The Darkness Shall Be the Light: T.S.Eliot’s Journey to Faith

by John O’Brien

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.



One thing we all can say: “Loneliness is one of the modern diseases we find.” We run from it but it never goes away. We seek distraction and when that doesn’t work ”distraction from distraction.” (Eliot) The teaching of the spiritual masters is that we shouldn’t flee…we should stay with our loneliness and in the midst of tears we encourage a loving Presence. In this work we follow T.S.Eliot’s poetry journey from the WasteLand to the Four Quartets and meditate on the themes he introduces to us. In this way we allow our loneliness to become a solitude where we encounter God and find new life in him. The fire of love burns in us.


The author asks in Chapter 1: What is it to be human? This is a question for all of us. We usually give examples of what is not human. Maurice Zundel (+1975) when he was asked are you human? He answered “No, not yet”. There are many obstacles to being human. We have forgotten how to pray! How to think, how to cry, how to resist the lure of so many persuaders in our midst. We have exchanged holiness for convenience, loyalty for success, love for power, wisdom for information, tradition for fashion. We legislate against murder, yet we wage war with ferocity and wipe out peoples. History is scarred with wars and more wars, with so many dead and so many tears. Our Western society looks upon people and nature in terms of usefulness. Our greed is destroying the planet. People are not cared for and many live lives of desperation and profound loneliness. We search for meaning but bad experiences tell us we have no value and our efforts have no meaning.

How we break out of the lie that we have no value that our efforts do not matter. We have to begin where we are. Our reality is often best captured by writers, artists and poets. Catharsis refers to the purification and purgation of emotions that results in renewal or restoration. Aristotle (+322BC) in his “Politics” speaks of how we relate to tragedy as a catharsis, a cleansing. We see our own lives acted out on the stage and we discover we are not alone. We can come to accept ourselves as we are.

The author creates a spiritual journey with T.S.Eliot. His poem The Waste Land (1922) shows a world that is barren and hopeless. In writing ‘The Waste Land’ Eliot found he no longer lived there. He recovered his faith. This led him to the ‘Four Quartets’. The last three of the Quartets were written during World War II, in East Coker the world has become darker, the darkness of the war and world. He helps us enter into ourselves and face our own darkness and find strength there, a strength of God. All believers would love to read this book and stir in their hearts faith in God.

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