Now this is quite intriguing as regards Eliot on Christ. What say you, Peter?
What makes a whole lot of big sense to me is Eliot's pragmatist approach to Christianity.
To quote from Kirsch's review of Letters (Vol. 3):
Eliot, a product of the Harvard of William James, suggests that he is drawn to Christianity as a pragmatist – that is, because it “works” for him, not because he is convinced of its truth as a proposition. // Elsewhere, he writes: “The Christian scheme seemed the only possible scheme which found a place for values which I must maintain or perish . . . the belief, for instance, in holy living and holy dying, in sanctity, chastity, humility, austerity.” This well describes the austere spirit of Eliot’s life and work in the years covered by this volume and will only become more apt in the years to come ...
The TLS review is not available on line, but in looking I came across Adam Kirsch's review of V. 3.
Below is an excerpt with some acute remarks about Eliot's religion. I too had been struck by what he wrote to Aldington and also his review of Murry's book on Jesus. Is Kirsch on the right track? For me, it rather fits with one of Eliot's key ideas from
Bradley, "degrees of truth."
But there is a remarkable admission, so quick you could easily miss it, in another letter to Aldington. “I agree with you about Christ and I do not disagree with anything else,” Eliot writes. The editors supply what Aldington had written: “Moreover, I don’t
really like the gospels, and I don’t much like Christ. I really think Paul was more interesting. He appears to have been a man; I have suspected that . . . Christ is an invention.” Just at the time Eliot is about to enter the Church, we find him apparently
saying that he does not believe Christ existed and in any case that he doesn’t “like” Him.
Add to this what Eliot tells John Middleton Murry, an intellectual sparring partner who was one of his few real confidants: “You assume that truth changes – you accept as inevitable what appears to me to be within our own power. I am, in a way, a much more
thoroughgoing pragmatist – but so thoroughgoing that I am sure there is nothing for it but to assume that there are fixed meanings, and that truth is always the same.” Eliot, a product of the Harvard of William James, suggests that he is drawn to Christianity
as a pragmatist – that is, because it “works” for him, not because he is convinced of its truth as a proposition.
On Nov 7, 2012, at 10:47 PM, Chokh Raj wrote:
Oops, I'm so sorry for the typo, it's Gabriel Josipovici. -- CR
There's a review in the Nov 2 Times Literary Supplement of The
Letters of TS Eliot, Vol. 3 by Gabriel Josopovici. Here's a link to the Contents page:
Thought this might interest you.