Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Coelho’s thought rhyming with false mysticism

January 7, 2012
Neda - Latuff

Neda - Latuff

Praying doesn’t make you a saint any more than standing in an airport makes you an airplane. — Paulo Coelho

Here they come again. — Paulo Coelho

The following garbage has been posted by Iran Book News Agency:

Hojatoleslam Mazaheri Seif, writer of “The Spiritual World of Paulo Coelho” believes that Coelho follows the trend of false mysticism.

IBNA: According to Hamidreza Mazaheri Seif, a thematic study of Paulo Coelho’s works shows that his writings have the main features of false mysticism and heretic religions.

He continued: “Moreover, last year a book was published containing the names of 100 spiritual leaders of the world. The ideologies of these figures names are in line with that of the publisher and Coelho’s name is mentioned among the first top 20 leaders of the world showing that he has been globally acknowledged as a spiritual master. Many individuals insist that Coelho is their master in spiritual journeys and he was even welcomed by many Iranians during his travel to Iran. Given this situation we conclude that Coelho has consciously stepped into the realm of spirituality. However, whether he is qualified to be called a master should be assessed.”

“If you make a survey of all contemporary quasi-spiritual movements, you will realize that all leaders of them are instructing similar values to the human society. The backbone of Coelho’s thought is in line with all other false theosophical religions such as ‘Fallun Dafa’, ‘Halgheh’ InterUniversal Mysticism (in Iran), or Dialogue with God (in the US). The question that now rises here is that how all these leaders that have emerged in different locations say one word? If we trace them we come up with a single point, and that is Modern Kabbalah (a Jewish mysticism),” he added.

“Isn’t it true that Coelho’s writings are just symbolic manifestation of a universal trend of 290 years old that attempts to come up with a global religion caused by capitalism – that is, a religion concordant with liberal capitalism? The so-called religion is cultivated by spiritual leaders of the world including Paulo Coelho as the most outstanding one since he is more direct in addressing these values so much so that even Shimon Peres appreciated him.”

Mazaheri Seif then stated that in The Alchemist, Coelho has rewritten a tale from Rumi’s Masnavi’s sixth volume. Coelho is basically a master of plagiarism and this has been led to a number of oppositions. His story for Fathers, Sons and Grandsons is a rehabilitation of Golistan and Boustan, but the main problem of these adaptations is altering the plots in order to come up with his intended endings – that is the promotion of Modern Kaballah.

Mazaheri Seif added that banning one or two books would not help spreading these mysticisms as we actually face an ideology that reproduces itself in thousands of publications in millions of copies and this should not be neglected.

According to him, the best way to oppose the movement is to promote right spiritual instruction by the same means of books, fiction, novel and media in simple language.

The mysticism and spiritual insights of Paulo Coelho is a little too much for the evil Ayatollahs and Mullahs of Iran to stomach.

Compared with the vicious personal attacks in the West masquerading as book reviews this garbage published by the Iran Book News Agency is actually quite mild.

Paulo Coelho is very popular in Iran, which must upset the corrupt Ayatollahs and Mullahs, religious extremists who bastardise the people of Iran, especially the women. A pity the revolution of a few years ago failed to overthrow them.

The Zahir was first published in Iran. Copies to then be promptly seized by the Thought Police.

It was Paulo Coelho who brought to world attention the brutal killing of Neda, the face of the revolution, during the failed revolution.

Paulo Coelho is banned in Iran, it would not do for Iranians to be encouraged to think.

Paulo Coelho has made his books available for free download in Farsi. Spread the word to all your Iranian friends.

Less we forget, the Mullahs and Ayatollahs not only shed blood in Iran, they are one of the principle agents of the sectarian violence and shedding of blood in Iraq.

Aleph in Farsi
Iran denies banning Paulo Coelho’s books
The persecution of Hoder
Change in Iran
Arash Hejazi Interview for BBC
The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell

Canon Andrew White at Holy Trinity Clapham

November 24, 2011

Canon Andrew White speaking at Holy Trinity Clapham, 23 May 2010.

Canon Andrew White talking about St George’s, his church in Iraq. A church that used to be at $600 a year, one of the cheapest churches in the world to run. May 2010, it was costing $170,000 a month to run.

St George’s has an associated clinic.

At 3 o’clock in the afternoon the doctors go home. Canon Andrew White then takes over.

Strange things happen at St George’s. People are healed through prayer, even raised from the dead. Strange apartitions appear, thought to be angels.

Subjects discussed in more detail in Faith Under Fire.

Canon Andrew White at Guildford Baptist Church

Christianity A History: The Crusades

November 24, 2011

An accursed race. A race absolutely alien to God has invaded the land of Christians. — Pope Urban II, 1095 AD

Holy men do not posses those cities, nay base and bastard Turks hold sway over our brothers. — Pope Urban II, 1095 AD

Pope Urban II launched the Crusades with a speech in the French town of Clermont Ferrand. The Christians of Europe were to go to the occupied lands, seize them back and kill any Muslims they found there. It was to be a Holy War. The Knights were offered salvation through slaughter.

Chroniclers of the Crusades were chronicling God’s work, a continuation of God’s work as recorded in the Bible. Jerusalem had to be cleansed of Muslim pollution

To the West, the Crusades are history. Islamists believe they are still fighting the Crusades today.

Of Gods and Men

November 23, 2011
Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men

scene from the film

scene from the film

I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. — Psalm 82:6-7

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction. — Pascal

A deeply moving French film of a group of monks living in an isolated monastery in Algeria at the height of Islamic terrorist atrocities.

What sense is there when teenage girls are killed for not wearing a veil, their bodies dumped by the roadside? This is not the Koran.

When Croations are killed working on a nearby road the monks are offered protection by the army, but this is declined by the Abbot as he will not allow weapons in the monastery, nor will he depart and abandon the poor villagers who are dependent on the monastery. They were called by God to serve.

Each monk struggles with his faith and his God. Does he leave or does he stay?

All they have to protect them is their faith.

Of Gods and Men (Des hommes et des dieux) by the French director Xavier Beauvois is based on the kidnapping and murder of monks in Algeria in 1996. Who killed them, fundamentalists or the state, and the circumstances of their death is not known.

The film has a faded appearence, not the rich colours one would normally expect. This serves to resonate with the simple and austere lifestyle of the monks. Having a new laptop and this being the first DVD I had watched, I thought maybe something wrong and downloaded two new media players.

The film captures beautifully the sounds you hear up in the mountains, in the distance a neighbour’s dog barking, a cock crowing.

Des hommes et des dieux premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Prix.

Des hommes et des dieux was shot on location at an abandoned monastery in Azrou, Morocco.

The monastery in Algeria lies abandoned, a ghost monastery.

To heaven with Scribes and Pharisees

November 21, 2011
Ecce Homo - Tony Mujica

Ecce Homo - Tony Mujica

It was as a Galilean Jew that he befriended the poor and the despised. It was as a Galilean Jew that he thundered against the powerful and the haughty. — Howard Jacobson

Jesus was living like a good Jew, going to the synagaoge, praying and living according to the Law of Moses in his house. — Fr Eugenio Alliato, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum

Yeshua was a Jew and an observant one … He stressed Torah and love – but in this he drew upon the Jewish tradition. — Leonard Swidler, American Roman Catholic scholar

To heaven hell with Scribes and Pharisees: A priest and a rabbi take a fresh look at the Jewish religion and its leaders at the time of Jesus.


– Rev Marcus Braybrooke, author of Meeting Jews
– Rabbi Jackie Tabick, chair World Congress of Faiths

The Revd Marcus Braybrooke, a retired parish priest, was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his more than 40 years contribution to the development of inter-religious co-operation and understanding throughout the world. He is a former Executive Director of the Council of Christians and Jews and is a Co-Founder of the Three Faiths Forum and also President of the World Congress of Faiths, of which Jackie Tabick is the chair.

Jackie Tabick, rabbi at the North West Surrey Synagogue at Weybridge is also on the executive of the Interfaith Network. When Jackie studied medieval history at the University of London, her speciality was church history. She went on to study for the rabbinate at Leo Baeck College.

A Jewish-Christian double act.

Jesus was a Jew! He was a faithful Jew, brought up in a Jewish household, adhered to the Jewish faith.

Pharisees insisted on the letter of the law, legalism.

We need a historical reappraisal of Jesus as a Jew.

From a Christian perspective, Jewishness is seen as compliance with the law.

Was Jesus a Pharisee or an Essene? He was sufficiently conversant with the law to argue with the Pharisees on equal terms.

Jesus’ arguments with the Pharisees, as reported in the Gospels, were no greater than the arguments amongst the Pharisees themselves. There were sharp differences amongst the Rabbis, for example, between Hillel and Shammai, and their respective followers. It needs also to be remembered that the Gospels were written down at least thirty years after the death of Jesus and in part reflect the growing tension between the synagogue and early church, which is clearly illustrated in the Acts of the Apostles.

On the death of Jesus and the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple, there were two main religious groupings, the followers of Jesus a Jewish sect were one. These slowly draw apart until by 134 AD they could be seen as separate and distinct.

It is worth emphasizing that the split between church and synagogue took place over a long period and only in part for theological reasons. There was no sudden break. Rather, Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism are two developments, drawing on similar sources in first century Judaism, which gradually moved further and further apart, rather like a couple becoming estranged, who discover that in more and more ways their lives have drifted apart. By the end of the second Jewish revolt in 134 CE, despite some remaining links, ‘Christian and Jew were clearly distinct and separate.’ Over the centuries bitterness and hostility between the two communities increased and has only begun to be reversed in the twentieth century.

Jews were blamed for the death of Jesus. This is a bit like calling all Germans Nazis.

Pontius Pilate was a cruel Roman governor. He was recalled to Rome because of his cruelty. Judaea was a troublesome province. Any hint of insurrection, a leader of a revolt claiming to be the King of the Jews, would have attracted the death penalty. The Gospels, aiming at a Roman not Jewish audience, attempt to shift the blame onto the Jews.

It was not until 1965 that the Vatican issued a statement that the Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus.

Did Jesus claim to be the Messiah, is that how his followers saw him? Later yes, but during his lifetime no. Son of God did not mean what we think today. It was a title.

The great Jewish New Testament scholar David Flusser was once asked after a talk to a group of clergy, ‘What do you pray for when you pray for Christians?’ He replied, ‘I pray that you will be more like your Master Jesus.’

Torah should be seen as teaching not the law.

Why did Pharisees get a bad press, and this was not only from the followers of Jesus, it was also in the eyes of other Jews?

It was a period of change and turmoil, out of which rose Judaism and Christianity. There were two other great Jewish teachers apart from Jesus, but these are unknown to Christians. The Jewish teachings did not end with the Old Testament, The Torah, to be replaced by the New Testament. Jews were developing their own scriptures in parallel with the New Testament.

What is known as The Torah came out of Babylon.

The High Priests were corrupt. An understanding of Jewishness was needed outside of the Temple which was central to what it was to be a Jew.

Jewishness had to be re-invented outside of the Temple. This became even more important after the Temple was destroyed.

Synagogues existed at the time of the Temple. They were centres of learning not prayer.

It is a Jewish tradition to argue for the sake of heaven. One does so with good heart, not enmity.

Jesus argued, he was following a Jewish tradition, he was a Jew!

Pharisees and Christians become the two main groups. Pharisees could exist outside of the Temple, the High Priests no longer existed. A whole new set of sacred literature was developed.

It is self-evident Jesus was a Jew. To understand his teachings one has to place them in their first century Jewish-Roman-Greek context. Many churches fail to understand this. Jesus behaved like a Jew. He nearly always answered a question with a question. That was the Jewish way. The Gospels were written for different groups, some more Jewish than others. Often the emphasis was on the difference to separate what were two competing religious groups, each claiming their Jewish heritage.

A common heritage, Jews, Christians and Muslims. For Jews the written word is the path to God, for Christians it is through Jesus, for Muslims it is the Koran.

The Bible speaks with many voices, often contradictory voices. What cannot be found in one source can often be found in another.

We hear a lot of Islamic fundamentalists, less of Christian fundamentalists. Those who lack doubt, who do not question, are bigots. We learn by talking to people of other faiths.

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho is a devout Catholic, but he recognises there are many paths to God, no one person has a monopoly. As he describes in Aleph, he questioned his faith.

The Koran tells us that God made Man of many faiths and we should respect them.

Guildford Seeking Common Ground Lecture for Interfaith Week at Trinity Centre, Holy Trinity Church, top of Guildford High Street Monday 21 November 2011.

Behold! The Jewish Jesus
Christianity: A History – Episode 1: Jesus the Jew
Oneness of Humanity and the Unity of Religion
Choosing the best road
The Bible A Biography
What a Rabbi Learns from Muhammad
The Gospels
Where does the New Testament come from?
– Jesus Wars
Love Wins

Oneness of Humanity and the Unity of Religion

November 20, 2011
candles one lit by each speaker

candles one lit by each speaker

Encourage knowledge understanding of and between faiths.

For many it would be a beginning to understand their own faith.

In the corner a table with various bits of literature.

Several speakers from different faiths. Talk about their faith, light a candle, play some music.

The Hindu religion is a very ancient religion. When India was strong spiritually, it was also strong culturally. The study of science encouraged.

The Old Testament is the Jewish Torah, it is a book of drama, for example the story of Joseph and his exile in Egypt. It is the Jewish tradition to chant these stories.

For Buddhists, we all have a common faith. It is better to live a single day in honour, than a hundred years in disgrace. Treasure in the body is more important than treasure in the storehouse, and most important of all is the treasure in our heart. If you lack faith it is like trying to light wet tinder. It is important to understand ourselves to help ourselves and others. Enlightenment.

There is no such thing as a typical Christian. Having faith helps to understand life, without faith life has no meaning. A Divine presence is in all Creation. God. The Psalms were written 3,500 years ago but still have relevance and meaning today. Psalm 139, the Lord is always near, you look into my heart and know everything.

No one from Islamic faith.

A Sikh is a seeker of truth. Only one God, who is in everything, who was there before and will be there after. God is unique, cannot be described.

Bahia, the son of the founder toured UK a century ago.

The meeting organised by Guildford and Godalming Interfaith Forum and hosted by St Nicolas Church marked the start of Inter Faith Week. It was opened by the Mayor of Guildford and closed by the Deputy Mayor of Godalming.

I had my hand up to ask a question, but was ignored. I wanted to ask had anyone been to St Paul’s in-the-Camp? If not, then please go, as you would find many faiths working together. When St Paul’s was closed, Flash Evensong performed evensong on the steps, Quakers have been holding services on the steps on Sunday afternoons, during Sermon on the Steps, two days after St Paul’s re-opened their doors, many from many different faiths spoke.

Flash Evensong at St Paul’s-in-the-Camp
Sermon on the Steps at St Paul’s in-the-Camp
Evensong at St Paul’s
Tom Hodgkinson: ‘Fundamentally this is a Christian protest’
Fundamentally Christian?

If you have not been to St Paul’s in-the-Camp, then please pay a visit. You will be rewarded and enriched.

Were I to choose a piece of music, I would choose The Sixteen performing the Lamentations of Job composed by Victoria set to visuals from inside St James Cathedral.

St James Cathedral – Victoria – The Sixteen

A special plea: Would St Nicolas please exercise better management of their notice board. Yes, this meeting was displayed on their notice board (which makes a pleasant change) but on the day had been taken down. As had notice of an interfaith meeting at Holy Trinity for the following day.

Top story ARISE and AWAKE! Daily (Monday 21 November 2011)!


To Heaven Hell with a Scribe and a Pharisee: A priest and a rabbi take a look at the Jewish religion at the time of Jesus. Trinity Centre, top of High Street next to Holy Trinity Church, Guildford. 7pm Monday 22 November 2011

Keystone Spirit with Eden People at Keystone Pub. 8pm Tuesday 29 November 2011

Art @ Costa. Swan Lane, Guildford. 7-30pm Tuesday 6 December 2011

Keystone Spirit with Eden People at Keystone Pub. 8pm Tuesday 13 December 2011

Paulo Coelho talks to Big Issue

October 18, 2011
Big Issue

Big Issue

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho talks to Big Issue about his work.

Inspired by Paulo Coelho’s revolutionary strategy of distributing his work freely online, here is the transcript of an interview that appears in this week’s Big Issue magazine. If you see a Big Issue vendor, please consider purchasing a copy!

Interview: Steven MacKenzie

Aleph is currently a bestseller all over the world. Is the global success of your books proof that everyone shares the same fears and dreams, and people are not as different as we sometimes think?

Questions. I think people all over the world have the same questions. I would not say fears and dreams – probably also – but when I write a book I concentrate on my personal questions.

What I realise from reading tweets and comments from social communities is that although we don’t share the same answers – and we don’t – we share the same questions.

This is something that helps a lot. I don’t feel alone as a writer. Because you always ask yourself, ‘I’m writing this for myself, but does anyone else know what I’m talking about?’ And they do.

Having brought inspiration to so many, it might surprise some readers of Aleph to discover that you were undergoing your own crisis of faith.

Faith is not a straight line. It’s like if you climb a mountain. You have your ups and downs. Faith is at the end of the day an act of faith. I need faith to believe in God. Atheists also need faith to not believe in God. Like everybody else I have my moments of doubt.

Like The Alchemist, Aleph recounts a physical journey, which is ultimately a spiritual one. Why did you have to travel across a continent to discover something inside yourself?

In 2006 I was in my comfort zone; bestselling author all over the world, looking like I had no more challenges in life. And this is not good because life is a constant challenge. People tend to stay in the comfort zone because it is safe but if you don’t accept challenges you are dead!

Everyone is stuck in a routine and reluctant to leave their comfort zone. Nobody is really living …

Let’s not generalise Steven! Many people, but not everyone, otherwise I would not have any readers! It’s a tendency we have and we have to fight against it.

Some people aren’t fighting hard enough.

Yah true. We fear to change.

Do people read your books to help them fight?

My books can act as catalysts. They can provoke a reaction in a person that is already ready for change. I don’t think my readers are reading the books trying to learn how to change. You read a book at the right moment and then you see that you have already this volcano inside of you ready to explode and the book uncaps this volcano.

I would ask why you think your books become bestsellers, but do you know the reason?

There is no reason Steve! Reasons you give for deceits. You can give one thousand reasons to justify deceit but you can never explain success.

There is no relationship between a book that is satisfying for me and successful. All my books, and this I guarantee, I put the same enthusiasm and love. Having said that, you can imagine if I thought about half a billion people [reading my books] I would be paralysed. It’s natural that we try to please everybody so we cannot think about this.

You say in Aleph that ‘writing is, above all, about discovering myself’, so in which of your books have you discovered most about yourself?

All of them. But the turning point in my life was my first book, The Pilgrimage because I started to tell everybody I was a writer.

Do you think the way that Western society is constructed, with emphasis on material possessions, that we are programmed to never find fulfilment?

Everyone asks a lot of how, they don’t ask why. They want to know how to do this, how to do that, but we should ask more why should I do this, why should I do that. It has to with consumer society. How did you become rich? How did you become a bestseller? How did you become a journalist? Just change how to why it makes a lot of difference to life.

Is the world suffering an economic crisis because people are looking for the wrong things in life?

It’s the irresponsibility of politicians. You know, I know – we live in a big lie. Everybody knows but we close our eyes back to the comfort zone and one day it explodes and everybody is affected. Mostly poor people. I’m very pessimistic about this economic crisis. I don’t think it is over.

Your books contain a lot of omens and signs. Do these exist for everyone?

If you believe in God like I do, there is this intuitive language to God. But my language is not your language, my signs are not your signs. This is a very personal language.

You should believe in your intuition. Call it whatever you want, but you know when you are taking the right decision. If you believe in God, signs, or if you don’t believe in God, well, intuition, but normally you don’t look because it contradicts your logical world.

In Aleph, you also say that instead of fighting for God, we should fight against God.

Sometimes yes.

Can you elaborate?

Fighting for God we see now. Christian fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism… They give their lives because the message is a powerful one: you are martyr. I’m a Catholic so I know what I’m talking about!

People start justifying their lives because they need raison d’etre – they need a reason to live. They are trying to convince themselves about their faith.

Fighting against God. It is everywhere in the New Testament, moments when the great prophets – even Jesus – fight against God. When He says, ‘God, why did you forsake me?’ on the cross.

Then you have this intense relationship with God that is not a relationship of submission. There are moments when my wife and I, or you and your friends, need to fight the good fight! Not fighting to destroy but fighting for our beliefs. And by fighting for this you learn a lot.

However, if you accept everything, if you do not ask why or how, you are not living, just obeying a set of rules. Like a lamb.

Your books are banned in some countries such as Iran. Why would they be considered dangerous?

Why they are dangerous? Ask them, ask them! Any idea may be dangerous, it depends on the culture that absorbs it. I don’t think my books are dangerous, I think that writing implies the revolution of the writer itself. So I don’t know why some books are banned here or there. I don’t ask questions. I have internet, don’t worry.

You don’t worry because you can publish your stories online?

Using the Iranian example, after Aleph was published my former publisher in the UK translated the book and I put it online because I knew they will not allow it to be published in Iran. You won’t believe me but we have had 317,000 downloads of this Farsi edition.

Aleph in Farsi

You lived through dictatorship, imprisonment and torture in Brazil during the 1970s, what advice would you have for those being oppressed in Iran or Syria, or other places we don’t know about? What got you through the experience?

You remember at the beginning of our conversation about losing our faith? So, I totally lost my faith. When I was released I thought, this cannot happen to me. This is not fair, this is not just, God does not love me. It took me seven years to get rid of this experience.

It is very difficult to give advice because when you are in jail and when you are tortured you don’t exist anymore. After you are released, the prison remains in your soul. In my case, there was only one thing that healed the experience. It was time.

But I see people leaving jail today and going back to the streets and I am so proud of these people. They are so brave, they are so courageous.

The only thing I can do is join organisations like Amnesty International, become a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations, or be on the board of the Doha Center of Media Freedom, and use my influence to avoid these situations. But honestly, give advice? I can’t because my reaction was – I’m not ashamed, I know what I’ve been through – but it was not the best reaction in that circumstance.

But would you be the man you are today without that experience? Was it an important part of your spiritual journey?

I doubt, Steven. Probably my period in the mental institution was very useful for me, but I don’t think you need to be arrested and tortured to arrive where you need to arrive. This is the only thing that I would gladly erase from my past.

I see friends from that time who never recovered from this. For every three people who succeeded in overcoming their ordeal, seven are broken for life. Nothing justifies being arrested simply because you have a different idea.

How important is your Brazilian identity to your writing?

I’m very proud of my country. Your roots count a lot. [Brazilians] don’t have this wall separating emotions from the physical reality so what some cultures would think is too abstract I’m not ashamed to write.

Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin are fans. Do you think your work has ever influenced them?

I don’t know. [Putin and I] had this photo session together. We talked for 15 minutes in front of the press and then he asked the press to leave and we spent two hours talking. Of course, I’m not going to tell you what we talked about.

Oh, secrets!?

It was a private conversation. And I thought, ‘He’s so busy [but] he’s talking to me here’. He was enjoying the conversation.

Madonna is quoted on the back of my edition of The Alchemist. Do people like her phone you up asking for advice?

No, never.

Have you met her?

I met Madonna in Cannes and I thanked her for her support but they don’t call me. I called Will Smith because every time he is interviewed he usually talks about my books. So I used Twitter and said, ‘If any of you has a possibility of finding Will Smith’s phone number please give me because I want to thank him’.

Was he happy to hear from you?

I hope he was happy. People often forget to say thank you. And I’m very thankful.

Forbes magazine named you last year as the second most influential Twitter user after Justin Bieber …

More influential than Lady Gaga and Barack Obama!

Not bad.

You don’t look for this. You may imagine when I read this I was very surprised. I’m really crossing my fingers for Justin Bieber to use his celebrity to do something. He is very young but I hope he can use his influence to do something good.

You update your blog and Twitter very regularly, do you feel like you owe your readers something, or do you feel some responsibility towards them?

No, no. There are people who go there and agree. There are people who go there and disagree! I try to use my blog to share stories from different cultures.

At this present moment, all bridges are collapsing; economic, political, social. There is only one bridge still standing: the cultural bridge.

I may not understand your political system, I may not understand your religion but I understand your story. I understand your painting. I understand your music, your dancing. There you have this bridge. It is my responsibility as a writer to do my best not to allow this bridge to collapse.

Writing is not only limited to books. We have different platforms. Use your Twitter, use Facebook, use your blog, use whatever you can use but don’t forget this responsibility.

Interview with Paulo Coelho published in this week’s Big Issue.

For once an intelligent interview!

Shock doctrine: Play up the budget deficit, use it as an excuse to hit the poor, the elderly and other vulnerable sectors in society. Homelessness is rising.

Support your local Big Issue seller. Make this a sell-out issue.

Maybe it has already sold out. Just when you want one, not a single Big Issue seller to be found on the street today.

Independent booksellers currently have Aleph on offer at £5 off, ie one third off cover price. Support your local independent bookseller.

Good news Paulo Coelho fans in independent bookshops


October 17, 2011


Re:Creation a biblical oratorio, telling the biblical story from beginning to end, music by David Perkins, adaptation of biblical verses by Derek Wensley.

It is not often one gets to meet the composer and lyricist of an oratorio, but on Saturday evening I got to meet both.

I was at a performance of Re:Creation with The Occam Singers and New London Sinfonia at Holy Trinity Church in Guildford.

The inspiration for Re:Creation the sacred choral music of Handel, Bach and Haydn. A work in five parts.

Let there be light. In part one repeated over and over again. First quietly then slowly growing until reaching a crescendo with a crash of cymbals. A glimmer of light, slowly brightening until one is blinded.

Either the second or third part, I lost track, more avant-garde. Hints of Bernstein and Gershwin, hints of Tubular Bells. There was again hints of Tubular Bells in the fourth and fifth parts.

God makes a comic opera appearance high up in the pulpit where he suddenly pops up, performs his piece, then pops back out of sight again. This appearance would be even more dramatic if spoken not sung as it would then stand out in contrast.

Both David Perkins and Derek Wensley took part in the performance, David Perkins on keyboard and Derek Wensley singing in the choir.

David Perkins is a writer of musicals, films scores. He has played keyboard at the National Theatre as a tribute to Scot Joplin.

Derek Wensley a United Reform minister now retired. Re:Creation is biblical story of ‘the God who was and is and always will be’.

The Occam Singers is a 40 strong chamber choir based in the Surrey village of Ockham. It was from the same village the medieval philosopher William of Occam, he of the sharp razor.

New London Sinfonia was formed in 1987.

Re:Creation is available as a limited edition double CD. I now have three copies and programme signed by David Perkins, Derek Wensley and one of the lead female singers.

Art @ Costa evening first Tuesday of the month (same day as farmers market) at Costa Coffee in Swan Lane, Guildford.

An African Christmas 6-30pm Saturday 10 December 2010 The Occam Singers at St Nicolas Church Guildford.

Finding God in the Shack

October 12, 2011
Finding God in the Shack

Finding God in the Shack

Finding God in the Shack is a rehash of The Shack with errors.

It starts off with a synopsis of The Shack, only problem is it is riddled with errors. Not a good start.

At this point I will reiterate the advice given in Finding God in the Shack, read The Shack first, if you have done so, then please continue.

Finding God in the Shack is essentially a reader for The Shack, it looks at the theology of The Shack and asks did William Young get it right. And there is a lot of theology in The Shack!

The Shack, is not, as Roger E Olson wrongly states, a book about the Great Sadness, though it is in part. It is a philosophical discussion of the nature of God, Mack’s relationship with God and the need to forgive.

The Great Sadness is a burden Mack has to bear. His daughter goes missing, believed killed by a serial child killer, her body is never found. Mack blames himself, he blames God.

The One Big Question: why is there suffering in the world? Why does an all powerful, infinitely good God allow suffering? Maybe God is not good, maybe he is not all powerful, in which case who is more powerful, maybe he simply does not exist?

We have free will. Evil is the absence of Good, in the same way Dark is the absence of Light. We can handle Evil in theory, but how in practice when it brushes against us? How do we handle the brutal death of a child?

There are those who will say it was God’s will. Really!

When a child plummets to their death, was it God’s will? Did God give a little nudge, because God delighted in seeing the child’s head split open when the child hits the ground?

Maybe God does sometimes intervene. How often do we hear it said it was a miracle that so and so survived? But mainly God does not intervene.

Were God to always intervene, we would have the Law of Unintended Consequences, the Laws of Physics would not work. We cannot have it all ways.

Roger E Olson warns of using proof texts to prove a point, the Bible speaks with many voices, often contradictory voices, and yet he is too often guilty as charged, worse still, he then gives contrary examples that contradict the point he has made.

Roger E Olson says if you do not go to church then you are not a Christian. He then gives examples of bad churches that he himself has left!

I would turn this on its head and say there are many who go to church who are not Christians. Simply going through the motions every Sunday does not make you a Christian.

This is to ignore Holy Men who lived a life of solitude.

Paulo Coelho tells a story, or more likely retells a story. A priest goes to visit a man who does not attend church. The two sit in silence before a fire. The priest removes an ember and puts in the hearth. It goes dull and cold. He then puts it back in the fire and leaves. Point made.

Some need community others do not.

Is Christianity all happiness and light? There are are many examples of Christians who have had doubts, who have suffered depression. Dostoevsky, Tolstoy for example.

Paulo Coelho had doubts. He went on a spiritual journey which he recounts in Aleph.

Jesus warned that those who followed him were not embarking on an easy journey.

Roger E Olson confuses feeling depressed with depression.

Roger E Olson does not like the ending of The Shack and arrogantly constructs his own. He does not believe that after what happened to Mack he can rebuild his life. Why not? He had long conversations with God. He saw that his daughter Missy was happy where she was, that she did not blame him for what had happened, that she had forgiven her killer. Yes, he will feel sad, as he will miss her.

There are many well documented cases of people forgiving acts of depravity. One only has to look at the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in South Africa.

If you cannot forgive, let go, it consumes. If we all exacted an eye for an eye, we would as Gandhi once said, be living in a world of blind men.

Art @ Costa October 2011

October 5, 2011

I am reminded of folk in a pub many many years ago. It put me off folk for life.

Is Art @ Costa that bad? No, not at all, but what it is is very variable. It is a mixed bag, some of the acts dire, unbelievably bad, others incredibly good.

Last night a guy on guitar, a poet, an artist and a gospel choir.

On walking in Costa I was greeted by the silks designed by Gill C Sakakini. I asked could she talk about her artwork which she did half way through the evening. She said she was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Hildegard von Bingen wrote beautifully haunting music. She described herself as a feather on the breath of God.

In The Shack the Holy Spirt appears as an orientel lady Sarayu who kind of appears and disappears, she shimmers, the eyes cannot quite focus on her, she appears as bright, vibrant colours. That was the image I had when I looked at the textiles of Gill C Sakakini.

Gill C Sakakini works with groups in retreat and is currently studying for an MA in Christianity and the Arts. Many of her large scale works can be found in churches.

A couple of days later I went to St Mary’s Old Basing to see the silks in situ.

Trip to Old Basing

I was enchanted by the poetry of Rebecca Swarbrick. Her words on the page do not do justice to her spoken word. She does not speak her works, she performs.

Rebecca Swarbrick studied conflict resolution in Belfast in Northern Ireland and several of her poems date from that period.

Art @ Costa is Tuesday evening, first Tuesday of the month (same day as Guildford Farmers Market), at Costa in Swan Lane.

Art @ Costa is the place to be in Guildford for art, music and the spoken word.

Art @ Costa is organised by Milmead Centre and Eden People.

Eden People have asked that we vote them community funding.

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