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Letter from Maidstone
In this original illustration, Ralph Steadman depicts his architectural concept for the Cathedragogue.Image: Ralph Steadman · SUBSCRIPTION SAMPLECLICK TO ENLARGE
Please to note this modest proposal to the planning authorities of Maidstone:
CATHEDRAGOGUE — A request for outline Planning permission to develop a private site project, incorporating all architectural styles through the ages. One which has to begin in the mind by its very scope and nature, before it can move forward towards a reality.
Outline Planning permission for development of the site is required to establish a spiritual centre, a multi-denominational church — a "Cathedragogue," to welcome all faiths in a spirit of mutual understanding, including the Buddhist, atheistic, agnostic and secular. Based on the premise that if there is a God, i.e. not a God of flesh and blood, but as human beings, the God we must all perceive to be the same one and only God, worshipped by all, or not, in the case of non-believers. How this manifests itself in our myriad ways on Earth cannot alter the nature of this omnipotent Being, acknowledged creator of the Universe, of which we are all a part.
It appears to me that our world is riven with strife and decimation caused by religious bigotry, including political extremism, ideological cant and economic domination, specifically Capitalism, which in itself is the fervent religion worshipped with far more zeal than most other religions put together. Though gold was never the currency of the soul, I believe it has become such a perverse reality.
My project in no way seeks to stir unrest or resentment, as has been demonstration in single faith institutions practicing exclusion. On the contrary, my idea, my intention, my dream! is to engender harmony and understanding as a genuine attempt to sow the seeds of a new perception of how our world can learn to live in Peace.
I realise that my plan comes in the wake of the recently completed Fremlins Walk Shopping Mall in the very heart of Maidstone, where all planners must be exhausted, horrified and full of remorse for what they have wrought in the name of Mammon and the good of our community; but here is a way to absolve the troubled souls of all those who now feel tainted, rather than proud. Now, in hindsight, planners can dream of another kind of mall. The essential difference in this project is that lost souls in purgatory can go shopping through my mall for new and varied "pick 'n' mix" spiritual values that will surely help them to find themselves, along with a God that will more suit their purpose. This is a bigger dream, I know, a gargantuan task! — but if it should happen anywhere, why shouldn't it happen in Maidstone?
Dr. Ralph Steadman, D.Litt. Hons
Maidstone, Kent, United Kingdom
The Cathedragogue in context.Image: Ralph Steadman