Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Spots of Time

There's a steroscopic aspect to realisation. What gives depth and fullness to experience is an an ability to immerse ourselves in it in a non-dual way. The object of experience is set against the subject of experience but at the same time what makes experiencing possible is the underlying ontological unity. The object can come to be in the subject. Clearly this non-dual realisation is a rare event in the lives of most of us but as Wordsworth has said in his 'spots of time' passage they are vital.

There are in our existence spots of time,
Which with distinct pre-eminence retain
A vivifying Virtue, whence, depress'd
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse, our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repair'd,
A virtue by which pleasure is enhanced
That penetrates, enables us to mount
When high, more high, and lift us up when fallen.
This efficacious spirit chiefly lurks
Among those passages of life in which
We have deepest feeling that the mind
Is lord and master, and that outward sense
Is but the obedient servant of her will.
Such moments worthy of all gratitude,
Are scattered everywhere, taking their date
From our first childhood: in our childhood even
Perhaps are most conspicuous.
(Bk.XI. ln.258 foll.)

There is no claim in this passage that such epiphanies are the domain of elite adepts. We all can visit and experience recreation and renewal yet there are what the Buddhists call 'upaya' or skillful means. Alienation and banishment from the garden is always a possibility. I shall have to look at the later poems in the era after the great decade to find if there is a clue to Wordsworth's decline in them.


skholiast said...

Wordsworth's epiphanies remind me of one of the remarks by Lewis Thompson, one of the most under-read of 20th-c mystics (and also strongly influenced by Wm. Blake): You can escape in a moment, but only in a moment. Of course, for the child W.W. has in mind, there is often no sense of 'escape' at all. Also calls to mind Hofmansthal's Lord Chandos: something entirely un­named, even barely nameable... at such moments, re­veals itself to me, filling like a vessel any casual object of my daily surroundings with an overflowing flood of higher life....A pitcher, a harrow abandoned in a field, a dog in the sun, a neglected cemetery, a cripple, a peasant's hut-all these can become the vessel of my revelation. Each of these objects and a thousand others similar, over which the eye usually glides with a natural indifference, can suddenly, at any moment (which I am ut­terly powerless to evoke), assume for me a character so exalted and moving that words seem too poor to describe it.

ombhurbhuva said...

Neither of those two writers was known to me, so thank you. I have found the Lord Chandos Letter on line so that is something for ' vacant or pensive mood' later. "But only in a moment" is an observation of such compression that it makes any further comment fatuous.