I believe in the transmigration of souls … I’ve come to this belief through experience. My own soul, in all the time of my earthly suffering, has traversed many animals and plants, and endured all the stages and realms spoken of by the Buddha.
I was a pup when I was born, and a goose when I entered public life. Starting in government service, I became small potatoes. My boss dubbed me a brick, friends—a jackass, freethinkers—a sheep. Traveling along the railroads, I was a rabbit; living in a village among peasants, I felt myself a leech. After one instance of embezzlement I was for some time a scapegoat. Marrying, I became horned cattle. Embarking, finally, on the one true path, I acquired a belly and became a triumphant swine
Jeremy Corbyn has been stuck like a fishbone in the craw of the Labour Party almost since he was first elected back in the eighties.
Irritating but immovable, the party learned to overlook him – along with the smaller band of refuseniks who sat with him on the backbenches resolute in their – deeply unfashionable – principles.
Fashion, though, has a way of coming full circle. Just as we can be certain that mullets and bell bottoms will one day return to triumph – so Corbyn triumphs now. It’s biblical: remember Psalm 118 v22:
The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
So, with socialism back on the table, we have a choice on Thursday. It is political of course, but I wonder if it isn’t deeper than that too. Here’s something I read years ago in CS Lewis’ strange novel, That Hideous Strength. One of his characters, Dimble, asks if we had noticed:
“How something we may call Britain is always haunted by something we may call Logres. Haven’t you noticed that we are two countries? After every Arthur, a Mordred; behind every Milton, a Cromwell: a nation of poets, a nation of shopkeepers; the home of Sidney–and of Cecil Rhodes. Is it any wonder they call us hypocrites? But what they mistake for hypocrisy is really the struggle between Logres and Britain.”
It crops up in Howards End too as the contrast between the life of the mind – and heart – and the world of ‘telegrams and anger.’ Margaret Schlegel, here:
The truth is that there is a great outer life that you and I have never touched–a life in which telegrams and anger count. Personal relations, that we think supreme, are not supreme there. There, love means marriage settlements, death, death duties. So far I’m clear. But here’s my difficulty. This outer life, though obviously horrid, often seems the real one–there’s grit in it. It does breed character.”
Margaret’s wisdom is to see that you have to have the grit of the outer world as well as the world of ‘personal relations’ – but it shouldn’t be all about those ‘telegrams and anger’. In Lewis’ terms Logres and Britain will always need each other.
The problem today is that, for the last forty years ‘Britain’ has been in the ascendant. The voice of the practical woman and man has been supreme in the land. Some things have improved, but a great deal of what we most value – children and families, health, the environment, has been – is being – threatened. We need to redress the balance, bring back some of those other qualities – where people matter, where the heart has value, and where what counts is not merely money.
Corbyn – for all his many faults (he’s no King Arthur) does represent something different. Maybe Thursday is the time to give Logres its chance.
I’ve been reading a little about the early Quakers recently and came across these two descriptions of the lengths they’d go to demonstrate their belief that, whether finely or raggedly dressed, people underneath were just the same – including a willingness to go naked in public – described as a “dramatic way of calling people to repentance…[and] ‘a trenchant reminder to the ungodly'”.
Elizabeth Fletcher who ‘in obedience to ye Lord’, went naked through the streets of Oxford ‘as a sign against that hypocritical profession they then made there, being then Presbyterians and Independents, which profession she told them the Lord would strip them of, so that their nakedness should appear’.
And this, from Samuel Pepys about an incident in Westminster Hall in 1677,
when, a large crowd having assembled to hear the King speak, a Quaker ‘came naked through the hall, only very civilly tied about the privies to avoid scandal, and with a chafing-dish of fire and brimstone upon his head did pass through the hall, crying “Repent! Repent!”‘
So streaking wasn’t as new as we imagined back in the 70s.
I couldn’t help imagining the man with his chafing dish as a sort of seventeenth century as a sort of early Arthur Brown. Inaccurate of course – Brown always covered more than just his ‘privies’.
Lapham’s Quarterly has published this helpful cut-out-and-keep guide for those irritating, unexpected accusations witchcraft:
Is this the lost church of the Easter Chicken?