By John Beer (eds.)
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Additional resources for A Passage to India: Essays in Interpretation
As plot-maker, the novelist is master-of-ceremonies, 'competent, poised above his work, throwing a beam of light here, popping on a cap of invisibility there'- but with the mysteries of prophecy the author is not the omnipotent or omniscient master-of-ceremonies but as much in the dark as anyone. (One can even argue that Forster did not understand the meaning of the caves, or of this novel as a whole, until years after he had written it. 2) The mysteries of prophecy exist not to be 'solved', but to be wondered at, like religious mysteries - the mystery of the mass or of a medieval 'mystery' play.
We can do no more than invoke these familiar terms here, but Carl Jung's understanding of the difference between the conscious and the unconscious is particularly useful in understanding A Passage to India: 'Spirit' always seems to come from above, while from below comes everything that is sordid and worthless. For people who think in this way spirit means highest freedom, a soaring over the depths, deliverance from the prison of the chthonic world, and hence a refuge .... The unconscious is the psyche that reaches down from the daylight of mentally and morally lucid consciousness into the nervous system that for years has been known as the 'sympathetic'.
But there are mysteries in this novel that cannot be solved, that have nothing to do with 'plot' in any usual sense, and that certainly cannot be acted out on a stage. When we ask what happened in the caves, we must ask about these other mysteries, for they are the mysteries that give this novel its essential meaning- even though we may quarrel about what, exactly, that meaning is. These are the mysteries of what Forster discussed in Aspects under the heading of 'Prophecy'. As plot-maker, the novelist is master-of-ceremonies, 'competent, poised above his work, throwing a beam of light here, popping on a cap of invisibility there'- but with the mysteries of prophecy the author is not the omnipotent or omniscient master-of-ceremonies but as much in the dark as anyone.
A Passage to India: Essays in Interpretation by John Beer (eds.)