It's a bit late
to influence the referendum on Scottish independence, which resulted in a muscular No, but historian Niall Ferguson's perfectly pitched Telegraph
article is a must-read, even after the event: link below.
If you listen carefully to Scottish pro-independence conversations, you can detect a profoundly anti-English sentiment. That is the wrong way of looking at the future of a proud country. As Ferguson puts it:
For most of the early modern period, the Scots kingdom was Europe’s Afghanistan. In the Highlands and the Hebrides, feudal warlords ruled over an utterly impoverished populace in conditions of lawlessness and internecine clan conflict. In the Lowlands, religious zealots who fantasised about a Calvinist theocracy – government by the godly Elect – prohibited dancing, drinking and drama. John Knox and his ilk were the Taliban of the Reformation. Witches were burnt in large numbers in Scotland, not in England.
Most people on the streets of Scotland are ill-informed about the profundity of what a Yes vote will mean to them.
They should also realise that a "free" Scotland is not going to be independent at all. London and the United Kingdom are to be replaced by Brussels and the EU -- much harder task masters.
All the opt-outs negotiated by the strength of the United Kingdom will disappear in a puff of smoke. Scotland will have to fall in line with the other smaller nations. It will be ranked with the tiddlers in the Euro area.
You can tell the No vote is being intimidated by the glamour and pseudo-patriotism of this flawed decision. Much of the excitement among Scots has settled around the Yes campaign.
Yet many of the sensible ones realise that while high enthusiasm is good for times of war, in peace prudence has to rule.
The British Lion remains the safest harbour for all of us in these islands.
* * * * *
Link: Alone, Scotland will go back to being a failed state
on the lookout for genuine mystics among us. But before we come to Gordon Smith, let's try to define a few terms. In this field there are many openings for confusion. Here's my own assessment:
1. Psychics -- These are the folk who appear to have insights where others draw a blank. Their views are usually heard and noted because they have a faintly uncanny way about them. They create respect and incredulity in equal measure.
2. Spiritualists -- They have a gift of seeing beyond the physical realm and unearthing people's innermost secrets. Spiritualists are seemingly aware of the dead and speak of them as if they were alive in an alternative reality. Selling contact with those who have "passed over" -- as they call them -- is how many make their living.
3. Mystics -- are more abstract, seeking knowledge of higher realms, and direct experience of them, as part of a process of spiritual growth. They tend to keep themselves in the background.
Gordon Smith, a Glasgow barber in his younger days, can claim to be all three. If you spot his book, Stories From the Other Side
don't dismiss it. Read it.
To prove this, I want to concentrate on one important mystical event: the Golden Glow Experience. I've described this before (see link below) and regard it as a clearing away of obstacles to full out-of-body episodes in which the greatest insights occur.
When Jesus informed his protesting disciples that he was departing this life, he said to them: I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him, but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
My own experience of this event lasted a month. I've not seen it described much in mystical literature except in Gordon Smith's Stories From the Other Side
. Here is part of it: "I would be woken in the middle of the night and ... would hear people talking. They would be shadowy figures with a kind of pale golden light around them. ... I was fascinated by this yellowy golden mist that accompanies Spirits."
Whether you call it the Comforter -- which it truly is -- or any other name, for example, the Divine Light, or Golden Glow moment, the actuality is far more overwhelming than any name or description. And it is the gateway to mystical experience.
Here's Gordon's mystical philosophy in a nutshell: "The very nature of existence is about ripening our consciousness. So often people restrict themselves by thinking that everything has to be achieved or got over in this life. It is such an unburdening process to come to the realisation that there is no beginning and there is no end."
Link to The Comforter
I once lived
in Edinburgh for two years, finally driven back south by sub-zero temperatures and bitter winds off the North Sea. A common tale, I suspect.
Despite an insatiable taste for John Buchan novels and the books of Sir Walter Scott, it became clear to me that one doesn't actually have to live there to enjoy them.
That's a lesson every wanderer north should appreciate. Nothing makes Andalucia more enticing than a winter spent in the vicinity of Princes Street.
Finally, usually as the second winter hoves into view -- and there's nothing more ominous than that -- all one's compasses start to point south with an intensifying urgency that can't be denied.
Me? I spent the next two years on the Swan River in Western Australia and soon after, seven on the Costa Del Sol. Not Torremolinos, though, but the delightful Benalmadena Pueblo halfway up the mountain behind.
"Oh, the heat!" exclaimed a Scottish relative who arrived for a short break in a our new villa with spectacular views over Gibraltar and Morocco. "Gimmee Glasgie any day," he groaned, wiping away another cupful of salty sweat
And that perfectly sums up the northern temperament. Self-torture as a pledge of loyalty to the dark land of football and haggis.
Now, the auld country is to vote on becoming even more isolated from warmth and civilisation. Oh, well, they've always got the Buchan books to cheer them up on those endless inky nights with the icy winds reverberating through the frozen rafters.
What makes me a little annoyed though is that we English, Welsh, Cornish and Northern Irish have no vote in this fight. A proposal to smash our country up is to be decided by a handful of bolshie Scots -- most of the sensible ones already live south of the border.
You don't have to go on proving your name is Cameron, Dave! But if you do break up our, until now, rock solid country, and send it tumbling down world league tables, you will go down as an unmitigated disaster for this country and not many people will forgive you for that.
I was pleasantly
surprised recently to discover that my first book shared a publisher with Sherlock Holmes (ie Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).
George Newnes also published Tit-Bits
(don't go there!) whose occasional contributor, Alfred Harmsworth, founded The Daily Mail
. It's amazing what you turn up when you start digging.
My book -- stifle that yawn -- was on technical writing
and was the first thing I did after university. Like most hopelessly dedicated writers I find I can scribble some thousands of words on any subject that I know nothing about, say, botulism.
Of course, one prefers the topics closest to one's heart, in my case, psychology and mysticism. So why write a book on technical writing, which I didn't even know existed as a separate subject? It was a bit of a misunderstanding actually, a pattern that was to repeat itself in later years... often to my considerable advantage.
The first job I did was advertised as "Writer Wanted". Great, I thought, just up my street.
At the interview the first question I was asked was "Do you know Atlas?"
I replied, "Yes, I've got one at home."
"You clearly don't then! Never mind, we'll soon teach you. It's only got a thousand words and they are all in the Oxford dictionary."
It was explained that Atlas was a drastically cut down version of English comprising mainly technical terms strung together with the bare minimum of connecting tissue. Shakespeare it is not.
I was intrigued, so accepted the offer. The work itself was so boring, I decided to write a book in the intervals, of which there were many. Hence my first published title was Technical Writing
, which was commissioned by Newnes. Hi Sherlock!
I couldn't resist adding some purple passages to the book which must have confused the engineers trying to make sense of it. The section on style of writing
quite perplexed a few of them. Here's part of it:
There exists a considerable body of opinion which believes that technical English is a subset of the language with only a tenuous dependence on the real thing. The idea is that such texts as are written would be immune from misinterpretation and could convey technical descriptions in man- or machine-readable form. ... It remains a strange phenomenon that technological man, with all his complex artefacts, should look to the future in terms of the palaeolithic past.
Despite that, they have made impressive strides lately among those who believe that technology and its implementation is enough to guarantee human happiness. They have certainly struck a chord with the stereotypical engineer who is "a whizz with wires and things" despite his semi-illiteracy. The reply to this tendency lies in a statement by the French historian, Renan: "La verite consiste dans les nuances" -- "Truth consists in shades of meaning".
It went down a treat and I was soon looking for a new job. Life just isn't fair sometimes. But at least I was now a published author.
And, yes, I know the title should be "Sherlock and me", but "I" sounds a lot grander, even if grammatically incorrect. Grammar isn't everything!
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