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Encountering Bergson in Eliot: A Report on Philosophy, Science, and Religion

Mohit Abrol


Bien qu'il existe de profondes lignes de convergence entre les philosophies d'Henri Bergson et de T. S. Eliot, on peut encore se demander si Eliot est resté un « bergsonien » jusqu'à la fin ou non. De même, les échanges entre les spécialistes sont limités sur cette question. Je soutiendrai que c'est dans la philosophie de Bergson et les multiples tangentes qui en découlent que la recherche sur le temps peut trouver la cohérence qu'Eliot recherchait. La philosophie du temps de Bergson, incarnée dans l'expérience de la durée, fournit non seulement une sorte de « conscience ontologique, » mais aussi épistémologique et psychologique, dans la mesure où le concept étudié et l'enquêteur subissent une transformation radicale. Par conséquent, cette « nouvelle » philosophie du temps, fondée sur une véritable indétermination et affirmant la multiplicité, peut fournir des bases pour l'émergence de quelque chose d'entièrement nouveau. C'est dans ces explorations sur la philosophie, la science et la religion que l'influence bergsonienne sur Eliot devient la plus intéressante. Eliot a été un poète difficile, soulevant des questions pertinentes sur l'ère moderniste et sa culture, mais Eliot, le philosophe, et sa position sur les problèmes du temps et de la réalité restent encore indéfinis. Le traitement du temps par Bergson, ses vues sur la coexistence et la force créatrice nécessitent également une exploration plus approfondie car ils sont d'une pertinence considérable à notre époque. Je montrerai dans leurs tentatives pour arriver à une compréhension correcte de la nature et de la réalité qu’Eliot et Bergson sont réellement proches philosophiquement.

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1This paper begins by rejecting the premise in the existing Eliot scholarship that there lies a fundamental divide in perceiving T. S. Eliot as philosopher from Eliot as poet. Eliots philosophical dissertation titled Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradleywas published in 1964 almost after fifty-two years of its completion. However, Eliots dissertation during the time of submission was entitled Experience and the Objects of Knowledge in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley.” Eliots reluctance in getting his dissertation published was based on his self-admittedly obscure style and the inability to bridge the gap between ontological questions which emerge with experienceand the epistemological concerns pertaining to knowledge.Eliot scholars have recognized that the philosophical training at Harvard, the Sorbonne, Marburg, and Oxford with which Eliot started his career was completely eclipsed by his poetic reputation which he established in London. From thereon Eliots philosophical pursuits have been viewed by many as limited to a very early stage of his life. I argue against this understanding and propose that Eliots philosophical questions remained an active concern throughout his poetic career. It is specifically in Eliots lifelong commitment to the idea of time, his theological concerns and articulation of the notion of tradition that his philosophical impulse stands out over his poetic voice.

  • 1 Wilbur M. Urban in his essay, “Modernism in Science and Philosophy,” identifies a clear break betwe (...)
  • 2 Recent works like Vincent Sherry’s Cambridge History of Modernism (2016) and Peter Osborne’s articl (...)

2The second premise of my paper goes against Eliots self-declaration in his early notebook Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917 (Eliot 1996) which assigned a temporary status to his conversion to Bergsonism: My only conversion, by the deliberate influence of any individual, was a temporary conversion to Bergsonism(Ricks 1996, 411). Critics like F.O. Matthiessen, Lyndall Gordon and Piers Gray have read Eliots statement too literally. This paper aims to show that Eliot remained a Bergsonian till the end. Eliots stance mirrors, what American philosopher Wilbur Urban had characterized as the great divide1 between modern sciences and modernist philosophy. The relationship between science, modernism, and philosophy has been gaining critical attention in the last few decades.2 Here, to contextualize the debate, I explore Eliot and Henri Bergsons position with regard to the rapid obsolescence of philosophy and emergence of modern sciences by the beginning of the twentieth century. The reasons for this particular exploration are twofold: first, it demonstrates Eliots oscillation between the language of philosophy and the exactitude of science which informs the ingrained ambivalenceof his literary criticism and poetic oeuvre (Brooker 2018, 2). Secondly, it examines the times in which Bergson lived and his assertion about the coexistence between philosophy and science which negate the accusations made against him that he was against science. Milič Čapek, in fact, labelled the Bergsonian approach as one of radical empiricismsince for Bergson, true empiricism [] which probe more deeply into its life [] is the real metaphysics” (Čapek 1971, 193; Bergson 1912, 36). By situating Eliot and Bergson within the larger debate about the modernist shifts from metaphysics to formalism, I seek to establish that despite his claims Eliots poetic, philosophical, and theological pursuits are based on Bergsonian questions about the elusive nature of reality.

Eliot’s Early Preoccupations and Discordance between Philosophy and Science

3Critics such as Anne C. Bolgan, Donald Childs, Jeffrey Pearl, Richard Shusterman, and Lewis Freed have invoked various philosophical influences on Eliot like Josiah Royce, William James, F.H. Bradley, Bertrand Russell, and Henri Bergson to elaborate upon his philosophical outlook. However, a close analysis of Eliots early phase, when he was the president of the philosophical club at Harvard, reveals his strong resistance to the philosophical discussions of the time. In his second address to Harvard Philosophical Club entitled The Relationship between Politics and Metaphysicsin 1914 Eliot posed the question about the importance of studying philosophy. The three years that he devoted to philosophy at Harvard left him disillusioned with the philosophical debates taking place around that time. Eliot said:

This is a time of philosophies which lend themselves, or at least offer themselves, with great facility to emotional consequences. A time of what a pragmatist friend of mine has called lyric philosophies. James’s philosophical writings constitute an emotional attitude more than a body of dogma; the neo-realistic movement appears to the uninitiated, at least, a spontaneous outburst of feeling, a song without words; and we observe Mr. Bertrand Russell directing with passionate enthusiasm his unearthly ballet of bloodless alphabets. Professor Bosanquet is the prophet who has put off his shoes and talks with the Absolute in a burning bush; to Professor Royce we owe the resuscitation of Christianity by the method of last aid to the dead. And the landscape is decorated with Bergsonians in various degrees of recovery from intellect (Brooker and Schuchard 2014, 90).

4Here, Eliot questions the lack of scientific rigor and the predominance of what he felt were emotional responses in the lyric philosophies.” Eliots early disdain for philosophy stems from its perceived inability to define the ordinary experience in the world. The integral element that Eliot sought in academic philosophy and found to be lacking turned him towards aesthetics, particularly towards poetry, where he hoped for an encounter, a profound moment with the everyday experience. Eliots graduate papers, “The Interpretation of Primitive Ritual(1913) and Description and Explanation(1914), on the topic A Comparative Study of Various Types of Scientific Method” for Josiah Royces 1913-14 Philosophy course were a step in that direction to provide logical and scientific explanation and interpretation of sense-data. Eliot was pursuing a logical development of ordinary speechto reach the psychic hinterlands of the ordinary experience unsullied by the incompatible philosophical currents and discursive ruminations. Similarly, Eliots interest in William Jamess psychological concept of stream of consciousness was to uncover the structural elements behind the unorganized stream in order to make it intelligible. It can be argued that Eliots aestheticizing method of unravelling the enigma around the ordinary experience is a reiteration of his philosophical struggles against the closures built into language itself.

5Eliots attentiveness to the encounter with the ordinary experience (the relational schema that allows us to encounter Bergson in Eliot as well) in which the experiencing self undergoes a complete transformation appears very frequently in his critical and poetic expressions. At this point, it should not be construed that Eliots move towards art, which, as Charles Taylor states, brings us into the presence of something which is otherwise inaccessible, and which is of the highest moral or spiritual significance; a manifestation, moreover, which also defines or completes something, even as it reveals,is non-philosophical (Taylor 1989, 419). Instead, Eliots deep philosophical commitment paradoxically shines through his call for the end of metaphysics. Eliot did not want to hold an intellectual position and/or adherence to a particular school of philosophy. Eliot wanted to avoid the abstraction of philosophy and test the coherence of thought in the language that runs through the everyday experiences. This also explains why many critics felt that Eliots interest in Bergsons philosophy was limited to the early stages of his life.

6Eliots connection with Bergson emerges from his notebook lying in Harvards Houghton Library. This notebook and the notes scribbled in French details the journey to Paris that Eliot undertook in the years 1910-11 in order to listen to Bergsons lectures in the Grand Amphithéâtre at Collège de France. During the first decade of the twentieth century, Bergson had already become a philosopher having a cult following with people taking mystical pilgrimages to his summer home in Switzerland. As being the most controversial and most celebrated philosopher in the first half of the twentieth century, Bergson plunged into the debates pertaining to every important field be it science, religion, politics, or metaphysics. His charismatic appeal, a nearly perfect articulation of the spiritual harmony and an internal unity (which he had called élan vital in his book Creative Evolution, 1907) found a deep resonance amongst the crowd consisting of students, intellectuals, modernist Catholics, social climbers, and even general public dissuaded by the mechanistic principles of the nineteenth century. Eliots poems just before his Paris journey — “First Debate between the Body and the Soul,” “Portrait of a Lady,and first half of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” — highlight the schism that the poet felt between the body and the soul, the intellect and the intuition, the totality, and the specificity of life in a philosophical manner. Eliot immersed himself in Bergsons philosophy reading all the books that he was known for in French, because he believed that Bergson could link the discontinuity that existed between the poetic, the scientific, and the philosophical level for him. Eliot assumed that attending Bergsons lectures would bolster his chances of becoming a professor of philosophy as well. While discussing Eliots enthusiasm for Bergsons lectures, Nancy D. Hargove states, [a]s an [] enthusiastic pupil, it seems to me that he would have been front and center for the great mans lectures from the first day in early December to the last on May 20, 1911” (Hargove 2017, 58). Bergsons first two works (Time and Free Will and Matter and Memory) which raised the distinction between time and space, intellect and intuition declared the novel concept of duration that is found anchored in consciousness. The affirmation of the process, of becoming and the heterogeneity that it entails could provide the spiritual continuum to ride over the decadence which characterized the Western civilization in the first half of the twentieth century; a “ceremonial purgation” of sorts for Eliot (North 2001, 260). Following the tenets established by the spiritualist school of philosophy, Bergson questioned the very notion of a priori which could explain the present. Bergson questioned Kant for labelling time as an ontological predicate along with space and the erroneous scientific method which emerged thereon that viewed time as segmented and homogenous (akin to space). The deterministic principles practiced by scientists and mathematicians left no scope for individual freedom which Eliot was trying to portray in his poetry: Do I dare/ Disturb the Universe? In a minute there is time/ For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse” (Eliot 2004, 14). The lyric persona in the above lines seem to question the epistemological limitations which came with the quantitative view of time. Under Bergsons influence, Eliot introduced a new understanding of time where the conflict between idealism and realism could be resolved by dematerialising matter and placing it between the thing and the idea in the halfway house of memory” (Stayer 2015, 27).

7Nonetheless, Eliots disillusionment with Bergson emerged at a time when Bergsons works were attacked by rationalists from the left like Julien Benda and from the right by neo-Thomists. Jacques Maritain, the Catholic French philosopher, even succeeded in convincing others for placing Bergsons books on the indexed list of prohibited works in 1914. As has been shown earlier, Eliot voiced his objections against Bergson in his address (The Relationship between Politics and Metaphysics) to Harvard Philosophical Club in spring 1914. Eliots disenchantment with Bergson arose from the persistence of divide that he felt in his most Bergsonian poem, Rhapsody on a Windy Night(Eliot 1917). The poem establishes the foundational antithesis that Bergson laid out in his first work between the clock and the notion of duration. However, on his return to Harvard, Eliot attended a seminar on Kant which convinced him that the dualism that Bergson tried to solve by disentangling time from space is actually embedded in the human condition and as such remains irreducible. Eliots further addresses as the club president were mainly about highlighting the inconsistencies in the qualitative and the quantitative perception of an event. Eliot felt that Bergsons philosophical outlook is a weaker version of idealism where the qualitative aspect that defines duration also incorporates an element of number and so partakes in spatiality (Stayer 2015, 35). Eliot argued that reality extends beyond consciousness and that things exist in themselves which cannot be addressed by what Bergson referred to as, duration. By this time, the reversal in Eliots position with regard to Bergsons philosophy had become absolute. At a later stage, Eliot confirmed to his brother Henry that his initial seduction towards Bergsons philosophy was largely based on a religious preoccupation(Stayer 2015, 27). After finishing his studies at Oxford (Eliot moved to England and married Vivienne Haigh-Wood), he began his career in the field of journalism but continued to write essays in which he frequently used Bergson and the anti-intellectual currents of his age in the same vein. Most of the critics and biographers who dealt with Eliots works and life have invested heavily on highlighting the different path that Eliot took after moving to England (at the time when Bergsons international reputation was on the decline due to the strides that Einsteins theory of relativity was making) from his early, even ‘boyishzeal towards Bergson and his philosophy. However, I argue that Eliots preoccupation with time contains Bergsonian trace which is present throughout his oeuvre albeit in a visceral state.

Bergson’s Call For Coexistence between Philosophy and Science

8The time of the philosopher is defined by the creation of concepts (in other words, by a vital spirit) which Bergson affirms in his works. As Frédéric Worms argues, [i]t is as if Bergsons philosophy rediscovered from the outset the most ancient task of philosophy, which is not to distinguish between concepts, but between ways of conducting oneself, not only to think, but also to intervene in life, to reform or transform it(Worms 2004, 8). The radicality of Bergsons philosophy lies in its integrative power with which it brings not only interior and psychological but also organic and cosmic states together. Bergson declared himself to be the philosopher of the immediate data of consciousnessand suggested a reality anterior to consciousness. Worms states that this has necessarily been misinterpreted as

a reality outside consciousness (act, subjectivity) in general […] [and, therefore,] there would be nothing to consciousness but the name, a masking of a new kind of natural reality; in the same way, the freedom that it pretends to found would be nothing but the mask of a new kind of psychic determination, which its dynamism or vitalism does not make less restrictive! From Politzer and Nabert to Merleau-Ponty and Sartre, how many lectures from the 1930s onward were based on such a critique?” (Worms 2010, 247).

9According to Worms, the reality (which is the lived duration) that Bergson advocates arises within the consciousness through the experience (insofar as it is temporal) or the sensible data prohibiting its existence independent from us. Duration is a formal concept and shifts the focus to the ontological split between present and past, actual, and virtual. Bergsons formal concept of duration arises within consciousness and as such takes into consideration both life and consciousness. This makes Bergsons works a series of purely creative philosophyas it affirms the coexistence of consciousness with life (Worms 2010, 249). Through the formal concept of duration, consciousness can be thought of/in life and not be perceived as opposed to the latter. This is the way through which metaphysics and mathematics come together and the fundamental horizon of all philosophical problems can be gazed.

10Like Eliot, Bergson lived in divided times. The Third Republic in France in 1889 was projecting unbridled faith in the experimental science (which originated from the positivist trends) to stay away from the dogmatic slumbersof the previous century and as close as possible to the light of reason. In the same year when Nietzsche famously claimed that philosophy as such had come to an end in his phrase God is dead,Ernest Renan, the French philosopher and historian, declared in his book, The Future of Science (Renan 1889), that science had become the new religion. Convinced by the scientific rigor of the age and the historical importance given to intellect over intuition, Renan argued that genuine knowledge must now resemble scientific knowledge for all times to come. The excessive rationalism of the nineteenth century subordinated every observable and non-observable phenomenon to measurement. The mathematical complexity posited a block universe where time and space were solely determined by geometrical coordinates in terms of quantitative entities which are accessible to us like the position of the object. The mechanical laws dimmed the presence of the individual and viewed time in purely mathematical sense of a line on which different points represented successive moments (so much so that Einstein, in the heyday of his theory of relativity, stated that time is that which the clock measures and that philosophers time does not exist). Like physical sciences, the natural sciences also took into account the mechanistic models based on Darwins theory of evolution and Herbert Spencers evolutionary ethics to completely eliminate any possibility of an intelligent design in the universe which now worked only as an unconscious machine.Against such dominant currents of mechanization, the dissenting voice came from another school of theoretical physicists and mathematicians like Ernst Mach and Henri Poincaré who revealed the schisms which existed between positivistic certainties. In his work, The Science of Mechanics (Mach 1883), Mach pointed out that the scientific concepts do not define the physical world but merely the sensational experience of the observer. Therefore, the concepts of absolute time and space cannot describe the physical world that underlay the sensations of a scientific observer. Following this, by 1911, a tendency emerged to treat the concepts of science as hypothetical constructs which could symbolically portray the nature but not reveal the truthof physical reality.

11Poincaré and Edouard LeRoy pointed out the problems inherently present in the application of universal reason. Poincaré’s book, The Foundations of Science: Science and Hypothesis, The Value of Science, Science and Method (Poincaré 1913), questioned the very basis of a scientific endeavor based on universal reason. Poincaré argued that the [s]cientific formulae are not true; they are [simply] convenientand science is before all a classification, a manner of bringing together facts which appearances separate [] Science, in other words, is a system of relations” (Grogin 1988, 10; my emphasis). Poincaré’s position that the scientific methods are based on conventions derived from intuition and not axioms left much to be understood from metaphysics because science as such failed to show the true relation of things with absolute necessity. French Conventionalism, whose main expositors were Poincaré, LeRoy and Pierre Duhem laid down the groundwork for the metaphysics by establishing that science can only be seen as a mere approximation of the physical reality which is always in the state of becoming. For Bergsons generation, the most important question about science was to denounce the mathematical-determinism and the static tendencies it entailed and to see physical reality based on the notions of flux and change. This new understanding, a new orientation towards time and space which define the physical reality, in many ways, encapsulate the philosophical revolt that Bergson would lead against the mechanistic determinism which the older models of science advocated.

  • 3 In his essay, “Habit and time in nineteenth-century French philosophy: Albert Lemoine between Bergs (...)

12Bergson lived in the times when one school of philosophy supported the experimental science based on mathematical determinism, external observations, and universal reason to objectively ground the reality and the other revisionist school of philosophy demanded subjectivity, an anti-intellectual thrust and an affirmation of life process and becoming. Bergson subscribed to the latter school of philosophy. The revisionist school of philosophy, in many ways, prepared theoretical attacks against the mechanistic determinism on the lines of spiritualist school of philosophy which paid more attention to the intuitive part over the intellectual which the science had ignored. This new spiritualism which was mainly associated with École normale supérieure (owing to its anti-intellectual tendencies) was first spearheaded by Félix Ravaisson through his 1838 work De lhabitude. Through a careful analysis of the process of habit, Ravaisson had stated that habits cannot simply be explained in the mechanistic way but serve as the fossilised residue of a spiritual activity3 (Bergson 1946, 275). Ravaissons ideas provided the impetus to the young Bergson studying at École to bring philosophy closer to reality by recognizing that the source of knowledge lies in the immediate experience. In this way, an introspective knowledge of the self, which eventually came to be known as spiritual realism,became one of the cornerstones of Bergsons philosophy. Many spiritualist ideas continued to be in mass circulation amongst Normalien students due to professors like Jules Lachelier and Léon Ollé-Laprune who showed through their works (Du fondement de linduction, 1871 and De la certitude morale, 1880) the limitations of scientism and determinism and paved way for recognising the new sources of knowledge. However, it was Emile Boutroux's famous book, De la contingence de lois de la nature (Boutroux 1874) which set the path for Bergsons first major work, Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (Bergson 1889). In this work, Boutroux argued for free will against determinism. He argued for individuality which had been dimmed by the scientific concepts and methods and affirmed life-process and change. This gifted teacher molded Bergsons perspectives in his Normalien days in such a way that the hitherto indifference that Bergson had felt towards philosophy (he had entered École for studying mathematics) soon disappeared and he became the most articulate and influential proponent of the spiritualist philosophy. According to Bergson, philosophy, and philosophersas such can not today content themselves with vague generalities but must follow the scientists in experimental detail and discuss the results with them(Bergson 1998, 78).

13Bergsons critical position always called for a coexistence between philosophy and science. Bergson does not reject the scientific method nor its ability to predict and anticipate outcomes. The spiritualist approach to the future also cannot simply complement the rational ways of anticipating future. Bergsons theories demand a unique bridging act between the philosophical and scientific approaches. Bergsons philosophy provides an alternate mode of thinking, a conjectural space where thinking about the future becomes possible, something that the causal or probabilistic modes of knowledge alone were incapable of. Eliot use of this conjectural space based on the coexistence between philosophy and science can be traced in the scientific analogy he offers in his essay, Modern Tendencies in Poetry(Eliot 1920), to explain the functioning of poetic mind:

The material civilisation of a country is sometimes measured by the amount of sulphuric acid it uses. England and Germany use the most sulphuric acid. Now, for the production of this acid, as of many other important products of industrial chemistry, it is necessary to combine two gases which, if simply placed in the same vessel will not mix. Introduce a bit of platinum, and the combination takes place. The platinum does not enter into the combination, but merely looks on. The operation is called, I believe, catalysis, and the platinum, a catalyst. The artist’s mind is a catalyst; it looks on; the gases may have been part of his mind, but they are not part of it at the time when he is effecting them to join in exactly that way (Cuda and Schuchard 2014, 215).

14The creative operation in which the two gasses (thought and feeling) combine in an exact way as the artists mind (the catalyst) contemplates is, for Eliot, the fulcrum of poetic expression. The poet then transfers this poetic expression onto the plane of language. Eliots poems, informed by his critical works, present a tableau of thought and feeling like the patient etherised on the table. Prufrock is unable to feel the fundamental split in his psyche between thought and feeling. However, this allows the poet to turn the inevitable alteration of feeling into art. For Eliot, the poetic principle emerges by revealing the unavoidable division of thought from feeling. The self-consciousness about language of poetry and Prufrocks self-consciousness about himself go hand-in-hand in the poem: No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be […]” (Eliot 2004, 16). Here, it can be argued that the patient is Eliot the poet, upon whom his philosophical mind operated and whose experiences are catalyzed into Eliots lyric personae. In A Game of Chess,the woman orders her interlocutor to think: “What are you thinking of? What thinking? What? /I never know what you are thinking. Thinkand the poetic response that I think we are in rats alley,/ Where the dead men lost their bonesdraws association with intense feeling (Eliot 2004, 65). Similarly, through repetition, “[s]hantih shantih shantih” in “What the Thunder Said,thought is energized and given more power to affect the reader (Eliot 2004, 75). Therefore, I propose that Eliots creativity, his poetic principle lies in his affirmation of the coexistence of thought and feeling which is based on Bergsons creative philosophy and its affirmation of the coexistence of consciousness with life.

Bergson, Eliot, and the Idea of Time

15Bergsons biggest contribution towards the idea of time is that, unlike his philosophical predecessors, he is the only one who has given a positive attributeto time (Worms 2005, 1227). The successive moments on the timeline expressed mathematically does not constitute real time. Perceptions formed in the mind contain qualitative character, but the mental activity occurs in space which helps us to differentiate multiple perceptions from each other. It is in counting and abstracting the simultaneous perceptions that their qualitative character gets diminished. The spatial zone in which thinking materializes repudiates anything which has non-spatial characteristics like the pure duration. Similar to Bergsons, Eliots theory of time is essentially an immanent doctrine in which the timeless (the real time) is viewed as the source of creative flux and informs the false time(which gives rise to experiences without meaning like Prufrocks aimless wanderings). The plane of consciousness where the duration arises and is gazed by intuition is also an immanent gaze (as Bergson says it himself) or inside a doing, or again […] a gaze that is itself a doing. Intuition [] is never only a gaze [] it is on the contrary a contact that manifests itself by an action and a full-fledged creation(Worms 2010, 249). The real time, according to Eliot, is immanent in the false time and its recognition can provide a way out of the limbo-like existence for the etherized patients. Eliot believed that the temporal experiences in the present attempts to impose a concretized pattern on that which is eternally changing. Therefore, he claimed in Burnt Norton that it is only through time time is conquered” (Eliot 2004, 173). Bergsons articulation of duration, as immanently present in the whole universe allows the universe to endure just like we do, propagates the newphilosophy through which Eliot seeks to understand the ultimate nature of reality. So, it is in his explorations about the idea of time that Bergsons influence on Eliot becomes most engaging.

16Also, in being a virtual multiplicity, duration works as the bridge between the real and the experience of the real. In The Waste Land, Eliots poetic personae not only incorporate the already-made reality but also those properties which are about to be realized as the whole process is yet to unfold. Paul Douglass in his book Bergson, Eliot and American Literature (Douglass 1986) describes the Bergsonian intuition in Eliots poetry where the poetic form itself is breaking down the barriers to hum the lifes depth. The fragmentary nature of Eliots poem The Waste Land signals a shift backward towards something primordial and instinctual. Douglass suggests that beneath the fragmentary appearance of Eliots poetry there lies the vitality, the paradoxical nature of reality which shines out in every particular and even in those which are yet to be realized. It is here that the intellectual constructs (provided both by philosophy and science) to understand the concept of time seem, at best, provisional and not all-encompassing (as has been generally believed) in light of Bergsonian interpretation of time. My contention is informed by the French philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitchs argument in his 1959 work titled, Henri Bergson, in which he provides an exposition of Bergson's philosophical framework and states that memory is a spiritual face of a duration internal to itselfand that [m]emory is but my experiencesentirely primitive perseverance in surviving themselves” (Jankélévitch 2015, 4-5). Jankélévitchs treatment of memory as experiencesentirely primitive perseverancehighlights the immediacy of primordial awareness which resists conceptualization based on spatial metaphors (my emphasis). It further posits the experiential continuity based on which memory functions as the active actualization of the past rather than a recording of this past” (Jankélévitch 2015, 4-5). Eliots poetic word also attempts to reveal this immanence of coexistencewhere the past remains organically completewithin the present. (Jankélévitch 2015, 6). For Eliot, the analysis of the human condition underpins a relational schema (analogous to Bergsonian framework and opposed to the didactic thinkingwhose progression Jankélévitch identifies in a movement from the part to the whole) through which the mythical waste land of the Fisher King or the spectatorial presence of Tiresias are able to relate to the modern consciousness (Jankélévitch 2015, 11). Similar to Jankélévitchs approach who laid out the Bergsonian notion of duration to contradict Danish philosopher Harald Høffdings classification of Bergsons philosophy as merely a case of intuitionism,Mark Sinclair in his recent work, Bergson (2020), shows how Bergsons treatment of time went beyond both, (a) Spencers characterization of time as wholly incomprehensibleand therefore unintelligible and, (b) Ravaissons analysis where quantity invariably gets linked to space (Sinclair 2020, 37, 45). Sinclair, by offering the Bergsonian example of hearing the church bells, elucidates the different types of multiplicities and firmly situates Bergsons challenge to the parallelism of space and timethat Kant established in his works (Sinclair 2020, 47). For Bergson, the two kinds of multiplicityare constituted by the numerical schema of the material objects and the conscious states which cannot be regarded as numerical without the help of some symbolic representation, in which a necessary element is space(Bergson 1913, 87). Further, for Bergson, duration arises out of the qualitative movement which can only be grasped in its immediacy by combating the spatializing tendencies of thought that mediate our own self-awareness(Sinclair 2020, 48).

17In her book Henri Bergson and British Modernism, Mary Ann Gillies (1996) also suggests that Bergson stated that unlike the ‘relative(and scientific) way of knowing things which entirely depends upon the ‘staticframe of the reference of the observer, the absolute way which takes into account, (a) differentiation (where one difference gives rise to another in a relational formation), (b) the interlocked process where things simultaneously arise and dissolve becoming things of the past and, at the same time, and (c) unlocking of the future which depends upon intuition, is the stage at which the duration and the qualitative synthesis can be assessed. Following Elizabeth Groszs assertion that Bergsonian difference is a “generative process” which require a constant revaluation of our understanding so that it can properly reflect upon each newly created difference, Gillies argues that there is a need to remain flexibleas opposed to the ossified ways of looking at time and consciousness to fully comprehend the differences which arise from the constant becoming and unbecoming of objects (Ardoin, Gontarski, and Mattison 2013, 12). Therefore, it is at the intuitive level where the observer can combine the difference with multiplicityto arrive at the precise knowledge of the object itself (Gillies 1996, 12-13). While commenting upon Bergsons influence on Eliot, Gillies states that Eliotic form is always characterized by the twin framework of external time and internal duration where the morning call directly permeates the consciousness. The unsettling nature of Eliots stanzas like those which appear in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (Eliot 1917; “There will be time, there will be time/ To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;/ There will be time to murder and create,/ And time for all the works and days of hands/ That lift and drop a question on your plate) arise from the juxtaposition of static, outside time with the dynamic flux within, and it serves as the main reason for the divided self (of both the narrator and the narration) which finds itself incessantly stalled in a time-space midway between durée and clock time(Eliot 2004, 14; Gillies 1996, 82).

18In his poetic works, Eliot lays emphasis on the evolving human consciousness having an arising, a duration and a dissolution in time which not only provides a way to transcend the epistemic limitations but also serves as a new doctrine to get deeper insights into the functioning of nature and its laws. Eliots philosophical outlook which views everything in a state of flux parallels Bergsons depiction of reality where time remains immeasurable and becoming is perceived as qualitative, evolutionary and extensivesuch that Socrates can grow older and still be Socrates (Bergson 1998, 304). Bergsons formulation of continuity transcends a continuity simpliceter towards a further mutable one. For Bergson, [a] moving continuity is given to us, in which everything changes and yet remains the same(Bergson 2007, 260). Therefore, it becomes crucial to read Eliots works from the perspective of livedtime which defines all aspects of human existence and our relation to the time future. Furthermore, in the next section, Eliots theological questions are likewise considered from the prism of Bergsonian duration (and only incidentally rely on Bergsons The Two Sources of Morality and Religion) to demonstrate how Eliots philosophical views are also deeply influenced by the notion of intuition which he had condemned as intellectually insufficient to grasp the connections between art and life.

Eliot’s Theological Pursuits and the Heterogenous Duration

19The fear and trembling that one finds in his self, his being exposed against the backdrop of a future that terrifies us is what Eliot evokes in his poems: [o]ver the strained time-ridden faces/ Distracted from distraction by distraction/ Filled with fancies and empty of meaning/ Tumid apathy with no concentration/ Men and bits of paper [] Wind in and out of wholesome lungs/ Time before and time after” (Eliot 2004, 174). Here, Eliots verse affirms the radical finitude of human existence by attesting to the distractions that strains the time-ridden faces. At the same time, the poetic word functions as an act of disclosure by inviting its addressee to rise beyond the anxiety and see the truth. This unveilingof truth by the poetic speech carries the prospect of redemption for the addressee and enlarges Eliots philosophical framework such that both metaphysics and religion can come together. Eliots questioning stance in The Hollow Men (Eliot 1925), which is a continuation of the tense enervation that produced The Waste Land three years ago, and the quasi-allegorical landscape of the poem works well to establish the dilemma of human existence: [i]s it like this/ In deaths other kingdom/ Walking alone/ At the hour when we are/ Trembling with tenderness/ Lips that would kiss/ Form prayers to broken stone” (Eliot 2004, 84). Eliots anxious attempt at a new beginning is saddled with stillness (trembling with tenderness) where the poet is at loss of words to describe the painful experience but the transformative moment ([f]orm prayers to broken stone) allows language to come to words and makes its presence felt. Thus, the poetic word, in performing the act of disclosure, foregrounds an instance of intuitive knowing.

20Eliot insists on the intuition of impermanence, flux and becoming which is informed by both Heraclitus and Bergson and forms the core of his metaphysical pursuits in The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday and the Four Quartets. Eliot writes in East Coker (Eliot 1940): “[i]n my beginning is my end. In succession/ Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended [] Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth/ Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,/ Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf” (Eliot 2004, 177). The cyclical order of time in which lies the beginning as well as the end is a never-ending flux. This makes Eliots poetic expression similar to the Heraclitean doctrine of ekpyrosis (the periodic destruction and regeneration of the world by the primal fire). There are overtones of pathos in the destruction of houseswhich happens in quick succession and lays stress on recognizing the cyclical pattern. This, in turn, explicitly contrasts time with the lived duration. In relation to understanding time as not an object but a form of intuition, at the level of interior state which can illuminate the process of eternal recurrence, Elie During states

“[t]he underlying problem, as it turns out, is at once epistemological and metaphysical, or more precisely cosmological, because it relates to the way we can bind together the local flows attached to particular processes into a single whole, namely the particular object we refer to as ‘the universe’ — a universe that itself endures, as Bergson reminds us in […] Creative Evolution” (During 2016, 2).

21Eliots emphasis on the passage of time and the process of becoming aligns, at once, his theological concerns with Heraclitus, and most importantly, with Bergson. Eliots words, [o]ld fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth,intertwines the world (which is to be endured) with the relationship between oneself and the world (which is temporally and spatially contingent). It requires a synthetic unity between the open neutralprojecting world and the material content, the constitution which is provided by oneself such that I am in the world. This synthetic unity makes it possible to see the world as a phenomenon. The phenomenal world as ever arising signals a positive affirmation of continuous giving of things within the world. Here, the semantic distinction between time and duration introduced by Bergson once again becomes necessary to understand the connection of man and the world.

22Bergsons interpretation makes the notion of time a profoundly philosophical task by positing that it is within the lived durationthat the process of extensive becomingtakes place. This is a non-dimensional and non-spatial aspect of reality. Here, the extensiveness carries the connotation of continuous motion which contains the caveat of turning time into a spatialised entity; collapsing Bergsonian heterogeneity into continuity and allowing Kantian formulation of time in the Transcendental Aesthetics to take credence: the notion that time is an essentially continuous magnitude — just like space” (During, 2016, 5). If the passage of timesuggests that there is a continuous flow, the opposite of this should not mean that time is still. Instead, time is not exactly an entity which can or cannot be defined by flow. As During states:

Time does not flow, not because a concept in general does not flow (just as the concept of a dog does not bark), but simply because the concept of time is not a thing-concept in the first place. Kant, for that matter, believes it is not a concept at all. At root, it is a form, and in two respects: first, it is a formal intuition which is required to make sense of the continuity and connectedness of experience; second, it is a concept that may come to be elaborated and given objective meaning in relation with the postulates of empirical thought, as well as very general connecting principles such as: permanence, succession, and simultaneity, to name those listed in the ‘analogies of experience’, following the categories of relation (During 2016, 6).

23Durings interpretation of time as a form saturates it with the notion of virtuality(the non-actual reality) which plays a vital role in the relational organization expressed in Eliots critical and poetic works. For instance, Eliots vision of time present in his 1939 play The Family Reunion, is suggestive of the process of becoming which takes place and yet is not properly grasped. Time weighs upon us and even then, this particular perception fails to correspond through language except in the spatial terms of heaviness, extensiveness and being continuous. Eliot writes:

The sudden solitude in a crowded desert
In a thick smoke, many creatures moving
Without direction, for no direction
Leads anywhere but round and round in that vapour —-
Without purpose, and without principle of conduct
In flickering intervals of light and darkness;
The partial anaesthesia of suffering without feeling
And partial observation of one’s own automatism
While the slow stain stinks deeper through the skin
Tainting the flesh and discolouring the bone — -
This is what matters, but is unspeakable,
Untranslatable: I talk in general terms
Because the particular has no language (Eliot 2004, 294).

24The directionless journey which leads anywhere but round and round in that vapourharnesses the incessant feature of eternity which is non-creationist and non-teleological (without purpose) (Eliot 2004, 294). The recognition based on partial observationtakes place in the flickering intervalswhere one is only partially awake (Eliot 2004, 294). The recognition about the formidable weight that each action takes on is tainting the flesh and discolouring the bone(Eliot 2004, 294). It assumes an imperative to act which should be based on a heightened state of consciousness. For Eliot, what matters here is unspeakable and untranslatable, precisely because the negation is transmuted into a process of affirmation. The whole dialogue is a bleak portrayal of the loneliness one feels in the eternal cycle where time is to be endured against the reactive forces which put limitations to ones existence. Yet there is a particularwhich acts as the negation of negation of the reactive forces and eventually affirms the permanent becoming. The displacement and not the return of the same acts as a metaphysical force guiding the evolution of reality and actualizes itself in multiple ways through the overall process of becoming. The non-actual reality (the virtual) which is an entirely unpredictable process of creation actualizes in the unique event of the eternal return. This shows that Eliots poetry is essentially an exploration of the constant pulls of religion, culture, history, and philosophy which defined his personal experiences and, in a wider sense, mans relation to the world which appears neutrallyand ‘inconspicuously: “The world is a phenomenon that phenomenalizes in a way seemingly distinct from other phenomena, as it presents itself inconspicuously and hides its phenomenalization in a mirage of neutrality(Alvis 2016, 16). Mortality and temporality paradoxically reveal that which remains concealed to man and the flickering intervalsallows one to affirm the affective relations by which we turn within the world; a recognition of how the affective relations work (Alvis 2016, 17). For Eliot, these concerns which are thoroughly Bergsonian also inform the notion of tradition and to which I now turn my attention.

Eliot’s Concept of Tradition and Bergson’s Indistinct Fringe

25Eliots biographer Peter Ackroyd described his essay, Tradition and Individual Talent(1919), as the work to recognise the limitations of ordinary knowledge and experience but yet to see that when they are organised into a coherent whole, they might vouchsafe glimpses of absolute truth […]” (Ackroyd 1984, 50). Eliots essay is a testament to a long-drawn anguish for stability and order which haunted and defined the modernist experience. The essay encompasses a personal search for coherence in the collapsing world around. The partial and fragmentary order which defined the post-world war Modernist era deeply perturbed Eliot, and it was his belief that the finite centers experienced by the individuals then can form the points of view which, in some sense, would shed light on the reality as a whole. The essay is Eliots most profound attempt to reconcile private experiences with the unified whole. The meaning, according to Eliot, emerges when an individual perceives a historical sensewhich

involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe […] has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer more acutely conscious of his place in time, of his own contemporaneity (Eliot 1982, 37).

26Here, Eliot traces a continuity imbued in the word ‘traditionwhich can aid a contemporary poet in his poetic development. Eliot seems to suggest that every poet and his poetic creation works as an aspect of the tradition which simultaneously involves the pastness of the pastand its presence.” Eliots definition of originality in the works of art emerges from a historical sense, a historical consciousness which at the same time defines and illuminates it. Eliot suggests that the historical sense does not involve a chronological approach where the present is added on to the past again and again. Rather, it is based on a comprehensive approach where the present consistently alters and informs the past. The twin perceptions of time (the past and the present) take place in conjunction with each other, thereby, supplanting a timeless unity to the immediate experience. The traditional and contemporary element of a poets personality is determined by the coherence which emerges from the historical consciousness as a whole, not by treating every poet as a disparate and separate entity, so to speak. Eliot argued that the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously. And I do not mean the impressionable period of adolescence, but the period of full maturity” (Eliot 1982, 37). This approach suggests that every work of art is seemingly a new beginning, but a full recognition of this is achieved only after taking into account the larger perspective of all the new beginnings which happened through the course of human history. For Eliot, it is the historical sense which determines the source of meaning (from which the individual draws meaning) and helps in the growth of literary tradition. The historical sense enables us to see poems not as self-contained units but as a long chain in an interconnected network which define the poetic tradition. Eliot discredits the atomized approach according to which a poet or an artist can have and establish his complete meaning alone. It is only by taking into account the dead poets and artists that his appreciation and significance can be determined. The lived experiences of poets (what Eliot called as partial, fragmentary truths) are to be perceived and constantly reinterpreted within the context of others. And it so happens that in the process of interpretation, the context changes as well:

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone […] The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new (Eliot 1982, 37).

27According to Eliot, the tradition influences the individual poet as much as the individual poet influences tradition by making newer contributions to the literary tradition. The holistic account of the literary tradition also transcends the poetic work from the personality of the poet. For Eliot, the poetic work becomes more valuable and enduring if the poet acknowledges and expresses the poetic medium and dissolves his personality. The extinction of personality and the existence of personal emotion (evoked by the events in the poets life) with structural emotion (evoked by the lines of the poem) and the artistic emotion (which stems from the work as a whole) make a poem meaningful. The impersonality which arises out of such a consciousness of the dead poets and artists helps in achieving an objective element in the poem. The empirical author disappears and what remains with the poet is the holistic account of the literary tradition under which the significance and meaning is determined. The interdependence of meaning that Eliot looks for in the historical sense, which illuminates the work of an individual poet, is similar to Bergsons notion of becoming which emerges from recognizing the totality of relationships.

28In Creative Evolution, Bergson articulates how human experience is informed by the movement of life which takes into account both the actual and the virtual multiplicities (Bergson 1907). According to Bergson, the access to durational life and lived timeemerges in the awareness where the movement of life transforms itself into human experience and we impersonally experience it, what Bergson called, as “indistinct fringe.” This ‘disinterestedthought which provides access to the nature of the real assumes the substantial contribution of time to the being and recovers the concept of time from the overwhelming point of finitude. It is the durational life which connects the thinking being with the generative source of thinking itself. The disinterested mode of thought in which durational life is experienced is always getting introduced to the new:

We do not think real time. But we live it, because life transcends intellect. The feeling we have of our evolution and of the evolution of all things in pure duration is there, forming around the intellectual concept properly so-called an indistinct fringe that fades off into darkness. Mechanism and finalism agree in taking account only of the bright nucleus shining in the center. They forget that this nucleus has been formed out of the rest by condensation, and that the whole must be used, the fluid as well as and more than the condensed, in order to grasp the inner movement of life […] Indeed, if the fringe exists, however delicate and indistinct, it should have more importance for philosophy than the bright nucleus it surrounds. For it is its presence that enables us to affirm that the nucleus is a nucleus, that pure intellect is a contraction, by condensation, of a more extensive power. And, just because this vague intuition is of no help in directing our action on things, which action takes place exclusively on the surface of reality, we may presume that it is to be exercised not merely on the surface, but below.

As soon as we go out of the encasings in which radical mechanism and radical finalism confine our thought, reality appears as a ceaseless upspringing of something new, which has no sooner arisen to make the present than it has already fallen back into the past; at this exact moment it falls under the glance of the intellect, whose eyes are ever turned to the rear. This is already the case with our inner life. (Bergson 1998, 46)

29The radical remolding of philosophy of time that Bergson is suggesting here integrates novelty giving durée its metaphysical characteristic. For Bergson, the principle of creation is achieved in reality with its advancing further. The creative novelty and the integrative continuity that Bergson describes is what informs Eliots notion of tradition and individual talent. For Eliot, poetic development results from creating new, along with an active acknowledgment of a continuity imbued in the word tradition.

30Thus, every present, including the ‘now, form part of the long, uninterrupted historical continuum providing time an ontological force which simultaneously informs and affirms the embodied life. Within such a historical continuum, it becomes perfectly possible for Eliot to have Tiresias as the blind protagonist (which, it is suggested, he must have been inspired to use after Apollinaire's recent play Les Mamelles de Tirésias in 1917) to describe the ruthless act of love enacted by the typist at homeand the young man carbuncularin a near mechanical way laying bare the absence of any real passion and the sheer apathy which, according to the philosopher-poet, served as the defining moment of the entire Modernist milieu: [s]he smooths her hair with automatic hand,/ And puts a record on the gramophone” (Eliot 2004, 69). Eliots pessimism resulting from such dehumanizing acts insisted upon a very specific religious feelingto tackle the flaws of contemporary civilization. The sporadic form of the entire poem, in many ways, mirrors the psycho-physiological responses towards an understanding that has moved beyond self-preservation as the phenomenal world and, along with its temporal realm, opens the possibilities of encounter between the self and the non-self.


31The blurring of past and present which appears at the beginning of Burnt Norton (Eliot 1935) seems to suggest a step in the direction where Eliots philosophy of time, his concept of tradition and his theological questions (tendencies expressed and argued in the above sections as being informed by Bergson) tend to merge with each other. The poems first few lines state: [t]ime present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future/ And time future contained in time past./ If all time is eternally present/ All time is unredeemable” (Eliot 2004, 171). The interrogative stance about ‘nowin the phrase time present and time pastis fundamentally a Bergsonian question where the ontological status of the self is laid bare in the dialectical relationship between the two aspects of time, that is, the temporal realm of the phenomenal and the eternal realm of the noumenal world. The subtle affinities with Bergson also appear in the theological turn that the poem takes in these lines: [w]ords move, music moves/ Only in time [] Not that only, but coexistence,/ Or say that the end precedes the beginning,/ And the end and the beginning were always there/ Before the beginning and after the end./ And all is always now” (Eliot 2004, 175). In his assertion of coexistence of both the beginning and the end in “now,” Eliot details his personal experience of turning to the Christian faith in a world without Absolutes(Gillies 1996, 96). However, the underlying concern is the relational process set forth by Bergsons durée which appealed to Eliot because he was able to bring together the two seemingly incommensurable ideas of the temporal and the timeless; where the beginning and the end become visible in the present. Even in his literary essay Religion and Literaturewritten in the same year, Eliot demands a theological perspective as co-existing with the literary approach to provide a criterion for judging art works. For Eliot, Bergsons philosophy then provides a remarkable way to reconcile philosophical, scientific, religious, and aesthetic intuitions in time. For Bergson, the lived experience in which diverse intuitions come into a synthetic coexistence is the only way to affirm the concrete reality. The resultant creativity which Eliot subscribes to acts as the generative source for both true empiricismas well as “true metaphysics” (as has been stated by Bergson in his work The Two Sources of Morality and Religion). Bergson considered religion as a necessary defense mechanism against intelligence which attempts to break the cohesive fabric of society by inculcating an acute awareness about finitude of the human existence or the imminent death. So, according to Bergson, this fear of finitude gives rise to a psycho-physiological reaction (something which is a characteristic feature of Eliots poetic form as well).

32In this paper, I have attempted to show that Eliots poetic, philosophical, and theological impulses are informed by this different kind and order in which humans are wedded to life, where the finality of existence illuminates the point of beginning and simultaneously sheds light on the historical continuum. Eliot proposed that the decadence which pervaded the Western civilization actually served the function of “ceremonial purgation” and carries the vital impulse, the creative force which can lead to praxis. So, Eliot looked for answers within the same decadent culture which he finds himself to be trapped in by affirming the creative force in historical continuity and upholding the ontological status of time. As is the case in The Hollow Men (Eliot 1925), Eliot attempts to define a world which is shapeless (lacking form) and shadeless (lacking color): Shape without form, shade without color/ Paralysed force, gesture without motion” (Eliot 2004, 83). The hollow men living in the dead land suffer from the crisis of subjectivity. This crisis ferments complete fragmentation but, at the same time, demands a new philosophy to affirm life in general. This philosophy can arise from the method of intuition (suggested by Bergson) which gazes at duration and expresses the organizing principles of life. This approach then firmly brings Eliot into Bergsons embrace. Through a careful exposition of Eliots major works, I have tried to substantiate the two premises on which this paper is based. Firstly, Eliots philosophy cannot be believed to be limited to the early stages of his student life. Eliots philosophy is far closely intertwined with his poetic works and effectively transforms him into a philosopher-poet. Secondly, and more importantly, Eliots conversion to Bergson was not a temporary one as he once admitted it to be the case. Eliot, in his poetry and prose, raised questions which are fiercely Bergsonian and looked to different intuitions (philosophy, science, and religion) to arrive at some answers.

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1 Wilbur M. Urban in his essay, “Modernism in Science and Philosophy,” identifies a clear break between the scientific and philosophical enquiries of Newton and Kant and “the irrationalism, the anti-intellectualism, and the new logics of the modern” (Urban 1930, 230). He argues that the thinking has remained the same despite the new conceptualizations and the “new mentality which is so different” (Urban 1930, 230). Urban claims that William James’ “pragmatism” and Bertrand Russell’s “logical atomism” started the trend and there came a point where meaning ceased to exist, “where knowledge must stop because of the very nature of knowledge itself” (Urban 1930, 232). According to Urban, the modernist philosophies like “[p]ragmatism, Bergsonian intuitionism, and Logical Atomism” denied “the very faith in an ‘intelligible world’” from which the traditional philosophies emerged. Although Urban delineate certain wanton tendencies inherent in the modernist thought with nihilism seeming to be “the predestined goal,” his assertion that the modernist philosophy turned its attention towards the “universal depreciation of natural language” (Urban 1930, 234) is especially relevant here since it is in this particular exploration that Eliot’s philosophy can be identified and mapped onto the Bergsonian framework.

2 Recent works like Vincent Sherry’s Cambridge History of Modernism (2016) and Peter Osborne’s article, “Modernism and Philosophy” in The Oxford Handbook of Modernisms (2010) explore modernism as rooted in a philosophical inquiry whereas Mark Morrison’s Modernism, Science and Technology and Gavin Parkinson’s Surrealism, Art and Modern Science: Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Epistemology (2008) trace the convergence between modern sciences and modernism. With regard to Bergson, John Mullarkey in The New Bergson (1998), Suzanne Guerlac in Thinking in Time (2006), and most recently Jimena Canales in The Physicist and The Philosopher (2015) have discussed the new connotations that the term “scientist” acquired in the period marked by perpetual technological transformations and concurrently Bergson’s assessment at the time as both “the greatest thinker in the world and the most dangerous man in the world” (Mullarkey 1998, 1). Also, Kevin Brazil’s article, “T.S. Eliot: modernist literature, disciplines and the systematic pursuit of knowledge” in Being Modern (2018) puts Eliot directly into studies which deal with the relationship between science and literary sphere of modernism.

3 In his essay, “Habit and time in nineteenth-century French philosophy: Albert Lemoine between Bergson and Ravaisson,” Mark Sinclair argues that Bergson’s advocacy of habit as “the fossilised residue of a spiritual activity” was a deliberate misinterpretation of Ravaisson’s approach to defend his interpretation against Léon Dumont’s conception that habits can be observed in the “inorganic realm” as well. Dumont provides the analogy that the “increasing ease with which a new key turns a new lock” and “the increasing ease with which I can recite a line of poetry as I learn it” operate at the same level (Sinclair 2018, 148).

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Mohit Abrol, « Encountering Bergson in Eliot: A Report on Philosophy, Science, and Religion »Bergsoniana [En ligne], 2 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2022, consulté le 30 novembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Mohit Abrol

As Doctoral candidate, Mohit Abrol is currently pursuing PhD in Literature from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, New Delhi, India. His research interests include the Postmodern Condition, the rise of Fascism and the Cold War era, Continental philosophy, postcolonial studies, planetary ethics, the posthuman turn and the Anthropocene age. He is working on Bergson’s influence on Eliot and to overcome the fundamental divide between Eliot the poet and Eliot the philosopher such that Eliot can primarily be seen as a philosopher-poet.

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