Nancy is quite right, IMO. Here is some more detail from John's Gospel
(focusing on "Word," "Light" and "darkness"). (NIV Translation.) I
have always thought that the quoted passage from Ash Wednesday had
reference both to John, espec. Ch. 1, and to Isaiah 9:2 (also quoted
below). (Isaiah 9 is perhaps universally understood as a prophecy of
the coming of the Messiah (Christ); see verses 6-7.)
From John 1:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that
has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood
it [or "has not overcome it"].
6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.
7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through
him all men might believe.
8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the
world. [or "This was the true light that gives light to every man who
comes into the world."]
And from Chapter 3:
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved
darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the
light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may
be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
Isaiah 9:2 (also NIV):
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living
in the land of the shadow of death [or "land of darkness"] a light has
And see Isaiah 9:6-7:
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government
will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor [or
"Wonderful, Counselor"], Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He
will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and
upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and
forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
I hope this helps!
From: Nancy Gish [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2003 11:22 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: 'Ash Wednesday' : A clarification requested
The "word" is also a Western Christian concept. See the Gospel of John:
"In the beginning was the Word."
Date sent: Thu, 13 Mar 2003 05:53:52 -0800
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum."
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From: Vishvesh Obla <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: 'Ash Wednesday' : A clarification requested
To: [log in to unmask]
I quoted Eliot's 'Ash Wednesday' elsewhere since it
was Ash Wednesday last week and a friend of mine, who
is a very spiritual person and well knowledged in
Indian spirituality, was struck by Eliot's emphasis on
the 'Word' from the stanza quoted later. Eliot's
poems interest me not for their allusions (very
scholarly and varied, and hence interesting, though)
but for the poetry they get transformed to. My friend
asked me if I could explain what Eliot refers to the
'word'. I could understand that Eliot makes some kind
of allusion to the Upanishadic 'AUM' in the stanza.
But then, I thought I could see how others perceived
it before I made any comment on it to him. I would
appreciate any of your comments on it.
PS : Here is the stanza:
"If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and
deny the voice..."