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Without vision the people perish (though having it can be dangerous too)!

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John Carey in his admirable biography of Golding says of  "Darkness Visible" that a simple summary of its plot would sound preposterous and, agreeing, I will not try here.

At its heart are three figures. Matty, an eccentric who appears out of the fires of the Blitz in war torn London hideously disfigured by fire. Mr Pedigree, a pedophile school teacher, whose life enters a downward spiral having been betrayed by Matty`s remorseless honesty.  Sophy, who with her twin Toni, grow up in the same town that connects Matty with Mr Pedigree and where their failed attempt to kidnap a child from a local public school brings the denouement that is Matty`s death and Mr Pedigree`s presumed redemption.

The outward narrative that connects these three figures together is, as Carey notes, mostly unbelievable and yet this detracts from the novel not one whit. What matters consistently is the inward dynamics that propel the principal characters outward actions and here Golding`s vision is rem…

The uncanny biography

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I was on my way to bed on Tuesday night and found myself contemplating Andrei Bely's "Kotik Letaev' his experimental novel that follows a child from birth onwards capturing the unfolding of its awareness whilst mirroring Rudolf Steiner's understanding of the development of consciousness. What, I found myself thinking, do I really think about Rudolf Steiner? The next day, over breakfast, I open my current book, John Cary's excellent biography of William Golding and within a page, I learn that Golding's first teaching appointment was at a Steiner school (as one of his lifelong friends, met at Oxford, became a minister in the Steiner inspired, Christian Community). Golding himself, whilst initially impressed by Steiner's work, found Steiner's followers less appealing. I smiled at the coincidence and thought no more of it.

On Wednesday evening, I found myself thinking of how and when did my early, thirteen-year-old, introduction to Transcendental meditati…

Christ in high culture and in the vegetable patch.

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Richard Harries' 'Haunted by Christ: Modern Writers and the Struggle for Faith'  is a series of explorative essays on how, in a growingly secular age, key poets and novelists have responded to Christian faith. Such an exploration requires choices to be made most especially of who to focus on, who to exclude. Harries includes twenty key figures, broadly explored chronologically, from Dostoyevsky to Marilynne Robinson and, with only two exceptions, Dostoyevsky and Shushaku Endo, from the Anglo-American world, fifteen men and five women.

This spectrum encompasses primarily people who have converted to the faith (or re-entered after adolescent disillusionment), have found it deeply nourishing yet remain conflicted; and, four authors - Samuel Beckett, Edward Thomas, William Golding, and Philip Pullman - who have remained (in different ways) outside and, in the last case, are passionately critical whilst adhering to the notion of an ordering imagination in the universe that is …

Poets go to war

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It was not a universal view that the First World War came as a strange relief but it was a widespread one. A relief partly because it seemed increasingly inevitable (even though its actual breakout can be read as a casual sequence of blunderings) and partly because the world seemed stalled, stifled in its 'Victorian' mores, trapped by its complacent empires, bursting with nationalities denied a home of their own; and, gripped in a struggle between capital and labor.

The war came and the poets mostly exalted - even measured, non-martial ones like Rilke seemed to lose their heads in the gathered enthusiasm of a war that would be a cleansing fire and usher in a new age, a reconfigured politics, new countries and interconnections between countries and gleaming with the technology and speed in which the Futurists positively exalted.
After, however, the terrible love of war crashed against the numbing reality of conflict matters changed generating complex responses. Some remained r…

Three visions of living in freedom.

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Rowena Farre (in fact Daphne Lois Macready) is an enigma. The author of three highly accomplished books that whilst purporting to be autobiography contain a certain level of fictionalization! Everything has the resonance of truth, well-told yet putting the three books and what little is known of her life together establishes a pattern of inconsistencies that set up a now probably irresolvable puzzle!

Her first book, 'Seal Morning', is an account of her childhood, growing up in Sutherland, Scotland, on a remote croft. A croft acquired by an aunt on retiring from school teaching and shared with a menagerie of animals including a common seal (Lora), a rat (Rodney), two otters (Hansel and Gretel) and a dog (Ben) amongst other animals.

It is wholly and pervasively charming - and pure escapism as its initial reviewers noted. Not escapism that overly sentimentalized the life but offered a refreshing counterpoint of resilience, connectedness, and freedom that any urban dweller might …

Are not all mystics dangerous?

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When the distinguished scholar of Christian Mysticism, Bernard McGinn, arrived at London’s Heathrow airport in the 1980s, he was asked by the Immigration Officer why he was coming to England? “I am giving a paper at a scholarly conference on Meister Eckhart,” he replied. “Ah! Eckhart. I have always wanted to get a better understanding of ‘gelassenheit’. Can you explain it to me?” So Professor McGinn, by explaining one of Eckhart’s key terms, got entrance into the country whilst wondering if this was the state of interest in Eckhart in England need he have come at all!
This is in radical contrast to Eckhart’s currency shortly after his death in 1328. In 1329 certain of his propositions, though not the man himself, were condemned as heretical or suspect; and, though his two greatest followers, Henry Suso and John Tauler, bravely referred to him, in passing, both saw fit to adapt, amend and soften his radical stance for the audiences they now addressed. Eckhart sunk into obscurity until t…

Merry Christmas and a Light bearing New Year

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The Three Kings arrive to adore; and, what we see is simply the light emerging from the cradle. We presume it is the light incarnate in the child but the indeterminacy, its overflowing, suggests a light transcendent to the child. It is the light that underpins all.

St. Augustine writes that a central feature of the Incarnation was to restore wisdom to sight. The wisdom that we all carry by virtue of being human had become overlaid by the darkness of sin and ordinary knowledge had been set free from its roots. We could believe only what we saw with an outward directed, calculating gaze. Christ came to reconnect this Scientia (knowledge reaped from observation) to Sapientia (truth gained through direct intuition, seeing the whole), peeling back sin, to reveal wisdom once more. The image of God that we all carry could now be reconnected in a living likeness to God. God became human so that humanity might be divinized and become God (to quote St. Athanasius). The three 'wise men'…