Wednesday 21 February 2024


 OpenDemocracy provides some useful detail, asks the right questions - and comes up with the obvious answer:


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Thursday 15 February 2024


 I am publishing this second post on Julian of Norwich Revelations of Divine Love a day after the first post in order to give more detail about the contents of this extraordinary work. I find it breathtaking to record that this medieval book of Christian mysticism containing 87 chapters of devotions is the earliest surviving example of a book in the English language known to have been written by a woman. 

MDCLXX = 1670. This is the year of the first publication of the book. 

Julian's book is centred on the sixteen mystical visions or "shewings" she received in 1373 when she was thirty years old. She had become seriously ill, probably from a form of plague, and was not expected to survive. The visions appeared to her for several hours in one night, with a final revelation occurring the following night. Later, fully recovered, she wrote in her vernacular language, Middle English, an account of each vision, producing a manuscript now referred to as the Short Text. She then developed her ideas for decades whilst living as an anchoress in a cell attached to St Julian's Church in Norwich and completed an extended version of her writings, now known as the Long Text

Her work remained very largely unread for the best part of three centuries. The first publication of the

Wednesday 14 February 2024


 I ordered two copies of the Penguin Classics edition (1966) of Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love earlier this week in the light of the attention and interest at our Meeting House in Marazion. Referenced in vocal ministry this month, it is clear that Mother Julian's mystic insights have touched the lives of some Quakers in our community and there are others who want to know more. 

Detail from David Holgate's modern statue of Julian of Norwich, depicted holding a copy of Revelations of Divine Love. It was added to the west front of Norwich Cathedral in 2000.

My own copy of the Revelations has been with me for over forty years, even before I became a part-time post-graduate student at the University of East Anglia in Norwich between 1995 and 2003. The city of Norwich is dear both to my heart and Louise my wife who worked there as an Open University advisor; my doctoral thesis (2003) is titled: 'Drink in Victorian Norwich' and serves as a contribution to the history of the working-class and its connections with other social groups within Norwich; there would be occasions as I traversed the city as a researcher when I passed close by the site of Mother Julian's church to which her cell as an anchorite had been attached. Below is a piece written by Simon Knott in 2023 about this church. It tells you much about both St Julian church and Mother Julian - the video is a portal into her life if you imagine hard enough. In the second part of this blogpost I will expand more about her life and her spiritual insights as a mystic. 

 St Julian Church, Norwich

This crisp little church sits on one of the alleys that ran from Ber Street to King Street below. Its neighbours are mostly new apartments and houses, but for centuries this was Conesford, an industrial quarter and a port, with the tenements, inns and brothels you might expect. In the late Middle Ages, much of East Anglia's stained glass and memorial brasses were made in these narrow lanes. In the 18th and 19th Centuries this was an area of factories and warehouses, tanneries and slaughterhouses, along with the crowded slums of the workers. These days, King Street, the main road that ran through Conesford, is being gentrified, but still the urban decay of centuries clings to some of the old buildings.

St Julian's dedication is an interesting one.... he resolved to pay penance by establishing a riverside inn for travellers, and a hospital for the poor. So, he was an entirely appropriate choice of patron for the medieval priory established here in the medieval suburb of Conesford on the banks of the Wensum. It seems likely therefore that he was also the St Julian to whom this little church is dedicated.

The Priory has long gone. But although this church is a small and rebuilt building, tucked away in what is still the anonymous and relatively run down inner city, St Julian is one of the

Thursday 18 January 2024


Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

This week some of the world’s wealthiest and most influential decision-makers are meeting in the Swiss Alps resort of Davos. 

This is for the annual World Economic Forum meeting, an exclusive Glastonbury festival for the rich and powerful.

Over 100 billionaires are registered to attend the event, alongside more than 2,500 other attendees, including heads of states, senior politicians and business leaders.

The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, and his opposite number, Shadow Chancellor Rachael Reeves will be in attendance.

Given Hunt and Reeves’ trip to Davos, our friends at the JustMoney Movement are asking people to sign on to their open letter to them, calling for fairer taxes to tackle inequality.  You can sign the open letter here.

Stark inequality

The Davos meeting brings into sharp focus the astronomic inequality of wealth in the world. This week Oxfam released a report that shows the five richest men have doubled their fortunes in the last 4 years, while almost 5 billion people are getting poorer.

With such eye-watering collective wealth on show in Davos, it shines a light on just how much money could be raised for public spending if progressive taxes on wealth were introduced. 

Our Head of Advocacy and Policy, Rachael, spoke with Carole Walker on TimesRadio earlier this week. Check out the clip from the interview, and share it here.
Taking a stand

We’re not the only ones making the case for fairer taxes. Our friends at Patriotic Millionaires UK are putting their collective influence to work to make the case for higher taxes on wealth. 

In fact, they’ve organised a letter signed by more than 260 millionaires and billionaires imploring politicians to be brave and implement a tax on extreme wealth. A poll of high net-worth individuals in G20 countries found that nearly three quarters of millionaires support higher taxes on wealth.

Actor Brian Cox, the star of TV show Succession, is supporting the letter and said: “We are living in a second Gilded Age, billionaires are wielding their extreme wealth to accumulate political power and influence, simultaneously undermining democracy and the global economy. It’s long past time to act.”

While extreme wealth is on display in Davos, we are pushing ahead with our plans for the year to keep banging the drum for fair taxes to invest in Britain.

Monday 15 January 2024


What does it mean to be a 'Christian mystic'? This term is used by Hugh McGregor Ross in his book George Fox - A Christian Mystic, first published in 1991, the tercentenary of Fox's death. Ross's title page offers testimony from George Fox's step-sons and step-daughters, probably dated 1691, in which they say that their step-father was "deep in the divine mysteries of the kingdom of God". That would seem to qualify for being a Christian mystic. Ross offers a more formal definition which explains that a mystic is one who has had the experience that the divine Ultimate and the essence of the individual self are fundamentally one and the same. There are, however, obvious problems in finding the words to describe an ineffable experience. 

A painting of George Fox - this image has become iconic but it may not be an image of Fox, nor even of the period.

Hugh Ross (1917-2014) was a Quaker who could claim that he was a step-son of George Fox in the eighth generation. Ross also became one of the leading computer scientists of his generation yet found the time to study a range of historical documents relating to George Fox. He concluded that Fox had experienced a profound spiritual awakening in 1647, the climax of several years of mental struggle to find the truth. He also speculated that leaders in the Quaker movement which developed from this seminal event redacted the accounts of George Fox's great awakening to save him and themselves from the charges of blasphemy that soon began to hover over Fox and other Quakers.      

Hugh McGregor Ross, 88 years of age when the photo was taken in January 2006, with a copy of the 1987 Draft Proposal for ISO/IEC 10646

George Fox was born in 1624 and died in 1691, living through a century of revolution in which the world was turned upside down for so many. When he was eighteen years old the country was plunged into civil war; when he was twenty-five the king, Charles, was executed on the orders of Cromwell and the military leadership that now governed the country. The hierarchy of power in which the monarch declared he ruled as Head of State and Church by divine right, through the will of God Almighty, was now swept away. Some men and women, freed from the old order and established certainties, began to

Friday 29 December 2023


 Over the last decade, the Christmas season in the Donovan home in St Ives on the Penwith peninsula has been celebrated in the evenings with the viewing of our special collection of film. We are celebrating the birth of the subversive carpenter-turned-preacher called Jesus - the Nazarene Jew whose message is God is Love and that the pursuit of money is the pathway to losing that Love. 

Films are a capitalist invention. They are intended to make money. Yet they need to appeal and, even as the traumas of horrific world wars in the last century led to very many of the masses losing whatever faith they had, people still resonated with the messages of love and redemption that script writers conjured up for viewers, not least at Christmas.

Our Christmas film festival begins with the viewing over three evenings of the adaptation of John Masefield's story: 'The Box of Delights', a BBC children's film first shown in six parts in 1984. Directed by Rennie Rye who was at Catz, Oxford reading English from 1967-1970 at the same time as I was failing to read as much History as I should have done, this is a delightful imagining of the triumph of good over evil. The Christmas church service becomes a reality despite all the wickedness that is conjured up to prevent it happening. Society is saved from the greed and ambition of people whose egos have gone awry. The goodness of children, helped by some wondrous magic, in the end wins the day.

Christmas magic for children and adults - the whole family!

The screen writers for Christmas film have no time for the excesses of capitalism, even if they are not consciously shaped by a Marxist insight. The love of money is, of course, the root of all evil. Film maybe part of the market society but it is also a vehicle for criticizing the direction that people within

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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