Is God An Englishman?





























The claim that ‘God is an Englishman’ was a somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’ expression that was fashionable at the height of the British Empire. I don’t think many, if any, believed in this literally, but it did capture a sense of Victorian optimism and confidence. 




As the industrial revolution took hold and the country became ever more powerful, a view developed that this was not just through co-incidence. There was a sense that these advances were happening in England for a reason and that it was divinely ordained. Britain, and more particularly England, was being given a divine mission to take the lead in the world. We were the New Israel and through our industry, military might and our sense of fair play, adherence to the law and democracy, we were to build the New Jerusalem.






To this day, the unofficial national anthem of England is the hymn ‘Jerusalem’, written by William Blake who was, amongst many other things, part of the folkish revival in England. The words to this sacred and patriotic hymn are:





And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England's mountains green?

And was the holy Lamb of God

On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the countenance divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here

Among those dark satanic mills?




Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,

Till we have built Jerusalem

In England's green and pleasant land.






The phrase was used by the novelist R.F. Delderfield as the title of a series of novels that looked at the profound changes and advances in English society during the 19th century. This created a great sense of optimism and a strong sense of purpose – something we are sadly lacking today. The English were being given the tools to go out and make the world a better, more civilised place – more like England.




This view was central to 19th century British Imperialism. It was not just a justification for expanding and exploiting the resources of the Empire, but for doing good. It led to the building of railways, massive improvements in agriculture which provided more food for local populations, improved health care, the (eventual) introduction of democracy and the rule of law and the outlawing of questionable local practices such as that of Suttee (in which the live widow is forced to join her dead husband on the funeral pyre) in India.





The English have long believed that God is on our side. This forms part of our national myth going back a long way – far beyond the technological advances of the 19th century and the growth of the British Empire. For the most part, it was just a belief that provided we stayed true to God, God would stay true to us. It developed out of seeing ourselves being rescued time and time again by divine intervention, from the scattering of the Spanish Armada by freak storms to the evacuation of an entire army at Dunkirk during the second world war. Perhaps the first major example of this was from King Alfred who believed that the Danish invasions and conquest of much of England was due to the decline of English Christianity. Alfred’s strategy to reverse the Danish incursions included not just military innovations, but also reviving English Christianity – specifically with the idea of getting God back on our side. And it worked! Alfred proved a national saviour and one of our greatest monarchs.





The image of God not just being on our side, but that we had been given a divine task to make the world a better place also goes back a long way. Britain, and specifically England, was the New Israel and we had a New Covenant with God. There are ancient legends that St Joseph of Arimathea established the British Church just a few short years after the crucifixion of Christ, well before the establishment of the continental ‘Catholic Church.’ The legend of the Holy Grael and Glastonbury is even more important as it embodies the idea that Joseph ‘transferred’ the ancient Covenants from the biblical Israelites to Britain and to the Christian religion as practiced in these islands. At the heart of the ancient Grael legends, then, there is a deep and mystical message that Britain and specifically England is now the New Israel.






The British Church grew out of these legends and because it was so much older than the continental Churches, it always had a different identity and sense of purpose. During the Saxon invasions of the 6th century, the British monk Gildas wrote a number of testaments about the retreat and decline of British Christianity in the face of Saxon paganism. These were written in much the same style as the Old Testament ‘Book of Lamentations’ and clearly compared the Britain of his day to Israel, even referring to the Britons as ‘Israelites’. Even when the British and English Churches were absorbed into the medieval Roman Catholic Church, it retained this sense of identity. The legends of King Arthur rework some of the myths of ancient Israel and the Covenant with God.






The Elizabethans looked back to the historic British Church and sought to restore it in the form of the modern Church of England. Many Anglicans, not least ASA, see themselves as the heir to this ancient Church which has independent origins to the continental Catholic and Orthodox denominations. This is probably where the idea arose that the English and British people were in some way a restoration of the ancient Israelites.







With the advent of Protestantism, and specifically the Puritans of the Cromwell era, the old ideas that Britain was a New Israel took even firmer root as they sought to restore what they saw as a simpler and more pure form of the faith. The idea that the Protestant Englishman was heir to the old covenants and thus God’s new chosen people grew with this. These ideas survived down the ages, even into fairly modern times. For instance, whilst the Luftwaffe was bombing London during the Second World War, a civil servant called William Beverage was drafting a report that was to herald the post war ‘Welfare State’ in Britain. On seeing his rather dry early drafts, he was admonished by his wife to make it more inspiring and put some ‘Cromwellian’ spirit into it. The result though was to produce one of the most inspiring documents of 20th century Britain, with its call to ‘slay the Five Giant Evils of Squalor, Ignorance, Want, Idleness and Disease and to build a New Jerusalem of social justice. An interesting aside is that we can see from these ‘Five Giant Evils’ that the Welfare State was meant to help people help themselves and not to create the culture of dependency that it has become.







The 17th century saw the flowering of the arts and sciences in England. It saw a freedom to pursue knowledge and the birth of numerous societies dedicated to this. In particular, the Royal Society of London for improving natural knowledge (the Royal Society) was established in 1662 and stood to ‘enlarge knowledge by observation and experimentation.’ Whilst essentially a scientific organisation, many of its early members (such as Christopher Wren and Isaac Newton) also had a profound interest in religion – often in esoteric Christianity. It portrayed itself as a restoration of the ‘House of Solomon’ (knowledge), a tradition that gave birth to English Freemasonry. It also gave birth to a greater appreciation of the role of ‘reason’ in modern Anglicanism than in most other religious traditions. English Christianity became less concerned with doctrine and dogma and more concerned in the flowering of human liberty and freedom of thought as a means of doing God’s will and making the world a better place.















If the English and British were to be seen as the New Israel, then London was to be the New Jerusalem. Indeed, Christopher Wren’s design for the rebuilding of London after it was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666 included remarkable, and little known, symbolism that showed its creators were deliberately rebuilding London as a physical New Jerusalem, with St Paul’s Cathedral at its heart as the new Temple. The dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, in particular, was not just intended to be a bold architectural statement. It was deliberately designed with esoteric symbolism, form and proportions that had their origins in ancient Egypt and which were believed to optimise their ‘energy’ and beauty. Capturing this energy through building design led to the popularisation of neo classical architecture during the Imperial era as it made a statement that God was not just with us as a people, but was evident in our very buildings and townscape.





Christopher Wren also designed ‘The Monument’ a great column similar to ‘Nelson’s Column’ that commemorates the Great Fire. Situated on Monument Street in the heart of the City of London, this column is 202 feet tall, a figure that is supposed to have been chosen because it is the distance from the column to the bakers shop on Pudding Lane where the fire started. However, there is another more esoteric explanation. At the summer solstice, the sun appears just above the ‘crown’ just as it did with the obelisk of Sesostris I in the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis, the seat of the Sun God ‘Ra’. Not only this, but the length of the shadow of the column cast by the sun on the solstice is 350 feet. This is 1.732 times longer than the height of the column itself (202 feet). This ratio is the square root of 3 and known as a ‘vesica piscis’ (bladder of the fish) which has been commonly used in sacred geometry and architecture going back to ancient Egypt.





However, there is more! If you drew an imaginary circle around the monument some 350 feet in diameter (length of the shadow cast at the solstice) and then drew a square of equal perimeter inside it, and then drew lines from each of the four corners of the square to the top of the column, you will get a pyramid shape with exactly the same dimensions as the Great Pyramid of Giza! All of this sacred geometry and symbolism served to build a myth in Victorian times about how London was the New Jerusalem and Britain and the British were the new Israel.  





Another interesting link between London and ancient Israel is the ‘Stone of Scone’ which used to be housed in St Paul’s Cathedral (the new Temple of Israel) and which is still used in the coronation of British monarchs. The Stone of Scone is believed to be the actual stone of King David, transferred to Britain – another symbol of the transfer of God’s covenant from the old Israel of the bible to the new Israel in Britain.    





The general idea of God been on our side and us having a national mission was keenly taken up by the national Church and is clearly seen in the triumphalist pageantry and music of the 19th century Church of England. God wasn’t just an Englishman. He was an Anglican to boot! This is why so many of our modern left leaning clergy hate the ‘traditional Church’ so much.





The idea that the British were the spiritual descendants of Israel developed into a movement known as British Israelism which believes that the British are the actual physical descendants of the ‘lost 10 tribes of Israel.’





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