T. S. Eliot’s Notes on the Way [I]. To the Editor of Time and Tide
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[ 173 T. S. Eliot’s Notes on the Way [I] To the Editor of Time and Tide Time and Tide, 16 (19 Jan 1935) 95 Sir, – There is one point in Miss Rebecca West’s letter in your issue of January 12th, which seems to me to call for an answer.1 I feel that Miss West fails to represent accurately the attitude of Father Herbert Thurston; so that the uninformed reader might imagine that Fr. Thurston’s interest in “supernormal manifestations” was of exactly the same kind as that of Messrs. Huxley or Mr. Gerald Heard.2 One does not even need to read Fr. Thurston’s books to be made aware of the difference. On the jacket of one that I have at hand are the words: “The Church has forbidden spiritualistic practices to her children, and that her prohibition is just and wise can be seen from evidence.” And if the reader gets only as far as the Author’s Preface, he will read that the three contentions of the book are as follows: The first is that genuine and inexplicable phenomena, even of the physical order, do occur in the presence of certain exceptionally constituted persons called ‘mediums’; secondly, that for the mass of mankind, and notably for Catholics, spiritualistic practices, quite apart from the Church’s prohibition, are dangerous and altogether undesirable; and thirdly, that people have learned nothing from their attempted intercourse with the spirits of the departed – an almost inevitable result when the fact is borne in mind that the identity of the supposed communicator can never be established with certainty.3 I am, etc.,  T. S. Eliot 24, Russell Square, W.C.1 Notes 1. The English critic and journalist Rebecca West, pen name of Cicely Isabel Fairfield (18921983 ), wrote in her letter: “as for knowing that ‘even if one return from the dead, that will not settle the doubts of those who are not convinced by Moses and the prophets,’ Mr. Eliot had better consult such Roman Catholic investigators of psychical research as Father Thurston, S.J., Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1935 174 ] whowithintheChurchandintheserviceoftheChurchhasformanyyearsstudiedsupernormal manifestations. What can Mr. Eliot mean when he goes on to say: ‘Nevertheless, I respect Mr. Huxley . . .’” (43-44). 2. An English Jesuit priest and author, Herbert Henry Charles Thurston (1856-1939) wrote on theological and historical topics and was especially known for his work on spiritualism and parapsychological subjects. TSE met the historian and science writer Henry Fitzgerald Heard, known as Gerald Heard (1889-1971), in July 1935 to discuss his book Science in the Making. 3. The Church and Spiritualism (Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Company, 1933), xi. TSE wrote to Hope Mirrlees on 17 Jan 1935: “I have had your Thurston book posted back to you; to show that I made use of it (for which I am grateful to you) I enclose the Correspondence Column of Time and Tide – which incidentally seems to indicate that my second Note was a greater success than the first! It would seem that Time and Tide is read entirely by people who don’t like what I say; in any case, these letters have a curious interest.” ...