Calas: A Brief Outline: Third Element

20170927 A BRIEF OUTLINE ABOUT CALASDepending on how you look at it, there are three, four or five Celtic/Druidic elements. Sometimes it’s best not to try to logically systematise them into one all-encompassing ‘theology’, but rather view the number of elements as being three, four or five depending on circumstances, our need and view at the time.

In classical thought, the four elements earth, water, air, and fire were proposed by Empedocles

Ofcourse, if you’re taking school or college exams you may not get rewarded for talking about the elements in such the way those ancient Celts and Druids did, but it is good to allow this classic and ancient view to run parallel with modern thought.

‘The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.’ Gloria Steinem

After all, when I was at shool we were told that there were only five bodily senses, and yet I read recently that there are, infact, twenty-one senses, including the sense of time, proprioception (the ability to tell where your body parts are, relative to other body parts) and equilibrioception (the ability to keep your balance and sense body movement in terms of acceleration and directional changes) etc.

Some time ago we looked at nwyfre (pronounced noo-iv-ruh) an old Welsh word for ‘sky’ relates to life and consciousness.(See here)

Nwyre could be seen as represented by air.

‘You already are in the eternal flow…’ Richard Rohr

Then, recently we looked at gwyar (pronounced goo-yar) meaning ‘blood’, which relates to movement, flow, change, transformation. (See here)

Gywar could be represented by water.

‘We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not’. Heraclitus

Then the middle, and so far, missing ‘element’ in this list is calas.

Calas (pronounced cah-luss) comes from an old Welsh word, ‘caled’, and it means ‘hard’ or ‘solidity’, and refers to the physicality of a substance. Calas could be represented by earth.

‘Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. Khalil Gibran.

To the ancients calas, though they will have called it by another name, solidity (rocks) or earth (soil) played an important part in ritual.

There is a great story in ancient text of a man called Nehemiah who, converting from his old religion and going back home, takes a huge amount of soil with him so that he can be reminded of his new-found faith and worship the One on ‘sanctified’ soil. He believed calas, solidity, was important.

There is another ancient story of Jacob who slept on a rock, using it as a pillow (and I’m assuming it was just at the right height so his head didn’t ‘drop’ as he slumbered, rather than being soft). But, the next morning he awoke after having a revealing dream, and immediately set about using that rock as a large stone on which to place others and form a pillar to mark the occasion. Yes, to the ancients earth and rocks, megaliths, stone circles, dolmens and barrows were important markers, to mark important times and events.

Ofcourse, in these modern times, many don’t accept the importance of calas, solidity, of hallowed earth and special rocks. or do they?

Underneath the Speakers’ chair in the House of Commons in London, is the Stone of Scone (sometimes called the Stone of Destiny) which some believe to be the very stone that Jacob used as a pillow.

For many years it was housed in Scotland, until AD1296 when it was ‘captured’ as spoils of war and relocated to England, where it remained. A rectangular, old stone, and yet prized by both the English and the Scots, and used in the coronation of British monarchs.

A very special stone, indeed. In 1951 the stone was stolen by four Scottish students, and found some four months later, but was what was found the real stone or a copy? Theories abounded that what was returned to the Speakers’ chair was a mere copy, and the original stone remained in Scotland, thus fooling the English.

However in 1996 the stone under the Speakers’ chair was finally returned, by Parliament, to Scotland. So, did the Scots get a copy that was under the Speakers’ chair (if indeed it was a copy of the original made by those students) or did they get the original? And the one now in the House of Commons, is that a copy or was it the one that was stolen, and therefore the original. Has a double bluff taken place? It’s like that old tv program called ‘Soap’, where by way of introduction the narrator lists all the tangled and complex relationships of the characters in the soap, and then asks the viewer, ‘Confused? You will be!’

Sometimes it’s better not to know, and sometimes it’s impossible to know, but rather to believe. But, it does show that, even today, though they may use other words, or might not even use the word at all, calas (solidity), whether some admit it on not, is still very important.

With these three elements –  nwyfre, gwyar and calas – we can ‘understand’ the physical nature of an object, it’s inner qualities, and the movement or flux between them. Without being controversial – you know me – it might be worth considering the idea of the Roman Catholic idea of transubstantiation. Even if one doesn’t accept the idea, it is clear to those that do and others, that there is a physicality or outward appearence to the bread, and inner quality, and an intangible movement from one to the other. All three elements interacting! Just a thought to think about (and without any stress).

With the three elements (and maybe one or two others to consider in the future) we can describe that which is around us, but we make a mistake if we think these elements are impersonal. They are alive, and are mutiple ’eminations’ of the one Source.

Could it be that we ‘swim’ through God?

A Prayer At Llyn Gwynant: Poem: Revisited

20170926 A PRAYER AT LLYN GWYNANT REVISTED REVISED

When the bitter winds blow,
and the rain pours onto the soul of your life.
When you stumble and fall,
and when tears well up inside, but find no release.
When friends and family are afar,
and those night-hours of abject loneliness seem altogether too close.
When bones ache,
and the future uncertain seems.
Then, may the Divine’s pure radiance pierce your darkest times,
and a spectrum of light fill your heart of hearts,
and show you, as a beacon, the narrow, sure way.

When thoughts race, and won’t be still,
and lightning rages in your mind, disturbing you.
When things seem to go awry, or indeed, when things seem to go right
but there’s an air of disquiet in your inner being.
Then, may He come to you. (He comes in the storm.)

May the Father bless you with His Divine quietness and solitude. Total stillness.
May the Son shine into the totality of your unique self. Perfect brilliance.
May the Spirit, the Divine breath, whisper into your ear that you are a much loved child of God, the apple of His eye. Unconditional grace.

And may you, wherever you find yourself, experience the ‘thin place’ of God’s inestimable presence.

Gwyar: Ebb & Flow: A Closer Look

20170922 GWYAR AN EVEN CLOSER LOOKWarning: This article, just for today, contains theology.

There have been some fascinating programs on tv recently about the origin of the universe. Some programs looked at the smallest particles of matter than we know, so far: the quantum level. Other tv programs looked at the universe as a whole, and one has to marvel when informed that the observable universe is thought to be fifteen billions years old and contain eighteen million million million galaxies similar to our own.

The ancients, without contradiction to modern science, looked at it from another viewpoint – different, perhaps non-scientifically, but no less true.

To some of the ancients there was school of thought which stated that in the Universe the controlling power comprises of Three, and these Three operate as Three-in-One. Separate but a Unity, too! Paradox. And, between these Three energy flows. This flowing energy the ancients called perichoresis – the dance. They saw this ebb and flow of energy as a wonderful dance. It has always been this way. And, that ‘dance’ permeates the universe. It was their way of looking at the universe and trying to make sense of it.

I saw you dancing last night
on the roof of your house
all alone.

I felt your heart longing for the Friend.
I saw you whirling
beneath the soft bright rose
that hung from an invisible stem in the sky.

So I began to change into my best clothes
in hopes of joining you,
even though I live a thousand miles away.

And if you had spun like an immaculate sphere
just two more times,
then bowed again so sweetly to the east,
you would have found God and me
standing so near
and lifting you into our arms.

I saw you dancing last night
near the roof of this world.

Hafiz

Others may have viewed it differently and used other terminology. Each of them, and us (as we all come from different backgrounds may have differing views, but, hopefully, in sharing these we each come to a better understanding). I say that because what follows today, may be rather theological, and different to usual posts, but please read on and give me your views.

I’d suggest there is some value in it, whatever our wonderful theological backgrounds are, and whatever different words we use. There is a sense that, if we travel back far enough, we will arrive at what some would call a unified ‘perennial theology’ – back where it all started.

This divine dance, then, this flow, to the ancient Welsh Celts and Druids, and latter-day ones too, is known as Gwyar. Pronounced as ‘goo-yar’, it means water and generally in Druidic groups it is the flow of the liquid that the word describes, not the water itself. We looked in brief at Gwyar previously (see here), and how it flows through is and all around us, that it is ubiquitous, and is responsible for change, growth connectedness, communication. Today we delve a little deeper.

‘The energy in the universe is not in the planets, or in the protons or in neutrons, but in the relationship between them…In other words, it is an entirely relational universe.’ Richard Rohr.

As you take the bus to work, this energy is flowing through you, in and out, and in again. Walking down the street and pausing at a café, and when sitting outside to sip a latte, unbeknownst to you this energy may be flowing over the top of a neighbouring building, cascading down like a waterfall and you’re caught in an energetic, invisible, non-tangible spray. In the factory, in the schools, in a myriad of homes, in everyone, it is inclusive, never exclusive. That is Gwyar. And, as you gaze up at the stars at night, in the farthest reaches of space, Gwyar flows. Never static, always active, it flows where it pleases.

‘The foundational good news is that creation and humanity have been drawn into this flow! We are not outsider sor spectators but inherently part of the divine dance.’ Richard Rohr.

However, the more we try to ‘contain’ Gwyar and understand it using twenty-first century thought the more problematic our ‘theology’ becomes. In using the metaphor of flowing water, which is good in taking us so far, we still miss something. This movement, this flow, this energy, this Gwyar, is not impersonal. It is personal. It is alive. It is Life itself.

The more we try to compartmentalise  it and make it exclusive to us (or our group), and the more we try to ‘localise’ it – I have this flow but you don’t, then the less of Gwyar we benefit from. Oh, it always flows, but in such circumstances we may not be aware of it (so much), nor benefit from it (so much), and so miss out. We have a choice to put ourselves in the way of the flow, or not.

I was in London for the whole of August, and more than ever London’s weather was changeable. Some days were cloudy, sometimes it rained, and on a few days the sky was totally blue, the sun shone and it was ‘scorching’ with temperatures hitting 32c/90f. I have to confess that, in London at that time of the year, it is too hot for me. As the sun shone down on me as I walked along the city street – far too hot for me – I chose to cross the busy road and walked on the shaded side of the street.

‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’

J K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

We have a choice to ‘walk’ within the flow or to ‘work’ against it. Times when we deal with a diffcult challenge calmly and fairly, when we relax and just laugh, times when we’re working hard at our job and achieving something, playing sport, seeing a baby giggle, witnessing a flock of birds swirling around in the sky, trees blowing in the wind, someone assisting someone across the road, being hospitable, feeling ‘cocooned’ in love or expressing our love for others,  and more, all these are the flow flowing through us, all these are hints of Gwyber, and we can be aware of it.

‘The Great Flow [this divine dance] makes use of everything, absolutely everything. Even your mistakes will be used in your favour, if you allow them.’ Richard Rohr

Now here’s a thought. And, here it gets theological. Many of us may have been taught about sin – even if you’re not part of a group that uses that word, you may be familiar with the notion. To many, sin is an action (or inaction) that upsets God (the Universe or whatever word you wish to use), and there are some who then believe that God delights in punishing sinners. And, yet the same people will also admit that we’re all sinners. Now, here’s the main thought. Suppose God (maybe, That Which Is Bigger Than Us) is upset at sin and not you and I, and has a distaste for sin because of its negative effect on us. And suppose sin is whatever we do that interrupts the flow, and it’s standing within the flow that God (or The Source of All) wants us to be? Suppose sin is stepping outside of the flow?

My son had just started to walk, and so this is a memory of some time ago. Oh, one he found his balancing skills, leg-motor skills he was off. It quickly becomes apparent to me as a new parent that other skills take some time to develop. On one occassion, before I could catch him, my son darted off, looked back at me chasing him and giggled. To him it was a game. To me, it was a case of catching my ‘runaway’ son before he… And then he tripped over some uneven paving stones, fell and cried. I picked him up, soothed him, as any loving parent would do, and gave him words of comfort, such as, ‘There, there, its all better now. Daddy’s here. But please don’t run away, and why not stand over there!’

Perhaps, those ancient ‘Thou shalt not’s as restrictions, the idea of sin being an opportunity for God to punish us, perhaps when I point the finger and say to others ‘I’m right, but you’re not’, is perhaps a wrong perception of what is going on. Perhaps, God, being an even better Daddy than I can ever be, just wants us to stand next to Him (or Her, and that would make God our Mummy, but I’m okay with that), and just be there in the flow. Perhaps those are encouragements, not admonishments, to step back into the flow?

‘Sin is behovely [useful or necessary], but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well,’ The Lady Julian of Norwich

Ofcourse, you may not ‘see’ things like this. Nevertheless, it seems to work. But, putting that aside, as we look around at the world, at events, awesome people, marvellous human acheivements on a cultural level and a personal level – yes, what you do is important – as we look at the wonders of nature, don’t we witness this flow, the Gwybar? And, don’t we feel the urge to be ‘absored’ by it, to revel in it?

Who hasn’t laughed when a baby recognises your face and a split second smiles, or paused at a magnificent sunset, or given thanks (hopefully, not sarcastically) when finishing a task at work, or played a musical instrument or listed to one being played and got ‘lost’ in the moment? That’s Gwyar, and we can choose to revel and dance in the flow, or resist it.

Yes, Gwyar is the flow of Life itself, and Gwyar is inclusive, ubiquitous and invitational, and regardless of what faith group we belong to, what words we use, we have a choice to go deeper and revel in the flow, this movement, this energy, to participate if we so choose, and realise that Gwyar is the Universe itself and is Personal. If we rest, if we look around us with a ‘softened’ gaze, if we open ourselves to the prompting of this ubiquitous Gwyar then we might, and I think we will, just ‘feel’ it pulsing through us.

This universe is a banner
that keeps fluttering.
Your heart sees the banner;
your soul thinks it’s the air that makes it move.
But the one who knows
how helpless air is
recognizes that everything
is nothing but God.

Rumi

The Telling Place In The Age Of Binary

20170921 THE TELLING PLAE IN AN AGE OF BINARYThere was a time when I was a child, when my friends and I would take a short walk to Clackitt’s wood, stay out as late as we could – dependant on our ages and parents’ wishes – and tell each other wild stories. We would scare ourselves, and we loved it. As we sat on felled trees, someone would start the story.

‘Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.’ Oscar Wilde

It might be the story of the Llamhigyn Y Dwr, a creature that is said to resemble a giant frog, but with a stinger on the end of its tail, and bat wings instead of front legs. Another might remind us that it would part-fly and part-jump across lakes and land, hence its name (in English), the Water Leaper. Someone would start the story, and someone would add to that fragment of information, and sometimes someone would go back in the story to add or correct someone’s memory about the story. For instance, someone might remind the person who had just spoken that the Llamhigyn Y Dwr was, infact, said to be the size of a cow. Oh, how we scared ourselves, and became more alert to the noises and scuffles in the undergrowth. Could it be that the Llamhigyn Y Dwr was lurking nearby, watching us? As children, we loved it.

‘The imagination of early childhood has no limits. This is why children are fascinated by stories. A story has permission to go anywhere….The child rarely experiences the story as an observer. The child enters the story, it experiences the drama from within.’ John O’Donohue

Now much older, I’m sitting around a garden table in my ever-so-small, but greatly appreciated garden in London, with a few friends. This evening we’ve already shared stories of myth and magic, sometimes fragments of memories of a friends’ childhood, and sometimes more recent events, events that actually happened to someone we knew, and other stories that were fictional.

Stories are important. And more so in our electronic, computerised, fast-paced age.

The ancients, those Celts and Druids of old, knew of the benefits of stories. They would regularly meet around the village fire, in the evenings and tell stories that were, perhaps sometimes of individuals around the fire, or of ancient heroes and their ancestors, or of stories of cosmic proportions eg creation stories and/or of the tribe’s origin.

‘Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.’ Elie Wiesel

‘Do you remember when we all went fishing, and Tadhg fell in?’, one of my friends around the garden table said. They described a snapshot in time of yesteryear. I’m beyond being embarrassed by that event – yes it did happen, and I was only eight years old at the time, and I was, and still am surrounded by friends. And then another would share another fragment of memory. ‘And, yes,’ they remarked, ‘and when he was pulled him out he wouldn’t let go of the fishing rod. What a great fisherman!’.

And, bit by bit, these fragments of memory would be put together by individuals in the group to make a kind of cine film of activity, if you can imagine the old days when a movie was a long length of celluloid made up of individual frames of still pictures.

The ancients new the value of story-telling, when they met together at Telling Places. There, fragments of memory were woven together, and ‘bits’ become ‘whole’, and all added to the complete story, and all listeners were included. Fragments of memory, separate and ‘isolated’ were re-membered. The opposite of dismembered. ‘Re-joined’. Put back together again. And in community, too.

‘We keep stories alive because to re-member is to put broken pieces back together. We keep learning from stories how to make things whole.’ Mark Nepo

Telling our individual stories, or of those of our ancestors, and such stories can take the form of sharing the mundane (as if anything is mundane), of what happened a few days ago. Ofcourse, if something unusual happened, that would make a wonderful story to share with friends. But, every aspect of your life is important, and able to be shared, as your story minute by minute becomes part of the fabric of the universe and transcends time itself. Your story matters.

‘You didn’t think I would let go of a fishing rod that took me five months
pocket money to buy? I retorted to my friends. We all laughed. ‘And, I still have that rod!’

‘Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.’ Joel 1:3, The Book

Story forms community, it brings individuals into the group, it enables us to see the ‘whole picture’, very essential in an age that likes to fragmentise information eg three-point sermons all beginning with the letter Q! Stories heal, bind, enable depth, encourage laughter and other deep emotions, they alter and clear our perception, challenge and can comfort us, and cause us to wonder at The Source of All.

‘It is not by accident that the Native American medicine men put the questions to the sick who were brought to them: When was the last time you sang? When was the last time you danced? When was the last time you told your story? When was the last time you listened to the story of others?’ Mark Nepo.

And so, one of the things on my list to consider on my imminent visit to Iona, is to think deeply about story, our society, and how, as latter-day Celts and Druids we can give more weight and opportunity to the telling of stories, and encourage groups, faith groups and others to have periodic Telling places, and reap immense benefits.

It’s now late. My friends and I are still around the garden table, wine bottles empty, and we’re still telling stories, and eating the last of the cheese and biscuits. I couldn’t let my watery encounter go without adding, ‘And besides, I didn’t fall in,’ I quipped, ‘I was pulled in by the Llamhigyn Y Dwr, the Water Leaper, which was the size of a cow’. I laughed. They laughed. And as our Telling Place impromptu evening came to an end, it felt that as a group we were closer than ever to each other. Sharing. Laughing. Joy. Affirmation. Inclusion. Community. Love.

‘Every human is an artist. And this is the main art that we have: the creation of our story.’ Don Miguel Ruiz

 

Become The Duet [Revisited]: Poem: Celtic Connectedness

20170912 BECOME THE DUET REVISITEDBeing in london for a while longer, I miss the wilderness of Capel Curig, north Wales. Capel Curig has such a wild-peace about it, and London by contrast is hectic. And, right now, though I miss the solitude, London is where I am. However, it is an amazing city.

The drawback is that it can be overwheleming, and ‘up close and personal’. It can be full of disctractions which pull you in competing directions, and yet for myself, one who loves the countryside and the lights of London, an ‘amphibian’, London is a wonderful, inspiring city.

But, oh the distractions. It’s easy to forget to ask those big questions, easy to forget to pause and ponder, easy to forget why each one of us is here. In London, a crowded city of eight million souls all of that is so, so easy. I am surmising it may be the same where you are (sometimes)?.

We can get so busy ‘doing’, instead of ‘being’.

We can get distracted.

We forget.

Status?

Here’s a poem I write some time ago, revisited.

Poem: Become The Duet

If we were to travel from the wild, ruggedness of Capel Curig,
near the foothills of Yr Wyddfa,
that place of green, of open-space, of dragons, myth and power;
Myrddin’s lair.

If we were to travel to the busy-ness of Old London,
that place of the ancient river of the Celts,
of crowded streets, of neon lights, Druid-energy and oh-so many people,
the Voice can be heard.

If we were to pause,
wherever we are, just for one moment,
to revel in life that is happening around us, to us, in us, through us,
we would hear the Voice.

Distractions come,
and a distancing from all that is natural seems to happen.
But, only seemingly, so.
The Voice that spoke creation into being,
thunders in the wilderness, whispers in built-up places,
but speaks, still.
The Voice can be heard, if….
…if we have ears to hear.

If we would but listen to the music of our life,
our body would sway in time to the primal beat of times of old.
If we would but gaze at beauty around us,
our mind would laugh crazily with delight at the colours seen.
If we would but ponder, and feel deep within our soul
the love-song of the Friend,
then we would know the reason why we are here.

Become the duet.

 

Perceiving Anew: Doors To A Close Encounter: Imagination

20170908 PERCEIVING ANEW DOORS TO A CLOSE ENCOUNTER

‘Those who are Awake live in a state of constant amazement…’. (Jack Kornfield)

It was my first real full-time job and the journey across London, taking this bus, and then that train, alighting there and taking that particular escalator down to another platform for another train, and so on, was all new to me. Several years later, I was doing the same journey but without noticing much at all about the journey. And, on some occasions as I walked onto the platform to get my second train I’d stop, pause and think about the last minute or two of my journey, and not really have any memory at all of what had just happened. It was as if it had become so lost in the mundane that I hadn’t noticed anything at all, and my mind had gone blank. I couldn’t remember the advertisements on the wall, or who had passed me in the tunnels that connect one platform to another, and not even the direction signs.

I’m sure that happens to us all at various times.

Our minds not only wander, but they can seemingly ‘shut down’ or filter out much of what is really going on. It’s like reading a page from a book, maybe you’re in a hurry, and you suddenly realise at the end of the page that, although you’ve read it, you haven’t really read it and you no understanding of what the words meant. And, so you re-read it, and then it makes sense.

When perceiving anew, I think we need to ensure that we’re perceiving deeply. I love liturgy, I love poetry, but just reading the words on the page, as if by rote, academically, in a shallow manner only gives a surface-level of understanding. I want that liturgy, those wonderful words, to embrace me like a warm hug, to be like a Mediterranean sea that I can fall into. I want to connect. To be enveloped.

‘Nowness’

To perceive anew, I’d suggest being present in our mind is a first step. Thinking back is good, and planning for the future is good, but being present ‘now’ is even better.

And so he knelt down, closed his eyes, and prepared for a deep encounter. Around him, and invisible to him, hosts of powerful and ancient benevolent beings assembled. Some might call them ‘companions’, others elementals, other might call them the fae, or the Watchers, or angels. But, these Watchers crowded in to see how this person would encounter and interact with the loving-energy of the Source of All. A minute went by.

He could almost feel the distractions of the world being ‘unpeeled’ as he moved, inwardly, to some kind of inner stillness and peace. The wristwatch he was wearing, suddenly bleeped. It distracted him, and as he looked at it he remembered all the things he had to do. Opening his eyes, and getting to his feet, he rushed to the door to catch the 9.05am train. The moment had passed.

We can miss an awful lot by not being present. That ‘slipping back’ into not being present will happen, but perhaps an aim for us might be to work towards more times of ‘nowness’, and specified times of being present. Good habits are good. And, when present to be aware of what might be, what we might not see but can ‘sense’ or intuit, and that we’re surrounded by That Which Is Bigger Than Us. To be aware of the Mystery.

Aim: To be present in our mind, and to give our all to the moment, task, and event. To be fully alive. To realise there is more, and to be expectant.

Meaningful Actions

She now found himself, as usual, at the main service. She loved this service, all the pomp and ceremony, and ofcourse she loved the rich, majestic words that were used. They had the ability, as it were, to whisk her back in time, almost, and connect her to those that had gone before. Continuity. She listened intently.

It was then that she realised that the pace of the words spoken said by the person at the front seemed to be speeding up. Getting noticeably quicker. Instead of those words ‘inviting’ her ‘into’ the service and depth, they seemed to repel her. Could it be that the person saying those wonderful liturgical words was in a hurry, had important things to do? Were they even caring about those in the pews who were listening and willing to be transported into that Place of Encounter? She wondered. But, she had lost the thread of what was going on, and then seemed to just looked on at the liturgical activity as though she was an outsider. Things felt a bit ‘shallow’. She left. The effect of ‘distancing’.

It is easy to go through the actions and miss the meaning. I am sure you, like me, have been part of a ceremony where certain events have to take place in a certain order, or we’re involved in some kind of task at work where we had to process things in a certain order. It’s easy to get blaise. And, then you suddenly realise that someone will be buying the product or will be relying your calculations, or depending on you, and you’re not quite sure if your actions gave the process the due weight it needed. If someone is going to buy that product, we might ask ourselves did I put enough care and effort into making it, wrapping it etc? If leading a ceremony or providing a service we might ask ourselves if we have helped or hindered someone?

It is easy just to go through the motions. In any ceremony, the words and actions are important, but their ‘effectiveness’ stems not from the actions themselves, necessarily, but from the care and attention, the love, intentionality and time we put into them. Depth.

Aim: To take time for meaningful actions, and to enjoy the liturgy and actions, and see them an a conduit to something more.

And, it may be here that many people might stop. But, not you.

Imagination
Le Point Vierge

But there’s more.

Accepting that being present is necessary, and the ‘invitational’ liturgy, actions, words and songs are wonderful, to be used and appreciated, and can usher us closer to the Source of All, there is more

Imagination is all important. Frowned on by some, seen as something relegated to childhood only, and seen as unreal, imagination is seemingly used only by advertisers who know its power, and then proceed to sell us this holiday, or that car, or entice us to spend money in yet another sale.

He got home from work. Feeling tired he slumped onto the sofa, and his eyelids started to become heavy and close. He felt himself drifting off, and it was such a lovely feeling, he just lay there. In his mind’s eye it was as though he was in a busy room. As his mind focussed it became recognisable as a café.

There were about ten tables, and about seven other people drinking coffee. It was a warm and cosy café. Not too light, not too dark. The walls were a magnolia colour, and had prints of paintings on them of the great masters. He looked around at the other people in the café. Others looked at him, momentarily. They looked normal. And yet something within him saw something was not quite as it should be, something was different. He didn’t have the words to describe it but the was more going on than meets the (minds) eye.

He let this dream-like episode play on. With a cup of coffee now in front of him, he sipped it. It tasted heavenly. It was then that he noticed all the other occupants had left, and it was just him and the barista, alone.

He could hear himself talking to the barista. ‘We’re alone, how extraordinary that it should happen just like that’,  he said as he clicked. The barista, a person who looked like she had been doing this work for a long, long time, learned over his table, and with the voice of an angel , said, ‘Honey, you ain’t never alone’.

He woke up. But sat there quietly pondering on the meaning of that encounter.

Using our imagination  as we move through the day and especially when in quiet times of prayer, ritual, ceremony etc – is of paramount important, and is yet another vital step of moving closer to an encounter with the Source of All. Imagination complements our actions, and ‘adds’ to them.

Ofcourse, in one sense we’re always close(r), never alone, and so why use imagination? But, it seems to me we benefit from those times when we know we’re close, and we can use imagination as a conduit to step into that Place of Encounter. Times that usher into that awareness are important.

Aim: To draw near using our imaginations as a ‘tool’ for liminal encounters, both externally and internally.

These inward encounters have been called various names down the ages. Some call them liminal doors, le point vierge, ‘thin places’, peak experiences, or to the Quakers they are known as the Inner Light. But, they exist, and imagination is one way of putting ourselves in the flow of events and times that lead to a deep, meaningful, ‘inner’ encounter with the Beloved. It’s the Meeting Place, and you’re invited.

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing
and right-doing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

Rumi

 

Perceiving Anew: Seeing Through A Glass Darkly: 1 To Catch A Tiger…

20170906 PERCEIVING ANEW SEEING THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY 1Every so often there is talk about DNA advances, prehistory and the idea that some scientists have some of using the preserved DNA of the extinct mammoth. The thought goes that, although the mammoth DNA is incomplete it might be possible to use ‘bits’ of current-day elephant DNA to fill in the gaps. In theory, you might then end up with a living-breathing elephant-mammoth hybrid, but it could be the nearest thing to a living mammoth that has not existed for the last five thousand years.

‘The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it. (The voice of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings (movie))’

For some (few) years there has been a revival in all things Celtic and Druidic, and long may it continue. For through such passionate beliefs of people from all ages and walks of life, will come a greater community spirit, a greater appreciation and protection of nature, and a great appreciation of the things of the soul and spirit, and of spirits, elementals and the like, and a renewal of all that is good, wholesome and holy. and, the world needs it, fast.

But, the world has changed from the heyday of the Druidic society of yesteryear and much has been lost. The Celts, the Druids were a story-telling community and the passing on of traditions and history was done orally. There are gaps.

Some try academia to fill in those gaps – much like using elephant DNA with mammoth DNA, and ofcourse this is right to try (academia, that is). It will take us so far, but it will not take us all the way.

Those that pin all their hopes on academia to fill in the gaps will find huge blanks, still.

Nevertheless, academic study as one tool amongst several is to be encouraged. The ‘challenge’, however, in academic argument is that proponents of it might think it is the only way, and also fall into the ‘trap’ of using Greek and modern-day dualistic thought (eg black and white, right and wrong, left and right, I’m right and you’re wrong etc) to advance their understanding of a non-dualistic culture. It cant be done.

To catch a tiger, you have to think like a tiger.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ (Albert Einstein)

The greater the culture is technologically-advanced, the more likely its people are to ‘see’ through dualistic eyes, and the more likely to miss the point.

It has been suggested that to fill in the gaps in Celtic/Druidic stories, understanding, liturgy and ritual, perhaps memory is needed. The kind of ‘cellular’, ancestor-linked memory that can be ‘tapped’ through meditation (at various places), through ‘thin-place’ encounters, through the Caim, through intuition, or through dreams, prayer or imagination etc. I think there is some (great) mileage in this.

‘Pass it on to your children, and from your children to their children, and from their children to the following generation.’ Joel 1.3, The Book

Then, one places oneself in the path of the ancient-future memory-stream of the ancestors, and those stories of old, knowledge and wisdom are re-kindled in our hearts, and come alive in our daily living and daily practices, to be told and shared.

‘I believe that there is a place where our vanished days secretly gather. The name of that place is Memory.’ (John O’Donohue).

To the purist and the academic this is nonsense, and yet this is the very way it was done by the very culture the purists and academics wish to know more about. To find out more about the Celts and Druids of yesteryear, to rediscover their ways, one need only to enter into Celtic/Druidic culture, ‘philosophy’, beliefs and practices, today, and many are doing just that. And, benefitting.

The wise amongst you will quickly realise that this will mean that I will perceive memories of the ancients differently to you. I may rediscover parts of the gap that are different to the gaps you ‘recover’; and we may even be at odds over some things if we compare (if we were to ‘see’ things from a dualistic, modern approach). But, why resort to current-day perception and understanding when dealing with an ancient culture?

Theirs was a culture where truth was not contained in a science manuals, not catalogued, cross-referenced or even written down, but it flowed, was debated and told as stories around the village camp fire. And, it didn’t matter if their were lose or ragged ends, or various versions of the same story.

We need to be encouraged to see things through ancient eyes.

For instance, take some of the books of the Hebrew Testament. Dualists or academics will scratch their heads as they discover that the books are not in chronological order. To ‘moderns’ they should be! That’s the way they would appear on a modern-day bookshelf, after all. However, to the ancients, the book order was decided by the length of each book – starting with the shortest books first (or, was it the longest book, first), and ‘it worked’ for them. And, when we hear the stories and legends of (Saint) Brigit, sometimes she’s firmly placed at the end of the fifth century, and then in other stories is described as a ‘nanny’ to the baby Jesus, five hundred years earlier! The ancients would have known about this ‘discrepancy’ and not batted an eyelid. The point is, scientific understanding and dualism was not important to the ancients, indeed, it was unknown. To them, the stories and the benefits it wrought to the village and individuals, the moral and deep spiritual meaning, and the comfort it brought was most important, was paramount.

We need to be encouraged to see things through ancient eyes.

‘Celtic spirituality is a kind of somatic archaeology, a study of unearthing the deep resources of spirit within ourselves by accessing the wisdom, power, and inherent knowledge of the body. We have largely been taught to ignore the body and the deep resources of spirit within ourselves’. The Mist-Filled Path, Frank MacEowen

The Singing Moon: Full Moon On 6 September 2017: Tadhg’s Ephemera

20170904 SIGNING MOON EPHEMERA

Yes, it’s nearly that time again – the time of the full moon.

This full moon takes place on Wednesday, 6 September in the constellation of Aquarius, in the south-southern sky. From a London, UK aspect the moon rises above the horizon that evening at about 8pm, and climbs to its highest point in the sky just after midnight.

‘Sun adores the body
Moon romances your soul …’

(Shonali Dey)

I love the times of the full moon. Whether I’m in the wilderness of north Wales surrounded by huge, sky-hugging mountains, or in London surrounded by huge, sky-hugging buildings of concrete, metal and glass (as I’m am, now), the full moon rises, peaks down, and her warm light bathes me in ‘moon-magic’. Whatever you do, do look up. Whatever you do, do make time for her. Wherever you, are do pause. She smiles down upon us all. I do so love the full moon.

This full moon is know by many names: some know it as the Corn moon because it traditionally corresponds with the time of harvesting corn; others call it the Mulberry moon; still others call it the Fruit moon; and to ancient and latter-day Celts, and Druids it is (usually) known as the Singing Moon. The Singing Moon is my preference for it.

To ancient, and latter-day Welsh Celts the moon was personified as dear Arianrhod (pronounced ah-ree-ahn-rhohd). From ‘arian’, meaning silver, and ‘rhod’ meaning wheel’ or ‘disc.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

(Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Francis of Assisi)

The moon was long thought to affect those of unsound mind, hence the term lunatic. And, a calf born near the time of the full moon was thought to be more prone to deformity, and if it was, indeed, born deformed it was called a moon-calf. The term moon-calf also became an insult in late(r) medieval England. Ofcourse, we cannot forget the legend of the werewolf who, it is said, changes shape and transforms into a wolf at the time of the full moon.

‘Tonight the moon kisses the stars.
O beloved, be like that to me!’

(Rumi)

Ofcourse, these are myths and legends, and yet the moon does affect us all. The moon, as it resolves around the Earth affects the tides of the sea, and therefore affects our climate and seasons. But, it affects us in other ways.

For instance, a three-month psychological study of 1,200 inmates at Armley gaol in Leeds in 1998 showed a rise in violent incidents in the days either side of a full moon. And, in a study of 1,000 tonsillectomy operations, some 82 per cent of post-operative bleeding crises occurred nearer the full moon than the new moon, according to the Journal of the Florida Medical Association. And, the chances of being bitten by a dog are twice as high during a full moon according to a study at Bradford Royal Infirmary, which reviewed 1,621 cases of dog bite between 1997 and 1999.

‘The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand.’ (Frederic Lawrence Knowles)

But the moon affects us all in deep and spiritual ways.

A face that gazes down upon us. A celestial body, so regular, providing a clear and bright light, and moon-shadows, too, if we’re fortunate. A reminder of nature and her benefits to us in placing the moon there to regulate the day and night, and seasons, so vital to life on Earth. A reminder, too, of the One who placed the greater lighter, and this lesser light, the Moon, in the sky. The Moon is truly ‘magical’, and doubly so for young lovers and the romantic among us, to those able to look beyond.

‘She used to tell me that a full moon was when mysterious things happen and wishes come true.’ (Shannon A. Thompson)

So, this magical full moon is a time to give thanks: a time to celebrate with a walk under the moonlight, perhaps stopping and lifting a glass of wine as a libation (which you can drink, if you wish) in honour of the moon. Or perhaps you might like to recite a poem or hold a small liturgical ceremony at the time of the full moon.  It need not be anything elaborate, but whatever you do, do enjoy this upcoming full moon.

‘The full moon – the mandala of the sky.’ (Tom Robbins)

Wishing many blessings to you, and those whom you love, at this time of the Singing Moon. Tadhg

 

Photograph, above, copyrighted and used by kind permission of Pennie Ley (click here). Bless you, Pennie.

 

‘Eucharistic Planet’ : Celtic Thought About Life & Geography

20170824 EUCHARISTIC PLANET CELTIC THOUGHT ABOUT LIFE AND GEOGRAPHYI am back in that place of paradox. Fulham cemetery in central London, so ancient and full of the remains of human bodies and ashes, and yet with the lush trees and foliage that abound here , it is a place teeming with life. To the materialIst, to those steeped in twenty-first century (maybe so, even without knowing it), to those who see only with physical eyes, there is no more.

But, there is more.

We are surrounded by ‘biological’ life: insects, animals, trees and plants etc, but even there, there is more. I’m in a physical location that has pebbles for pathways and a myriad of other stones with etchings on them, but there is more. There are things I cannot see – some would call them spirits or entities associated with this place (and, the Romans called the genii loci), and then there are the ancestors. How materialistic and limiting to presume that because we cannot see something that it does not exist (especially as ‘our science’ informs us that more that 90% of the universe is invisible to us).

There is more.

‘It’s life Jim, but not as we know it…’ Quote/Misquote from Star Trek

There are some who believe that all things – that which we call animate and inanimate – are ensouled. Even the pebbles on the pathway that I’m currently looking at are ensouled. They have a story to tell, are part of the created order, and though many would say that that idea is nonsense their was a time when those who thought the earth was the centre of the solar system would have argued vehemently that they were right and others were wrong.

‘I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ Luke 19:40, The Book

Having the view that everything has a soul, may sound bizarre to some, but even to sceptics there are benefits. If I gaze lovingly at a tree – and their are two beautiful, old, gnarled and noble trees to my left and right with stories to tell, and I believe they are ensouled and I’m in error, then nothing has been really lost. I slowed down, I might have given the trees some ‘respect’ that some materialists would say I didn’t need to do, but nothing is really lost.

‘Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.’ Gerard De Nervalok

However, even then there are benefits. I will not be so quick to view these trees, and creation in general, as a commodity to be dug us, used, and causally discarded. Even if the is no ‘ensoulment’ of all things and we act as though there is, it makes for a kinder, cleaner and more nature-based world, and one that is appreciated because it is reverenced. However, currently at the hands of materialist-thinkers the planet is being merely being ‘used’ and poisoned. ‘Ensoulment’-believers are very good for the planet and for future generations, at the very least.

There’s more.

For me everything is ensouled, and using the wisdom of ancient Celts, proto-Christians and Druids etc that ‘theology’ is wonderfully (and logically) life-preserving.

‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Hamlet, Shakespeare

I’ve now relocated. I needed to stretch my legs and I’ve walked about a mile south-west of the cemetary, and I’m now in the delightful Bishop’s Park (see header photo, above) which nestles against the River Thames .

And what of other entities? We live in such a materialist age that even many of those who frequent churches, mosques and synagogues etc struggle with the concept of angels. Call them Angels, elementals, genii loci, dryads, ancestors; there are things known, and there are things unknown. Perhaps we’re not meant to solve this mystery, but just to admit that this mystery exists, to experience it, and to revel in it.

These other entities, the spirits of the place, they exist. They exist here in this ancient land called by some, myself included, Clas Myrddin (or Merlin’s Enclosure), and they exist where you are. Even if you’re the other side of the globe, and in a ‘new’ country with a modern history of several decades or a just a handful of hundreds of years, the land is more ancient than that and so are those who inhabit it in the unseen realm. If I said this land was more special that would be for my ego to gain the upper-hand, or to give credence to some kind of ‘purist’ or arrogant fantasy. I would say every place on the face of the earth is special, and holy, and inhabited by genii loci. So, make friends with yours, wherever you are.

‘What if the universe is not merely the product of God but also the manifestation of God – a ‘eucharistic planet’ on which we have been invited to live?’. Joseph Campbell quoted by  Barbara Brown Taylor

In Bishop’s Park just a short walk away from that cemetery, the geographical location is different, my view is different, the ‘feeling’ is different, but the spiritscape shares an ancient commonality wherever we go, wherever you are, wherever I am. Different, but the same. Indeed, a ‘eucharistic planet’. Ensouled.

Developing ‘Soft Feet’: A Celtic Lifestyle/Perspective

20170821 DEVELOPING SOFT FEET CELTIC LIFESTYLEA few days ago we looked at a quote from an Anishinabe (First Nations) man from Canada, who wrote:

‘The Four-Leggeds and the Windged Ones live to a different rhythm. Theirs is the rhythm of soft eyes and soft feet. Two-Leggeds have hard eyes and hard feet. When most humans go into the forest they enter with so much of the world on them that any possibility of feeling the sacred is removed. When we go into the forest we must become soft like the animal people and the tree people’.

We also looked at seeing with ‘soft eyes’ when we considered kataphatic ‘day-dreaming’ or meditation – the kind of deep, mental exercise that uses ‘inner’ pictures, visualisation or symbols for growth, maturity, transformation.

And, we looked at apophatic ‘day-dreaming’ or meditation, which encourages the ‘releasing’ of distracting thoughts to arrive at that ‘inner’ place of peace and solitude that some refer to as ‘le point vierge’.

Today, we’re looking at having ‘soft feet’.

What does that mean,  how we can interpret that, and what does it mean to practice it? There are many ways to view that phrase, but I’d like to suggest three.

Firstly, walking on the earth with ‘soft feet’ can be interpreted as ensuring minimal damage to the environment. So, if hiking in the wilderness, the aim would be to leave no trace that we have moved through that way.

‘All the animals and creatures of this earth are our former brothers and sisters but because we believe that we have “dominion” over them, we have become cruel little emperors.’  John O’Donohue,

If we live in a city, it may mean trying to reduce our carbon footprint by buying food as local as we can to where we live, perhaps using energy-saving lightbulbs, or turning the central heating down by a degree or two, or something similar. Small adjustments to reduce energy etc, to be aware of nature, can make huge gains for the environment and its preservation. In this sense, it’s a practical adjustment of removing or minimising negative effects. A good move.

But there’s more!

Secondly, walking on the earth with ‘soft feet’ can be interpreted as doing something ‘in addition’ to ‘repair’ and damage to the natural world. It may be one thing to try to reduce our carbon footprint by buying locally, but maybe there’s something we can do, to ‘add’ to our local environment.

For instance, many have noticed the reduction in bees. Did you know that bees are attracted to crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac, all of which provide enticing spring blooms. But, they also like echinacea, snapdragons foxglove, and in the summer, and in the autumn they adore zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod. And some of these can be grown on balconies, and so we don’t need a large garden. We can all ‘additionally’ plant bee-encouraging plants, perhaps? Or something environmentally similar.

But walking with ‘soft feet’ may also encompass our honouring and respecting others…..to ‘walk softly’ through their lives?

‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’ – Chinese Proverb

But there’s even more!

The abovementioned are all good and wholesome steps (and you’re probably doing much more), but I would suggest there’s a foundational, ‘inner’ and essential step that takes place first.

The foundational step I would suggest is our inner attitude – and kataphatic and apophatic meditation can assist here – that ‘spills over’ and so affects us, others, and the larger environment in a beneficial way

”The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.’ Thich Nhat Hanh

If, inwardly, we are ‘asleep’ or  are ‘sleepwalkers’ or operating out of base motives then our view of ourselves, others, nature and the wider universe will be severely limited. Those who constantly read bad news, for instance, or allow themselves to be bombarded with gloomy news, can, psychologically be said to be suffering from ‘mean world’ syndrome. In that frame of mind everything seems awful, and the good is unintentionally ignored.

Someone said that the light of the body is the eye and if your eye be single, then your whole body shall be full of light. (Matt 6:22 The Book). There is much debate about this odd sentence, and some believe it could mean that if our eyes are working properly, that is if we are fully aware, then we can see deeply what really is, and see beyond just the surface-level, and the result is that we will see deep beauty around us and in very situation; and conversely, if our perception is limited (if we’re asleep’ and so our senses are dulled), then we will miss the deep meaning behind everything and only observe in a shallow manner. We will miss much.

And so, walking with ‘soft feet’ or having a ‘single eye’ could mean something like: being fully aware, observing the good that surrounds us, and being aware of the need to go deeper, and to do so, in love.

And so it could be that when it’s time to prune a tree, we will acknowledge the beauty of that tree and prune away to the best of my knowledge and skill. Now, some may want to ask the dryad and other elemental characters (as their belief requires) beforehand, and others will just cut away, but hopefully do so now in a way that acknowledges the ‘aliveness’ of that tree and give it the respect it deserves. But, walking with ‘soft feet’ surely means….with due consideration, and having a reverence of nature.

And it could be that we will ensure that we draw alongside those who are easy to get along with. Ofcourse. But, what of those who are difficult to get along with? Maybe they’re having a bad day or maybe the way they are has to do with being brought up in a  difficult environment when growing up, or maybe they’re dealing with bad news, or bad health? We don’t know. However, walking with ‘soft feet’ surely mean that, regardless of the way they (mis)treat us, that we will, so far as is practicable, treat them well. Unconditional respect and love for others – and don’t forget to include yourself.

After all, at the depth of their spirit they, like us, are one with the Source of All, and are good. Julian of Norwich, one of my favourite mystics,  believed that. Perhaps deep within them, if we have ‘eyes to see’, we might discern the face of God or the Universe smiling back?

‘As you change your point of view, your views bring about a change in you.’  George Alexiou

And it could be that we’ll take time to make time to appreciate the wonderful creation that we indwell. The art of slowing down is important here. And the latter is one function of ritual. Walking with ‘soft feet’ is also about ritual, for ritual ushers us out of ‘ordinary time’ into sacred-time and sacred-space, and it is there/then that we can catch glimpses or feel impressions beyond the ordinary. Then we get glimpses of what could be, and realise that there is more going on than we were first aware of. So, slow done and joyfully work on anything that enhances your awareness of what really is.

There are many ways to think of what having ‘soft feet’ means, and the abovementioned are but a few – if you think of others please let me know.

‘If you hold to Nature, to the simplicity that is in her, to the small detail that scarcely one man sees, which can so unexpectedly grow into something great and boundless; if you have this love for insignificant things and seek, simply as one who serves, to win the confidence of what seems to be poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more conciliatory, not perhaps in the understanding, which lags wondering behind, but in your innermost consciousness, wakefulness and knowing.’ Rainer Maria Rilke,