Saturday, 1 July 2006

Reading the Opium Grower's Gazette

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXIIII No. 1 Summer  2006


 
Reading the
Opium Grower's Gazette

Martin Rowson



A talk about the limits of Free Speech was held by the South Place Ethical Society's in February 2006. As part of the discussion, the cartoonist, Martin Rowson, described his experience of how London's Fleet Street responded to the initiative by the editor of the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Postern, to challenge the 'informal' censorship of cartoons on Islamic themes, by inviting various cartoonists to participate in a special competition in his paper. The results, as everyone now knows, was an uproar at the 'offence' caused to devout Muslims, that in due course cost several lives and left many of the participants in the exercise in free speech in hiding for their lives. Although most of the Western democracies, and quite a few Islamic countries did publish the Danish cartoons, no national paper in the UK was prepared to. We reprint a special extract below.


On the Friday following the outbreak of the whole row, I pitched an idea to The Independent On Sunday, for whom I draw a cartoon strip called 'The Week Digested', meant to sum up the news of the last seven days, where two Taliban fighters were sitting on top of a mountain in Southern Afghanistan reading the cartoon section of the Opium Growers' Gazette, when one of them starts ranting furiously about a cartoon he sees, finishing his rant by saying "I mean, this doesn't even look like Graham Souness!", who'd just resigned or been sacked from whatever football team he managed. In the next frame, my two characters suddenly look over their shoulders into the distance, with one of them saying 'Hey! Wow! That mushroom cloud over Iran looks just exactly like the Pro...' - but gets his head chopped off in mid-sentence.

In the final frame, the disembodied head was going to be saying 'Well really! All I was going to say was that it looked like the profits Shell are making from destroying the planet! Some people have no sense of humour!' I was told to think again, and stay off the topic.

My dealings with The Scotsman, whose Saturday op-ed cartoon I draw, seemed easier to begin with. I said I was going to draw someone (unseen) reading France Soir, with a thinks bubble coming from behind the paper containing the words 'But these don't even look like me!' The deputy editor was fine with this, although at around four o'clock I gave him the option of discussing it further with the editor. Needless to say, the idea was spiked, so instead I drew a Middle Eastern looking husband and wife sitting reading the papers, with the wife saying 'After you with the funnies section, dear!' to her husband, who's looking furious and holding a burning newspaper. 

I had most fun with the Daily Mirror on the Sunday, as I tried again and again to illustrate Tony Parsons' column which was, inevitably, about the cartoons (he was against them) and the protest march in London on Friday (he was against that too). First I offered a cartoon of a young Muslim ranting against the cartoons, while an older one was agreeing, and saying everyone should have a mature and rational debate. The young hothead was then going to shout 'What! You mean we can't bomb them!'

That was spiked, as was my next effort, which had the baby in the 'I love Al Qaeda' hat looking up and thinking 'Hmmm ... That's a bit childish'. They then suggested that I illustrate Parsons' second lead, which was about the Celebrity Big Brother contestant and cosmetic surgery victim Pete Burns, so I drew Pete, pouting grotesquely in his monkey skin coat, saying 'Why can't there be a chuffin' prohibition on the depiction of MY image?' That was rejected too, in case, they said, anyone thought the Mirror was comparing a transvestite pop star to the Prophet Mohammed. They finally ran the Pete cartoon with a dull, alternative caption, and apologised for their caution, telling me that the Mirror has around 80,000 Muslim readers, and their considerations were commercial as much as anything else. My response that people would have to buy the Mirror before burning it anyway made little impression, needless to say.

Even on The Guardian, the cartoon I eventually got published, of protestors in front of the burning Danish consulate in Beirut, with one of them saying 'Funny how you can always see faces in the flames. Why, over there looks just exactly like ...' before being interrupted by another rioter shouting 'Don't even think it!' had to be approved by Alan Rusbridger himself, a degree of editorial caution I'd never previously encountered in the eleven and a half years I've worked for the paper.

In a way, but only in a way, I understand that caution. Cartoons have a strangely direct power, a viscerality and immediacy which you never achieve in printed text, however inflammatory the words . . . Therein, I suppose, lies the secret of cartoons' staying power and universality. Every nation has cartoons, with the possible exception of Afghanistan under the Taliban, even if in many places those cartoons are little more than crude propaganda, doing dark voodoo on the regime's behalf to compound its own latest twist on tribalism. This is particularly true, as I'm sure you all know, of cartoons in Islamic countries, which frequently merge the Star of David of the Israeli flag with the Nazi swastika. As I've said, the same methods are used for a multiplicity of different effects, although the effect most frequently sought is annoyance or injury (although without the blood) on the part of your victims as much as laughter from your readers.

And that applies across the board, from the neo-conservative Americans who regularly deluge me with hate mail every time The Guardian runs one of my anti-Bush cartoons on their website (with my email address thoughtfully published below), accusing me of, and I quote, 'moral imbecility' . . . to the Zionists who respond to every cartoon I or any other cartoonist draws which is even slightly critical of Israel by saying, invariably, that this is the most disgustingly anti-Semitic image to have appeared since the closure of the Nazi paper Der Sturmer. In each case, including the Islamic one, the tactic is obvious: that taking offence is the best form of attack, and is the best way to intimidate your enemies into silence.

And though I sometimes bridle when a cartoon I've drawn of Ariel Sharon making him look like a fat old Jewish man gets me compared to being one of the cheerleaders, if not architects, of the Holocaust, in the light of everything I've said so far this morning, I have to take it on the chin, steady myself and shout back. If it wasn't for the tragic consequences of the over-reaction - the cartoonists in hiding, the corpses lying in what's called 'The Arab street', shot dead in their own Islamic countries - I suppose I'd be rather pleased that they'd reacted so splendidly to the satirist's teasing, and so you should carry on teasing them because it worked. As with all teasing, the victim all too often makes himself look more ridiculous the more he tries to defend himself, and thus opens himself to yet further teasing.

[ . . .] Humour, as I've argued, is a complex thing, just like life. It can be used as a weapon and also as armour. But it has its limitations, despite its ubiquity in our endless attempts to navigate through our lives in a bearable way. So, while jokes are fine, and that includes cartoons, it's also essential that we occasionally straighten our faces so we are able to recognise the true state of things: that we understand that this stopped being about cartoons or depictions of Mohammed or religious sensibilities and started being about the ongoing struggle for power within Islam almost as soon as the ink dried; that we recognise that the young idiots who marched through London calling for beheadings and bombs probably had most in common with the young idiots of my generation who instinctively supported the IRA and the Baader-Meinhof gang because, being young and idiotic, they're seduced by the romantic glamour of rebellion and political violence, and they wanted to piss off their parents.

That the apocalyptic and terrifying ravings, and indeed the murderous actions , of parts of the Islamic world are exactly the same as the revenge fantasies exemplified in The Book of Revelation or any other quasi-political manifesto dressed up as mystical gibberish and produced by the powerless who've recruited a thing they call God to their side; that we see how the appalling legacy of Islamic and European colonialism and the abject failings of politics from Ba-athism to pan-Arabism to nationalism to Islamism have painted huge numbers of Moslems into a corner where the only direction they can now go is up. And all of that is what should inform how we now engage with, and argue with, and hope to pacify yet not appease Islam, which is in such a mess that this great world religion has reduced itself to the status of a petulant child who comes and thumps you in the playground simply because you've looked at it.

In that engagement, remember that cartoons and satire are almost by definition reactionary: they respond to and comment on events, and contribute to the Babel of argument that is the human experience by adding ridicule or insult or a simple belly laugh, and that, often, makes us feel better. As I've said, cartoons are blunt instruments with limited function, so they shouldn't, by and large, be making the weather, but moaning about it afterwards . And in fact the only actually funny cartoon I've seen concerning this whole nonsensical affair was by Bill Leak in The Australian and showed four jihadis, weeping with laughter over the beheaded corpse of a cartoonist, one of them saying 'Call yourself a cartoonist? You can't even draw breath!' and captioned at the bottom: 'Now THAT's funny!'

Is it necessary to de-construct that? Do I have to rip it apart to show the contradictory layers and meaning and significance, the irony, the voodoo, the counter voodoo, the twisting and twisted symbolism? I think not, but you get the point, and the point is that things are not, and never can be, simply black and white.

Extract of a talk to the South Place Ethical Society, by Martin Rowson,
26 February 2006 The South Place Ethical Society meets regularly at Conway Hall, 25 red Lion Square, London (tel 0207242 8037 for more details. The full text of the talk is in the Ethical Record of April 2006, Vol 111 No 3


On Scanlon Plans and Picturish

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXIIII No. 1 Summer  2006


ON SCANLON PLANS
 

... the Arts of Good Management, and the
Importance of ‘Picturish’ in Human Relations


By Ted Falconar



The basic principles of human relations, at least in the work environment, were set out in 1903 by Elton Mayo, an Australian working in the United States at Harvard. What he did was simply to interview workers at a spinning mill that had appalling human relations. He listened carefully to them and then put possible solutions to the problems causing complaints into action. Performance improved immediately and the bad absenteeism ended. What was most curious indeed, puzzling, was that the new ideas had been applied in only some departments - yet performance improved throughout the mill. It was found later that what mattered was not the new provisions but the new concern and interest of management. Other experiments later confirmed this hypothesis - notably a very large experiment at the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric of Bell Telephone. USA.

Since that time huge strides has been taken by others such as Douglas McGregor with his Theory X and Theory Y. 'Theory X' being the old slave driver method of management, and 'Theory Y' being one involving the genuine support, encouragement and help of the employees in their careers. Later work by Frederick Herzberg' s with his 'Job Enrichment' strategy was a large gain; Rensis Likert too supplied many important ideas, and many others have since contributed to make it possible to enter almost any factory and improve productivity and morale so that output would double or more. Once workers know that management is on their side (but not before), incentives can be applied with amazing success.

The greatest achievement of all comes from creativity supported by extremely generous Suggestion schemes in which employees gain up to 100% of the value of their suggestions. The Lincoln-Electric Company of Cleveland, Ohio, who gave employees thefull 100%, produced four times the output of rival companies and their employees were paid double. I myself was put in charge of a loss making company in the UK (Tetley Tea) Within one year we had reversed the previous loss; after three years we had progressively increased profits to £750,000 when we were sold for 25X earnings; so we had made £16,000,000 in three years for our owners plus the annual profits. Scanlon Plans are installed in companies with very good results. The ideal amount that employees should get for suggestions is 75% according to Scanlon and I agree. ( Lincoln took only Overheads; I think they should get more ) One gain is seen in the enthusiasm of Employees who told me they really liked coming to work. Creativity is a universal joy to all people who use it. All this is unknown in British Industry except fort a very few companies: most are blind to the great power of creativity.

Now the point of all that is not to embellish my CV, to blow my own managerial trumpet, but to highlight the very practical value of what may otherwise seem to the 'unenlightened' as a very airy, very impractical notion- the concept of 'visualization'*. Visualisation is not just a simple method of using black and white shapes in such occupations as carpentry et cetera. There are levels of transcendental images and microscopic and telescopic ones including colours that make visualisation far more subtle and effective than words can ever hope to be. Words have been developed endlessly and millions of books full of words have been written but visualisation and creativity are not taught in schools and are neglected.

Our aim has to be to make the mind as near to reality as possible and then go beyond into the splendours of Transcendental Poetry, which leads on to Enlightenment and the ultimate glorification of the mind. In this endeavour creativity must play an increasing role, making the mind a Creative wonderland. I shall write of two more areas that are dependent on visualisation : Science and Poetry especially mystic poetry. When David Bohn the physicist was asked if there w as enough energy in the Universe to create Big Bang. He said that in one cubic centimetre of space was as much energy as in all known matter in the Universe. He went on to say that the whole Universe that we know is just a ripple on the surface of a vast ocean of energy and beneath this ocean w as probably an even larger ocean. Irving Lazlo in an article in Network Magazine of winter 2005 showed that communication in this ocean of energy took place at speeds of 109c that is one hundred and nine times the speed of light. All this is thought out using visualisation, creativity and backed up with mathematics of complex numbers.

Many people in our modern society have a total lack of inner resources and are dependent on outside possessions, trips abroad, entertainment and so on resulting in an emptiness of mind. Outside is a world of lovely pictures but inside these minds are often like bomb-sites littered with verbal rubble. Contrast this with the contemporary physicist, Stephen Hawking, whose body is a twisted shell. But the thoughts of his mind are like eagles perching on the rims of Black Holes and surveying the black dwarf stars of the far galaxies. Pure verbalisers like the Hull University librarian-cum-poet, Philip Larkin, in contrast, show the adverse effect of words on human happiness by his grim life. Even the least creative of us can surely paint our minds with pictures like the Universe.

Visualisation is my mother tongue ( as I am sure it is for many other people too). I never succumbed to the power of words. Visualisation for me is a language - 'Picturish' if you will, like Polish, English, Irish and so on. I attribute all my successes to it, and indeed some of my troubles too - for example with the 'verbalisers' who thought me a dunce at school, unable to grasp Latin and Greek words, let alone English ones!

In my research into the ideas of visualisation, I have come across countless images of incomparable magnificence such as the Emerald Cities, the Terra Lucida or Hurqalya: the Earth of Pure Light; Kabir's Homeland of the Ocean of Pearls was also mentioned. These together with Rumi's images are to me the most beautiful ideas I have ever met. They regale the mind with their splendours. But how can I give an adequate idea of the beauty of Transcendental or Mystic Poetry? The Scholar Lipsius said : ' When I read Seneca, I think I am beyond human fortunes on the top of a hill overlooking mortality.' When we read Rumi we enter other worlds, it is as if we go into orbit. Only mystic poetry has this effect like a powerful but benign drug whose influence lasts a lifetime.

This is a supreme art of the mind. The three princes entered the Hall of Pictures -the world of nature our picture-Land; the best picture of all was that of the Emperor of China's daughter with whom they fell in love. This is transcendental beauty. Kabir could be called a supreme landscape painter -his Ocean of Pearls. Suhrawardi and Mani drew paintings without shadows - Persian Miniature Paintings of the mind.

All present efforts at explaining and teaching creativity such as Synectics and even de Bono [go easy - Ed.] should be encouraged and expanded. Surely this marvellous human ability of visualisation and creativity can have no conceivable end just as Science can have no conceivable end. Now we have only reached a staging post with our studios of poetry and art but it can discern even higher things on the horizons of the human mind.

'Picturish' is a vital ingredient of Enlightenment and Liberation. One of the greatest poems of Religion was by Shankaracharya, who reconverted India to Hinduism from Buddhism. His Enlightenment followed his poem to Annapurna, the Goddess of the Cosmos. The poem's words are clearly visual, he translated Picturish into Sanscrit indicating he was aware of Picture-Land. Here are a few lines to show visual images of true magnificence:-
Thou who appearest as waves of Light,
or the radiance of Sun, Moon and fire -
Thou who severest the thread of the play we play on this Earth.
Thou whose long tresses, falling to thy knees,
Ripple restlessly like a river's current and sparkle like a blue gem!
Thou whose radiance burns a million times ,
more brilliant than the sun, moon and fire.
For whom the light of the moon is but the shadow of Thy lips 
This poem is said to be part of the 'higher wisdom' of the Buddhists. All religions have a higher Wisdom. I hope that this article brings out some of this Higher Wisdom that is a shared human inheritance if now often neglected.


*See Volume LXXXXII No. 2 Autumn 2004, Ancient Wisdom, Modern Thinking and Realisation.

On God and Genetic Engineering

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXIIII No. 1 Summer  2006


ON GOD AND GENETIC ENGINEERING

By Neville Fletcher



Fundamentalist Christians, and no doubt Muslims too, appear to be violently opposed to any type of genetic engineering performed on human cells, and even more strongly opposed to any form of human cloning. While it is the practice of these people to be vociferously opposed to any scientific advance that they do not understand, it is perhaps surprising that they choose these two issues upon which to make their strongest stand. Why surprising? Because the Bible, which they believe to be literally true, almost provides the recipe for how to do it!

Let us suppose, for the purposes of this small piece, that they are correct. If we consult the book of Genesis, beginning at Chapter 2, verse 17, we find the words:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 
The qualifier "in his own image" is important to those who believe in the teaching of the New Testament about Jesus being literally the 'Son of God', a point to which I return later. For the present we note that, beginning at verse 18, we find a detailed description of the method used by God to create the female of the human species.
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him.
Going then to verses 21 and 22:
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 
There are several interesting surgical features about this description. The first is the employment of anaesthetic when performing the operation, surely the first recorded instance of such a procedure. The second is the closing up of the wound after removal of the rib. Most interesting however are the other implications. Since God is said to be all-powerful, and certainly the Bible records him as having 'made' Adam, one wonders why he did not simply 'make' a woman. Instead, he chose to undertake a cloning operation using tissue from one of Adam's ribs.

But more than that, it was not a simple cloning procedure, since that would have resulted in another man. Instead, God chose to perform a molecular-genetic operation upon the DNA retrieved from the rib so that the Y-chromosome of the X-Y pair was converted to X, giving the X-X pattern that characterises a female. Adam apparently was aware of the nature of the operation, since he is recorded in Verse 23 as saying:
This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 
God had set Adam to live in the Garden of Eden and to care for it, and after Eve was created she lived there too. All was well until the serpent, also known as Lucifer, the bearer of light and bringer of enlightenment, persuaded them to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, with consequences we must leave to be discussed elsewhere.

Let us instead turn now and look at some later Biblical events. The New Testament is, of course, even more important to Christians than is the Old, so let us reconsider what it tells us about the birth of Jesus, who is regarded as the Son of God. According to the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 1 verse 18:
When his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
The other Gospels have similar stories, for example Luke Chapter 1 verse 35:
The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the High-est shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 
These accounts reflect the custom, common among rulers of the time and later even among the nobility of England and Europe of Droit de Seigneur, by which nobles were entitled to have sexual intercourse with virgins on their estates immediately before they were to be married.

In the later middle ages in England, reference to this custom was preserved during the wedding ceremony when the Lord lay for a moment symbolically upon a bed beside the bride, thus effectively renouncing his "right". Details of this are outside the scope of this short essay, except to note that (from a scientific perspective at least), for Jesus to have been really the "Son of God" relies upon the fact that God made man 'in His own image' so that there was enough genetic and chromosomal similarity for the fertilised egg to be viable. If this genetic similarity had not existed then God would have had to rely once more upon cloning and genetic engineering, since a simple clone of Mary would have had two X chromosomes and so be female.

One might remark, in passing, that presumably there was some barrier that allowed expression of some genes in God that were suppressed in man. According to Lucifer, the serpent, in Genesis Chapter 3, verse 5, the fruit of the tree of knowledge went some way towards removing that suppression:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 
Indeed, once the suppression had been at least partly removed by eating that fruit, men and women began to examine and emulate some of the feats of God, though it took a long time and much experimentation. The achievements of science have indeed brought us to the stage where we can replicate many of the acts of God as recorded in the Bible. It is this that has brought us close to performing some of those acts referred to above. But the whole enterprise is not without risk.

Even God, who was deemed to be all-knowing and all-powerful, made many mistakes in creating the world, and humans in particular. It is perhaps true that God gave man freewill, and certainly religion blames all the world's troubles upon that, but if God is truly all-knowing and almighty, then he created man with just this end in view.

Indeed the same goes for his joy in 'watching a sparrow fall' and in following the fate of small animals as they fall prey to larger carnivores. He also, in the view of fundamentalists, is responsible for the creation of diseases and plagues and for having set up the Earth and the solar system in such a way that droughts, floods and earthquakes kill people. Perhaps, however, it all makes the world a more interesting place to watch!

Address for correspondence: Neville H. Fletcher Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering, Australian National University, Canberra 0200, Australia

The Sage of Unbelief

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXIIII No. 1 Summer  2006


THE SAGE OF UNBELIEF
George Eliot and Unorthodox Choices

By Susan Frome



Sometimes, particularly today, it can appear that we live in a world where many of our ideals seem lost and forgotten and a disturbing indifference has settled in. A number of people suffer from either knee-jerk conformity or ironic detachment. As a result we may have at last come to a time when we need reminders that our hard-won personal beliefs are worth rescuing. One way is to return to the lives and work of notable others who have wrestled with many of the same problems and asked some of the same questions. For example: how to live our lives given the society we are in? How to recreate our own moral philosophies and how to live by them? What are the values and consequences of such possibly unorthodox choices? In this vein, let us look at a renowned Victorian author who wrote provocative novels to share her ideas about the meaningful life.

In the mid-19th century, Marian Evans Lewes, also known as George Eliot, was considered a 'Fallen Woman' - 'not a prostitute exactly', but a woman who had become sexually intimate with a man who could not or would not marry her. Cast out from society, her only way of living was quietly and anonymously.

Eliot was thereby unconventional, ostracized, and guilty of making unorthodox choices. Ironically though, in later years she became one of England's greatest novelists, a moralist, and a secular saint of iconic status.

One of the philosophical beliefs that brought her to a kind of sainthood was her answer to that basic question 'How shall we live now?' after her young step-son, Thornie, died a horrible death at home. Her response was that she could not take refuge in the 'easy consolations of orthodox faith', and instead felt one should 'nourish fellow feeling towards the men and women you encounter every day'. Later it was Eliot's combination of intellectual understanding and warm empathy that drew hundreds of people to her home with their religious difficulties and their troubled souls. They had come to believe that she held the secret of how to live a good life. Thus she was known as the 'Sage of Unbelief'. In sum, she left the Church of England in favor of agnosticism, went against the marriage canon, and developed a unique way of living, calling it 'Meliorism', stemming from the word ameliorate, meaning to make or become better. All told, she went counter to custom and society's rules and regulations and in so doing became her nation's greatest novelist of the time (after Dickens death), elevated to 'the rank of the Immortals.' 

To understand how this all came about we have to go back to Eliot's youth on a large estate in Warwickshire, where her father worked as the foreman -- thus her roots in a country ambiance.

She was sent off to a private school where she came under the teaching influence of Maria Lewis, a follower of evangelicalism, a brand of Anglicanism and a wing of the Church of England. Its fundamentalist fervour appealed to the teenage Mary Ann, as she devoted herself to the constant diet of prayer, bible study, and self-scrutiny. However, when her father fell ill, she came home to tend him and began to read extensively from many sources. She eventually enjoyed 'one of the greatest self-educations of the century.'

Part of that education included a book written by Charles Hennell, the brother of Cara Bray, a close friend who lived near Mary Ann and her father in Coventry, where they had moved from nearby Warwickshire. Cara and her husband Charles Bray were Unitarians, the most tolerant, rational and forward-thinking of the many Protestant sects. To them, Jesus was a great teacher and philosopher, but not the son of God, and they felt that the individual's duty was to question every new piece of information which, in turn, greatly influenced Mary Ann. Hennell, Cara's brother, had written An Inquiry Concerning the Origin of Christianity which separated the known historical facts about Jesus from the later myths and fantasies. 'Everything that happened to him was explicable within the known laws of nature.' Thus, having read Hennell's book, she began questioning her evangelical faith.

Later in the mid-1850s, Marian Evans, as she called herself upon reaching adulthood, translated the work of Auguste Comte, the French 'Father of Sociology', Spinoza's Ethics, and the German work of Ludwig Feuerbach: The Essence of Christianity.

Spinoza stressed the need for people 'to turn selfishness to social account by means of sympathetic action towards others with whom they have a natural fellow feeling...', as well as that 'the modern state has the responsibility of looking after the common man, and the common man has the responsibility of looking after himself.' Feuerbach focused on the social and moral aspects of human relations rather than on Christian beliefs. In Eliot's subsequent novels she wrote of the 'divine fellowship' between human beings 'rather than between man and God'. Binding men together offered a greater value to their existence.

On January 2, 1842 Mary Ann formally renounced orthodox Christianity by refusing to attend church with her father. He responded in 'a cold and sullen rage', since this represented a social disgrace in the community. She was, in a sense, 'condemning herself to spinsterhood'. Rejecting both her father and the Heavenly Father, Mary Ann rebelled against the notion that a woman must attend church in order to get married and thus relieve her father of future support. Mary Ann called this 'the holy war' period of her life.

After running away to Geneva with the Brays and wandering by herself as well, she returned to London where she began to work for John Chapman, a publishing friend of the Brays. She and Chapman were lovers for a while even though she lived in his boarding house run by his wife. But Chapman owned the prestigious literary magazine, The Westminster Review, and Eliot became its editor. Through the Review, Marian met exciting and laudable writers (Charles Dickens for one), and intellectuals such as Herbert Spencer, the leader of the new discipline of Sociology. Though their interest in each other developed into a long friendship, (Spencer rejected their marriage partly because of her plain, 'mannish' looks), he introduced her to his friend, George W. Lewes, a journalist and editor of The Leader, another literary publication. And so began their serious love affair, but the problem, of course, was that Lewes was married with five children.

Divorce was impossible. So, Marian and Lewes ran off together in the summer of 1854 to Germany where Lewes was to write a biography of Goethe (which became a noteworthy success). They returned as 'Mr. and Mrs. Lewes,' and, as a 'married' couple, rented a house in London far enough from the center of things. Marian soon discovered the price she would have to pay as a 'fallen woman:' she was shunned by her former friends including the Brays, London literary wives, and ladies of the upper class. Lewes was allowed to socialize but not Marian. As it turned out, she and Lewes lived happily together for 22 years until his death in 1876. It was well known that Lewes had been instrumental in encouraging Marian to write her classic novels and in emotionally supporting her through the hard times.

Returning to the philosopher Feuerbach, he 'included sexual love in his definition of the sacred. What mattered was not the legal forms which contained that love, but the quality of the attachment,' clearly a theological justification for Marian's decision to live in an unmarried state with Lewes. Early on, when Adam Bede was about to be published, she decided on the pseudonym of 'George Eliot' by using her husband's first name, while the second was chosen because it 'rolled around in the mouth' and sounded good. She chose a nom de plume because she was fearful that her novels would be judged on the basis of who she was, 'the fallen woman,' rather than on the work itself.

By the 1860s, after her great successes, Marian Evans Lewes attained literary status, thus opening the way for single women and wives to come and visit her. As Marian's celebrity grew it was not snubbing but mobbing which posed the greater threat. Clergymen were known to quote George Eliot from the pulpit, while Queen Victoria said how much she admired the novels.

All these evolving influences, including Spinoza's advice to give up 'the fantasy of a Divine presence' and focus on caring for others, crystallized in Eliot's personal beliefs and found their way into her novels. Writing fiction was, for her, a moral activity, more like producing philosophy than telling stories, widening our sympathies, creating narratives that were socially and morally useful and reflecting the beliefs listed above. Eliot also believed that individuals and characters should strive 'to improve according to a humanist ethic'.

In her first novel, Adam Bede, the peasants' lives are depicted in genuine and honest ways. One of the lessons Adam Bede learns is to stay with his beloved even under the worst of circumstances. The young and beautiful Hetty Sorrel, Bede's fiancé, is bored with the coarseness of the peasant life around her and strives to marry the rich landowner. Marian herself had felt the same way, but as a mature novelist she realized that the old country rituals actually represented 'ties which for centuries had bound men and women together in mutual obligation.' Hetty suffers a tragic ending to her story. In The Mill on the Floss , Maggie ends up cruelly ostracized for living with a married man as Eliot had, and the author shows how society is quick to condemn behaviour that is not understood. Dorothea, in Middlemarch, like young Mary Ann, is concerned over serious religious issues while her flighty girlfriends are not:
'To Dorothea, the destinies of mankind . . . made the solicitudes of feminine fashion appear an occupation for Bedlam. She could not reconcile the anxieties of a spiritual life. . . with a keen interest in [the] ... artificial protrusions of drapery.'
Dorothea also wishes to build new cottages for the peasants working on her future husband's estate. She says, 'I hope I should be able to get the people well housed in Lowick!...I think we deserve to be beaten out of our beautiful houses with a scourge of small cords - all of us who let tenants live in such sites as we see around us.' The hero of Felix Holt, the Radical, gives an address to the working men:
'[He] lectures the new voters about their 'heavy responsibility', the sanctity of doing work well, the 'dependence of men on each other' the organic, slow-growing nature of society and culture'.
Rosemary Ashton, the author of George Eliot: A Life, concludes that this is a 'sombre piece of secular preaching' by Eliot.

In Daniel Deronda, (her last published novel), Eliot took on a very serious subject: 'the thoughtless but insidious anti-Semitism she had observed.' In a letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe in America in 1876, she expressed her anger over the way English upper classes talked about the Jewish people in her country:
'Can anything be more disgusting than to hear people called 'educatedÇ making small jokes about the people they think themselves witty in insulting?... The best that can be said of it is, that it is a sign of the intellectual narrowness - in plain English, the stupidity, which is still the average mark of our culture.' 
The book is a long and complicated story set in Eliot's own time period in and around London. In due course, the hero, Deronda, is torn between his love for two women - Gwendolyn, a haughty, vain, contemptuous but beautiful girl who will only come down off her high horse when threatened by the odious prospect of having to work as a governess. Deronda's other love is Mirah, a young, poor Jewess who is rescued from drowning by Deronda. He not only comes to her aid but subsequently becomes drawn to Judaic rituals and religious teachings. Morality is at issue here as Gwendolyn becomes confused by her attraction to Deronda and his sensitive, moral integrity, while Mirah becomes a model of ancient ideals as she undauntedly attempts to find her lost mother and brother. At one point, Deronda counsels Gwnedolyn by saying, 'The refuge you are needing from personal trouble is the higher, the religious life, which holds an enthusiasm for something more than our own appetites and vanities'.

Clearly Eliot was stimulated by these moral challenges she presented to her readers. By writing intensely about her characters' inner lives, her readers in turn felt that they knew her and she knew them. She helped them grapple with problems 'that beset thoughtful Victorians, balancing the rights of the individual with the needs of others', and guided them to lead moral lives. In fact, 'her insightful psychological novels paved the way to modern character portrayals', as Dostoevsky was doing during the same period. Eliot believed that fiction could offer the best teaching of these beliefs 'because it deals with life in its highest complexity'.

On balance however, it would be inaccurate to think of Eliot as a consistently 'saintly' person. Like other human beings she had her contradictions and perhaps even hypocrisies. Individualism was a principle she certainly lived by, yet her fictional heroines were usually forced to accept quiet, dependent lives. In Middlemarch, Dorothea is encouraged to support her husband in his worthwhile work while she cares for the children.

Another example of Eliot's inconsistencies would have to be her views about wealth. Her characters come from the middle and peasant classes and some, like Mrs. Cadwallader, openly degrade the rich. But when Eliot started earning a lot of money, she and Lewes turned over their financial business to a friend from America, John Cross, a banker whose investments for them in canal, railway, and gas companies in Britain and America made the Leweses secure for the rest of their lives. Prior to this, Eliot had seen the railroad as an unhappy sign of progress, ruining the quiet country landscape of her youth. In addition, she began to enjoy expensive clothes, furs, hats 'always in the height of the Paris fashion,' and a custom-made landau, the equivalent of a Rolls Royce.

Lewes died in 1878. Eliot could not leave her room even to attend his funeral, but by 1880 she was ready to marry John Cross, twenty years her junior, who had had to propose three times. They were married at the Anglican Church, which some thought an hypocrisy on the part of an agnostic. Eliot passed away in December of 1880, only seven months after their marriage. She was buried in Highgate Cemetary near George Lewes, and a hundred years later a memorial stone was erected in her honour in Westminster Abbey's Poets Corner. Today she seems to have more and more to tell us about orthodoxy and un-orthodoxy, dictatorial authority and virtuous authority. Perhaps it is time, like Eliot, to make unorthodox choices based on a moral philosophy which cares about our fellow women and men at home and around the world. 
Perhaps it is time to return to these classics and this extraordinary woman writer to learn again that we need to make our own choices, orthodox or not, based on beliefs we create or incorporate. Eliot is certainly an example of living paradoxically as an agnostic and a moralist - encouraging us to go back to our roots and decide what is important and worth living for.