Celtic Wisdom: Thin Places #2: How [Not] To Avoid Them


In the last article on the theme of ‘thin places’, we noted that they are places, times or events where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted, and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God, the Source of All, That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves. Numinous encounters.

These ‘caol áit’ as they’re called in Gaelic (pronounced ‘kweel awtch’) still exist, and you can experience them.

The link to that prior article on ‘thin places’, which will give you an overview, is: here:

But, there’s more.

Though, there is no gap between us and the Divine, the Divine is ubiquitous and the Celts never accepted the separation that occurs because of dualism, anyway; it seems we do need to take time to draw aside to encounter the numinous in our busy schedules – so, maybe ‘thin places’ are opportunities for us to draw near to that which is already there. That said, they are special places, times or events, nonetheless: they are ancient-future numinous opportunities.

But, there is so much more. Here’s an opportunity to go deeper.

’Wisdom sits in places.’  An Apache proverb

So, here’s part two about ‘thin places’; and how to avoid them, in the hope that you will do the opposite, and so, encounter them.

So, here’s seven ways how [not] to avoid a ‘thin place’. You should:

1. Only consider logic:

We live in ‘scientific’ times, where each week some new discovery advances our knowledge. These are great times to be alive. Why, even as you read this a NASA craft has just arrived at the planet Jupiter after a five year mission. And so, it’s easy to dismiss that which is ancient and ‘unscientific’ as a illogical nonsense. So, only consider logical happen-stances.

‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.’ Albert Einstein

2. Keep busy:

We’re all far too busy. Ofcourse, it maybe necessary to ‘switch off’ the awareness ‘radar’ when shopping, or servicing the car, taking the children to school, or travelling to work etc. That’s to be expected. Easier still, to remain in that mode all day and miss something. So, keep busy, and focussed on the practical and mundane chores all the time. Do not visit mountain-tops, forests, groves, standing-stones,  especially

3. Not [day]dream:

Many believe a dream is just a random ‘firing’ of neuron cells in the brain, an irrelevance, with no bearing to reality. Maybe, it’s the result of an undigested piece of cheese? [A merit mark to you if you know where that reference comes from].  As an Anamcara [Celtic word for ‘soul friend’], I believe dreams are important in telling us something, and the imaginal ‘area’ is of paramount importance, as did Carl Jung.  And, didn’t God speak to several people, as recorded in the Book, in dreams? However, don’t dwell on dreams too much, and try not to rest and day-dream. Don’t meditate.

Jacob encounters a ‘thin place’. ‘Jacob left Beersheba…When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it….When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”’ Genesis 28:10-16 (part), The Book.

4. Only look in ‘special ‘places:

Ofcourse, ‘thin places’ occur in sacred places where people have worshipped for hundreds, if not thousands of years. That could mean that you’re likely to encounter ‘thin places’ in old cathedrals, ancient stone-circles, groves etc. I’ve witnessed them in Pitlochry in Scotland, in Capel Curig in north Wales, and Waterloo Station in London etc. But, you’re probably hundreds or thousands of miles away from those places. So, you should only think that ‘thin places’ occur on the other side of the planet, and not at the end of your street, and that you could not possibly encounter one.

Eric Weiner of the New York Times experienced a ‘thin place’ when he visited the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, and visited a bar [ie a pub, public house].

5. ‘Compartmentalise’ your life:

There is a school of thought that says God, the Source of All is always neat and tidy, ‘squeaky clean’ and precise, like a Victorian pedant. Cleanliness (or orderliness) is next to Godliness, they would say. Compartmentalise, they say, make good use of your time, because the devil finds work for idle hands. Very efficient. Be efficient. So much so that you develop a regime of ‘This is ‘me time’ and ‘This is ‘God’s time’. Compartmentalise your life. The former is when you do things that you like. And the latter is when you allow God to show up, or you go to church, or give the Source of All permission to ‘do stuff’. So, compartmentalise your time.

Timothy Joyce, a Benedictine monk from Massachusetts, thinks that a lot people like to keep things separate. Nice and tidy. “These are heavenly things” and then “those are earthly things.” I do that on Friday or Saturday or Sunday – but Monday through Thursday I do this. We compartmentalize. We put walls up. And we miss out on something more than this. “The ancient Celts,” Joyce continues “believed that the other world was always close to us and became apparent in the ‘thin times’ and ‘thin places’ in which the veil that usually obscured them was lifted.”

6. Dismiss idle thoughts:

If you have an extraneous thought – one ‘straight out of the blue’ – and are not sure of its origin, dismiss it immediately. It could be something negative, it could be ‘just’ imagination, and it might ‘move’ you in some way. Dismiss it, lest you go ‘deep’ spiritually, and you’ll be fine. Similarly, with any feelings that seem to sweep over you. Dismiss them. Who knows what they’ll lead too. Play safe.

‘You say God speaks to you, but it’s only your imagination.’ These are the words spoken by the inquisitor to Joan of Arc during her trial for heresy. ‘How else would God speak to me, if not through my imagination?’ Joan replied.

7. Not seek encouragement from others:

Don’t seek out others and their experiences of ‘thin places’. Be sceptical. There are some strange people on the planet, and you don’t want anyone to think you’ve lost it. No, much better to keep things to yourself, and not enquire of others.

Any more?

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’m sure you have more ideas on how [not] to avoid ‘thin places’. Please let me know.

And finally…

Remember, this article, apart from the inserts/quotes is written in a negative form in the hope that you will do the opposite, and so, encounter ‘thin places’.

1 thought on “Celtic Wisdom: Thin Places #2: How [Not] To Avoid Them

  1. Excellent article, thanks so much for contributing to this subject. I hoped that I could ask, where did you find the account of Joan of Arc’s trial? I’m trying to find its complete context. Thanks.


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