Coma, also called sagittal coma flare, is weird smeared blobs that appear around bright points of light in the corners. They happen with fast and wide lenses at large apertures. Coma goes away as stopped down, and tends not to be seen in slower and tele lenses. Coma is an artifact of spherical aberration.
“Erhebung” is a German word that refers to the “elevation” or rise of the mind from the material world to the higher realm of spirit. The speaker insists again, though, that this rising happens “without motion,” and that it comes from a “concentration.”
Reaching this state of mind will allow us to understand the modern world and its connection to the old world through the “partial ecstasy” that you participate in by finding the still point in the turning world. But with this partial ecstasy comes the need to confront the part of experience that is “horror.”
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
He can’t say where exactly this place is, but can only use the word “there” to talk about it. He also can’t say how long we remain in this place, because the place exists outside of time. It’s a place where we have “inner freedom from the practical desire.”
We are totally released from all action and the “suffering” that comes from action. This has to be the case, because you can’t live a life of action without piling up a few regrets. In this place, we’re totally released from all of our usual compulsions or desires, whether they’re inner compulsions like love and hunger, or outer ones
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
This is a place where “past and future are gathered” (69). It’s the real moment in your present life that all time points toward.
Haven’t you ever been dancing and totally forgotten about all your worries? If not, our speaker feels bad for you.
Finally, he says that this “still point” is not a place where we rise toward the divine or fall into the mud of modern emptiness. It is only the still point for its own sake, and it’s very hard for us to describe it, other than the fact that experiencing it is similar to dancing for its own sake. In this place, says the speaker, “there is only the dance” (73)
Well if you think about it, the toughest thing about the speaker’s spiritual quest is the fact that he’s looking for a sense of permanent significance in a modern world that’s all about change, all about the endless movement from past to present to future.
This place can’t be something we’re moving away from “nor towards” (64). In other words, you can’t think of this place using the opposites that you usually use to make sense of your world (i.e., good-bad, close-far, fast food-healthy food). It needs to be a place that exists beyond opposites.
Another good image the speaker uses to describe this combination of opposites is the image of a “dance” (66). He’s definitely taking this image from W.B. Yeats, who closes his own poem “Among School Children” with the line “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
Maybe in reading Eliot’s poetry, you can actually catch a glimpse of something beyond opposites: a “still point in the turning world.” This is a place that is neither moving nor still. We can’t call it “fixity” or stillness, says the speaker, because we can’t stop the world around us from moving. Also, we can’t say that the ideal he’s talking about is a place of movement toward or away from anything specific, like a goal. Instead, it’s a place where movement happens for its own sake in the present moment, like what you get with dancing.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.