Monday, May 20, 2013


One other book disputed the claim of the Bible to people the woods—The Pilgrim's Progress. On Sundays it was a rule that secular books were barred, but we children did not find the embargo much of a penance, for we discovered a fruity line in missionary adventure, we wallowed in martyrologies, we had The Bible in Spain, and above all we had Bunyan. From The Holy War I acquired my first interest in military operations, which cannot have been the intention of the author, while The Pilgrim's Progress became my constant companion. Even to-day I think that, if the text were lost, I could restore most of it from memory. My delight in it came partly from the rhythms of its prose, which, save in King James's Bible, have not been equalled in our literature; there are passages, such as the death of Mr Valiant-for-Truth, which all my life have made music in my ear. But its spell was largely due to its plain narrative, its picture of life as a pilgrimage over hill and dale, where surprising adventures lurked by the wayside, a hard road with now and then long views to cheer the traveller and a great brightness at the end of it. John Bunyan claimed our woods as his own. There was the Wicket-gate at the back of the colliery, where one entered them; the Hill Difficulty—more than one; the Slough of Despond—various specimens; the Plain called Ease; Doubting Castle—a disused gravel-pit; the Enchanted Land—a bog full of orchises; the Land of Beulah—a pleasant grassy place where tinkers made their fires. There was no River at the end, which was fortunate perhaps, for otherwise my brothers and I might have been drowned in trying to ford it.


  1. Oh, I guess I’d classify myself as semi-literate, mostly from reading newspapers. I follow a few authors, Thomas Pynchon, Jack Kerouac, Jorge Luis Borges the most notable. As far as bibles I can’t say I owned one after high school, ironically until reading about Aleister Crowley, via the metaphysician Phillip Bonewits. I sure needed the reference so I did get one. I forget if it was the King James, probably. At any rate upon reading the historian Mircea Eliade, again a great influence on Bonewits, I discovered that he used the Jerusalem Bible. I have the Doubleday Standard Edition, 1998, quite a stately book. I am curious as to how similar the translations are. I know they are revising all the time. But you have managed prompt me to check one out of the library.

    I wonder if you have seen Joel and Ethan Coen’s A SERIOUS MAN ? Their tribute to Job, and rather humorous with a pointed message. This prompted me to read the book. Unsettling to say the least. I reflected on Jim Morrison’s ‘you cannot petition the Lord with prayer’. I think the purpose of occultism is to preserve the will.

    'To conceal a matter, this is the glory of God/To sift it thoroughly, the glory of kings/The heavens for height, the earth for depth/unfathomable, as are the hearts of kings' Proverbs 25:2-3 (Jerusalem Bible)

    1. I haven't seen A Serious Man, but based on your recommendation, I will. The Proverbs quote reminds me in a way of the Heraclitus fragment: "Nature loves to hide." The passage here, which I possibly should have made clearer, comes from the beginning of Memory Hold-The Door, John Buchan's memoirs. Although Buchan is mostly known today as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps, the parts of his writings that are concerned with spirituality are some of his high points. Mr Standfast is a sort of long disquisition on The Pilgrim's Progress in the form of a (very fine) World War I novel. His last novel, Sick Heart River, which was published posthumously, is really his best. It's a subtle, stirring redemption story set in the Canadian wilderness. Hope you're having a good Memorial Day weekend. In the Hudson Valley, it's absolutely freezing. Curtis