’s, especially in those final days. Mendelowitz closed his remarks by recounting the following dream he had a week after Taylor’s passing—a dream that really captures the essence of this incomparable scholar and human being, who left us too soon.

“About a week after Eugene’s death I had a dream. I was sitting with him in what appeared to be a hotel room. (We are all travelers, after all, are we not?) We were discussing psychology and our shared visions about what our discipline might one day conceivably be. I said something to him about a requisite yet compact lexicon that would not succumb to clichés or hackneying, one that pointed upward and outward toward where we needed more nearly to be. Eugene responded with genuine enthusiasm, as he often would to my somewhat less scholastically derived yet simpatico hopes and ideals. A woman entered the room who seemed vaguely familiar to me. I realized she was there to learn from a master. Eugene suddenly spun around in his chair to a writing desk and, like the energetic teacher of old, scanned his laptop computer with joyful alertness. Opening an electronic file to ‘the third chapter’ (telling us what he was doing as he did so), he took off from what had now become my original point of departure to instruct us on finer points only he himself knew. (Yes, Eugene always knew exactly where to find in the liturgy just what he wanted to convey.) Behind him, I now beheld an entire wall of books. I am happy, I thought, that Reb Taylor is still here. And then I woke up to find he was not.”

— Ed Mendelowitz

Read more stories by Ed Mendelowitz