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      Come to me in my dreams, and then
      By day I shall be well again!
      For so the night will more than pay
      The hopeless longing of the day.

      Come, as thou cam'st a thousand times,
      A messenger from radiant climes,
      And smile on thy new world, and be
      As kind to others as to me!

      Or, as thou never cam'st in sooth,
      Come now, and let me dream it truth,
      And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
      And say, My love why sufferest thou?

      Come to me in my dreams, and then
      By day I shall be well again!
      For so the night will more than pay
      The hopeless longing of the day.

        by Matthew Arnold

The gin of the 18th century bore no relation to the respectable expensive spirit of today. A Dutch import, Madam Geneva (as she was called) was cheap and lethal. 'This new drink from Holland suddenly arrived among a people who weren't used to drinking spirits,' says Patrick Dillon. 'The strongest thing they had drunk before was strong beer, and suddenly for a penny a dram they could get this fantastic new drug.

Stronger than anything they'd tasted before, it would instantly get them drunk. There was a famous signboard over gin shops that said: "Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence, straw for nothing" – of course, you got the straw to crash out on once you had drunk too much.'

The government fuelled London's gin craze by removing the restrictions on distilling, and soon the city was awash with gin shops. If you couldn't afford a glass of the spirit, you could buy a gin-soaked rag. It was estimated that a quarter of the buildings in St Giles were drinking dens. Its residents were infamous for guzzling vast quantities of gin and for a few hours escaping their miserable lives.

'The real villains of this debauchery, drunkenness and destruction of human life,' says Professor Dabydeen, 'were the landowners who made tons of money by selling their corn for the purposes of gin distillation. So there was an economic stranglehold on the poor. They were encouraged to consume something that would destroy their lives – a kind of a drug, the equivalent of crack cocaine.'

According to Patrick Dillon, 'London was seen as a town spinning out of control. There was a crime wave, and gin was seen to be associated with crime and prostitution. In addition, the spread of syphilis, which was the big health scare at the time, was seen to be associated with gin because women were thought to be turning to prostitution to fund their drinking habits.

'Gin was also seen as attacking the economy. At the time, the wealth of the nation was thought to depend on how much poor people could make. If poor people, instead of working hard, were lying slumped in the doorway of a gin shop, then they weren't making anything.'

Backlash against the new drug

Gin was assumed to be a London problem, and in the 1720s, a backlash against it began, led by Christian reformers. In 1729, the government took the first official step towards clamping down on this new urban drug. The first Gin Act increased the duty paid on gin from five pence to five shillings and forced gin sellers to buy licences. But Londoners soon found a way around the rules. The law only applied to flavoured spirits, so distillers simply removed the juniper from the gin and renamed it 'Parliamentary brandy'.

By the 1730s, tales of gin-induced crime and depravity were again dominating the papers. One story in particular rekindled gin hysteria – the case of a poor woman, Judith Defor. Her child was cared for by the parish in a local workhouse. One Sunday she took the infant out for the day, strangled it and sold its clothes to buy gin.

The artist William Hogarth was so moved by the devastation wreaked by gin that he produced his most famous engraving set in the slum of St Giles: Gin Lane. 'One of the most powerful images of social degradation in all of 18th-century art is in the foreground – the drunken woman with a leg full of syphilitic sores,' says Professor Dabydeen. 'As she tries to get her snuff, her baby falls from her arms and topples to its death. It's an extraordinary image because there's an echo of a Madonna and child. And when the baby falls with its arms spread wide, it looks like an upside-down crucifixion and the woman like a drunken Mary. So it's showing how Christian values had been absolutely depraved and destroyed by this addiction to gin.'

Controlling the gin craze

Over the next 30 years, the government introduced a series of measures aimed at controlling the gin craze. First, they tried the radical step of prohibition, which simply drove gin underground. People set up illegal stills, women sold drams from underneath their skirts, and there was no let up in gin-fuelled violence. So the authorities brought in a series of acts that gradually brought distilling back within the law, and slowly raised the tax on gin.

But the gin craze only finally fizzled out because the world was changing. In the 1750s, the economic boom came to an end. The poor couldn't afford a drink that was becoming increasingly expensive. And, in the second half of the 18th century, there was a new mood of zealous social reform abroad in the capital.

'People write tracts about how to improve London,' says Patrick Dillon, 'and express shock that the greatest city in the world, the city of the world's greatest power, should be full of these terrible sights – of prostitution, of people drinking too much and lying drunk in the gutters, and all the things that parliamentarians, writers and reformers say have to be cleaned up.'

Poverty and excess would never leave London. St Giles remained a notorious slum into the 19th century, until it was finally knocked down to ease the congestion on London streets caused by the arrival of the railways.


Bernard Gui was Inquisitor in Toulousel 1307-1323. The medieval inquisition had been created during the reign of Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241). Its main technique was to extract confessions. Bernard describes the techniques used in interrogations.

"When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, "Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you."

I You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

A. (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

I You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

A. I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

I Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

A. I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

I I know your tricks. What the members of your sect believe you hold to be that which a Christian should believe. But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

A. I believe.

L Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

A. (Briskly) I believe.

I Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

A. Ought I not to believe this?

I I don't ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

A. I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

I Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

A I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

I. You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord,lesus Christ to be in the altar?

A. (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

I I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

A. And you, sir, do you not believe it?

L I believe it wholly.

A. I believe likewise.

L You believe that I believe it, which is not what I ask, but whether you believe it.

A. If you wish to interpret all that I say otherwise than simply and plainly, then I don't know what to say. I am a simple and ignorant man. Pray don't catch me in my words.

I. If you are simple, answer simply, without evasions.

A. Willingly.

I Will you then swear that you have never learned anything contrary to the faith which we hold to be true?

A. (Growing pale) If I ought to swear, I will willingly swear.

I I don't ask whether you ought, but whether you will swear.

A. If you order me to swear, I will swear.

I I don't force you to swear, because as you believe oaths to be unlawful, you will transfer the sin to me who forced you; but if you will swear, I will hear it.

A. Why should I swear if you do not order me to?

I So that you may remove the suspicion of being a heretic.

A. Sir, I do not know how unless you teach me.

. I. If I had to swear, I would raise my hand and spread my fingers and say, "So help me God, I have never learned heresy or believed what is contrary to the true faith."

Then trembling as if he cannot repeat the form, he will stumble along as though speaking for himself or for another, so that there is not an absolute form of oath and yet he may be thought to have sworn. If the words are there, they are so turned around that he does not swear and yet appears to have sworn.

Or he converts the oath into a form of prayer, as "God help me that I am not a heretic or the like"; and when asked whether he had sworn, he will say: "Did you not hear me swear?" [And when further hard pressed he will appeal, saying] "Sir, if I have done amiss in aught, I will willingly bear the penance, only help me to avoid the infamy of which I am accused though malice and without fault of mine."

But a vigorous inquisitor must not allow himself to be worked upon in this way, but proceed firmly till he make these people confess their error, or at least publicly abjure heresy, so that if they are subsequently found to have sworn falsely, he can without further hearing, abandon them to the secular arm".

Source: The Medieval Sourcebook
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17. Stingy in Teaching

A young physician in Tokyo named Kusuda met a college friend who had been studying Zen. The young doctor asked him what Zen was.

"I cannot tell you what it is," the friend replied, "but one thing is certain. If you understand Zen, you will not be afraid to die."

"That's fine," said Kusuda. "I will try it. Where can I find a teacher?"

"Go to the master Nan-in," the friend told him.

So Kusuda went to call on Nan-in. He carried a dagger nine and a half inches long to determine whether or not the teacher was afraid to die. When Nan-in saw Kusuda he exclaimed: "Hello, friend. How are you? We haven't seen each other for a long time!"

This perplexed Kusuda, who replied: "We have never met before."

"That's right," answered Nan-in. "I mistook you for another physician who is receiving instruction here."

With such a beginning, Kusuda lost his chance to test the master, so reluctantly he asked if he might receive instruction.

Nan-in said: "Zen is not a difficult task. If you are a physician, treat your patients with kindness. That is Zen."

Kusuda visited Nan-in three times. Each time Nan-in told him the same thing. "A physician should not waste time around here. Go home and take care of your patients."

It was not clear to Kusuda how such teaching could remove the fear of death. So on the forth visit he complained: "My friend told me that when one learns Zen one loses his fear of death. Each time I come here you tell me to take care of my patients. I know that much. If that is your so-called Zen, I am not going to visit you anymore."

Nan-in smiled and patted the doctor. "I have been too strict with you. Let me give you a koan." He presented Kusuda with Joshu's Mu to work over, which is the first mind-enlightening problem in the book called The Gateless Gate.

Kusuda pondered this problem of Mu (No-Thing) for two years. At length he thought he had reached certainty of mind. But his teacher commented: "You are not in yet."

Kusuda continued in concentration for another yet and a half. His mind became placid. Problems dissolved. No-Thing became the truth. He served his patients well and, without even knowing it, he was free from concern of life and death.

Then he visited Nan-in, his old teacher just smiled.

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Chaos is the score upon which reality is written 

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