“Democracy is a faith, and it is an ideal and I think it is the greatest expression of western experience, this notion that there is a fraternity of men and women is a very, very high idea. It involves a deep, deep appetite that cannot be denied.” Leonard Cohen (1995)

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Democracy is the religion of the west and perhaps the greatest religion that the west has produced because it affirms other religions. Most religions have a lot of trouble affirming other religions. A great religion affirms other religions and a great culture affirms other cultures, and democracy is a faith, and it is an ideal and I think it is the greatest expression of western experience, this notion that there is a fraternity of men and women is a very, very high idea. It involves a deep, deep appetite that cannot be denied.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, interviewed by Cindy Buissaillon for CBC Radio on August 26, 1995. Originally posted April 13, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Hear Leonard Cohen Talk About Poetry, The Soul, & Book Of Mercy + Recite The Captain: 1984 Interview

In June 1984 I sat with Leonard Cohen in his room at the top of Toronto’s Sutton Place Hotel where we talked about his newest collection Book of Mercy. I confessed an uneasiness about love poems because of how often other kinds of love beyond the romantic are overlooked or are treated in a puerile fashion. Not so one poem coming three months after my son’s birth… Even more interesting is what he had to say about poetry and the shift away from traditional lyric to language poetry.

David Godkin’s YouTube Description

A few key quotes from Leonard Cohen’s interview follow:

  • Book of Mercy can only be conceived as a book of prayer… it is different from my other books
  • I’m comfortable [using] the name of God
  • There are many superstitions afoot; one is that there is no soul.
  • You only address the problem of soul when you feel that you’re losing it
  • [Referring to Snow Is Falling by William Carlos Williams] That kind of accuracy is present on every page of Book of Mercy; it’s just about a landscape that’s unfamiliar

 

 

Photo by Daniel Bastida.

“He tells me ‘Do you know the difference between a Rémy Martin cognac and a Courvoisier?’ ‘I do not know,’ I tell him. I try it… Remy Martin may have a more feminine taste? That’s the kind of conversation we have.” Leonard Cohen Talks About Roshi


When did you first come into contact with Buddhism and Zen?

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I never came into contact with them directly, they didn’t interest me. But I met a man twenty years ago, whom I enjoyed very much. He was older than me, and he seemed to know more than me. One of the things he knew was how to drink. I learned from him how to drink. It turns out he was an old Zen monk. And as he told me a few years ago: ‘Leonard, I’ve known you for eighteen years and I’ve never tried to give you my religion. I’m just using sake.’ This is what my relationship with Buddhism has been, I have no interest in Buddhism, no interest in Zen. What interests me is drinking with my old friend and to be in his company. I enjoy sitting in the meditation room because there is no phone, the incense is sweet, it’s very quiet and I can hang on my piece of wood very well when I sit there in the morning. You have the opportunity to study your self, how it rises and how it falls. But what the Buddhist theologians have to say on the issue does not interest me much.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

What are you talking about with this monk?

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Well, he does not speak English, so it is very difficult to discuss theology with him. He tells me ‘Do you know the difference between a Rémy Martin cognac and a Courvoisier?’ ‘I do not know,’ I tell him. I try it. Hum… He tastes. Hum… Remy Martin may have a more feminine taste? That’s the kind of conversation we have. He has a tendency not to particularly like religion. It is difficult not to have an aversion toward religion when you see what it does to people, at what point they become satisfied with themselves, to what point it separates themselves from others. Generally speaking religion has a pretty disagreeable odor. The love of God, that’s a different story. At least two times a year I go to Mount Baldy. It looks like a monastery; it is a very intensive center for Zen training. The days are filled with meditation and manual labor. In the kitchen, in the garden, we dig, we paint. I like being part of a community once in awhile. There is nothing extra, you live the day, no theology, no dogma. You live a religious life on the inside, not on the outside. You get up at three in the morning, you sit for two hours in the meditation room, you prepare breakfast, you clean, you polish, you garden, then you meditate again. And you study yourself in your own way with the help of a teacher but not one of theology.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate.

Leonard Cohen Invokes A Thousand Kisses Deep To Answer “What does Christ mean to you?”

What does Christ mean to you?

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Last year I tried to put it this way: Was looking at the crucifix. Got something in my eye. A Light that doesn’t need to live and doesn’t need to die. What’s written in the Book of Love is strangely incomplete, ’til witnessed here in time and blood a thousand kisses deep.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Online Web Chat October 16, 2001. The verse is from A Thousand Kisses Deep in Book of Longing

Leonard’s recitation of A Thousand Kisses Deep only rarely included this verse. In one of the June 2008 Dublin shows, he employed slightly different lyrics:

Was looking at the crucifix
Got something in my eye
A light that doesn’t need to live
And doesn’t need to die
A riddle in the book of love obscure and obsolete,
Til witnessed here in time and blood
A thousand kisses deep

The video below should automatically begin at the pertinent point.

A Thousand Kisses Deep – Leonard Cohen
Dublin: June 2008
Video by albertnoonan

“Organised religion on the inside is very tender to its members. On the outside it tends to be antagonistic to the other organised religions… That, I think, is deeply sinful.” Leonard Cohen


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Organised religion on the inside is very tender to its members. On the outside it tends to be antagonistic to the other organised religions. They tend on the inside to act like family, on the outside they tend to act like states, and they’re continually putting themselves in an abrasive positions in regard to one another. That, I think, is deeply sinful.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns – Interview With Leonard Cohen Presented By John McKenna. RTE Ireland, May 9 & 12, 1988. Originally posted June 10, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“There is a kind of surrender about it, not in the sense of giving up but the kind of surrender that involves an embrace.” Leonard Cohen On Reconciliation With God In Various Positions


A sense of reconciliation, as opposed to raging against God… permeates Various Positions.

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Well, I think the record is clearer in its own way. There isn’t a clear message in it, a programme that is being offered or a a manifesto in that sense, but yeah I think it is reconciled… There is a kind of surrender about it, not in the sense of giving up but the kind of surrender that involves an embrace.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Tortoise-Shell Hero by Biba Kopf. New Musical Express, March 2, 1985.