The Elmina paradox

El_Mina

 I was on a retreat today led by the Adrian Chatfield the director of the Simeon Centre for prayer and the Spiritual Life in Cambridge. There was much food for thought. He has a way of speaking which was rather like spiritual direction addressed at the entire gathering.   One of the images and stories left with me was that of the Elmina fortress in Ghana from where so many tens of thousands of slaves were sent across the Atlantic. Adrian described the 4 dungeons in which 600 prisoners were incarcerated for months at a time waiting for the ships. And how  200 years on you can still smell the stench of the prisoners. Two floors up there was a chapel. And he used this as an image of hoElminadungeonw as human beings we can order our spiritual life while ruthlessly suppressing the dungeons underneath where we dare not reveal our captive selves.  I spent much of the day reflecting on how to bring each of the captives out one by one and to lead them out into daylight, into the chapel to purify it and them. And also wondering if a better movement would be to diassemble the chapel and to re-erect it in the dungeon as part of cleaning the place up and putting the two worlds back together again. Human capacity for self deception is such that this kind of double thinking is embedded in our psyches. The challenge is to integrate the 2 together and not to pretend that spirituality is all of one and has nothing to do with the other. I don't go on retreats often enough. But this was a bumper one – thank you Adrian.

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