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T S Eliot’s Hollow Men

Do we meet H P Blavatsky’s Soulless Beings?

"Shape without form and shade without color

Paralysed force, gesture without motion;”




Thomas Stearns Eliot

1888 -1965

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H P Blavatsky makes several references to Soulless Beings or Soulless Men and Women

From Isis Unvelied Volume II

“We elbow soulless men and women at every step in life.”

From the Secret Doctrine, Volume I

“Many are the Soulless men among us, for the occurrence is found to take place in wicked materialists as well as in persons who advance in holiness and never turn back."

Here are some examples from H P Blavatsky’s Theosophical Glossary

Avitchi (Sk.) A state: not necessarily after death only or between two births, for it can take place on earth as well. Lit., “uninterrupted hell”. The last of

the eight hells, we are told, “where the culprits die and are reborn without interruption—yet not without hope of final redemption. This is because Avitchi is another name for Myalba (our earth) and also a state to which some soulless men are condemned on this physical plane.

And under the entry for Incubus

Vampires and soulless Elementals; formless centres of Life, devoid of sense; in short, subjective protoplasms when left alone, but called into a definite being and form by the creative anddiseased imagination of certain mortals.


And here an indication is given of the lack of spiritual progess made by a Soulless Man as he moves through the cycle of death and rebirth


Pâpa-purusha (Sk.). Lit., “Man of Sin”: the personification in a human form of every wickedness and sin. Esoterically, one who is reborn, or reincarnated from

the state of Avitchi—hence, “Soulless”.


Soulless Beings (A definition)

Men and women who are still connected, but usually quite unconsciously, with the monad, the spiritual essence within them, but not self-consciously so; they live very largely in the brain-mind and in the fields of sensuous consciousness. "We elbow soulless men in the streets at every turn," wrote Blavatsky. This does not mean that those people have no soul, but that the spiritual part of these human beings is unable to manifest itself through the unawakened brain-mind and feelings. They are animate humans with an animate working brain-mind, but otherwise soulless in the sense that the soul is insufficiently expressive. This is what Pythagoras meant when he spoke of the living dead, or the spiritually useless portion of mankind. They live in the ordinary mind and in the body, thinking only of and in these small and restricted spheres of consciousness. Such "soulless" people are very numerous. Soulless beings are not to be confused with lost souls.



A Brief Biography of T S Eliot


The Hollow Men and Soulless Beings


The Hollow Men was published in 1925 and

evokes the  depression and sense of hopelessness in the aftermath of the First World War. The poem uses the bleak imagery of Dante's Inferno.


The poem depicts figures, "gathered on the beach of the tumid river" - drawing considerable influence from Dante's third and fourth cantos of the Inferno which describes limbo, the first circle of hell - unable to communicate or express themselves.


The story is told from five perspectives, each representing a phase of the passing of a soul

into "death's dream kingdom", Eliot describes how we, the living will be seen by "those who have crossed with direct eyes... not as lost violent souls, but only as the hollow men -- the stuffed men."

Eliot like H P Blavatsky sees Soulless Beings everywhere but goes a bit father by postulating that they constitute the majority and our destiny is in their hands.


These higher selves are do not function and they are incapable of feeling anything, they have failed to make an imprint, either good or bad on life. Their higher faculties only exist in potential and they have nothing to take with them into the after death state and no life learning to distill. Eliot describes them as hollow or stuffed with heads filled with straw.


“Shape without form, shade without colour,

Paralysed force, gesture without motion;”


These two lines which stand as a verse on their own refer to the ability of a Hollow Man/Soulless Being to apparently function normally in the physical world.


“Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men”


This is a reference to the carnage of the First World War which for which everyone must accept some blame.


“For Thine is

Life is

For Thine is the”


Although Eliot was converting to High Anglicanism at this time, he included these incomplete lines from the Lord’s Prayer as a reference to the failure of established Christianity to prevent the First World War


“Here we go round the prickly pear”


This unusual image may be a reference to the way in which man engages in confrontation using modern weaponry. Eliot may have seen that another major war was only fourteen years away.


“This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.”


Eliot seems to see mankind as sleepwalking into its own oblivion led by Hollow Men.



Here is the poem in full;


The Hollow Men


T.S. Eliot


Published November 23rd 1925




We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats' feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar


Shape without form, shade without colour,

Paralysed force, gesture without motion;


Those who have crossed

With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom

Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men

The stuffed men.




Eyes I dare not meet in dreams

In death's dream kingdom

These do not appear:

There, the eyes are

Sunlight on a broken column

There, is a tree swinging

And voices are

In the wind's singing

More distant and more solemn

Than a fading star.


Let me be no nearer

In death's dream kingdom

Let me also wear

Such deliberate disguises

Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves

In a field

Behaving as the wind behaves

No nearer --


Not that final meeting

In the twilight kingdom




This is the dead land

This is cactus land

Here the stone images

Are raised, here they receive

The supplication of a dead man's hand

Under the twinkle of a fading star.


Is it like this

In death's other kingdom

Waking alone

At the hour when we are

Trembling with tenderness

Lips that would kiss

Form prayers to broken stone.




The eyes are not here

There are no eyes here

In this valley of dying stars

In this hollow valley

This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms


In this last of meeting places

We grope together

And avoid speech

Gathered on this beach of the tumid river


Sightless, unless

The eyes reappear

As the perpetual star

Multifoliate rose

Of death's twilight kingdom

The hope only

Of empty men.




Here we go round the prickly pear

Prickly pear prickly pear

Here we go round the prickly pear

At five o'clock in the morning.


Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow


For Thine is the Kingdom


Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow


Life is very long


Between the desire

And the spasm

Between the potency

And the existence

Between the essence

And the descent

Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom


For Thine is

Life is

For Thine is the


This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.






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