Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Sorrowing Tree (a parable)

An Easter to Christmas Story by Will Hackett

Long ago, a lonely seabird on the first leg of a great journey arrived at a distant land carrying a single cone from a fir tree. It was late autumn, and the cone was fully ripe with its pollen and seeds already mixed together within its scales. The bird, thinking he would be hungry after his passage, intended to eat the seeds, but he was now so very tired that he could hold on to his burden no longer. The cone plummeted to the earth where it came to rest on a sunny hill. Its seeds spilled forth and covered the ground where they would lay for most of the day until a distracted stag came rushing out from the nearby undergrowth and trampled them, pushing the seeds under the soil.

The winter was a particularly harsh one with frozen heaps of snow and ice that lingered into April, but the seeds relished in the cold—it softened their outer shells, and by late May a few seedlings could be seen pushing up through the soil seeking out the sun. Of these, most were eaten by forest animals, but one remained, and it burgeoned and flourished.

Read the rest as an e-text for only a dollar at Amazon:


PrisonerNumber6 said...

Thought you ought to know.

Grevel Lindop's biography of Charles Williams is now available for order on

Feel free to do with this what you like.

CWS said...

Thanks. I have no ill-will toward the man. I hope his bio is a good one. I just don't hold out much hope for that. I'll get around to it eventually.

PrisonerNumber6 said...

Just checking back with a few matters.

I’ve been leafing through Lindop’s biography, and he lists the sources he’s using right at the beginning, on pages…, even before the book begins.

Now I’m no scholar, so I don’t have a clue how to rate any of it.
I do know he lists one source from the Wade Collection which he’s placed his name by.

The exact citation reads:

“Wade, CWP (Lindop)
Uncatalogued items in the Charles Williams papers at the Marion E. Wade Center, identifiable from the preliminary list by Grevel Lindop (Lindop, pg. xx).”

Again, I don’t if that means it’s new, or just something he hasn’t discovered yet. He lists several interviews with Anne Ridler, Lois Sang-Sims, Phyllis McDougall, and some I’ve never heard of before, Mary Guillemard, Anne Spalding, and Brenda Boughton.

To repeat, I don’t know what this means, however Lindop’s contention that Williams actually did belong to the Golden Dawn based on a scrap of paper “in a private collection…in Williams’s handwriting (ibid, 66)” of a grade said to belong to the GD seems somehow spurious as a claim that he actually was a member of the other group. Is it not equally possible someone like Lee or Nicholson might have simply shared their knowledge of the GD and Williams simply copied down what they said? To give another example of how things may be looked at, did A.E. Waite take any of the GD rituals and refashion them for the RC? However, all this is conjecture; the same type, in fact, that Lindop employs throughout what I’ve read so far, and I’m not sure how professional or scholarly any of this is. It sounds more like jumping to conclusions (which isn’t helped by the fact that he tries to dramatize Williams’ RC initiation based solely on a surviving copy of a ceremonial program from the FRC).

Interestingly, Lindop mentions that some of his info was provided by the Warburg Institute, a famous museum/research center dedicated to exploring Renaissance thought. If Lindop has inadvertently established a connection between Williams and the Warburg, then it could mean his interests were geared in the same direction as scholars like Frances Yates, and yet its a possible connection Lindop never makes.

CWS said...

Not ignoring you. I've just been very busy. I'll leave you a message tomorrow for sure.

PrisonerNumber6 said...

Hey, thanks! Take your time, I was content to wait for the review, if any.

Take your time. No rush.

CWS said...

Aside from your already astute observations concerning the GD, I've always thought it was quite possible that CW may have told a few people he belonged to them simply because the FRC was still new and no one would have known what he was talking about. Since they were branched off from the GD, it wouldn't really have been a stretch to say he belonged to it as a form of shorthand speech.

I haven't bought the bio yet. I'm hoping I can find a library copy so I won't have to waste money on it since even the eBook version is very expensive in my opinion. I don't know how you justify that kind of price for an eBook. However, a few preliminary thoughts--

After examining Lindop's blog and his Amazon author page, plus one YT video, I noticed that he said he enjoyed talking about a wide variety of topics including "sexuality." He fancies himself a "keen salsa dancer" and actually wrote a book about his travels through South America searching out the best bands and music to dance to. The YT video I saw was of a guy who appeared to be well into his 60s and he was wearing an earing. Considering I know that much of the CW bio goes into CW's relationships with women, my first impression of lindop is that he might be a bit obsessed with sex. Nevertheless, I know that he was married and may still be, so I won't think the worst of him. He does seem overly interested in sex though and has written at least one very risque book of poetry. This makes me automatically want to take whatever he says regarding CW's own sex life with a grain of salt and a great degree of caution.

In the book details at Amazon's retail sales page he refers to CW as a liberal. This is simply not true. Hell, CW even wrote articles and book reviews for GK Chesterton's very conservative newspaper, and we all know that Chesterton was a hero of his.

I know the book also makes it sound as though CW was very absorbed with magic, but this doesn't jive with the fact that he was a member of the FRC which broke away from the GD specifically because Mathers had taken the group it into the direction of magic, and many of the members didn't think this should be so. Thus the FRC was born in order to retain the mystical/religious aspect of the group without any magical trappings. If CW was so taken up with magic, wouldn't he have went with Mathers and the GD instead of the FRC?

I'll have to read the book before I can comment further, but these are my first thoughts.


PrisonerNumber6 said...

Thanks for the reply.

In response, let me just say that its kind of worse than you could imagine.

I'm up to page 232 as of this note, and its been sort of a nightmare. Not because Lindop makes any revelations, or anything. He doesn't. In fact, the one big surprise I uncovered was that Williams, along with Gerard Hopkins might have been unwitting victims of Phyllis Jones. In fact, in printing Jones' side of the correspondence (in which she finagles money out of CW for things like a new hat and so on) it makes Hadfield's words about Jones as a "social climber" take on a whole new meaning. If anything, Williams comes out looking more like a put upon victim.

However this judgment is based on a between the lines readings, so apply salt where necessary. Yet it was a surprise, and I can't help but wonder if there's something there. I'm surprised warning alarms didn't go off when he read Jones' letters.

One thing I can say is that Lindop seems determined to read every poem, one or two novels, and even some key critical texts as being "really about" Williams relation to Jones. The reason for this may be because of personal interviews. Lindop lists several citations that he basically says the information was provided by Jones (now Mcdougal) herself during the course of personal interviews with her. This makes me wonder if there isn't a second bias going on in the book in addition to the first.

Aside from that, what I've read of Lindop's blog leads me to believe that he might be best classified as a Post-Modern Pantheist in the vein of Alan Watts.

I say this based on an entry on his blog that I read, in which he espouses, "personal rediscovery through myth." He also makes states that "Religion – dogmatic religion – is precisely what happens when myths become rigid and are taken, falsely, as facts. When this happens, it is precisely their poetic meaning that is lost. Myth itself – true myth – is inherently tolerant, many-sided, polytheistic. It is full of multiple viewpoints and multiple gods and it invites us to constant reinterpretation."

The page where these statements can be found is here:

All of the above is similar to ideas in Watts' "Myth and Ritual in Christianity". Also, Lindop defines Williams' religious beliefs as "a structure which sense in Williams's personal mythology (Lindop, 187)." All of which pretty much says to me that right now the definitive biography of "The Third Inkling" is still, despite minor flaws, that of Hadfield, really.

Just thought you ought to know what's stirring in the weeds, for what it's worth.

Happy Holidays,

And good luck.
This is exactly

CWS said...

Well, that settles it. I guess I'm going to have to buy the darn thing after all. Lindop's reasoning reminds me of that famous quote by CS Lewis about Owen Barfield--"He has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one... How can he be so nearly right and yet, invariably, just not right? He is as fascinating (and infuriating) as a woman."

CWS said...

I don't know if you still have your ears on or not, but my friend, Ann, left me a link today to a review of the book at The Independant. They really heap praises on it:

PrisonerNumber6 said...

H'lo again.

Yeah, I admit, I saw it just yesterday. To be honest, for me its mostly a repeat of the same lack of context in pretty much all of the reviews I've read. That said, the errors (I'm convinced) the Lindop makes in his book are truthfully reported. He really does try to bring back the idea that Williams actually belonged to the GD. This despite all the evidence otherwise, really.

Like I say, its all about context, or cultural literacy. For instance, I assume you're aware of Williams writing following in the tradition of Renaissance Christian Platonism (which, like the Inklings, utilized a great deal of Hermetic Alchemy symbolism in their writings)? I'm now convinced that aside from Coventry Patmore, a lot of Williams writings on sex actually belong to Marillio Ficino and the like. The problem is how many Christians would actually be ware of something like this? Very few would be my guess, and its an actual question in my mind of how on earth any minister could work this sort of detail (however orthodox) past the pulpit, really.

The funny thing is how Linden leaves clues that Williams knew this stuff before he ever met Waite of Nicholson (I'm assuming Nicholson's the pastor you wrote about on the MacDonald page?), in his correspondence with Alice Meynell when she writes "there's a whole system of thought in them (Lindop, 36)." However, because he lacks the proper context, he can't follow up this hint or comment on it. Instead, for him its all "personal mythology".

PrisonerNumber6 said...

Just checking in.

I'm finished with the Lindop bio of Williams.

All in all, nothing has changed my earlier assessment above.

How about you?

CWS said...

I've just downloaded it finally. I've got some other books to finish up on first, so I won't leave a review for another month or so. I see it's just received its first 1-star review though at Amazon. I suspect there will be several more to come.

I didn't get an email from blogger about your previous post, so I'm just no seeing it. I'm aware that Williams identified with neo-Platonism but I don't know anything about Ficino.

I'm sure CW was quite familiar with Hermetic writings before ever meeting Waite, but either he decided to keep his mouth shut about it or he was still in the process of separating the wheat from the chaff when he met Waite. I know someone (though not the most reliable source) who claims to have once owned CW's copy of Thrice Greatest Hermes. He said CW had written the date 1909 in it, assuming that's when he bought it. He would have been 25 years of age then.

PrisonerNumber6 said...

Wow, that 1909 book sounds interesting. It would be a real find to discover a forgotten Inklings book like that.

CWS said...

From what I understand, it wasn't that exciting of a find. I was told that there were either no marginal notes at all, or hardly any. Just some underlining.

CWS said...

I did finally leave a short review of this book. I wasn't going to, but I really didn't think the book was too bad.