Judge to Jury We will now continue the case for the Defense on the third Charge: That the book Involution-Odyssey persuaded the Author to adopt inappropriate language- something that masquerades as ‘symphonic prose’ and at an inappropriate time.
Bear in mind that even the BBC now operates by Twitter and Soundbite. This Homeric epic must be judged against that prevailing climate.
Counsel for the Defense. I now call Canon Richard Milford to take the witness box. Canon Milford you have appeared as a witness in similar circumstances before. Could you clarify that for the Court?
(An aristocratic old tweed- very frail, it’ll blow him over- gentle man. Court Reporter)
RM Well yes, although I would prefer to forget it. I was a witness for the defense of Penguin Publishers in the trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
DEF Counsel Why did they ask you?
RM Well I had just been appointed as Master of the Temple and I supposed they thought my august position would speak louder than ever I could.
DEF Master of the Temple sounds Masonic. Is it?
RM Quite the opposite. Far from secret. It is a Royal Appointment that came with a charming house in central London and very few duties except to eat dinners and take a few services in the famous church of the Knights Templars. A figure head that still vaguely connects the Law to the Church, historically, but the modern Benchers, the senior barristers, would prefer to forget that. They have managed to sever Law from morality. It was a retirement sinecure that I hoped to enjoy; being left alone to study and play chess.
DEF Why did you agree to appear for the defence of Lady Chatterley. Presumably you supported the book?
(Hardly one of the world’s shakers CR)
RM I read it, at the publisher’s request, for the first time, and could see nothing wrong in publishing what essentially is a book about love. Love ennobling sex, as I saw it.
DEF So not one to corrupt the servant classes?That was an allegation wasn’t it?…
RM If they could read it, probably not, but I have never had servants since my nanny departed when I was seven, so I would not know.
DEF Canon Milford you were an incumbent priest at St Mary’s Oxford, the Founder of Oxfam, the Chancellor of Lincoln. What made you expose yourself, if you will forgive the expression, for a highly public trial of a questionable book?
RM Frankly I did not anticipate the consequences. I thought it was a moral question being examined. I simply lent a little weight to the argument for creative freedom. I learned a lot from it. We really were an imprisoned generation. The crippled husband in a wheelchair summed us up. I considered it both brave and poetical, necessary for the time. It banished the fetters of Puritanism, to liberate sex as something joyous. It has now been cheapened, of course…
DEF What were the consequences that you say you regretted?
RM I was blackballed by the Benchers. After that I ate my dinners off a tray in my charming living room. My poor wife had hoped to be released from cookery, (not her forte- she preferred T’ai Ch’i), instead she had not only to cook but to ferry trays. It was a small kitchen designed for a bachelor with a housekeeper who made tea.
DEF Blackballed why?
RM Rigid protocol really. It was not considered proper, as a member of the Temple, to participate in a show trial that might change the Law. Setting precedents was as reprehensible as appearing in court without a wig, or in church without a surplice, but I did not realise that. I read a book, defended its right to exist, and the sky fell on my head.
DEF Well let’s hope this book will treat you more kindly. Please give us your view of this new edition of Involution?
RM Like Lady Chatterley it is equally a necessary new vision for our time. Unlike sex it won’t have the same appeal…God is for Sundays, and rituals, not daily bread and butter.
DEF What does this book require us to banish?
RM The outdated views of both God (as an external ‘mover’) and the natural world (as also external to us ). There is only consciousness, or God. Tough but there He is. I believe it a valuable contribution to the approach began by Teilhard de Chardin, the perception of the incremental spiritualisation that underpins evolution, what he called Christogenesis…
DEF Which means what?
RM The increasing unity of creation, and particularly in its convergence to Man of a consciousness of all participating in the collective cosmogenesis-the evolution of the Cosmos. I find that a great comfort in reconciling the gulf between science and my own theological belief, it renders the spiritual both magical and rational. Nothing divides us from the world about us, once you understand that.
(Good point. He is quite sharp for all the etiolated frame and thick glasses CR)
DEF You support this poetic prose language to express that? That scientific view?
RM I suspect it is the only language worth attempting since science will not take this Author seriously anyway. She seems to have found a new way of expressing a very old and universal understanding, just as de Chardin did.
DEF We have heard the charge of inappropriate authorship and the book was cleared. So writing poetically addresses another readership?
RM I believe it might. Not many, but some will understand it, if they are ready to…It is not difficult.
DEF So it does not trouble you that the Author has been lassoed by a book for which there will be few readers?
RM That has been true of many. I don’t believe she expected otherwise. To be ignored, or even shunned, is not a crime. You might as well suggest that everyone who fails should never have tried.
DEF No further questions.
PROsecution Counsel. Canon, you befriended the Author over many years. Don’t you think you should have made that clear?
RM I was not asked the question but it is not material to my opinion. Had I thought the Book of no value I would have been the first to spare her both the effort of writing it, and the vilification from the heartless world of academia. That I am more than familiar with; it is brutal.
(Knows whereof he speaks -an otherworldly fellow who started Oxfam! and walked smack into the strong arm of the Law! CR)
PRO What attracted you to the Author and her book?
PRO Will you answer the question?
RM I will but I doubt you will understand the answer. You are bound to misinterpret. I had spent close to sixty years looking for belief, real belief. I have read widely from the theological convictions of others, but they never reached the core to afford me any kind of peace. I have preached about love, and not practised it enough. I have never been blessed with religious fervour, much as I might have wanted it. When the person you call the Author blew into our lives, barefooted usually, destitute, yet full of joy I knew it could only be because she had found what I had been searching for. She was infectious. I was infected, perhaps at second hand, but undeniably. Not something a court would understand. It wasn’t her theory, although it was interesting as a means of conveying her experience, and something to hold on to, it was simpler than that, simply an irrepressible joy, and a great deal of humour…I loved her. As did my wife…The language of the book is the language of joy, admixed with enough factual logic to make it comprehensible to those whom Joy had eluded…
PROS Yet it was you who recommended her visit to the Inquisition at Cambridge? You were happy to risk her innocent joy to that destruction.
RM I hoped they might be both kinder and more interested. It was an error of hope over experience. I try and believe declarations sincere…they claimed an interest which proved untrue. But she also understood that, and could forgive it. She was a good mimic and gave a great performance of her reception…
PROS You did not, perchance, hope they would kill it off?
RM I did not. The Author was truly impoverished, living in our modest caravan through the winter, without her children, and I hoped…
PROS That someone would take her off your hands? She and her obsessive Joy!
RM How base a suggestion! No, if she was weighted with anything it was the belief that she had to impart a critical new vision before the materialist viewpoint did any further damage. I wanted to help in any way I could. Contrary to your suggestion, we thoroughly enjoyed her company, my wife had it through the days of sewing and searching for a place for her to live, and I had her in the evenings over the washing up, when we talked about her extraordinary experiences…and de Chardin…and played games finishing each other’s limericks. She taught me some biology, especially about the structure of DNA which she made fascinating; I taught her chess. She was not good on defensive play, good on the attack…
PROS Extraordinary in what way?
RM Well constant synchronicities, some almost worthy of calling mystical… They happened to us when she was about. That’s when I began to see the integration of thought and event, not as theory but a living reality. I am naturally sceptic, much too absorbed intellectually to notice such things but once I suspended disbelief they started happening all the time. The more I accepted her reality, the more it became ours…I found a renewed love for my wife, and indeed life itself. It was a wonderful period.
PROS Are you saying that her mere presence distorted time?
RM No, nothing so inflated, what it altered was my perception, and therefore influenced the unfolding of events; they became immediate,
PRO You can judge these? You have had similar encounters with the allegedly mystical?
RM No, unfortunately. I usually take my theology straight, not laced with visions and voices, but I have read enough of the mystics to recognize their qualities. I believed her entirely without pretension, or grandiose inflation. She is very straight forward. That above all is what convinced me that her book was based on genuine experiences, akin to de Chardin… He failed to find the following his work deserved, as she has. Luckily I am not sufficiently worldly wise to rely on the opinions of others. I form my own opinions from what calls to me…Her dedication in the face of extreme hardship was another reason I believed she had something valuable to convey.
PRO What has been the legacy of your relationship with her?
RM That s the first meaningful question you have asked. I came face to face with inhumanity, I leaned about the hypocrisy of academics who claim to seek truth, and the so called spiritual organisations who seek to suppress it. From her I leaned that I needed blinkers to carry on living, and ploughing a narrow furrow. It is not the book that should be on trial but the world itself. You are asking all the wrong questions.The book is on trial because it failed, but its failure was presumed before it was read. Neither it ,nor the Author fitted the mold. Who decided on that mold? The vacuous, conformist, correct-way-to-do-things… It should be the sardonic, contemptuous, self serving institutions…
Judge Thank you Canon. You may stand down…
RM On the contrary it is time to stand up…
Judge. Canon , if you continue I shall hold you in contempt of Court…
RM Don’t worry. I have taken contempt for myself. Save yourself the trouble.
(Wow! Who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him. Must interview him before the fire goes out. This will be worthy of a front page tonight…Yippee. CR)
Judge (to Jury) I direct you to ignore the outburst of the last witness. It is not relevant to your deliberations.
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons Masters House By Herbert Railton (1857–1910) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (Masters House drawing) By Matt Brown (http://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/4272503062) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons (inner Temple Hall) By Patrick Nielsen Hayden (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pnh/464206477) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons (Gate)