For Contemplation and Discussion

A new element of the Fellowship's work is a regular online discussion group. While this group is only available to members, we will post the material we look at here for anyone to use in contemplation or discussion.

14th May 2020

Dreams

Questions that may aid contemplation:

Does God still speak through dreams today?

 

Are our dreams purely subjective in their meaning? Is there any place for interpreting our own dreams and those of others?

 

What dreams have you had that appeared significant? Have you had dreams that have spoken into events that have happened afterwards?

The image below is of an article from the New Scientist, 9th May 2020 about how and why this time of lockdown is affecting our dreams.

Dreaming is something we all do, whether we remember our dreams or not. Sometimes we feel strongly that our dreams have more significance than simply our subconscious minds processing our experiences.

The Bible is full of stories of dreams and dreamers, and of interpretation of dreams. From such stories, it is evident that God speaks to people through their dreams.

 

Previous Topics

Click the title to go to the discussion.

30th April 2020

Suffering

This week's topic for discussion is 'suffering', and once again to spark our discussion we are looking at a passage from the novel Glamorous Powers by Susan Howatch.

Susan is a patron of the Fellowship and  the author of several books, including the Starbridge novels: a series of books written about the Church of England beginning in the late 1930s. The first, Glittering Images, follows a priest sent to report back to the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding a bishop who may have the potential to cause problems within the church. It becomes clear, as the novel progresses, the Bishop has certain psychic powers,. The second novel, Glamorous Powers (which is the origin of the material for discussion this week), follows an Abbot with the gifts of clairvoyance and healing as he leaves the sanctuary of his Order to find his calling in the world. In this week's passage he is comforting his wife after the death of a loved one.

 

More information about Susan and her novels can be found here: https://www.bookseriesinorder.com/susan-howatch/

The ancient question was again hammering on the door of mystery, the great mystery of the imperfect world, the great mystery of a Creator who would permit the impermissible, the great mystery of human suffering…

 

‘Those hard painful questions only seem unanswerable,’ I said, ‘because you’re viewing them from the wrong position: you’re in the world and looking out. But now step outside the world and look in. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s a world of change. There’s this huge dynamic force, life, which is constantly banging against the walls of time and space as it contracts, expands and develops. Now step closer, and you’ll see this continuous change can’t be represented by a vertical line, only by a circle. Half the circle is dark and half is light. The dark side of change is suffering, the light side is growth, development, flowering, and the dark and the light follow each other endlessly in the great cycle of birth, death and resurrection. Now this means the light and the dark sides of the circle aren’t merely related to each other; they’re interdependent, and this interdependence means that without suffering there can be no growth, no development, no flowering. Without suffering, in fact, there would be no life as we know it; we’d all be wooden images, utterly static, in a world where nothing ever happened and where God’s love would fall on barren soil…

 

‘Now step back and look at the world from another angle. Look at it as an idea in the mind of God, a brilliant dynamic idea which we ourselves can’t fully grasp except that its dynamism ties us to the change we can’t escape. But beyond the idea, beyond the mind of God, is God himself, the unchanging perfection of ultimate reality. In other words, this cage we live in, this prison of time and space, isn’t ultimately real. [He] may have slipped out of the cage ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean he’s ceased to exist. As part of the ultimate reality his existence is reflected back into the world of time and space in the form of the absolute values, the values which can never die, and the value in which we can most clearly see him reflected is love.’

(Susan Howatch, Glamorous Powers, Diamond Books, London, 1988, P641)

Questions that may aid contemplation:

What resonates in this description?

 

What do you disagree with?

 

What would you add?

 

20th April 2020

The Soul

This week's topic for discussion is 'the soul', and to spark our discussion we are looking at a passage from the novel Glamorous Powers by Susan Howatch.

Susan is a patron of the Fellowship and  the author of several books, including the Starbridge novels: a series of books written about the Church of England beginning in the late 1930s. The first, Glittering Images, follows a priest sent to report back to the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding a bishop who may have the potential to cause problems within the church. It becomes clear, as the novel progresses, the Bishop has certain psychic powers,. The second novel, Glamorous Powers (which is the origin of the material for discussion this week), follows an Abbot with the gifts of clairvoyance and healing as he leaves the sanctuary of his Order to find his calling in the world. In this passage he is trying to find the words to describe what happens when we die.

 

More information about Susan and her novels can be found here: https://www.bookseriesinorder.com/susan-howatch/

“You’re wondering if we can survive as individuals after death. Christianity says we do. On the other hand the Indian mystics claim that we don’t; we merely become absorbed in the Absolute. However Plotinus (who was probably the greatest religious philosopher who ever lived – and a pagan, incidentally) holds that although there’s a merging with other spirits individuality is retained; each soul is an individual as a face or body. So the question then becomes: what is the relation of this ‘soul’ to the ‘I’ of personality? Or in other words, who is it who survives after death? Is it the ego, the demanding self of our daily lives whom we know all too well? Or is the real self not the ego at all but the spiritual presence which we share with all human beings, the ennobled self which often prompts men to sacrifice for others, and share the burden of another’s suffering? ”

(Susan Howatch, Glamorous Powers, Diamond Books, London, 1988, P641)

Questions that may aid contemplation:

How far do you perceive we retain our individuality after death?

The passage above intimates that our 'real self', the part of us that survives death, is separate to our ego. What then should our response be to the ego?

What are some of the ways we nourish our souls, our 'real selves'?

What are some of the barriers we can face in seeking to bring to them to prominence? How do we overcome them?

 
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