“So much for Christian charity! Plymouth Brethren lose battle for tax relief because ‘they’re doing no public good’” is a recent article from the Daily Mail UK.
“MPs say the Plymouth Brethren have been discriminated against because they are a highly private group who prefer not to talk publicly about their good works. The MPs spoke out after Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said he was ‘very concerned’ about the warning to Christian groups and called for a ‘strong fight’ to resist the secular drift of rulings from the Charity Commission.
A commission spokesman said: ‘We received an application for registration from the Preston Down Trust, a Brethren meeting hall.
‘The application from the Trust could not be accepted based on the information we received at the time, as we were unable to conclude that the organisation is established for the advancement of religion for public benefit within the relevant charity law.” [via]
You can read a bit more from one particular perspective on this sect at The Plymouth Brethren from The World’s Tragedy by Aleister Crowley.
“The religious movement which obtained this name through the sudden and enormous success of an evangelistic crusade at Plymouth in its early days was started in Ireland.
It was an aristocratic and intellectual movement. John Nelson Darby, a learned man of good family, reasoned thus:
The Bible is the Word of God.
If its literal interpretation is once abandoned, the whole structure crashes to earth.
This it will be seen is identically the Catholic position, save that for “literal” Rome reads “Ecclesiastical”. Darby, too, found himself forced into the practical admission that “literal” meant Darbeian; for some of the more obvious contradictions and absurdities in the Bible are too necessary to the practical side of religion to be ignored.
Seeing this, they devised an elaborate system of mental water-tight compartments. The contradictions of Old and New Testament were solved by a Doctrine that what was sauce for the Jewish “Dispensation” was not necessarily sauce for the Christian “Dispensation”. Cleverer than Luther, they made possible the Epistle of James by a series of sophisms which really deserve to be exposed as masterpieces of human self-deception. My space forbids.
So, despite all the simplicity of the original logical position, they were found shifting as best they might from compromise to compromise. But this they never saw themselves; and so far did they take their principle that my father would refuse to buy railway shares because railways were not mentioned in the Bible! Of course the practice of finding a text for everything means ultimately “I will do as I like”, and I suspect my father’s heroics only meant that he thought a slump was coming.
Their attitude to human reason, too, was simply wonderful.” [via]
As the movement was a major part of Aleister Crowley’s upbringing and intellectual development as a child, I find it interesting to read about the Plymouth Brethren, past and present. Personally, I’ve find myself speculating from time to time on how and where these very same criticized traits might be suppressed influences, genetics one might say metaphorically, which could be expressed and resurface as pitfalls in the ongoing development of Thelema. Thelema in some ways can be seen, and I’ve used this kind of history to self-interrogate my own involvement and experience, at the very least in part, as a specific reaction to, and thus heavily influenced by, the experience of Aleister Crowley within that Plymouth Brethren movement.