T.S. Eliot: Writer and Poet Turned Christian

Nov 03, 2020 at 10:00 am by Paulette Jackson

T.S. Eliot's material was words. And those words seemed to express what more than a few of us have felt, but also brought a capacity to experience experience. 

He was the admired writer of the World War I generation, a population whose lost innocence and decimated ideals brought about the refusal to never be taken in by the politicians again. His writing spoke to the ennui, restlessness and demurral, with authority. His readers loved him. But then, in 1927, T. S. Eliot converted to orthodox Christianity.

A nettlesome change for followers of his work, as well as his own life, his conversion translated as somewhat tiresome for the votaries of the faith.

Being a writer of significant influence, his conversion was compared to that of the high priest ruler in the polytheistic court of the pharaoh, who turned toward a congregational throng of polytheistic gatherers and stated; "I believe in one God ..."

The shock and dismay knew no bounds, and Eliot found himself the object of similar outrage, having betrayed his trust as the oracle of the modern west.

From this point of view, Eliot's conversion didn't make the burden of speaking truth lighter for him. It is difficult enough to carry on with a craft as a poet if what you produce wins accolades for you, but the burden becomes an onerous one, if what you're saying invites catcalls and brickbats. 

What did he do? Or perhaps, the question, "What didn't he do?" was the one that brought about a deep, soul-searching response.

For one thing, he produced no major poetic work for almost 10 years. He wrote some essays and plays. But then…. in 1943, there appeared, The Four Quartets.

In this work, Eliot took the truths that tended to be common, stereotypical cliché's, like; "time carries all away," "we all die," "ecstasy beckons in fugitive moments" or put another way, "moments of ecstasy are followed by trials of despair," and rather than validating their melancholy truth, denied the luxury to self-congratulatory existentialists, of pitching camp on Eeyorish "truths."

Instead, Eliot's Four Quartets, offered "pointers" to something else. What he pointed to was that, we tend to believe that asking questions will put us in awful danger, therefore, avoiding asking questions at all cost, is paramount, for the purpose of not even running the risk of stumbling into … the Truth. Garrisoning ourselves by continuing to dodge questions or issues, potentially allows us to escape any dread confrontation. But the cover was blown in Four Quartets

In Four Quartets, it is memory that holds a serious purpose. Its purpose is to regale us with the remorseless fact that time passes, and so bringing awareness of the present to us, and all that has happened to us, is meaningful.

At this point, for those who are Christian, there is a recognition that the true shape of things, namely a memory, rightly used, brings us to confession. Or to put it another way; fruitful confession, which is necessary to salvation, obliges me to take the past and not merely bewail it, but to place it, here … in full view of myself, and the Judge and the jury, saying; "Misere mei Domine." "Have mercy on meOh Lord." 

And in Christian liturgy, this gesture, this presence, is an acceptance of a remembrance and a time when the veil between time and eternity was drawn aside, and we are "here" in a past eternity when the counsels of God conceived our salvation, at Golgatha, in the Upper Room, and in Heaven with the Seraphim. And serving the present, this memory leads us not into a sentimentalism, but a revelation. In the words of Apostle Paul, we read, "Behold, this is the accepted time, the day of salvation."

And Eliot's poetry obliges us to admit the pattern of movement – a kind of dance, lifting us up to the trees of the forest where we may; Pursue their pattern as before ... But reconciled among the stars

Reconciled among the stars; what a beautiful image of a hint as to what any of our reflections hope for; a hope that somewhere, there must be some center from which this perceived chaotic choreography of life takes its impulses. We long for that center, so we can be able to understand how to respond, as well as live in balance and peace in this life as we move through and with it.

And there is a center, a still point. It is a place that is neither flesh nor fleshless. It is neither movement nor arrest. It is not a fixity, where the past and present are gathered together. It is not a movement from or toward, ascent nor decline. It is a still point. And that is where the dance is. It is where we are invited to consider our inherent purpose, for that which each of us is created; to belong, to each other, to life, to our husbands and wives, our families and to God.

And to experience that, we must remember as well as find meaning in remembrance, honor questions and face what we would rather not confront. We often call it truth, experiencing revelations, or experiencing our experiences …. And maybe, just maybe, that is also the beginning, of our salvation.

May we all remember Whose we are, so we can be who we are.

"Always, we begin again." ~ St. Benedcict

Paulette Jackson

The post above is adapted from, The Night is far Spent by Thomas Howard. A treasured read, I would encourage others to read it as well.

photo credit: discogs.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are those belonging to Paulette Jackson lpc-mhsp and do not necessarily reflect those of any other professional or individual.

Sections: Arts Poetry Faith


NOTES ON THE INDEPENDENT THINKER: DEPENDENT ON GOD Greetings Brethren, Peace be unto you. John remembered the days when he first had the great thirst for intellectual accretion, development and growth. He was a young lad when he started reading books and thinking. Books also were around his house as both his mother and father had a keen interest in reading. They had not finished high school but they were both very intelligent and encouraged their children to read. Thus, (our beloved Brother John) at a very young age reading became a great past time. For example, while in elementary school John read more than just books for entertainment. John therefore, developed at an early age an appreciation for biographical works especially books about famous Black Americans. Meanwhile throughout his household while growing up there were great debates about politics. His father was a Republican still leaning on the Republican contribution to Black people reaching back to Abraham Lincoln and the Freedom Proclamation. Then the Sages reached into 2018 and Today and said… I wonder what have the Democrats done for Black people? Meanwhile, as the debates ensued John at an early age developed an interest in studying law. However, this would eventually change as the plight of the Black and poor continued to pose an on-going challenge to unity and the stark realities of the evolving Black American Experience. By the time of high school John had developed a great interest in Social Studies. However, he had not decided against being a lawyer at this time. But of course, history and political science are necessary and or vital courses of study for a career in most areas of law. Since he liked to read he became fascinated with history and world affairs. So, by the time of the 11th grade John was firmly committed to attend college. All through high school he worked at a local restaurant. First as a dishwasher then as a bus-boy and part-time waiter. He generally earned around $25 per week. The pay he received was also an incentive for him to gain additional skills by attending college. And not just settle for an un-skilled job with very little job security. Meanwhile his first intellectual experiences as a youngster produced a great desire for Truth. Thus, he never had an initial interest in distorting the historical record. In undergraduate school his interest in history and political science was conducive to his interest in law, which was still in his future academic plans. But, as the Civil Rights and Liberation struggles for Black Americans escalated John declared an interest in the historical record of Black Americans. Once more and again the Sages declared that John nor any other Black scholar advanced the evolution of the distinct Black American personality during the Renaissance of Black American History. This great interest in Black American History occurred during the decades of 1960 and 1970. But the realization of the evolution of the Distinct Black American ethnic group would come later as John (FreedomJournal Press) blessed by Almighty God became a witness to the evolving Distinct Black American personality and or race overtime. John then noted that he was able to attend graduate school in a program that was designed to train teachers to teach Black American History. So even among those that flirted with intellectual integrity he still maintained his intellectual responsibility. However, these were turbulent days when many insidious and perfidious people were sent out to try to impede the intellectual growth of the sincere Black American scholar. The Sages always in council also noted that these people were recreant and confused. The Sages then cried out and were relived to note that as we live and die the true record of the Black American Experience is not a threat to anyone that liveth. Therefore, it is for certain that if Black people accept their true culture and racial identity we can have a greater impact on many of the problems particular to Black America. A people who deny their culture is as lost as a golf ball hiding behind a baseball in high weeds. The confusion of the recreant and insidious elements in Black America caused the independent Black intellectuals economic woes. This was the time of 1970-1973, the job market was closed and so were the colleges when he applied to further his education. But by 1980 John was able to slip into another Black university that claimed to teach Political Science from a Black perspective. All through the rigorous course work John remained an independent thinker. However, this school just like the previous school had no interest in producing truly independent Black intellectuals. The conscience of America danced with guilt. Some became private dancers who did the twist in indecision and solicited their own people to take the bottom out of unity The left hand has had an infamous record in education often restricting the right hand of Truth. Therefore, after completing all of the course work and passing the Oral and Comprehensive exams his dissertation that rendered a critical analysis of Black elected and appointed officials in the city in which he was born was denied. Thus, his doctoral degree was stolen by the left hand in higher education who refused to dance with the right hand. Once more and again the Sages looked back in time and Yesterday and noted that the thieves of academic achievement were (are still) mostly from his own community. However, the Straw Bosses did not work for Black people. Have most of these Drivers gone on and made the great transition. But also leaving behind ancestors that know not that they have inherited a limited intellect that is in denial about the Truth of the Black American Experience. After these experiences there was no place for John to go. Once more and again the job market was closed for those Black and independent. Thus, John went into business for himself and tried to provide for his family. He also continued to think as God allowed him experiences for a life-long testimony. The righteous know nothing without the fires they go through during the times that they liveth. Thus, from his birth up to 1996 John was brought through many storms of life. 1996 is when John who had been called by God throughout his life accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. This was his greatest blessing ever in life. It is written here and in countless places. Blessed by Almighty God his intellectual capacity, aptitude etc. blew up. He then began to realize the essence of love and compassion in all things. He also then realized that though God and Christ he could reach the highest stage (level) of intellectual growth and development. He also was reminded that Jesus Christ teaches Love to all that will listen and hear. Thus, to be in kind spirit with Christ one must also love their enemies and friends and pray for all that liveth. No doubt he was committed as an independent thinker. Now he was Dependent on God. The Dependence on God is the way to the succinct Methodology for Obtaining Truth. One cannot reach the highest level of Truth and Understanding absent of love. Meanwhile this dependence is not like any other dependence that the flesh may witness. For example, there is no negative baggage for those Dependent on God. John looked back, saw Today and looked over into Tomorrow, he was sure that his dependence on God would not allow him to bow to the world’s standards. Meanwhile John saw various intellectuals that were in denial with regard to the Creation and the Creator. There are also many contemporary imposters in the halls of academia that are politically correct. Therefore, a particular life style is more important to them than academic excellence and or intellectual responsibility and integrity. There are also the cadre of alleged intellectuals that are just plain ignorant and just don’t know. Also, there is a group that have historically used the plight of Black people for material gain. Most in this group are usually totally controlled by a prejudice group of people outside Black America. But when all things are said and done John will always be Dependent on God. There is no way to Peace and Paradise without this Dependence. Therefore, no matter what the anti-Christ elements say or do the righteous will win now and later. On a final note that is not final the Sages said: What is the responsibility of the Black Middle Class? Peace and Golden Paradise, Carl A. Patton writing for the FreedomJournal Press Monday 9 July 2018 in the year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Who is John?
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