Celtic Thought: ‘I Is For InterBeing’ Or, ‘You And A Cloud Are Related!’ [Do Not Read This If You Are Theology-Adverse]


“No man is an island, entire of itself.” – John Donne

The ancient Celts, and indeed all nature-related religions and beliefs that I know of – such as early Christians, some latter-day ones as well , early and latter-day Druids, pagans and others, accepted a fundamental interconnectedness of everything.

Who cannot but be moved by Brother Francis and his famous ‘Canticle of the Sun’?, his anthropomorphising of nature, and declaring its inter-connectedness (to us). Wonderful words and an awesome meaning – literally, full of awe!

“Be praised…especially through my lord Brother Sun…through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful…through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather through which You give sustenance to Your creatures…through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste…through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong…through Sister Mother Earth…” Brother Francis, Canticle of the Sun.

However, we are taught to think the opposite of this kind of ‘unity’ thinking, and so it is easier for us to see things in dualistic terms – yes or no; black of white; inclusive or separate; either this or that. What about if I said something is both and/or, simultaneously? Immediately, the poor brain stalls.

Thinking in such dualistic ways distances us from nature, from the Source, and from all that is. But, it wasn’t always like this. Pat yourself on the back if you’re still with me. Many might give up and this point, as to really understand Celtic thought can be jarring to the system.

Couple this with the modern usage of the term ‘like’ rather than ‘as’, and we have further distancing taking place.

Theology alert!

For instance, in ancient sacred text, did the Spirit of God descend ‘like’ a dove or ‘as’ a dove? It is an important question.

The former (that is ‘like’) has a quality that distances us from that Godly event and gives the impression that God did a close approximation of revelation, but was still some way off, or that we were at a distance. It was ‘like’ something, but not quite it!  As in, it wasn’t really God, it was ‘like’ God, or ‘like’ a dove . No connection at all.

However, if God came down ‘as’ a dove, then we’re ‘closer’ to the Source as the revelation appeared in space and time ‘as’ something substantial!

So, I checked. Was it ‘like’ or ‘as’ a dove?  And, in most English translations it says ‘like’ a dove. Oh, distance! But, you know….that didn’t feel right. God at a distance, when He (or She) seems to spend half the time in stories about drawing near, just didn’t seem correct.

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one..”. John 17.21a, The Book

So, I checked deeper. This is what I found: Interestingly, the dualistic English interpreters chose ‘like’ a dove – a distancing word; but in the  Greek, it’s ὡς, that is, ‘as’ a dove. Much closer. So close infact, there’s a connection to you and me. Interconnectedness!

Connectedness. Up close and personal. Not, at a distance. Oh, no!

Thich Hnat Hanh writes about this, and calls this interbeing; and the closest meaning, in everyday language, I can manage is the absolute and fundamental connectedness of being and without division. So, we’re all one. Sort of. Connected, but individual(s).

He writes that if you’re a poet, and look at a piece of paper, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in it! Yes, a cloud. For, without a cloud, there would be no rain; without rain their would be no trees, and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud, then, is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary, but is a combination of the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” and, we then have a new verb, inter-be. Inter-being.

So, if we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, he says, we can see then see sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And, he continues, if we look deeper, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And, we see the wheat. We know the logger cannot exist without his or her daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his or her bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Everything it seems is ‘in’ everything. Everything is connected. And, this fits neatly with the contents of the book, ‘The Universe Is A Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story’ by  Brian Swimme, in which he deduces that as everything came from that incredibly dense ‘big bang’, that everything must inter-related. Even us. We are inter-connected, inter-are, and are not separate from nature (even if we think we are).

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” – Carl Sagan

Could it be that the ancient Celts, ancient Druids and those of ancient tribes knew these things, the connectedness of all things? And throughout the years sages periodically reminded us latter-day people, that we are in some deep, essential, profound way related to everything around us?

If it sounds ‘new age’ and/or heretical, the question to ask yourself, now, is this: Is this way of thinking wrong and the modern approach right, or is it right and our modern interpretations and understanding of the ancients (and ancient sacred text) are way off, shallow and in error? I  believe, it’s probably the latter.

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic – the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.” – Charles de Lint

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