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May 25, 1947 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 1947-05-25

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Pae $ix

PESP'CTVE

HE MET PH SI S TO. S. LIOT'S

Jf' S. EITOT most recent poetic work,
the grouip of four poems entitled
hour Quas'io, ows another definite
pnlase of his development. Not only do
these poem continue to develop the re-
igious themi wboch he turned to earlier,
but they hav( added a new, abstract,
)netaphysica.concept. So that though
they are i u m cways more explicit
than his earlier oems, on another level
they are uch msr┬░ difficult. Of course,
publication of an-,y new work by so es-
tablished a fire as Eliot is bound to
attract the 00ter0est of critics and in-
tcrpreter, andi 'consequence numer-
o'u attempts has' been made to explain
the new )oe fcm various points of
view. Main ohec have been attempts
either to mnt',r'cot specific symbols or
to indical tic' "n :es of the ideas and
those people 'o corks to whom Eliot
, indebted.
C suppose tl""hosle tradition of crit-
icism uphlolds sch tan approach as this
tracing of infle' es. But I feel that
much ooccs ma' Jtc attitude, particu-
larly when coo _ isng contemporaneous
iofuences, "ii"pho to point out the
other pacc wher the ideas occur,
rtother t ftil to establish causal
relations li etween t hem. Obviously the
concepts curn c:,ac any particular per-
lid of tue are e clessed in many ways
l, many different people. It seems to
m50e extremely risky to assume that they
nust have eff.td one another and to
attempt to etatiisch some sort of chron-
olagy of inllencioe. It is much more
logical simply to note the recurrence of
these concept atd to compare their
media of exiros-son, without trying to
)ill thesi tioge-dt'er causally.
With thb" atiti'oach, then, I think it
i' a simple msatter to demonstrate the
v ry close Co0netion between the meta-
phaysics of 1o ii i3ergson, as stated pri-
icarily inr Cc'ctF ve Evolution, and Eliot's
metaphysics in the Four Quartets. The
point of depastur for both men involves
as age-old metas'rysical preoccupation,
a. theory on tie. For Eliot it is his
original tlcm, to which he returns
again and aai and on which he bases
Ws religious cotc sions; for Bergson
it is a necessry ndition for the exis-
"sce of lii , i - vital and creative
evolutionsasri do to ie. Just as interest-
iog as tis so'ito theme is the cor-
reospondence of i'rssion. As a matter
of fact, due t's te similarity of phras-
sso, it is at timo_ 0nly too tempting to
aeert that : isn has been a direct
aid powerf l ┬░Ioece on Eliot.
.ergso is intrc-sted basically in es-
to ilishing 2 oneterministic meta-
hyiiisical scste To do so he must show
Vint life i cosve. constantly chang-
if orce, and tat there is novelty in
tI" sense i'at e'ents cannot be pre-
octed befoc' t's f occur, even though
by hindsigto ' its evident that their
causes w e aasf, e present. This view
rocessitatoso'riio in a theory of time
fiat will :'-s'.ont for this sense of
foange ad nccotic. It is Bergson's idea
tlhat there aire sily two kinds of time:
tsat which se cats mathematical time
and that"w'i' sc alls real time. The
distinction is no patent, but as nearly
a it is po'ihe to tell what he means,
h' intends tle ftomer to refer to the
lte in wli.h .al physical events take
'lace, for istan0e, the time necessary
for a chemical i'sction to complete it-
self. This tine is reversible in the sense
that the reactio can be repeated again
and again, andif the conditions are
topt constant, the time interval will
a c remaiss t isame. Furthermore,
tloe results of the reaction are complete-
)>, predictaole. We know all the reagents
asd conditiono ;favoring the reaction,
anid we know it will go any time these
conditioms ar 'duplicated. The causes
are known wad the effect is foreseen.
tteal ti', Iiosever, is quite another
mstter. It a , At t Bergson calls dura-

tion. That is, it is aconstant flow that
cannot be broken up into periods, that
is not, therefore, reversible, and in
which there is no predictability. It is
this time in which we live. To return
to the example of the chemical reaction,
the time taken in this case takes no
account of the emotional status of those
watching it, of any anxiety or eagerness
they may have. The real time spent is
measured in these terms and varies from
person to person. It is not commen-
surable with the mathematical time nor
can it ever be duplicated. It is a .con
stant flow of one state into another and
there is no way of ses'c isng one state
from the next, Rea time cannot be
divided into instantss o it0"fa' oe
time we are one tint d at -he next
moment we are atoter. 5 a1 ieare
constantly changing " this n of cie
And though admittedy the causes fr t
each new phase are c"nained '' the
present one, that nec' ""' -cannot b-
predicted. And he co nsdes, .herefore.
that there is novelcy 'as a le is
constantly Creating
Impled in ths a.. sante
important aspect w ic" Bergs' em-
phasizes. If the causesf eachnewde.
velopment are present a 'ach stage,
then all of the asc i recorded per-
manently and is prese:ved in the es
ent, and the future is also in the pres-
ent, though not predicle. ere he
introduces the evidence of organic mem.
ory to sustain this premise. Even
though we may not consciously remem
ber everything that we have experienced
in complete detail, yet we do so uncon-
sciously. The results of psychoanaly-
sis demonstrate tic tenability of the
theory. Everything, ther, is preserved in
the present and the future is contained
in it.
"My memory is there, which con-
veys something of the past into the
present. My mental state, as it ad-
vances on the roa of time, is con-
tinually swelling with the duration
which it accumulates . , . The truth is
that we change without ceasing.and
that the state tself is nothing but
change . . . For our duration is not
merely one instant replaing anothe
if it were, there wold never be any
thing but the presen-no prolonging
of the past into the actual no evolu-
tion, no concrete durtion. Duration
is the continuous prore of the past
which gnaws into We futue and
which swells as i adnces , . . In
reality, the past is preserved by it-
self, automatical. Is t s entire.,
probably. it follows s at every in-
stant ... The cere:nal mechanism is
arranged just ie .s t sodriveba
into the unconscious almos the whole
of the past... From this survival of
the past it follows that consciousness
cannot go through the same state
twice . . . Like the universe as
whole, like each conscious being taken
separately, the orga'sm which live
is a thing that endures. Its past,
in its entirety is prolonged into it
present, and abides there, actual and
acting . . . The evolution of the liv-
ing being, like that of the embryo,
implies a continual recording of dur-
ation, a persistence of the past in the
present, and so an appearance, at
least, of organic memory . .. In short,
the world the mathematician deals
with is a world that dies and is re-
born at every instant . ,. But in time
thus conceived, how could evolution
ever take place? Evolution implies a
real persistence of the past in the
present, a duration which is, as it
were, a hyphen, a connecting link."
The closest he comes to explaining the
difference in the two kinds of time is
in the example he gives of melting sugar
in water.
"If I want to mix a gass of sugar and
water, I must, willy-nilly, wait until
the sugar melts. This little fact is

big with meaning. For here the time
I have to wait is not that mathemat-
ical time which would apply equally
well to the entire history of the mater-
ial world, even if that history were
spread out instantaneously in space.
It coincides with my impatience, that
is to say, with a certain portion of my
own duration, which I cannot pro-
tract or contract as I tke. It is no
longer something TOUGH T, it is
something LIVED. It is no longer a
relation, it is an absohe."
These passages goe as co-arly as pos-
sible Bergson's concept- i se nature of
real time and of the pa ,it plays n
life. There is a stkng resemblance
even in some of rhe phrasng to the
opening of "Burnt Nron. the first
of the Four Quartes
"Tin apresent and time past
Are both perhaps present in time
future,
And time future contasned in time
past.
If all time is eternaly present
All tim is unredeemable,
This passage is more than an intro-
duction for Eliot it is a statement of a
main theme that is to be oepeated and
developed throughout not only the rest
of this one poem but the whole of the
work. The structure of the Quartets
is analagous to tha of a highly com-
plex symphony, wi theses awhich are
developed, restated and varied. And
Eliot returns to thts one msotif time
after time in one way or another. So
at the end of this firt sectn of "Burnt
Norton" he reiterates:
"Time past and time future
What might have been and what
has been
Point to one end, which is always
present."
And again-in the fifth section he varies
the theme a bit:
"Or say thatithe end precedes the
beginning.
And the end and the beginning were
always there
'Before the beginning and after the
end.
And always is aways now"
Eliot also dwels o. te accompany-
ing theme of memo ast h peserva-
tive of all experience ,n h uses it to
enlarge upon his c i:e motif ho
much the same v at d:Bgson use
it. So he says. a .e ea" ning of
"Burnt Norton":
"Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passoge which we did
not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. y words
echo
Thus in your mind.
This is. although nosanIessenta pat
.n iself. very in t"at n its rela-
:ion to a much larger a.d :ore"central
concept. Perhaps thee: oway of mak-
ing it clear is to ret urnto Begson and
show how it occurs in h"s system.
Bergson identifies cons.i'us life with
real time, saying that conscious life or
consciousness has this duration of real
time. It is a heightened form of ex-
perience in which ordinary mathemat-
ical time has no function, and into
which it cannot intrude. At its highest
state it is a concertrated form of intro-
spection, which he equates with in-
tuition. It is through this concentra-
tion only that we can ever hope to
grasp the inner reality of life, and this
intuition enables us to know the reality
of our own conscious existence. We
arrive then at the properties of dura-
tion. It seems to be the sort of thing
for Bergson that is a fairly common
experience to most people. There are
incidents which seem to take place with-
out any references to what he calls
mathematical time. They are somehow
extra-temporal. Real consciousness lives
on this level of heightened experience.

...consciousness is the light that
plays around the zone of possible ac-
tions or potential activity which sur-
rounds the action really performed
by the living being. It signifies hesi-
tation or choice. Where many equally
possible actions are indicated with-
out there being any real action (as in
a deliberation that has not come to
an end), consciousness is intense.
Where the action performed is the
only action possible consciousness is
reduced to nothing."
Consciousness then means choice. An-
other passage makes this still clearer.
"We choose in reality without ceas-
ing; without ceasing, also, we aban-
don many things. The route we
pursue in time is strewn with the
remains of all that we began to be,
of all that we might have become,"
These passages are striking when
compared with other parts of 'Eliot, and
they illuminate many parts of "Burnt
Norton."
"What might have been is an ab-
straction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what
has been
Point to one end, which is always
present."
Eliot then takes us back into one of
those possible worlds, the rose-garden,
and reconstructs it. But it is only a
short concentrated space, for
" h....................human kind
Cannot bear very much reality."
The fullest expression of the time
theory and its connection with con-
sciousness, as well as of Eliot's recog-
nition of the implicit paradox contained
in it, occurs at the end of the second
section.
".....Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment
in the rose-garden
The moment in the arbour where
the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty
church at smokefall
te remembered; it involves with
past and future.
Only through time time is con-
quered."
Bergson's application of his idea
about consciousness and the conflict
with the practical is clarified and ex-
emplified in another section of the
second part of "Burnt Norton."
"The inner freedom from the prac-
tical desire,
The release from action and suffer-
ing, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yetsur-
rounded
By a grace of sense, a white light
still and moving . .
'et the enchainment of past and
future
Woven in the weakness of the
changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and
damnation
Which desh cannot endure."
This is the emphasis, then, in "Burnt
Norton," a development of the time
theory as applied to consciousness and
conscious life.
The applicability of Bergson's ideas
is not limited only to "Burnt Norton,"
however, and variations on these themes
occur throughout the other three poems
as well. So that the opening line and
unifying motif of the second of the
series, "East Coker," is anotherstate-
ment of the time theory.
"In my beginning is my end."
From this point on there is a dwelling
on the seasons and time of day, the
passage of time and the events occur-
ring within it. And implicit in this is
the constant creativeness, the constant
change which is our life, the novelty

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