Print this page

Observations placeholder

Ruskin, John - Extract from Letters to the Clergy

Identifier

005028

Type of spiritual experience

Background

In one of the more ironic events in Ruskin's life, he was asked by the Christian church council to first speak to their council in what might have been a sort of debate, and then when he declined because of his poor health, to at least write a few letters stating his views.  He agreed to a few letters.

The letters were eventually published and here is what he had to say about this.......

Let me remind you of what it is absolutely necessary that the readers of the book should clearly understand--that I wrote these Letters at your request, to be read and discussed at the meeting of a private society of clergymen. I declined then to be present at the discussion, and I decline still. You afterwards asked leave to print the Letters, to which I replied that they were yours, for whatever use you saw good to make of them: afterwards your plans expanded, while my own notion remained precisely what it had been--that the discussion should have been private, and kept within the limits of the society, and that its conclusions, if any, should have been announced in a few pages of clear print, for the parishioners' exclusive reading…….

You told me, if I remember rightly, that one of the members of the original meeting denounced me as an arch-heretic--meaning, doubtless, an arch-pagan; for a heretic, or sect-maker, is of all terms of reproach the last that can be used of me. And I think he should have been answered that it was precisely as an arch-pagan that I ventured to request a more intelligible and more unanimous account of the Christian Gospel from its preachers.

A description of the experience

Extracts From Letters to the clergy.

"Who livest and reignest." Right; but how many of any extant or instant congregations understand what the two words mean? That God is a living God, not a dead Law; and that He is a reigning God, putting wrong things to rights, and that, sooner or later, with a strong hand and a rod of iron; and not at all with a soft sponge and warm water, washing everybody as clean as a baby every Sunday morning, whatever dirty work they may have been about all the week.

The source of the experience

Ruskin, John

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities