Category Archives: ecology

Jeremy Taylor and the Insights of Inclusion

August 13th is the day set aside by the Church of England to remember with gratitude the life and writings of Jeremy Taylor. Taylor, one of the classic Seventeenth Century Anglican Divines, has been called The Shakespeare of the Pulpit for the beautiful poetic prose of his sermons. He was also a great Spiritual Director and advisor, distilling gret wisdom into books like Holy Living and Holy Dying. Yesterday at St. Edward’s I preached a sermon celebrating those particular gifts and insights of his that i believe the church most needs today.

Here is the link to the sermon, which is preceded by a reading from a passage of Taylor’s work:

Jeremy Taylor and the Insights of Inclusion


And here are the two passages to which I refer in the sermon:

Taylor’s image of the upland Valley:

‘It is in some circumstances
and from some persons more secure to conceal visions and those
heavenly gifts, which create estimates among men, than to publish
them, which may possibly minister to vanity; and those exterior
graces may do God’s work, though no observer note them, but the
person for whose sake they are sent: like rain falling in uninhabited
valleys, where no eye observes the showers; yet the valleys laugh
and sing to God in their refreshment without a witness

Taylor compares St. Paul and St. Mary:

And it is not altogether inconsiderable to observe, that the holy

Virgin came to a great perfection and state of piety by a few, and

those modest and even external actions. St Paul travelled over

the world, preached to the Gentiles, disputed against the Jews,

confounded heretics, writ excellently learned letters, suffered

dangers, injuries, affronts and persecutions to the height of

wonder, and by these violences of life, action and patience

obtained the crown of an excellent religion and devotion. But

the holy Virgin, although she engaged sometimes in an active

life, and in the exercises of an ordinary and small economy

and government, or ministries of a family, yet she arrived to

her perfections by the means of a quiet and silent piety, the

internal actions of love, devotion, and contemplation; and

instructs us, that not only those who have opportunity and powers

of a magnificent religion, or a pompous charity, or miraculous

conversion of souls, or assiduous and effectual preachings, or

exterior demonstrations of corporal mercy, shall have the greatest

crown, and the addition of degrees and accidental rewards; but

the silent reflections, the splendours of an internal devotion, the

Unions of love humility and obedience, the daily offices of prayer

and praises sung to God, the acts of faith and fear, of patience and

meekness, of hope and reverence, repentance and charity,

And those graces which walk in a veil and silence, make

great ascents to God, and as sure progress to favours and a

crown, as the more ostentatious and laborious exercises of a

more solemn religion….a devout

woman in her closet, praying with much zeal and affection for

(the conversion of souls, is in the same order to a ‘shining like

stars in glory’ as he who by excellent discourses puts it into a

more forward disposition to be actually performed. And possibly

her prayers obtained energy and force to my sermon, and made

The ground fruitful and the seed spring up to life eternal

Both these passages come from The Great Exemplar, Taylor’s beautiful meditative Life of Christ.

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The Inklings; Fantasists or Prophets? The Complete Set.

CS Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams. JRR Tolkien: The Inklings!

Over the last month I have given a series of five talks at St. Edward King and Martyr in Cambridge, exploring the thesis that far from being backward-looking, reactionary or escapist, the Inklings were fully and prophetically engaged with the main streams of modernity, that they forsaw the coming crisis of meaning in the materialist West, and in particular the attendant crises of violence and environmntal degradation. I have tried to explain the way they forged a coherent alternative vision, which called for us to reintegrate Imagination and Reason as ways of knowing truth and relating to one another and the world. These talks have been recorded as audio and the last four were also filmed, and I have assembled on this page the complete set of links to these recordings so that anyone who wishes can return to this page when they have the time and follow the talks through in sequence.

Its been a remarkable experience putting together and delivering these talks, at once draining and exhilarating, and I have had a sense as they were delivered of a new synthesis coming together in my mind.  I hope therefore, when I have the opportunity, to write these talks up and tfurther explore and develop these ideas in book form. Watch this space!

I will give the audio links first and then the video. I should say that the sound level is very low for the third talk, on Charles williams so people may prefer to take that talk from the video. I am very grateful to Daniel Son for filming the last four talks.

Part 1 The Inklings Fantasists or prophets

Part 2 CS Lewis and the Cosmic Summer

Part 3 Owen Barfield; poetry and participation

Part 4 Charles Williams; the Pattern and Glory of Love (you will need to turn up the volume on this one!)

Part 5: Tolkien; Roots and Branches

 

Now here are the links to the youtube video of the last four talks, on the individual Inklings, kindly provided by Daniel Son. The CS Lewis video starts a couple of minutes into the talk but the rest are complete.

1 CS Lewis and the Cosmic Summer

2 Owen Barfield: Poetry and participation

3 Charles Williams, the Pattern and Glory of Love

4 Tolkien; Roots and Branches

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The Old Revolution

Three days of peace and music

In my last post I was reflecting a little on Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock. continuing in that vein I thought I’d post a little reflection in Ottava Rima about what went wrong with those dreams, prompted partly by a sense of hope and ferment in the air again. I think the real problem was that consciousness-changing insight somehow crumbled into consumerism. People felt that they could deal in and purchase bliss and joy, chemically manufactured, rather than letting it flower and fruit from deeply planted spiritual roots, but maybe next time it will be different. Anyway what follows is a kind of  ‘confession’ for a generation (not enirely and privately my own confession you understand, I was a little too young at the time for some of that stuff) but a confession of failure which can, I believe, be put right and begun again, but this time with prayer and meditation rather than easier and more delusory substances. Here it is ‘for what it’s worth’ (As Stephen stills would say)

As always you can hear it by clicking on the title or the play button.


Revolution

I fought in the old revolution” Leonard Cohen

When I turned teen in nineteen-sixty-nine
I heard of revolution in the air,
Or on the air, in fact on ‘Caroline’.
Lennon and Lenin had so much to share
A change would come and change would be benign,
A fairer world, and all the world a fair.
‘Here comes the sun’ we sang to blissed-out skies
And thought the bomber jets were butterflies.

We conjured faeries out of every flower
But something wicked slipped out with the weed
Stoned circles never yet spoke truth to power
And groovers were grasped soon enough by greed.
For, after Altamonte, our world turned sour
And self-consuming souls turned onto speed.
The times were out of joint,oh cursed spite!
We thought that one more joint would set them right!

Now revolution’s once more in the air
Will we repeat mistakes we made back then?
We took a lot of everything but care
And we were just consumers in the end.
My counsel is no counsel of despair
It may not be too late to try again!
Our trips could never switch an institution
But just one crank can start a revolution.

someone started this

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A Wound in the Waters of the Gulf

“Earth felt the wound, and nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.”

So Milton describes the moment of the fall in Paradise Lost, the moment a single human action breaks and wounds both the relation between humanity and God, and the relation between ourselves and our world. Milton sees the deep link between our spiritual state and the state we keep and leave the world in. But these harrowing lines might well describe the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil welling up uncontrollably through a hole that we have made and cannot cap is a sign, to many o us, of our wounded planet, a sign of the damage we have done and are doing, and of our seeming inability to put it right. And it’s no good blaming BP. They are deep-water drilling to meet our demands, and the real cause of this tragedy is our collective addiction to oil itself. We have a lifestyle, an economy, even an agriculture, entirely based on burning oil; a way of life that is not only unsustainable but invisibly toxic. But this wound in the earth’s surface, this oil welling up through the waters, has also brought the toxins of our whole way of life to the surface and made them visible. For those recovering from addiction it has sometimes taken a crisis to make a change, it has needed a break-down for a break-through, and it maybe that this crisis in the gulf, an environmental disaster on an unparalleled scale, is th world’s wake-up call, our Kairos moment. If we can face it at its worst we can also have hope. Though Milton wrote ‘all was lost’, his poem is alive with the promise of ‘one greater man’ who would ‘restore us and regain the blissful seat.’ Christians, who know that the wounds in our world stem from those same wounds in us that Jesus came to heal, have a special calling to speak both judgement and hope into the present crisis. I leave you with the words of another poet, Wendell Berry, from an interview about the oil spill in the gulf, in which he names the values we need to espouse in order to have hope:

‘diversity, versatility, recognition, and acceptance of appropriate limits or getting the scale right, and local adaptation — those ideas, it seems to me, put us in reach of work that we can do. To assume that all experiences like that oil well can only be handled by experts at great expense is a mistake.’

heres a link to that interview

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Filed under christianity, Current affairs, ecology, economy, politics