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