.....There is, of course, no convincing route of reasoning in
this parochial Pilgrims Progress of the spirit. Belief rarely
comes in response to reasoning: we believe first and find
reasons later. But, as I look back now, I find that the
enthusiasms and intuitive assumptions which made me turn
away from Christianity in the first place were precisely
those which, in the end, took me back to it. I believe in the
reality and purpose of this world and that is precisely what
seems to me to be implied by the Incarnation, for, in
becoming man, God also became flesh, blood, bones, cells,
molecules, atoms of hydrogen, oxygen, calcium, phos
phorus and so on. To a Christian, surely, such physical
things can never be dismissed as illusory or evil or without
purpose. Then, too, I was brought up in a scientifically-minded
world. I had learned to think in terms of observa
tions, of measurable and verifiable data, and Christianity,
much of the time, uses terms of this kind. Where other
religions and philosophies may speak of the universality of
God, the potentiality of incarnation in all creatures, the
manifestation of the spirit of God in all men, Christianity
stakes everything on the claim that God was born as one
person, on such and such a date and in such and such a
locality. Of course, this may not be true—I am still suffi
ciently scientifically-minded to admit that. And it is not,
in the ordinary use of the word, verifiable. But, at least,
the claim is made in precise references, to physical dimen
sions. Christianity does not begin by turning its back on
the physical world, or turning its nose up at it, or making
nonsense of it. On the contrary, it makes sense of it in a
way in which science, alone, cannot. A mind like mine—
literal, matter-of-fact, fond of specifications, distrustful of
abstractions—must start from the known world, the com
mon physical experience, from what, in a revealing cliche,
are called 'hard facts.' Christianity begins with what it
asserts to be such a fact—a statement about a certain assem
blage of chemical substances biologically arranged to make
a human being who is God Incarnate. Accept it or reject it.
For me, it was Hobson's Choice, and if I am asked why I
became a Christian, the only true answer is that I don't see
how I could have helped it.
If you read Barry Spurr's book you will discover that Eliot defined himselfvery clearly as an Anglo-Catholic, and even on occasion as an Anglo-Papalist.I think he wished for a reunion of the Anglicans with Catholics. He had a coupleof audiences with the Pope (Paul VI?), and was quite easy with the Anglo-Catholics'view of the Pope as the Patriarch of the West.If you read his esay "Thoughts After Lambeth" you will discover a certain lack of respect for the Anglican hierarchy, or at least some of it ... it's hard to tell.Cheers,Peter----- Original Message -----From: [log in to unmask]" href="mailto:[log in to unmask]" target="_blank">John Angell GrantSent: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 10:56 AMSubject: Re: Why did T.S. Eliot believe in God?Thanks for the pointer, Peter. I guess an understanding of what god was for Eliot is part of what I'm looking for. I'm guessing he knew a lot of the literature of debate between the English Anglicans and the English Roman Catholics, before he made his choice for Anglicanism and some form of its theology. Where did he weigh in on the 39 Articles, and related theological and political debate, the Trinity, etc. Some of these questions may be addressed in the scholarly sources offered over the last day; I haven't gotten to them yet. Thanks, everybody, for the thoughtfulness. I just read Lytton Strachey's fabulous collection of four short biographies "Eminent Victorians," which wanders through the Anglican-Roman Catholic conflict from various perspectives. I'm thinking Eliot probably had opinions on those people, and on their striking belief systems.j.
On Tue, May 29, 2012 at 7:57 PM, Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I would highly recommend Barry Spurr's BOOK "Anglo-Catholicism, Anglo-Catholic in Religion: T. S. Eliot and Christianity" It is a transformation of his doctoral thesis produce with the blessing of his doctoral supervisor and of Mrs. Eliot (if memory seerves).
I am curious about your definition of "god" that you wish to understand Eliot's
belief in. His arrival in belief was, as has been mentioned, a long and winding road. As I remember, when he got to the querstion of becoming a budddhist or hindu, he felt that culturally he could not make the jump. The quote
(for which I cannot provide a source. I read it long ago, and more recently saw
a more recent poet refer to it) is roughly, that if ne is a weaterner, one cannot make the leap to another religion, and vice versa. In effect he could not abandon his roots.
That he had strong mystical leanings I think one cannot deny. Barry Spurr even provides an example of his having a mystical experience after receiving communion. As a Catholic and an Anglican I seriously doubt that he made
a distinction between belief in God and mystical expeience. He seems to have thought that mystical experience is experience of God.
You are right to present the matter as being a serious surprise and even let down for his contemporaries. It seems many saw TWL as a kind of atheist manifesto. In fact Ithink many still take it in that way. He was certainly seriously punished by his coontemporaries for his so called juump. His response was
again a quote the source for which I cannot supply, but it went something like:
In an age in which everyone is trying to escape, a person going in the opposite direction will seem to run away.--- That's not quite right, but close.
Eliot's work was so broad and deep, it is hard to hang on to every bit of it.
Again, I am interested in your definition of the being in which you say Eliot believed.
----- Original Message ----- From: John Angell Grant
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 10:19 AM
Subject: Why did T.S. Eliot believe in God?
Why did T.S. Eliot believe in god?
Pound and others found Eliot's belief in god incomprehensible.
Can anyone steer me to the scholarship on this issue, the issue of why Eliot believed in god?
Thanks in advance for any ideas.