Meeting Evil with Mercy

Meeting Evil with Mercy

An Anglican priest's bold answer to atrocity - reflections upon the ministry of Martin Israel

At a time of great turbulence, this book offers solace and insight into the root causes of sorrow and violence.


Meeting Evil with Mercy tells the absorbing story of Martin Israel, a Jewish doctor turned Christian priest, who always emphasised the sanctity of life and the sacrament of the present moment. His testimony of mercy is of the greatest value in today's troubled world, living as it does under the shadow of terrorist outrage, as Christians and other wartime refugees have fled savage persecution of the most appalling kind, giving rise to a migrant crisis in Europe of immense proportions.
In the face of such great suffering, hardly ever has there been a greater need for the soothing balm of reconciliation - yet total resolution of any crisis can never come without deep understanding of the true nature of sorrow. It will take the resolute qualities of courage and loving kindness by all people of goodwill to enable them to confront the full fury of their inner demons too, but it is vital that this is attempted, since to pacify these dark energies is to calm the outer world in which they find eventual expression in such brutal violence.
This is the unequivocal message of this heartening biography, which does not evade disturbing aspects of conflict and evil, but instead offers profound hope of enduring peace through calm reflection, heartfelt prayer and decisive action.


There are some Christian teachers who, for reasons hard to define, attract an unusual personal following. One thinks of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom in the Orthodox tradition; Frank Lake, another Anglican psychotherapist, and Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones in the reformed tradition. The grateful students of such teachers sometimes become disciples. Martin Israel drew that kind of following, and Philip Pegler, who personally owes much to him, is of their company. That is not a criticism of his work - Pegler does not skate over his subject’s foibles - but it does perhaps explain the tenor of the book. Dedicated to the memory of a possibly saintly and certainly extremely complicated man, it is sometimes almost devotional in tone. And none the worse for that. (excerpt from a review in the January 2018 issue of The Way magazine) ~ John Pridmore, The Way magazine

This compelling portrait of Martin Israel's life as a priest, surgeon and counsellor by Philip Pegler is not only beautifully written, but it burns with an empathy and wisdom that is tangible. In the nature of so many world teachers, Israel didn't have an easy beginning to life as his parents, particularly his father, had little time or patience with him. This sense of rejection, together with his early background living in Johannesburg eclipsed by its uncomfortable apartheid regime, must have precipitated his passage into a spiritual ministry.. Despite Israel's depressive breakdowns and despair which were steadily eroding his sense of self, all this served to inform his work as a minister.... Philip Pegler, no stranger to psychiatric problems himself in his younger days, has a genuine empathy with Israel's life which is distinct... yet at all times remains very much in the background of the work. Tirelessly, Israel utilises his own experience of 'Dark Nights' to fashion a light to shine and bring insight to others in their personal and collective struggles. We learn from the author just how courageous this priest was to work so closely with the crushing difficulties we confront throughout our life... Israel never undermines the power and importance of the potential of dark arid times to birth light. In this Israel holds a candle to all that we fear and shows us the way forward. And, that way comes through honesty, forgiveness and love. The thing that stands out more than anything is the intrinsic value of uncertainty, loss, doubt and depression to bring insight to our often inexorable problems... ~ Stephanie Sorrell, New Vision

Small Outing with Big Result - Woolbeding Concert and book reading The 17th September saw me peddling precariously to All Hallows along the back road from Easebourne to a special afternoon event, not knowing quite what to expect. On arrival there was just a handful of people in the church, but as time passed more members of the community arrived. The whole experience was both profound and delightful. The music chosen was performed by two highly professional and wonderful musicians and suitably complemented the readings from Philip Pegler's 'Meeting Evil with Mercy'. Having read the book, it was not difficult to become absorbed by the proceedings and appreciate the messages contained with the writings. The afternoon proved to be an unexpected delight. Thank you to all concerned. ~ Jean Hicks, Envoy - Midhurst and Woolbeding Parish Magazine

"Meeting Evil With Mercy An Anglican priest's bold answer to atrocity by Philip Pegler John Hunt Publishing Ltd Christian Alternative Christian, Religion & Spirituality Pub Date 24 Jun 2016 | I was given a copy of Meeting Evil with Mercy through the publisher and their partnership in Netgalley for my honest review which is as follows: In this book the author reminds us that though their is pain and suffering their is also a great compacity for love. This book points out too that if an author feels the need to shelter behind someone's philosophy and convictions that is probably because they are still in the process of creating their own. The book points out that in 1995 Martin Israel embarked on his career as an Christian writer. Meeting Evil With Mercy reflects on the Life and Teachings of Christian Author and Anglican priest Martin Israel. If you enjoy Christian biographies I think you'll enjoy this book. Five out of five stars Happy Reading" ~ VIA NETGALLEY, Netgalley

Meeting Evil with Mercy is not only an excellent prescription for the evils of our present world, it may also be read as a ‘How to’ book on how spiritual growth really can and does happen in people of the twenty-first century. Towards the end of his incarnate life Martin Israel spoke and wrote of the need for an increasing dialogue between the Christian and Buddhist understandings of our world. Mr Pegler’s Buddhist background is the most helpful – I would say essential – contribution to promoting Martin’s universalistic teachings. Along with all the Christian mystics, Martin knew that God is love, all love, absolute love and that He is endlessly working to love the hell out of His creation. In Meeting Evil with Mercy the commonly held understanding of Good versus Evil, God vs. Satan is replaced with the more realistic view of ‘good and evil together’(see Isaiah 45:7). The long term practice of paying attention to the present moment in silence, together with contemplative prayer, will show one the interplay of our own inner light and darkness. Not struggling against negative forces, but enfolding them in love and prayer will lead to right insight, understanding and their acceptance. Darkness may then be seen as a fertile medium for growth. We may discover that life is undivided, evil is sheer ignorance of natural law and that sin is divided consciousness. Individually and collectively, we are to traverse the events of Holy Week and in that order. Only after crucifixion may resurrection happen. Or in Martin’s own words from About Death, p.37: ‘It is man’s privilege to traverse the path of suffering to self-realization in Christ: through the crucifixion of our lower nature that same nature is finally resurrected in glory, and corruptible matter is transfigured in eternal spirit.’ Meeting Evil with Mercy is a profoundly important and practical book. It deserves to be read and studied by every preacher and by anyone interested in the interior life and life’s vissisitudes. ~ Revd Neil Broadbent , Sozein Trust

Once in a while a book comes along that is so profoundly out of the ordinary that it lends valuable support to a reader's spiritual quest along life's pathway. This biography outlines the absorbing story of Martin Israel, a Jewish doctor turned Christian priest, who always emphasised the sanctity of life and the sacrament of the present moment. His quietly forthright message of reconciliation, first articulated 40 years ago, still holds great relevance in today's troubled world as we face up to the dark menace of violent religious fundamentalism not just in far-off countries but in our very midst... In Martin Israel's presence there was a feeling that he was 'fresh' in every moment - pure, clean and uncluttered - and this brought a sense of freedom of spech and open-mindedness to any conversation. His piercing blue eyes locked in and he listened without a grain of judgement, simply with a pure, open heart and with the tenderness of a new-born baby... it was all-encompassing. How fortunate we are to have people in our midst who have dared to serch for the meaning of life... they are tose who have taken responsibility for themselves and have been curious enough to want to know that life may not be all that it might appear. Author Philip Pegler has taken extracts from Martin's talks, which re valuable pointers and may navigate us towards understanding our essential self. How few people there are who dare to look within and go to those darkest places where there is not a trace of light but where there is a sense of uncertainty, where the pain is so immense and unknown. Pegler understood it perfectly and conveys it with strength and understanding. He too has known what it feels like to be in despair and he understood Israel, who had experienced so much pain and loneliness throughout his life... We are all part of the conditioned mind - but Martin merged with the pain and love where the ground was neutral and nothing existed other than the moment. This book reveals profound truths that can open the mind to new understandings. By changing your mind, you can open yourself up to new horizons. This book is full of gems and treasures. ~ Marina Cowdray, Caduceus Journal

It would be impossible to give justice to the book under review in the space of one page. This is a book that would interest lapsed Christians for its subject: the life of a Jew born in South Africa in 1927 is revealing as to how a Christian life can be lived and what it means to be a Christian in an age where religion is openly disparaged in the West... The bare bones of his life are unusual and he was an unusual man. He was that rare creature: a person of his convictions. He was intellectually acute and not at all naive about the world and its challenges. His integrity was unquestioned and his ability to reach out in compassionate understanding were superlative. He was a doctor of the soul. The book is ostensibly about Israel's life and his spiritual evolution. One of the principal themes of this book is about evil, what it is and how one faces it in all its unalloyed virulence. In this modern age we ridicule the idea of evil as an independent force but recent events with the rise and imminent fall of ISIS reveal our so-called enlightened view is negligent to say the least. There is evil in the world and before we can overcome it we are obliged to recognise its potency to harm and destroy. Martin Israel does not dismiss evil but embraces it knowing that truth will prevail... For those of us who cannot quite comprehend why there is evil in the world, this book is a finely written account of one who was fearless in the face of darkness and understood its power. ~ Christopher Quilkey, Mountain Path Journal

For me, it is both the incredible relevance and urgent summons which mark out this well-crafted book for a wide readership in today's dark and deeply troubled world, where the perilous forces of evil are only all too evident, no less today than during Martin Israel's lifetime and frequently and ironically in the name of religion...I cannot commend this book too highly for its challenge and relevance for the church, as well as for the world at large. ~ Michael Marshall, Assistant Bishop of London

'I absolutely love what you have written. It is very special indeed and I know Martin would love it. You write so well and so clearly...and you frame Martin's character perfectly. Furthermore your book gives articulate expression to the fundamental conviction by which he lived - that despite every appearance to the contrary in our troubled world, ultimately all shall be well... ~ Marina, Viscountess Cowdray, close family friend of the late Martin Israel

This book is a real treasure... What a beautiful and sensitive way the author interprets the work of the late Anglican priest, Martin Israel. In this careful study of his life, Philip Pegler offers a compelling and meditative template for our time - and these searing, beautiful and honest meditations anchor the soul to what is real and true... I feel sad that I never met Martin Israel, but I feel deepened by such a skilful rendition of his words. ~ Stephanie Sorrel, author

Through dedicated contemplation of the wise teachings of Martin Israel and the application of that wisdom in his own life, Philip Pegler has written a book that offers all of us an answer to the horror of atrocity we are faced with within our world - and ultimately within ourselves. Philip's insightful and tender account of a man, who not only taught a rare courage, but lived it with resolute faith and trust and the author's skillful guidance and demonstration of how we may apply these timeless teachings, calls to those who find themselves despairing at the darkness in our midst. Like a beacon in the night, this book lights the way ahead for us and I would highly recommend it to anyone who sincerely seeks an answer to the often incomprehensible atrocities we witness in our world on an almost daily basis. ~ Mike Jenkins, author and writer

For anyone interested in a Christian response to the problem of evil, Philip Pegler's book gives us a searching look at the life of Martin Israel, who was born into a prosperous Jewish family, left his native South Africa to become a doctor in London, converted to Christianity and was ordained as an Anglican priest in his forties. His personal passage through darkness and despair and his extraordinarily early mystic experiences made him an authoritative counsellor for the 'perplexed, the harassed and the fearful'. His ministry spoke directly to the heart of Philip, who had suffered his own 'dark night of the soul' - and the radical teaching that the only enduring answer to atrocity is to 'bid evil welcome' is balm to those, who,like the author, wonder whether the fierce heat of authentic experience can indeed bear good fruit... ~ Etain Addey, ecologist and author

Your book is full of provoking thought and experience - I have a strong sense that your reward will be in the honour you have done to Martin Israel and indeed to your own story, while you have faithfully represented his spiritual journey and teaching. Certainly I have an impression of him as an original and humble (different from falsely modest) searcher after truth, who bore witness with integrity. ~ Charles Becker, psychotherapist and writer

Philip Pegler
Philip Pegler Philip's grandfather was a celebrated English publisher before the Second World War and he grew up immersed in the world of books, before ev...
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