Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Into the Sea of Darkness

Edgar Allan Poe, whose 200th birth anniversary the literary world is celebrating this year, wrote in his short story “Eleonora”
“I am come of a race noted for vigour of fancy and ardour of passion. Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence -– whether much that is glorious –- whether all that is profound -– does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. In their grey visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in awakening, to find that they have been upon the verge of the great secret. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil. They penetrate, however, rudderless or compassless into the vast ocean of the "light ineffable," and again, like the adventures of the Nubian geographer, "agressi sunt mare tenebrarum, quid in eo esset exploraturi." (This translates from Latin “ventured into the sea of darkness, in order to explore what it might contain")

I had earlier written a blog on the death of Pop icon Michael Jackson titled the “thin dividing line” highlighting the blurring of the border between genius and madness. This article highlights a different approach where one knows that in his pursuit of knowledge or insight one may be called mad, this should not deter him or her from the persistent action of unrelenting search. The opening paragraph in Poe’s work positions the hero in this category. The position in the story is the permanency of love for Eleonora, sealed with an eternal oath, as the indelible and perennial state of existence in the emotional domain. Despite the physical death and separation of the ever lovable Eleonora in the valley of multi-coloured grass and the soothing ‘River of Silence’ holds the hero of the story to an invariable space-time existence, an imposed change into the unknown far from the quiet of the valley into the King’s court, exposes him to Ermengarde, a maiden to whose beauty the hero’s whole recreant heart yielded at once. There is a darkness that envelops the soul as it is torn between the oath to his older love and an emotional need to hold on to the new found object of adoration and the ineffable light that answers the hero’s turbulent heart is through a dream. A familiar and sweet voice, saying:
“Sleep in peace!–for the Spirit of Love reigneth and ruleth, and, in taking to thy passionate heart her who is Ermengarde, thou art absolved, for reasons which shall be made known to thee in Heaven, of thy vows unto Eleonora.”

This story is something that we all live through in our lives especially in our mental domain. A social and parental conditioning in our earlier life, a comforting infatuation of external, imparted knowledge which appears so thrillingly beautiful, that we dare not venture beyond. Most of us live in this ‘River of Silence’ forever till death takes us away. We do not want to leave our Eleonora, the beloved, though she is dead. We have to venture out and dare to dream. This is the voyage into ‘mare tenebrarum’ the sea of darkness. There we may find our new love, Ermengarde.
This is the beauty of life where we allow space for an expansion of our being and this can happen only when we venture beyond the multi-coloured grass valley and river of silence into a space where there is cacophony and mind numbing and challenging darkness. Out of this cacophony and darkness we can wean out a new existence, a singular match of sound and light, wherein we find higher truth.

Love to you all


  1. Social and parental conditioning...If only we realize how "being good' has been reinforced through these factors we might even cease to rever them as we do now.Because in all "good up bringings" restricting your mind to the devotion toElenora is rampant.It takes a great deal of effort to free your mind from the 'Elenora syndrome' and venture into the sea of darkness.

  2. Well noted, Subathra.
    Thanks for your comment. I am sure as a holistic educator you are the one who understands the deep meaning in this episode.