I think Eliot is clearly referring to negative and positive ways of mysticism--love of the created world and a mysticism of immanence, or rejection and the negative way. Neither is like indifference--neither caring or acting--which is what lands people in the vestibule of Hell, not even worth damning. Both detachment and attachment, in Eliot's phrases, are to "self and to things and to persons"--not to God or to good or to engagement where it is necessary. One could be "detached" in a theological sense and still hide a fugitive from Nazis. One could be "attached" in a theological sense and still focus on, say, one's community rather than a world-wide problem. Choices are unavoidable, I presume. But I do not think one can read these lines in the terms of conventional or individual meanings of "attachment" or "detachment" because of the context in the poem. It follows the Dantesque scene of his own firewatching in WWII--one assumes attachment to his own country. It precedes the section on Little Gidding itself and the lines from Julian of Norwich, a cloistered nun sealed up in a wall with only a window. Little Gidding was a kind of lay monastic life but one of community; Julian was a recluse (though she did have visitors at the window).
Whether one accepts these as the only options is a quite different issue. It is possible to be emotionally deeply attached or detached and still make judgments that call for engagement rather than allowing evil to prevail.
>>> Alex Freer <[log in to unmask]> 04/20/08 7:53 AM >>>
On Saturday 19 April 2008 23:17:42 Carrol Cox wrote:
> Translated into terms of human action, this seems to be a perfect excuse
> to ignore massacres & other horors -- after all they are merely things
> and/or persons.
If detachment is:
"disconnecting, separation, standing apart or aloof from objects or
then it is surely a positive trait in the field of human action. After all,
the "massacres" of the world have occurred while good men remained aloof,
which is the point I believe you made, yet that is the passive condition for
said massacre. The active condition is something much more disturbing, a very
self-assured, emotional and prejudicial attachment to the events and people
concerned. It cannot be said that the perpetrators of genocide had true
objectivity towards their victims, therefore they were not "standing apart"
from circumstances, but rather being consumed by them.
At worst, then, detachment can only be as bad as attachment in a general
sense, and each has its problems and advantages in specific circumstances.
On Sunday 20 April 2008 00:51:14 Kate Troy wrote:
> Attachment, I believe, Carrol, is
> a good thing in general, in that it often brings feelings of warmth and
In the field of human emotion, attachment is of course a marvellous thing. I
would try to draw a distinction between emotion and action. While it is true
that the two are intrinsically linked, I should like to think that we might
aspire to be connected emotionally to people and objects, and aspire to be
apart from circumstances and without prejudice in our actions. I recognise it
is not a goal that may be fully achieved, but that does not denigrate the