Rewrite T.S. Eliot's "Little Gidding" as though he was from a different religious background to Christianity. Justify your version.

Essay by brigid353University, Bachelor's November 2009

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To live harmoniously in and with nature,In a world where every concept, every theme, every theoryHas its own extreme opposite counterpart.

Where the seasons eternally compete but none will ever triumph-Sunny days will be saturated and lively lakes frozen to ice,Frost will be melted and puddles dried by the sun.

To unify the past, present and future as one moves from life to life,And with each a different lesson learnt.

And we will seek fulfillment and harmony always,Causing harm will incur harm to oneself multiplied threefold,But more importantly, all is sacred, every life.

Water and fire do (and always have) coexisted in life and in death,In reality and in idealism.

Morning and night eternally succeed one another,In an untouchable and unalterable cycle.

As I walk, at a time somewhere between the two,In streets I never thought I should revisitWhen I left my body on a distant shoreA figure appears- familiar, yet strange.

Connected to but from a different life from mine.

A ghost of past lessons learnt, here now to offer guidance,To disclose to the new life the gifts reserved for age,The lessons learnt with ageAnd the eternal passing of time.

“There are inner and outer worlds-That in which you live, and that which lives in you-Neither is more or less important or necessary for your fulfillmentAnd both need be nurtured and cherished always.

“Honour those with knowledge, those who teach and those who lead,And those who courageously give of themselves for the betterment of others.

For they are the only ones worthy of authority.

“Seek to be in command of the inner forces withinAnd you will reside sensibly and wellWithout injury to others, and in synchronicity with life everywhere.

And so we come to an end, which is an inevitable beginning.

We gain life from the dying:See, they depart, and we replace them.

We die when there are newborns:See, they arrive and we depart.

Because every life begins with a death,And every death is followed with a life.

For history is a pattern of timeless moments,As there is no more a temporary word than “now”.

In researching for this assignment, I realized that there were many themes central to both the Wiccan faith and this poem, “Little Gidding”, the most prominent of which being the duality and equality of the elements, and, in turn, the seasons. As the poem has several recurring themes, I’ve tried to write this poem in terms of themes, to reflect Wiccan beliefs and values.

T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” focuses on uniting the past, present and future. It also suggests that the understanding of this unity is necessary for salvation. Generally, the Wiccan faith does not ascribe to seeking salvation, for two different reasons. Firstly, Wiccans believe that there is nothing to be saved from, as they do not believe in Satan or the Devil. However, in accordance with their belief of duality, evil exists because good exists, but in Wicca there is not a character or name given to evil, there is nothing like “the Devil made me do it”. Secondly, Wiccans believe that any conduct or behavior is acceptable as long as nobody is hurt. Therefore, Wiccans will do not need to seek salvation because unless they have harmed someone they have not done anything wrong, and there is nothing to be saved from because Satan or the Devil do not exist (Harwood, 2007). This is why I deliberately left out any references to Satan, salvation or forgiveness which were originally in the poem.

The first two of the thirteen principles of Wiccan belief (similar to the 10 Commandments) talk about “attuning ourselves with the natural rhythms of life forces”, and “live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance”, which is why I changed Eliot’s tone of this theme from setting a context to nature being its own theme, as it is in the Wiccan faith. Wiccans place a huge emphasis on living in harmony with nature, and not harming anyone. Part of this is because of the Threefold Law (similar to some Eastern religions’ concepts of Karma): whatever we do comes back to us multiplied by three. This is related to the Wiccan belief that an act of harm harms us all, a natural law. This concept makes every individual accountable for his or her actions, as well as events which happen to them that appear to be random or uncontrollable. This concept reminded me of the Christian principle- “Do unto others as you would have them do to you”.

Wiccan beliefs also include the theory of polar opposites- everything has a dual side (light and dark, up and down, black and white), and that neither are ever superior to the other. This is where I attempted to write about the seasons as reflecting the five elements of Wiccan belief, of air, fire, water and earth. The fifth element is the spirit, but I couldn’t find a way to incorporate that into the seasons analogy.

Depending on the coven, or even on the individual, there are many different beliefs about what happens after death in the Wiccan community. I have chosen to use the concept of reincarnation for the purposes of this paper (in a later part of the poem I have rewritten the ghost as the life before the current one, and the passing on of lessons to the next life of this spirit), and in the next few lines my version of the poem talks about uniting past, present and future, as necessary (in this belief system) to achieve enlightenment and reincarnation ceases.

The beginning of the next section revisits the equality and coexistence of different elements, and also introduces the concept of the unconscious/inner world in addition to the conscious world. This is because one of the principles of Wiccan belief is about recognizing inner worlds as well as outer worlds, such as the spiritual, or even Freud’s collective unconscious. This principle encourages interaction and nurturing of the two dimensions simultaneously.

The next few lines somewhat reflect Eliot’s theme of everlasting time and its uncontrollable nature, which then blends into a reflection of Eliot’s scene of meeting a stranger. I have used this scene as an analogy for reincarnation, as well as continuing Eliot’s theme of death as a beginning. I also repeated some of his lines to highlight the similarity of his Christian context and the Wiccan belief of reincarnation. The figure “I” meet is the spirit from my last life- reincarnation is currently taking place. The lessons the Spirit is teaching to the new life are essentially three more of the principles of Wiccan belief- the aforementioned valuing of the spiritual “inner” world as well as the outer world, to honor those with knowledge, as Wiccans do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, and to control oneself and the forces within them to lead a good, harmonious life.

The final section continues to reflect Eliot’s concept of the end as the beginning, and the beginning as the end. I altered slightly his repetition of “We die with the dying…” to reflect reincarnation rather than his somewhat more depressing take on the subject. I also attempted to incorporate again his theme of temporariness with regard to everything, individuals’ lives as well as the human race.

I chose to do this assignment with Wicca because it is an area I am not at all familiar with, having grown up in a Catholic house. I found it very interesting because I had some ideas that turned out to be extremely wrong, and I was also astounded at how there are such similar concepts between the two faiths. Yet, so many Christians would probably not notice these, as one of the Wiccan principles says-Our only animosity towards Christianity… is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be “the only way” and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief” (Harwood, 2007).

REFERENCESHarwood, B.J. (2007). Beyond Poetry and Magick: The Core Elements of Wiccan Morality [Electronic Version]. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 22, 375–390Howard, T. (2006). Dove Descending: A Journey Into T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Pearson, J. (2002). Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and The New Age. United Kingdom: The Open University.