I agree that it is a death of ego. But I hasten to add that I do not
myself have any desire for a dead ego in this sense, and I don't think
Eliot ever experienced it or claimed to.
I would question Lear--more like the dark night of sense than of
spirit, since Lear is a very intensely present self, not an opened soul
for god to enter.
>>> Barnwell Black <[log in to unmask]> 07/31/07 8:11 PM >>>
Re the comparison of the T. S. Eliot of TWL with the
of 4Q, I think CR and Nancy are "right on," to borrow a phrase from
youth. The post-conversion concept of "the death of the Self" seems to
represent the death of the "Ego," a necessary happening before
rebirth, as per TSE -- a movement away from the "We live as if by our
own wisdom" of
Heraclitus toward the common Logos. Another example in literature of
"the death of the Self, or Ego" is the soliloquy of KING Lear to the
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!
Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters:
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children,
You owe me no subscription: then let fall
Your horrible pleasure: here I stand, your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man:
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That have with two pernicious daughters join'd
Your high engender'd battles 'gainst a head
So old and white as this. O! O! 'tis foul!
Now that's that I call "the Dark Night of the Soul."
Where exactly is the death of the Self in TSE? And do you mean Self
instead of self (or what is the distinction)? My thought is that TSE,
or post-conversion, would be more inclined to turn the self toward God
to extinguish it.
To Eliot, the death of the Self is ancillary to spiritual rebirth.
One has first to arrive at the stage of what Saint John of the Cross
called The Dark Night of the Soul. Here's how 'Burnt Norton'
describes it :
Descend lower, descend only
Into the world of perpetual solitude,
World not world, but that which is not world,
Internal darkness, deprivation
And destitution of all property,
Desiccation of the world of sense,
Evacuation of the world of fancy,
Inoperancy of the world of spirit;
This is the one way, and the other
Is the same, not in movement
But abstention from movement; while the world moves
In appetency, on its metalled ways
Of time past and time future.
One could say that the "self" has been eaten by the leopards in AW and
therefore is dead though some voice is remaining, but the negative way
of St. John of the Cross does call for the death of self--in the sense
of becoming nothing through the removing of sense in the dark night of
the senses and of any self in the dark night of the soul, so that god
can enter. It is in any case present in 4Q, however you read it in
relation to the rest.
On the other hand, Eliot admired mystics; he never claimed to be on, so
the context matters.
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