John Bond
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04 October, 2017

Bishop Chartres and Graham Turner (photo: Philip Carr)
Bishop Chartres and Graham Turner (photo: Philip Carr)

‘This book is a rattling good read,’ was the verdict of former Bishop of London Richard Chartres. ‘I read it at one sitting.’ He was launching That Other Voice by Graham Turner at London’s Centre for Spirituality on 21 September.

The book tells of Turner’s quest to discover whether God, or a higher power of some kind, can communicate with us directly. He tells of discussions with religious leaders and followers—Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish—in several countries. And he describes his own experience.

Turner has been a senior journalist and feature writer for several of Britain’s major newspapers and the BBC. ‘He is a superb interviewer,’ said Chartres, ‘with a very rare capacity to listen profoundly, and with personal knowledge of that of which he speaks. In this book his voice is companionable, making no rush to judgment….  Are we really listening to another voice, or is it a projection of ourselves? How do you distinguish the genuine article?’

The first step, he said, is humility—‘to refuse to be a little God’—and this was the spirit in which the stories were told. ‘If this book leads on to an interrogation of one’s own experience,’ he concluded, ‘you can’t ask more than that.’

In a foreword to the book, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams writes: ‘This vivid and sensitive book introduces us to a wide variety of people who have learned about change by learning to listen…. This is the very opposite of a naïve belief that there is an inner light that will give us infallible guidance in our problems. On the contrary it is about developing habits of silence and attention, scrutinising without self-indulgence the byways of our “inner life”, and nurturing a basic trust that truth exists and will change us and our world if only we allow it space enough.’

Speaking at the launch, Turner said that he had written the book because he wanted ‘to examine the experiences of people who claim to have received intimations of the divine and to ask whether they could be explained in some other, quite uncelestial, way’.

‘I cannot claim to be entirely objective in my judgments,’ he said, ‘because of experiences I have had of what I felt was a guiding hand. But in this book I want the evidence to speak for itself, to leave readers to make up their own minds. In any case there is no such thing as proof because God – if there is a God – will always remain the ultimate unfathomable mystery.’

Among stories drawn from Initiatives of Change, Turner includes two chapters on the role of Asia Plateau, the IofC centre in Panchgani, India.

That Other Voice by Graham Turner, Darton, Longman and Todd, RRP £12.99. The book can be ordered from the IofC centre in London for £12 plus p&p.

Text of Graham Turner's speech at the book launch

Read interview with Graham Turner about his new book in The Church Times, UK, 29 September 2017

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