Indeed, from the earliest parts of 17th century forward, Europeans were increasingly intrigued by the translated texts they were receiving from Japan, China and India, particularly the Buddhist and Zen koans and sutras and stories of meditative practices, all of which were previously only gossiped about among those who had traveled to places like North Africa and the Middle East, still something of a rarity. And, among those, so many had become addicted to laudanum, hashish and opium, their tales were hardly taken as verbatim.
We owe our very own nation to people like Paine, Franklin and Jefferson who read and read about such matters and were led to wonder if there could even be such a thing as a “Christian God” as a result.
So, when people like Duchamp and Pound and Eliot got their hands on this thinking, what else were they going to do but dive right in? And why wouldn’t Kline and Klee and Kerouac and Ginsberg and Warhol and…and…and…
Imagine, in 1922, Eliot publishing these lines relative to what had come before it, say, in a poet like Hardy or Robinson only a few years before:
“Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.”
Lines which, literally, have nothing to do with what comes before or after in terms of “sense” or “form” and yet… And yet when allowed to settle in, settle among all the other words that coalesce along with the others, begin to shatter the soul.
And trust me on this in case you didn’t know… Eliot was no believer in Tarot or horoscopes.