The Beckoning Land that is within

In spite of the fact that all three of Rowena Farre's books were in a certain measure autobiographical, she remains a mystery. The place of her birth, her real name and ancestry, whether her first book was autobiography, in fact, or fiction? It is, on reading her last book, a matter on which, beyond a certain notional interest, I find myself wholly and happily agnostic. Whoever she was, she was a person out of sorts with the world she was born into and on, an ever more consciously realized, spiritual quest. In this way, the book leads on from her earlier one about her life with Roma and Traveller communities. There she was following a nomadic impulse that ran in parallel to 'ordinary life' whilst here she is following a nomadic life that enfolds and transforms 'ordinary' life.

In this her third book, she returns to places associated with her childhood, Hong Kong, Ceylon and India, i…

Being transfigured with Jesus - a graceful, beautiful, lucid novel

James Cowan, who died last month, as described here had a casual attitude to publication. Financial resources, a disregard for popularity, a taste for adventure and a focus on the realities of the sacred all conspired to keep him inconsistently before the public eye and on the fringe of the 'literary world'. A world, that in turn, he never evinced any great concern for, I recall.

I have been reading one of his later works, a novel, 'The Deposition'. It is a beautiful work that successfully weaves a credible act of literature with a profound spiritual meditation on the life of Jesus and its impact on the first disciples. It is a meditation that is at once faithful to tradition; and, yet opens up that tradition to a renewed universality.

The deposition in question is that of Rabbi Gamaliel, the grandson of Rabbi Hillel, who was the famous author of three questions: If I am not f…

Chariot of the Soul - finding ways through transition

To join or not to join the continent of  'Europe' in the form of the Roman Empire resonates with Britain's current question of whether to leave or remain in the European Union. The theme in its own particular way runs through this accomplished new novel by Linda Proud, 'Chariot of the Soul'.

Togidubnus is the son of a British king and his Druid wife. It is a doleful marriage, born of the king's abduction and rape. He grows up in the light of his mother and in the shadow of his father before he is sent into exile to Rome, aged ten, as a hostage for Verica's, his father's, loyalty in pre-invasion Britain. He grows up in the home of Antonia, sister to Augustus, watchful of the unfolding family tragi-comedy that is the birth of the Empire and as a friend to Claudius who, exaggerating his infirmities, survives to become Emperor and the conqueror of Britain. Togidubnus is, also, friend and student of Seneca, Roman senator, and Stoic philosopher and one of th…

Climate: A new and regenerating story

In the week that the IPCC published its latest report on climate change accompanied by apocalyptic soundings from some and widespread apparent indifference from many especially mainstream media and politicians, I decided to read Charles Eisenstein's new book, "Climate: A New Story".

Upfront I will confess to liking Eisenstein's work and loving his 'voice' - clear, engaging, balanced with that rare quality, humility, standing among people rather than apart or above, trying to figure life out in its complexities and compromises. A place from which hard-won wisdom comes.

Let us imagine, he asks, we buckle down to tackling emissions. We accelerate the renewable energy revolution, up go the panels, the windmills, the dams. We plant trees, lots of trees. We eat less meat and tuck into all the varieties of soya cunningly disguised. Will we arrive at where we want to be?

Maybe not. The world may end up disfigured, the beauty we sought to preserve sequestered under &…

Living between worlds

You can imagine why Frank Waters, the noted author of the American South West, holds an unsettled reputation since he occupies the very place that his literature faithfully explores: the people who do not quite fit in and, thus, must find their own reconciliation with and pathway through life.

He was of native American heritage, his father was Cheyenne, his mother Caucasian and he grew up in the 'white world' yet sufficiently exposed to the indigenous to be able to move within it successfully (if not always inclusively).

Like the protagonist of his finest novel, 'The Man who Killed the Deer', he could not inhabit a native American tradition as a 'traditionalist' but neither could he slip into 'white America'. Waters own way was to seek reconciliation in a 'mystical' centering where both worlds offer something to a emergent whole. This perception was deeply influenced by his reading of Jung; thus, the intuitive, communal primordial 'Indian&#…

Poetry, Ecology & Faith in Christina Rossetti

The nineteenth century in Europe is often depicted as a time of rapid secularisation. Matthew Arnold's sea was withdrawing over Dover beach and religion was under sustained assault - historical criticism roughed up the Bible's integrity, Feuerbach begat Marx and Darwin begat Freud. However, alongside these challenges, the century was also a time of religious renewal and experimentation both with and alongside the dominant Christian tradition.

In England, one of those renewals is represented by the Tractarian Movement that made explicit the continuing Catholic strand with the Anglican Church. It was grounded in both reflecting on the continuities between Anglicanism and Catholicism and on a re-discovery of common roots, most especially in the Church Fathers - of both West and East.

One of the people deeply influenced and shaped by this Movement was the poet and religious writer, Christina Rossetti, whose brother, the painter and poet, Dante Gabriel, was one of the founders of …

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I was a very factual child who read mostly history and studied maps (and watched Westerns and documentaries). It was not until I was sixteen or seventeen that I stumbled into 'the arts'. They came along in a series of individual encounters, some of which excite me still, others of which have faded. The novel was 1984, the poet was W.H. Auden, music was Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring', art cinema was Luis Bunuel, painting was J W Turner; and, opera was The Magic Flute. Each incidence opened a door that, passed through, meant a world never the same. Imagination had been ignited and enriched.

This meant, however, that, on the whole, I had never encountered the classics of children's fiction (unless possibly adapted for television and not scheduled against a documentary or a Western)! In my twenties, I spent a happy fortnight at a friend's house in the south of France where I discovered shelves devoted to the literature of childhood and lay for hours under the o…