Showing posts from March, 2016

Harrowing of Hell and the perpetrators of evil

Pope Francis has newly inaugurated his own Instagram account and following the attacks in Brussels this week, there was a message of prayerful solidarity with the victims and, more broadly the people in and of Belgium. The account is too new, however, to see whether this will become a continuous feature, if so it will be an all too sadly common one. It is, also, too soon to see whether it can show an admirable equality in its regarding of the victim for as many have noted the atrocity in Belgium has generated significantly more attention than the equally recent and horrific events in, say, Istanbul.

At one level this is understandable - we tend to focus on 'home' rather than on 'abroad' yet every life stripped of its dignity in violent death is the same, equally valid in sorrow.

At these points, ever more regular, however, I, also, wonder at an element that is missing. That it is missing at the immediate point of violence is wholly understandable but afterwards, on su…

Eranos - an alternative intellectual history

Olga Frobe, who founded the Eranos meetings in Ascona, Switzerland thought of herself as possessed by the archetype of this particular place, an unknown localised genius, and was compelled to serve it. In doing so, she brought together a remarkable number of people, who, though in many ways markedly different, bore a 'family resemblance' in wanting to infuse a rationally valid approach to the world, and their study of it, with yet something other. That 'other' was an acknowledgement of 'spirit' - of the world as a 'cosmos' - a purposeful place that was intrinsically meaningful. A cosmos that called forth a quest and the fulfilment of which required the response of a whole person - a wholeness that transcended the rational. An Eranos conference was meant to call forth the academically rigorous yet freed of those narrow confines of the only rational than can be rigor mortis.

As Hans Thomas Hakl argues in his history of Eranos (Eranos - an alternative int…

A Duracell president

A brief (and first) visit to Uganda this week to see present and potential partners allowed one to become rapidly acquainted with the picture of the recently (and controversially) re-elected President Museveni since his multitudinous election posters remained up and he beamed down as a sunny uncle figure in a curiously circular hat (as if he had just stepped out of the garden where he was tending his bees, see above).  Of his opposition, this very amateur observer could see no trace!

Uganda is the 'youngest' country in the world, with a median age of 14, so it may be unsurprising that, as our driver put it, many people would like to stay with the devil they know, have always known, as an ever-running president, rather than the devil they do not (and our driver took it for granted that every leader/politician was a devil of some kind and, given the sometimes murderous history of Uganda, a benignly corrupt one under which the country continues to modestly develop is to be prefe…

A Time to be Born

My first ever public speaking event was at a meeting of the 'Friends of the Centre'. This had been founded by a woman called Alison Barnard who had sadly died before I met her. She was by all accounts what would now be known as a consummate networker. This she did amongst a particular kind of person in the post World War II world - the spiritual alive, questing, who may or more likely may not belong to an established tradition (or if they did, felt a freedom in transgressing boundaries in their quest for the truth at the heart of things).

One of the people in the audience in the hotel in Hove (where later that weekend I succumbed to my first ever bout of food poisoning) was Lois Lang-Sims, seeker and author, who, also, had briefly served as one of Charles Williams' intense attractions - young women who he guided and who became swept up into his intense mythologizing (see ). For her, this was an intense yet short l…

Reviewing the review: Charles Williams faulted

The 'progressive' Catholic weekly magazine, 'The Tablet' has this week an unperceptive review, of which there is a depressing number, of Grevel Lindop's excellent biography of Charles Williams. It is a review only redeemed by the author, Raymond Edward's positive revaluation of Williams' poetry. 
I find baffling how reviewers have become caught up with Williams' addiction to rather mild and broadly consensual, if disruptive and sometimes manipulative, sado-masochistic fantasies to the virtual exclusion of all else, as if this invalidated the gifted dimensions of a complex man. 
I attach a link to my review here:
This apart, however, Edward's review reveals other dimensions of concern. 
First there is the fact of getting somethings simply wrong. For example, Williams' notion of substitution, where you consciously and voluntarily take on the suffering of another, is confused with co-inherence…

The Lady and the Unicorn

Growing up, my almost all white primary school class had one child of mixed descent - English and Pakistani - and we did not always treat him kindly alas (though how much of this was implicit racism or simply now more memorable than the other, less obvious, traits with which we persecuted one another, I cannot now be sure). Had he been born in colonial India, he would have been labelled 'Eurasian' and caught betwixt two worlds, neither his own.

The dilemma of this community, too loose to be closely bound and economically and socially supportive, too present not to stand out, is the source of Rumer Godden's early novel, 'The Lady and the Unicorn' (1937), sensitively introduced by Anita Desai in the newly reprinted edition of all her main works (courtesy of Virago).

The Lemarchant family live in an annex of a tumble down mansion, owned by another Eurasian family, and home to a panoply of ever-changing tenants (given the landlord's disinterest in maintenance). Th…


If we lived in more ideal world, the accounting after, say, the US Presidential primaries in the newspapers would mirror less partisan editorialising masquerading as news and be closer to Shakespeare's portrayal of Julius Caesar.

This, as James Shapiro argues, in his '1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare' beautifully captures both sides of the perennial debate about this critical character in the history of our 'West'. Was he a proto-tyrant deserving of death or a martyr for a Rome in need of a renewing order (or indeed an uncertain admixture of these conflicting possibilities even unknown to himself). As soon as you are allowed by the play to imagine one possibility, some other evidence intrudes to unsettle such certainty, you are invited not to redouble your prejudice but pay attention, re-think, re-imagine, and move out of the theatre with a better appreciation of the complexities out of which any judgement should be made.

Like his subsequent, '…