“True inner contentment sides unconditionally with what it
knows is true, regardless of personal cost” (1)
by John de Ruiter, College of Integrated Philosophy, 2001
“William Blake, the most spiritual of artists, a mystic poet and painter, born amid the gloom of a London November in 1757 at Golden Square, Soho, was christened on the 11th of December, one in a batch of six, from Grinling Gibbon’s ornate font in Wren’s noble Palladian church of St James”, Piccadilly. (2)
In his lifetime Christopher Wren was celebrated as much for his achievements in mathematics as for his fame in architecture. Bishop Isaac Barrow in his inaugural speech as professor of Geometry at Oxford University spoke of Christopher Wren wondering whether ‘he’ (Wren) should be commended for the divine felicity of his genius or for the sweet humanity of his disposition….. formerly as a boy, a prodigy, now as a man, a miracle, nay something even superhuman.” (3)
Christopher Wren is chiefly remembered today as an architect. He was renowned for being “judicious in the way he expended the little money at his command.” He did not fritter it away to make the outside of a building remarkable; in some cases, as in St James’ Piccadilly, “content to make the exterior of a barn-like plainness.” (4) It has been said he designed this church as one great room. “The framing of its vaulted ceiling being as remarkable for its economic and scientific construction as its galleried interior for its spaciousness” (4), both contributing to superb acoustics. St James Piccadilly was the only parish church built by Wren to which he particularly wished to attach his name, saying “I think it may be found beautiful and convenient and as such the simplest of any form I could invent.” (4)
Here “To the large glooms of this mighty fane” (5) in the heart of London, John de Ruiter was invited to speak on Monday 8th September 2008.
The original invitation to John was made by the London group Alternatives, and extended several times before a date could be found coinciding with John’s visits to Britain. Monday 8th was at last settled upon by both parties following as it did the final day of the London Seminars held in the conference rooms of Centre Point, Charing Cross Road. However, preceding, and even during, negotiations that had begun almost two years before, there had been concerns as to what inferences might be drawn from the choice of venue being an historic church, with the event itself being held under the auspices of a long-established group with tenets of its own, and whether such a step would be consistent with the direction of John and the College of Integrated Philosophy’s ongoing programme of international seminars.
However, John de Ruiter had preached and spoken in church before. He would have felt equally at ease in the pulpit, perhaps more so than on that uncomfortable stool/chair chair placed before the altar at the church of St James.
In 1983 John attended the Toronto Baptist Seminary, where he studied theology, continuing the degree course he had begun there moving to the Prairie Bible Institute in the pretty town of Three Hills, Alberta, after which in 1985 he was offered a position, at the Bethlehem Lutheran church in Edmonton, as guest intern pastor. Through study and self-search, heeding revelatory experiences, John moved away from established religion to develop his own evolving practical philosophy through public meetings taken in person at various rented venues until he founded and built the College of Integrated Philosophy in Edmonton from which central base he travelled holding seminars at regular venues around the world.
In John de Ruiter’s first book, “Unveiling Reality”, he describes his teaching as “the living way of truth”, with honesty its fundamental tenet. “Honesty is the knife of reality that cuts through everything that is untrue….. Honesty, followed by a clear surrender to what one actually really knows is true.”
In the life of John de Ruiter, nothing’s been done lightly, or progressed without consideration, surveying influences and outcomes comprehensively, and not avoiding but accepting consequences with full involvement on one level and synchronous detachment on another, all followed through with unswerving adherence to what he knows is true in unity of purpose.
“What is found is a character formed by virtues certainly, but having in its acts a unity not easily specified in any instance as of this or that virtue separately. And this unity becomes sometimes of the whole life and of every act of it even of the minor and indifferent….. Of the nature of his sincerity, then, it may be said that any act or utterance of his tended to imply, and by implication to express, his whole character: which is what I mean by unity. And that unity was not an accident of temperament or of physical constitution, but was achieved by the light, the courage and the discipline of his intelligence; which is what I mean by clarity.” (6)
The invitation to speak at the Church of St James, as a guest of the Alternatives group, was accepted because the venue and the organisers of the event were different and of good reputation. It was recognised as an opportunity to address an audience not largely composed of a College following, and to reach people unfamiliar with John de Ruiter’s teachings. With this consideration in mind, it was thought better not to circulate regular adherents or advertise on the College website. However, details of the meeting, circulated among Alternatives’ members did reach some of John’s British following and word spread, assisted by an announcement at the conclusion of the London seminars on Sunday 7th. In consequence quite a few people were able to buy tickets, but there was disappointment among those unable to re-arrange travel plans and some understandable ‘murmurings of discontent’ were voiced. Nevertheless, on a voyage, in a ship, with a captain, the cares of navigation are borne by him.
“So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna
On the field of battle.
Not fare well
But fare forward voyagers” (7)
Those of John’s following fortunate enough to be there, on entering the illumined yet shadowy church, found themselves directed by St James’ staff to seating near John’s place of entrance, grouped together in a semicircle of chairs in front of the pews to the left of the altar. There was apprehension and some nervousness among them, and an understanding, largely unspoken, that they should remain low-key and hold back to give new people the chance to meet and speak with John; and because the customary College procedures, including an introduction to the format of the meeting, would be altered or absent, there were concerns as to how John as well as his audience would fare in these unfamiliar circumstances.
Placed centrally on the first step to the high altar was a chrome-legged stool with a short curved small of the back support. Standing in front of this, was the microphone. Behind the altar, below the great windows, forming both a frame and a backdrop to the speaker, hung the remarkable cedar wood carved reredos screen in festoons of leaves, fruit, flowers and birds, originally the work of Grinling Gibbons, the famed Flemish wood carver. Gibbons was very successful in England, patronised by the royalty, the aristocracy and frequently employed by Wren on several of his churches, including the cathedral church of St Paul’s. Throughout the meeting these luxuriant carvings of foliage and flowers formed an intricate background to the central figure of John de Ruiter. The customary vase of flowers at College meetings being here replaced by the work of the great woodcarver, some of whose flowers were said to be so delicately worked they would nod in a breeze. “There is no instance of a sculptor before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers” (Horace Walpole).
Before John stepped forward to take his place on the seat in front of the altar, a custom that precedes all Monday evening meetings of the Alternatives group would be enacted in three parts. To explain this and introduce John, a bright pretty woman stepped purposefully to the microphone. “The meeting this evening,” she announced, “will differ from that usually expected here from other speakers, in that the format of the meeting will be mainly audience-initiated, with person to person questions made to John. To meet and talk with John, a member of the audience will be required to step up to another microphone,” and she pointed down in front to her left, where it stood in the shadow of the empty pulpit, fixed at standing height, no chair provided.
Beside this microphone, facing the ‘congregation’, solemn as a Chinese soldier on sentry duty, stood a small neatly dressed woman. She was provided by the Alternatives group to guide and assist members of the audience to the microphone. The director from Alternatives began her explanation of the ceremony. “First we light three candles.” She swung round to indicate three quite tall thick candles placed in a row on the left-hand marble altar-rail. “The candles will be lit one after another by different people, all volunteers from our audience. The first candle is for Love, the second candle is for Wisdom. And the third candle, which is always dedicated by the speaker, (who tonight is John de Ruiter), will be “Being-ness”….. And now, may we have three volunteers?”
Without hesitation two women and a man came forward. A taper for lighting was handed to the first, her candle lit – and Love came to light; she handed it on to the second, and her candle lit – Wisdom came to light. Lastly the taper was passed from her to the man who had bounded forward so eagerly to be one of the candle lighters. And when he had lit the final candle and Being-ness ‘drew flame’, he turned, but instead of handing back the sparkling taper, he blew it out vigorously, as if drawing a line under his achievement, blowing it out in the direction of the man (its original lighter), whose recoil then loudly emphasised ‘Thank you’ in response suggested that this show of zeal, however well meant, was neither customary nor appreciated. All three lit candles were now placed along the marble altar rail where they flamed joyously, sometimes valiantly, in the draughty church throughout the evening.
For the second of the Alternatives introductory procedures the audience was invited to enter a few moments of silence and meditation. In a jolly but firm tone our organiser instructed, “So now uncross your legs, and place both feet on the floor” (clearly no open palmed lotus forming hippies welcomed here). A silence followed, after which came the third and final custom when everyone was asked to turn to their neighbour and introduce themselves with a few words as to why they were there. After this, a feeling of friendliness pervaded Wren’s “one great room”.
Then, silence was again requested and guest speaker John de Ruiter was welcomed. He walked over with his usual measured stride and took his place alone in front of the high altar, in a calm enhanced by the sounds of London’s traffic passing by in the streets close by on either side the church.
Though much has been said and written of John’s long silences during meetings, few have commented upon their counterpart, the physical stillness of his body, held almost motionless for as long as three hours at a time, varied by slow turnings of his head following his gaze that rests momentarily or longer, passing calmly from one person to another in the silence of the auditorium, usually, but not always, at the beginning and end of meetings; meetings that draw together thoughtful people of integrity who by practical endeavour wish to achieve a better understanding of themselves and to realise more meaningful lives. Through silence, sensitive eye contact, and spoken exchanges, John de Ruiter teaches “the living way of truth” (1), sharing some tenets in common with a centuries old oral-based teaching of Tibetan Buddhism, where, “the training advocated does not consist in teaching certain things to the pupil, but rather in showing him the means to learn them and discover them for himself”….. “The Tibetan masters believed the only truth which is living and effective, which is of value, is the truth which we ourselves discover.” (9)
Much has also been written and misunderstood concerning the mutual act of seeing that forms an integral part of John de Ruiter’s meetings. This seeing between John and his audience, between John and each questioner, is best experienced in person to be understood. Though on one level this simply means candidly looking into each other’s eyes, there is more. In John de Ruiter’s steadfast gaze there is within its unwavering energy a quiet searching quality that seeks through honesty to reach an affinity on a profounder level than everyday life in the communication exchanged.
Tibetan Buddhism reflects this in referring to attaining “transcendental insight….. it is not enough to see with eyes which are covered only with a thin film of dust; however thin this film may be, it is a question of removing the last trace of dust which interferes with sight, enabling one to see more, to see beyond, to see extremely, supremely.” (9)
The classic Zen text Hekigan Roku No. 89 records “the enlightened man knows that he sees with his whole body”….. “It is like when in the dark night we straighten out our pillow with our hand (though not being able to see with our eyes. We have no thought but to arrange the pillow. We act with our entire body). The whole body is hand and eye.” (10)
In response to questions, John de Ruiter said that in this seeing he sees with all his resources, with his whole body, a directed seeing that illumines. A seeing that is not so much a receiving of images as a seeing that seeks, and in doing so, awakens altering levels of consciousness in response, which are reflected sometimes in both “seen” and “see-er” by a softening expression as of innocence and openness; the subtlest of muscular modulations playing like dappled sunlight over their faces during the shared experience.
Here in the Church of St James, commencing with that prelude for which he is known, John began by looking at his audience one by one, beginning with those on his right towards the back of the church, using in that keen gaze, all his resources as he has said, to meet, see and know, to a profound level, each individual, whether or not, or for how long, eye contact is made between them.
“All was hush,
No chant, no voice or murmuring of prayer
No priests came forth, no tinkling censors fumed.” (5)
And amid this silence, we all heard – movements of someone rising, then footsteps sounding down the central aisle, steps purposeful, perhaps slowed; yet he came on quickly, and was suddenly there, confronting the microphone. What a pity it seemed that one such as he should have come so soon, before John had settled in with his audience and absorbed the beauty and the listening of that great room, that one so austere seeming, white-haired and venerable carrying hints of dissonance, should begin with such a question.
“Hello….. I’m very glad to be able to meet you and ask you a question….. what led you to choose the format of answering questions rather than talking to people about your knowledge and experience?”
Behind John from the candles on the altar rail small flames signalled, flickering lightly, Wisdom, Being-ness and Love.
In the bated quiet of expectancy that descended on the room following this, the first question, “here, in the intercession of a timeless moment,” (7) just as flowers bloomed along the aisles after bombs destroyed the roof in 1940 and rain fell, waking seeds beneath the broken floor, so John’s thoughts moving up from deeper levels, rose surely into the light, ascending slowly, letting words unwind into the silence, speaking quietly without force, with even some hesitancy, selecting the words to say, not so much in answer as a taking in and an opening of communication with all who were gathered there.
“It’s because, what I’m relating to – and that’s not so much the giving of information, even the giving of expected or valued information – but that of actually — Meeting. — Which begs the question of what it is that’s meeting, who it is that’s meeting.” — — — — (The questioner remains standing through the extended pause. John’s words now also turn toward the congregation.)
“We are accustomed to relating as persons, wanting something, needing something; underlying everything, searching — for meaning. And a resource that is most used and most available is that of relating to our past, past experiences of meaning. We have from that, favourable and unfavourable experiences, that of having meaning and that of lacking meaning. From that alone we begin to develop patterns, simple patterns, of aversion towards experiences of negative meaning. And we have attraction to meaning - wanting to have again; an experience of meaning that has in our experience” (in the pause a mobile phone chirrups) “already proven itself.
What we understand within, in looking for meaning, is that we have ability, the ability to do something, the ability to create as a person interacting with our external environment; the ability in self to recognise a little bit of what does underlie everything in our environment. We effort, in every way that we can, to identify that meaning we’re looking for. Because we have such ability, on so many levels, to be able to do something, we use that as our first strength. We naturally use what we experience ourselves as being best at, so we try to do much, in order to have — much meaning; and then to do as much again to secure that meaning, making meaning that we can find, and hold, — a personal acquisition.
The more that we work with our ability and what power we experience ourselves to have, in securing meaning for ourselves, the closer we come” (here a motor horn fills the pause) “to what it is that we are wanting, to what it is that we are fundamentally needing within: — meaning, much meaning, more than much meaning, — and desperately, all meaning. When we come to the point of wanting all meaning, we’ve already been realising that what meaning we’ve come to, with all of our doing, isn’t able to be kept, requiring again the doing of much to keep what we are not able to; then transfer meaning, to something physical.
With all such meaning – still not ultimately satisfying – we go deeper within, naturally using what resources we have, resources of the deep within — using them to identify, outside of the results, deeper meaning, as much as we can ultimately come to of deeper meaning within and deeper meaning without, it is still in some way — fleeting. We begin to identify with concepts within, profound concepts of meaning, because it is meaning that we’re needing. — We know what we want – we desperately want meaning. We’re so accustomed to relating to what we want, because it’s by that, that we’re able to fashion and create our experiences, or at least guide them.
That really begs the question — what are we? When we are profoundly desperate to know something that satisfies, we don’t even stop from the question of, who are we,? who am I? but most desperately, what am I? — What is it that we are? Is it really the same as, what are we looking for? What are we desperately wanting? What do we want to have? It isn’t even, really meaning. Most profoundly, what we’re wanting to have, in everything within and everything without is, what we are.
Looking within then, to know what we are, is as promising as it is fundamentally threatening. When honesty begins to look within, to know what we are, everything that we honestly know that we are not is, in terms of what we are looking for, — gone. Such direction of looking within for what we are, promises much, and offers — nothing. When there is a profound receiving that nothing within is offered, what occurs within, is rest — most profound rest — from needing something, wanting something, doing something to satisfy what we are. When our entire interior comes to rest, what is easy to know, is, that we are, most simply, being. Within such restedness within, we know that beingness, such beingness, nurtures and satisfies what we are, as awareness.”
(At this point in John’s pause, footsteps can be heard and the first questioner chooses this moment to return to his seat halfway down the aisle on the left. While this is happening, John remains facing forwards, concentrated within, and waits, re-commencing only when the first questioner has gained his seat. As John begins to speak again a distant door slams and noises along the side aisle beyond the pulpit trace the movements of a second questioner who reaches and stands respectfully, by the second microphone).
“Arriving at that, we know that there’s deeper. What is it that is being? What it is that is being, is meaning – not a person of meaning, not a self of meaning, not even a being of meaning. All that remains is meaning – meaning able to do.
First doing, is meaning moving as that. When meaning moves, Love is. Such beingness of meaning, such as love, is ultimately satisfying on the level of being. But what remains is that we have other forms. Meaning has subsequent forms – not just a being – but, with us, a self and a person. When we’re not being what we first are, just simply meaning that has need of nothing because it already is everything; soon as we are not, as awareness, first being that, then we’ll register — lack.
And then, as meaning, meaning looks for something that it already is, but believes that there is more that is yet to be meaning, using its ability, and using its forms to then acquire meaning; at first acquire the beingness that it knows, its own movement, love….. and then, wanting love, needing love, instead of such beingness being the result of its own movement, meaning moving as awareness, it is able to move further out into its own forms, out of the level of beingness and into the level of the self, where meaning is able – within the self – to capture an experience, to register an experience – where there is feeling and thought, to do what is experienced of its own beingness — Love. On the level of the self it’s able to reproduce Love, to create it, to hold it as an experience. As a person, it’s able to do even more, It’s able to speak it, to show it, to relate it to another and with another. The further out we go in our forms, the more possibility, and opportunity, we encounter, to acquire what it is that we’re wanting, because it is all so immediate, so possible, so palpable.
We begin to believe, as awareness, that, that which is most outward, while still having an interior, is most meaningful; and in our relating, forgetting what we first are: — meaning, that has need of nothing, and that is all ability to be what it is, and do what it is, through all of our forms.”
(A pause follows and the next questioner emboldened by a nod from his guide at the microphone, hesitantly and earnestly begins.)
“Hello — Hello John — Hi. I’m aware in my life of hmm, a higher Self or, ah, Spirit that appears to be guiding me or controlling me? But it seems to be, seems to me, that it seems to me to be, the very opposite of my personal desires or my mundane ego so there’s always this tension, going on hmm hmm. It’s like I’m living two lives in one lifetime. So is that perception I’m having correct, and if so, how do I deal with that tension?”
(John has turned his head towards the questioner and continues to look and meet him with a concentrated seriousness – almost daunting; a concentration, as has been said before, using all John’s inner resources, experience and knowledge to best understand who it is that is asking the question and what it is, that is, on deeper levels, truly being asked.)
“By sorting who you are, sorting out what you are, the one value being greater than the other. The value of the personal being completely subject to the value of what precedes the personal, or, that is higher than the personal. You have the power to surrender to that – that you are knowing – your own knowing of value. And you also have the power to turn the values around, you’re able to make the value of the personal higher than what you know is actually higher than the personal. You’re able to be honest in what you are, or you’re able to be dishonest in what you are.
The honesty won’t cost you the higher, the honesty costs you the personal. You’ll be letting go of what you want on the personal level, to be within what you know on the higher level.” (A pause here as the wailing of sirens rises above the surges of traffic sounds, getting louder and nearer, then fading away.)
“You can let be what you honestly know is. Or, you can interfere with that; you can make what is higher lower, and you can make what is lower, higher, even though you know within that it isn’t so. You’re able to turn what you are, into something that you’re not. Whatever you acquire in doing so, you’ll also know then that you have that to lose, as soon as you’re being true within. When you are most profoundly honest, you know you’re able to be what you know, and you’re able to do what you know. You’re able to return all of your power to that of real knowledge within your own real knowing”, (a bell tolls at the beginning of this pause and continues into John’s next words, chiming eight) “costing you your use of the personal, for the personal, and releasing the use of the personal, for the higher.” (Now follows a long period of mutual eye contact between John and the questioner, then:)
“The higher the cost that you’re open to facing, the greater your resources within, and, the further that you can go toward being what you first are, and manifesting that through everything else that you next are. Moving in such a direction, puts you on a path, the path of self-knowledge, self-realisation; the path of acquiring and being and doing real knowledge, all the while greatly increasing your profound proximity to the ultimate within, and it always still being just within proximity, instead of being it.
You being what you first are toward that, you can take nothing of what you have, nothing from any level that you have: not taking your person, and all it has, not taking your self, in who you are, not even taking your own being, with all of its beingness. The absolute return to what you first are is when as awareness you respond, so absolutely, without – anything. All that remains is, what you first are, with the availability of the absolutely everything that you’ve let go of, through which to express such absolute everything that you first are. The cost, for you to be what is the everything within, that which lacks nothing, that which has need of nothing — is everything. It costs you, all. To be what you know within – the ‘all’ is. The everything let go of won’t be gone as you might fear, it all remains available for meaning to be through, to do through, to be as.”
(After long eye contact the second questioner speaks.)
“Thank you John, thank you” and leaves to return to his seat.
John very slowly moves his head from left to now face towards the audience centrally for some moments and then as he begins speaking again has moved to look to his right, his head inclined upward, his concentration inwards coming from afar off.
“In connecting to direct knowledge within, the promise is that of everything….. at first creating such hope, such hope, of having what is most worth having; and the more that is done to do so, in the face of promise, dear promise within, all that is realised is — its impossibility. Creating at first confusion, a sense of despair, because ability isn’t working; it isn’t working to be able to acquire and accomplish what is, within, most worth acquiring and accomplishing. The knowledge within, the direct knowledge within, isn’t at all that of impossibility. It is known to be absolutely real and, as direct knowledge — available.
The experience of impossibility comes from a fundamental misunderstanding: — using, that of using the abilities of your person and your self, using the capacity to do, to obtain something within, that has nothing to do with something done. You can’t use what you are as a person to have, or be, your self. To be your self is to occupy an interior, requiring the letting go of what you are as a person. You can’t use your person to be your self. Yet you can be your self within your person. If you go deeper, you can’t use what you are as a self to be what you are as a being; to be what you are as a being requires most delicate letting go of all that you are as a self, enabling there to be, what already is, despite what self you have. Changing your self doesn’t give you access to your being – it gives you access as a self to your changed self. To be the absolute within, you cannot use anything at all, that is subsequent to that.”
(Here John has perceived the imminence of the meeting’s close, and manifests in the balanced rhythm of his concluding words, and the silences between them, a coming together, and an opening out of, spoken and unspoken thoughts and feelings.)
“Allowing your very identity to return to what it first is, — not a person, not a self, not a being, not even the meaning of something, but just simply Meaning. — Then meaning being and doing — meaning absolutely satisfied, being that, doing that, within all and through all that it has, and is, as a self and as a person — in Life.” (World without end for evermore amen seems to carry on the rhythm and lilt of John’s inspired words. A pause and then:)
“You – are meaning that has a self.” (looking right)
“Know you – more than your self” (facing centrally)
“so that you can know – your self.” (looks left)
Profound silence followed these words, deepened by the ebb and flow of traffic outside, sounding like the sea.
John moved his gaze slowly from right to left, in compassionate observing and absorbing of an audience who had not wavered in the main from intent listening to his never at a loss unscripted caring words of solace, addressing the underlying need and search for meaning – in Life.
In the church tower the bell chimed the half hour.
The lady director from the Alternatives group now entered. she looked towards John with a smile and said, “On behalf of Alternatives thank you John – and thank you our audience for the gift of Being, Stillness and Presence this evening.”
“Thank you” replied John. Spontaneous applause followed.
The lights went up along the aisle to the back of the church and the way out. There was happiness and a lighter mood. A line began to form along the main aisle, of people who wished to talk to John individually. He had stepped down from the altar and stood near the front pews, with a welcoming smile, ready to give to each in turn his complete attention. (The Alternatives’ agreement with their speaker requests that “After your talk we appreciate if you can stay till at least 9pm to meet members of the audience personally and answer further questions.”)
Inside the church people did not leave; some were waiting to speak with John, others seemed to drift about talking to one another, small groups forming in a dreamy ambiance, a reluctance to leave, a sense of fellowship. The line of those waiting to speak with John continued forming beyond 9pm, even after everyone was asked to leave the main church, and move into the outer hall.
Before moving to the outer hall, some had wondered if John might like to join a few people afterwards for a drink in a nearby pub. To their delight, he agreed. The last people to talk with John individually were three or four of his College followers who had been unable to find an opportunity to speak with him earlier in the week at the Centre Point seminars. Though no less keen to speak with him during the St James meeting, they had waited until last in the spirit of that informal undertaking, that they should hold back. Finally they had their wish and were able to talk with him alone in the outer hall of the church at the end of the evening.
It was eventually past 9:30pm when a group of around fifteen people, among them the second questioner, and the lively man who had lit the candle to Being-ness, (both from the Alternatives group), set out along Jermyn Street in the direction of the Haymarket. John and his partner Benita were near the front. He conspicuous in height, hair blowing about in a coldish breeze. Everyone was invigorated by the unexpected continuation of the evening and looked forward to the prospect of meeting John in an everyday social setting. At the next right turn half way down the Duke of York Street, the lights of the Red Lion pub beckoned.
In a different century along Jermyn Street, they might have crossed paths with, or asked the way of Isaac Newton or the author of one of England’s most celebrated poems, Thomas Gray, perhaps mulling over his “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. Both had lodged in this street, which was named after the Earl of St. Albans, Henry Jermyn, who financed the creation of Wren’s masterpiece, the church of St James in Piccadilly.
The Red Lion pub on Duke of York Street was not bombed in World War 2, and stands today as it was built in 1821, though now no ancient sign swings over its doors. (Perhaps that sign had been the one made up from the wooden lid of the font that christened Blake, for around 1830 it was reported “stolen and subsequently hung up as a sign at a Spirit shop in the neighbourhood.” (12) ) To this door, John then leading, stepped up, and having seen as he opened it how quaintly small the interior appeared to be, enquired before entering whether there might be room for himself and a group of friends, some twelve or so in number to have a drink. The bar inside was snug and warm, glittering with cut glass and myriad etched and painted ornate mirrors, “a perfect example of the small Victorian Gin Palace at its best.” (12)
Everyone trooped in, filling the almost empty front bar. The Red Lion is busiest during weekday working hours, catering for the office workers and maybe staff and patrons of The London Library, or the auction house of Christies in the environs nearby of historic St James Square. John stood within a group beside the bar drinking dark English ale. He looked astonishingly fresh and relaxed considering he had flown in from Canada just days before, given seminars at Centre Point for six hours daily for four days, and had just finished his talk at St James. He was at ease and put everyone else at ease, and was fully engaged with the various subjects talked over, among which his love of walking in London’s labyrinthine streets whenever he was visiting; which prompted someone to quote parts of Blake’s poem “London” which begins:-
“I wandered thro’ each charter’d street
Near where the charter’d Thames doth flow
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness marks of woe” (13)
Perceiving people leaving to catch last trains he and Benita wished everyone well and with waves, lovely smiles and thanks for the many wishes for their safety flying to Canada the next day, they left.
And in the dark on the way home and for days and years to come those who were there will not forget “The meeting at the Church of St James with John de Ruiter” on the 8th September 2008, and in particular those concluding words by John:-
“You – are meaning, that has a self. Know you, more than yourself, so that you can know – yourself.”
Atticus Cutter December 2008
Copyright Atticus Cutter 2008