The Moot: T. S.Eliot's Idea of a Christian Elite

The Moot: T. S.Eliot's Idea of a Christian Elite
Eliot’s Conversion; George Bell; J. H. Oldham; Oxford Conference; Karl Mannheim; The Moot; The Christian News-Letter; Elite; Clerisy; Samuel T. Coleridge
Issue Date
T. S. 엘리엇연구, v.21, no.2, pp.87 - 105
After his conversion in 1927, Eliot started a new life. This new life was directed by George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, whose interest was in the reconciliation of the Church and the arts. Eliot appears to have taken seemingly two divergent roads laid by George Bell after his meeting with the bishop in 1930; one is turning his gift towards poetic drama and another is moving towards the Church of England as a Christian social critic while reconciling two different activities in his career. After the Oxford Conference in 1937, an order of Christian lay people called the Moot emerged by dint of J. H. Oldham who was a prime mover of the Oxford Conference. The Moot, the group of distinguished intellectuals, met from 1938 to 1947 to discuss the nature of modern society, the relationship between social planning and freedom, and the role of religiously-based values in shaping society. Learning much from discussions with other intellectuals in the Moot, Eliot, one of the core members of the Moot who attended 12 meetings out of 21 total meetings, formulated his idea of a Christian elite which is necessary for shaping an ideal Christian society. Distinguishing between an elite and the clerisy in his paper ‘On the Place and Function of the Clerisy’ delivered to the Moot meeting in December 1944, Eliot defined the often confusing terms precisely—elite is ‘any category of men and women who because of their individual capacities exercise significant power in any particular area’. However, the clerisy is ‘those individuals who originate the dominant ideas, and alter the sensibility, of their time’ at the top. This means that the clerisy is elite at the highest level who generate the new ideas of their time, including the new expression of an old idea, and who alter sensibility. Thus, Eliot’s use of the term clerisy includes clergy and laity as Samuel Coleridge did, however, Eliot’s idea of the clerisy is wider than that of Samuel Coleridge whose clerisy implies a body of the definite vocation which tends to become ‘merely a brahminical caste’. Eliot’s clerisy is even wider than the ‘Community of Christians’ which he expounded in The Idea of a Christian Society in 1939; ‘the consciously and thoughtfully practicing Christians, especially those of intellectual and spiritual superiority’.
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