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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Newsletter of Universalist Humanism - Hong Kong, SAR, China - Vol III, Number 4 - November 2015

My Big Bible Story

By Tony Henderson

A quite huge bible took my attention in the open-air market area of Melton Mowbray, near Nottingham (August 2015), England. I retrieved same from its resting place among all kinds of secondhand books, so interesting somehow, indeed a weighty tome. The early pages started with the Apocrypha, this struck me strange, is that usual I pondered, surely these are the ‘left out’ texts, how come they were in first place?

Presuming the book would cost from seventy to a hundred and fifty pounds I asked the bookseller, he quickly replied, “Fifteen quid.” That’s a good deal, I’ll have that, I thought and thus became the owner of: The Family Devotional Bible - with copious notes and reflections on each chapter of the old and new testament and valuable marginal references; by Henry, Matthew. Publisher, The London Printing and Publishing Company, (26 x 35 x 13 cm), with its worn leather cover and front near falling off.

Mine was the New Testament, Part II. It didn’t have a published dated. According to one book restorer, though speaking of the even bigger combined version... “The reason there is no publishing date is that it was not published at one time. This volume was published in 16 parts. To acquire a complete copy one had to start a subscription in 1840 and maintain the subscription until 1861- or 2. Anyone who acquired all 16 parts could submit them to be bound. My copy does have a publishing date of 1865. The dates that individual copies were bound could vary considerably.”

However, the inscription on my copy is dated 3-5-48, telling that this was a more recent production. The inscription is barely readable, something like: From 13th Lewis. To the Chase Lide Lodge of Instruction.

Why the purchase?

Not sure. I just liked it. By this time in my life the bible of the Christian religion was not something that held any particular attraction though as a reference must have one on stand by. The sheer size of this one and the large fonts and superb illustrations - apparently, steel engravings - pulled me into it. The engraver signed his name, W.H. Mote, active around the 1820s. (Note: the bible in question has steel engraved title page and a further 39 plates and 3 fold out maps.)

Seeking provenance for this bible I first looked through a list pertaining to the Catholic tradition. No Joy. So I dug into the fellow himself: Matthew Henry.

I simply searched Google and accepted Wikipedia. He was born at Broad Oak, Iscoyd, a farmhouse on the borders of Flintshire and Shropshire. His father, Philip Henry, was ejected from his home under the Act of Uniformity 1662.

I further learned that as an immediate result of this Act, over 2,000 clergymen refused to take the Act oath and were expelled from the Church of England in what became known as the Great Ejection of 1662. Although there had already been ministers outside the established church, this created the concept of non-conformity, with a substantial section of English society excluded from public affairs for a century and a half.

Returning to Matthew Henry, his father Philip, unlike most of his ejected fellows, possessed some private means, and was able to give his son a good education.

Young Matthew first went to a school in Islington, and then at Gray's Inn. He soon gave up his legal studies for theology, and in 1687 became minister of a Presbyterian congregation at Chester.

While in Chester, Henry founded the Presbyterian Chapel in Trinity Street. He moved again in 1712 to Mare Street, Hackney. Two years later (22 June, 1714), he died suddenly of apoplexy at the Queen's Aid House (41 High Street) in Nantwich while on a journey from Chester to London.

There, in few words, I learned of this bible’s mentor-ship. I also understood why the fellow was not on the Catholic list. However, reference to this particular work was not so forthcoming, though I chanced upon a highly laudable Matthews quote commenting on a popular expression about the relationship between men and women, from the story of the creation of Eve, in the Book of Genesis: "the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved."

Subsequent to the Uniformity Act, a Nonconformist was an English subject belonging to any non-Anglican church or to a non-Christian religion. A person who also advocated religious liberty may be more narrowly considered as such.

Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and those less organized were considered Nonconformists. Later, as other groups formed, they were also considered nonconformists: Methodists, Unitarians, Quakers, Plymouth Brethren, English Moravians, and The Salvation Army.

The term "dissenter" came into use particularly after the Act of Toleration (1689), which exempted nonconformists who had taken the oaths of allegiance from penalties for non-attendance at the services of the Church of England.

All well and good but, despite unearthing a long list of verifiable writings of Henry Matthew, no reference to The Family Devotional Bible!

Matthew Henry’s pedigree though was impeccable: Quoting renown Charles Spurgeon (I had never heard of him): "First among the mighty for general usefulness we are bound to mention the man whose name is a household word, Matthew Henry. He is most pious and pithy, sound and sensible, suggestive and sober, terse and trustworthy...."

I did find this reference which could be the body of work that formed the edition I was holding - or at least half of the two-volume set: Matthew Henry's well-known six-volume Exposition of the Old and New Testaments (1708–1710) or Complete Commentary, provides an exhaustive verse by verse study of the Bible, covering the whole of the Old Testament, and the Gospels and Acts in the New Testament. After the author's death, the work was finished (Romans through Revelation) by thirteen other nonconformist ministers, partly based upon notes taken by Henry's hearers, and edited by George Burder and John Hughes in 1811. The word ‘author’ threw me a bit; did he affect a translation, ah, no surely a massive work, his was the commentaries only.

One unknown reviewer wrote: The importance and value of Henry's "Commentary" was so evident to his fellow ministers that steps were soon taken to collect the notes he had prepared on the remaining books from Romans to Revelation, so that the whole of the Bible might be included in the final work. Henry's "Commentary" quickly became an indispensable work of reference for Christians — Whitfield read it regularly and thoroughly as part of his devotional reading — and Doddridge's opinion is as relevant for us today as it was in his own day, "Henry is, perhaps, the only commentator, so large, that deserves to be entirely and attentively read through."

Again, I was not familiar with those church worthies but assume they were figures of note.

The Bible Society seems to be the organisation that first allowed the Apocrypha to be included in a bible. Although perceived as Protestant, from the early days the British and Foreign Bible Society was officially ecumenical, and allowed inclusion of the Apocrypha. As a reaction to the occasional inclusion of these books and other issues, the Trinitarian Bible Society was founded in 1831. Pope Gregory XVI in his 1844 encyclical Inter Praecipuas condemned both bible societies and "the publication, dissemination, reading, and possession of vernacular translations of sacred Scriptures", and subsequently Catholics did not officially participate in the Society.

As a non-conformist Matthew Henry was independent enough to be able to have this inclusion but he must have done so for profound reasons, not just to irk others. He included:
First Book of Esdras
Second Book of Esdras
The rest of the chapters of the Book of Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus (Siroch)
Song of the Three Holy Children
Bel and the Dragon
Prayer of Manasses (Manasseh)
First Book of Maccabees
Second Book of Maccabees

A good question that arose later in this delving is: would he have included the likes of the Gospel of Thomas unearthed at Hammadi in a later century?

Note: The Protestant Apocrypha contains three books (3 Esdras, 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh [Sadducees]) that are accepted by many Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Orthodox Churches* as canonical, but are regarded as non-canonical by the Catholic Church and are therefore not included in modern Catholic bibles, but are also considered to be Apocrypha by the Catholic Church.

Dead Sea Scrolls and non-western Christian churches

The Dead Sea Scrolls brand the Sadduceean elite as those who broke the covenant with God in their rule of the Judean state, and thus became targets of divine revenge.

Further note*: Oriental Orthodoxy is the communion of Eastern Christian Churches that recognise only three ecumenical councils - where the content of the Christian bible was determined -  the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the Council of Ephesus. They reject the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon. Hence, these Churches are also called Old Oriental Churches or Non-Chalcedonian Churches.

The Oriental Orthodox communion comprises six groups: Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Eritrean Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (India) and Armenian Apostolic churches. These six churches, while being in communion with each other are completely independent hierarchically and have no equivalent of the Bishop of Rome or Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, with no concepts of supremacy or precedence respectively.

I recalled that G I Gurdjief, the Greek-Armenian adventurer-mystic, once remarked that one day something of great import [for esotericism and Christianity] will come out of Ethiopia. The following reference to the Copts resonated with that recall.

That... Christianity spread throughout Egypt within half a century of Saint Mark's arrival in Alexandria as is clear from the New Testament writings found in Bahnasa, in Middle Egypt, which date around the year 200 AD [orCE], and a fragment of the Gospel of John, written in Coptic, which was found in Upper Egypt and can be dated to the first half of the 2nd century. In the 2nd century, Christianity began to spread to the rural areas, and scriptures were translated into the local language, namely Coptic.

The region was one of the first places where Christianity became the state religion, in CE 451, as a result of the Council of Chalcedon determinations. The believers in the one nature of Christ, monophysites, which included the majority of Christians in Egypt and Ethiopia, were designated as heretics under the common name of Coptic Christians.

The majority of Christians nowadays belong to the "Chalcedonian" churches, being, the Roman Catholic, Maronite, Eastern Orthodox, and traditional Protestant churches - at least those that accept the first four Ecumenical Councils. These churches consider monophysitism to be heretical.

Why was all this intriguing me, because of the inclusion-exclusion of Apocryphia. This well esteemed commentator Henry Matthews had reason to bring them in and thus it follows the contents of the texts need to be considered, or so it occurred to me.

I should explain that when I read a Christian bible in its completeness, in Denmark late ‘60s, living in a tent and eating bread fried in margarine, I was turned off by the content of the Old Testament but found the New Testament wholesome and applicable. I did not take the tales or contents as literal truths but symboli-mythical-allegorical, tales that pointed beyond the actual words to other spiritual possibilities. I still hold to this position.

I like that Mohammad is a man, also the Buddha Gautama. This gives me a chance and you too! I see the Jesus as portrayed as a living being in the New Testament as a man and it’s the story of his trying to come to terms with what is termed god, God or GOD.

Other bibles

It was and is quite marvelous to see the ramifications of a sacred book, a bible, a Christian bible, knowing that in each of the other world religions they also have their bibles or equivalents, equally complicated and inter-organisationally controversial. Also knowing that there are other major religious forces that do not have a written culture, Shamanism, Animism and the like which does not mean they should be disregarded.

Nowadays, to draw in further complications, there are, in relation to the Christian Bible the Nag Hammadi Codices (NHC) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) that emerged from two thousand years of obscurity around the same historical moment.

The Dead Sea Scrolls -  a collection of manuscripts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at an ancient settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank near the Dead Sea. The texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in four different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean. While the Essenes are brought into the equation when looking for their origins, further research is pointing at the Sadducees.

According to The Oxford Companion to Archaeology:

The biblical manuscripts from Qumran, which include at least fragments from every book of the Old Testament, except perhaps for the Book of Esther, provide a far older cross section of scriptural tradition than that available to scholars before. While some of the Qumran biblical manuscripts are nearly identical to the Masoretic, or traditional, Hebrew text of the Old Testament, some manuscripts of the books of Exodus and Samuel found in Cave Four exhibit dramatic differences in both language and content. In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the Masoretic text, of the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around A.D. 100 [CE 100].

But all the texts uncovered there are not biblical in nature so those jars etc seem to be storage for a hidden library rather than just of one denominational group under renegade conditions.

The Nag Hammadi Library consists of writings found by two peasants who unearthed clay jars in 1945 in upper Egypt. These did not appear in English for 32 years, because the right to publish was contended by scholars, politicians, and antique dealers.

The Nag Hammadi texts, are:
Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Philip
Secret Book of John
Gospel of Truth (some see a Buddhist influence)

The Essenes and some early Christians lived a pious, ascetic life, abandoning the big conurbations and the material  world for a life of solitary or communal prayer and self-denial. But the Essenes were not a Christian group. The associated writings make no mention of John the Baptist, Jesus, or Jesus’s followers. The Dead Sea Scrolls seem to tell that Christianity was not a unique phenomenon, though it had a lot in common with the Essenes teachings-practices.


The chronological history of the Christian Bible, pre-15th Century takes the story back to 2000 - 1185 B.C.E. to the times of the Hebrew speaking Patriarchs and a Nomadic Era. By 1500 B.C.E. the Hebrews were in Egypt, 1250 - 1220 B.C.E. There was the exodus of Hebrews from Egypt, 1185 - 1000 B.C.         Hebrews were in Palestine. However, the Jewish (Kingdom of Judah) were exiled between 600 - 580 B.C.E.  From 539 - 332 B.C.E. they return to Palestine, though under foreign rule. From 300 - 200 B.C. E.  the Judaic scribes preserved Hebrew Holy Scriptures while in captivity, also referred to as the Samaritan Pentateuch, the text having been kept by the Samaritan community.  The first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), are taken by many as a history of the Jews from Creation to the death of Moses.  Elohim and Jehovah are the most common names given to the Diety by the ancient Hebrews and are used interchangeably in the Pentateuch. The Elohistic Scriptures are simpler and primitive; the Jehovistic Scriptures are elaborate, show a knowledge of history, geography, and the priesthood, likely incorporated into the Elohistic writings.

In the same period the Septuagint (LXX) appears as the first translation of Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, the oldest known copy of this work ( Codex Alexandrinus dates from the Fifth Century.

200 B.C.E. is also the date of the oldest of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran Manuscripts), claimed to be the fragmentary remains of Essene compilations.  Recalling that these were only discovered in 1947, over a hundred of the scrolls comprising the Old Testament, except for the Book of Esther.  There are also thousands of other fragments, and all were discovered in a cave of the Qumran Valley near the Dead Sea.

63 B.C.E. - 70 C.E. Roman occupation of Palestine with the birth of Jesus placed from 20 to 4 B.C.E. depending on the way the calendar is used.

50 - 150 C.E. Formulation and completion of New Testament, in Greek;  earliest known manuscripts date from the 3rd and 4th Century C.E.

70 C.E. Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple; Gospel of Mark appears, said to originate in Rome.

90 - 100 C.E. Though not directly connected to the Christian Bible the Hebrew Holy Scriptures were canonized between these dates by Rabbinical Council at Jamnia (Jabneh), Judaea, Palestine. 100 - 600 C.E. Talmudic works appear. Note: The Talmud is a central text of Rabbinic Judaism, normally referring to the collection of writings named specifically as the Babylonian Talmud, although there is also an earlier collection known as the Jerusalem Talmud, or Palestinian Talmud. The Talmud is the basis for all codes of Jewish law, and is widely quoted in rabbinic literature.

300 - 500 C.E. Early codices (codex meaning manuscript-book):  papyri, parchments, lectionaries and so on which bound codex could be transported throughout regions, spreading knowledge and in this case, the word of God [via inspired Man].

331 C.E. Emperor Constantine orders fifty Bibles for his churches in Constantinople from Eusebius of Caesarea. 367 C.E.   Twenty-seven books of the New Testament are listed; the Canon is defined.

382 C.E. Translation of the Vulgate began, (the Old and New Testaments in Latin) by Eusebius Hieronymus (St. Jerome) at the request of Pope Damascus. The Vetus Latina ("Old Latin") collection of biblical texts then in use by the Church. Once published, it was widely adopted and eventually eclipsed the Vetus Latina and, by the 13th century, was known as the "versio vulgata" (the "version commonly-used") or, more simply, in Latin as Vulgata or in Greek Vulgate).

The Catholic Church made this version its official Latin Bible as a consequence of the Council of Trent (1545–63).

Various biblical works were produced thereafter such as the 380 - 1388. Wyclif Bible produced by the followers of John Wyclif, an English theologian and reformer (also called the Morning Star of the Reformation) who was critical of the papacy.  Wyclif felt that all Christians should have access to the bible in the vernacular.  The Wyclif becomes the first complete, word-for-word translation of the Vulgate into English, into a Midland dialect. The complete Wyclif Bible remained unprinted until 1850.  Also known as the Lollard Bible, extant in 170 copies.

1409.  The Synod of Canterbury at St. Paul’s, London, issued a decree forbidding the translation of the Scriptures from one language to another, and the reading of a translation later than that of John Wyclif under penalty of greater excommunication, unless special license be obtained.


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As a consequence of this research into my Bible’s ‘authenticity’ associated reading brought me to Olivier Manitara and his Jesus and the Essenes book. I liked his Jesus, “a simple man who walked the streets in the midst of people.” He seen the Essenes as “carrying within themselves all of the seeds of Christianity and of future western civilization.” He included as Essenes St Anne, Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus, John the Evangelist and more.

With this writer comes the more esoteric side resulting from this delving as Olivier Manitara tells that the Essenes accord “great importance to the teachings of the ancient Chaldeans, of Zoroaster, of Hermes Trismegiste, to the secret teachings of Moses and of one of the founding masters of their order who had transmitted techniques similar to those of Buddhism, as well as to the revelations of Enoch.” They ‘knew’ that the greatest Hebrew prophets came from their lineage and School.

Those who lived in monastery-schools were mostly unmarried. Those wanting to enter as initiates had to examine their past life clearly to objectively summarise it; the successes, motivations, failures, the spirited excitations experienced, the wisdom acquired - he or she had to discern the unusual impulses received during life and to look at his or her response, in that were they taken into account? Was there a moving away from them or was the response faithful to them? All this in an effort to be fit to enter the community (Community of Light).

The Essenes considered themselves the guardians of the Divine Teaching... Olivier Manitara says and speaks of a School, which is how my own essential Guide Silo speaks of our little gang of humanists and our endeavours, defined as: “A group that professes, studies, or develops a doctrine. At the root of every great religion or system of life, we can trace back the existence of the School,” from Siloism.

Not just that but some of the practices of the Essenes also brought our Siloists to mind: the task is to awaken people or if not, to comfort, and to guide the awake. Also in some practices: the laying on of hands, self-observation, periodic self-evaluation, working as a group, simple ceremonies, respect of the privacy of others, no forcing, the holding to a Purpose.

Returning to the main theme, the make-up of the modern Christian Bible clearly is a selected set of writings and the selection was made by established members of the strongest lines within the then church and that was done for good, if subjective reasons. The matter was successful, viewed from the present day popularity of the various Christian churches, at least from the angle of continuity.

My quest of situating the Matthew Bible bore fruit in learning that “ was first published in 1537 by John Rogers, under the pseudonym "Thomas Matthew". It combined the New Testament of William Tyndale, and as much of the Old Testament as he had been able to translate before being captured and put to death. The translations of Myles Coverdale from German and Latin sources completed the Old Testament and the Apocrypha, except the Apocryphal Prayer of Manasses. It is thus a vital link in the main sequence of English Bible translations.”

Phew, what a relief, and I understood from that that Matthew Henry offered his commentaries only, not dealing with any re-translations.

Of the bible’s three translators “...two were burned at the stake. Tyndale was burned on 6 October 1536 in Vilvoorde, Belgium. John Rogers was "tested by fire" on 4 February 1555 at Smithfield, England; the first to meet this fate under Mary I of England. Myles Coverdale was employed by Cromwell to work on the Great Bible of 1539, the first officially authorized English translation of the Bible.

A. S. Herbert, bible cataloguer, says of the Matthew Bible, "this version, which welds together the best work of Tyndale and Coverdale, is generally considered to be the real primary version of our English Bible" upon which later editions were based, including the Geneva Bible and King James Version. ...” Thus the Matthew Bible, though largely unrecognized, significantly shaped and influenced English Bible versions in the centuries that followed its first appearance.

Coming to modern times, the Revised Standard Version of the Bible is an authorized revision of the American Standard Version, published in 1901, which was a revision of the King James Version, published in 1611. Its revisers in 1881 expressed admiration for "its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression … the music of it cadences, and the felicities of its rhythm." The Revised Standard Version of the Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, was published 1952, and has met with wide acceptance; it posed the first serious challenge to the popularity of the Authorized (King James) Version.

However, one controversy points at the critical errors that can arise, the RSV's translation of the Hebrew word almāh as "young woman" rather than the traditional Christian translation of "virgin".

The controversy stemming from this rendering helped reignite the King-James-Only Movement within the Independent Baptist and Pentecostal churches. Fundamentalists and evangelicals in particular accused  translators of deliberately altering the Scriptures to deny the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Jesus.

In 1957, at the request of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the Deuterocanonical books (included in the Apocrypha by most Protestant Christians) were added to the RSV. Since there was no American Standard Version of the Apocrypha, the RSV Apocrypha was a revision of the Revised Version Apocrypha of 1894, as well as the King James Version. To make the RSV acceptable to Eastern Orthodox congregations, an expanded edition of the Apocrypha containing 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151 was released in 1977.

The Common Bible of 1973 ordered the books in a way that pleased both Catholics and Protestants. It was divided into four sections:

The Old Testament (39 Books)
The Catholic Deuterocanonical Books (12 Books)
The additional Eastern Orthodox Deuterocanonical Books (three Books; six Books after 1977)
The New Testament (27 Books)

The non-deuterocanonicals gave the Common Bible a total of 81 books: it included 1 Esdras (also known as 3 Ezra), 2 Esdras (4 Ezra), and the Prayer of Manasseh, books that have appeared in the Vulgate's appendix since Jerome's time "lest they perish entirely", but are not considered canonical by Catholics and are thus not included in the most modern Catholic Bible.

In 1977, the RSV Apocrypha was expanded to include 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, and Psalm 151, three additional sections accepted in the Eastern Orthodox Canon (4 Maccabees again forming an appendix in that tradition), although it still does not include additional books in the Syriac and Ethiopian Canons. This action increased the Common Bible to 84 Books, making it the most comprehensive English Bible translation to date with its inclusion of books not accepted by all denominations. The goal of the Common Bible was to help ecumenical relations among the churches. The RSV Common Bible is one of the versions authorized to be used in services of the Episcopal Church.

Given this complexity and not being a member of any denomination, though born into a Catholic family, I find all the above unhelpful on my spiritual journey and taking into account the contents of further excluded materials and the recent archeological mainly desert findings, I for one find the status quo unsatisfactory.

In broad-strokes and not giving the references I would rather see, if Jesus existed at all in the manner attributed to him, a fellow that led an extraordinary life but a human life, who had a family of mother and father, brothers and sisters and a romantic love in associated disciple Mary Magdalene (in Greek Maria), and he probably married her. A Jesus who did not die on a cross, who likely continued on his chosen path but had to leave the region of his birth as he was upsetting the Jewish norm, to travel via the Silk Road as its now called to visit far-away places and to eventually die a normal death, probably in Kashmir. The Roza Bal is the name of the purported shrine located in the Khanyaar quarter in downtown Srinagar in Kashmir that most qualifies as his final resting place.

I mean, why is Christianity the only religion that has no place where the body of its founder resides? Is this to qualify the death-resurrection-ascension teaching?  Not good enough. So unjust to Jesus the Christ.

The final resting place for the Buddha is purported to be at modern-day Piprahwa-Ganwaria, the site of the ancient city of Kapilavastu, the capital of the Shakya kingdom, where Siddhartha Gautama spent the first 29 years of his life. Accurate or not, at least there is a place. It is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, where Buddhists believe Gautama Buddha attained Parinirvana after his death.

In China the grave of Confucius, founder of Confucianism, is in his home town of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. No complexity there.

The Prophet Muhammad is buried in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi ("Mosque of the Prophet") in the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia. That’s quite clear.

There is no one authority among the Christians that can revamp the entirety of Christian teaching and doctrine and humanize it. That being so, the issues will remain, complicating matters into the future. This will not matter if people, Christians in this case,  simply obey the precepts that circle around the maxim, "treat others as you would have them treat you", a Christian and universal higher truth.

Meanwhile I have my Christian Bible thanks to Matthew Henry et al and the reasonable bookseller in the market square of Mowbray Melton, and I am quite pleased with it.

For me though, as a humanist, Christ equates with Truth. Not truth with a little “t” but the totalizing one, the absolute one sought as an experience which lights the darkness and meaning of such as - God’s Kingdom on Earth - which is our Universal Human Nation. Substituting “Truth” for “Christ” simplifies things.

I prefer our own rendition of the Kingdom because for me the word God just does not make it, does not convey what is really meant and the danger lies in the glib way that word is tossed around, which is mechanical. Love has to be conscious. Even when mistakes are made we try in our humanness to do useful things and they don’t always turn out right. It’s our failure but that does not stop us, no, we learn and walk on; the word intentionality comes in here, that trait which defines the human.

For the inner teaching of the Bible better look to the likes of the Desert Fathers who were “early Christian hermits, ascetics, and monks who lived mainly in Egypt’s Scetes Desert beginning around the third century C.E. The Apophthegmata Patrum is a collection of their writings today published as “Sayings of the Desert Fathers”. St Anthony moved into the desert around 270 to become known as founder of desert monasticism. By the time he died in 356, thousands of monks and nuns had been drawn to a life in the desert following Anthony's example – his biographer was Athanasius of Alexandria.

The Desert Fathers had a major influence on the development of Christianity as the desert monastic communities grew from  informal gatherings of hermit monks and became the model for Christian monasticism. The eastern monastic tradition at Mt. Athos and the western Rule of St. Benedict were both heavily  influenced by traditions that began in the desert. All monastic revivals of the Middle Ages took those inspired in the desert as reference. Eastern Christian spirituality generally, including the Hesychast movement, had its roots in the practices of the Desert Fathers. Scholars say that even religious renewal movements as far apart as the German evangelicals and Pietists in Pennsylvania, the Devotio Moderna movement, and the Methodist Revival in England were influenced by the Desert Fathers ‘antics’.

Their practices comprised of asceticism, contemplation, Hesychasm - the process of retiring inward by surpassing the register of the senses to achieve direct knowledge of ‘God’;  Lectio Divina - a monastic practice first established in the 6th century by Saint Benedict and was then formalized as a four-step process - the focus of Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages but viewing same  with Christ as the key to their meaning;  meditation, and monasticism theosis - which is given primacy in Orthodox theology and is based to a greater extent than Western Catholic Latin theology on the direct spiritual insights of the saints or mystics of the church rather than the apparently more rational thought tradition of the West. The aim is personal experience - without intermediaries.

It is cleaner to get outside of the churches though to achieve the experience itself these days as too much clutter rises up when trying to penetrate through all the traditions. No matter which religion or denomination of, any seeker will encounter ‘the conditioning’ of the interlocutor, the barrier of a strangely crystalised faith.

This might sound too trite and easy but it is simply a matter of seeing clearly - thus expressions such as ‘attaining the pure mind’. What gets in the way are the prejudices, which in turn are the conditionings that are born with the individual and continue pressuring all of one’s life. Just because you are born into a faction does not mean you have to accept all of the ramifications of that faction. To free yourself means surpassing those unasked for limitations.

This is where mention of the self has to be made. The small self is the personality, and that is what is developed owing to the surrounds and environment as one matures into adulthood. There is another element though which can be called the essential me, or just, the essence. This is a more solid core or centre of gravity of whatever makes ‘me’.

To reveal the essential me, the ego or the self needs to be occluded or reduced to a non-interfering substantiality as that is what is blocking everything. To speak not quite accurately, but as a fair pointer, we have to put aside that self which event can allow the entirety of everything to flood the senses. The little me is overwhelmed and energised and even lit up. The tremendous and hitherto suppressed mass of invading stimuli can hardly be handled by the various sense functions and one image, one experience, one feeling, one smell; these all combine and clash and wash over and through us for an undetermined period and in time (though time was under the circumstance voided because time is dealing with our linear appreciation of steadily incoming data thus needs a standing reference, the self, which is in the ‘moment’ rendered non-existent) the proper functioning of the senses will re-establish itself, eventually to leave something quite new to the one so-dunked into that Ocean.

That is rebirth, and reincarnation in the useful immediate sense. “Unless ye be borne again”. Born  of fire, the fire of spirit, a life-force, a spiritual rebirth but real and in this life. With this as a different reference everything changes, as the point of view has changed. You are not identified with the little view, indeed, what you are engaged in is the big view. A universal panorama that we experience being intimately part of, our self being pretty much insignificant but not entirely insignificant. One’s life has essential meaning and this is enhanced according to what we do for others. Note the ‘for others’. Not denying ourselves, indeed not but along with the elevated view there is also a greater sense of responsibility, because no longer can we claim ignorance.

When Jesus is reported saying, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”, this is what is meant, the general Joe or Jenny are stuck in a very limited condition so readily take sides, it’s quite automatic. The enlightened can make conscious choices and if they don’t, but try to ignore their true-to-Self feelings, they suffer because now they have a conscience.

The way the saints achieved this change-of state was largely by devotional prayer where their little self was absorbed into something greater. Constant repetition of a prayer like “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” disallows the arising of negative thoughts and emotions - as it fills that otherwise empty mental space that is demanding an input - and thereby conserves one’s energy on all levels and this accumulated energy can over time cause a bursting through. Some practitioners go mad.

Each of the religions have their particular ways and outside of religions the phenomena is not unknown, scientific breakthroughs are made likewise, so absorbed is the delver into whatever it is he or she is delving.

So it is that my recently acquired huge Bible will remain at my side, not least as a reminder of the mysterious pathways one takes to reach into the Kingdom, and the cautions on entering the labyrinth.

Newsletter Contact details:
To contact the editor of this newsletter:
Tony Henderson:
tonyhen  @
Mobile: 90487639
Twitter: #tonyhen

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Story of Philosophy - from antiquity to the present
A magazine-format book by Christopher Delius and Matthias Gatzemeier, Deniz Sertcan, Kathleen Wunscher. Konemann publishers. 

I thought to myself, now here is a book that might fill a few gaps as the topic of philosophy is not one I am well up on, only coming across the various quotes from the personalities that have contributed to its history, no context or clearly defined development of the philosophical thought process.

It started well, Classical Antiquity, with the Greeks and the very title, from Myth to Logos and the first words of ‘philosophical wonder meaning our amazement at inexplicable phenomena, giving rise to questions of origins, causes. This immediately bringing in myth, also brought about by quizzical pondering, seeking explanations in the very earliest of our species’ days.

The transition from Myth to Logos marked by the difference between the narrative language of stories of gods and heroes versus rational thought to give voice to explanations for things. That was a worthy start. The names of gods used metaphorically, re-interpreting the myths allegorically.

Though I ploughed through the work and was quite taken by it, seeing all those names that I had had thrust upon me from time to time, the deeper into the writing the less unsure everything became.

With the introduction of the term epistemology - the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and origin of knowledge - it was as if I could not quite focus on the matters at hand, as if they were becoming more diffuse instead of revealing a definite development and clarity. There was so much opposition and disagreement among the protagonists.

Coming to Roman Philosophy Cicero denied the possibility of absolutely assured knowledge, while ‘demanding precise examination of one’s own judgements by carefully weighing up all possible arguments’. He seemed to be something of a Confucian seeing an ideal life in a synthesis of philosophy and rhetoric and always in the service of the state which he defined as an association based on legal consensus and community of interest, plus he spoke of moral dignity.

Leaving aside the variants cluttering the path of philosophy as it ‘developed’ this latter about sums-up what was worthwhile holding onto as at least it was useful and with that we come to the Middle Ages.
It was learned that in Europe, or the West, from the fourth century on for one thousand years, the major thrust of learning and holding onto it fell to the churches or more correctly the monasteries with St Benedict central to monasticism.

To the East, Constantinople flourished, but that’s another story as in the book under study the theme is more European, or Christo-European. It was only when Constantine decreed that Christianity should be given equal status with the Pagan religions that a paradigm shift began taking place with Christianity taking over and becoming the only acceptable mode of thought.

The Ancient World theories had to be reconciled with Christian teaching, the old blended with the new on the one hand because it was politically demanded and on the other because the mind-set was moulded by all that had been thought and exchanged prior to the emergence of Christianity’s insistence that God - thus priests and the Church - lay at the foundation of everything. This was something of a retreat, of the Logos losing out to Myth - Myth taken as myth, in its lesser sense.

The scholar Aurelius Augustinus, St Augustine, bridged the epochal gap somewhat as, although he too viewed the whole of existence as of divine origin, and, as with neo-platonism evil for him was simply the negation of good, it had no independent existence. ‘Truth dwells in the inner person’ he held, seeing Rational Man or Reasonable Man as a man of true faith as different from blind faith.

This attitude or stance could amalgamate revealed truth with philosophical truth as both were set in wonder, both ecstatic. This must have assisted St Thomas Aquinas who sought a synthesis between theology and philosophy, one resting on faith the other on reason. Reason though was a limited approach to truth for Aquinas, the meaning of the Trinity or the Incarnation was placed in the sphere of revelation, inspired thought. This takes the ideas back to St Augustine who accepted that access to the divine, to God, was possible through Enlightenment, an illuminated human understanding.

Taking this sense of things William of Occam (of Occam’s Razor fame) came up short denying the possibility of access to immediate knowledge of the Divine, a person can only have faith in God but not knowledge. His stance gave rise to the terms intuitive knowledge and abstract knowledge. Occam paved the way for the ‘modern or new way’ (via Moderna) while the contrary old way (via Antiqua), held some inertial interest but the former won out among later philosophical schools.

Thus we arrived at the Renaissance when the post-medieval system of states was well established, the Enlightenment was a buzzword and affairs of Church and State were much better differentiated with the Sciences - and technology - playing an independent role.

Printing humanised scholarship; guns put an end to the culture of Knights; oceanic travellers brought an awareness of other lands. Art developed beyond the flat screen paintings of yore. In terms of philosophy the book we are basing these comments on (The Story of Philosophy) seems to meld other associated practices around the subject rather than tackle them head on.

The term humanism came into its own over the period, the human being central to all affairs as per universalistic humanism in this 21st century. This was best highlighted by Erasmus of Rotterdam with his open-ended tolerance where he brought together the contradictory stances of Antiquity and Christianity.

Nicholas of Cusa in his writing On Conscious Ignorance confessed the incomprehensibility of the infinity, of God, and brings this ‘negative insight’ to ground with a definition... “If infinity is the totally ‘alien’ aspect of the created world and of individual things, the ‘absolute’ in contrast to the relative, then it cannot be approached with the logical apparatus...” - in the Absolute the opposites are reconciled, not opposed. For Nicholas Cusa, though reason may not be able to understand the absolute, at least it can ‘touch’ the absolute.

Marsilio Ficino and Cosimo de Medici both ran with what can be called a re-interpretation of Neo-Platonism which dealt with the integrating power of a ‘Platonic Theology’ or ‘philosophical religion’. Pico della Mirandola in his speech On Human Dignity reveals Man as a totally free and undetermined being, a huge statement with tremendous implications and future.

By this time philosophy was loosening its hold as a totalising term over the sciences and it was the domain of the physical sciences that first declared independence and in this way philosophy - which was concerned with fundamental assumptions - became once-removed. Greater mind’s such as Newton, held onto the wider concept as told by the title of his major work: Mathematical Principals of Natural Philosophy.

“The immediate unity of Man and Nature, or the Cosmos, as experienced by the Renaissance, was thus abolished” the writing declares.... “...the mystic ribbon, linking the meanings of things, human understanding, and the divine order,” it concluded.

Descartes laid the foundation for 17th-century continental rationalism, later advocated by Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, and opposed by the empiricist school of thought. From another source Descarte says: "of all the ideas that are in me, the idea that I have of God is the most true, the most clear and distinct." Descartes considered himself to be a devout Catholic; but the Catholic Church prohibited his books in 1663.

However, the philosophical stage was taken by the likes of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, John Locke, Bishop George Berkeley (Bishop of Cloyne), David Hume and other empiricists, and it was not till Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel arrives that some credibility is given to the more intuitive understanding of life itself, human life, and the domain of the divine is brought back into affairs.

However, despite Hegel’s writings it was the last straw as,  though he was a graduate of a Protestant seminary, his thoughts stood out from the theologies of the Enlightenment era. But according to Hegel himself, his philosophy was consistent with Christianity.

By the time Galileo got his hands on a telescope there was a lot of discussion about what was the centre of things, was it the Earth or a once-removed pivot, and his proposal was so upsetting to the Church beset then with the Inquisition (1633), he was made to recant his stated findings. He had contradicted the scholastic Christian tradition. The Jesuits led the Counter-Reformation - a reaction to Protestantism rather than a reform movement.

It is in these pages that I found difficulty in seeing just where philosophy was to be found. What with all the argument and counter-argument among the various personalities and schools of thought. Not the book’s fault, this was the puzzle of the times and no one was outside of the interesting mess of problems - but thoughts such as ‘what is the meaning of life’ did not seem to be directly broached.

That is, until Rene Descartes was introduced with... “the theory of knowledge and experience proceeded from the “I”, from thought and its form; subject and object part company, and the subject is defined as the original location of certainty.” This prepared the way in later  epochs to make conscious self-reference its absolute foundation,” The Story of Philosophy declares.

However, the ‘two substances’ of Descartes were better seen by Spinoza as a singleness with dual expressions, bringing in his “God or Nature” proposal to resolve this. Leibniz too rejected the dualism of Descarte’s substances, and constructed his own metaphysical system bringing about a universal accommodation of the individual with the whole. His memorable stance was that this is the best of all possible worlds and he seen a harmonious perfection that included the imperfections. There was no evil-in-itself; ‘the whole of existence represents the optimum fulfillment of merely possible existences in real existence.’

However, leaving Leibniz behind after encountering Locke, Berkeley, and Hume all matters discussed seem to descend into minutia. The mind of this reader faltered and holding interest became difficult; and in the case of the philosophers it was as if they were trapped in the intricacies of their own thoughts and they were going around in circles.

When it came to Feuerbach, he had resolved the subject and object dichotomy; the concept of the ‘object’ in general was mediated by the concept of ‘You’, the ‘objective ego’. “Only when I am transformed from an ‘I’ to a ‘You’ , when I ‘suffer’, that is, am passively the object of another’s perception, does the notion of ‘an objectivity existing outside of me’ arise. ‘The ‘ego’ Feuerbach suggests, had to be a ‘You’ before it could become an “I’.

“The secret of theology is anthropology” was Feuerbach’s way of putting it... “But this is also a matter of individual experience, and of understanding ‘being’ not abstractly, but ‘being as the object of itself,’ that is, of the particular individual human existence.”

Marx as an enthusiast for Feuerbach’s writings saw reality as a structure of processes in which Man and his or her environment inseparably condition each other, as a product of practical activity (praxis) that is to say as something that is produced... he grasps the essence of ‘labour’ and understands objective Man., who is true because he is real, as the product of his own labour. Whereas Hegel was principally concerned with processes of consciousness not with labour as concrete activity,” explain the writers of The Story of Philosophy. Marx argued that the starting point must be the actual conditions of labour, and the relations of production.

This way of thinking of Marx reflected back on the feudal medieval order with its lack of freedoms, in which among other things the ownership of land and serfs was decisive, as it is to modern capitalism, which is linked to ownership of the means of production and the ownership and sale of a person’s labour. Then came Marx’s concern and explanations of ideologies in terms of antagonisms within historical conditions of class conflict.

Seeking a point of view not covered in The Story of Philosophy there is Rodolfo Mondolfo who explains that: "In reality, if we examine historical materialism without prejudice, just as it is given us in Marx's and Engels' texts, we have to recognize that it is not a materialism but rather a true humanism, [and] that it places the idea of man at the center of every consideration, every discussion. It is a realistic humanism (Reale Humanismus), as its own creators called it, which wishes to consider man in his effective and concrete reality, to comprehend his existence in history, and to comprehend history as a reality produced by man through activity, labor, social action, down through the centuries in which there gradually occurs the formation and transformation of the environment in which man lives, and in which man himself gradually develops, as simultaneously cause and effect of all historical evolution....” (See: Dictionary of Humanism, by Silo.)

Husserl is next to introduce a topic of import and interest with his insight that consciousness was ‘intentionally’ structured, not a passive perception, but a purposeful act. This was phenomenology, which took on the cloak of existentialism in France. Perception transcends the dualism of mind and body, because perceptible objects can ultimately only be understood in relation to a subject which intervenes physically in the world.

Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers and Jean-Paul Sartre were the core existentialists. Now the philosophical quest was simply, “What is Being?”, admitting that this is the vocation of the activist-poet rather than that of the philosopher. Being for itself was distinguished from Being in itself.

Bertrand Russell who applied logical analysis to natural language pushed the development of logical positivism. Point being, for the particular person to declare for that particular self an understanding of the world in words (thoughts or images). Out comes the obvious...that ‘there is no single correct description of the world, rather, which description is correct depends on which language is being used’...’the meaning of a word is the way it is used’ - the social convention of correct usage.

It had become apparent via the writing of such as the Hungarian Georg Lukacs and Max Weber that a distinctive feature of modern society was the process of progressive rationalisation where people were no longer guided by communal values but only by self-interest - which Lukacs described as reification - modern man seeing himself and others as ‘things’. This can be traced back to the spread of wage labour and a capitalist economic system - thus any revolution it was hoped would put an end to both capitalism and reification.

The result given the influences and general mentality of the progressing times was the ‘liberal democracies of the twentieth century with all the social problems arising owing to the ‘colonisation of the life-world’ by the System. The System as the invasion of the private sphere and public life by money and power and the institutionalisation of these influences as part of the controlling structure of governance.

That was the setting for structuralism which was opposed to humanism as per Sartre, who allotted a central position to the human being; denying that, saying that it is an illusion created by those anonymous processes of the modern age (the System) - where a person thinks he or she is thinking for himself-herself.

Thus The Story of Philosophy comes to an end... one is left speechless and thoughtless. It is a writing (likely intentionally) without conclusion but, as it is also without any wrap-up final paragraphs one more-or-less just falls off the plank into the deep-end.

Well, there is that final This Is Not a Pipe sidebar... the painting only represents a pipe, so it’s true, it’s not a pipe. But what is really revealed is the emptiness of the state of mind that has got intellectually stuck, one has to revert to the immediacy of Marx, to Sartre, to the cultural anthropology studies which were, interestingly, referenced by the South American writer-thinker-activist Silo who allows us to leap over that abyss and this writer here provides a more reasonable conclusion proper to any consideration about Philosophy, its history and intent -  see how a chap can change from such humble early paragraphs!

Silo’s ‘starts’ with Franz Brentano in relation to intentionality - though the frame is studies in psychology rather than philosophy. Moving onto Husserl, Silo states that this, “... places us in the field of eidetic reduction, and though innumerable insights may be drawn from his works, our interest here is oriented toward themes that are proper to a phenomenological psychology rather than to phenomenological philosophy.” In these remarks Silo is introducing his Space of Representation theme (See Contributions to Thought, Psychology of the Image).

The writings of C.G. Jung,  Mirce Eliade, James Frazer, Bronislaw Malinowski, etc also draw Silo’s interest in matters that lie outside the mainstream realm of orthodox philosophical studies. For Silo censorship and self-censorship were abhorrent; and to escape - for himself and like-minded friends and indeed anyone - from the strident censorship of the recent and present times.

Just as the works of Marks-Engels brought Lenin to provoke the down-to-earth works of socialism, Silo as activist-philosopher planted his feet firmly on the ground and with his many colleagues established a swathe of cultural-social-political organisations and latterly, the Parks of Studies and Reflection on different continents - absolutely flying-in-the-face of the stuck-in-a-rut Nihilism most rampant in European thought but general in Western thought - and he-we (Silo et al) did so expressly to create ambits of deep and open communication moving forward.

Silo seen the signs telling of another way of thinking that was unfolding, a completely different way - and the story of philosophy was also unfolding. Not in seeking an intellectual truth but establishing coherent humanly friendly and accommodating relations among the various peoples. Doing - personal, familial, political, social, technological, environmental, spiritual things - Being is Doing and Doing is Being.

Amplified Being nurtures awareness and the quality of consciousness and that brings meaning into play and a valid feeling of fulfillment and that’s where non-violence stems from, as an active stance towards life. Knowledge is given by wholesome experience, and understanding increases - there is delight in life - the only possible conclusion and intent of philosophy and our human here-abouts-ness.


Friday, May 29, 2015

newsletter June 2015

G/F, 49 Kau Tsuen, Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong  

Newsletter of Universalist Humanism - Hong Kong, SAR, China - Vol III, Number 3 - June 2015

Gardening as a Craft - revamped
Pressenza - appeal for volunteers
Humanist Association of Hong Kong - local issues
Self Liberation - study programed
Link to Jimmy Reid’s speech
Contact details 


Dear friends,
The "Gardening as a Craft" project is being taken a step further while continuing with its aim, to see if a nucleus of co-operating friends can form, that can eventually mature into a Centre of Study group, seeking in the longer term to found a Park of Study and Reflection: China.
As a group we carried out a Painting for Peace and Non-Violence event near Mui Wo beach, Lantau, and the display of Filipino student’s works on this theme proved a useful vehicle for raising exchanges on the theme.
We also need to build the Pressenza Hong Kong bureau team so willing journalists or would-be journalists are most welcome. Pressenza is an international press agency run by volunteers producing news on Peace and Non Violence, presently available in five languages.
The Humanist Association of Hong Kong is to look into local issues, which is working on  society for its betterment while on the Association’s more ‘internal’ side we are launching a programed of studies of Self Liberation, see below for details. Readers may or may not be aware that our way of working proposes change on the outer and the inner aspects of the person as human being.
Lastly, Roey of Chopwell placed a link to a Scottish unionist in very timely manner on here Facebook page, and that link is placed at the very end of this newsletter.

Peace, Force and Joy 


Gardening as a Craft

This project began December 13, on a Saturday, in 2014 and we decided Sunday was better so it was held each Sunday, pretty much every Sunday, since then. Now it is the end of May 2015. That’s a good five months.
Evaluating progress so far sees that a change is needed because as it is, the way we do things, has proved too loose. The days have been useful and enjoyable, but given my personal aim - where I identify with defined aims of my friends who have built Message communities (the message of Peace and Non Violence) -  which was supposed to translate into a group aim, things are not moving adequately.
Our world is in a precarious state and there are troubles everywhere. People engaged in the daily routine are ignoring major trends, like the continued developing and interest in nuclear weapons; like the fact money has taken over complete societies and is given primary consideration in all affairs; like power is in the hands of small numbers of elite who are not placing the general welfare of others on their agendas; like the media is either frightening everyone daily with broadcasts about wars and conflicts or it is absorbing people’s attention with hypnotic entertainment - both working together to render folks feeling helpless or at least that it is not worthwhile trying to do anything.
There is a way out, actually, it is a way through, and its all about engagement. Engaging in the necessary task of changing things, personally and socially. This is done by amplifying awareness - not just with more information or knowledge but by Being more.
To understand things we have to be alive to the reality of our human life on this Earth. This entails seeing. Closed minds don’t see the Big Picture and unwittingly are part of the problem. 
Thus the proposal to Garden as a means of seeing ourselves in action as a group (there are others ‘means’) but this entails a minimum of persons acting together (the group) and sharing that aim of ‘waking each other up’ even when that ‘waking up’ is something of an unknown. 
Those wanting to be part of the group will have to let me know.


Further notes from the original proposal

Here is a project of building up a productive garden yet done from the point of view of a ‘craft’.
A craft in the sense used here teaches one internal proportion, and how to do things in a balanced way. Also, the value of giving priority, as some things are more important than others. In the activities we will go acquiring internal proportion, thanks to this external work and the attending attitude accompanying it. Order is established externally - the garden - and personally, while at the same time reaching for permanence.
A craft then in our case has a special meaning: to engage in an activity to gain a certain personal tone in the activity, to do this with a certain permanence, and care, so as to bring about a state of mind of engaged detachment. This is the mental counterpart to the physical work, that goes in accompaniment, while gardening.
The aim is to develop a garden and simultaneously, a personal centre of gravity, plus, a group awareness where each holds their place and adds to the whole. It is not just an individual thing, but a collective endeavour and another aim is to have that register among those taking part - a group intelligence which builds on the individual but goes beyond it.

An Introduction to Silo
appeal for assistance continued

Translation of “An Introduction to Silo’s - a new writing of already published works as a selected anthology to introduce Silo to readers unfamiliar with his works and thoughts.

This is a project where help from proficient translators from English into Chinese is needed. Richard Yu, Swallow and Stephie are so far taking up the work but it’s quite a specialised work really so care is needed and the more volunteers engaged in the project the lighter the work all together. So do get in touch if you have expertise and interest to be involved in an activity of worth.  

The structure of the book "Introduction to Silo" will be:
1. Silo, his life and his work.
2. Silo's Message - this part already translated.
3. Influence of Silo. Productions. News in the media.*
4. Studies inspired by Silo. Authors.

We are seeking journalists or would-be journalists to join the Hong Kong team at Pressenza, do get in touch if you want to be part of this useful and most interesting work.


Humanist Association of Hong Kong

New and old members welcome - see  webpage


Self Liberation Studies

Humanist Association of Hong Kong members, also, Community of Silo’s Message members which includes those taking part in Gardening as a Craft, free-of-charge; others by arrangement.See


Terrace Gardening - recommended video suitable for Hong Kong and tropical gardening on rooftops: 


If the lead article of this newsletter is a bit short on specifics,  what better than to link the reader to a speech by Jimmy Reid, the Clydeside trade union activist who died in 2010, who was an inspiring orator. This speech, delivered on his inauguration as rector of Glasgow University in 1972. It’s as if he is speaking for us today.

Newsletter Contact details:
To contact the editor of this newsletter:
Tony Henderson:
tonyhen  @
Mobile: 90487639

Newsletter of Universalist Humanism - Hong Kong, SAR, China - Vol III, Number 2 - April 2015


Gardening as a Craft - weekly
Painting for Peace and Non-Violence - activity
                    Introduction to Silo, the book and its translation into Chinese 

                          Pressenza - local meeting
                          Humanist Association of Hong Kong - local meeting
                              Self Liberation - study programme
                                                     Contact details 


Dear friends,

In this issue I would like to round up directions and projects. 

There is an ongoing open-ended project here that relates to The Message (as in Community of Silo’s Message) and most recently it entails a "Gardening as a Craft" venture. Not restricted to one garden or place but as a means to gather interested people to engage in the work of ‘seeing the real’ and importantly to see if a nucleus of co-operating friends can form, that can eventually mature into a Centre of Study group, seeking in the longer term to found a Park of Study and Reflection: China.

We have a Painting for Peace and Non-Violence event on Mui Wo beach, Lantau, in an initiative springing up in the Philippines, where we will display Filipino student’s works on this theme painted on light canvas.
Seeking translators from English into Chinese, thus needing Chinese native speakers, is a project planned to bring the works of Silo, the South American writer-activist-philosopher - indeed spiritual guide to those working within the New or Universal Humanism current - to China.
We also mention Pressenza, an international press agency run by volunteers making new on Peace and Non Violence available in five languages.
There is a meeting of the Humanist Association of Hong Kong.
Finally, an opportunity to take part in studies of Self Liberation.

Peace, Force and Joy

Gardening as a Craft

From, December 12, 2014
The initial idea and the letter:

Hi Simeon and Gale,
An idea - given that there is an interest in Permaculture and a Permaculture styled garden as expressed by Gale - that has a lot of merit is to engage in such garden project from a different-than-usual angle and that is to start building up a garden done from the point of view of a ‘craft'.
Now I put that term in ‘ ' because I give that a special meaning: to engage in a pursuit to gain a certain personal tone in the work, to do this with a certain permanence, and care, so as to bring about a state of mind that has that true meditative quality of engaged detachment. This is the mental counterpart to the physical work, that goes in accompaniment.
The aim is to develop a garden and simultaneously, a personal centre of gravity, plus, a group mind where each holds their place and adds to the whole. It is not an individual pursuit but essentially parallels in the creation of social cohesion and coherence felt among those taking part - we seek group intelligence which builds on the individual but goes beyond it.
We could get together on Sundays. Your Blue House. Invite friends. Maybe each week for the first month to get going then can be whatever suits the group.
What do you think

Tony - 90487639
Gale - 97339613

Further note: A Craft educates, prepares and is a condition for what we call in the Movement, the Disciplines, and these stem from School. All conventional crafts can be used in the sense detailed above but that does not mean someone so-skilled in them is of School, without that additional intentionality only the techniques of external operations are being delved.

There is no one definition of School, it depends on the moment and context.  It’s essence and motor is change. School forms part of a process. This internal dynamic allows it to exist in times of great change and show itself. The School is within oneself and is an internal process. A craft is a precurser to a study of a Discipline - such study in not available at this time but the pre-studies termed studies in self-liberation* can be taken up. These form an essential part of the theoretical side of Gardening as a Craft.

School: a group that professes, studies, or develops a doctrine. At the root of every great religion or system of life, we can trace back the existence of the School - from Siloism, 1972. More recently: “the group of people oriented to the study, perfecting and teaching of a system useful to the equilibrium and development of the human being... In day-to-day terms School is a group of people banded together to make a better world with particular regard to peace and non-violence. The Communities of Silo’s Message are a living reality of the present moment expressing this as a way of life. See:


                                                                                                                                                            Painting for Peace and Non-Violence
Mui Wo Beach
May 3, 2pm to 6pm
Volunteers welcome - contact Gale 97339613 or Tony 90487639
In the Philippines Willa Tecson and friends of ‘the Community’(Komunidad Para Sa Tao) organised an activity where students did paintings showing how they had experienced violence in daily life and I brought a set of those paintings to Hong Kong to hold a show so local young people could also engage in a similar activity, in order to bring about a better understanding that violence is not just physical but also psychological, also could be racial, and religious etc as there are different forms of violence.
The paintings were done by high school students of public schools in Pasig (Manila): Kapitolyo High School, Manggahan High School and Rizal High School, ages between 12 to 16 years old.
Programed as explained by Willa: 

What we did (light and not more than 1 hour and 15 minutes)
1. We explained briefly who we were, and what we mean by nonviolence by having a short powerpoint on the different kinds of violence: physical, religious, racial, psychological, etc. but more with the use of graphics, less of a lecture. (5 to 10 mins max). 
2. Then we gave them 5 minutes to reflect and write down describe their own experience of violence (as perpetrator or victim), just one kind that is significant for them 
3. Then divide into small groups so they could share what they wrote or remembered with their group. For the group interchange, one of them takes the function of making sure each one has his chance to talk and that the group members listen, and also to be aware of the time of the interchange. He or she can be the one to summarize their experiences of violence, we usually allot 30 minutes for the group interchange, but flexible (can be longer but usually in our case shorter, you can see when the groups are still doing interchanges and when they are getting restless, waiting)
4. Then we ask each group to have someone share their summaries (you have to give them guidelines on what a summary is). So if there are 8 groups, each group shares their summary to the whole. From our experience, we don't structure this part and just allow them to express themselves to the whole. In a school environment, as students they are used to this, max 30 minutes (from our experience this usually takes longer by some minutes) for the summary of different groups.
5. Short recap by you and announcements (5 minutes max)


Note: details of the painting activity to be done, painting technicalities, whatever.

Gale Lok suggests having on-the-spot painting of their experiences of personal violence for anyone who wants to do so. Good. Another plan is to see if local schools would like to repeat the project. People to take part on the day welcome.


An Introduction to Silo

Translation of “An Introduction to Silo’s - a new writing of already published works as a selected anthology to introduce Silo to readers unfamiliar with his works and thoughts.

This is a project where help from proficient translators from English into Chinese is needed. Richard Yu, Swallow and Stephie are so far taking up the work but it’s quite a specialised work really so care is needed and the more volunteers engaged in the project the lighter the work all together. So do get in touch if you have expertise and interest to be involved in an activity of worth.  

The structure of the book "Introduction to Silo" will be:
1. Silo, his life and his work.
2. Silo's Message - this part already translated.
3. Influence of Silo. Productions. News in the media.*
4. Studies inspired by Silo. Authors.
* my suggestion: Part 3: Silo’s Other Written Works and Talks

Deadline: to have the book ‘out’ for October 2015, and as we need one month for editing and another month to get the permissions to publish, that means we need to have the book translated into Chinese Mandarin (from English) by end of July - Eduardo...



This year Pressenza again hosts a panel discussion at Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum, Bonn, Germany, June 22, 23, and 24.
The panel chat and workshop will be a partnership between Pressenza and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons ICAN. The following weekend there is a Pressenza team meeting at the Park of Study and Reflection, Attigliano, Italy.

We are seeking journalists or would-be journalists to join us at Pressenza, do get in touch if you want to be part of this useful work.

Humanist Association of Hong Kong

Subject: Meeting - discussing general topics and plan for future
Place: Tung Wan Tau - Mui Wo Beach - far end, by the shop - Lantau Island, Hong Kong, SAR China.
Date: Saturday April 25, 2015
Time: 3pm to 4pm formal meeting then informal chat and refreshments
Note: Activity to formalise membership and welcome newcomers. Beginning with a short talk on the need for localisation of the Association and membership drive - all welcome.

Self Liberation Studies*
Humanist Association of Hong Kong members, also, Community of Silo’s Message members which includes those taking part in Gardening as a Craft, free-of-charge;
others by arrangement.


Contact details:
To contact editor of this newsletter:
Tony Henderson:
tonyhen  @
Mobile: 90487639
Twitter: #tonyhen