Dear Rick, and Nancy, too,
Admittedly, one problem here is the lack of a definition of mystical experience. What Eliot calls "hints and guesses" in FQ is what he has had, the moments "in and out of time." His idea of Incarnation, when an individual experiences him/herself both in eternity and time. Following these moments of illumination is the attempt to make moral decisions based on that double vision ("between two worlds," "in the stillness / Between two waves of the sea"). I do believe Eliot had these moments, or that Eliot would have us believe that he had them.
Donald Davie's article that appeared recently in the TLS, attacking Eliot's truthfulness, saying Eliot wanted to have these experiences so desperately that he may have believed that he had them. Something to that effect. I believe Eliot did have them. The images he uses so shake me ("Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning. / The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry, / The laughter in the garden", "the moment in the arbour where the rain beat, /The moment in the draughty church at smokefall"), it is hard for me to accept that they don't spring from something more profound than the wish to sound profound. But, on the other hand, does it make a lot of difference whether it is Eliot-the-man or the persona in FQ who had these experiences? Did Hesse have all of the experiences he has his mystical questors go through? Granted the persona (if there is only one--another question) in FQ bears a consciously autobiographical reference to Eliot that Hesse's characters do not, is it ultimately dishonesty on Eliot's part to give the persona the experiences he wishes he has had. Perhaps so. But isn't it this kind of Chinese puzzle that Eliot's life and corpus of works presents us with that makes studying him so fascinating?
J. P. Earls, OSB
St. John's University
Collegeville, MN 56321
From: Rickard A. Parker [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, May 23, 2002 9:17 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Milton, FQ (why OT?)
J.P. Earls wrote:
> I never encountered that statement by Eliot. Lyndall Gordon bases
> her claim for such an experience on the poem "Silence,"
It may have been a "peak experience" (Maslow's term I believe) and not
identified by Eliot as quite a mystical experience.