Today the third installment of the Lockdown T.S.Eliot Book Club is published. Go here for Understanding Eliot. Here’s an excerpt from the post. This is from a longer article I wrote on the subject which you can read here at The Imaginative Conservative website.
Eliot’s contemplative spirituality is therefore the first key to understanding the poems. He works hard to put into words the dynamic and charge of the contemplative life—something which is all the more difficult because contemplation is, by definition, an experience beyond words. Once one understands that Eliot is wrestling with the challenge of expressing the experience of the wordless with words, one will begin to move toward the solution of the puzzle.
This wordless realm into which Eliot takes us is the region of dreams, the numinous, the collective unconscious; it is the experience of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, to use the famous phrase of Rudolph Otto. The contemplative moves beyond the physical world, consciousness, the words, and concepts used to order and make sense of that world. He moves into a realm that is not less sensate, logical, and conscious but more sensate, logical, and conscious.