22nd May 1937: born Northampton England. Apart from initial period in nearby Wellingborough lived there till I was thirteen (can still smell the shoe leather)
September 1951: entered Downside School
October 1955 – June 1958: studied History at Cambridge University
September 1958: entered the novitiate at Downside (hated it, only stayed because too scared to leave)
October 1960 – July 1963: studied Thomist theology at Fribourg in Switzerland (thought at the time was two years wasted, but now think that exposure to Aquinas’s mind was one of the best things in my life)
September 1963: started teaching at Downside School (loved it)
September 1977 – 85: housemaster (completely adored it but not very good, too soft-hearted and lazy)
September 1986 – 1993: ran a tutorial college in West Wales for boys who had failed in normal schools (I learnt so much more than I taught)
July 1993: married (much the best thing that ever happened)
August 1993 – December 2006: read solidly
November 2008. had my first book published Darwin’s Error: The Poet Who Died.
For twenty five years I was a not very good Benedictine monk. The endless liturgy bored me, and although I usually performed the exercises in personal prayer prescribed by the rule, it never meant very much. Eventually I decided that this was not the life for me and left, and I’m now happily married.
You might well ask why it took me so long to make up my mind, and I sometimes wonder that myself. I guess that part of the reason was that the monastery was quite a mothering kind of institution, and – I’m not proud of this – I was a bit frightened of going out into the world. Another reason was that we ran a big school which I adored. You can imagine how busy year after busy year just skipped by. Anyway, in the end I left. Well, I thought, that’s got shot of all that. But it hasn’t turned out like that.
To my surprise, I’ve found that the spiritual training I had has really bitten deeply into me. Now, the procession of the liturgical year has become of immense importance. Now, contemplation holds me spellbound. I have become deeply convinced that the human person is a transcendental creature, capable of a deep personal relationship with the infinite source of being, and destined (well this is what I’ve come to believe, how could I possible know?) for a further experience of universal consciousness after the severely limited earthly restrictions of this one.
I have set up this website (apart from the ego trip and my desire to sell some books) for three reasons
1. I want to express my view that even in this secular age the human person is an exceptionally noble creature because he/she is capable of a transcendental relationship with the source of being.
2. I want to persuade as many people as I can that, generally speaking, western liberals have been led into many errors by the western liberal myth, a myth that is exceptionally misleading in so far as its central tenet is that it is not a myth but science. Its two founding scriptures are The Origin Of Species and The Wealth Of Nations. Both of these books enshrine great truths of nature which have, in both cases, been radically misunderstood and misinterpreted. In the first case it was by Darwin himself, a theme I have tried to develop in my book Loveliest of Men: Darwin and the Tragedy of The Origin of Species. In the second case Adam Smith was traduced by early nineteenth century economists and has continued to be so ever since. This great humane prophet of universal imaginative sympathy has been turned into a business adviser, whose primary thesis supposedly was that if you act selfishly for your own profit everybody else will automatically become richer too. This was not what Adam Smith taught, indeed it was its exact opposite. I hope to develop these ideas in a book I haven’t yet got round to writing The Upside Downing of Adam Smith.
3. The delusions that afflict western liberal society are coming to a climax in our failure to act on climate change. Self-delusion has reached its apogee. We imagine that we can deal with this issue by ‘going green’. It is as if a householder were visited by ten fire experts, nine of whom told him that he and his family were in grave danger of being burnt to death one night, if urgent precautions were not taken. Only a complete fool would believe the tenth. We are that complete fool. The great majority of climate scientists are telling us that we will be faced with catastrophes of unimagineable proportions if we don’t act decisively and urgently on climate. But we are not doing so. How sensible is it to believe Melanie Phillips and Christopher Booker and Nigel Lawson and not believe the IPCC? Many people will feel that my attitude is far too alarmist. I would urge them to read Jared Diamond’s book Collapse. Diamond shows that civilizations destroy themselves because they over-exploit their resource base. Is it even remotely sane to imagine that if the ten billion people who will be living on the planet by 2050 are all aspiring to the western lifestyle – ‘a billion people have been brought out of poverty already’ according to The Adam Smith Institute – we will not destroy our own resource base, and therefore ourselves, in just this way? We need to find a whole new way to live. James Lovelock, revered father of the Gaia theory, thinks that humanity has no hope unless we take the most urgent and drastic action on climate. Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Master of Trinity College Cambridge, has written a book called Our Final Century and now Our final Hour: a Scientist’s Warning. Stephen Hawking posted the question on the internet ‘Can humanity last for another hundred years?’, got twenty five thousand replies, all of which he says he has read, and says he still doesn’t know the answer. Phillips, Lawson, Booker, and the handful of scientists they quote in support of their views on the one hand, or Diamond, Rees, Hawking. Lovelock. the Royal Society, the Tyndall Centre, the Hadley Centre, the IPCC, the American Academy of Sciences, and every official scientific institution in the world on the other? Surely, in the light of these dire warnings, we have to put everything, but everything, aside to deal with the climate issue. There are few, sadly, who can see the great tragedy coming.
Yet I am an optimist. It is technically possible to find an alternative to fossil fuels, and once we have done so the opportunity will be there for a new age, based not on the ruthless exploitation of nature and competitive consumption but love of nature and a Smithian sympathy for our fellow humans. What could be more exciting and fulfilling than saving the world and helping to fashion a new and more humane age? Even at this late stage we can still do something about it, not simply to get rid of carbon but fashion a much, much better world. These few years during which we are living now are surely the most important by far in the whole history of mankind. But most people, alas, just don’t see the urgency of this most precious of times. Why are people so unbothered? I puzzle over this endlessly. Decisive action will demand a deep change of heart as well as mind. This issue is clearly so important I want to do the tiny little I can to contribute to its resolution. We can do this. But we have to want to do it, and want it more than anything else on earth.