Showing posts from June, 2016

The spiritually alive of no fixed address

I once read in an article in 'The Church Times' the expression, "the spiritually alive of no fixed address" and was startled because I had, or so I thought, invented this phrase myself to describe those that were compellingly concerned with the sacred and the spiritual life but did not belong to any specific religious tradition.

It was I thought a growing category and I had used it, in part, in reference to the men and women I was working with in prison (through the Prison Phoenix Trust) as they explored new patterns of living opened up to them by some form of spiritual practice (usually meditation and/or yoga).

Until I suddenly realised, noticing the author, that there was a wholly credible route from me to him!

I was reminded of this reading Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey Kripal's "The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained" (that requires a blog post of its own) because there Kripal articulates (in crystallised form), three basic markers that …

To leave or to remain?

It is undoubtedly true that the Leave camp in the EU referendum to be held in the UK next Thursday have the better emotional momentum. The world is becoming ever more uncertain, complex and, frankly, scary. What better than to retreat into the security of the familiar, the nation state, and regain 'sovereignty' and 'control.'

The problem with this scenario is that all the challenges that press so insistently (and often unconsciously) on our nerve endings - whether stalled living standards or migration, financial instability or climate change - require collaborative solutions, working intelligently with one's neighbors, beginning with those closest to you, whose values you most deeply share.

And that inescapably - both historically and geographically - means Europe.

Europe is undoubtedly going through a rough patch at the moment - the Euro is an economic experiment gone awry and this coupled with the breakdown of the financial system (only patched up and on life s…

The Fellowship of the Inklings

"The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings" by Philip & Carol Zaleski is an accomplished book: well-written, informative and balances a sound accounting of the lives of its protagonists and of their literary production.

But it does remind you never to judge a book by its cover. The cover offers you the names of the four key Inklings -Tolkien, Lewis, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams - in equal quadrants; however, their account is dominated by Lewis and Tolkien.

This is partly a reflection of the prominence of the former over the latter in terms of recognition and 'cultural weight' (as of writing) but partly too because the authors have a pronounced difficulty with the 'esoteric' with Williams practice of ritual magic and Barfield's Anthroposophy.

They rightly indicate Charles Williams' engagement with ritual magic (within the context of a Christian esotericism) and how it runs through his worldview (often played down by Williams' mo…


'Incognito' is an appropriate title for a novel (at least in the English speaking world) barely anyone has heard of, let alone read! It is by the Romanian author, Petru Dumitru, who defected from Romania in the 1960s, settling first in Germany and finally in France, where he died in 2002.

I read it first at university having seen it quoted in Bishop John Robinson's 'An Exploration into God' - a sequel (if theological texts can be described this way) to his famous (or notorious) 60s tract, 'Honest to God'!

It struck me then, and remembering it now, as one of the most significant (and accomplished) novels of the last century. It tracks the life of a privileged family in pre-World War II Romania through the war and out the other side into a new Communist world.

On its surface, it is an exemplary novel of social realism that skewers the true reality of the emergent 'Socialist' society where the cynical and the manipulative have out manoeuvred the ideal…

An approaching anniversary

Forty years ago my mother went to the Town Hall in Stratford upon Avon to a talk and life was never the same. The talk was an introduction to transcendental meditation (TM) that had been developed and brought to 'the West' by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (with undoubted propulsion provided by the Maharishi being, temporarily, embraced by the Beatles in the late 60s).
The talk made a deep summoning sense to my mother and she decided to learn undoubtedly helped by the charism and sincerity of the husband and wife team who were the TM teachers.

The effects were instantaneous such that next month my father (a much more sceptical proposition) learnt and, a month later, so did I!

I remember that particular afternoon in the hot, dry summer of 1976 as if it were yesterday. I remember the small room at the back of a semi-detached house in Wellsbourne, my offering of flowers, the simple ceremony and receiving my mantra. I remember my first meditation session and how it was not helped by s…

Journey to Ithaca

Anita Desai's novel, "Journey to Ithaca" has, as its frontispiece, Cafavy's famous poem of the same name.
It is a compelling poem - it is the nature of the journey that matters, not the destination, the destination is in your imagination and what it compels, leads to in experience, the arrival may disappoint, be poor, but look at what it has inspired. No actual place can sustain, bear, those that are imagined. No single place can fulfil all the possibilities of experience. It is a testament to the 'romantic' nomadic (for actual nomadic people live in circumscribed, described spaces and may be expansive but not restless).
Desai's accomplished novel has three central characters - an Italian couple who travel to India in the 1970s, Matteo, the husband, inspired by an adolescent reading of Hesse's 'The Journey to the East" (and adolescent in both literal and metaphoric senses). His wife, Sophi…