Alone in Berlin – Book Review

Alone in Berlin

by Hans Fallada (Translated by Michael Hofmann) Penguin Modern Classics.

The author of this absorbing novel has created a story about a decent character, Otto Quangel, who with his wife lives in Berlin during the second-world war. Working in a factory and living amongst a people whose private misgivings and criticisms of their political leaders are silenced by fear, Otto, also has a daily horror of the possibility of being reported to the authorities for having a wrong political attitude or for having committed some minor misdeed against the state. Such accusations could well result in arrest and torture or even a death camp. Yet he is prepared to communicate his criticism of the government’s oppression and unjust social policies as well as their military conquests abroad. For the regime in seizing absolute power, have destroyed any vestiges of democracy.

I wonder how we would react in similar circumstances? Thank goodness I do not have to face such a test. But many people in the world today who live under dictatorship have to find some way of accommodating themselves to corruption in their society while maintaining their self-respect.

Serenity prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not … Continue reading Serenity prayer

How do we stop life drifting by?

spiritually adrift

Some people drift aimlessly through life reacting to events and never making things happen for themselves. However, whatever the personal problem, it is often necessary for us to take the initiative in doing something about it, rather than letting things drift. Otherwise, it is only when some crisis occurs that eventually the situation forces us to make decisions about say a job, home, or even a close relationship. Better to prevent difficulties getting out of hand than allow circumstances no longer under our control to push us into a corner.

Often and in various ways we may slide into letting life around us govern how we think and behave – in a way that enables us to blame ‘it’ if ever we feel criticised. So it tends to be “someone else’s fault – not mine!” But spiritual healing may be needed.

Perhaps we are willing to be of help to others even when it is an inconvenience. It is good to be selfless and charitable. However, do we sometimes allow others to exploit our better nature? One sign of this is if we were to feel fed up with the way others take advantage of us or feel quietly resentful when sidelined, or put on.

Nurturing the Soul Course

By Helen Brown published by spiritualwisdom.org.uk © July 2009 pp 75 £9.95 Enquiries: contact editor@spiritualquestions.org.uk

Helen also leads groups taking this course. The aim is primarily to encourage reflection, experience and exploration of what our ‘soul’ means for each of us. The scope of the course includes music, art, prayer, meditation and energy medicine.

This has been a course that was both inspirational and challenging. Throughout the eight sessions in our exploration of the ‘soul’, Helen gently guided us along an inner path in keeping with her book on the subject.

Soul Symbols

Soul Symbols Cover

by Helen Newton and Becky Jarratt

Published by spiritualwisdom.org.uk 2008 pp 157 £10

This book encourages us to stop, take notice of the world around us and reflect on the inner reality it contains. Everything in nature is said to exist because it is a reflection of something of spirit. The book mainly comprises photographs of scenes and objects together with commentary regarding their psycho-spiritual significance. Some of these pictures can also be purchased as separate cards.
The suggestion is we reflect on what each picture might be saying to us about ourselves, and then read the comments provided including quotes from a variety of sources including from Swedenborg, who wrote in depth about the meaning of symbols. The authors claim that the thirty six symbols that form the heart of this book are just a start to understanding this key to both the Divine and our own personal, spiritual transformation.

Mystery repairman

Ever get grumpy seeing broken fences and benches in your neighbourhood? According to the Oldham Evening Chronicle, a local cyclist called Stephen Rimmer aged 37 had got fed up about this sort of thing too. Only, he decided to do something about it and set about mending them himself. He put right 18 benches and … Continue reading Mystery repairman

Looking for answers

From our childhood onwards our lives are filled with questions of one sort or another – some more pressing or even agonising than others. But where are we to look for valid answers and find the meaning of life?

There are the really big questions and the smaller ones. Here are a few of the bigger ones. Does outer space beyond our solar system go on forever or does it have an edge – and if so what is on the other side? Where do we come from, why are we here, and what will become of us when we die? I can imagine some alien intelligence on a far distant planet asking exactly the same questions. These sort of universal questions have puzzled thinking people down the ages.

Children as well as adults ask questions. The play age stage of childhood is often characterised by developmental theorists as one of explorative activity and exuberant discovery. Consequently good educational practice encourages a child-centred approach to learning. This compares favourably with the old approach of rote learning. Modern teachers enhance children’s interest by providing knowledge building on what they already know. They relate their teaching to the child’s limited experiences stretching their understanding a bit further.

Cost free shop

There is a village in Yorkshire near the town of Skipton. All was well until its only shop closed down two years ago. Time for some creative thinking by the councillors. So with no costs they opened a tiny ‘open all hours’ grocery store. No shop-keeper, no locked door and not much room. But the disused … Continue reading Cost free shop

Heart, Head and Hands

An Interpretation of Swedenborg’s Writings in Relation to Psychological and Spiritual Well-being
by Stephen Russell-Lacy. Seminar Books, 2008. 978 0 907295 36 5. (paperback) 180pp £10

“A fine little work … that will warm the hearts of the general public and all practicing Swedenborgians who are of a non-technical bent. …We find ourselves understanding a text while feeling that, at the same time, we are liberated by just reading it. This happens in many places in the narrative. Traditionalists will love the book, as it preaches the straight and narrow with regard to doctrine, but in places it almost unconsciously breaks out into a kind of semi-restrained wildness that reminds us of Swedenborg’s own mind – rational but also inward, intuitive, deep, creative, and as our British cousins are wont to say, spot on.”

“It’s a pretty comprehensive attempt to offer aid in meeting life’s many challenges. On Time Magazine’s ‘read, skim or toss’, scale for books, this is definitely a read – and keep handy for future reference.”