American Grace: The Eightfold Kingdom Within by Carol Robinson (Review)

The Eightfold Kingdom Within: Essays on the Beatitudes and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost by Carol Robinson

There are many times when one speaks automatically or resorts to cliché.

But, other times, one may feel so deeply moved that one aches to find just the right words . . .

I feel such aching now, as I prepare to review this book by Carol Robinson.

The Eightfold Kingdom Within is the second in a series of her collected works from Arouca Press, who are re-introducing her to the world, after decades of obscurity.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the first in the series (here). It was a rave review. Indeed, someone on Facebook called it a ‘textbook rave review’.

But I don’t want to sound like a textbook now. I ache to say something as real as I know how.

For me, Arouca Press has done more than re-publish her great work. More, because they have introduced me to a dead friend— one whom, I trust, I shall have for life. (Most of my best friends are dead people, such as the great Hilaire Belloc who brings such insight and consolation to my soul.)

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I read these words, written sixty years ago, by an American laywoman in New York City who obviously knew this world very well, but also knew how to be not of this world.

Here is perhaps her greatest strength: an acute capacity to analyse to the corrupt core of the Capitalist world—alongside a living contemplative nature that knows how to navigate that world, avoiding its clutches.

This is an unusual mix! And it shines through every page of this short, beautiful volume.

One moment, she not only reveals just how bad secular Capitalism truly is for our souls, but also why it is bad—excavating its deceitful foundations.

The next moment, she speaks about how the gifts of the Holy Ghost may guide and inspire us each step of the way.

Again: help us navigate, find our way in the darkness that surrounds . . .

There is inexpressible authenticity here. Clearly, Robinson experienced the Sanctifying Grace of the Miracle of the Church and walked the Catholic way, not in a cloister, but in the grit, grime and sheer, blaring noise of New York City.

In other words, there is a searing deconstruction of the modern world, accompanied by an intense affirmation of the interior Christian life.

This is my favourite of the three volumes published so far. It is from 1962 and Robinson, now in her fifties, is noticeably older and more mature than in the earlier books, written in her thirties. (And what stunning, original books from a woman only in her thirties!)

What can I say? There is wisdom here. Also a fiery spirit of inspiration. Considerable erudition is transparent—as well a razor-sharp intellect dissecting secular lies.

And on top of that, real eloquence! The book is filled with things well-said, often in a stream of frank, pithy observations given in a very American, no-nonsense manner.

Behind these, however, lie depths of soulfulness that might just be missed, if you did not listen carefully.

Do listen carefully, if you read her. She is worth careful attention.

What else can I say? This. I am an American, who has lived in Europe for most of the last four decades. Reading Robinson, I recognise someone unmistakably American—and who radiates all that is best in the American spirit.

Her appeal is universal, I think, and I pray people all over the world might rediscover her. Yet I also believe her uniquely American voice might offer America, in particular, a living flame of inspiration in these deeply troubling times.

To buy this book you can either find it here at Arouca Press or go to the great devouring Amazon that Robinson would have undoubtedly deplored. (And if I seem hypocritical in pointing to Amazon, I can only say that, sadly, small Catholic publishing could not survive without it. Such is the painful dilemma of our times.)

The Great Carol Jackson Robinson

Video from Roger Buck

A video about what happens when you mix Chesterton, Belloc, Charles de Gaulle, GAFA, Ireland, France with Margaret Thatcher’s devastation of Britain, the Jam and ‘A Town Called Malice’ …

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