The Still Point
ELIOT'S attachment to the authority of literary tradition was not, as we have seen, a matter of easy and untroubled acceptance. Because he looked on tradition as the only trustworthy guide for artistic experiment, he sought assurance that it demanded change, and that it contained within itself the means of effecting change. It is the ordered flux of tradition that determines its stability, and a similar paradoxical relationship is at the core of Eliot's conception of spiritual authority. The still point evidently suggests the stillness of eternity, and contrasts with the fevered movement of the temporal. The radiance of the white light that is associated with the stillness opposes the spiritual darkness of the world. Yet in Burnt Norton III, light and darkness seem to be equated,1 contrasted____________________
devils rather than nothing: crying for life beyond life, for ecstasy not of the flesh. ( Choruses from The Rock: Collected Poems, p. 172.)
The darkness in Burnt Norton III is a symbol of one way to spiritual rebirth -- the despair that may come from thought of 'the disorder, the futility, the meaninglessness, the mystery of life and suffering' ( Points of View, p. 115). Most men avoid thought of these things, and so are incapable 'of either much doubt or much faith' (ibid., p. 108). The kind of experience symbolised in this section of Burnt Norton is 'the analogue of the drought, the dark night, which is an essential stage in the progress of the Christian mystic' (ibid., p. 109).