Celtic OrthoPraxis: Time To Dive In

20180320 CELTIC ORTHOPRAXIS TIME TO DIVE INToday, the day started off ‘fresh’. Temperature-wise, that was. The snow of a couple of weeks ago returned a couple of day ago, but it too, has almost melted away. A little remains in my little city aparment’s garden.

At one level it’s just snow – great to look at, and I do so love it. My inner child, never far below the surface, erupts with a simple joy. Look deeper and we know that snow is composed of water molecules and intricate crystals and atoms, and even small physical quanta. But, at another level it evokes a deeper response, a deep spiituality – it’s as if nature is reminding us that we dont control the weather, that the circle turns as it pleases and not at our behest, and that we are yet immersed in nature and not the other way around. There is always more.

‘Those who would search for pearls must dive below.’ John Dryden

Today, I greeted the day with a simple liturgy set in a simple ritual. At one level it’s just a prayer and ritual, formed of words and physical actions. Some stop there. At another level the words give voice to an inner intentionality, which is important. More than that, that liturgy and ritual has a deeper, spiritual, and more profound effect in a realm invisible to us, currently. Yes, there is more.

We can look at the surface of something, or go deeper, or go really deep.

Later, I was talking with a good friend. We spoke about calendars. I mentioned that I like nothing better to mark the months using a formala put forward by Graves, and which uses trees names to mark the unfolding year. It was pointed to me that that ‘tree calendar’ was fiction in that ancient Celts and Druids would have been unaware of that particular calendar. I know. But, fortunately we looked deeper.

‘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

At another level we both agreed that that calendar was nature-focussed, and eco-awareness-prompting, and that cannot be such a bad thing. It was also pointed out to me that ‘purists’ would still object, but we worked through that, noting that there seems to be more worth in celebrating months named after trees than ancient Roman gods and emporers as some do without further thought or objection. But, there’s more. At a deeper level, that kind of ‘tree calender’ worked very well (in conjuction with regular named months), does bring us into a deeper awareness and participation of the turning circle of the seasons. Okay, a little imagination is needed. But, there, is always more.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
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

We can look at the surface of something, or go deeper, or go really deep. But, we live in a world that is, in many senses, quite, quite shallow. Very dualistic. And arguments, for instance, about particularly interpreting and applying ancient words, ritual and formulae, especially where over the years where ‘gaps’ have appeared, abound.

For instance, many years ago I wrote a prayer that had four verses, one to be recited at each of the compass cardinal points. The problem is part of it is missing. The ‘south’ prayer was missing. Lost somewhere. Now a ‘purist’ might say, ‘Tadhg, to be authentic to your work, you should recite the three verses you have, and remain silent when turning to the south’. I hope it doesnt upset my ‘purist’ friends, but I filled in the gap, by recently writing a ‘south’ prayer in line and in the style of the preceeding verses, and it worked wonderfully. It also occured to me, that we all do similar.

‘I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart.’ LaMar Boschman

But, there’s more as regards that prayer. Deeper than just words, there was intentionality, and deeper than that was the threshold opening of ‘touching’ another realm. All of which would be lost if we had just concentred on the challenge of the missing verse and discussing, at a cerebral, contemporary, dualistic, academic level, whether it should have been re-written or not.

‘Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.’ The Book, 1 John 3.8

There is an ancient Middle-eastern story that goes something like this:

‘There was once a time when some kind of calamity was threatening a village. The village elder knew what to do. He went a certain ‘Holy Place’ in the forest, lit a ‘Sacred Fire’ and said a ‘Special Prayer’. And, when this was done, calamity was averted.

Years later a similar threat arose, and so the village elder of that day went into the forest and spoke to the Source of All, and said: “I do not know how to light the ‘Sacred Fire’, but I still remember the ‘Holy Place’ in the forest, and I still know that ‘Special Prayer’. Then, he said the special prayer in the holy place. When he returned home, the calamity had been averted.

Some years later, the village found itself in trouble. The village elder of that day went again into that ‘Holy Place’ in the forest and said to the Source Of All: “I don’t know the ‘Holy Place’, in this forest, but I do not know how to light the ‘Sacred Fire’ and I’ve forgotten that ‘Special Prayer’. Yet,  have pity on us and save your people.’ This time, too, the tragedy was averted.

Yes, some years later, again, trouble arose. The village elder of that day wanted to avert tragedy. Sitting at home, he prayed to the Source of All from the depth of his heart: ‘I am so sorry. I do not know that site of the ‘Holy Place’ in the forest. I cannot light the ‘Sacred Fire’, and worst of all, I have even forgotten that ‘Special, Prayer’. Yet, I pray that you would have pity on us and deliver us from danger.’ And the Source of All listened to the elder’s heart and averted the calamity.’

Words, depth, heart. Words, meaning, intentionalty. Surface, go deep, go very deep.

There is always more. Mae mwy as they say in Wales. So, my encouragement to you and myself is to go very deep. And in using of prayer, liturgy, ritual and personal encounters with That Which Is Bigger Than Us, let us not to be hung up on mere ‘surface’ concerns and miss the Encounter and other delights that await us when we leave ‘the shallows’ and when we dive deep. There is always more.

 

 

 

Of Pond-skaters And Kingfishers: Spiritual Stages & Progression

161227-pondskaters-1-celtic-thoughtIt occurred to me that, in one sense, that there are two sorts of people, whether they be Celtic, Celtic Christian, Druid or of another tribe or faith family.

The two sorts? Pond-skaters and Kingfishers. And, here’s why:

Pond-skaters: Pond-skaters are wonderful little insects that walk on water. With large and wide legs, relative to their body and weight, they can manoeuvre across the surface of ponds, and no doubt obtain all the food they need to satisfy them from other insects who, similarly, live in their 2D world; a world of north-to-south or east-to-west, or any combination of degrees, but always on the surface of the pond.

People who are like pond-skaters, are similarly living in a (spiritual) 2D world. Believing they can navigate anywhere, they too navigate north-to-south or east-to-west, or any combination of degrees, but always on the surface of their belief. It’s all they’ve known. They cannot, ofcourse, navigate anywhere living in that restricted in 2D realm, but they think they can, and so limit themselves unknowingly. They may be content and so not experiment. They may even be unaware of another dimension, and so not try.

Such people know their Christian liturgy or Druidic prayers and ritual, or that of another faith, but see it as something ‘mechanical’ or ‘magical’: if I do ‘this’, then ‘that’ results automatically. If I do this, because it’s expected, then a benevolent result will….ummm result. They, as ancient text states, ‘hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power’.

Such people, may not even try to go deeper, but prefer just the ‘outwardness’ of ritual and prayer, and thus declare those who have gone ‘deeper’, those that are Kingfishers, those who are different, to be heretics, and therefore ‘write them off’, ignore them, or even declare them as dangerous.

Kingfishers: And, this brings me to people who are like Kingfishers. Those people who have undergone a change in perception.

Kingfishers are marvellous birds, well-adapted to fly at great heights and then descending at speed to catch a fish, dive deep into the water – yes, they break the surface of the pond and go deep. Kingfishers operate in air and water, in two realms, they move about in in 3D: they can navigate anywhere, they too navigate north-to-south or east-to-west, or any combination of degrees, but they have added the high-to-low dimension, and so thus have greater freedom that only Kingfishers (and not Pond-skaters) can experience.

Kingfisher-type people are those that love the outward appearance of ritual and liturgy (like Pond-skaters), and have the added dimension of going ‘deep’, of peeking behind the veil, and of being open to encountering the Source of All to whom that ritual and liturgy ‘connects’, albeit just a glimpse of the Source, ofcourse.

Kingfisher-type people would have a tough time relating their experiences to Pondskater-type people, and so it may be best, if you’re a kingfisher-type person, not to even try in earnest (though a hint, an encouragement to Pondskater-type people would be good, so long as it’s not too obvious – remember, to Pondskater-type people, Kingfisher-type people are heretics, and are therefore dangerous).

There’s more: James Fowler says something about this, and divides the growth of personal faith into seven stages, with a major division between stages three and four. Two things are noteworthy.

To bridge the gap between stages three and four, and so become a kingfisher-type person, demands some ‘judder’, some huge challenge in ones life (such as a close death, trauma, major illness etc, and an eventual overcoming of it and moving through it), and not everyone passes through this ‘judder’ to stage four and beyond. The other interesting fact that Fowler mentions is that each stage cannot comprehend the stage above it (especially at stage three when a major change needs to take place to enter level four, and so those especially at level four look as though they have ‘lost it completely’ to those at level three).

A question for you: So, are you a pond-skater of kingfisher?

It could be said that one sign that you’re a pond-skater is if you haven’t read this far (and so you won’t be reading this) and have already dismissed the abovementioned out of hand or branded me a heretic. If however you honestly recognise yourself at this awesome level, do contact me.

In all probability, if you’ve read this far then maybe you’re a kingfisher-type person, at Fowler level four, maybe, or beyond. Do contact me, because stages five and above promise much, but each transition to another stage has it’s (minor) challenge(s) to work through, lest ‘arrestment’ settle in.

And, so there you have it. Pond-skaters or Kingfishers. What do you think?