Thursday 23 November 2023


 I received this openDemocracy newsletter on Thursday 23 November, this week - and I felt it needed sharing. The more people who know, the better. Knowledge is power - and may lead to accountability.

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) - Photograph by William Hall, 1879

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Tuesday 21 November 2023


 Geoff Watson of the Marazion Quaker Meeting House pressed Richard Rohr's book - 'silent compassion - finding God in contemplation' into my hand recently and said that he was donating this work to the library and I should read it. He was right to recommend it. First published in the USA in 2014 and now in the UK in 2022, it is a wonderful read for all but perhaps profoundly so for Quakers. Richard Rohr, OFM, is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founding Director of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has authored numerous books, including six published here by SPCK. 'silent compassion' (sic) is very much a Quaker book; Rohr's wisdom is George Fox's and all those since who have found the Spirit in community silence.

Father Richard Rohr

It is a short book, 78 pages in length and divided into five chapters:

  1. Finding God in the Depths of Silence
  2. Sacred Silence, Pathway to Compassion 
  3. The True Self is Compassion, Love Itself
  4. Looking Out in Prayer with Contemplative Eyes
  5. The Path to Non-Dual Thinking 
One message I have taken from the book is that we need to use fewer words and take care not to over-think; we come closer to the essence of life and ourselves through meditative silence. My usual format of bullet-points will therefore serve well to give you a precis of the wisdom of Richard Rohr.

  •  In his introduction, Father Richard outlines his belief in the Trinity whist stressing the oneness of the Divine. He cites the wisdom of  the Christian mystic Lady Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) three times: 
  • "By myself I am nothing at all, but in general, I AM in the oneing of love. For it is in this oneing that the life of all people exists." 
  • "The love of God creates in us such a oneing that when it is truly seen, no person can separate themselves from another person." 
  • "In the sight of God all humans are oned, and one person is all people and all people are in one person." 
  • For Richard Rohr, this is the perennial tradition, the ultimate truth about the Divine that has always been part of the Revelation shaping the Christian faith - and the faith of other religions too. 
  • Father Richard is well aware of what he calls the "deterioration of culture" all around us - for him, consumerism has some very unhealthy features. What we need is a vital counterweight: we need to learn the value of silence, to experience inner silence as "the essence of simple and stripped down", to see silence as "a living presence of itself, which is... primal, and then to see all other things - now experienced deeply - inside of that container."
  • Rohr offers this telling polarity: "The soul does not use words. It surrounds words with space, and that is what I mean by silence. The ego, on the other hand, uses words to get what it wants."    
  • "Silence is a kind of wholeness... It can absorb paradoxes and contradictions. Maybe that is why we do not like silence. There is nothing to argue about in true inner silence... It comes down to this: the ego loves something it can take sides on... this common tendency is dualistic thinking - and true interior silence really does not allow you to take sides." 
  • Someone who lives in a capitalist culture like we do, where everything is about competing and comparing and winning, may well find silence counter-intuitive.
  • Non-dual thinking is precisely contemplation.
  • We are now at the end of centuries of endless Christian argumentation which the world no longer listens to anymore. When we lose the contemplative mind, or non-dual consciousness, we invariably create disturbed and disturbing people who may turn to violence. Our school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says Father Richard, is trying to reintroduce the West to what we call the Perennial Tradition, the underground stream we all share. 

Richard Rohr presents a compelling case that sacred silence is the pathway to compassion, to sacred love. This was the way of George Fox. It is the Christian Way, as expressed in 1 John 4: 16: "God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in them."  

All this leads to Father Richard's conclusion that the true self is compassion, in another word love itself. The 'true self' is an expression of Thomas Merton (1915-1968), the American Catholic Trappist monk, who did so much to awaken the Catholic Church to the importance of peace and the universality of the

Friday 3 November 2023


 The 'i' newspaper report (31/10/23) on proceedings at the public inquiry into COVID in the UK last Monday, 30 October 2023, noted that the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, accused Boris Johnson of being unable to lead, "changing strategic direction every day" in the weeks running up to the first lockdown. Martin Reynolds, Johnson's principal private secretary at the time admitted that the government was "grossly deficient" in the weeks leading up to the pandemic hitting the UK. By 21 February the Italian government had at last ordered parts of Lombardy into lockdown, fearing that the rising death toll would lead to the collapse of the health system in Italy. Yet Johnson received not a single note on Covid between 14 and 24 February when he was staying at Chequers, his country residence (see below for an alternative timeline). Imran Shafti, another private secretary to Johnson, said that the prime minister did not believe Covid was a "big deal" during February; it was not until Monday 23 March that he took the country into its first lockdown. Imran Shafti thought it was Johnson who had said to Sunak, the chancellor at the time, "We're killing the patient to tackle the tumour - why are we destroying the economy for people who will die anyway soon?".

Written 2020-2021; published 2022

The 'i' report (1/11/23) on proceedings the previous day, last Tuesday, highlighted the revelation that diary entries made by Sir Patrick Vallance, then the Government's chief scientific advisor, in August 2020 before the second lockdown was eventually enacted, showed that Johnson was "obsessed with older people accepting their fate and letting the young get on with life and so keeping the economy going". 

The 'i' newspaper (1/11/23) also provided a quote from Brenda Doherty of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK. She said: "Mr Johnson clearly didn't see people like my mum as human beings, and thousands of others died unnecessarily after the same mistakes were repeated.

Around 230,000 British citizens have died during this period of the pandemic, 2020-2023 - most of them between 2020 and 2021. The UK has one of the highest per capita death rates from Covid-19 in the world. The political and medical and scientific establishment colluded under the crazed leadership of a narcissistic neoliberal Tory who believed that the pursuit of profit took precedence over the health and even the lives of the citizens of his country. That's my judgement as delivered

Wednesday 1 November 2023


 I had never heard of Palden Jenkins before meeting Juliet. She is the young woman making a spiritual journey, walking from London to the Penwith peninsula in Cornwall and then returning back to London. Juliet gifted the Marazion Quakers the copy of 'Pictures of Palestine' which the author, Palden Jenkins, had given her a few days earlier when Juliet met him at the centre which is his home here in Penwith, last month.

A Palestinian demonstration in London on Saturday 21 October saw up to 300,000 on the streets - (the British media and police acknowledged only 100,000). A week later, 500,000 were demonstrating (official figures said 250,000). We have a problem in this country - actually that's my litotes. 

It has been for me an absorbing and rewarding encounter, learning about Palestine - and about Palden Jenkins. He is about my age - mid seventies, born shortly after the end of World War Two - and we both were the beneficiaries of a secondary education in a grammar school and then a university. He describes himself as 'a Sixties veteran who never quite gave up'. I can identify with that. Thereafter, Palden's life-choices were different and led to the acquisition of a range of life-skills I do not have. He has learned the skills of a healer. He is also familiar with martial arts. He is a web-master and book-editor. He is a published authority on astrology. He is also the author of a scholarly book about the ancient landscape around the festival site at Glastonbury - and his next book which is due out very soon will be a study of the ancient Penwith landscape in Cornwall. And then, of course, there have been the years as a volunteer for humanitarian causes, not least his work which started in the 1990s at the Hope Flowers School on the edge of Bethlehem in Palestine. 

Palden Jenkins

This review, as is becoming my way, takes the form of a series of bullet points that I hope will provide you with a full sense of the value of the book - and encourage you to borrow a copy from the library or buy your own. All our lives are being touched by the horrors of the mass slaughter of Jews and Palestinians in Israel and Gaza in this month of October - the picture of Palestine that Palden portrays

Thursday 26 October 2023


 There is something indecent about the way some people who have made a lot of money through the skills and labour of others seek to minimise how much tax they pay. Taxation is not an evil to be avoided. It is the most effective means a society has to ensure that all its citizens live a good enough life. 

My thanks to Just Money Movement and Church Action for Tax Justice 
                             for this photo.  

Dear Rob,


The Conservative donors who own the JCB digger company may be hit with a £500 million tax bill according to the Guardian.

HMRC has been investigating brothers Anthony and Mark Bamford’s extensive offshore business empire for over three years.

The Bamfords are alleged to have aggressively minimised the payment of UK taxes. HMRC may seek to recoup large sums of lost tax if the allegations are proven correct.

In September a Labour MP asked the Conservative Party if they would return £10 million donated to them by JCB.

JCB were also recently spotted at the Labour Party conference, exhibiting along with many

Friday 20 October 2023


 I subscribe to posts from Open Britain. They provide worthwhile analyses of the state of Britain. Try this latest post for size - I find it's so good I want to share it with you:

My thanks to the Guardian newspaper for this telling image 

Dear Rob,

We're not the only ones worried about the UK's flimsy safeguards against political corruption. Lord Evans, outgoing chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL), spoke out yesterday about the UK's "very weak" compliance with ethical standards, urging for a complete "overhaul" of the way we regulate ministerial conduct. 

Evans brought up the government's recent decision to reject many of the CSPL's recommendations on improving political transparency and oversight. Even for the few meagre reforms that Sunak's government has elected to adopt, Evans is concerned that recent governments have already been ignoring the existing rules. The CSPL chair described it as a

Monday 16 October 2023


In my research for 'Mine to Die' (my latest book, due to be published in February 2024 - see this website link here), I discovered the remarkable life story of Charles Wilfrid Tregenza (1891-1974). His father was a mayor of Penzance and a Wesleyan Methodist, a man of standing in the local community. The family lived in Boslandew House in Paul, near Mousehole. Wilfrid Tregenza (as he was known to all) was the eldest of four brothers, all educated at the Truro Wesleyan College and all became conscientious objectors during the Great War (1914-1918). 

I knew enough about this remarkable man for my research purposes but I did not realize until the early summer of this year when I read the inscription on the bench outside by the kitchen door (see the end of this blogpost) that he had been a worshipper at the very same Friends Meeting House that I was now attending.    

Before Charles Wilfrid, aged 24, volunteered for battlefield ambulance work in 1915, he had enjoyed the glittering prizes that came his way as a fine athlete and a gifted scholar. By the time he was thirteen, he was winning swimming races; at eighteen, he was the school football captain and excelling in swimming, cricket, and athletics, as well as achieving outstanding public exam results. He became the first Cornish boy to win a scholarship to Cambridge where he read Mathematics at Downing College, gained a Cambridge blue and graduated with a double First in 1910. By 1914, he was mathematics master at King Edward's Grammar School, Chelmsford and a year later, mathematics master at Queen Mary's School, Basingstoke. To many observers the pathway to a headship must have seemed clear.

Charles Wilfrid Tregenza (1891-1974)

However, in 1914 a war in Europe began that was soon termed the Great War and then, in time, the First World War. In August 1915, Charles Wilfrid Tregenza signed up as an orderly for the British Red Cross Society and was soon working with the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU). His Methodist Christian faith had led him to an active pacifist position. A year later, conscription was introduced by the British government and when he heard rumours that conscientious objectors (COs) were being shot for desertion, he and several other FAU men decided to return to England to challenge the principle of conscription. Back in Cornwall, the tribunal he faced did its best to get him to compromise and return to