Monthly Archives: December 2020

Writing from captivity 1

There’s something about the current situation which draws me to writing from places of captivity, so the next few posts will be on that theme …

The first is from Brian Keenan who was held as a hostage for 4 and half years in Beirut:

‘I look at this food I know to be the same as it has always been. But wait. My eyes are almost burned by what I see. There’s a bowl in front of me that wasn’t there before. A brown button bowl and in it some apricots, some small oranges, some nuts, cherries, a banana. The fruits, the colours, mesmerize me in a quiet rapture that spins through my head. I am entranced by colour. I lift an orange into the flat filthy palm of my hand and feel and smell and lick it. The colour orange, the colour, the colour, my God the colour orange. Before me is a feast of colour. I feel myself begin to dance, slowly, I am intoxicated by colour. I feel the colour in a quiet somnambulant rage. Such wonder, such absolute wonder in such an insignificant fruit.

I cannot, I will not eat this fruit. I sit in quiet joy, so complete, beyond the meaning of joy. My soul finds its own completeness in that bowl of colour … Everything meeting in a moment of colour and of form, my rapture no longer an abstract euphoria. It is there in that tiny bowl, the world recreated in that broken bowl. I feel the smell of each fruit leaping into me and lifting me and carrying me away. I am drunk with something that I understand but cannot explain. I am filled with a sense of love. I am filled and satiated by it. What I have waited and longed for has without my knowing come to me, and taken all of me.’


Brian Keenan, An Evil Cradling

The incarnation – second time around


But he will come again, it’s said, though not

Unwanted and unsummoned; for all things,

Beasts of the field, and woods, and rocks, and seas,

And all mankind from end to end of the earth

Will call him with one voice. In our own time,

Some say, or at a time when time is ripe.

The he will come, Christ the uncrucified,

Christ the discrucified, his death undone,

His agony unmade, his cross dismantled –

Glad to be so – and the tormented wood

Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree

In a green springing corner of young Eden,

And Judas damned take his long journey backward

From darkness into light and be a child

Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal

Be quite undone and never more be done.


The last verse of The Transfiguration by Edwin Muir   – it seems to offer the hope of redemption




Advent poem – Merton’s Cables to the Ace

Slowly, slowly

Comes Christ through the garden

Speaking to the sacred trees

Their branches bear his light

Without harm


Slowly, slowly

Comes Christ through the ruins

Seeking the lost disciple

A timid one

Too literate

To believe words

So he hides


Slowly, slowly

Christ rises on the cornfields

It is only the harvest moon

The disciple

Turns over in his sleep

And murmurs:

“My regret!”


The disciple will awaken

When he knows history

But slowly slowly

The Lord of History weeps into the fire.


Thomas Merton Cables to the Ace (stanza 80)


Advent meditation

This is a guided meditation for taking refuge adapted from B. Alan Wallace who is a Tibetan Buddhist but the meditation can be used also by Christians- seeking sanctuary.

Seeking sanctuary with Christ

The meditation is about entrusting ourselves to our saviour, to our deepest refuge, a safe haven, the safe harbour in the midst of the stormy seas of life.

The focus is on surrender to an inner sense of serenity, joy and ease. You are invited to unveil an intrinsic sense of caring. It is already there but you are invited to let it burst forth: caring for yourself, feeling compassion for yourself, arouse the aspiration for freedom and wholeness for yourself and for all those around you. There are no boundaries other than those we imagine. The aspiration is for wholeness and perfection for all sentient beings.

In front of you is Jesus Christ – he is gazing on you with inexpressible love and compassion, infinite caring and infinite wisdom. Christ is the source of infinite blessings and in return you accept and return these blessings with thanks.

You imagine Christ coming towards you – very close and invite him into the inner sanctum of your heart, to fill and permeate you with this love. You invite Christ to become you and so imagine that he is dissolving blissfully as light filling your body, heart and

mind. Your entire being is filled with his light so there is no longer any distinction between Christ and you. Your body, your speech your mind is Christ.

In that state you meditate – simply being – eyes open, all senses open, no withdrawal, very present, no inner, no outer, no direction, no focus, no meditating on anything. All doing is deactivated – it is resting in the divine. All striving is released, all desires released.

Simply be present, in inner silence, and rest in open, unimpeded, effortless Presence.

Harry Guntrip’s ‘big dream’ sequence

Harry Guntrip’s psychoanalytical biography written by Jeremy Hazell is the most extraordinary read – a lifetime’s journey over twenty years in psychoanalysis, to discover his earliest trauma and record all his dreams. In his first ‘proper’ analysis with Ronald Fairbairn (he had earlier years of therapy with several others) Guntrip reached the insight that his mother had given him the ‘form of a relationship but not the content’– she was non-relating to him. This left him unable to live and love to the full, which he believed was every person’s birth right. Between 1962-9, after his work with Fairbairn ended, Guntrip was in analysis with Donald Winnicott who enabled Guntrip to begin to get in touch with the early trauma – the death of his baby brother Percy when Guntrip was aged 3. Prior to that tragedy was the absence of any warm loving relationship with his mother. The dream sequence was triggered by the death of Winnicott in 1971, and reveals the trauma as a screen memory for ‘a profoundly depersonalised experience’ with Guntrip’s emotionally exhausted mother.

On the very night that Winnicott died Guntrip had a

‘startling dream. I saw my mother, black, immobile, staring fixedly into space, totally ignoring me as I stood at one side staring at her and feeling myself frozen into immobility: the first time I had ever seen her in a dream like that. Before she had always been attacking me. My first thought was: “I’ve lost Winnicott and am left alone with mother, sunk in depression, ignoring me. That’s how I felt when Percy died.”’

As the sequence continued over the next nights a most dramatic dream confirmed for Guntrip that Winnicott had helped him find the truth about the trauma:

‘I was standing with another man, the double of myself, both reaching out to take hold of a dead object. Suddenly the other man collapsed in a heap. Immediately the dream changed to a lighted room where I saw Percy again. I knew it was him, sitting on the lap of a woman who had no face, arms, or breasts. She was merely a lap to sit on, not a person. He looked deeply depressed, with the corner of his mouth turned down and I was trying to make him smile.’

In his self-analysis, Guntrip realised with great joy that ‘the eternal quality of his relation to Winnicott, who was not, and could not be, dead for him’ had taken the place of his mother and made it safe to remember the trauma that had dogged his entire life. Guntrip was clear that analysis cannot give anyone a different life history and there is no such thing as an immediate full cure, but one can be put in a stronger position internally to experience and gain greater understanding of ‘the ways in which the old ingrown bad-relation patterns are aroused and disturbed by present-day affairs.’ His dreams were a symbolic record of originally external bad experience which had to be internalised as it could not be accepted and used for ego-development. He felt his unconscious had ‘known best’ and ‘gone its own way’ and that dreams were ‘a way of experiencing on the fringes of consciousness, our internalised conflicts, our memories and fantasies of conflicts that have become our inner reality.’ Guntrip was in his 70s when this breakthrough came.