Saturday, December 07, 2019

Happy Christmas

Many thanks to all of you who have written inquiring about the silence on this blog. It seems that after two volumes on silence I have written myself into silence! How long this will last I don't know; it can't be forced. It almost seems as though the world is so mad that there is little that can be said about it.

For those of you asking about my health it is generally OK, except that at the moment I have pneumonia and am going to have an extremely quiet Christmas. But then, that's the way I prefer it in any case.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, may your Christmas and New Year be very blessed. And please pray that we may find a way forward through this ecological nightmare, even if it only means, as Bringhurst and Zwicky, and Roy Scranton, have titled their books, learning to die. Both these books are good, but the Zwicky is outstanding.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Happy Christmas

Amid wars and rumours of war the poor old earth staggers on towards the end of another year. Poverty is still rampant; wars are still being fought; there is famine in Yemen, while Trump wallows hand in hand (a euphemism) with the Saudis and Putin; and every year the carol "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" becomes more apt and more impossible to sing through the tears it engenders, particularly verse 3:

     Yet with the woes of sin and stir,
     The world hath suffered long;
     Beneath the angel-strain have rolled,
     Two thousand years of wrong;
     And man, at war with man, hears not,
     The love song which they bring:
     O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
     And hear the angels sing.

Through all the sorrow and strife, and in spite of all attempts to drown it out, may you hear the angels' song this Christmas and follow the star throughout the New Year.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018


Finishing the last two books left me in a desert place, unable to write. I'm still there, really, but I would like to share some insights about old age and judgement. At least something is finally stirring!

There is judgement; don't doubt it for a minute. It happens when the years start mounting up, but especially as you advance into the seventies. It consists of memories that arise from unfathomable depths, humiliating events in which you did or were done to, events you have not thought about for decades. They are unrelenting. They have to be faced. It is a whole 'nuther phase of purification, one that can't happen before you get old.

Sometimes you face them, you deal with them, but they still—force of habit?—persist like clouds of mosquitoes on the Arctic tundra. A Tibetan nun, in her inimitable direct French way, responded, when I asked her about these nuisance thoughts: 'Ask yourself why you need to cling to them.' Sometime later, another friend sent me a blessing with which he blesses himself at night. Astounding! was my knee-jerk reaction. Bless oneself???!!! And I wrote him back, 'Why is it so difficult to bless oneself?' It is a kind of nakedness to God.

All these little nudges mingle together, of course, and one of the insights is that purification is positive at this stage. If the thoughts persist after being dealt with, rather like a reflex, it is possible to ask, 'Why am I clinging to this thought? Why do I need to see myself like this?' And perhaps we see that even more than acknowledging our thoughts and weaknesses it is important to allow this false self-abnegation to fall away. 

'Negative thoughts' we tend to see as bad thoughts about other people or things or events; but it is the negative thoughts about our selves and our pasts in general that are even more insidious, because they block our receptivity to the forgiving mercy of God. We do not have to despise our selves to be acceptable to God. Our sins, yes; and some of them are truly horrendous. But, repented, they are forgiven, and to fail to surrender to that forgiveness is a kind of false pride that is worse that anything we might do. Perhaps it is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Nothing earth-shattering, here, but a reminder.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Now available from DLT UK

Silence: A User's Guide vol 2 is now available directly from Darton Longman Todd UK. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Urgent Message

Gentle Readers,

Please do not buy Volume 2 from Amazon UK if you live outside the UK and Europe. Likewise if you live in the UK or Europe, please don't buy what is currently listed on Amazon UK as this edition isn't out yet. There are two different publishers involved and the American one has mistakenly listed its edition on the Amazon UK site. If too many books are wrongly sold through this site the UK edition may be cancelled, which would be a disaster. Thank you.

The Amazon USA site is:


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Silence: A User's Guide, Vol. 2 Is Available

I am very happy to announce that Silence: A User's Guide, Vol. 2, is now available from Wipf and Stock customer service. It will be available on Amazon in two to four weeks; the Kindle edition will be available probably in March.

The British edition will be available in the spring.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Kenosis and Trinity

Before a few notes on kenosis and Trinity, a word about the publication date of Silence: A User's Guide, vol. 2, which is, in the USA, March 9, 2018. Available from Wipf and Stock. The UK publication date (DLT) is not yet available.

Matt has written to ask about the relationship between kenotic theology and Trinitarian theology. The link is self-emptying. Each Person of the Trinity is self-outpouring. In patristic theology this is called circumincession. This is not something each Person 'does' but is rather who each Person is. Of course everything we say about the Trinity is inadequate; but we can talk about the self-outpouring of the Trinity because of the self-emptying of Christ.

In a purely speculative mode, we might think of the Trinity as kenosis-glory-wisdom; a Buddhist trinity might be emptiness-compassion-wisdom. It's interesting that wisdom and emptiness occur in both. Of course we could also say that the second Person of the Christian Trinity is also compassion; these are just analogies and hints. But recently I have been interested in glory as the other side of kenosis (see vol 2 above); kenosis does not lead to glory, it is glory. We cannot see the glory because we would be overcome, as Isaac of Nineveh says; but faith is in part the confidence (parrhesia) that this unity of kenosis and glory is so. This is one notion that ties together the epistles and the Gospel of John. This subject is all quite mind-blowing and unfolds slowly. More later, perhaps.

Happy Advent, everyone.