The Brain -- is wider than the Sky –
For -- put them side by side --
The one the other will contain
With ease -- and You – beside
The Brain is deeper than the sea –
For -- hold them -- Blue to Blue –
The one the other will absorb
As Sponges – Buckets – do
The Brain is just the weight of God —
For Heft them -– Pound for Pound –-
And they will differ -– if they do —
As Syllable from Sound
The poet concludes that since the brain conceives the sky, the sea and God -- holds them in mind so to speak -- the brain is actually bigger than anatomy allows for in the space between our ears. Once again Dickinson connects the earthly life with the ethereal, examining the paradoxical nature of that relationship, toying with our notion of size as a physical absolute, showing how that which appears to be impossible or contradictory is actual and true.
In browsing my Penguin Classics Valerie Roebuck translation of the Upanisads, I came across a bit of dialogue between Janaka of Videha and Yajnavalkya from Chapter 1, Book IV of Brhadaranyaka Upanisad: The Great Forest Teaching. In it, the wise one, Yajnavalkya, tells his majesty Janaka “The mind, your majesty, is indeed the supreme brahman. The one who knows this, and worships it as such, the mind does not desert him; all beings flock to him; and becoming a god he goes to the gods.”
Thus, both Emily and the Upanisads tell us that the ability of the mind to conceive of the divine means the mind itself is divine. In imagining a model of this relationship, I see eternal Russian nesting dolls, the mind doll holding the divine doll holding the mind doll holding the divine doll. Or there’s that picture I remember from the ketchup squirt bottles in the old time New York diners, the one with the waitress holding the tray on which there was a ketchup bottle with a picture of the waitress holding a tray on which there was a ketchup bottle with a picture of a waitress holding a tray on which there was a ketchup bottle…hmmm, this could go on forever.