Forging the Enemy’s Weapon

In his Life of Bertrand Russell, Ronald Clark describes the austere Evangelical regimen of the philosopher’s childhood:

“Lady Russell’s evangelical concern to press her younger grandson into a mould of her own choice stamped him physically, intellectually and emotionally with marks that lasted all his life. A puritan despising comfort, indifferent to food and hating wine, she decreed that the day begin with a cold bath all the year round, followed by half‑an‑hour’s piano practice before family prayers at eight. The availability of sufficient servants in the rambling house did little to ameliorate the spartan conditions, the strictly enforced self‑discipline, or the sense of public duty which per­meated the household like the smell of hops in a brewery” (27).

She pointed “Bertie” to tough-minded Bible passages: “On his twelfth birthday he received a Bible; inside the flyleaf were written Lady Russell’s favourite texts: ‘Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil,’ ‘Be strong, and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be Thou dismayed; for the Lord Thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest'” (28).

The training was a mixed success, and ultimately backfired. Russell became independent and tough, but recoiled against his mother’s Christianity: “These texts profoundly influenced Russell’s life, and even kept some meaning after he had ceased to believe in God. Ironically enough, Lady Russell’s high fervour did her cause little good. The tough physical regime hardened Russell but at the same time generated a permanent allergy to muscular Christianity ; the tempering of his intellectual steel turned it into a bright weapon with which to fight the religion that governed the Orders of the Day at Pembroke Lodge” (28).

When the sons of God marry the daughters of men, then there are Nephilim.


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