Saturday, 2 November 2013

The narrow and punitive mindsets of the Plymouth brethren Christian church

Sadly I never met Roger Stott, however I've read about him and think he had a sound judgement of the Hales exclusive brethren.


  1. One of my favourite pieces of Roger Stott’s writings is the introduction to his autobiographical novel, never completed. It is in the form of an allegory called

    The Plain and the Uplands

    The plain is your practical world. It has houses and roads and factories and shops and governments and police stations. And ships and shoes and sealing wax and cabbages and money. You can read maps there and take photographs. Everything can be measured. Most things stay in place

    Beyond the plain are the uplands. If you haven’t been there, they are hard to describe. You can still see the plain from the uplands, but it is refracted, as if underwater. Full fathom five thy father lies. Time and distance are not so dictatorial in the uplands. Things get mixed and remixed and emerge stronger and brighter and stranger. It is a place of dreaming and reverie, of resonances, of fine frenzies rolling, perilous seas and gorgeous palaces. A place of haunted forests and abandoned fields of battle where the air is full of desolation and regret. You may meet people there who have been dead for a long time.

    Most of the ideas that stir the imagination of the people of the plain come from the uplands. Bookshelves and theatres and art galleries on the plain are packed with upland material. And it is volatile, hazardous stuff. A line from a play or the look in the eyes of an old man could skew everything —one secret from the uplands could set your heart circling forever.

    There is plain music and poetry too (some of it good) but the greatest things come from ‘up there’. Some plain people hardly know that the uplands exist. They enjoy plainbound entertainments and the sound of the uplands — its echoes and reverberations and its piercing silences — has no place in their lives. But wisps of upland material float around the plain like thistledown, always suggesting ‘somewhere else’, that what you can touch and see physically is only a small part of what belongs to you. Almost anything —an evening sky, a child’s gesture or a drift of woodsmoke— can shapeshift strangely, tugging you towards the rising ground.

    Above the uplands the edge reaches into undiscovered country —cloudy peaks from which no traveller has ever returned. Legends say there are mighty creatures on the peaks who control the uplands and the plain. Many believe that they will travel to the peaks when they die. Others claim to have received momentous news from up there. Some of these claims have been taken seriously and have gained many followers —this kind of thing has played a significant part in plain life. And the people that believe the ‘messages’ police the border between the plain and the uplands, saying that the uplands are dangerous and that visits there must only be made under their supervision. The numinous —that great feeling of presences and beings that is so characteristic of the uplands— was codified by these people into tribal stories about Gods and Sacrifices and Salvations and Rules of Life.

    The border filled up with temples and churches and mosques. Each claimed to give the real ‘Upland Experience’— areas of upland ground carefully segregated from the true wildness of those regions. Maps were provided and each Upland Experience was defined in the smallest detail.

    Many of these border buildings were beautiful and uplifting. Something of the real character of the uplands went into their design and construction, into their language, into the music that was performed there. Other buildings were brutally austere. The austere people said that the uplands were full of seductive and apparently beautiful things but they were all transient and worthless. They attacked the upland material in the plain too: when they could they closed theatres, burned books, destroyed paintings, smashed statues and censored anything that did not fit their exacting definitions.

    . . . to be continued

  2. . . . continued from above

    But the deep uplands were irrepressible. There were more entrances than could ever be policed or closed down. Some entrances became famous: a rabbit hole and a looking-glass, the song of a bird, the pattern on a dinner plate, a shipwreck, the eating of a particular kind of French cake, getting lost in a wood, hearing bells, a chance meeting in a market, staying awake in a garden on a starlit night. The spirit of the uplands continued to pour into the plain. And there were always people who responded —a child caught her mother’s eyes and nodded slowly, an old woman cried quietly in an art gallery, a gifted engineer retired from his life work early because he had to paint watercolours.

    Some of the teachers in children’s schools spent their whole lives digging entrances to the deep uplands —ways of escape from the plains (and from the Upland Experiences). Decades on some of their pupils realized and looked back and offered prayers of gratitude. This book is one of those.

  3. I met Roger for the first time back in the early 90s - he was living in Brighton at the time. This enormous man, with so much love and compassion for his fellow human beings. Yes he was human too so was sometimes difficult to relate to but he was so loved by us all and we do miss him. He was my rock - I always knew he was there with wise words or words of comfort. He introduced me to Barolo wine - nothing has ever matched that first bottle!
    Ian has chosen a wonderful piece of Roger's writing. But there are many more - go and take a look at the website. We, his friends miss him.