A Life Transformed

I think often of some words by Dr Martin Israel:

‘To be fully oneself is the greatest joy we can know, for at last we are free. How can we know God? Simply by living in the present moment and responding  positively  to those around us and the challenges they might bring. This is spirituality – no longer to be thought of as the preserve of religion. The journey into our own inner nature is always the way to God. In this lies eternal joy’.

Too often religions can become fossilised, instututionalised – and even repressive.  To join a religious group can be a support and guide, but what is being realised increasingly today is that individuals can find their own way without going anywhere near a church, mosque or synagogue. An outstanding example of this is Etty Hillesum, whose story I have mentioned before, who, simply through the practice of meditation, found that there was a deep well inside her ‘and in it dwells God.’

It was on 9 March 1941 that this 27 year old Dutch Jewish student living in enemy occupied Amsterdam made the first entry in a diary that was to become one of the most remarkable documents to emerge from the Nazi Holocaust. Over the course of the next two and a half years, an insecure, chaotic and troubled young woman was transformed into someone who inspired those with whom she shared the suffering of the transit camp at Westerbrook and with whom she eventually died at Auschwitz.  Through her diary and letters she continues to inspire those whose lives she has touched since.

I recommend Patrick Woodhouse’s excellent introduction to her life and work: Etty Hillesum: A Life Transformed, published by Bloomsbury.  

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