Monday, 26 August 2013


Why do we write books? In my case, it helps me to think. I would hardly know what I thought about something unless I had struggled to construct an argument and written it down. As I brought my seventh book to completion, a friend, Mark Alder, encouraged me to compile a list that gives some sense of what they are about and why I wrote them. (Incidentally, the bookplate on the left is by my grandmother, Florence Zerffi.) – Stratford Caldecott

The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision Behind The Lord of the Rings (Crossroad, 2005, 2011) 
Originally called Secret Fire when first published by DLT, the book was translated into several foreign language editions including Spanish, Italian, and Russian, and re-issued by Crossroad in an expanded edition in 2012. The Power of the Ring, unlike most other books published on Tolkien’s writing, explores the spiritual, theological, and philosophical meaning of the work – Tolkien’s faith, which was influenced by the Oratory of St Philip, his attempt to recover the spirit of England that had been almost lost in the two
World Wars, his theology of creation and the importance of the human imagination as a means of apprehending truth, as well as the spiritual aesthetics of virtue. In The Lord of the Rings and his other works Tolkien was creating a vehicle in which to transmit to future generations the “light” of a poetic knowledge that is fast dying out and in many places has been entirely forgotten, depriving us of a vital dimension of our humanity. This theme of “spiritual light” was taken up again in the book The Radiance of Being in 2013 (see below).

The Seven Sacraments: Entering the Mysteries of God (Crossroad, 2006) 
The first of two books on mystagogy (the sacramental mysteries of the Church), The Seven Sacraments looks at a range of important sevenfold structures in Scripture and Tradition (such as the seven virtues, the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, the seven days of creation, and the seven Last Words from the Cross), exploring significant correlations between them, and arguing that greater attention should be paid by biblical scholars to numerical symbolism in the inspired text as a whole. The book was intended to open up an approach to the Catholic faith based on a deeper appreciation of its organic unity and of the sacraments as a whole. I am delighted to say that a new, expanded edition is in preparation and should be published by the end of 2014.

Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education (Brazos, 2009) 
The first of two on the Seven Liberal Arts, Beauty for Truth’s Sake concentrates on the Quadrivium; that is, the four cosmological subjects on which classical learning once depended, both as preparation for the study of philosophy and theology, and as the basis of an education for intellectual and spiritual freedom. After looking at the classical and medieval tradition, the book traces the way our secular society developed, and the problems this has created in present-day higher education and the culture at large. It suggests ways in which the arts and sciences, faith and reason, religion and mathematics, could be put back together again, after a long period of estrangement that has created a civilization both deeply flawed and profoundly dangerous.

All Things Made New: The Mysteries of the World in Christ (Angelico Press/Sophia Perennis, 2011) 
A second book on mystagogy explores the mysteries of the Rosary and the Book of Revelation. While The Seven Sacraments had concentrated on examining patterns of 7, All Things Made New examines the use made of the numbers 12 and 4 by biblical and patristic writers – demonstrating once again the merits of reading Scripture and Tradition in the light of faith, with an eye to the underlying structure. The book includes reflections on cosmology and liturgy and a meditation on the Way of the Cross, while the appendices include a brief introduction to Jewish and Greek number symbolism (Gematria), a survey of different methods of biblical exegesis, and an article about the ideas of Dr Margaret Barker.

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education (Angelico Press, 2012) 
The second of two on the Seven Liberal Arts, Beauty in the Word is about Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric, re-interpreted in a way that enables them to be used as the framework for a renewal of the education system, especially at primary level. “Remembering”, “Thinking”, and “Communicating” become the foundations of a curriculum in which all school subjects can be taught in a more integrated manner. These basic human skills develop naturally out of an understanding of our nature as created in the image of God – created for self-gift in the image of the Trinity. The book also examines questions related to authority and ethos within the school. Like Beauty for Truth’s Sake, this book is being used as a text and for curriculum design by teachers and parents in Britain and the United States.

The Radiance of Being: Dimensions of Cosmic Christianity (Angelico Press, 2013)
Radiance of Being explores the meaning and implications of the divine Trinity as a basis for understanding the cosmos. In other words it starts where Beauty for Truth's Sake finishes. Beginning with the concept of “light” in modern science and cosmology, the book goes on to explore the relation of science to faith, and then the questions that arise from the differences between religions and the tensions between religious communities. The uniqueness of Christianity is shown to lie in the Incarnation and Trinity, but this does not justify aggressive polemics or religious violence. The book culminates in an appreciation of the Russian idea of “godmanhood” and divine Wisdom or Sophia. For more about this book go here.

Not As the World Gives: The Way of Creative Justice (Angelico Press, forthcoming) 
With a focus on the nuptial mystery at the heart of the universe, Not As the World Gives integrates the social teaching of the Church with the spirituality of the Sermon on the Mount. Beginning with Plato’s insights into the nature of Justice, the book explores the history of Christian charity and the meaning of mercy and the virtues, the threats posed to civilization by modern technology, the true nature of human freedom and of “good work”, the challenge of New Evangelization, the foundations of the Way of Beauty, and how to renew a Christian culture. The aim of the book is to show how the “radiance of being” can shine through, not just the natural, but also the social and cultural worlds.

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