The Inner Light - The Beatles
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"The Inner Light" - The Beatles (1968)
The lyrics of “The Inner Light” are a rendering of the 47th chapter (sometimes titled “Viewing the Distant” in translations) of the classic Chinese text, Taoist Tao Te Ching.
Inspiration for the track came from a letter from Juan Mascaró, a Sanskrit scholar at Cambridge University, who sent George a copy of his book Lamps of Fire (a wide-ranging anthology of religious writings, including some from the Tao Te Ching) and asked him if “... might it not be interesting to put into your music a few words of Tao.
Harrison writes in his autobiography:
“In the original poem, the verse says ‘Without going out of my door, I can know the ways of heaven.’ And so to prevent any misinterpretations — and also to make the song a bit longer — I did repeat that as a second verse but made it: ‘Without going out of your door/You can know all things on earth/ Without looking out of your window/ You can know the ways of heaven’ — so that it included everybody.”
The instrumentation is crisp and flowing. McCartney told Beatle scholar Dominici Pedler that the song had a beautiful melody which he believed was unusual tritone intervals- a musical interval composed of three adjacent whole tone.
“Forget the Indian music and listen to the melody. Don’t you think it’s a beautiful melody? It’s really lovely.”
Along with songs such as “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “If I Needed Someone,” “Paperback Writer,” “The Word,” “Within You Without You,” “All You Need Is Love” and “All Together Now,” “The Inner Light” is yet another example of the Beatles’ preference for writing and producing songs that could be appealing and catchy, while revolving around only one chord.
The deeper meaning of the track is that The Beatles consistently espoused the view that all things are fundamentally interrelated and part of a single, underlying reality. This commitment to metaphysical monism is evident in a number of songs that deal—on one level or another—with the unity and interrelatedness of all things.
George is advising one to turn from within when he sings:
“Without looking out of my window, I can know the ways of heaven.”
In her book Get Back To Where You Once Belonged: The Beatles, Post-colonialism, and Religion, Corinna Hann writes that in “The Inner Life” George is denying the need for places of worship, ritual aids, and liturgical manuals in order to “to see that you have fallen.” She says he uses Christian language to describe how humanity has become polluted, and prescribes a different antidote to the fallen state.
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