Of what value is faith (in a poet’s religion)..? Deepanshu Mohan is Assistant Professor of Economics and Executive Director, Centre for New Economics Studies at Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University. He is a Visiting Professor to the Department of Economics at Carleton University “The World is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste out powers. Little we see in Nature that is ours.” William Wordsworth1 Cross-quoted from an essay (The Poet’s Religion by Rabindranath Tagore), Wordsworth’s lyrical note above, illuminates how the world seems to have grown too familiar upon human beings. Quite often, the value we derive from our work or day-to-day actions remain bounded by some logical quest for materialistic ends while staying more acquisitionist to collect things to make our physical standard of existence more satisfied. For us, as human beings, the process of over-familiarity with the world, culminates often into an act of materially satisfying sets of insatiable desires and preferences, blinding us from seeing the world’s own aspect of ‘creative unity’ - a concept which poets like Rabindranath Tagore, William Wordsworth, Shelley so often wrote and spoke about. As insatiable, acquisitionist beings, most humans (in the poet’s religion) in a goal-oriented society continue ascending on a desire-seeking path imagined as a straight line to acquire one desire after the other (as a chain of sorts). Thus, the mere satisfaction of one desire to another emerges as the ‘goal’ of life in a finite way. At the same time, the experiential process of faith (for Tagore, Wordsworth) aims to transcend from a finite goal towards the realization of other dimensions that enhance the experience of our life (as the way it is), and which, can hardly be seen as a ‘goal’ in itself, but more as a way of being. As Tagore argues (on Creative Unity) “All our knowledge of things is knowing them in their relation to the Universe, in that relation which is truth”. The world’s creative unity emerges as the ultimate truth-lying not in the masses of substance, not in the number of things, but in their ‘relatedness’. Quite succinctly, a poet’s religion acknowledges: “Creation as the perpetual harmony between the infinite deal of perfection and the eternal continuity of its realization; that so long as there is no absolute separation between the positive ideal and the material obstacle to its attainment, we need not be afraid of suffering and loss.” It would be no surprise how the ones, habituated in their thought to a rigid belief system or framework of sectarian creeds, will find such notion of faith as religion too indefinite or elastic. At a time, when our notion and imagination of faith remains marred by some form of impermeable belief layer that is shaped by political colours or as some form of a dogmatic pursuit, it may be pertinent to (re)examine the essence of faith and its value, argued from a poet’s lens by Tagore. Artists like Tagore, Wordsworth, Shelley saw the value of faith lying in the pursuit of this ‘ultimate truth’ of creative unity. A constant practice in the pursuit of logical thought and its application in our day-to-day existence dissolves our natural instinct of faith. In the poet’s religion, faith is the “spectator in us which finds the meaning of the drama from the unity of the performance”. However, logic in its rational form lures us into some kind of a greenroom where there is stage craft but no drama at all. Faith and its value lies therefore, in facilitating a quest (or drama) for the finite to pursue the infinite ie. something that lies beyond the physical dimension of logical interpretation. The finite denotes the physical, materialistic dimensions (acquired for the necessity of human survival) while the search for the infinite helps a human being realize the limitations of the finite (physical) and utilize the physical means to transcend space and time, as part of a spiritual process. A life led in the maximization of this experiential ‘goal’ (ie. of seeking the infinite) is what that remains lacking in the understanding and practice of faith. Poetry and the arts, cherish in them the profound faith of (wo)man in the unity of her/his being with all existence, the final truth of which is the truth of personality. Tagore, Shelley, Wordsworth et al. not only saw this ‘final truth’ of faith in the creative unity of one with the universe as a religion of its own but also one that is directly apprehended and doesn’t qualify as a system of metaphysics for analysis and argumentation sake. There is much to be learnt from a deeper, conscious reading of poets (and other artists) who viewed faith and its value in a transcendentalist perspective. It is thus this idea and notion of faith (the finite seeking to pursue the infinite), that may allow us as humans to take our life in realizing a deeper, more substantive meaning for her/his existence. Faith, in the infinite process of creative unity will emancipate us from a higher degree of materialism or desire-seeking actions. What we can infer here from Tagore’s own reflection on a poet’s religion is how the value of faith operates sans doctrines or a rules-based belief system and is attached with a sense of knowing and seeking for a creative unity. Whereas, in dogmatic religious systems (one imposed with rigid beliefs), all questions, are definitely answered and all doubts are laid to rest under a moral compass. The poet’s religion must, on the other end, ought to remain fluid, elastic and ever accommodating. Endnotes 1. Cross-quoted from The Poet’s Religion in Rabindranath Tagore: Selected Essays (page 5)
Faith, in the infinite process of creative unity, will emancipate us from a higher degree of materialism or desire-seeking actions