Do the poetic language and symbols of "little gidding" offer possibilities of hystical experience?
How would Eliot view the relationship between his poem and spiritual experience?
Consider some of the mystical notions in poem worldless prayer, agape love.
Do the poetic language and symbols of "little gidding" offer possibilities of mystical experience?
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There are many examples in the poem that point to mystical experience.For example, in part two:
The first-met stranger in the waning dusk
I caught the sudden look of some dead master
Whom I had known, forgotten, half recalled
Both one and many; in the brown baked features
The eyes of a familiar compound ghost
Both intimate and unidentifiable.
So I assumed a double part, and cried
And heard another's voice cry: 'What! are you here?'
And he: 'I am not eager to rehearse
My thoughts and theory which you have forgotten.
These things have served their purpose: let them be.
He meets a ghost from his past who reminds him that he shared his thoughts and abstract ideas about how to live but he didn't really listen. What Eliot is saying is that the dead cannot really help us. Spirituality and mystical experience has to be found int he now, and only by ourselves.
In the next stanza he says
Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us—a symbol:
He he telling us that the dead cannot help us because all they leave behind is a symbol.
In stanza four he says that only by the fire of love can we be redeemed.
In stanza five he talks about how history is a burden. He says it doesn't matter whether we know the history that preceded us or not because we are affected by it in our everyday lives.
In the last part of stanza five he tells us how to be redeemed. He says that at the end we will arrive at the beginning and know it for the first time. We will no longer judge but approach people in love. He speaks of the unknown remembered gate. This is a sort of mystical experience where you recognize an experience as something you have lived through before; however you actually haven't lived through it at all. He says
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
Eliot means that we must be totally innocent and simple like children to arrive at this mystical experience of living. It is simple but costs us everything. We must give up our intelligence and wisdom and knowledge of the social world and everything we already know about life, to become so simple as to experience life in a mystical way.
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