The Monstering of Glenn Hoddle

In an excellent talk given to the ASGB 2014 Summer Conference by Alan Swindell (principal of the Steiner Academy Exeter), he reminded us of what had happened to Glenn Hoddle when he expressed in an interview some thoughts on karma and reincarnation.

Those of you who are football fans (and even many who are not) will undoubtedly remember the sad fate of Glenn Hoddle. Hoddle had had a distinguished playing career at Tottenham, AS Monaco and as an England international and he followed this with considerable success as a manager at Swindon Town, as a player-manager at Chelsea and finally as the England manager from 1996 to 1999.

Glenn Hoddle with the faith healer Eileen Drewery. (Photo courtesy of The Sun.)

Glenn Hoddle with the faith healer Eileen Drewery. (Photo courtesy of The Sun.)

Hoddle, like all England managers, had his critics. One of the areas for criticism was his employment of a faith healer, Eileen Drewery, as part of the England coaching staff, something which led the tabloids to dub the England team “the Hod Squad”. On 30th January 1999, with England preparing for Euro 2000, Hoddle gave an interview to Matt Dickinson of The Times newspaper, in which he attempted to defend himself and his beliefs. He said:

 “My beliefs have evolved in the last eight or nine years, that the spirit has to come back again, that is nothing new, that has been around for thousands of years. You have to come back to learn and face some of the things you have done, good and bad. There are too many injustices around.”

“You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime. I have nothing to hide about that. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap.”

“You have to look at things that happened in your life and ask why. It comes around.”

This was of course a gift not only to rent-a-mouth politicians such as the sports minister Tony Banks, head of the Football Task Force David Mellor and prime minister Tony Blair, who immediately criticised his remarks but also to journalists who sensing an opportunity for a media witchhunt, called for Hoddle’s dismissal as England manager. The Football Association sacked Hoddle just three days later and this was welcomed by representatives of disabled groups, despite the work Hoddle had been doing on behalf of organisations helping disabled people. The BBC reported the sacking as ”More Bad Karma for Glenn Hoddle”.

So the lesson for anyone in public life was clear. The materialists have the monopoly on spiritual truth. It’s best not to have any beliefs other than atheism but if you must have, confine them to the conventional religions. Even with those, don’t embarrass yourself or others by speaking about them in public. And whatever you do, don’t mention karma or reincarnation – or your career will be over and you will face monstering by media.

In such a climate of opinion, those of us who think that anthroposophy has something to offer could be forgiven for keeping our heads below the parapet. Our views are seen as heretical in the prevailing orthodoxy.

However, I think that Glenn Hoddle was articulating something, however clumsily, that many people know instinctively and have a great need to express. At the same ASGB conference at which Alan Swindell spoke, I was leading a workshop on the theme: “Anthroposophy – Never An Ideology”, during the course of which I quoted from something Tarjei Straume had posted on his website:

 “Anthroposophy…is not really comparable to religious doctrines but more to scientific doctrines, say like the doctrine of heliocentrism that was introduced by Copernicus and Galileo in the 16th and 17th centuries – a theory that was officially prohibited by the Church in 1616 but is now so absorbed and widespread that anything that contradicts it is heresy. Thus it may be argued that the anthroposophical worldview is a relatively new heretical theory that may replace Copernicanism, Newtonianism, Darwinism and Einsteinism in the future.”

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