Do Deeper Freedoms Await Us?

Magna Carta, 800 years old today, deserves all the love bestowed upon it. A British Library exhibit sums up what it stands for: “Law, liberty and legacy.” Where would we be today without “the Great Charter”? But are human rights the limits of our freedom, or is there more?
Four copies of the Magna Carta remain in the UK

Happy birthday Magna Carta — I bet you never thought you’d become the bedrock of the “Mother of Parliaments”, be frequently quoted in US Supreme Court decisions, and still be well thought of around the world on your 800th anniversary. You’ve done really well for such a fragile piece of parchment, that is about 3,600 Latin words long and written in vegetable-based ink!
King John and rebel barons – Egham High Street

Especially when it’s clear that King John expected your demise within a matter of weeks, if not months, and seemed to have achieved that goal when Pope Innocent III declared the document “null, and void of all validity for ever”. 16.44.06.jpg
Magna Carta – Egham High School students

Nevertheless, the parchment prevailed and after many years of developing a head of steam, and then some leaner years of relative inattention, it received a new lease on life at the turn of the 17th century. At that point it was argued by antiquarians “that Magna Carta was a statement of liberty and a fundamental, supreme law empowering English government” (Wikipedia). And nowadays, it’s influence is not just limited to its birthplace, but has become a standard-bearer for countries around the world.
800 years anniversary commemoration window – Egham High Street

If someone had whispered into King John’s ear, “It’s beginning will be meek, it’s growth sturdy, and its maturity undecaying” he would have very likely been incredulous. And might even have chopped off the whisperer’s head!
Magna Carta mural – Egham High School pupils

But that phrase, coined by 19th century author Mary Baker Eddy, kind of nails it. It describes the birth of a “new idea”, and that’s what Magna Carta turned out to be. With the gift of hindsight we can trace the early emergence of some great things that too many of us now take for granted — like human rights, justice and democracy.
American Bar Association memorial for Magna Carta signing

 However, not everyone has taken Magna Carta — or Magna Charta, as some of our US cousins call it — for granted. The American Bar Association, for example, erected a monument to it in the lush Runnymede meadows of England where it was signed — something we in the UK somehow never got around to doing.
Magna Carta anniversary tapestry – British Library

But this year there are commemorative events — not only in the heart of London and on Egham High Street (right next to Runnymede), but across the UK. And the British Library’s “Law, Liberty and Legacy” exhibition is accompanied by a thoroughly modern paen to “the Great Charter” — a 13-metre long tapestry of the Wikipedia entry on Magna Carta. Interestingly it was put together by prisoners…and by members of the judiciary and police who helped put them behind bars in the first place!
Steps to the Kennedy memorial – Runnymede

Now, admittedly, Magna Carta didn’t bring freedom to everyone at once. Even today, the pathway to universal justice, freedom and human rights still seems like a very rocky stairway only slowly winding its way to the light.
“Light breaking through” River Thames

But what if the document was more than just a piece of parchment with a hit and miss chance of making history? Could the Magna Carta, like the sun’s rays piercing the dense foliage of a tree, be pointing the way back to a deeper, divine source of freedom, urging itself upon us?

Yes, because just as the sun, seen through those leaves, is a limited physical perception of something so much bigger, so both the historic words in the Magna Carta and the liberating laws they have spawned around the globe are the precious tip of the iceberg of an underlying divine freedom that’s core to the identity of each of us.
Loften Islands, Norway @Glowimages

The Bible says we each reflect the Divine. So as we continue to press for the full realisation of our civil, social and political rights, we can also pray for the fuller measure of freedom inherent in our relationship to God. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once simply said: “Freedom is from within”.

An even more renowned builder — a carpenter from Galilee — once said something similar: “The kingdom of God is within you”. What if that kingdom within that Jesus was pointing to was a mental realm filled with peace, joy, harmony and spiritual freedom?
Peaceful time on the River Thames

And what if we have the divine right to see that inner kingdom of spiritual peace reflected in an outward “heaven” of deeper happiness and more robust health? The writer who spoke of the spiritual “birth” with its meek beginnings, sturdy growth and undecaying maturity also wrote of the practical benefits of such a spiritual awakening: “Citizens of the world, accept the ‘glorious liberty of the children of God,’ and be free! This is your divine right” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures).

We can accept that the sunshine of divine Soul is shining on us all, urging us to prayerfully demand, and anticipate, an even deeper divine freedom arising in our hearts with “healing in its wings” (Malachi) — so we find ourselves free to soar above the problems that seemed to define us.
Seagulls soaring on the River Thames

Watch a web streamed talk on this topic! I gave a public lecture on Sunday, June 14, at Egham’s Literary Institute. Egham is right next to Runnymede, where the “great Charter” was first signed, and it’s been at the heart of commemorations of “Magna Charta” as US folk call it. My talk was called “Another ‘foundation of liberty’ — a divine law that heals”. Click here to view the archived lecture until the end of August, 2015.

Click here for the offical website for all the global commemorations of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta: “Magna Carta — foundation of liberty”

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This weekend England – and the world – celebrate Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary. And I am no exception to that rule…I am playing my part!

1. I have just posted a photo-essay about the commemorations that includes my take on the spiritual idea of freedom’s source. It is called: “Magna Carta 800 Years On – Do Deeper Freedoms Await us?”

2. I am also giving a public lecture at 5pm (UK time, noon EST) this Sunday, June 14, in Egham – the English city at the heart of the commemorations of “Magna Charta” (as Americans call it). It is such a privilege to be lecturing in Egham, which is right next to Runnymede, where the “great Charter” was first signed. The local branch has invited me to give the talk at the nearby Literary Institute (High St, Egham, TW20 9EW, UK), and it is called “Another ‘foundation of liberty’ – a divine law that heals”. It is also being web streamed live. Click here for info about the web streamed lecture.

If you can’t attend the live event or watch it when it is being web streamed, the video will be available online at the UK Online Reading Room’s YouTube page a few days after the talk, and will remain available till the end of August. And whether you tune in to my talk or not, don’t miss the opportunity this weekend presents to learn more about this little document with big ideas that has had a huge impact on the world!

For those missing the SATURDAY THOUGHT photo-quote, normal service will be resumed next week . Thanks for your understanding!

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