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Watch 2022 online sermons » Derek Prince » Derek Prince - Childhood

Derek Prince - Childhood

Derek Prince - Childhood
TOPICS: Derek Prince's Life Story

It shall be like a little stream, the little stream shall become a river, the river shall become a great river, the great river shall become a sea, the sea shall become a mighty ocean, and it shall be through thee. How thou must not know, thou canst not know, thou shalt not know. My earliest memories were on the steamer coming from India to Britain and when I was age five, must be in 1920. And I can vaguely remember my mother telling me not to climb on the various pieces of equipment on the deck. It was the tradition in those days that if you had solar topi you know what that is, solar helmet. When you left India you attached a cord to it and you trailed it in the wake of the ship. So I can vaguely remember doing that.

Well, I was in India because I was born there. I wasn’t given any options about that. I was born there because that’s where my mother was. My mother was there because my father was there. And my father was an officer in the Indian army. He was commissioned in what was then known as the Queen’s Own Madras Sappers and Miners, and we still have his commission, signed by Queen Victoria with her own hand. And he did the things that engineers do. Amongst other things he built a bridge somewhere, I think in Bangalore. And he really wasn’t a religious man, but something came over him and when he finished the bridge he had carved in it a verse from Genesis: He looked on all His works and saw that it was good. So, but as I say, he was not a religious man. He was a good man, but not a religious man.

I have very few other memories of India, but I have things they told me. In those days I spoke Hindustani as fluently as I spoke English. And we had several Indian servants, which was normal for white people in those days. And my father I think he had a wrong impression, but it was good to tease little boys. So one day I was eating a melon and he distracted my attention and took the melon away. And when I turned back there was no melon there. And the family records how I scolded all the Indian servants in Hindustani for taking my melon. But I really don’t think that’s the right way to bring up little boys. I think actually I became subject to anger which probably started at that particular point in my life. But my parents really were very good to me. Because my father was still serving in the army in India, of course, he would spend most of his time there. And my mother was with him most of the time, not all the time.

So I spent most of my early years with my grandparents. (That’s my mother’s parents.) And like everybody else in the family, my grandfather was a soldier. Served in World War I, and was Director General of Transports and Supplies in India in World War I. My whole family background really is in India. He was a good man; I would say a godly man. In those days people didn’t talk about religion. It was a personal business. But I came to realize later that both my grandfather and my grandmother were in their own ways, sincere believers. In fact, and I remember sometimes I would burst into my grandmother’s bedroom about seven o’clock in the evening and she was always on her knees praying. I’m sure she was praying for her grandson who had all sorts of potential problems.

In fact, I really have to say I think one of the great influences in my life was my grandmother’s prayers. I had then what was called a governess, which was a woman that came in and kind of did what my parents should have been doing. I had a succession of governesses. And then at age nine I was sent off to a preparatory school, what they call a prep school. There is quite a well-known photograph in the family of me about to go to prep school, suitably attired in the tweed suit with a waistcoat [a vest] and a bowler hat at the age of nine. God has equipped me academically. I was always top of the class. I was very keen on games, football, cricket especially.

At the age of thirteen I was entered for a scholarship examination for Eton. And I was successful and so at the age of thirteen I entered Eton as a scholar, and there were about 1100 pupils in those days, but there were 70 scholars. The number 70 was maintained exactly, because every year they took in 14 scholars, the top fourteen in the examination. Eton was in many ways a strange place. I mean there were a lot of rules. For the first year you weren't permitted to put your hands in your pocket. And until you reached a certain stage you were only allowed to walk on one side of the street. And you always wore, when you were tall enough, you wore a tailcoat for everything, except sports.

And I remember going to W.A. Stimpson, who was my tailor, and being measured for my tailcoat. And you know I paid the tremendous sum of seven pounds for a completely tailored suit including the waistcoat. Eton was a very strange place. It was extremely snobbish. It was so snobbish that you didn’t have to appear snobbish, if you can understand what I mean. You just took it for granted. The education was in its own way tremendous. I mean... There was a proportion of one teacher to every twelve students. It was taken for granted you would study Latin and Greek. Anybody who’s educated always did. There was no alternative that I know of.

I remember before I was, let’s say at the age of fourteen, I was expected to be able to write verse in Latin and Greek, and translate English poetry into Latin and Greek. You might say, well, what was the use of it? Very little in a way, but it was a tremendous discipline. I mean, I was really trained to think and to work systematically to get my homework done in time. And I view younger generations today, and I see how little real discipline there is in their lives. And discipline is something that really is worth having. I mean It can be turned in many different directions. But an undisciplined life, is really a chaotic life that's a lack of real focus and purpose. I have a real burden for the young people growing up in Britain today, or throughout the world, because there is so little real discipline in their lives.

In fact many people today resent discipline, but it’s a mistake. It can be wrongly enforced. It can be unwisely applied. But it’s a key to success in life. I don’t care today about the fact that I know Latin. I never bother with Latin. I do use Greek because I read the New Testament in Greek. But what I got beyond that was discipline and study. Also I became part of the, I wouldn’t say “the jet-set”, but because there weren’t any jet sets in those days, I became a sort of beachcomber in a way, and yet at the same time I continued my education at Eton, so I was leading a double life. I got involved with a family of Russian émigrés who had escaped from the Soviet Union, and I spent several months with them and learned Russian, which I’ve always regretted that I never kept it up.

I also was fascinated by the Russian novelists. I started reading Chekhov and then Dostoevski, and I was for a long while fascinated by the Russian novelists and the whole Russian, not mysticism, but it’s a kind of different view on life. When I became a believer, that sort of faded into the background, but it did play a part in my development. I had friends at Eton who went to Monte Carlo for a vacation and succeeded in making some money on the roulette table. So they came back and they were convinced that if you knew how to play it right, you could make money. And without going into all the details they had a system devised by a man named le Bouchere which guaranteed you to win at roulette. Well, it so happened that they weren’t able to go and I was, so they sent me with some money not very much money to play on behalf of all of us. So I spent many long hours at the roulette tables. And I’d like to say if you want to meet the ugliest people in the world you can meet them around the gambling table.

Miraculously we really never lost much money. Later on we discovered that the man who devised the system, le Bouchere, died a pauper, so that kind of cured us of that… Chapel was compulsory, once every weekday and twice on Sundays. Of course, the chapel buildings were beautiful. However when I went to Cambridge, I decided I’d done all the churchgoing I needed to do in my early years, and I wasn’t going to waste my time on that any more. I took an examination at King’s College, Cambridge, and was awarded the senior scholarship of the year. And because both Eton and King’s were founded by King Henry VI more than five hundred years ago, if you were a scholar you were a King’s Scholar. And if you were a King’s Scholar, you were entitled to write the letters “KS” after your name.

And so because I was a scholar at both Eton and King’s, I was entitled to write “KS” twice after my name. But it really wouldn’t mean much to people today, so I don’t any longer indulge that. I took both parts of what’s called a classical tripos, that’s a standard course in Latin and Greek, history, language, culture and so on. And in the final examination I passed top of everybody in the university. In fact, I was in a category on my own. So then I was granted what’s called a studentship, a studentship to study, and I was deeply impacted by the philosophy of Plato in those days. So I became the senior university student in philosophy for two years. And at the end of that time I wrote a dissertation.

I can really hardly believe it, but the title I can still remember was The Evolution of Plato’s Method of Definition. On that basis I was elected into a Fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge. To look back at my late teens and so on, I’d have to say really I was a “hippie” before there were hippies. And much of the motivation of the hippies and those who follow them was my motivation. I was dissatisfied with the status quo. I couldn’t improve on it, but I didn’t really want to become part of it. And, of course, being a philosopher that’s an open door into all sorts of things. I became very interested in Indian philosophies, yoga and so on.

In fact, I would have become a yogi if I’d known how to. So I was like, I mean today there are millions of people like that. Then I was an exception. Most people weren’t like that. But I’ve never had a problem understanding hippies or the generation of the sixties or subsequent generations. I can identify with them because in many ways I was a protestor. I didn’t know what I was protesting against and my protests were usually rather meaningless. Like: when I spent the summer at Monte Carlo wearing sandals, I painted my toenails red. I mean, in those days that was somewhat unusual. But I often thought, Why did I do it? I think just to say I don’t go along with all that you’re doing. It doesn’t make sense.

So by that time I had really arrived academically, my future was assured but World War II had broken out and that really threw us all into confusion. I remember one of my fellow students we would sit and have lunch together somewhere, we’d talk about life as if it were a football that we could kick just wherever we felt inclined. After the war broke out I realized I’ve got the picture wrong. I was the football and was wondering where life was going to kick me next!
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