In a message dated Tue, 22 May 2001 9:56:45 AM Eastern Daylight Time, Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]> writes:
<< At 02:24 PM 05/22/2001 +0100, you wrote:
>I very much doubt Eliot would have agreed with this idea that he turned to
>religion 'in defiance of reason'. I think he saw it rather in defense of
> >-- and considered that he did so in
> >defiance of reason.
That one caught my attention, too. Is there something outside of AW that
prompts your statement?
Ken Armstrong >>
Frankly, I had to go back and look up what my statement was:
"I won't start up again with my reading of AW as a statement that reason leads us to despair, and that Eliot adopted religion an act of faith through hope -- rather than through belief -- and considered that he did so in defiance of reason. This passage figures in my argument to that effect."
Mostly, I'm going on Ash-Wednesday. Not exclusively, but that's where most of the specifics I have in mind are found, as I've explained in (much) earlier posts.
I would add, in no particular order: (i) the idea of a peace that "surpasses understanding" suggests operating beyond the realm of, and thus in a sense in defiance of, reason (since reason, as defined by many, would mark all as within its realm); (ii) nowhere, to my knowledge, does Eliot make reference to the well-known efforts of philosophers and theologians throughout time to justify faith by reason, though he was surely familiar with them (even if the odd reference can be found in his work, this does not appear to have been the focus of his faith interest, despite his philosophical training and inclination); (iii) in addition to *not* referencing the "rational" advocates of faith, Eliot shows a keen interest in members of the supra-rational, mystical school, such as Julian of Norwich and John of the Cross (other passages from FQ also support the supra-rational, if not the contra-rational, theory, I believe, but I'm not prepared to collect them just now so I'll have to aband!
on that line of support); (iv) E
liot's quote about his flirtation with Eastern religion suggests that, but for the serendipity of being born Western, he might have been more comfortable as a buddhist. This is tough to square, rationally, with a faith that proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord of all; (v) the circumstances of Eliot's personal life -- not generally an interest of mine -- provide grounds to support the notion that he may have converted, in part for comfort or relief from extreme distress, comfort that he had been unable to obtain through rational inquiry. (This is not a judgment or criticism, nor should it be taken to undercut the merits of what he professed.)
As noted in my earlier post replying to Jennifer, when I say that I believe Eliot's faith was not based on reason, and may have been seen by him as in conflict with reason, I do not suggest that, even if I am right about Eliot, the same would necessarily be true for anyone else's faith. No disparagement of faith, and no certainty as to Eliot's faith, is intended. I got on this track in the first place in an effort to understand AW, which is among my favorite works.