Carol Smith in her book on Eliot’s drama takes note of the despairing view
of life that Eliot held, reflected in his interest in the writings of St.
John of the Cross.  Smith talks about the two basic paths in Christianity,
the negative path and the affirmative path.[1] <#_ftn1>  On the negative
path, represented by the writings of 16th-century Spanish priest and poet
St. John of the Cross, life is misery.  People are born with original sin,
and suffer through their lives with the guilt from that, if (like Eliot)
they have any spiritual sensibility.  The only hope for such a Christian is
to die and be united with god after the human life ends.  Smith, however,
also talks about the affirmative path of Christianity, which in the decades
around Eliot’s conversion was undergoing a rebirth and revival among
Charles Williams, John Heath-Stubbs and other Anglican writers.[2] <#_ftn2>
Along this affirmative Christian path, there is a way to salvation through
an awareness that all manifestations of life are radiances of god; and that
such apprehension is a form of Christian behavior.  According to this view,
in acknowledging this affirmative path of Christianity, and in practicing
it, and in performing the Christian responsibility of service to others,
there is a spirit of joy, rather than a spirit of darkness.[3] <#_ftn3>

In assessing these two paths to Christianity, the negative way and the
affirmative way, one can see that the negative way is a legacy of the
influence of Dark Ages monasticism.[4] <#_ftn4>  By this way of thinking,
monasticism arose in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire, when old
systems, cultures and civilizations were being destroyed.  The fear of
destruction and loss at this time came to be reflected in the retreating
and isolating monastic culture, which was trying to preserve its mere
existence in a violent and dangerous world that was collapsing around it.
It was also an attempt to save and preserve the spiritual values of
Christianity.  The affirmative way, on the other hand, was the way of love
for all creatures, and one more accessible in times of social, political
and material comfort, which some experienced post-Renaissance, and in a
growing standard of living from an age of industrialization.  By this view,
all created things are god’s creations, and joyously to be apprehended as
such.  Charles Williams, one Anglican thinker of Eliot’s time, accepted
romantic love as a gateway to understanding this kind of love, and cited
Dante’s use of the romantic love for Beatrice, converted to a higher
Christian love, as one guide for how it might work.[5] <#_ftn5>


[1] <#_ftnref1> Smith 157.

[2] <#_ftnref2> Smith 159.

[3] <#_ftnref3> Smith attributes the origin of these ideas of the positive
and negative ways to the 6th century C.E .mystical writings of Dionysius
the Areopagite.  (The documents were later identified as pseudepigrapha, so
currently authorship is assigned to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.) Smith

[4] <#_ftnref4> Wrote John Heath-Stubbs, in his book on Charles Williams,
“Monasticism arose as a result of the condition accompanying the breakdown
of the Roman Empire.  Men withdrew from the world for the sake of the
world, in order to salvage, in safe refuges, something of the values which
were everywhere being destroyed. “ John Heath-Stubbs, *Charles Williams*
(London: Published for the British Council by Longmans, Green, 1955) 17.
Quoted in Smith 159.

[5] <#_ftnref5> Smith 160.  See Charles Williams, *The Figure of Beatrice:
A Study in Dante* (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1943.)

John Angell Grant

My new book, "Woman and Religion in the Modern Drawing Room: Plays of T.S.
Eliot," is available here:
Or here:

And from libraries here:

On Fri, Jul 26, 2019 at 5:52 AM Chanan Mittal <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> “It is quite natural that if in your consciousness you are always running
> round in a circle you will finally end up in hell.
> And that is just what Sartre is after and what Eliot would like to prevent
> with obviously ineffective measures.”
> —-
> “I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.”
> CR
> On Fri, Jul 26, 2019 at 6:54 AM Rick Parker <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> #CarlJung, Letters Vol. II, Sartre, T.S. Eliot
>> Carl Jung on T.S. Elliot and Sartre
>> To Dr. S.
>> Dear Colleague, 5 December 1951
>> Frankly I am surprised at your letting yourself be impressed by T. S.
>> Eliot.
>> Becoming conscious does not in itself lead to hell by any means.
>> More at