Mystical Elements in A Passage To India

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      What is Mysticism? A conviction that this terrestrial sphere is not ultimately real and permanent and a belief that there are unseen spiritual forces in the cosmos is trolling the activities of human beings, at least partially if not entirely, can be roughly stated to be the connotation of the word 'mysticism.

      Forster an Agnostic Toying with Mysticism. From his expressed remarks and the casual statements of some of the characters in his novel it can be justifiably surmised that Forster was a confirmed agnostic who did not see anything harmful or incongruous in just toying with the idea of mysticism. He was proud of his rationalistic attitude and as such the little dabbling in the realm of mysticism he used to indulge himself with, was promptly curbed by cold reasoning. Here and there in his novels we come across certain characters who think more and feel less and who dream more and act less. Physical realities are not their measuring rods. Spiritual intuitions and apprehensions constitute the medium for the overall interpretation of what we call world and its experiences. The unseen and invisible realm is thus comprehended by a transcendental vision. Therefore, the belief that the mundane reality is subjected to a remote control by the unseen that interpenetrates the visible cannot be avoided.

      Mrs. Moore in the Garb of a Mystic. The character of the old lady Mrs. Moore is present actively in the scenes of our story only for a short period yet the impression and impact that she leaves behind is so profound that she appears to be dominant everywhere. It seems she is the connecting link between the visible everyday world and the unseen spiritual world. A devout Christian herself, if she responded fully to the religious beliefs and states of mystic trances there cannot be any surprise at all. She is aware of the presence of God in the precincts of the mosque, hence her readiness to take off her shoes before entering it. Her love and sympathy transcend all barriers and limitations. Even a wasp is not denied her all-embracing universal love. Why should there be any doubt about the human beings of other nationalities? Her love and sympathy is openly expressed in regard to Aziz despite the annoyance and displeasure of her son Ronny. Her strictly religious upbringing has enhanced her natural gift of spiritual insight and intuitive feelings as evidenced by her reaction, "A Ghost", on hearing that the car of Nawab Bahadur in which Ronny and Adela were traveling met with an accident. Nawab Bahadur too felt that the accident was due to the ghost of a man accidentally crushed to death by him under the wheels of his car nine years before. The correspondence of Mrs. Moore's instinctive reaction with the Nawab"s superstitious belief is worthy of note.

      The Mysterious Characteristics of the Caves. The prehistoric, mysterious Marabar Caves at the outskirts of the town of Chandrapore represent, according to Forster, an area in which concentration can take place; they were something to show everything up. They have deep significance. Some consider them to be a symbol of evil with their emptiness, darkness and desolation conveying a sense of futility. Mrs. Moore has a terrifying experience in the caves. She almost faints, hitting against something and gasping like a fanatic. An echo of 'boum" or "bou-oum" appears to haunt her mysteriously, undermining her very hold on existence. The caves affect Mrs. Moore in different ways. Mrs. Moore leaves India and dies on her way to England. Miss Quested's engagement to Romney gets broken and Aziz narrowly escapes the ignominy of being convicted by a court of law. He has to resign the Government post and seek a job elsewhere. He loses the intimate friendship of Cyril Fielding. All of them vaguely attribute their uneasiness to the uncanny nature of the caves.

      Godbole's Mysticism and Philosophic Indifference. A votary of Krishna and a student of the Vedanta doctrine, this Professor is adequately tranquil and cool-headed in the midst of the crisis that affects Aziz primarily and all the Indians indirectly. Godbole is indifferent to everything. He gives a discourse on good and evil and avers that both of them are aspects of the Lord Almighty. The festival of Gokul Ashtami heightens his philosophical mysticism, love of devotional songs and general sense of kinship with all living beings not even excluding a wasp. He revered Mrs. Moore.

      Wholesome Influence of Mrs. Moore. During her lifetime Mrs. Moore had only a moderate influence on others but after her death it becomes far-reaching. This can only be due to an unseen mystic influence where the spirit outlives the death and decay of the mortal frame. It was a casual remembrance of Mrs. Moore that gives Miss Quested a clarity of mind enabling her to become intellectually honest, overcoming the hallucination that made her accuse Aziz of attempting to molest her. In the case of Aziz himself, he decides not to press for compensation from Adela because he thought Mrs. Moore would not have approved of it.

      Ralph and Stella had the legacy of mystical temperament from their mother, Mrs. Moore. The chorus shouts of the Indians in the court, of the slogan "Esmiss Esmoor" (an Indianization of her name) indicates that they were not aware of her death.

      Hindu Mysticism. We cannot say whether Forster was unduly influenced by Hindu mysticism. But certainly he has depicted it as one providing a sort of long range vision making human barriers sink and uniting people in a sort of universal love. There is an attempt by Forster to get over his obsession of skeptic atheism or atheistic skepticism. He perhaps wanted the all powerful remote control that mysticism exerts on people vulnerable to the attacks of skeptical notions. Of course, without being ultimately convinced of it, he wanted to explore the possibility of the mollifying influence of Hindu mysticism in the various crises that worry human society.

      Conclusion. A Passage to India speaks of an unseen spiritual element that exerts some sort of influence on people, fatefully ordering certain unexpected incidents such as Mrs. Moore's sudden decision to return to England, her own belief in ghosts, the urge to have a continuing link with the past by celebrating the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna.

University Questions

What are the mystical elements woven into A Passage to India? Discuss.
How does Forster's belief in mysticism find expression in A Passage to India?
"Forster's interest in both the human and transcendent realities accounts for what has been termed his kind of 'double vision', a sense of 'this world, and a world or worlds behind'." Discuss the "double vision" of Forster with reference to A Passage to India.
In Forster the sense of the transcendent realm consistently affects and colors the physical realm" Discuss with reference to A Passage to India.

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