(Unfortununately, I couldn't be present because my chronic health problems prevented the necessary travelling to the far end of England.)
This essay is a major piece of work, and deserves full attention. I recommend copying, pasting and printing-out a version - as I did.
Here is a taster from the concluding section towards the end, which I hope will inspire you to read it:
Christ tells us in the Gospel that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed then we can move mountains. Faith is the most important element of all - far more than any head-based strategising or planning. It's difficult, because the anti-religious, anti-traditional currents of contemporary life claim the opposite, but we have to believe in ourselves, in each other, and in our country. All three levels - the personal, the communitarian, and that of the country or homeland - were conceived in the mind of God and have a divinely-imprinted destiny to fulfil.
Countries are real. They are living, concrete entities, not abstractions or so-called 'imagined communities'. Lewis shows us this brilliantly at the end of the final Narnia story The Last Battle, where, from the vantage point of eternity, we see all the countries in all the worlds - including England, including Narnia - jutting like spurs from the mountains of Aslan's country, shining like jewels, more solid and real than we ever perceived them down here in the Shadowlands.
Each country has its own inner essence - its charism, its individual gift - which needs, for the good of the whole world, to be drawn out and championed. As Ransom puts it, 'When Logres really dominates Britain, when the goddess reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, when the order of Heaven is really followed in China - why, then it will be spring.'
The Imagination - with a capital 'I' - is what we're especially blessed with in Albion, I feel. We see it in William Blake, of course, in Shakespeare, Milton, and Traherne, and, in more modern times, poets such as Kathleen Raine, George Mackay Brown, Edwin Muir, and David Jones. Tolkien, Williams and Lewis, as is well-known, conveyed profound Christian truth through the media of poetry and story. How right Williams was then, to portray Logres as the eyes - the visionary hub - of his reimagined Byzantine Empire.
Imagination, however, is not exciusively or primarily concerned with the writing of novels and poems. These are the fruits of our Imaginative labour but they are not its most essential aspects. What is absolutely key is the ability to see through and beyond the Sturm und Drang of daily political and social life and dig down deep to what is truly real. This is just what Ransom does in That Hideous Strength. To MacPhee's annoyance, he doesn't react to the grubby power-plays of the NICE. He doesn't launch a raid on their premises or expose them to the government or call in help from overseas. He refuses to be drawn. He declines to play the game on this tactical, newspaper-headline level. He knows that he is engaged in a spiritual conflict and that the real war goes on in Heaven. He waits, therefore. He watches and prays. He sits at the Lord's feet with Mary, while Martha (MacPhee) complains. Like Taliessin in Mount Badon, he sinks into contemplation and receives the help he needs from planetary angels who operate at a level far above that of the parry and counter-parry of political strife.
The problem, as I see it, is that all these figures - poets, novelists, fictional characters, ourselves too - have been swimming against the tide for a long time now; since 1066, in fact. My contention is that King Harold's death at Hastings was the moment when this country lost its spiritual bearings, and this turning away from the Good has become increasingly pronounced ever since. The Normans brought an expansionist mentality with them and a certain rapaciousness, which had previously been absent in England's ruling class. However noble - jumping forward a few centuries now - the motives behind the Reformation and the challenge to Charles I's authority might have been, the net result, in my view, was to encourage and exacerbate this mindset, flinging open the door to that mercantilism, industrialism, and mechanistic thinking, which Blake railed so mightily against and with which we continue to contend with today.
It hasn't always been this way though. In the last few hundred years before Christ, as Blake well knew, Britain, through the strength and influence of the Druids, was a centre of great spiritual power, with a reputation for the numinous which stretched far beyond Albion's rocky shore. This age came around again - on a higher, deeper, baptised point of the curve - in the Anglo-Saxon era, after the arrival of St. Augustine at Cantiisburg. The island then became a land of genuine saints and scholars, with monastic founders like St. Aidan, St. Hilda, and St. Cuthbert, and missionaries to Europe such as Willibord of Northumbria, Boniface of Wessex, and Alcuin of York, who became Charlemagne's chief adviser. We had high class historians and writers, St. Bede of Jarrow being the shining example here, who penned the highly influential History of the Church in England, plus artists of the highest calibre, as can be seen, for instance, in the wonderful patterns and pictures of the Lindisfarne Gospels.
King Alfred the Great, after the depredations of the Danish invasions, rebuilt our schools, had old books copied out, rewrote the law, and established excellent relations with the Pope and other European monarchs. His sons, Edward and Athelstan, were warriors and statesmen who created the conditions for political and national unity, while the reign of Edgar the Peaceable (959-975) saw a remarkable reform and revival of monastic life across the country.
This is the best of Britain, I feel. This, deep down, is what we're all about. These are the saints we need to pray to and the sovereigns we should strive to emulate. This is the mentality and worldview to tap into if we are to see the dawn of a third golden age - a synthesis of the previous two - a harmonisation and taking up of Britain's Christian and pre-Christian patrimonies. Lewis, again, shows us the way in That Hideous Strength, where Christ (Maleldil, as he calls Him) stands at the centre of the universe like the Sun, with the old gods - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter - circling around Him in the guise of the planetary angels, working in concert with Him for the transfiguration of our fallen world.