Return to Pilgrim’s Guide
Books and web references in Walking Out of the World are listed in the order in which they occur in the pilgrimage, one reference page for each stage.
Katherine Lack, The Cockleshell Pilgrim (2003)
Solving the mystery of a 15th century pilgrim believed to be Robert Sutton, a dyer, who was unearthed in Worcester cathedral in 1986 during repairs to the foundations. See also K. Lack, “Dyer on the Road to Saint James: An Identity for ‘The Worcester Pilgrim’?” in Midland History, 30:1, 112-128. Katherine Lack website.
Walter Starkie, The Road to Santiago (1957) is still in print, republished by John Murray, 2003 and can be obtained through the Confraternity of St James (www.csj.org.uk) who deserve your custom more than Amazon! Captures the authentic spirit of traditional pilgrimage: a work of scholarship combined with the easy style of an Irish troubadour.
The Way of a Pilgrim, anonymous (1884). The Russian spiritual classic with its sequel, The Pilgrim Continues His Way, is a religious masterpiece about the adventures of an anonymous Russian pilgrim who roams the vast Siberian steppes reciting the Jesus Prayer in order to obey Christ’s injunction to “pray without ceasing.”
Kallistos Ware, The Jesus Prayer (2014). The most popular devotional prayer in the Orthodox Church and increasingly popular in the West. There are various small books about how to use it but this is the best.
Wychwood Forest in 13 Haunted Hikes: The World’s Creepiest Ghost Walks. URL: https://www.blacks.co.uk/blog/13-haunted-hikes-the-worlds-creepiest-trails
Day 4: Wychford Forest to Oxford
Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974). From the blurb on the cover: “This book will change the way you think and feel about your life.” Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. It started me on the road to thinking, and thinking will always lead to a question about God. Maybe that wasn’t what Pirsig intended, and he doesn’t say anything about God… The photo shows Robert Pirsig and his son Chris: a rare photo of the USA road trip that led to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a kind of philosophical pilgrimage. Full text available free on pdf.
Witney Blankets, see The Whitney Blanket Story (This web project was a response to the closure of the last working blanket mill in Witney.) Although I mocked the rainy weather and the wetness of Witney blankets as I trudged through steamy streets, the comment made by Alys on the page for Day 4 draws our attention to a very interesting link between wetness and wool!
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (Milan, 1980; New York, 1983). A very entertaining medieval whodunnit and a sound introduction to fourteenth century religious “culture wars”.
The film had Sean Connery as William of Baskerville, a mediaeval Sherlock Holmes based on the English Franciscan scholar William of Occam. Link to free pdf here, but this is a book about books and the reader should have actual pages in her hand to fully enter the spirit!
“Our destination was to the north, but our journey did not follow a straight line, and we rested in various abbeys. Thus it happened that we turned westward when our final goal was to the east, almost following the line of mountains that from Pisa leads in the direction of the pilgrim’s way to Santiago, pausing in a place which the terrible events that took place there dissuade me from identifying more closely now.”The narrator ‘Dom Adsom of Melk’ gives very few clues to the location of the unnamed abbey, in the prologue to Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (1983). Original Italian text: Il nome della rosa (1980.)
Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Panther and the Hind (1993). A theological history of Anglicanism. Nichols wrote this as a member Domincan community at Blackfriars, Cambridge (the sister house of the one in Oxford where I collected my pilgrim stamp for Day 5). In this concise explanation of the post-Reformation catholic continuity in the Church of England there are many references to Newman’s very strongly anti-liberal crusade and it is clear that his main driving force towards conversion, seeing how the post-enlightenment Anglican tradition was constantly endangered by rational thought and politics. A good read, though criticisewd by both Anglicans and Catholics alike for presenting an over-simplified theological explanation. Good enough for me though, and certainly good enough for the average pilgrim spending half an hour in Littlemore. Foreword by the Anglican Bishop of London, Graham Leonard, later replaced by a woman bishop, which kind of proves Newman’s point really and serves Dr Leonard right! 🙂
It is a little wide of the present introductory discussion of J.H. Newman but I cannot leave him behind without simply mentioning this, as I find it very moving, and such a clear connection between theology and resistance to tyranny. It emerged only in 2018 that a group of anti-Nazi German students known as the White Rose movement, who were connected with the attempt on Hitler’s life, were influenced by Newman’s writings. The connections are explored in Paul Shrimpton’s Conscience Before Conformity: Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose resistance in Nazi Germany (2018).
A very good article by the author appeared in the Catholic Herald explaining this surprising connection. It was Newman’s moral writings on conscience that inspired the Christian resistance of this group: “We know by whom we were created, and that we stand in a relationship of moral obligation to our creator. Conscience gives us the capacity to distinguish between good and evil.” These words were taken almost verbatim from a famous sermon of Newman’s called “The Testimony of Conscience”. In it, Newman explains that conscience is an echo of the voice of God enlightening each person to moral truth in specific situations. All of us, he argues, have a duty to obey a right conscience over and above all other considerations. Amen to that.
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954) is another a study of morality and the human capacity to choose civilisation or savagery, cooperation or violent domination. It is regularly on the school curriculum in English and Welsh secondary education and is used as an exam text for GCSE (Year 10 to 11), so students slightly older than the ones I “engaged” with – or not! – in the grounds of Reading abbey.
There is a classic black and white film of the book, in which a group of schoolboy amateur actors performed chilling scenes from this story – descending into the depths of evil – and some of the actors were mentally scarred from the experience, as a later documentary revealed, catching up with the actors later, in their adult lives.
“Lord of the Flies” is a translation of the Hebrew “Beelzebub”, one of the names of the Devil.
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (1889). Later simply titled Three Men in a Boat, this book became an English comedy classic – though may appear a bit tame in our times – and it gives some insight into the strange world of class-ridden Britain! The humour is surprisingly surreal for a 19th century work and the comic scenes are technically very well developed, and lovely transparent examples of comedy writing technique.
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (1908) (notes to be added)
Day 9: Chertsey Bridge to London
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
An accurate online text can be found here, and all quotes from the poem on my Walking Out of the World posts are taken from this edition.
As a well-known poetic sequence which treats of the journey of life, I shall quote from it again on this journey and discuss it while walking between Dieppe and Rouen in France.
Monty Python’s The Life of Brian (1979) is one of the best films about religion ever made. This may seem a controversial claim. It provoked a very fierce debate about blasphemy in an England still struggling to shake off its upper class superiors who still held fast to the established Church of England as a bulwark against modernity. So paradoxically it can be considered a serious contribution to discussion about religion.
Since ‘Brian’ in the story is not Jesus, but someone mistaken for him by three confused wise men looking for the Messiah, the charge of blasphemy is concocted from either feigned and artificial outrage, or pure ignorance of the opening scenes that establish the muddle about the identity of Brian. (He wasn’t the Messiah – clearly – just a very naughty boy.) The Pythons’ protestation of innocence was also slightly tongue-in-cheek, as their celebrated scene of a hillside staked out with crucified Jewish anarchists singing “Look on the bright side of life!” was clearly calculated to produce the most jaw-dropping comic reaction since Mel Brooks filled a Brtoadway stage with high-kicking Nazis singing “Springtime for Hitler.” The Pythons’ film was clearly intended to provoke the Christian faithful, using the 20th century’s most powerful satirical weapon: reductio ad aburdum, and the film owes much to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Luis Buñuel’s L’Age d’Or.
The film was banned in many places – not just in conservative places in the UK but in other countries too. The film’s distributors cleverly seized the advantage of this welcome publicity. In Sweden a poster proclaimed, “So funny, it was banned in Norway!”
Incredibly, it was banned for almost three decades in Torquay in Devon. An article by Kevin Dixon in the We Are South Devon blog tells the story, with a video link to highly amusing – and at times chilling – debate in 1979 between the Pythons, John Cleese and Michael Palin, and the conservative polemicist and broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge together with the Anglican Bishop, Mervyn Stockwood. Although the supposedly media-savvy conservatives were the best “safe pair of hands” the Establishment could put up against the Pythons, the debate descended into farce. As Kevin Dixon’s article puts it, “Bizarrely, a role reversal followed with the two comedians attempting to make serious arguments while the Establishment figures engaged in abuse and point scoring.” In the recording of the debate, the bishop at one point asserts, “You wouldn’t make jokes about Socrates or make him appear as a clown.”
So, yes, I have good reason for including The Life of Brian as a serious reference point when it comes to our discussion of religious pilgrimage and ‘culture wars’. I shall return to it a little further along the pilgrim road to Compostela.
Mother Julian of Norwich, The Shewings (1388)
For some basic history of Mother Julian and an introduction to her significance, please go first to this article in the Christian History Institute.
I shall return to her writings in a more contemplative section of the walk across the flat and featureless expanse of the Landes, south of Bordeaux.
References Stage II: is in development on a new page.
The virtual walking pilgrimage is in real time.
I need time to catch up: some days do not need references.