I can’t remember when or how I first met Gordon Strachan, who has sadly recently died in Edinburgh. But let me offer my first and last memory of him: sitting in a cafe in Kew Gardens village one Indian Summer evening – perhaps in September or October – in the sun, eating stawberries. Gordon had sent me his contribution to The Druid Renaissance (re-published as The Rebirth of Druidry) and was worried that he wasn’t sufficiently confident of his work. He had written an essay that built on the theory that Jesus had spent his silent years in Glastonbury. Having recently read The Druid Prince which proposed that ‘Pete Bog’ had been a voluntary Druid sacrifice, Gordon suggested that Jesus might have learned about the idea of human sacrifice while studying with the Druids here. I teased him that this would anger not only Christians who would surely dislike the thought that Jesus’ sacrifice might have been motivated by Pagan ideas, but also contemporary Druids who have always tried to distance themselves from the image of blood-thirsty ancestors. It was a sort of lose/lose theory. We laughed about this and came to the conclusion that doubting one’s own theories is a sign of humility. As Jung or Van der Post said: the most dangerous man is the one who is convinced he is right.
And my last image, many years later: of Gordon beneath a great oak tree beside the river Arun in Sussex, taking part in an inter-faith celebration of the summer solstice, part-Druidic, part-Christian. Again we see the two streams of inspiration that seemed so important to him, and which he wrote about in his book Jesus the Master Builder: Druid Mysteries and the Dawn of Christianity.
Recently Gordon helped to produce a film, ‘And Did Those Feet’, based on his book. It was premiered at the British Film Institute and received worldwide publicity, with headlines such as ‘Was Jesus Taught By The Druids Of Glastonbury? New Film Claims It Is Possible He Came To England.’ Reuters newswire chose a less serious way to announce the news: ‘Did Jesus Headline Glastonbury Before Springsteen?’ (a reference to the ‘Glastonbury’ music Festival).
Gordon was a fine, thoughtful, warm and considerate man and I’m sorry he is no longer with us. Here is an excerpt from his obituary in The Scotsman:
Appreciation: Gordon Strachan by ANDREW GILMORE
Minister with a modern approach to philosophy
Born: 24 January, 1934, in Cheam.
Died: 14 July, 2010, in Edinburgh, aged 76.
Gordon Strachan was a remarkable combination of a radical thinker and teacher and a Church of Scotland minister, whose imaginative and fearless approach to esoteric and spiritual matters influenced and inspired an extensive circle of friends and admirers.
His controversial, even maverick, theories were not always welcomed by conventional university or church colleagues, but his unprejudiced and generous attitude to our mythological past opened the minds of many of his students and readers to fresh insights into religion and philosophy.
His determined enquiry into doctrines such as astrology and gematria, and his profound respect for all religious faiths demonstrated that such an attitude, far from destroying one’s own faith, is a means of informing and strengthening it. He had a puckish and, at times, ironic, sense of humour which enlivened his teaching… From an early age Gordon had loved art, and after New College he obtained a scholarship to study art and theology in Israel. This was when he developed his distinctive style of cosmic elemental pictures, imbued with theological and cosmological themes.
After he and Elspeth married in 1979 they both took a sabbatical and wrote books. Elspeth has written one, Freeing the Feminine, and Gordon wrote six in all: The Pentecostal Theology of Edward Irving; Christ and the Cosmos; Jesus the Master Builder; Chartres; The Return of Merlin and Prophets of Nature.