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Social Semiotics, Vol. 12, No.

1, 2002

Expressing the Ineffable: Toward a Poetics of Mystical Writing


This article attempts to formulate a paradigm for textual features that are embodied in mystical writing. By using T. S. Eliots Four Quartets as an example, this paper demonstrates that five distinctive textual strategies are operative in mystical writing: (1) negation as a heuristic means of spiritual ascent; (2) parallelism and paradox: an iconic correlation; (3) the matrix of a journey; (4) the generic sentence as a highlighted voice; and (5) metaphor of depersonalization. It will be argued that the five textual strategies contribute to forming a poetics of mystical writing. The argument also exemplifies an alternative to the religio-philosophical and traditional literary interpretations of Four Quartets: this poetic work embodies a condensed, crystallized poetics of mystical writing. Evelyne Underhill (1962: xix) defines mysticism as the expression of the innate tendency of the human spirit towards complete harmony with the transcendental order. Mystical writings refer to the texts expressing or recording such a subject matter. Keller (1978: 77) writes: mystical writings are texts which deal with ultimate knowledge: with its nature, its modalities, its conditions, its methods, and also with secondary insights which might be granted to a seeker in the course of his task. Using T. S. Eliots (1959) Four Quartets as an example, this paper aims to formulate a paradigm for linguistic features that are embodied in mystical writings. Along the same line of linguistic criticism as practised by Roger Fowler (1981, 1996), this study focuses on a set of textual strategies (cf. Harari 1980) that are, arguably, woven into the fabric of mystical discourse. Such an endeavor accords with the need to disentangle the linguistic dimension of mystical writings (see Katz 1992; Tseng 1997a). Moreover, this paper proposes to offer an alternative to the religiophilosophical and traditional literary interpretations of Four Quartets (cf. Kearns 1987: 230266; Singh 1990: 124141; Hay 1982; Bergonzi 1969; Kenner 1969: 247276): this work of Eliot well exemplifies a poetics of mystical writing. Four Quartets as Mystical Discourse In Burnt Norton, the mystical experience described by St John of the Cross in The Dark Night of the Soul is alluded to (Milward 1968: 45, 62). The phrase darkness to purify the thought (Burnt Norton, III, 96)1 refers to St Johns via negativa: one
ISSN 1035-0330 print; 1470-1219 online/02/010063-20 DOI: 10.1080/10350330220130377 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd


M.-Y. Tseng

has to undergo darkness, purgation to reach light and union with God. And the figure of the ten stairs (Burnt Norton, V, 160) refers to the 10 steps of the ladder of love described by St. John which lead up to the divine (Drew 1950: 197). Furthermore, in East Coker, nearly one whole stanza, In order to arrive there And where you are is where you are not (III, 135146), is based on the words of The Ascent of Mount Carmel, another mystical treatise by St John of the Cross (Milward 1968: 103; Gardner 1978: 42). In Little Gidding, Eliot quotes several lines from two fourteenth-century English mystics (Gardner 1978: 70). The second part of the third movement contains an unacknowledged quotation from The Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich: Sin is Behovely, but All shall be well, and All manner of thing shall be well. (Little Gidding III, 166168) The last two lines recur toward the end of the fifth movement. The line With the drawing of the Love and the voice of this Calling (Little Gidding V, 238) is quoted from The Cloud of Unknowing, another mystical writing by an unknown English mystic. Eliots ample incorporation of mystical references confirms that mysticism is essential to Four Quartets. Moreover, other traces of mysticism can be detected throughout. For instance, the unitive dimension, characteristic of mysticism, is expressed in the following lines: We must be still and still moving/Into another intensity/For a further union, a deeper communion (East Coker, V, 204206), The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation/Here the impossible union of spheres of existence is actual (The Dry Salvages, V, 215217), and And the fire and the rose are one (Little Gidding, V, 259). The transformative dimension of mysticism reveals itself in the following lines: The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them, To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern. (Little Gidding, III, 164165) And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. (Little Gidding, V, 240242) Besides, the feature of ineffability, mentioned in various mystical writings, is explicitly stated: I have said before That the past experience revived in the meaning Is not the experience of one life only But of many generations not forgetting Something that is probably quite ineffable: . (The Dry Salvages, II, 96100) The aforementioned quotations make it clear that Four Quartets should be regarded more as a type of mystical discourse than as mere versification. Murrays (1991) T. S. Eliot and Mysticism offers the most detailed account of this issue (cf. Gatta 1988).

A Poetics of Mystical Writing


However, rather than seeing the point of contact between Four Quartets and mysticism merely in terms of textual allusions, this paper views the textuality of Four Quartets as exemplary of a poetics of mystical writing. What follows will demonstrate that five distinctive textual strategies are significant to the reading of Four Quartets as mystical writing.

Negation as a Heuristic Means of Spiritual Ascent The following three points, based on Hodge & Kress (1993), are used to clarify the meaning of negation as used in this paper. Firstly, negation manifests itself as a kind of visible dialectic. By negation, Hodge and Kress mean not only negative particles like not, -less, im-, un-, but also auxiliary modals like will, shall, can, would, should, might, etc. For modality represents various kinds of indeterminacy (Halliday 1994: 88) between the positive and negative poles, and hence expresses partial negation. Hodge and Kress see negative particles (and/or modals) serving as kinds of dialectic: the negative form and its corresponding positive form have a dialectical relationship. To consider the negative utterance as a visible dialectic allows us to investigate what might motivate negation. Secondly, negation is a form of double-think. Hodge and Kress use the term double-think to emphasize the referential interconnection between negative utterances and their corresponding positive forms. As Bartlett (1987: 43) puts it, negatives entail a doubling back of the linguistic code. This corresponds to Givons (1978: 70) argument over negation from a pragmatic perspective: the discourse presupposition of a negative speech act is its corresponding affirmative. The questions then arise: why negation is used and what insights can be derived from the double-think to bear on the social dimension of negation. Negation can resolve a number of kinds of opposition: between proposition and refutation, expectation and outcome, desire and reality, private and public belief. All these oppositions proceed from some kind of antagonism: between speaker and hearer, or between the speaker and his world (Hodge & Kress 1993: 146). In other words, negative markers function as linguistic cues as to what opposition and confrontation might underlie a society. Thirdly, negation plays a part in mirroring and creating possible worlds. The visible dialectic and double-think as performed by negation can be further elaborated on by considering what world or world-view negation helps to shape in a text. As Merrel (1992: 191) points out, Negation is a sine qua non for the recognition of error, of the unreal; in order to know what the real is, one must be aware of what it is not; hence negation plays an important role in the construction of models, fictions, and possible worlds. The following passage from Four Quartets is full of negative markers.


M.-Y. Tseng At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. (Burnt Norton, II, 6267)

One way of understanding how the negatives relate to the still point is to appreciate several stages of a dialectic that leads to Eliots Ultimatethe still point. To make sense of the various negatives (neither nor, not, no, etc.), it is necessary to recognize the first stage of the dialectic, where opposites are formed and where the world is dissectedthe proposition that the negatives aim to subvert. The negations, in the second stage, evoke all the more the co-existence of the opposites in the positive forms: both flesh and fleshless, both from and towards, both arrest and movement, both ascent and decline. Negation is also used in the depiction of the dance. The dance at the still point is first described in a declarative mood, free from any modal uncertainty. The persona then uses a conditional clause: There would be no dance. The combination of modality and negation adumbrates the existence of the dance outside the still point. This negation not only evokes, but also reinforces the dance at the still point. With the word only partially negating what is not the dance, the third clause there is only the dance is an extreme case of there the dance is. Through the negations, our understanding of the still point is enriched. The still point of the turning world, an expression that seems contradictory at first sight, paradoxically hints at a view-point from which oppositions and contradictions may be resolved and, ultimately, transcended. The stages of the dialectic are summarized in Table 1.
TABLE 1. The Dialectic of the Still Point Stage 1st 2nd Dialectic of the Ultimate The world of common sense where opposites exist The opposites are negated: Neither esh nor eshless Neither from nor towards Neither arrest nor movement Neither ascent nor decline dance versus no dance The still point of the turning world, where opposites can be reconciled and where past and future may be seen as what they are A word-view offering the possibility of transformation through vision and transcendence: The inner freedom from practical desire, The release from action and suffering, release from the inner And the outer compulsion (Burnt Norton, II, 7077)

3rd Leading to:

A Poetics of Mystical Writing Parallelism and Paradox: An Iconic Correlation


By analysing some paradoxes framed in syntactic parallelism, I shall explore the relation between syntactic parallelism and logico-semantic deviation of the paradoxes in the context of Four Quartets as mystical writing. The following analysis focuses on parallelism on and beyond the clause level: You say I am repeating Something I have said before. I shall say it again. Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there, To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not, You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy. In order to arrive at what you do not know You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance. In order to possess what you do not possess You must go by the way of dispossession. In order to arrive at what you are not You must go through the way in which you are not. And what you do not know is the only thing you know And what you own is what you do not own And where you are is where you are not. (East Coker, III, 133146) The syntactic parallels on the clause or sentence level can be summarized in three patterns: Parallel pattern I: chiasmus Subject 1 Modal say it again. I shall Modal 1 Subject say it again? Shall I

This parallel pattern is a combination of the exact lexical repetition and partially reversed word order, hence an example of chiasmus (Wales 1989: 62). The first sentence is a declarative, and the second an interrogative. The exact lexical repetition in the two sentences is analogous to saying it againrepeating that something the persona has said before. This parallel pattern does not form any paradox. However, I would highlight this pattern, because its reversed order is significant to the understanding of the paradoxicality pervading the whole passage. I would argue that the reversed order can be viewed as paralleling the somewhat odd order of the three infinitive phases in the sentence that follows: In order to arrive there, to arrive where you are, to get from where you are not, It is questionable whether the destination aimed at is there or where you are not, or whether the two are identical. However, if we reverse the sequence of the three infinitive phrases, the progression of a journey becomes clear, a journey moving from where you are not, through where you are, toward there. The sense of the journey is reinforced by such verbs as arrive and go in the quoted passage, both recurring four times. If this mystical journey (Milward 1968: 103) is characterized


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as the negative way (Hay 1982: 174; Wolosky 1995: 1150), the language used here plays a role. Arguably, the reversed sequence contributes to the expression of the via negativa of Christian mysticismthe attempt to grasp the nature of reality through what it is not. The reversed sequence, itself suggestive of a kind of negation, reinforces the embedded linguistic process expressing the via negativa. The second pattern of parallelism is too striking to be ignored. There are four sentences (lines 135143), all containing the following pattern: Pattern II: syntactic parallelism on the sentence level In order to Verb 1 Noun Clause as Object ( not) arrive at what you do not know possess what you do not possess arrive at what you are not You must go prepositional phrase (no, not ) by the/a way no ecstasy through the way ignorance dispossession are not Among them, the first sentence (lines 135139) may be considered as introducing the journey (In order to arrive /To arrive , to get ) and summarizing the negative way to the goal (i.e. through no ecstasy). The other three parallel sentences, while offering more details about the journey, are paradoxes. For the ways to knowledge, possession, and being are, respectively, through ignorance, dispossession, and non-being (the way in which you are not). Besides, these negative terms contribute to the via negativa mentioned earlier. The syntactic parallelism can be further illustrated in terms of Jakobsons poetic function. The poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination. Equivalence is promoted to the constitutive device of the sequence (Jakobson 1960: 358). The axis of selection refers to paradigm, and the axis of combination to syntagm. Considered in this light, the syntactic parallelism can be re-examined in terms of the syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships. The normally invisible (lexical) paradigms are displayed: arrive/ possess, ignorance/dispossession , and know/possess/are . Arguably, the paradoxes derive from the interaction of the syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships. On the paradigmatic axis, the selection of such verbs as know/possess/are revolves around the three central topics: knowledge, possession, and being. On the syntagmatic axis, the selection is negated (do not know, do not possess, and are not) and contradicted, hence the paradoxes: the ways to such and such are through their opposites. In other words, the contrasting, incompatible options on the paradigmatic axis are projected into the syntagm, hence the paradoxes. As Fowler (1996: 99) observes, Jakobsons poetic function is a kind of foregrounding [see Mukarovsky 1964] which includes a vast range of rhetorical techniques, from metrical structure to syntactic parallelism to the semantics of paradox. What complicates the issue is that the kind of foregrounding at work here includes both parallelism and paradox. I would like to elaborate on how the two rhetorical

A Poetics of Mystical Writing


devices might relate to each other in the context of mysticism. I would suggest that the co-existence of the two somewhat incongruous phenomena underlying the paradoxessyntactic regularity and semantic deviationdeserves attention. Relevant is Kellers (1983: 4) comment on the paradox by St John of the Cross, I am dying because I do not die (quoted in Keller 1983: 3): The mystical paradox about a unity of God and creature in which self is lost and preserved, the reality of the one and the many which had puzzled ancient Greek philosophers, would be seen as an intensely direct, holistic expression of the fundamental Judaeo-Christian religious perception The relation is one of mutual implication which is paradoxical because the source of the reciprocity is the One. But the way the relation is usually stated obscures the paradox. The mystic strategy reveals it. In other words, Keller argues that mystical paradox serves to express some kind of union, as incongruities, contradictions, and opposites are fused and reconciled in paradox. The point can be enriched by Moores (1988: 2425) argument: paradox has an epistemic function in the perception and expression of knowledge. The inventive and argumentative qualities of paradox assist in the discovery of new insights to truth, forcing the mind to express the inexpressible. Moores emphasis on the epistemic quality of paradox as a thought process (Moore 1988: 19) may explain the speech act of paradox. It forces the mind into new truth, generating a new perception of the world (cf. DePryck 1993: 79110). These arguments enable us to reinterpret the earlier paradoxes, which are characterized by parallelism. The supreme all-in-One world-view is reinforced by the symmetry of syntactic parallelism. The combination of syntactic parallelism and paradox, in the context of Four Quartets as mystical discourse, is iconic of the acceptance and reconciliation of contradictions (Tseng 1999). This interpretation applies to the third parallel pattern. Pattern III: syntactic parallelism on the clause level And wh- 1 Subject 1 Verb is Complement what you do not know the only thing you know what you own what you do not own where you are where you are not semantic opposites The three paradoxes are in semantic parallel with the previous three paradoxes; the views concerning knowledge, possession, and being are further addressed. The paradoxes here exhibit syntactic parallelism in four ways. First, there is the same syntactic construction, And 1 Noun Clause 1 is 1 Complement. Second, the noun clauses as subjects are semantically oppositional to their respective complements. Third, the subjects of the three paradoxes are all noun clauses. Fourth, all the noun clauses begin with wh- words. Coexistent with the syntactic parallelism are the semantic opposites, whose representation is through negation. As with the second parallel pattern of the previous three paradoxes, I would argue


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that the syntactic parallelism foregrounds the unitive dimension of mystical discourse. The contradictions are resolved and relinquished in the paradoxes. Again, the harmony of the syntactic parallelism and the incongruity of the semantic contradictions are iconic of the union of opposites. The Matrix of a Journey According to Riffaterre (1978: 19), the poem results from the transformation of the matrix, a minimal and literal sentence, into a longer, complex, and nonliteral periphrasis. The matrix is hypothetical, being only the grammatical and lexical actualization of a structure. He argues that there are rules of expansion and conversion in a poems movement away from mimesis towards the formation of patterns of significance. Conversion and expansion both establish equivalences between a word and a sequence of words: that is, between a lexeme (always rewritable as a matrix sentence) and a syntagm. Thus is created the finite, formally and semantically unified verbal sequence constituting the poem. Expansion establishes this equivalence by transforming one sign into several, which is to say by deriving from one word a verbal sequence with that words defining features. Conversion lays down the equivalence by transforming several signs into one collective sign, that is, by endowing the components of a sequence with the same characteristic features. Conversion particularly affects sequences generated by expansion. (Riffaterre 1978: 47) Closely related to matrix is the idea of hypogram. According to Riffaterre, the production of the poetic sign is determined by hypogrammatic derivation: a word or phrase is poeticized when it refers to (and, if a phrase, patterns itself upon) a preexistent word group. The hypogram is already a system of signs comprising at least a predication, and it may be as large as a text. The hypogram may be potential, therefore observable in language, or actual, therefore observable in a previous text (1978: 23; original emphasis). A hypogram can be a cliche , a quotation, or a descriptive system (Riffaterre 1978: 63). [A] descriptive system is a grid of metonyms built around a kernel word, [so] its components have the same markers as that word throughout (1978: 66). In other words, the concept hypogram offers one way of relating linguistic evidence to a matrix of a particular text. Riffaterres concept of matrix is anchored in a structuralist perspective. In this article, the concept is adopted in a more dynamic, social sense. As in literary studies, the term matrix has been used in a broad sense. It refer[s] to that which gives origin or form to something or which encloses it; for example, Rome was the matrix of Western European civilization (Shaw 1972: 233). In other words, matrix represents a particular system of knowledge that generates something else that is related to it as mother to child. What underlies the concept is a specific body of socio-historical knowledge. Although Riffaterres concept of matrix is more specialized, it is unproductive to treat it as separated from the broad sense of the term. A word or minimal sentence can serve as a matrix not only because of the word or

A Poetics of Mystical Writing


sentence, but also because of the implicit underlying knowledge and because of its associative meanings. This relates to the issue of background or encyclopedic knowledge discussed in pragmatics (for example, Smith 1982; Sperber & Wilson 1995: 8485, 9293) and in cognitive science (for example, Minsky 1975, 1977; Rumelhart & Norman 1985). The hypogram of a matrix, a preexistent word group, can be explained and justified by the concept of scheme or schema. According to Rumelhart (1980: 34), A schema is a data structure for representing the generic concepts stored in memory. There are schemata representing our knowledge about all concepts: those underlying objects, situations, events, sequences of events, actions and sequences of actions. The notion of schema can be linked to Riffaterres notion of matrix in that the former explicitly addresses how one thing can be associated with another, for example, desert versus sand. In other words, the notion schema explains how a matrix can relate to a preexistent word group or a descriptive system. In this sense, Riffaterres theory can be enriched by it. As Paul de Man (1981: 20) comments on Riffaterres Semiotics of Poetry, it investigates if and how the poetics of literary form can be made compatible with the hermeneutics of reading. Such a pragmatic factor as knowledge of the world cannot be ignored in this enquiry (cf. Beaugrande 1987; Semino 1995). The knowledge underlying a matrix both is inscribed into the form and structure of a text, and needs to be regenerated in reading and interpreting the text. The revised concept of matrix anticipates both text production (cf. Riffaterre 1983) and text reception (cf. Fowler 1975, 1996: 233253). The following analysis will demonstrate that the matrix of a journey plays a role in mystical discourse. Old men ought to be explorers Here or there does not matter We must be still and still moving Into another intensity For a further union, a deeper communion Through the dark cold and the empty desolation, The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning. (Easter Coker, V, 202209) In this quoted passage, the hypogram that exemplifies variants of the matrix of the journey can be summarized as follows. They consist of words expressing aspects of a journey: men, explorers (doers/agents), here, there, end, beginning (spatial points), moving, into, through (action or path), wave, wind, water (means of travelling), etc. These words are dispersed in the eight lines of the latter quoted passage. The syntactic structure of the passage is striking. It is composed of one long sentence stretching over seven and a half lines, and of one short sentence at the end. The long sentence is deviant in that its three clauses are neither connected by any conjunction nor marked by any punctuation. The three lines (lines 202204) can be read as belonging to three separate sentences with periods omitted


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or as three clauses with connective markers like ; or and omitted. Whatever the case, the stylistic effect is obvious: it prolongs the sentence and produces a halting tone of voice. It seems reasonable to view the three lines as having paratactic relations, since there is no evidence to label any of the lines as dominant or dependent. The three juxtaposed clauses parallel the three paratactic prepositional phrases that follow (lines 205207). Parataxis in noun phrases further pervades the prepositional phrases: a further union and a deeper communion (line 206); the dark cold, the empty desolation, the wave cry, the wind cry, and the vast water (lines 207208). The gradual increase of the noun phrases results in the three paratactic prepositional phrases stretching over almost five lines. The presented analysis also demonstrates what Riffaterre calls expansion of a matrix. The journey is expanded in such a way that the long sentence itself iconically suggests the ongoing progress of the journey. The paratactic structures at the rank of both clause and noun phrase contribute to the transformation of the matrix from mimesis to semiosis. What is also involved is conversion, which transforms the constituents of the matrix sentence by modifying them all with the same factor (Riffaterre 1978: 63). Conversion involves a positive or negative valorization of a text: Since the hypogram always has a positive or a negative orientation (the cliche is meliorative or pejorative, the quotation has its position on an esthetic and/or ethical scale, the descriptive system reflects the connotations of its kernel word), the constituents of the conversion always transmute the hypograms marker (Riffaterre 1978: 6364). Arguably, the conversion of the aforementioned passage from East Coker, dictated by mysticism, transforms the polarity of contrasts into equivalence. Here or there does not matter We must be still and still moving In my end is my beginning the vast waters of the petrel and the porpoise (emphasis added) The spatial and physical changes, associated with the hypogram of a journey, are converted in such a way that the oppositional polarity is dismantled. The sharp change in sentence lengthfrom a seven-and-a-half-lin e sentence to a half-line sentenceadds to the polarity of contrasts. There are some words evoking aspects of mysticism: intensity, union, communion (unitive dimension), dark cold, empty desolation (via negativa). Furthermore, that wave, wind, petrel, and porpoise all coalesce in waters reinforces the unitive dimension of mysticism. The link is strengthened by the phonetic parallelisms in the form of alliteration: /w/ in wave, wind, and water, and /p/ in petrel and porpoise. The Generic Sentence as a Highlighted Voice Generic sentences are semi-proverbial sentences in which the speaker asserts the truth of the predicate in respect of all possible referents of the subject noun phrase

A Poetics of Mystical Writing


(Fowler 1977: 86). Generics range from undisputed facts (e.g. Tigers are carnivorous) to evaluative propositions (e.g. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife; Pride and Prejudice). Among the features of generics, I would emphasize four particular points. First, generics have a temporal element of timelessness, often expressed in simple present tense (Fowler 1977: 86; cf. Lyons 1977: 680). Second, a generic proposition exemplifies an implicit dialogue of the hidden speaker I to the reader. Third, generics have an authoritarian connotation, for they claim universal truth (Fowler 1996: 167). Fourth, the claimed truth entails a certain world-view that underlies a society. As Toolan (1990: 252) writes, generic sentences purport to remind us, merely, of that which we can take on trust, that which can be uncontroversially presupposed. Their format invites us to treat them as Known, a form of structural discouragement of the critical reception that they may need. The following passage is quoted for analysis: At nightfall, in the rigging and the aerial, Is a voice descanting (though not to the air, The murmuring shell of time, and not in any language) Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging; You are not those who saw the harbour Receding, or those who will disembark. Here between the hither and the farther shore While time is withdrawn, consider the future And the past with an equal mind. At the moment which is not of action and inaction You can receive this: on whatever sphere of being The mind of a man may be intent At the time of death that is the one action (And the time of death is every moment) Which shall fructify in the lives of others: And do not think of the fruit of action. Fare forward O voyagers, O seaman, You who come to port, and you whose bodies Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea, Or whatever event, this is your destination. (The Dry Salvages, III, 146165) Lines 149165 are words from an unknown voice (line 147). The persona introduces it in a non-stop sentence (lines 146148), which suddenly shifts into the flow of the mysterious voice indicated by the single quotation marks. Within the voice exists at least another voice: the sentence in the double quotation marks (lines 156158). The line in parentheses (line 159) might be regarded as yet another voice, although it could also be identical with the unknown voice indicated by the single quote.


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Lines 156160 are condensed with generics. Three generics are found there, each mediated through a marked voice. (1) on whatever sphere of being the mind of a man may be intent at the time of death (2) that is the one action which shall fructify in the lives of others (3) (And the time of death is every moment) Generic (1) is taken from Krishnas words in the Bhagavad-Gita (Gardner 1978: 57). The somewhat incomplete sense of this generic is due to the fact that Eliot uses only the first part of the sentence that Krishna declares. The complete sentence in the Gita is: Whatever state (or being) one dwells upon in the end, at the time of leaving the body, that alone he attains because of his constant thought on that state of being (quoted from Gardner 1978: 57). Krishna means that a man at the time of death will be reborn into that sphere of being on which his mind is then intent. Eliot does not relate the concentrated mind to rebirth, but to fructification in the lives of others (see generic (2)). In generic (1), Eliot invokes the authority of the Hindu deity to underpin the otherwise unsupported dogmatism of the generic proposition. Besides, this generic is spoken by the mysterious voice, which allows Eliot or the persona to distance himself. Only when the meaning of generic (1) is considered can (2) be a generic, for the grammatical subject that in line 158 refers to generic (1). Moreover, generic (2) is split up by generic (3) inserted in parentheses. As a result, the claim to universal truth is not so overt and straightforward as a typical generic proposition. The modal shall in generic (2) heightens the interpersonal element of generics. It is worth mentioning that Eliot changed the modal use from should to shall in the revision of the poem (Gardner 1978: 138). The modal shall used with the third-person subject is rare. It is restricted to either an archaic, elevated style of prophetic utterance (Leech 1971: 53) or legal or quasi-legal discourse stipulating regulations or legal requirements (Quirk et al. 1985: 230). The use of shall in generic (2) has a combination of the two. The archaic, elevated style corresponds to the words of Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu. Meanwhile, generic (2) has the tone of setting a universal law governing the appropriate action for bringing fruition to others. The voice of generic (3) in parentheses could be identical with that uncertain voice or be indicative of the intrusive voice of the persona. Whatever the case, the three generics are semantically and grammatically tied up with one another. Generic (3) complements generic (1) in that the time of death mentioned in (1) is further explained in (3). Since (1) is referentially significant to generic (2), (3) also enriches the meaning of (2). Generic (2) explains what the concentrated mind mentioned in (1) will bring about. The semantic connection of the three generics brings forth a world-view concerned with a continued concentration in the flow of time. Metaphor of Depersonalization One particular type of metaphor is highlighted in mystical discoursemetaphor of depersonalization. It refers to the type of metaphor that uses the non-human to

A Poetics of Mystical Writing


characterize or epitomize aspects of the human. Depersonalization here does not mean objectifying humans for socio-political purposes (cf. Fowler 1991: 128129; Kress 1989: 5759; Lerman 1985), but is exploited for the purpose of lifting the human sphere toward the Ultimate. The metaphor you are the music in the following passage is a case in point. For most of us, there is only the unattended Moment, the moment in and out of time, The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight, The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply That it is not heard at all, but you are the music While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses, Hints followed by guesses; and the rest Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action. The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation. (The Dry Salvages, V, 206215) The analysis that follows will not only discuss the metaphor you are the music, but also deal with the immediate intratextual context in which this metaphor appears. It will be demonstrated that the whole quoted passage can be regarded as an extended metaphor of depersonalization. My analysis aims at uncovering the depersonalization process cast in the metaphoric structure of the passage. The discourse structure of the passage can be divided into three parts: first, the unattended moment characterized by various natural scenes; second, the metaphor you are the music; third, the hints and guesses leading to Incarnation. The conjunction but, used to connect you are the music with the previous long clause, conventionally implicates a contrast (Grice 1961: 127132). Indeed, the contrast is manifested in the shift of pronoun use from us (line 206) to you (line 211) and in the change from the description of something non-human (lines 207210) to a metaphor literally depersonalizing and deconcretizing the human agent you. The progression of the three parts constitutes a metaphoric structure of the depersonalization process. The following discussion is centered on making the process more explicit. One way of inquiring into the linguistic process of depersonalization is through Hallidays (1971, 1994: 106175) notion of transitivity, which is composed of processes, participants, and circumstances.2 Halliday proposes six basic process types for categorizing lexical verbs in clauses. The MATERIAL process represents actions and events (e.g. stir, jump, drive), the MENTAL process perception, cognition, and affection (e.g. know, hear, surprise), the RELATIONAL process classification and identification of things and people (e.g. is, are, was, were ), the EXISTENTIAL process existence of phenomena of all sorts (e.g. There is/are ), and the BEHAVIOURAL process the behaviour of consciousness and physiological states (e.g. laugh, frown, breathe, worry). Participants are those involved in the process. Circumstances are conditions associated with the process.


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TABLE 2. Process types and participants

Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Participants moment it (i.e. music) you; music music these (i.e. sunlight, thyme, lightning, waterfall); hints and guesses the rest; prayer, observance and action hint; gift; Incarnation

Process type (verb) Existential (there is) Mental (heard) Relational (are) Relational (last) Relational (are) Relational (is) Relational (is)

The clauses of the quoted passage are now listed: Clause Clause Clause Clause Clause Clause Clause 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: there is only the unattended moment it is not heard at all you are the music the music lasts these are only hints and guesses the rest is prayer, observance the hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation

Table 2 summarizes the processes and participants of the transitivity in the clauses. The analysis shows two characteristics: the abundance of relational processes, and the permeation of the text by quasi-abstract entities rather than by whole persons. There are five relational processes and one existential process. The existential process resembles the relational process in that the verb be is used (Halliday 1994: 142). The only mental process used is in the form of negation: it is not heard (line 211). These processes construct an ideational world of being. What is more, it is quasi-abstract entities that are salient in this world of being. Among the seven grammatical subjects, there are five referring to such entities: moment, it, music, these, and the rest. Incarnation may be added to the list because of its divine connotation. Other quasi-abstract entities include hints and guesses, and prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action. The only personal pronoun you as the subject is depersonalized: you are the music. Two other linguistic features reinforce this depersonalized world. First, the lack of agentive phrases (e.g. by 1 N.) in the past participial constructions contributes to the depersonalization process (cf. Kies 1992). The following are such examples: The wild thyme unseen (line 209), music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all (lines 210211), and The hint half guessed, the gift half understood (line 215). Second, the paratactic phrases connected by or in the first sentence of the passage are non-human: a shaft of sunlight, the wild thyme, the winter lightning, and the waterfall. It is becoming clear that the linguistic features discussed in this section accord with the metaphor you are the music. As such, the structure of the whole passage can be regarded as an elaboration of the metaphor. The metaphor of depersonaliza-

A Poetics of Mystical Writing


tion does not mean just stopping short of human agency. Such a metaphor serves to pave the way for the breakthrough of another sphere of being, or mode of perception in which human beings are seen in their ultimate nature. This is why some words having religious or spiritual connotations prevail after that metaphor: prayer, observance, discipline, and Incarnation. Back to the Gate: Where Mystical Discourse and Ideology Meet It will be demonstrated that all the textual strategies discussed throughout recur in the final paragraph of Little Gidding. This reinforces their significance for mystical discourse. We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time Through the unknown, remembered gate When the last of earth left to discover Is that which was the beginning; At the source of the longest river The voice of the hidden waterfall And the children in the apple-tree Not known, because not looked for But heard, half-heard, in the stillness Between two waves of the sea. Quick now, here, now, always A condition of complete simplicity (Costing not less than everything) And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flames are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one. (Little Gidding, V, 239259) The matrix of a journey is operative here again. Words associated with a journey abound, particularly in lines 239245: exploration, exploring, end, arrive, started, place, through, discover, and beginning. Imbedded into this matrix is the paradox that the end is the beginninga motif recurring throughout Four Quartets. The fist seven lines reiterate this paradox. Although not structured in obvious parallelism, this paradox accords with some condensed forms of paradoxical expression structured in parallelism. Two such examples are found here. The first is the two adjectives in Through the unknown, remembered gate (line 243). Their both modifying the same noun makes this line paradoxical, for unknown is semantically incompatible with remembered. How can the gate be unknown and remembered at the same time? This paradoxicality can be regarded as a condensed form of the end-beginning paradox, as the word unknown suggests something not encountered yet and the word remembered


M.-Y. Tseng

signals the realization of something already known before. Only after the end of the journey can one see where the beginning and the end lie and converge. The second example is the juxtaposition of now and always in Quick, now, here, now, always (line 252). In contrast to the previous paradoxicality in spatial terms (gate), the end-is-beginning paradox is expressed in temporal terms in this second example. My earlier discussion is reinforced here concerning the semantic incongruity of paradox and the syntactic harmony of parallelism as iconic of the supreme goal of union so characteristic of mystical discourse. Lines 255259 are exemplified as generic sentences with a prophetic voice. The lines are borrowed from Julian of Norwich (see earlier). The two alls contribute to the construction of generic propositions. The first all is what Quirk et al. (1985: 380381) call universal pronoun, meaning everything or/and everyone. The line And all shall be well claims the knowledge of the positive attribute (i.e. well) of all generic classes. The second all combined with the noun manner, without a definite article, forms a generic reference (line 259). The final lines (lines 255259) manifest a shift from human agents/participants (we, children) to the apparent absence of human beings (all manner of thing, the tongues of flames, the crowned knot of fire, fire, and rose). Therefore, these final lines can be regarded as a metaphor of depersonalization, which expresses the discovery of the spiritual journey in both abstract and symbolic terms. The idea of person or self give way to the two symbols, fire and rose. The union of the two suggests a recognition of the inter-penetration of the human and of the divine spheres. The use of negation in the quoted passage does not function as a means of building up logical anomaly, but ties in well with some of the other discourse features. For instance, the double negation in We shall not cease from exploration (line 239; emphasis added) calls forth a dialectical interplay. The question of whether to terminate exploratory pursuits is reiterated. We shall continue the exploration. We shall cease from exploration. We shall not cease from exploration. The matrix of the journey is reinforced all the more by the linguistic process of the double negation. In contrast, the use of not in The voice of hidden waterfall/And the children in the apple-tree/Not known, because not looked for/But heard, half heard (lines 247250) lends suspension and mystification to the scene created. Besides, the use of the past participle without any by 1 agentknown and looked forcontributes to the depersonalization process, which culminates in the final line, And the fire and the rose are one. The textual strategies discussed throughout have been explained and analysed in lexico-grammatical and textual terms. However, their meaning potential should not be limited to the grammatical constructions, nor should the textual strategies be considered as isolated from one another. On the level of semiosis, which link[s] producers and receivers and signifiers and signifieds into a significant relationship (Hodge & Kress 1988: 262; cf. Peirce 19311958: 5.484), the textual strategies

A Poetics of Mystical Writing


function together in the articulation and interpretation of mystical discourse. Negation serves to problematize what are considered misconceptions and to pave the way for the realization of the Ultimate. Paradox prompts the mind into the discovery of new insights. The combination of paradox and parallelism iconically articulates the reconciliation and resolution of the logico-semantic deviation of paradox. The matrix of a journey illustrates some aspects of both the text production and text reception of mystical writing. The metaphor of depersonalization may be taken as symbolic of the process of the purification of self through the examination of meaning in order for the attainment of a state of Illumination or union with Truth to be achieved. Generic sentences (re)interpret the universe and pave the way for a refining of perception. By considering the textual strategies on the semiosic plane, we can begin to see into the interplay between and the inter-dependence of language and ideology. The interface between mystical discourse and ideology merits attention. We may take the gate as a symbol of discovery or of Truth, as the persona of Four Quartets seems to realize something insightful after returning to the unknown, remembered gate. Language is a medium (although not in itself the highest) for articulating the spiritual discovery and expressing a heightened state of consciousness. I propose to compare language to the gate. The way to understand language is to regard it as a journey back to the gate. The title of a Chinese Zen Master Wu Mens (11831260 A.D.) koan3 collection, Wumenguan [Gateless Gate], itself exemplifies the paradoxicality of mystical discourse and symbolises mystical discourse as a gate. As the Master explains in his preface: Buddhism makes mind its foundation and no-gate its gate. Now, how do you pass through this no-gate? It is said that things coming in through the gate can never be your own treasures. What is gained from external circumstances will perish in the end. However, such a saying is already raising waves when there is no wind. It is cutting unblemished skin. As for those who try to understand through other peoples words, they are striking at the moon with a stick; scratching a shoe, whereas it is the foot that itches. What concern have they with the truth? (Sekida 1977: 26; see also Yamada 1990: 7) The Master warns against the equation of words and the truth. He views koans as qiaomenwazi brickbats to batter the gate (Sekida 1977: 26). In other words, he has an ambivalent attitude toward language. It is a barrier on the one hand since language is not the supreme, transformative experience of Enlightenment itself. On the other hand, language is a gate through which the truth can be glimpsed if the barrier can be overcome and if the gate is not mistaken for the truth, for the Goal. This view of language is part of what forms the textuality of mystical discourse. The ideology that sets its goal on the Ultimate, while going beyond the boundary of language, has to contend with that which is still trapped by it. Arguably, in mystical discourse, the semiosic plane outweighs the mimetic plane. This being so, it is difficult or even impossible to construct a precise referent for ultimate reality. As a result, a highly metaphorical mode of expression abounds in mystical discourse.


M.-Y. Tseng

Conclusion This article sets out a paradigm for textual strategies that are operative in such mystical discourse as Four Quartets. Rather than seeing this poetic work as merely alluding to other mystical writings, this article proposes an alternative view: T. S. Eliots Four Quartets embodies a condensed, crystallized poetics of mystical writing. The textual strategies discussed here are not exhaustive, but they serve as an initial inquiry into the formation of a universal poetics of mystical writings. It is hoped that more and more work on cross-cultural comparisons of mystical writings (cf. Tseng 1997b) will emerge in the future in order to approach this goal. National University of Kaohsiung

Acknowledgements This paper is dedicated to late Professor Roger Fowler, from whom and whose work I have learned so much. I am also grateful to Bill Downes for his comments on an earlier version of this paper. Notes
[1] [2] [3] The edition used is Four Quartets (London, Faber & Faber, 1959). The line numbers referred to in this study follow this edition. For accessible introductions to functional grammar, see Thompson (1996) and Martin et al. (1997). Koan, a genre unique to Zen Buddhism, refers to the enigmatic, paradoxical dialogues recorded from ancient Chinese Zen monastic life and is still used as a means of leading Zen trainees to Enlightenment. To use a Buddhist book for illustration here is not out of context, because Eliot (1964: 91) confirms the influence of Buddhism on himself: I am not a Buddhist, but some of the early Buddhist scriptures affect me as parts of the Old Testament do. For Eliots link with Buddhist and Indian thoughts, see Sri (1985), McCarthy (1952), Kearns (1987) and Perl & Tuck (1988).

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