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June 2020

Remembering Paul Hodgkins


Photo above from August 2006, originally taken for the RSCT program brochure. Paul said that someone came to his course just to see for himself how there could possibly be such a serious person (judging by this photo in the program brochure). Of course, Paul was not an entirely serious person. When he was sick but still going out to things earlier this year, he had a good answer for people who asked him how he was doing. He told them about a man who had fallen from an upper floor in a tall building, and as he went past the window on each floor, the people on that floor would ask how he was doing, and he could honestly say that at that moment he was just fine. And that's the analogy Paul used to explain how he was. Paul's funeral was last Thursday June 25th, just for the family. At the funeral the Rev. Jonah Evans gave the eulogy which is printed below.

Born at an Early Age

Once, when Paul was asked to tell his autobiography, he answered: “Well…I was born at a very early age but I can’t remember a thing about it…” 

Paul John Hodgkins was born on January 31, 1947 in Wolverhampton near Birmingham, England, into a working class family. He had two brothers.  He described himself as having been a dreamy child.  Although he didn’t like school very much, he completed his education at a quality Catholic boys’ school. 

His first job was for the British government in London. This didn’t last long, however, because at age 19 Paul was inspired to move to Canada together with a good friend. His Canadian life started in Red Lake ON with a job working in a gold mine. He made a lot of money. He spent a lot of money. But to Paul, neither money nor career were very interesting.

In on the Ground Floor at IBM

Paul was not renowned for his technological capacities. In fact if anyone of you ever tried to e-mail Paul, you might be tempted to call him technologically handicapped. However, this didn’t stop him from getting a job at IBM in Toronto in those early years. And even though he considered this a place on the cutting edge of technological development, one day Paul just quit. He didn’t have a plan, but knew that that job was destroying his soul. After that he had a string of jobs, including work at Canadian Tire, in health food stores and teaching Tai Chi.

It was during this time in Toronto that Paul met Simone Liche. They quickly became a pair and, since she was from Quebec, they moved to Montreal. That is where his first son, Philip, was born. After a brief time back in Toronto, where Paul found Rudolf Steiner’s work in a book store, the small family moved to Ottawa.  There Paul did some Waldorf teacher training and then took a class all the way through 8th grade. During this time, Simone and Paul decided it was best to part ways. 

After his separation from Simone, a connection started growing between Paul and Susan Richard. Eventually their families joined. Thus Paul became a father of three, with the addition of Will and Evelyn. Shortly after this Susan became pregnant with Charlotte. Paul then finished graduating his grade 8 class and they decided to move back to Toronto so that Philip could continue attending the Waldorf High School there. 

From Ottawa to Toronto

The move back was both challenging and filled with blessing. Challenging because Paul was unable to get a teaching position at the Toronto Waldorf School. Blessing because at this time their youngest child, Beatrice, was born.

Still inspired to be a Waldorf teacher, Paul took up a position at the Halton school. However, after only a few years, the commute became too strenuous. 

Arlene Thorn, who at that time was involved in the Rudolf Steiner Centre, not only encouraged Paul more and more to take up teaching anthroposophy to adults, she was also able to find a way to help Paul and Susan financially, so that their children could finish their Waldorf education. But Arlene was not the only one sent to help Paul find his destiny. In Paul’s own words he said…

           “I got a call from Timothy Cox, who was working for the Steiner Centre at the time, asking if I would give a course on the Philosophy of Freedom.  I don’t know how he knew our group was studying that book.  Just the day before he called, I had decided on the one hand I was not free, and on the other hand I was filled to overflowing with useless knowledge.  I had put aside all my other belief systems – Plato, science Catholicism, Buddhism – I had replaced all these with a huge anthroposophical belief system, but I was still not really free in my thinking.  In a sense I had my leg over the balcony.  When Timothy asked if you would provide three mornings on the Philosophy of Freedom, I immediately said yes!  I don’t know what I was thinking!  I put the phone down and thought: “What have I done?”  So then I had to study the book intensely.  Through this work, I had an awakening.  I became aware of myself as a spiritual being.  To cut a long story short, I gave the course and became famous overnight.  Who would be so stupid to give a course on the Philosophy of Freedom? It was the book no one understood.  So that was it."  

Foundation Studies at the RSCT

Then I began teaching adults more and more.  Wendy Brown, who had just started Foundation Studies at the Steiner Centre, asked me if I would come in one morning and talk about the Philosophy of Freedom.  So I did that.  In the following year she asked me to join the steering committee for the Foundation Studies program at the Steiner Centre.  The committee met every week to form the course.  I became a key figure in it over time.”

And this was his gift. He touched many lives. For the next 20 years, Paul would cultivate his love of anthroposophy by helping many, many individuals find a relationship to this spiritual science. Paul loved teaching: he was a true teacher. He loved anthroposophy. He was a “philosopher of freedom”.

He had a knack for making the complex digestible; for helping us to see what is hidden in the spirit; for turning deep truths into pictures and imaginations that filled our souls.

We might be surprised to know this, but Paul was also quite a homemaker. He loved to cook, was even territorial when it came to ‘his kitchen’. When the babies were young, it was Paul who would go to them in the night. Paul made lunches, cleaned, drove the kids everywhere they needed to go, while Susan worked all hours to support the family. Paul was truly kind, patient and generous. And when he found something worth understanding, he would carry it in his mind until, with persistence and patience he would grasp what he did not understand. 

His children remember the long phone conversations, loving them through patient interest in their lives. 

Love flows both ways. Staff at the funeral home remarked that there were no bedsores on Paul’s body. This was because Will and Beatrice would take turns getting up all through the night to change Paul’s position. 

A Homemaker and a Philosopher-King

And even though Paul was a homemaker and a kind of philosopher-king, whose knightly countenance showed so clearly in the way he looked in the casket, Paul also struggled. He struggled constantly with procrastination. He had struggled to find a place in this strange world until he became a teacher at the Rudolf Steiner Centre. He struggled with financial stress for most of his life. In his own words, Paul said about his weaknesses…

       “I am totally okay with dying. But I am not so okay with being dead. I will have to meet myself and my immorality clearly in the face, along with my lack of awakeness. In the spiritual world after death, you eventually meet spiritual beings who think in you. You see your life from their point of view. The more awake you can be in that process the better. I don’t think I am going to be very awake there. I have experienced quite a bit of self-loathing recently—not in a morbid way; I am not morbid about it all. I am willing to take on my karma. I am willing to try to make up for what I have done wrong and I am willing to bear that to the best of my ability, even if it is painful. But I know from experience that I am not always going to do that. I can look back on my life and I can see where I have opted out of the right thing to do. Every case of immorality is an attempt to avoid consciousness of the spiritual. There has been a lot of petty immorality in my life – petty, little selfish thoughts and actions. Lying and stuff like that. Most of us do these things. When I sit and think of them, I see they add up and add up. There has been an entire lifetime of them.”

As many know, Paul had a difficult relationship to Christianity for most of his life, especially as a young person. He grew up Catholic but could never come to terms with what felt to him like anti-human and oppressive dogma that stifled his intelligence and sense of freedom. He couldn’t bear the inauthentic quality of many of the priests and nuns. 

Like St. Paul

But like St. Paul, his past did not prevent him from a real encounter with the Being of Christ Jesus as a young man. In his own words he remembers, “My father had rheumatoid arthritis and as it became clear that he was approaching death, I thought about Eastern gurus who took on the pains or illnesses of their students out of compassion. I was walking down the street wishing I could help my father. I thought about taking on his suffering. But to my surprise, I found that I didn’t have the compassion. I didn’t really want to take on his pain—his physical suffering—on myself. I was horrified to admit this to myself. In that moment, there was this spiritual figure present, who, as I had known of all my life, took on the suffering of the world, and that was the Christ. It was as though the sky was filled with Christ…Christ wearing a crown of thorns and then it was as though I heard…well I didn’t actually hear a voice…but what came to me was: “Stop seeking in any direction but this one.”  

Paul found this real encounter with the living Christ Jesus before he met anthroposophy, through the suffering of his father. Christ then guided him to finding anthroposophy in order to help him understand who Christ was through thinking. Then, toward the end of his life, Paul found Christ anew in sacrament, in prayer and in devotional community.

He began his relationship with The Christian Community in a destiny-filled conversation where he asked me: “So what makes The Christian Community different from the Catholic church?” Spontaneously, I responded that The Christian Community sees no value in an unfree compliance with moral rules. I said that only freely coming to Christ, freely finding morality was of any worth to God. I said this was the foundation of the only religious movement that was inspired by anthroposophy.

That was the year that Paul had a profound experience of Christ at the Christmas midnight service. For the next three years he and Susan would barely miss a service. And I will never forget his eyes and face when giving him communion. Looking into his eyes at that intimate moment of communion, I saw a human soul aware of his brokenness and at the same time aware that Christ was touching him with unfathomable love. He knew Christ was there, present in and through the priest. And the depth in which Paul knew the reality behind the Sacrament became clear just recently. Paul said to me in our last intimate conversation that now that his mind and body were weakening, even failing, he had the experience that the Act of Consecration was a foundation for his life. He said to me ‘The words from the altar hold me up. Now that my body is breaking down, it has opened me to the experience that the consecration service is my strength to stand’.  This finding Christ in a community of devoted souls would deepen still.

Visitation in Hanoi

For it was in a strange hospital in Hanoi that Paul would have the most profound experience of the community of Christ in his life. Christ came to him as he lay in his hospital bed. He spoke to him. He impressed on Paul’s heart that even the least of us is loved and supported. He communicated to Paul that he is gathering a community with the help of his messenger Rudolf Steiner, gathering a community of souls that in the next few incarnations will need to take up a tremendous battle. This will be a battle with the forces of materialism that are growing ever stronger. That community will need to take up a struggle with adversarial beings that would try to convince us that the material world is all there is. Human beings will need to battle the picture that self-interest is the only force of real motivation; that the spiritual the spiritual world is unreal; and that all we really need is to solve our worldly suffering and make enjoying earthly pleasures and comforts the goal. 

This was Paul’s most important teaching for us: that there is such a thing as real community, such a thing as real hope. That the forces of materialism are not stronger than Christ. For he learned through experience that even death cannot stop Christ Jesus from gathering more and more human hearts into himself.

Dear friends and family. We loved Paul. I loved Paul. He was my friend. But more important than that, Paul was a true Christian and continues to be one. He lived his name. For Paul means ‘the small one’. He lived this smallness by knowing that by himself he could not become himself. He was small because he knew the true one, the great one, He knew that we cannot become ourselves unless we invite the being of love into our hearts. 

Paul’s middle name was John. He also lived this name. As St. John experienced the future described in his Book of Revelation, the future of humanity in Christ, so our dear Paul John also received a picture of our future- the future work to struggle against darkness as a community.

May your spirit, dear Paul, continue to inspire us. May your light continue to strengthen our community and give us hope. 

In honour of Paul's passing, we've dug up a few old photos of him from the archives to share with everybody:

Above: another photo of Paul from 2006

Above: Paul in the forest playground at the Toronto Waldorf School

Above and below: Paul playing the flute at the Village Market

Below: evidence that Paul did smile once, back in the year 2000.

The next photo is with Paul and Susan's daughter Beatrice, who has taken the last several months off from her usual life in Regina Saskatchewan to come home and help take care of her father.

Above: Paul playing music with Beatrice at a Hesperus festival in probably the late 1990s.

Above: Paul with his wife Susan, at the Village Market, where they would often play music on the Saturday before Christmas, which was one of the few Saturdays during the school year when Paul was not busy teaching Foundation Studies at the RSCT. Photo circa 2010.

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