Letters to the Scattered Brotherhood ~ Intro & Background

June 13, 2014

Edited by Mary Strong; published 1948

If therefore ye are intent upon wisdom, a lamp will not be wanting and a shepard will not fail, and a fountain will not dry up

I personally voted this book to be one of the “best books ever published” ( my link to my book review for Amazon). Its been a constant companion in my life as a Judeo-Christian contemplative over the last 33 years.

The book is an anthology of letters written between 1934 to 1948 by spiritual leaders of the Anglican Church (in the United Kingdom). These essays address the practical, daily experience of theological students and others struggling with the question of how to live a godly life that is socially ethically while nurturing one’s own soul.

In my opinion, the use of the word “brotherhood” in this case is a non-gendered concept similar to ‘siblings’. As such, it naturally includes both genders as sisters and brothers in the family of humankind and equal in the eyes of our Creator.

These 104 letters were first published in an Anglican weekly religious magazine called “The Churchman”. After the war was over Mary Strong took this treasure trove of Judeo-Christian wisdom, edited the sequence of them to provide an orderliness of topics, and published them in 1948 in an anthology entitled the “Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood”.

As identified by these authors, the spiritual gifts of wisdom allow us to “face the future with an open heart” and find “the still, eternal, joyful spirit of a tender and loving G*D”, while also being a source of compassion and hope to humanity and healing to those who despair.

The majority of these communications were penned in England during the most horrible years of WWII, as enemy planes were bombed London and surrounding countryside nearly every night. At this point, it looked very much like Hitler and other powers of the Axis nations would win the war and dominate the world with unspeakable brutality.

When the authors of these letters use the expression “these iron times”, they were referring these grim, often gruesome facts and yet they were calling for a courageous life of faith, even in these, the worst of times.

The extraordinary provocations of their daily life provided opportunities on an hourly basis to feel depressed and defeated, with thousands of excuses for not loving our neighbor as ourselves or honoring the other basic tenets of justice and mercy towards those around us.

Today we are in the habit of thinking the equanimity of our inner life — our emotions, moods and sense of wellbeing — are molded by our surroundings. If our perspective on life is dismal, we blame our circumstances and resign ourselves to a days or weeks or years of hopeless suffering, walling ourselves off from opportunities to raise the spirts of others, thus raising our own spirits as well.

What is unique about the message brought by the authors of these is that in spite of their overwhelmingly awful circumstance, daily risk of grave injury or death. They also didn’t if or how the war would end. Would Britain and the Allied Forces ultimately prevail against Hitler’s massive war machine that had already gobbled up the entire Western European continent, and if so, at what cost?

In spite of this, these authors found a way to rise about the apparent impossibility of their situation and to counsel courage, kindness, and living elevated life of the spirit within us as an active-tense verb — obviously skills that they had long personal experience with that allowed them and others to manifest and honor “that of God in each of us”, as it is called by members of the Society of Friends (Quakers).

I’ve posted a couple several that can be read on this site, hoping of course that you will order the book, which sells on Amazon for about $5 bucks.

LSB book review for Amazon 

LSB directory to a select set
of individual letters
(my favorites)