Saturday, October 1, 2016

HvS | 1971 to Brigid on "The Borrowed House" (1 of 3)

Just reissued in a new
edition–The Borrowed
Oct. 3, 2016.
During the early 1970s, Hilda van Stockum and her daughter Brigid were in frequent correspondence about HvS's new book, which would be called The Borrowed House. It was an urban version of The Winged Watchman.

In both books, HvS wrestles with the question of Hitler and Naziism. The Winged Watchman is written from the perspective of a Dutch patriot during the Nazi Occupation. The Borrowed House is a more difficult book because it starts with a committed Hitler Youth girl and follows her gradual understanding of the evil that Hitler represents and creates.

HvS in the early 1970s corresponded with Brigid about the book rather than talking with her because she was still in Washington, D.C. and Brigid (like her sisters Sheila and Lis) was in the UK.

Here is the first letter to Brigid about The Borrowed House. There is no date on it, but it is on U.S.-sized 8.5"x11" paper and therefore would have been sent from Washington, D.C. The reference to the Tasaday tribe suggests it was soon after 1971 (see link to the Tasaday in the letter), and the latest date would have been 1973, when HvS moved to Berkhamsted and would have had no need to write to Brigid any more because they saw each other frequently. I have corrected typos and I have broken the text up in a few places to make it easier to read.

Letter 1 to Brigid (c. 1971)

Dearest Brigid,

I just got your letter about my story [The Borrowed House] and I am so glad you understand... I think the middle course is the thing: especially as my reading shows me more and more that there was no real unity behind Hitler [or against him! JTM]–
  • There were the people for whom Hitler was a messiah who fulfilled the violence and hatred in them,
  • the timid ones who wanted to get on with their own lives and not be  bothered (it is after all only righteous indignation that makes you brave the dangers of protest, and not everyone is capable of it, but God bless it, we need it), and
  • the brave ones, some who merely saw to it that their children knew the truth and tried to keep them out of the schools and [Nazi] organizations,
  • some who actively were protesting and putting their lives on the roulette table, and 
  • others who plotted Hitler's death.
Such a kaleidoscope! But some youths were poisoned [by Nazi propaganda], and went on fighting after the armies surrendered and forced the Allies to fight babes of thirteen to fifteen who threw grenades and handled machine guns. I hope God gave them credit for their bravery in a bad cause! The Nazis hadn't had them long enough to do irreparable harm, but the Communists, who have, are faced with a rebellious youth. So who can say there is no God?

What you say about yourself is true but I love you for it. You did shirk work and your generosity sometimes outruns your capacity, but then I wonder if I am too cautious. I know that whatever I do [in the way of giving] will have to be repeated over and over again, one donation and a monthly envelope comes, and when I feel I can't afford it, a voice tells me: "You mean, you're going to save on your FRIENDS?"

By the way, in the Wendepunkt [published in German by the family and followers of Dr. Max Bircher-Benner, who espoused a vegetarian diet and invented Bircher Müsli–JTM] of this month are some interesting articles. Ralph [Bircher] tells of a tribe [the Tasaday] they have found south of the Philippines which has never had any other human contact. These people live solely on the fruit and roots and leaves that grow naturally and on some crustaceans they catch with their hands, wrap in leaves and roast by the fire. They know no steel, don't hunt, don't cultivate, have no herds.

When the people who discovered them imagined them to be hungry because they eat no meat and gave them weapons and told them they could killed and eat animals they were deeply shocked. "But they are your FRIENDS!" they said.

They use the weapons to get the bark out of palm trees, a luxury for them. They live in perfect peace, which suggests that the story of paradise [in Genesis] may have more foundation than people think. The name of the group is Tasaday. [Later, the Tasaday story was questioned and was found to be partly true and partly bogus.–JTM]

There is also an article by a Mrs. Tina Keller, who trained in psychotherapy under Jung and belonged to the Oxford Group. She says that Jung feels that wholeness in a person means balance, and when she became Grouper she became very one-sided. She wanted to put her knowledge in the service of God and the Group loved to count doctors among its members.

Jung had  taught her not to neglect her inner self, but the group forced her into more and more outward activity. She enjoyed that. And she found out that even good things can become an addiction.  They honored her. She was a fighter in a great cause. Her ideals pulled her along with a super zeal. And suddenly she fell into an abysmal depression, until she took the time to listen to her unconscious again. (This is strange, for the Group does recommend quiet time every day, but I always found it pretty impossible; it's not so easy to sit down and have communion with God like that!)

She got her balance back by writing, anything and everything, until she had written herself out. She then had an hour with Jung and they discussed this experience. It had taught her how necessary the daily communication with her unconscious was, and that she had to remember the opposites if she wanted to keep her balance, among the heights and depths of her life. She says that when she neglects this she is in trouble but when she pays attention to her soul she gets help from all sorts of sources. 

She sounds as if she has read Gurdjieff, but of course Gurdjieff is based on Jung.  She says almost what you say, that a high ideal can waft you into an illusion, that one swings happily away from concrete facts and one's own shortcoming. But these belong to the wholeness. Progress is only possible by steadfastly eyeing the facts of one's concrete existence.

That is what you have done. That is what is so wonderful about children; they teach us so much and one can always be sure of their forgiveness–they so pathetically want to believe in us!

She goes on to say that every virtue has in it a vice, which is a truism but one we have to keep in mind, I suppose! She ends by saying that while the old idea was that a family represented wholeness, now they want the wholeness to belong to the individual, and she does not know whether that is progress. I'm sorry you don't know German; I could send these things to you.

Have had no answer yet about about a house in Switzerland! [Spike was working for the AARP, setting up the International Federation on Aging, and they could well have moved from Washington to Geneva. What happened a year later is that Spike gave up his IFA job and they moved to England to be near to their  three daughters and their many grandchildren. Their first UK house was high up on Castle Hill Road in Berkhamsted, Herts.–JTM]

Lots of love,

Posts on The Borrowed House: New Edition (Purple House Press) Letter 1 . Letter 2 . Letter 3 . The van Arkel Portrait

Order a copy of the new (October 2016) edition of The Borrowed House.

1 comment:

  1. A couple of letters from HvS to her daughter Brigid help us understand the philosophical questions that the author was trying to illustrate and answer in "The Borrowed House".