More About the Author
Born on 28th June 1952, Nicholas (later Luke) Bell grew up in Surrey (United Kingdom) in a house full of books. He studied English literature at King's College, Cambridge, where he was particularly drawn to the novels of Dostoevsky. Having qualified as a teacher following further study at Bristol University, he taught English at a school in Surrey. After three years of this, he left England to take up a post at the University of Fez in Morocco. Here he taught Shakespeare to Moroccans, and was known to them by the nickname of "Shakespeare." He produced a staging of "Othello" with a Moor playing the lead role! After four years in North Africa, he took a teaching post back in England at the Jesuit Wimbledon College. Here he was received into the Catholic Church, and after five years teaching in a very lively and companionable English department, he left to become a monk at Downside Abbey in Somerset. On entering the monastery he took the name "Luke". All his books have been written by him as a monk.
His first book, "Paradise on Earth" (dedicated to Saint Therese of Lisieux) explores a Christian approach to suffering, drawing illustrations widely from literature. The second "Discovery of Grace" (dedicated to the monks of Quarr Abbey) looks at various Christian spiritual themes. Both these books were published by Kevin Mayhew Publishing. His third book "Joy in Heaven" draws on his experience working as a priest in an English country parish and as a prison chaplain. It is dedicated to the people of his parish, Saint Michael's, Shepton Mallet, and published by New Life Publishing (Luton).
In 2003 Father Luke (as he then was) came as a monk to Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight. His first book written there was "A Deep and Subtle Joy: Life at Quarr Abbey", which takes the reader on a twenty-four hour personal tour of Quarr Abbey and invites the reader to share in the lives of the monks. It is dedicated to his goddaughter, Hannah, and published by HiddenSpring, an imprint of Paulist Press. The same publisher issued his next book, "Baptising Harry Potter: A Christian Reading of J K Rowling", which is dedicated to his godson, Aelred. News of its publication prompted an accusation of betrayal by Christians opposed to Harry Potter, but it is not really written to try to win over such people: rather it is written for all who enjoy the Harry Potter books - to delight and enlighten them!
His most recent book "The Meaning of Blue: Recovering a Contemplative Spirit" was published in 2014 by Angelico Press, under the Second Spring imprint.
Pope Francis wrote in his first apostolic exhortation, "We need to recover a contemplative spirit." "The Meaning of Blue" is about such a recovery. It argues that how we know - our epistemology - matters hugely. It is concerned with how we look and how we listen. It is about the recovery of meaning: the meaning that is expressed through the symbols of nature and the utterance of language. It considers how over the last few centuries our culture as a whole has prioritised a way of knowing that in its drive for control murders to dissect, grasping at lifeless fragments rather than receiving a living whole. A different way of knowing is possible and it is the way to the fullness of life.
The way of knowing that is directed towards control cannot receive a sense of quality and so (for example) what colours communicate is beyond it. Blue, the colour of heaven, of purity and truth, of contemplation, can stand for all that this epistemology is blind to. Its rarity in naturally occurring substances on earth and its abundance shining in the sky speak of the same thing: a celestial light to which our culture is increasingly blind.
After an introduction setting out the two ways of knowing, there are nine chapters divided into three parts, relating respectively to contemplating nature, contemplating the word and contemplating God. Their argument is that if we can see nature aright, as a symbol of the divine, and if we can hear what is spoken aright, as a participation in God's creative word, then we will be open to contemplating God, allowing ourselves to be led to the Father by the Son and regaining the innocence of the childhood of our race as we are formed by the Spirit.
The book is extensively illustrated by poetry. This is a way of getting beyond what the French philosopher, Jean Borella, has called "epistemic closure" - a manner of seeing that will only allow as knowledge what can be defined within a closed system. The inspired ambiguity of poetry, by contrast, points us to the depth of being beyond. The other major source of illustration is the Bible: appropriately, the King James Version, the most poetic of scriptural renderings. With these supports, the reader is guided through a healthy way of knowing creation and discourse into the mystical tradition of the direct contemplation of God. The deepest desire of the human heart can be fulfilled if we learn to know aright; the pearl of great price can be found if we know how to look; the secret of eternity can be spoken to us if we know how to hear.