Thank you very much, Diana, for your indepth elucidation
of the significance of the Upanishadic wisdom of "tat tvam
asi" and "neti neti" with regard to the rejection in Eliot's
poetry of the illusions of Maya and false ego and the quest
for a higher state of consciousness. To me, the 'Preludes',
as the title suggests, mark the beginnings of the poet's
sense of disenchantment with the mundane reality.
 
I'm absolutely in agreement with you in these premises.
 
Best regards.
 
~ CR
 
 


Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Dear CR:
I think that understanding what the Upanishads signify in TWL is crucial to coming to some sense of the poem's unity. I am beginning to suspect that all such references point a way out of the narrator's burdensome egotism (shy ineffectual people are the most self-conscious!), and figure in his personal grail quest for a God in which he could believe.
"That Thou Art" is one of the four great Vedic statements. As elucidated by Swami Nikhilananda of the Sri Ramakrishna Centre:
http://www.hinduism.co.za/thatthou.htm
"The identity of Brahman and Atman (the embodied soul) has been expressed in the well known Vedic formula as Maha Vakya (great dictum) "That Thou Art"...Therefore the statement "THAT THOU ART" really conveys a transcendental experience of oneness which is beyond the body, mind, senses and ego and the sensations associated with them. When a person realises this oneness with Brahman. he is oblivious of the idea that he is an embodied being."
From this and other teachings I understand "Tat Tvam Asi" as a description of a psychic state in which we are the other, the reality where all relations of a separate "self" are seen as illusion.
As it is phrased elsewhere:
"In this non-dual/transpersonal world of an all inclusive Brahman, divine shakti is seen in the tree, the river, the flowers, the stars, the ocean, and even in the human animal. It is beyond objectification or elaboration. "It" as such can not be known or owned. The only place it is not seen is in that which is unreal, make believe, symbolic -- that which is illusory, false, or what is considered to exist in isolation in the frozen and deluded corrupted fragmented sphere of ego (limitation and individual "self hood"). This latter sphere (the delusional reality of the ego) only exists in the deluded mind, so it is not considered real (although it colors "reality" for those who are deluded in superficial appearances)."
http://www.rainbowbody.net/HeartMind/netineti.htm
I have often seen the well known Sanskrit expression "neti neti" that is also found in the Upanishads associated with "tat tvam asi". Literally it means "neither this, nor that." Taken as another description of non-dualistic thinking, or of a means to achieving it, it would relegate the " fancies that are curled/Around these images" in Eliot's poem to the realm of ego and its self-serving illusions.
I look forward to your thoughts about this. Best, Diana
--------------------
CR wrote:
I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.
 
Hi Diana,
 
By broaching on the Sanskrit epigram "tat tvam asi", you
raise a controversial aspect of interpreting Eliot's poetry,
especially 'Prufrock and Other Observations'.
 
From what little I have gathered from a site at Google,
the maxim literally means "That thou art".
 
In transcendental Indian philosophy, one interpretation
is: "That" (universal spirit) thou art. It simply means
that the universal spirit manifests itself in the individual
spirit.
 
But the maxim could also mean (and this could be
relevant to the interpretation of Eliot's poetry):
"That" (the world of objective reality created
by a poet) is what the poet is. Some critics have
indeed applied to Eliot's poetry this philosophy
of subject-object correspondence propounded by
FH Bradley (who undeniably was a major shaping
influence on Eliot).
 
Thus, for instance, taking their lead from this
notion, they tend literally to equate Prufrock with
the objects of his perception so that, as Hugh Kenner
would have it, the "streets, the yellow fog, the drains,
the coffee spoons are Prufrock", the "evenings,
mornings, afternoons" are Prufrock, as much as
"the voice which says, 'I have known them all already,
known them all".
 
To me, this approach is untenable since Bradley
himself discounted solipsistic interpretations of
immediate experience: "It would not follow", he
said, "that all the world is merely a state of myself."
 
In point of fact, the objects and situations appear
to Prufrock's highly perceptive mind as symbols
which illumine for him the underlying reality of the
social scene.
 
I guess it holds good for much of his other
"Observations".
 
As for your placing "tat tvam asi" in contradistinction
to the narrator's "fancies that are curled / Around
these images", you seem to suggest that the
"tat" (that) -- the essence -- is far removed from
the "fancies".
 
I wouldn't go with you here. To me these "fancies"
are the narrator's "reflections" born of his observations
of the social scene. And it is these fancies that constitute
the essence ("tat") of his observation. In the lines quoted
above from 'Preludes', aren't "fancies" subsumed in "The
notion" -- the notion of some infinitely gentle, infinitely
suffering thing???
 
Best regards.
 
~ CR


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