The Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood ~ the best anthology every published

by faithgibson on June 19, 2013

My Amazon Review

by FAITHGIBSON on JUNE 19, 2013

“Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood” is collection of 104 letters about the spiritually-uplifting experience of everyday life that can, with the gentlest of instruction and encouragement, become a dependable part of religion. The instructional letters in the LSB were written by many different authors and originally published in The Churchman Magazine (Anglican Church publication in the UK) from the mid-1930s to the end of WWII. In 1946-47, Mary Strong edited letters taken from the Churchman to an anthology. First published in 1948, the LSB have been reprinted countless times.

~ My love affair with this wonderfully inspiring book ~

Twenty-five years ago I’d never heard of the Letter to the Scattered Brotherhood (LSB) when my friend Suzanne Arms invited me to her Saturday afternoon yard sale.  On her recommendation, I bought a well-worn copy for fifty cents that had been given to her years before as a gift by a good friend. Since then, I’ve counted myself as lucky and I never miss an opportunity to tell people how wonder, wise, insightful and extraordinary this book really is.

The LSB is not really a book that one simply reads, but one that should be studied daily over the course of a lifetime. As a contemplative Judeo-Christian, I read (G*D willing) one letter out of this book every day. After I finished the book the first time, I just started over again and so far have never stopped. Occasionally I start at the back and read the letters in reverse order, to be sure that every one of these wonderful letters gets it’s my fullest attention. While currently out-of-print, an attractive soft-covered edition is available from Amazon for about $5.00 (plus shipping).

LSB, its British authors & WWII:

The letters in this anthology were contributed by leaders of the Church of England during the pre-war period and WWII (approx. 1933 to 1945). This period included the 6-year buildup to the WWII, and 7 years of actual armed combat between the Allied and Axis powers. The German Luftwaffe made repeated day and night bombings raids on the big cities (London Blitz) and the English countryside. Except for Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden and Spain, Britain was the only western European country that had not been invaded and occupied by the Nazis by May 1940.

Each letter published in the LSB was individually written by someone who was personally living through the relentless hell of Hitler and Italian dictator Mussolini’s military aggression. Against the backdrop of all-out war, advice by these authors about inner peace, spiritual growth, experiencing and expressing brotherly love each and every day is all the more startling and meaningful.

As modern-day Americans, it’s hard to understand just how unrelentingly grim and anxiety provoking the years between 1936 and the end of the war in 1945 were for Europeans. Except for the previous mentions three neutral countries and Spain as a fascist dictatorship, every country that now constitutes the European Union was forcibly ‘annexed’ by Nazi or Italian Fascist troops, had been militarily attacked or invaded and occupied with its populations brutally exploited or viciously exterminated by Hitler or Mussolini’s henchmen.

As if an all-out war with Europe was not enough murder and mayhem any one person, Hitler ordered the military to invade the Soviet Union in May of 1941. In December, the bombing of Pearl Harbor brought a declaration of war by Unites States, turning the battleground in Europe into a global conflict. Fortunately for us, America was safely behind the buffer zone of the Atlantic Ocean. While we slept safe in our beds, Europeans experienced hand-to-hand combat in their streets, as bombs rained down with untold civilian casualties.

But had the United States suffered the same kind of military aggression and occupation, our democratic government would have been violently overthrown and replaced by Hitler’s infamously brutal dictatorship. No doubt American citizens would have died in huge numbers. Under such dire circumstance, I wonder how many of Americans, me included, would have been able to maintain a steadfast religious faith, or have words of hope and inspiration for others.

In this context, the Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood flowered unexpectedly during a period of worldwide savagery, thus creating a spiritually powerful context for commentary such as the “hurly-burly of daily living” quoted below.

I hope anyone reading Letters to the Scattered Brother of humankind will find the same mind-expanding ideas and common-sense advice that I so much appreciate and enjoy.

Excerpt, Letter #77 ~ Letters to the Scattered Brother ~

“In every walk of life man faces the curious hurly–burly of daily living, which brings with it the wavering faith in the invisible realities – honor, integrity, principle. We often discard them as burdens in what seems to many of us to be a meaningless and futile world.

It is the same with nations as it is with individuals, when expediency replaces wisdom and the long-view. In human occasions, one’s ideas for oneself seems very pitiful; it is up, and then down again, retrogression, self-betrayal, and then hope and self-discipline, attack, retreat, sloughs of the despond, backwaters, opposing tides, giant fears, and cruel realities.

No creative man <or woman> in any endeavor escapes the sense of confusion and striving on the plane of material effort, whether he or she is a professional, a businessman or an artist. But when <we> turn inward, and restfully leave all this to the serenity of the <divine> order, <we> find release and that the inner wisdom will rebuild the world out of chaos.

There is no other way to this accomplishment. You can see the working, for it is as delicate as a butterfly’s journey through a hurricane. It will light upon the most unexpected Havens.

It is true that the valley of the shadow is frightening and it is sometimes difficult to find Him Who says: “I am with you, I am thy rod and thy staff”. But accept no negative whatsoever, particularly in the darkest moment, for you have been told that you are temples of the Holy Spirit, which abides in you and never leave you nor forsakes you.

That trust in the dark brings light, not resignation, which is often a negative, for humans need to believe that “when the enemy comes in like a flood the spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him”. You have but to believe it! In times of anxiety turn like a child to the simple instructions, knowing that “the Father within doth the work”, and you can do nothing but rest in that assurance.

Be strong in faith, a spendthrift in love, keep a valiant heart, put on your crown and be a knight indeed! Love conquers all things.” Pages 174–175*

*Editor’s Note: I inserted gender-paired or gender-neutral pronouns in place of exclusively male references in the original material.

LSB ~ first-class, non-sectarian spiritual “primer” extraordinaire

In addition to the wise counsel presented by the LSB, the collective message it reflects is a non-sectarian, universal religion (with a small “r”) that is naturally available inside us all. The word ‘religion’ (re-ligio) linguistically refers to “that which binds us (i.e. members of the human species) back together” in the context of ethical principles and social cooperation.

Unfortunately, the ego-centric nature of the human species has many times (if not mostly!) turned ‘re-ligio’ into a sectarian brand name. When religion is writ with a capital “R”, it becomes exclusive, and by design rejects everyone who isn’t of like mind. Branded religious organizations each claim exclusive knowledge to the real “Truth” (capital “T”), insisting that anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs is eternally damned. So much for: “Thou shall not judge” and “Love one another and keep my commandments”. Many times over the centuries, our preference for sectarian dogmas has fueled interpersonal hate on a national scale, and incited so-called ‘holy’ wars that sought to kill in the name of, and under the banner of a loving G*D. However true love “never kills to save”.

While the “Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood” were written by members of a Christian faith, their message is non-sectarian and speaks to universal values that apply to many different spiritual traditions. Its message is not about convincing, converting or controlling the beliefs or behavior of other people except as it spreads a message of grace under fire and loving behavior.

The message in LSB is one that reliably leads its readers to a vibrant sense of inner peace.  It does that by helping us learn how to use spiritual principles to tame the savage emotions that all humans are prone to, and to access the “peace that passes understanding” inside our own wonderful “inner self”.

So imagine my surprise when I found a multitude of 5-star reviews of the LSB on Amazon that put their ideas into words so well that it left me speechless. I was happy to know that i am only one of many lifetime students of the LSB who are eternally grateful for the privilege of reading this wonderful book over and over again. I was also nice to know that other readers frequently let the book fall open to a random letter, and almost universally find the happenstance of that message to be the perfect advise or solace for that particular day or problem.

The previously posted Amazon reviews included below speak for themselves.

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Book Reviews from Amazon on LSB:

1. One of the best spiritual books of all times

February 16, 2000 by David Spangler

I first came across this book when I was in high school forty years ago and I have loved it ever since. It is a true classic of western spirituality, filled with wisdom and practical insights. I have given many copies away and have used it as a text in classes on spirituality. I come back to it over and over again, and it still remains fresh and new. If I had to pick one book to take with me to a desert island to be a spiritual companion, it would be this one. Outstanding!

2. This is the one

July 13, 2001 by Deanna

The Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood is the best book I have ever owned. I bought it many times at used book stores to give to friends since I found my own copy in the early 1980s. I am so glad to see that it was reprinted in 1991. Now I just order it from Amazon. This is a book that I have never read from the front to the back. I have always just closed my eyes for a moment then opened it. It is ALWAYS on the right page. Not magic, just real. 5 stars plus a heart. Buy this book. Your answers are in it too. Then listen.

3. Letters ~

September 3, 2000 by unnamed customer

I first found Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood as a discard on a religious book rack. It was an old, out of print hardcover edition, and I came to treasure it. Unfortunately, one day I left it on a bench, and didn’t find it when I went back. I have grown to believe that someone who needed it more than I at that moment found it. That seems to be the way it came to me. I have since replaced it with the newer, paperback version, and I still value it greatly. It is a book you can open to any spot, at any time, in any need, and find something to speak to you. Truly timeless and inspired.

4. My personal daily guide to increasing faith

October 13, 1999 by Marina Moonlight

I came across this book that was being discarded by the Quaker meeting I was attending. Since then, I have read one of the letters each morning and evening before my meditations. Sometimes I read the same letter over and over until its meaning penetrates my consciousness. Though I have read this book over 20 times, each reading is fresh,and brings new wisdom and confidence and joy. And it seems to have a magical quality- each reading feels as though it was written specifically for the issues that I am grappling with at that moment. I have always thought of it as my own personal book, given to me through some act of grace. I am so glad to read that others have responded to it in a similiar way. It is truly a great spiritual guide, simple and profound.

5. Spiritual Classic

August 24, 2002 by Paul Miller

These epistles were printed in a religious weekly from 1934 to 1948, then they were gathered and published in book form. Many of them were written in the difficult days of World War two. The letters have been interpolated with quotations from the great company scattered the world over who have found faith to walk in immortality now. The letters, we are told, are not written by one person, yet the likeness of terminology and viewpoint make them appear to be from one mind. One thing is certain these letters come from a higher register. Mary Holbrook Wilson Strong arranged the letters and gathered the quotes in this wonderful spiritual resource of a book.

6. Next to my Bible, this is my most treasured book

October 18, 1999 by unnamed customer

In this world of hyper-activity and noise, Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood is a call back to Center. It is a friend standing at the gate of the “narrow way”, saying with calm confidence: “This is the Way…Walk ye in it.” I have entered an entirely new dimension of faith and living because these contemplatives have shared their rich faith and wisdom in this collection of letters. My communion with Christ and fellowship with the Holy Spirit only deepens as I practice contemplative prayer. I will read and reread this book for the rest of my life. It is an unending wellspring of hope, guidance and truth. I will treasure this book always and forever bless the hand and heart of the friend who first gave it to me.

7. The Best Book on the “Spiritual” Shelf

March 28, 1999 by Roger Ebsen, Spiritwalk Foundation

Although this is a new discovery for me personally, this book has been a source of inspiration for the generations since WWII. I was alerted to this by a man at a used book store who told that this book, a gift from his mother, had been a special source of guidance for him over the years. He claimed this to be a hidden treasure, the best book on the “Spiritual shelf.” He may be right. The book is constituted by anonymous epistles from lay and clergypersons which were published in a periodical, titled “The Churchman,” between 1934 and 1948. Interspersed with these letters are classical quotations from the sages of all time. I read from cover to cover last night and felt connected to the timeless wisdom of the ages and inspired by the Spirit of the unknown authors. This is an exceptional read. It would make a great gift. We have chosen this as the Spiritwalk Book of the Month for April, 1999. I highly recommend this book to those who are looking for something just a little deeper. ~

8. Gem of a book of daily meditations for strength and guidance

August 9, 1999 by a customer

The anonymous letters to the reader in this lovely little book are a source of strength for me in beginning my day. I happened on my copy by accident (?) in a used book store and put it away on the shelf in my bookcase. Several weeks ago it came into my thoughts and I began to read it in response to some difficulties going on in my life at that time and found it immensely soothing and life-affirming. Since then I have made it a practice to read one or two letters a day and it never fails to speak to me. Thanks to Mary Strong for editing this book for us, and thanks to the contributors whose words are so inspiring. I am so happy that it’s still in print and hope to give copies of it to friends and family as gifts.


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