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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
 Smith 157.
 Smith 159.
 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 157.
 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.
 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:
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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.