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The Manifold and the One—Lessons from the thought of Agnes Arber (1879-1960)

This subject of this morning's address came to the forefront of my mind because last week I had to cycle over to Oakington to see an unwell member of the congregation. My route passed by the churchyard in Girton and, as I have done for the past ten years, whenever I am passing by I try to make time to stop and visit Agnes Arber's grave for she has become a bit of a hero of mine. If you click on this link you can see a photo of Arber's grave and also a few other photos of the surrounding landscape I took during the ride.


From the dust jacket of The Manifold & the One (John Murray, London, 1957, pp. xi-xiii) by Agnes Arber (1879-1960)

Mrs. Arber is a botanist by profession but, for her, botany has constantly been related to broader issues, to a philosophy of life. This book synthesizes the experience of a life time, enriched by a close knowledge of nature and a reading that has gleaned in far flung fields of philosophy and religion, from early Indian and Chinese…

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Religious naturalist and Unitarian minister in Cambridge UK, jazz bass player, photographer, cyclist and walker. Over the years I've tried various descriptions of "where I'm at" but, although they have been OK as far as they go, they've not fitted as well as they might. These days I find the following words of the philosopher, Paul Wienpahl, fit the bill better than anything else: 

"As I see it, the point is not to identify reality with anything except itself. (Tautologies are, after all, true.) If you wish to persist by asking what reality is; that is, what is really, the answer is that it is what you experience it to be. Reality is as you see, hear, feel, taste and smell it, and as you live it. And it is a multifarious thing. To see this is to be a man without a position. To get out of the mind and into the world, to get beyond language and to the things is to cease to be an idealist or a pragmatist, or an existentialist, or a Christian. I am a man without a position. I do not have the philosophic position that there are no positions or theories or standpoints. (There obviously are.) I am not a sceptic or an agnostic or an atheist. I am simply a man without a position, and this should open the door to detachment" Paul Wienpahl in An Unorthodox Lecture (1956)