As I have indicated, I tend to think of the start of the World War 2 period as being the 26th September 1938, and I have included in Chapter 4 a few diary notes I made at the time. I worked very hard at college and during my early army days, and I simply had no spare energy for diary writing. I have recorded something of my life at university and on early radar work in other chapters.
All this time my outlook on life was developing, as it does during one’s teens and early twenties. Whilst she had control of such matters I was brought up by my mother as a church-going ‘Christian’, and to this was added my early sympathy for the natural world. I actually subscribed to a monthly journal called ‘The Nature Lover’ from about 1934 to 1937, and read it avidly from cover to cover. During this period, it is probably true that because I saw how unfairly the scales were balanced I would, had it been within my power, have happily disposed of mankind in favour of wildlife. As it was I had to content myself with being a vegetarian for three years and a pacifist for about a year.
Although in this pre-war period I was as near to being a Christian sensu strictu as I have ever been, I did still have my reservations, particularly about the details of what I was increasingly seeing as the somewhat arcane mythology to which Christians are required to subscribe. When the time came for me to be confirmed, at about age 16, I held back, although all the others in my circle and of my age group proceeded to confirmation. I told Mr Fenn, the minister of my mother’s church whom I greatly respected, that I did not feel mature enough to make a decision about such an important matter, and I would rather wait a few years. I had decided that if on reflection I opted to cast in my lot with the Christians, my view of the Christian message was that it was so uncompromising as to leave no alternative but to forgo worldly matters and become a missionary.
At about this time I had a number of what I can only describe as numinous experiences, usually involving still summer evenings at sunset. On these occasions, I felt myself to be so totally part of the cosmos as to be indistinguishable from it, and my sense of selfhood diminished to a point at which I felt it immaterial whether I were to live or die. It was clear to me that this type of experience was the basis of religious sentiment, but what was not clear was how it linked in with any particular anthropomorphised mythology.
Despite my reservations, I joined the Student Christian Movement when I started at University College London in September 1938, and I strove to read Christian books from the Movement’s library. I met a number of very earnest people, whom I can only describe as spiritually beautiful – and one or two were physically not too bad either. However, I became separated from my SCM friends…