Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge


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Malcolm Muggeridge was born in 1903. His father was a member of the House of Commons and Muggeridge later described his upbringing as "socialist".

In 1924 Muggeridge left Cambridge University and worked as a teacher in India and Egypt. He also contributed articles for various newspapers including the Evening Standard and the Daily Telegraph.

In 1932 Muggeridge became a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in the Soviet Union. He witnessed the Ukranian famine and wrote vivid accounts of this disaster. Muggeridge then returned to India where he became assistant editor for the Calcutta Statesman. He also published the book, The Earnest Atheist (1936).

On the outbreak of the Second World War, Muggeridge joined the Army Intelligence Corps and served in Mozambique, Italy, and France. He also worked for MI5 during this period.

After the war Muggeridge became a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in Washington (1946-52). This was followed by a spell as editor of Punch Magazine (1953-57). He also worked as a television reporter for Panorama (1953-60). He also had two interview programmes: Appointment With (1960-61) and Let Me Speak (1964-65).

In later life Muggeridge became very religious and this is reflected in the books he published: Jesus Rediscovered (1969), Something Beautiful For God (1971), Chronicles of Wasted Time (1973), Jesus: The Man Who Lives (1975), Christ and the Media (1977), The End of Christendom (1980), A Third Testament (1983) and Confessions of a 20th Century Pilgrim (1988).

Malcolm Muggeridge died on 14th November, 1990.

Kitty (Muggeridge) and I were confident that going to Russia (in 1932) would prove to be a definitive step, a final adventure.... We sold off pretty well everything we had, making, as it were, a bonfire of all our bourgeois trappings: my dinner jacket, for instance, and Kitty's only long dress, as well as some little trinkets and oddments, and most of our books. ... We even wound up our bank account, taking what money we had - some £200 as I recall - in traveller's cheques. I took particular pleasure in jettisoning our marriage lines, and my ridiculous BA hood and certificate; these being also, in my eyes, badges of bourgeois servitude to be discarded for ever.

There's no doubt that Maclean knew his stuff. I found him a dull, humourless and rather pompous young man who tried a bit too hard to appear agreeable and relaxed.I can't say I ever warmed to Maclean. He was far too much of a cold fish beneath the polished surface charm. Nevertheless, during a bad period when the Americans were obviously determined to carry on in their own semi-isolationist way - Cold War or no Cold War - I couldn't but admire Maclean's astute appreciation of day-to-day diplomatic difficulties. He never struck a wrong note in public. He never lowered his guard.


We look back upon history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.’

“I look back on my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, ‘God who’s made the mighty would make them mightier yet.’ I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own ascension to power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon,more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka. I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that had the American people desired, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests.

“All in one lifetime.All in one lifetime. All gone with the wind. England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keep her motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate.

“All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind.”

“Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”

-Malcolm Muggeridge


Via Emmaus

My best friend from high school posted this Malcolm Muggeridge quote today on his Facebook account. In light of the world’s unrest, and our need to pray for international peace, they are quite fitting. In an essay entitled “But Not of Christ,” Muggeridge writes,

We look back upon history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.’

I look back on my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, ‘God who’s made the mighty would make them mightier yet.’ I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own ascension to power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka.

I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that had the American people desired, they could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests.

All in one lifetime. All in one lifetime. All gone with the wind.

England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keep her motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate.

All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind. (pp. 29󈞊)

Then according to Justin Taylor, it is Ravi Zacharias who added this fitting postscript.

Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”

Take rest in him and in this fact: All nations sit under his feet. All authority has been given to him and all the reeling and rocking experienced on this war-torn planet is no more than then wind and the waves that he stilled when he woke from his sleep (Mark 4). The world and its rulers will continue to pass away, but nothing will wipe away the power and the glory of King Jesus and all those who trust in him from their eternal hope.


Malcolm Muggeridge –

A quote from Malcolm Muggeridge that captivated my mind.

“We look back upon history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.’

“I look back on my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, ‘God who’s made the mighty would make them mightier yet.’ I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own ascension to power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon,more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka. I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that had the American people desired, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests.

“All in one lifetime.All in one lifetime. All gone with the wind. England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keep her motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate.

“All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind.”

“Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”

-Malcolm Muggeridge


Full Review:

During my elementary school years, I was influenced positively by reading the biographies of great Americans, as well as Christian missionaries. I still enjoy a good biography from time to time. I prefer it over a novel because it’s true. I can learn from the real-life experiences of others. Plus, it broadens my view of the world and human nature.

Sam Blumenfeld writes in Practical Home Schooling:

“The reason why young people should read biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, and diaries is because they provide the most valuable lessons in life. People who write their autobiographies usually have an interesting story to tell about the trials and tribulations of their own lives. Every life has a beginning, middle, and an end, and how one has lived one’s life should be of great interest to those who are still at the beginning. It’s instructive to know how others, both famous and not so famous, handled the crises in their lives, found their life mates, raised their families, and pursued their interesting careers.”

The Author

Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life, written by Canadian law professor Ian Hunter, is the story of a fascinating man with whom I have little in common, except for the fact that we’re both twentieth-century Anglo Saxon Christians. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the book – it helped me get into the head of an intellectual, artsy, but also moody and cynical person … much like some acquaintances I’ve had over the years.

Muggeridge

Muggeridge (1903 –1990) was born into a Fabian socialist family in England. During his long and intriguing life, he was a journalist, author, media personality, satirist, and for some years the editor of Punch magazine, the British equivalent of The New Yorker. During World War II, he was a soldier and a spy. In his early life, he was a left-wing sympathizer, and later, he became a forceful anti-communist. He is credited with popularizing Mother Teresa, and in his later years, he became a Catholic and moral campaigner.

He was the author of numerous books, poems, and articles, including one near the end of his life – Jesus Rediscovered – that was described by a blogger as “a collection of some of his answers to some deep questions regarding Christianity, religion, and life, and while it sometimes feels written ‘stream of thought’ or whatever, the book definitely feels like a conversation with a wizened, if slightly cynical, old sage.”

Muggeridge was not a person that I would particularly desire to emulate. He drank too much, was a womanizer until the later years of his life, and at times just appeared lazy to my Protestant work ethic. However, whatever you say about Malcolm Muggeridge, he did know how to enjoy life. He valued many important things, including beautiful literature and deep ideas. What I took from this book for my life was the way he took time “to smell the roses.” Often in his biography, we see him simply walking around, observing, and thinking. In addition, he valued conversation with a few deep-thinking friends. Can’t we all learn from these qualities?

It’s appropriate to conclude with a Muggeridgian quote, written undoubtedly near the end of his life:

“… Yet it is truth, not power, which endures and which provides individuals with whatever security is ultimately attainable. For western Europeans, Christianity expressed that truth. Undermine Christianity, venerate humanism in its place, and a true, immutable foundation, capable of withstanding the buffeting ideas of history, has been replaced by a false shifting one.”


Malcolm Muggeridge: Godly Gadfly

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) like so many great Catholic converts of the 20 th century experienced a fascinating pilgrimage from agnostic Communist sympathizer in his youth to later champion of conservatism and critic of decadent liberalism. Muggeridge’s early career consisted of several years as a teacher in India and several more as a journalist in Russia and India. Volunteering for service in World War II, he advanced to the rank of Major and won the French military award of the Croix de Guerre. By this time he had entirely lost his agnostic and Communist sympathies. For the rest of his life he became, like Socrates, the perennial Gadfly of Modernity. He was a roving journalist who, with the satirical tip of his pen, struck at all things dumb and despicable. William F. Buckley Jr. deftly summed up Muggeridge’s approach to most religious matters by saying: “When he turned against the devil, the devil was outnumbered.”

At the age of 79, after several decades of embracing Anglicanism, Muggeridge came under the profound influence of Mother Teresa, after which he and his wife Kitty were received into the Catholic Church. An insightful, eloquent, and humorous writer in the tradition of fellow British pundits Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton, Muggeridge’s writing style is reminiscent of theirs, as the following passage shows. “One of the peculiar sins of the twentieth century which we’ve developed to a very high level is the sin of credulity. It has been said that when human beings stop believing in God they believe in nothing. The truth is much worse: they believe in anything.” In 1988, two years before his death, Muggeridge published Conversion: The Spiritual Journey of a Twentieth Century Pilgrim. In its Introduction Muggeridge recalls the day of his baptism and confirmation as filled with “a sense of homecoming, of picking up the threads of a lost life, of responding to a bell that had long been ringing, of taking a place at a table that had long been vacant.”

Muggeridge as student

Reminiscing about his youth, Muggeridge remembers how confused he was during the formative years of his education. He had been taught the usual Christian doctrines, but in time began to see a man-made heaven possible on earth rather than elsewhere: “to each according to his needs, from each according to his capacity.” Somehow God was not so relevant as he used to be. But when Malcolm’s aunt came to visit, she would set him straight when he doubted the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. “If Daniel isn’t true, nothing is,” she remonstrated. This set Malcolm to thinking. If Darwin wasn’t true, what would it matter? The world would go on as it always had. But if the Bible was not true, if it was subtracted from civilization, wouldn’t civilization be considerably the worse for it?

As an undergraduate student Muggeridge had come to a certain maturity of mind confronting God, he quoted the poet George Herbert:

Yet take Thy way, for sure Thy way is best:

Stretch or contract me, Thy poor Debtor:

This is but tuning of my breast,

Indeed, Muggeridge concluded, far from being evil in itself, human suffering, as Christ proved on the cross, is a remedy to the wrongheaded pagan religions which hold that, by annihilating all pain and suffering, life will be the better for it. For only by suffering do we get a clear glimpse of the world we are in, and the need to prepare ourselves for the immortal ecstasy of the world we are yet to enter. Without suffering, consider how unbearably shallow and meaningless life would be as we seek to grasp one pleasure after another, only to fall back on ourselves, spoiled souls rotting with smug self-satisfaction.

Muggeridge as teacher

Having completed his undergraduate studies, Muggeridge was offered and agreed to a teaching position at a Christian college in South India. There he observed the need to choose between power and love. Caeasar had chosen power. Jesus had chosen love. Caesar is more or less forgotten, Jesus to this day moves the hearts and minds of billions. How will Muggeridge choose? He sees the little man Ghandi alight from a train in his loincloth, the soul of humanity eschewing power and violence for the sake of love. Gandhi, like Jesus, has become in his humility a power to be reckoned with. But as teacher, Muggeridge is disappointed with his task: teaching English literature to students who have no idea what he is talking about, but who earnestly try to learn by rote what he teaches in hope of acquiring the power they lack in their dire poverty and ignorance. And so Muggeridge says farewell to India in his deft way: “The Teacher with nothing to teach goes on his way, his mule loaded with the books he will never read, patiently following.”

Back in England, Muggeridge is offered and accepts another teaching position in Egypt. But first he marries and learns the happiness that comes from love. His first child is born, a son, and Muggeridge exclaims: “Looking at this tiny creature, newly come into the world, at the breast of his exhausted but triumphant mother, a sense of the glory of life sweeps throiugh the Teacher as never before…. Already he is aware of the counter movement – the separation of the procreative impulse from procreation, the downgrading of motherhood and the upgrading of spinsterhood, and the acceptance of sterile perversions as the equivalent of fruitful lust finally, the grisly holocaust of millions of aborted babies, ironically in the name of the quality of life. The Teacher will undergo many changes of opinion, many switches of allegiance, much ethical unrest, but in one particular he will never deviate – in upholding the sanctity and the glory of life itself.”

Muggeridge as journalist

Before his second assignment as teacher can take effect, Muggeridge is offered and gladly accepts the position of Cairo correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, a relatively mild mannered liberal rag which promotes its propaganda in editorials much as a teacher promotes his brainwashing in the classroom. A very slight difference: if the teacher can be an everlasting drawn-out bore to his students, the journalist can be an instant one to his readers. There is a sense in which perhaps Muggeridge begins to realize he is a moving pawn in a game of chess, the strategy of which he cannot understand but must obey or be swept from the board. And so he dutifully turns in his regular column recommending the regular liberal pablum for all.

Now the spiritual rumblings of his undergraduate days begin to have their profound effect. As bought and paid for journalist with a family to feed, his focus is on the world, not God. The world is full of liberals with an insatiable appetite not for the Word, but for the word-filled lies they need to be told, even when, in the back of their minds, they do not believe the liars. Muggeridge begins to sense that liberalism is now old and tired, and that the truth of life liberals had been covering up, will finally shine forth. The grand theory of Darwinian evolution by chance (based on so much paltry evidence) he perceives to be an empty promise of progress over which we have no control in spite of our insistence to the contrary. Consider the burning optimism of old H.G. Wells in his last years turned dark and cold upon the explosion of the first atomic bomb. Man will not be able after all to save himself by way of science, if he refuses to be saved by way of God first and foremost. Whereupon Muggeridge remembers a passage from Thomas à Kempis.

There is no holiness, Lord, if you withdraw your hand. No wisdom is of any use if you no longer guide it. No strength can avail if you do not preserve it. No purity is safe if you do not protect it. No watchfulness on our part can affect anything unless your holy vigilance is present with us. If you abandon us, we sink and perish but if you come to us we are raised up and we live.

Muggeridge found himself in the best of times and in the worst of times turning to the Lord’s Payer, which never failed to comfort and heal his soul. The strifes and storms of the world he had to witness, report, and comment on as a journalist suddenly seemed to him entirely bearable, and especially if he could remind himself of the nearly last words of Jesus on earth: “In this world you shall have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Muggeridge as Moscow correspondent

The Manchester Guardian gives him a new assignment. In Moscow now, Muggeridge observes that the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Basil has been turned into an anti-God museum. As if to prove substantial progress under Communism, the fossilized remains of saints buried at the cathedral are on display in all their corruption, while not far away is to be found the embalmed body of Lenin in an airtight glass case, perfectly preserved, his head reclining upon (what other color than the color of blood could one expect?) a red cushion.

And then, the Muggeridge notes, he found the presence everywhere in Moscow of vodka (to celebrate the Revolution in a properly drunken stupor?) and the GPU, Russia’s secret police – Stalin’s way of eliminating rivals and critics, many of whom are soon to be unaccountably flushed down the history’s toilet. If the drama of Stalin’s regime is to be played out, and he should be applauded as the Man of Destiny (according to the liberal intelligentia in the West) that would only be possible, as history would later record, if it was played out in the Theatre of the Absurd. But Stalin, a failed seminarian and humorless tyrant, embodied the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and would do so until he was dead and booed into oblivion by all the Soviets who feared and hated his cruel regime.

In the meantime, Stalin, the man with the bushy moustache and the curious waddle, will exercise the prerogatives of power with fiendish success. A personal witness to the famine in the Ukraine (brought about by the forced collectivization of agriculture) Muggeridge writes three articles describing the horrors and suffering of the peasant class. These articles, damning as they are, he knows will prevent him from ever getting into Russia again. And so he visits a church one last time, finding within its walls the only solace for the suffering assembled there, and makes a brief visit to Dostoevsky’s shabbily kept grave (he being regarded now as persona non grata, a reactionary and counter-revolutionist). On the eve of his return to England, he senses himself psychologically ripened with a warrior spirit. Duly employed now at the Ministry of Information, he is prepared to fight, not for power, but for love.

Muggeridge as soldier

Leading up to the engagement of World War II, Muggeridge in a barrack hut waits with other soldiers for the call. When will it come? How will it come? He feels a strange reverence for the young men among whom he is decidedly, at thirty-six, their senior. Strange intimations of mortality overcome him. Some kind of basic conversion is in the wind. Does he really believe all he has been taught in the creed? Will he really be resurrected in the last days? Will all those billions of cells find a way to assemble as they did once before? “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief!” he exclaims. Then London is bombed nightly. Is Buckingham Palace still standing? Are the Houses of Parliament still standing? Muggeridge begins to take a perverse delight in the death and destruction all around him, then mercilessly chastises himself for his submission to that ugly and carnal pleasure of being a witness to the tragedy of war.

Then there is the incident in Paris at the end of the War. The Germans are defeated. London has approached obliteration. Japan is crushed. Paris has been liberated, but not really. Accusations fly right and left against traitors and collaborators. A pregnant woman with a shaved head (punishment for French women who slept with German soldiers) is brought to Muggeridge because she fell in love with a German soldier. The soldier has been executed by a furious mob. Muggeridge befriends her. Who in God’s name has really won this war? Who was truly liberated? It was the woman, Muggeridge concludes. Through all the present darkness of her life she carries within her the hope and memory of lost love. Muggeridge is humbled and depressed by his own comparably carnal egotism. He must, n his post-war existential angst, pass trough a very dark tunnel through find his light at the end. In his typically lyrical prose, he remarks:

In any case, God who is infinite cannot be seen by finite eyes or understood by a finite mind. However many millennia our race may go on existing, this will still be the case the Cloud of Unknowing that lies between Time and Eternity, between Man and his Creator, can never be pierced. We strain our eyes trying to see God, our ears to hear Him, our minds to understand Him, but all in vain the mystery is forever…. The Cloud of Unknowing remains opaque and impenetrable clearly, God intends it so.

Muggeridge as foreign correspondent

Now Muggeridge signs on as a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in Washington, D.C. He leaves his wife and children behind, himself stricken by the brave selfishness of that decision. In Washington he is absorbed in a ticker-tape of news articles he must sift through to see if there is anything of interest to the British. Very little, to be sure, and the tape piles up around him daily, so fast he cannot keep up with it. He seems now spiritually buried in trivia. Ever willing to find a biblical metaphor, he observes, “In the beginning was the News, and the news became words, and dwelt among us, graceless and full of lies.” He is reminded of Tolstoy’s trick of hiding a piece of rope from himself, fearing that, in spite of his wild and worthy success, in spite of his wealth and wife, his lovable children and beautiful home, he might use it to hang himself.

After all, his work is simultaneously dull and turgid. All the news that comes into view seems possessed, one way or another, by the foul and fetid odor of sin. Sitting at a press meeting with Truman in the Oval Office does not inspire Muggeridge with trust and conviction that Truman, doing his best to shine, does not carry within him contantly the dark stain of original sin at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is at this point that Muggeridge becomes familiar with The Cloud of Unknowing, a tome of spirituality by an anonymous medieval monk. What Muggeridge has come to learn is that knowing God is even more illusory than knowing Truman. But it is in knowing that we do not know Him that we allow God to enter us, the fences the devil having erected to protect us from Him having fallen one by one at His approach. A certain thought of this profound monk haunts him, as he sees the truth of having to choose between God and sin. “Now truly I believe, that who will not go the hard way to heaven, they shall go the soft way to hell.” On the other hand, Muggeridge remembers, His burden is light, His yoke is easy.

Muggeridge knows his own sins and freely confesses them, like Augustine, to be sins of the flesh that tear fiercely at his soul. He wonders that men deny the existence of the devil, a clever ruse the devil himself perpetuates, so that we may let down our defenses at his approach. The devil exists because Muggeridge has seen him, or detected his presence, in his own mirror a study in carnality, perhaps the very aging and horrible image of Dorian Gray? And like Augustine, who witnessed the fall of Rome, Muggeridge senses another fall that compares in the modern Western World. Augustine met the fate of Rome by asserting the existence of a City of God that cannot fall. Muggeridge too sees no alternative to the decay and collapse of modern civilization than to heartily believe in the City of God. Muggeridge could say with Augustine: “I could not find myself how much less, then, could I find God.” Only by entering the City of God and looking for Him there.

Muggeridge’s spiritual pilgrimage

Muggeridge’s first great moment of conversion occurred when he was filming “The Holy Land” and while visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Initially, he was skeptical. How could anyone know for a fact this little crypt is where Jesus was born? Wasn’t it more like a religious Disneyland, all these shrines throughout Bethlehem and Jerusalem to which the believing sheep flocked as if drawn by their Shepherd? But then it occurred to him: why shouldn’t this be where Eternity stepped in Time, where the Word became flesh? The many Mansions of Manhattan dimmed into dust next to that little crypt, the putative home of the One to whom the world turned in awe for twenty centuries and might well still be turning twenty centuries hence when the fabulous Mansions of Manhattan were barely a footnote to history. No better proof could there be that Eternity has entered Time and overcome it.

“Fiat lux!” God said at the dawn of creation. Then came the light of creation. Fitting, was it not, that Jesus Christ becomes that other light shining in the darkness? Now come Muggeridge’s words of conversion.

Having seen this other light, I turn to it, striving and growing towards it as plants do towards the sun, the light of love, abolishing the darkness of strife and confusion the light of life, abolishing the darkness of death the light of creativity, abolishing the darkness of destruction. Though, in terms of history, the darkness falls, blacking out us and our world, You have overcome history. You came as a light into the world in order that whoever believed in You should not remain in darkness. Your light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Nor ever will.

Muggeridge and Mother Teresa

From this point on Muggeridge is deeply influenced by Father Bidone, an Italian priest, and Mother Teresa. Through their combined influence at long last Muggeridge is belatedly received into the Catholic Church. Prior to that final moment of conversion, Muggeridge had persisted with nagging doubts related to the all too human aspects of the Church, such as scandals, inquisitions, persecutions, etc. Having confided these doubts to Mother Teresa, she replied in a letter:

I am sure you will understand beautifully everything – if you would only become a little child in God’s hands. Your longing for God is so deep, and yet He keeps Himself away from you. He must be forcing himself to do so, because He loves you so much as to give Jesus to die for you and for me. Christ is longing to be your Food. Surrounded with fulness of living Food, you allow yourself to starve.

The personal love Christ has for you is infinite – the small difficulty you have regarding the Church is finite. Overcome the finite with the Infinite. Christ has created you because He wanted you. I know what you feel – terrible longing with dark emptiness – and yet He is the one in love with you. I do not know if you have seen these few lines before, but they fill and empty me:

My God, my God, what is a heart

That Thou should’st so eye and woo,

Pouring upon it all Thy heart

As if Thou had’st nothing else to do?

Many things held up Muggeridge’s conversion, not least of which was human authority. The leaders of the Church had squandered over and over their right to rule, yet rule they did Muggeridge mulled over what Belloc noted long ago, that the authority to rule must have come from above, and the divine protection of that authority too, or the bishops and priests would have caused the Church to perish centuries ago. The final nudge toward his conversion, Muggeridge realized, was the Church’s stand, in opposition to the stand of nearly all the world, against birth control and abortion. The Church had proven itself a bulwark for natural law, had insisted on eroticism as a means rather than an end in itself, and had defied the universities and the politicians, those hacks for pagan morality, promoting even perverse sexual practices among the young much as the Romans had promoted the vomitorium, a place to empty oneself in order to restart the debauchery of their culinary delicacies. But in the end Muggeridge despaired of finding the perfect way to explain his conversion. As he concludes, it’s all a mystery. “I can no more explain conversion intellectually than I can explain why one falls in love with someone whom one marries.”

Muggeridge might as well have said love is the motive for conversion, because if you desire to love absolutely, there is no love more absolute than the love of the Absolute.


Malcolm Muggeridge


Kate Millett and Oliver Reed on Channel 4’s ‘After Dark’, 1989.

‘Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face.’ John Updike, Self-Consciousness, 1989.

‘Give us a kiss big tits!’ Oliver Reed to Kate Millett, After Dark, Channel 4 TV, 1991.

We live in very strange times today is Saint Patrick’s Day but how to celebrate it? With the world stuck indoors, bored and fretful, nervously checking the news and avoiding contact with everyone except the person delivering the online grocery order, it seems fatuous to even mention it. However, given that we are denied access to drunks in person, perhaps it is fitting to celebrate rampaging drunkenness as seen on TV. And when it comes to televised bibulousness, the great Irish playwright Brendan Behan was the Edmund Hillary of the form: he achieved the remarkable feat of being the first man seen drunk on British television, during a live interview on BBC’s Panorama in 1956. Behan’s play The Quare Fellow was running in London at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East it was a hit, and was shortly to transfer to the West End.

Behan was booked to appear on Panorama to discuss his play with that well-known occupier of the moral high ground, Malcolm Muggeridge. (Muggeridge was for decades an inescapable figure in British cultural life. He is best-remembered now for his conspicuous hostility to Monty Python’s Life Of Brian.) On the afternoon of the programme, Muggeridge met Behan at the Garrick Club to discuss the broadcast. At the Garrick, Behan drank Scotch as the club’s bar didn’t serve beer, and refused his wife’s entreaties to eat anything, so by the time he arrived at the BBC’s Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd’s Bush he was already pretty spiffed. But the run-through was a success, and the producers were confident that it would be a memorable TV encounter. This turned out to be the case, but for reasons other than foreseen: between the rehearsal and the live broadcast, Brendan drank whisky in the hospitality suite and became increasingly leery to the other guests, which included a War Office delegation and a group of debutantes who fled the green room after Behan’s remarks got too personal.

Brendan Behan.

By the time Panorama was due to air, Behan was almost incapable but, despite mounting panic from BBC executives, Muggeridge insisted that the interview should go ahead. And thus it was that Brendan Behan, shoeless, his shirt awry, and comprehensively shitfaced, slurred his way through a live TV interview – culminating in an off-key rendition of The Old Triangle, the song from his show – and became an immediate celebrity. The template was set for all the others and the die was cast for Brendan Behan, whose fame as a loquacious drunk soon outstripped his reputation as a trenchant playwright. (Behan’s Panorama interview is lost, but Peter Sellers’ take on it is highly enjoyable.)

But the undisputed champion of televised inebriation was, of course, the late Oliver Reed, whose chaotic appearances on chat shows in the 1980s and 90s were a matter of appalled fascination for British viewers. His simian performance of The Wild One on Aspel and Company in 1987 might be regarded as a ironic deconstruction of his own persona – were it not for the information that, like Brendan Behan, he had loaded up before arriving at the studio, and then continued to load up until the moment the red light went on. Is irony available to a very drunk man when he is being watched by a TV audience of eight million people?

Reed managed to top even that garish display with an unforgettable turn on a serious-minded discussion programme called After Dark in 1991. Over the course of its run, this Channel 4 series managed to assemble an impressive array of guests to discuss the most pressing issues of the day – but some mischievous researcher suggested that Oliver Reed would be an entirely suitable guest for an edition ominously entitled ‘Do Men Have To Be Violent?’ After Dark was unique because it was open-ended broadcast live, it stayed on air until the host decided that the assembled personnel had exhausted the subject under discussion. Another of its conceits was that the set was a sort of on-air green room: guests could smoke and help themselves to a well-stocked drinks trolley.

Reed’s appearance on the programme ensured an excruciating white-knuckle ride: the other, more legitimate, guests attempted to follow their trains of thought whilst Ollie made unintelligible interjections, wandered about, distributed drinks, disappeared behind a sofa, then abruptly reappeared to force a kiss upon noted feminist Kate Millett. This was the point at which the moderator, (Dame) Helena Kennedy QC, feebly attempted to bring Reed to heel with the words: ‘Now Oliver … stop it.’ After muted protests from the other guests, Reed quietly departed with the self-pitying pathos of the misunderstood drunk.

(This horribly riveting edition of After Dark was briefly taken off air when Channel 4 received a hoax call purporting to be from chief executive Michael Grade. Sadly, I went to bed at this point a pity, as it was back after just 20 minutes.)

What is undeniable about these drunken TV events is the extent of their reach: Panorama made Behan immediately famous and Reed’s chaotic turns will not be forgotten by anyone who watched them as they went out. Nearer our own time, Tracy Emin’s lurching appearance on a post-Turner Prize TV arts show accelerated her career and ensured her place in tabloid culture, an interesting achievement considering that she was not the recipient of the prize itself.

Inevitably, there is a price to pay for being a professional drunk. Drink transformed Behan into a self-parodic bore, destroyed a burgeoning talent and eventually destroyed him: dead of liver failure at 41. Reed eventually managed to moderate his drinking and was on the verge of a major comeback with Gladiator – but on a free day on location in Malta, he was recognised by British sailors in a pub and felt obliged to give them his macho Ollie routine. Witnesses claim he drank eight pints of lager, twelve shots of rum, half a bottle of whisky and some cognac. He promptly had a heart attack and died in the ambulance on the way to hospital, aged 61.


John Muggeridge: death of a Christian gentleman.

John Muggeridge was the son of Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge. He was born in England in 1933, studied at Cranbrook College, did two years of national service in Kenya, and then took a degree in history at Jesus College, Cambridge. Rather than remain in the shadow of his famous father, he left England and came to North America. While he was teaching public school in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, family legend has it that a novice nun from the competing separate school system was sent to spy on him and was so impressed with what she saw that she, Anne Roche, left her convent and married him. That was in 1960. John received an M.A. in history at the University of Toronto, taught at Ridley College in St. Catherines, at Earl Haig and other schools in Toronto, and eventually at Niagara College in Welland, where he taught both English and history.

Five years after he married Anne, he became a Catholic and remained an exemplary Catholic for the rest of his life. In the early 1970s, they joined McMaster University history professor James Daly and his wife Janet, and a very talented St. Joseph's nun, Sister Mary Alexander, in starting a group called the St. Athanasius Society, which took its name from the great fourth-century saint who defended Catholic orthodoxy against Arianism. With the premature death of James from leukemia, the Society suffered a blow from which it did not recover.

Anne was more militant about her faith than was John. In response to misunderstandings of the Second Vatican Council by the laity, and lack of leadership by the Catholic hierarchy, she wrote a provocative magazine article entitled "What do you do when your Church leaves you?" Subsequently she wrote two books dealing with the issues she had raised--The Gates of Hell in 1975 and The Desolate City in 1986. Like others of their generation, both Anne and John were preoccupied for years with endeavours to lessen the scourge of abortion in Canada. They also had a family of four boys and one girl to educate.

As time went on, John had three great blows to bear. A real tragedy occurred when Anne, a woman of such intellectual distinction, developed Alzheimer's disease eventually she had to be placed in a nursing home. Second, John developed melanoma and had to have his cancerous tissue removed. By great good fortune, they could be replaced by his own stem cells, once these had been developed for this purpose but the pain of replacing them was almost more than he could bear. Third, he developed the liver cancer which brought about his final illness and death--preceded, fortunately, by a visit from Father David Roche of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Anne's cousin, who brought him the last rites of the Church.

John wrote no books, but numerous articles, and many book reviews. He could not dash off a review he wrote slowly, but carefully and with a fine sense of style. Occasionally he could pillory the author of a book he became heavily involved at one point in controversy with a nun who had written a book in which she seemed to say that an apostate priest named Tyrrell was a forerunner of the Second Vatican Council.

By special permission of Cardinal Ambrozic, John's Mass of Christian Burial, in the Tridentine Rite, was celebrated by Father Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory. Father Roche preached a homily of unquestioned brilliance, linking the story of Lazarus to meditations by St. Thomas More and St. Aloysius Gonzaga. When John's daughter-in-law Christine sang "In paradisum," many an eye in the congregation could not refrain from shedding a tear.

John Muggeridge was a contributing editor to Catholic Insight. The last article he wrote for us, in the issue of October 2004, was "Reagan: An American Christian." It made two main points: that for Reagan acceptance of divine authority was the key to social order, and that paradoxically, he ended the arms race by winning it.

His last book review on Terrence Fay's A History of Canadian Catholics, appeared in the January/February issue of 2003. Here, this mild-mannered and normally very gentle reviewer skewered this book's revisionist author with deadly irony, as when we learn that, for him, "sweat lodges are nearer to God than rosary crusades."

My wife was surely not alone in recalling that, whenever one saw John Muggeridge, he had a smile on his face. Not surprising. He was the very model of a Christian gentleman. (David Dooley)


The Holy Collaboration of Mother Teresa and Malcom Muggeridge

Many are unaware that the first major exposure of Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta) to the world was due to the prominent English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990), who was not yet Catholic, and had just committed himself to a Protestant version of Christianity at roughly the same time (Spring 1969). This was by means of his book, Something Beautiful for God (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). In its first chapter, Muggeridge sagely observes:

[T]he wholly dedicated like Mother Teresa do not have biographies. Biographically speaking, nothing happens to them. To live for, and in, others, as she and the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity do, is to eliminate happenings, which are a factor of the ego and the will. (p. 16)

Biographer Ian Hunter stated that this book “made Mother Teresa and her work known around the world” (Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980, 243). The Harper Collins reprint of the book in 1986 contains the following blurb:

[T]his classic work introduced Mother Teresa to the Western World. As timely now as it was then, Something Beautiful for God interprets her life through the eyes of a modern-day skeptic who became literally transformed within her presence, describing her as ‘a light which could never be extinguished.’

This exposure brought the Missionaries of Charity much support. But it was a blessing in both directions, as Muggeridge was hugely influenced by Mother Teresa, in terms of his own eventual conversion to Catholicism. He was received into the Church in 1982. Biographer Gregory Wolfe noted:

In Something Beautiful for God he had admitted that he was tempted to join the Church in order to please her the prayers of Mother Teresa are hard to resist. As her letters demonstrate, Mother Teresa did not always take the confrontational approach with Malcolm she was able to empathise with his loneliness and sense of exclusion. But she was also capable of cutting Malcolm's self-justifications short. He frequently alluded to a conversation he had with Mother Teresa while walking along the Serpentine in London. As they strolled through the park, he explained to her that he shared Simone Weil's belief that God needed Christians outside the Church as well as inside. “No, he doesn't,” she said to him tartly. There was something about her simple confidence that seemed to him to cut through all his evasions. (Malcolm Muggeridge: A Biography, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995, 411)

In Something Beautiful for God, Muggeridge wrote about what were perhaps the first stirrings in his heart that led to his eventual reception into the Catholic Church having been deeply and extraordinarily impressed with St. Teresa:

There are few things I should rather do than please her. So much so, that it almost amounts to a temptation to accept her guidance in the matter of entering the Church just because it is hers. Yet everything tells me that this would be wrong. (p. 54)

The Church, after all, is an institution with a history a past and a future. It went on crusades, it set up an inquisition, it installed scandalous popes and countenanced monstrous iniquities. . . . In the mouthpiece of God on earth, belonging, not just to history, but to everlasting truth, they are not to be defended. At least, not by me. (p. 56)

If ever it became clear to me that I could enter the Church in honesty and truth, I should rush to do so, the more eagerly and joyously because I know that it would give happiness to Mother Teresa . . . something that, in the ordinary way, I would go to almost any lengths to achieve. (p. 58)

Muggeridge records one of St. Teresa's letters to him at the time:

Today what is happening in the surface of the Church will pass. For Christ, the Church is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. The Apostles went through the same feeling of fear and distrust, failure and disloyalty, and yet Christ did not scold them. (p. 54)

In 1987, having been Catholic for five years, Muggeridge recalled:

She was always very keen that I should become a Catholic, although she tends to grumble about the Catholic hierarchy. But then she remembers -- 'Jesus himself hand-picked Twelve Apostles: one betrayed him and the others ran away. So if Jesus can't do better . . .' (My Life in Pictures, New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 96)

Writing the next year in a sort of spiritual autobiography, Muggeridge affirmed:

Father Bidone, an Italian priest, now alas dead, and Mother Teresa have been the major influence in my final decision to join the Catholic Church, although it took me a long time to do so. (Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988, 134-135)

By 1982, Muggeridge had resolved in his mind the dilemma that he felt regarding earthly leadership of the Church, and her imperfect history:

[A]s Hilaire Belloc truly remarked, the Church must be in God's hands because, seeing the people who have run it, it couldn't possibly have gone on existing if there weren't some help from above. (Ibid., p. 139)

In closing, here is his eloquent and moving mini-portrait of St. Teresa of Calcutta:

When I first set eyes on her, . . . I at once realized that I was in the presence of someone of unique quality. This was not due to . . . her shrewdness and quick understanding, though these are very marked nor even to her manifest piety and true humility and ready laughter. There is a phrase in one of the psalms that always, for me, evokes her presence: “the beauty of holiness” -- that special beauty, amounting to a kind of pervasive luminosity generated by a life dedicated wholly to loving God and His creation. This, I imagine, is what the haloes in medieval paintings of saints were intended to convey. (Ibid., p. 135)

This article originally appeared June 20, 2018, at the Register.

Dave Armstrong Dave Armstrong is a full-time Catholic author and apologist, who has been actively proclaiming and defending Christianity since 1981. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1991. His website/blog, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, has been online since March 1997. He also maintains a popular Facebook page. Dave has been happily married to his wife Judy since October 1984. They have three sons and a daughter (all homeschooled) and reside in southeast Michigan.


Malcolm Muggeridge

Thomas Malcolm Muggeridge (24 March 1903 – 14 November 1990) [1] [2] was an English journalist and satirist. His father, H. T. Muggeridge, was a prominent socialist politician and one of the early Labour Party Members of Parliament for Romford, in Essex. In his twenties, Muggeridge was attracted to communism and went to live in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, but the experience turned him into an anticommunist.

During World War II, he worked for the British government as a soldier and a spy, first in East Africa for two years and then in Paris. In the aftermath of the war, he converted to Christianity under the influence of Hugh Kingsmill and helped to bring Mother Teresa to popular attention in the West. He was also a critic of the sexual revolution and of drug use.

Muggeridge kept detailed diaries for much of his life, which were published in 1981 under the title Like It Was: The Diaries of Malcolm Muggeridge, and he developed them into two volumes of an uncompleted autobiography Chronicles of Wasted Time. [3]


Watch the video: MALCOLM MUGGERIDGE: Reflections on Stalins regime and THE HOLODOMOR


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