“Having seen one such cave, having seen three, four, fourteen, twenty-four, the visitor returns…uncertain whether he has had an interesting experience or a dull experience or any experience at all. He finds it difficult to discuss the caves, or to keep them apart in his mind…”……………………………………E. M. Forster, A Passage to India
Click on the cave to expand it, and give thanks to Tim Makinsfor his beautiful and informative site. This particular cave is called ‘Vadathika’ and is at Barabar north of Gaya in Bihar State, one of four carvedin granite at the behest of the great Buddhist Emperor Asoka (269-232 B.C.).
…………………….what are they?
…………………who goes into them?
………………what comes out of them?
“… An entrance was necessary, so mankind made one.
“…But elsewhere, deeper in the granite, are there certain chambers that have no entrances? Chambers never unsealed since the arrival of the gods? Local report declares that these exceed in number those that can be visited, as the dead exceed the living – four hundred of them, four thousand or million. Nothing is inside them, they were sealed up before the creation of pestilence or treasure; if mankind grew curious and excavated, nothing, nothing would be added to the sum of good or evil. One of them is rumoured within the boulder that swings on the summit of the highest of the hills; a bubble-shaped cave that has neither ceiling nor floor, and mirrors its own darkness in every direction infinitely. If the boulder falls and smashes, the cave will smash too – empty as an Easter egg. The boulder because of its hollowness sways in the wind, and even moves when a crow perches upon it; hence its name and the name of its stupendous pedestal: the Kawa Dol.”
………………………………………………………….E. M. Forster, A Passage to India
……“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man
…….as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up till he sees all things thro’
…….narrow chinks of his cavern.”.
.……………. …William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
My mind enters here, William Blake’s ‘Sconfitta,’ among many other dark cavern-like places — including the cave in A Passage to India, of course, and still asking not just about Adela and Dr Aziz but about Morgan. For this was in fact E.M.Forster’s last novel, as hard as that may be to believe. 1924.
In 1964 I was a Research Student at King’s College and he sat at the High Table every evening. Everyone called him just “Morgan,” and I wondered at his smallness, availability and shyness. Or 1965, maybe, or 1966? — I was so troubled with entrances, with drugs, sex, music, speed as in over the ground, and children, lots of them, and of course Leavis, Lewis, Yehudi Menuhin playing all six Solo Sonatas and Partitas in King’s College Chapel, visions in Fiesole in August and nightmares in the orchard at Grantchester in October, Beatles-live the same evening at a cinema on Regent St. with the locals — no, I don’t remember when. And even more important, my first entrances elsewhere and beyond, as troubling as any Marabar Cave and as easy to get into yet hard to get out of in one piece.
So what happens anyway?
………THE COMMENTS THAT FOLLOW DEVELOP THE THREAD
Whenever we see a cave in literature, we automatically think of Lazarus, that Biblical man who was thought to be Mary Magdalene’s brother. Word got to Jesus that Lazarus was dead in a cave and had been for four days. Jesus went to the cave, opened it up, and out popped Lazarus still in his mummy-death clothes, but fit as a fiddle.
It’s hard to keep track of all the dead bodies that are dumped or left in this Montour County cave, but we realize that we still aren’t quite sure what happened to the bones of the man who Macon stabbed to death way back when. The pitch-blackness of this cave, as well as all of the mystery surrounding the skeletons and hidden treasure found within, only serve to heighten the symbolism of the cave. The fact that Pilate stays inside with the dead man for so long also says something about her and her supernatural ways. But even so, we still don’t know who took the gold and we still don’t know what happened to the old white man.