Whitman in the Light of Vedantic Mysticism: An Interpretation

Whitman in the Light of Vedantic Mysticism: An Interpretation

Whitman in the Light of Vedantic Mysticism: An Interpretation

Whitman in the Light of Vedantic Mysticism: An Interpretation

Excerpt

I have attempted in this study to give a consistent account of Whitman's poetic thought and belief, proceeding from the central standpoint of the self, in which I have sought to discover the key to Whitman's meanings. For me the primary problem of reading Whitman is that of interpretation, though in this, of course, there can be no agreement. But still I believe it is possible to discover in his poems a unifying principle in the preoccupation with the problem of self.

While I have explained this unity of thought and experience in Whitman in purely Vedantic terms, the Vedantic comparison is to be understood simply as a critical instrument -- one that I have used to define and illustrate Whitman's most basic ideas. Yet even if we dispensed with the Vedanta we would still have to reckon with the idea of selfhood for any honest interpretation of Whitman. It is possible that this study might seem a little overenthusiastic in its Vedantic application -- I might seem to have read more Vedanta into Whitman than another might be willing to admit. But I believe that I have nowhere forced Whitman's meanings.

It must not be supposed that in claiming Whitman to be Vedantic I have denied other, non-Vedantic, strains in his thought, such as his being an American in his poetic origins, as in some of his basic attitudes. For instance, Whitman's dynamism was the legitimate product of a dynamic phase in the life of an expanding continent. If my study makes any claim, it is to a certain inclusiveness of treatment, one aspect of which is to show that the all-embracing quality of Whitman's vision makes possible the existence in it of strands of thinking which, far from being contradictory, may be seen to proceed from a central unity of perception. Thus, Whitman's celebration of the physical and . . .

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