T.S. Eliot: Anti-Modern Modernist

Modernism is an aesthetic.

As a sensibility, it is compatible with most ideologies like Romanticism. There were Left Modernists and Right Modernists. There were even a few Modernists who were not atheists, bohemian degenerates, progressive liberals, socialists and anarchists and who had views similar to our own.

The following excerpt comes from Peter Gay’s book Modernism: The Lure of Heresy:

“There was no more fitting a poster boy for anti-modern modernism than T.S. Eliot. His friends and readers found him baffling: “he seemed too radical to conservatives,” as his biography Peter Ackroyd has summed it up, “and too conservative to radicals.” Holding fast to conflicting opinions, he raised contemporary poetry to hitherto little explored diction, versification, and subject matter, and adopted his first masters among anti-bourgeois French literary rebels. But at the same time, Eliot the radical clung to traditional beliefs in his religion and his politics, the two inseparably intertwined.

In short, Eliot’s sweeping subversion of contemporaneous poets’ practice, an uncompromising, generally acknowledged modernism, was no obstacle to his discovering in High Anglicanism the inner peace, the fulfillment of his longing for certainty that had long eluded him. In 1927, five years after publishing The Waste Land, he was received into the Church of England, punctiliously undergoing the formal, long-established ceremonies …

As Eliot grew increasingly famous, invitations to lectureships or introductions to other writers’ books began to inundate him. They provided him with welcome space to comment on controversial issues beyond the technical questions confronting poets. In 1933, in After Strange Gods, the Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia, he gave his distance for the contemporary world free rein, and supplied his critics of his more and more reactionary politics with a wealth of damaging quotations – damaging to him. The culture inferences he drew from his anti-modern modernism would never again be so patent. He flattered his listeners as doubtless enjoying “at least some recollections of a ‘tradition,’ such as the influx of foreign populations has almost effaced in some parts of the North, and such as never established itself in the West.” Having contemptuously set aside the ur-American ideal of making a nation through generations of immigrants, Eliot candidly lamented the crowding-in of aliens from apparently inassimilable cultures. “You are farther away from New York; you have been less industrialized and less invaded by foreign races.”

Eliot’s use of “invaded” measured his disapproval of what the flood of recent newcomers had done to his former country. Massive immigration – and who were more numerous and conspicuous than East European Jews? – was, for Eliot, a cultural catastrophe. Certainly New York, as Eliot’s close friend Ezra Pound harshly put it, was “ganz verjudet” – wholly judaized. The most desirable makeup of inhabitants in any society struck Eliot as so obvious as to make explanation virtually redundant. “The population should be homogeneous; where two or more cultures exist in the same place they are likely either to be fiercely self-conscious or both to become adulterated. What is still more important is unity of religious background, and reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable.” One unintended merit of After Strange Gods was that it refused to flee to euphemisms and circumlocutions.

The lectures showed Eliot’s ethnology to be, in a word, primitive. Granted, the loose, irresponsible use of “race” was still common, and in deploying it Eliot was in good (which is to say, bad) company. But it exacted costs: in counting Jews among the races, Eliot was implying that Jewish qualities – all of them undesirable – are indelible. That is the key to his explicit objection to “free-thinking” Jews: they were cunningly trying to conceal their racial endowment, and, given that endowment, necessarily concealing it badly. Further, that one could count on their being skeptical about Christianity did not endear them to Eliot. This reading of Eliot’s thinking on social coherence finds confirmation with his reliance on the term “homogeneous” to sketch his social ideal. Eliot nostalgically turned back centuries – some four centuries, to be precise – to a time when shared identity of cultural and, more important, religious beliefs were regarded as essential preconditions for order in a commonwealth. Yet Eliot spoke confidently, as he usually did. It was a fundamental truth for him that the United States was “worm-eaten by liberalism,” a swear word for him.

It is a comment on Eliot’s alertness to his readers that he never authorized After Strange Gods to be reprinted. The lectures were suffused with genteel bigotry, and probably would have proved embarrassing for him. But ample as the opportunities were, he never repudiated these passages either. His picture of the world he wanted and whose absence he desperately regretted, a world uniform in culture and creed, as thoroughly anti-modern as it was possible for a modernist to be, was always at the heart of his ideology. Eliot’s literary modernism was of decisive importance to him and to readers of poetry everywhere. It radically transformed the way poets read and wrote poetry. But that unimpeachable modernism coexisted peacefully (at least for him) with a most intense anti-modernism. No doubt, the adequate definition of a modernist, will have to accommodate the awkward quality of apparent self-contradiction – a tribute to the sheer complexity of human nature. The point of interest remains that Eliot never considered his positions self-contradictory at all.”

T.S. Eliot repudiated his own tradition – the Genteel Tradition of his Boston Brahmin ancestors – in favor of French verse. He was also an alienated cosmopolitan elitist who became a British subject.

Modernism is not liberalism. It is compatible with liberalism, but it also compatible with T.S. Eliot’s High Anglican conservatism or Ezra Pound’s fascism. Pound was also an alienated cosmopolitan elitist who sided with Mussolini’s Italy and was charged with treason after World War II. Modernists are people who are alienated from their own roots. They are unhappy with their own people.

About Hunter Wallace 9599 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

26 Comments

  1. “Eliot the radical clung to traditional beliefs in his religion and his politics, the two inseparably intertwined.”

    That seems perfectly logical to me, as I cannot see how you separate your religious views from anything else, if you are since about them.

    One thing that amazes me about Liberals, both Right and Left, is how they go on about the necessary separation of church and state, as if the public secularism they seem to embrace is not a religion?

    • Jews are also big on sep of church/state. Xcept

      for that brazen 15-foot iron menorah on the WH lawn every

      Xmas.

      • @Lt. Colonel Boomer…

        “Jews are also big on sep of church/state.”

        Indeed, they have been – right since the earliest days of The Colonies, starting with Rhode Island, if memory serves.

    • Separating the church from the state is subordinating the church to the government. What happens then is the diminishing of faith in society. Where Islam has the advantage over Christianity is that the melding of the political and religious worlds is considered natural in the Ummah.

      It could be argued that Christ himself wanted us to leave Caesar’s affairs to Caesar, but if we’re living in countries influenced by Christian philosophy and practice, we should be applying Christianity in government. What form of it you use in civil life is the main sticking point, I would suppose.

      • @Boomer…

        “Separating the church from the state is subordinating the church to the government. What happens then is the diminishing of faith in society.”

        I totally agree.

        Just looking at this country over the last 60s years, nothing could be more irrefutable than your assertion.

      • Boomer- Greg Bahnsen’s ‘Theonomy in Christian Ethics.’ And RJ Rushdoony’s ‘Institutes of Biblical Law.’ As the Anglican BCP Eliot so much admired says, ‘Read, Mark, Learn, and inwardly digest.’

        “…Eliot was in good (which is to say, bad) company. But it exacted costs: in counting Jews among the races, Eliot was implying that Jewish qualities – all of them undesirable – are indelible. That is the key to his explicit objection to “free-thinking” Jews: they were cunningly trying to conceal their racial endowment, and, given that endowment, necessarily concealing it badly.”- quoting above

        (He says all this, like it’s a bad thing- or not verifiably accurate, on either Eliot’s -or Christendom’s- part.)

        “You can only tell what laws, institutions and governments will effect, when you apply them to the same race or nation under the same circumstances in which they have already been tried.”- George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, or, The Failure of Free Society

        If all men had been created equal, all would have been competitors, rivals and enemies. Subordination, difference of caste and classes, difference of sex, age and slavery beget peace and good will.” ibid.

        “Theology—not philosophy, literature, geography, economics, politics, law, art, music, or science—was and is the mainspring of our culture and history.  It is that which set it in motion, and maintained its cohesion and harmonious movement.   When the theological unity of Europe was fractured in that original break of 1054, the movement became disjointed, with the Two Europes tied together like racers in a three-legged race, tied together in the leg of a common history, but now with two “minds” and two different sets of historical time operating.  “ – A. Flood on ‘G, H, & D’
        http://www.anthonyflood.com/farrellghdprolegomena.htm

        • Fr., thanks for the thoughtful comments. I’ve read Rushdoony and Fitzhugh, just not the books you cited. If we’re going to have a moral people, we need a gov’t based on a moral foundation.

          To base our “constitutional republic” on concepts like “natural law” is a cheat; people are trying to adapt God’s law without crediting Christianity or living as Christians. Such equivocation is bound to lead to societal degeneration. Undiluted secularism always leads to that. You either walk on the narrow path to Heaven, or you take the easy way out on the road to Hell.

  2. “Modernists are people who are alienated from their own roots. They are unhappy with their own people.”

    I do not know if this statement is applicable to Blacks, Asians, Latins, Eurasians, or Arabs, but, I can say this – it certainly seems applicable to Whites.

    In fact, it’s so bad with most Whites, you cannot get them to use this word, or participate in a conversation with this word, unless you are referencing a paint colour for your clapboards or away uniforms for football teams.

    As someone who always valued our European Civilization, in all it’s guises, I find this very strange.

    How can anyone look at European civilization and not think it divine, or, at least, as much as could be manifested in this human realm?

    Just the achievement of Johann Sebastian Bach alone is a justification for an entire civilization, and, if you doubt me, you must take note that no other civilization produced one, or anything close to one, which is why serious musicians, or every race, devote their entire lives to playing his preludes and fugues, toccatas, and suites, in lieu of the musick produced by their own kind.

    Even if you care not a whit for serious musick, you really have to stop and think about that, for at least a moment.

    Just the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony is something so incredibly sublime, it can change lives.

    It certainly changed mine, when I first heard Bruno Walter conduct it as a child.

    But, of course, I have not even touched upon The European Achievement in technology, the military arts, engineering, poetry, prose, sculpture, pottery, jewelsmithy, fine woodworking, and painting.

    And so it is that, when I encounter your Average American, particularly the educated types, who have such a casual attitude about our survival, I think that they must not know very much, beyond the indoctrination they have received.

    • “How can anyone look at European civilization and not think it divine, or, at least, as much as could be manifested in this human realm?”

      Ivan- it IS divine. Not in a ‘gay drag queen’ sense, but in the only sense that matters- the DIVINIZATION OF THE WORLD, because of the DIVINIZATION OF THE WHITE CHRISTIANS WHO INHABIT IT.

      This is what is known as Theosis- Prots are so unbelievably stupid… They held this treasure in earthen vessels, and then presumed to think that Jews and Blacks were like them!!!
      http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/theosis.aspx

      CS Lewis grasped it, and it changed his world forever. The Orthodox preach and teach it in their spiritual manuals. It is alluded to in this quote from Jack-
      “Each day we are becoming a creature of splendid glory, or one of unthinkable horror.”
      C. S. Lewis

      THIS is why Jews are so evil- they are the incarnate seed of their father, the Devil… [ John 8:44]
      JUST AS TRUE CHRISTIANS are the ‘holy seed’ that Christ himself, and all the prophets attest to!
      [ Gen. 3:15, Amos 3:2, Ez. 9:2, Lk. 1:35, John 1:33, Acts. 1:8, II Tim. 1:14, Eph. 5:27, etc.]

      This is why sh*thole countries ARE sh*tholes! There is an ontological difference between White Christians and all other hominids- even among pagan Whites. This is no different than the Cain/Abel, Jacob/Esau, Joseph/Brothers, Israelite/Edomite, Jesus/Pharisee polar opposites of Scripture. Why do you think it is said, ‘Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” I Cor. 10:11 Christ said it- “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.”
      We citizens of Heaven/subjects of Christendom [Phil. 3:20] are most decidedly NOT Equal. sigh.

      • @Father John…

        Thank you for the affirmation and reply, not to mention the fabulous C.S. Lewis quote!

        All the best to you and yours, up yonder!

  3. “Modernists are people who are alienated from their own roots. They are unhappy with their own people.”

    Indeed. So why were so many Americans “modernists?” Because roots never existed in America. “People” never existed in America. America’s history is a repudiation of all belonging. Roots, culture, and race were considered bad things from the very beginning, “We hold these universal truths to be self-evident.” Now any preferential value judgement not based on victim mongering “equity” is evil. So Modernism is Americanism. What is America? It is the ultimate product of liberalism.

    Liberalism is the central antagonist of modern history beginning with the collapse of religion during the Thirty Years War. Where does liberalism come from? That is why Nietzsche is and remains so important.

    • I think the South valued their British roots. They made the South a colony of Britain. They didn’t hate their roots, they seemed to view coming to America as colonial expansion.

    • @Anonymous…

      “Indeed. So why were so many Americans “modernists?” Because roots never existed in America. ”

      You are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Young Sir, but, you do so need to just give yourself over to reading and learning for a few more years, perhaps more than that, before and making such statements on a Southern Nationalist blog, that is filled with people who have spent decades and decades living and learning history.

      For whatever it is worth – our Southerner forefathers arrove to The Virginia Colony in the early 17th century full possession of a multi-millenia old culture Anglo-culture.

      From customs, faith, culture and technology, our Southern Forefathers knew exactly who they were, Young Man, and despite the persistent attempts of The United States’ Government and too many non-Southerners to pry from us all that we are, we have still kept a lot of it – from waving at strangers driving by to our addresses of ‘Sir’ & ‘M’am’.

      If the rest of ‘America’ does not know who it is, Rural and Smalltown Dixie still has a pretty good idea.

  4. We here tend to be “unhappy with our own people,” as you put it. Yet, we don’t just wash our hands of those that reject us. We give a damn about what happens now and in the future, even though our views are roundly disregarded or disparaged by most. We are a remnant of those who are aware of human nature, and accepting of it. Such beliefs should be common sense, but elite programming in education, entertainment and media has been effective and largely unchallenged. Recent events are waking up some of the formerly zombified, thankfully.

  5. He was “traditional” but not clearly ethno-nationalist, and the opposite of socialist. A royalist, Anglo-Catholic, elitist, he believed any “democracy” must be limited by hereditary “rights and responsibilities.”

    The complete opposite of “traditional” conservatism (monarchy, feudalism, oligarchy, PLUTOCRACY – the rule of the wealthy) is NOT liberalism or modernism but ethno-national Socialism. Ethno-national agrarian socialism is the true opposite and enemy of the established order (plutocracy), and therefore it must be destroyed as soon as it begins to appear, though it rises again like the phoenix because it is the true natural order. Long before Marx, the Welsh people were the first in the world to fly the Red Flag:

    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=merthyr+rising+1831&&view=detail&mid=612DA85BAB14CC22E3A8612DA85BAB14CC22E3A8&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dmerthyr%2Brising%2B1831%26go%3DSearch%26qs%3Dds%26form%3DQBVDMH

    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=merthyr+rising+1831&ru=%2fvideos%2fsearch%3fq%3dmerthyr%2brising%2b1831%26go%3dSearch%26qs%3dds%26form%3dQBVDMH&view=detail&mid=E69B96FF8E0C1BD7A99EE69B96FF8E0C1BD7A99E&rvsmid=612DA85BAB14CC22E3A8612DA85BAB14CC22E3A8&FORM=VDQVAP

  6. Hunter, you might find the following from Scruton’s Arguments for Conservatism interesting (page 105): “(R)ecent French literary culture has largely been built around one of the projects of modernity: the revolt against bourgeois norms, in the name of aesthetic license…(Y)ou find the same cultural and intellectual agenda — which is the repudiation of bourgeois respectability and the Catholic culture of France. This, combined with nostalgie de la bouse, a residue of romantic diabolism, and a long flirtation with Marxism and the Communist Party, created the unique culture of Paris in the 1960s…” All of which shows that what you have been writing about is common across Western cultures and a danger to all our nations. Hope you turn this series into a published book.

  7. Hunter, have you heard about the art historian Gregory Maertz and his work on art seized from the Germans in WWII? Basically his studies have been seen to interesting implications on modernism in that the Nazis arguably had their own brand. Also if you are interested there is a lot of art in US military offices that violate the Hague convention and supreme court hypocrisy.

    Here is a review by another blogger that talks about Maertz as a subset on a series of Nazi modernism
    http://socialpathology.blogspot.com/2017/04/raiders-of-lost-nazi-art.html

    Hague convention
    https://www.theartnewspaper.com/archive/the-army-s-hidden-collection-of-nazi-art

  8. We are nearing the tipping point where civil society balkanizes into factions, redraws its territorial boundaries and takes stock of its assets and liabilities before the coming civil war or collapse.

    Normies of all flavors will be the bulk of the human capital on both sides. They have all the resources, and they are waking up. Their hearts and minds are the battlefield. Most of them are White.

    To those that are, what are we doing to get the simple message across to them that “Its ok to be White”, the left hates you BECAUSE you are White, therefore, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children”, join us!….?

    This is the heart of it.

    Nobody should care about modernism, or these other abstractions. These assertions are only conjectural musings, and their litigation won’t effect a single thing in meatspace. This obsession with the abstract is decadence manifest because of a resignation to apathy and defeatism.

    People deride me for saying “Do Something” and ask me “What should we do, powerless and disenfranchised as we are?”, this is my response. This is as simplified and condensed as I can make it.

    I’ve been trying to get this idea across for over a year now. Here, and the other places where I was hopeful that a well intentioned party would see it and attempt to execute it in good faith.

    Above is the logic that has to be presented to people to get them to accept the red pill of their own free will. Its simple, honest and the evidence for it is manifold and available everywhere right now.

    I don’t know what else to say.

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