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William Erbery 1604-1654

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2016 9:23 pm    Post subject: William Erbery 1604-1654 Reply with quote

I am really - really - interested in William Erbery for a variety of reasons - not least a couple of personal ones such as my home being in the same neighbourhood as his was centuries ago ... I was first introduced to William Erbery thirty years ago but he is such an obscure character and has been so damed by others it was difficult to find out what I first suspected : he was a man struggling to articulate a vision that we would now easily recognise as being " Republican " - or rather if we could penetrate his language we would be able to do so I think. What is the problem with his language ? He was a chaplain in the Parliamentary army where he found the freedom to ask some severely deep questions about what he witnessed : once the civil wars were over he plunged into a stupendous campaign of writing in which he poured out new ideas in a fountain of words culled from the existing literatures around him but in sentences which are carved out of his newly expounding consciousness like a man trying to fashion something by whittling it out of pieces of wood which are lying to hand ... until he came to an astounding conclusion : his focus shifted away from the words to the thing that he was trying to describe and so having personally had the experience of the difference between the words and the things which he was trying to describe with them he started advising people to not be concerned about the word at all but the thing itself ...

... In other words he firmly rejected credalism and even saw it as being anti-religious - and the consequences of this were that he recommended that religious meetings should be conducted as conversations and so without any prescribed words - no sermons, no prayers, no hymns - so that people could decide their own words for themselves ... In other words he demolished - or at least cracked - the very foundation of what was in the 1650s thought to be " religion " because these were the very things which provided his fellow clerics with their means to live - and so of course these " Hierocrats " as I denote them vigorously attacked him and denounced him as spreading disorder and disrespect for both religious and political authority ... Erbery's career had begun conventionally as the parish priest of Cardiff but then he began to hold conversations in his home and then prayer meetings in his orchard in Shipman Street ( now destroyed : part of the orchard later became the Cardiff Quaker Burial Ground and they were all then buried under the South Wales Railway Line by Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the orders of the Marquis of Bute - because in the 1840s the rest of the orchard and the house was occupied by the radical political leader John Bachelor : this was one of the few pieces of land Bute did not own and he used Parliament to get it - Bute offered Bachelor " compensation " of other premises on a one yearly lease to force Bachelor into submission or be utterly ruined.) ...

... The meetings in the orchard were for the purpose of trying to raise the religious life of Cardiff to a higher level ... but - having heard that William Erbery was extolling Truth, Love, Freedom, Peace and Life - The Burghers in Cardiff became concerned that all of this Spirituality was corrupting their employees which involved such distinct risks of them sobering up and demanding proper wages ... so they took the matter to The Sheriff of Glamorganshire who upon seeing himself surrounded with swords and pistols agreed to issue a Posse Comitatus - whereupon they proceeded together to their local brothel where there was a bishop whom they had prepared earlier who promptly swore on The Bibul that he had always intended to throw William Erbery out for his non-conformity ... So William Erbery hit the road and wandered we know not where whilst preaching for pennies by the waysides until he got a job as a regimental chaplain where he suddenly found himself with a congregation which hung on his every word - and then hanged it ... For men who were pitched into chaotic times and needed to make sense of what might prove to be shortened lives Erbery's illegal conventicle in his orchard was precisely the kind of religious exercise they needed to bind up and heal their wounded spiritualities - and the Parliamentary officers became concerned. ... When The Ministers in Oxford scoffed at William Erbery as an uneducated country cleric he challenged them to a series of public debates and in which exposed their university education to an astounding critique - and the Royalist establishment marked him down as an undesirable.
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