I can't remember how we ended up on the topic of the Virgin in
discussing "Gerontion" ("Ash Wednesday" I can see.) I made a
comment about it being off topic and you came back with (a few
days ago, the 11th):

> If you read my post concerning Eliot's attraction to primitive  
> religions, myths and genuine heartfelt faith you would see my point  
> that worshipping Mary as a deity is an expression of the kind of  
> spiritual experience that brings rainfall to the desert or warms  
> someone under a windy hill. Prayers to Mary are as "valid" as those  
> mentioned in Little Gidding that are felt and not validated  
> intellectually, to wit:
> ...
> Not off-topic, but right on target. Gerontion is a condition of  
> ennervation, anomie, aboulie, due to a dearth of the kind of faith  
> simple believers exerience.

I was reading Chapter 25 of Henry Adams' "The Education of The Education
of Henry Adams" (1918) reviewed by Eliot in 1919. This book is noted
in Eliot commentaries as a source for "dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas"
and "an old man driven by the Trades / To a sleepy corner" (Adams, ch
21: "sleep forever in the trade-winds")

In chapter 25 (entitled "Dynamo and the Virgin (1900)" Adams talks
about the Paris World's Fair of 1900 and the scientific and
technological exhibits.  Some have conjectured that Eliot may have
based his vision of history in this poem on this chapter of Henry
Adam's autobiography.  Perhaps the reason for sexing history as a she
is from this.

Adams' paragraph 17 (next to last) of chapter 25 (entitled "Dynamo
and the Virgin (1900)"

   Yet in mechanics, whatever the mechanicians might think, both energies
   acted as interchangeable force on man, and by action on man all known
   force may be measured. Indeed, few men of science measured force in any
   other way. After once admitting that a straight line was the shortest
   distance between two points, no serious mathematician cared to deny
   anything that suited his convenience, and rejected no symbol, unproved
   or unproveable, that helped him to accomplish work. 
   The symbol was force, as a compass-needle or a triangle was force,
   as the mechanist might prove by losing it, and nothing could be gained
   by ignoring their value. Symbol or energy, the Virgin had acted as the
   greatest force the Western world ever felt, and had drawn man’s
   activities to herself more strongly than any other power, natural or
   supernatural, had ever done; the historian’s business was to follow
   the track of the energy; to find where it came from and where it went
   to; its complex source and shifting channels; its values, equivalents,
   conversions. It could scarcely be more complex than radium; it could
   hardly be deflected, diverted, polarised, absorbed more perplexingly
   than other radiant matter. Adams knew nothing about any of them, but
   as a mathematical problem of influence on human progress, though all
   were occult, all reacted on his mind, and he rather inclined to think
   the Virgin easiest to handle.

    Rick Parker

Here are some links and other bits of information that may be
helpful in a reading of "Gerontion" or else just a start on some
surfing. I'm including this information redundantly in two different
Eliot list posts on "Gerontion" that both mention Adam's chapter 25
of his autobiography.  One post deals with signs and wonders and the
other with the Virgin Mary and history.

Henry Adams was a third cousin of T.S. Eliot's father, Henry Ware
Eliot, Sr., whose mother was Abigail Adams Cranch, a grandchild of
Mary (Smith) Cranch, sister of Abigail (Smith) Adams.

Wikipedia article about
Henry Adams
Henry Brooks Adams (February 16, 1838 – March 27, 1918; normally called
Henry Adams) was an American journalist, historian, academic and novelist.

Wikipedia article about the book
The Education of Henry Adams

Chapter 25 of The Education of Henry Adams
The Dynamo and the Virgin (1900)

Eliot wrote a review of Adams' book.
C79. A Sceptical Patrician. Athenaeum, 4647 (May 23, 1919) 361-2. 
A review, signed: T.S.E., of The Education of Henry Adams, An Autobiography. 

In Chapter 25 of his book Adams writes of the Paris World's Fair of 1900.
Two prominent men mentioned are Langley and St. Gaudens.

Wikipedia article about
Exposition Universelle (1900)
The Exposition Universelle of 1900 was a world's fair held in
Paris, France, to celebrate the achievements of the past century
and to accelerate development into the next.

Wikipedia article about
Samuel Pierpont Langley
Samuel Pierpont Langley (August 22, 1834, Roxbury, Massachusetts –
February 27, 1906, Aiken, South Carolina) was an American astronomer,
physicist, inventor of the bolometer and pioneer of aviation. 

Wikipedia article about
Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (March 1, 1848, Dublin, Ireland – August 3,
1907, Cornish, New Hampshire), was the Irish-born American sculptor of
the Beaux-Arts generation who most embodied the ideals of the "American

Adams had previously commissioned Saint-Gaudens to produce a memorial
for his wife (who had committed suicide).  The public reaction was
disappointing to Adams. marker)

Also related to Eliot's poem "Gerontion" are allusions to
to Lancelot Andrewes:

Wikipedia article about
Lancelot Andrewes
Lancelot Andrewes (1555 – 25 September 1626) was an English
clergyman and scholar, who held high positions in the Church of
England during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I.
During the latter's reign, Andrewes served successively as Bishop
of Chichester, Ely and Winchester and oversaw the translation of
the Authorized Version (or King James Version) of the Bible.

Lancelot Andrewes: T.S. Eliot's Essay on Bishop Andrewes

Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume One
Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Wednesday,
the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCXXII.
"Christ is no wild-cat."

Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume One
Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Friday,
the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCXVIII.
"Signs are taken for wonders"