Today after Mass, I went into the church hall to have a cup of tea and to talk to our organist Brenda. I showed her a book I was reading, The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter, (I have read it before, but I like to read interesting books again, this will be the third or fourth reading I think) and she seemed interested, particularly in the list of signatures in the front of the book after a Ham Feast they all had in 1948. Among the signatories were, of course, J.R.R Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, C.S Lewis, Lord David Cecil etc; Charles Williams was dead by 1948, so he is obviously not on the list. The Inklings was an informal literary ''society,'' a group of mature and intelligent men who met on occasion, in the pub (The Eagle and Child) or in Lewis' halls at Magdalen. They would discuss various fascinating topics (hardly anything contemporary) such as English literature, history, art, music, theology, apologetics, not seldom the works of eachother. Tolkien read many chapters of his ''new Hobbit'' (The Lord of the Rings) out to them in manuscript - but was often put off by the snorting of Hugo Dyson, who one day blurted out ''Oh not another sodding Fairy!'' All these meetings entailed a lot of beer and smoking (not so much during the War years, for obvious reasons). None of them were vegetarians, they were all politically and theologically conservative (they were mostly either Catholic or High Church Anglican), they were a fascinating group.
The subject of ''societies'' (in the formal sense) came up during our chat today. I am not a member of any society (anymore), not even a Library (although I still carry two library cards, I only use the University Library) or any ''movement.'' I was for a while a member of The National Autistic Society, but failed to renew my membership this year because I do not believe in the senseless appraisal of Autism as something inherently good itself; certainly autistic children and adults have extraordinary abilities, but these are at the expense of other fundamentally important human qualities. Some autistic people are unable even to communicate. Now, certainly raising ''awareness'' about the needs of autistic children is a good and charitable thing, but they are still incurably disabled.
I had once thought about joining The Latin Mass Society, but failed to do so because they officially champion the 1962 Liturgical books, and I can buy their magazine anyway. I understand that many current members joined years ago when the magazine wasn't readily available. I am not interested in the ''Faith Movement'' as I am not that interested in Science. Plus, I believe that the Genesis Creation story portrays an accurate theological picture of what actually happened. The complex business of ''days'' and there having been no light before the Sun and Moon etc may present logical difficulties, but who can fathom the immensity of Creation anyway, or who can tell the counsels of God that He has not revealed? I do not believe that human beings (created ''Good'' - in the profound theological sense - by God) ''evolved'' from an ''inferior'' state; and I do not believe that God would ''conceal'' something (behind a veil of allegory or whatever) so fundamentally important as the origin of the World and of Men. I think that the Genesis Creation story is treated somewhat unfairly by people today, very often sincere Christians, almost as unfashionable or out-of-date curtains or wall-paper!
I am also not a member of The Tolkien Society, since I do not approve of it.
Am I too ''negative'' or disparaging about societies? I would join something like a ''Latin'' society of some sort, or a Dante society (Tolkien and C.S Lewis were in fact members of the Oxford Dante Society) or an informal Tolkien society (so long as the readers were all Catholic) but they would have to be small and informal for me to be interested. But as Brenda reminded me, I am in fact already a member of a supreme society, and the best of them all - the Catholic Church!
The above photo depicts The Eagle and Child (or ''Bird & Baby'' as it was almost exclusively called) where the Inklings would meet on Thursdays. I wanted to go there when I was in Oxford a few months ago, but I wasn't sure exactly where it was at the time, or how to get there; plus Jonathan wasn't sure whether it would still be a decent pub! It would have been for Tolkien to drink there though, at least 60 years ago.