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Echoes of Creation  Reflections On Celtic Spirituality       Part OneA Challenge for the West?
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                           2          The Challenges Facing The WestNote. This is th...
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                               3The Challenges Facing Christianity Post Modernity in...
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                              4The Challenge of a Paternalistic GodThe presentation ...
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                             5This has led to the growth (unintentionally to a certa...
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                            6For Christians, this Mystery is expressed in the God of...
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                            7                                Our Need to Shift      ...
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                              8People of all Faith Traditions require this strong ba...
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                            9In short, Celtic Spirituality can answer the challenges...
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                            10In addition, in Celtic at , we need to remember our fr...
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                         11  The Road AheadMy Lord God,I have no idea where I am goi...
An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality                              12BIBLIOGRAPHYThe following are some of the main sourc...
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Echoes of-creation-pt5 - 21st century chalenges

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Echoes of-creation-pt5 - 21st century chalenges

  1. 1. Echoes of Creation Reflections On Celtic Spirituality Part OneA Challenge for the West?
  2. 2. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 2 The Challenges Facing The WestNote. This is the last in the series of 5 presentations/notes on CelticSpirituality. It concludes with a Celtic Celebration. These notes needto be read in the context of this and therefore CANNOT fully conveythe richness of what is Celtic Spirituality.INTRODUCTIONWelcome to this our final session and final notes. These notes accompany apresentation which gives a short resume of the four previous parts and some final pointsre Celtic Spirituality. It then reflects on the following challenges that face Religion andSpirituality in the West: The Challenges of Modernity and the Relevance of God The Paternalistic God and its potential bias against women Ecology Other Major Faith Traditions – Particularly Eastern Dualism versus Non-Duality Rationality versus Mysticism Our common or universal need for a secure baseAt the end of the presentation there will be a final Celtic Celebration bringing togethersome of the elements of the 4 week journey But first let us open our meeting and thesenotes with a prayer from A. Maclean – the father of the author Alastair Maclean , who inthe 1930s led a revival of Celtic Spirituality in Scotland As the hand is made for holding , and the eye for seeing. Share with me the vision that shall find it everywhere. In the wild violet’s beauty; In the lark’s melody; In the face of a steadfast man; In the child’s smile; In a mother’s love. In the purity of Jesus. AMEN©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  3. 3. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 3The Challenges Facing Christianity Post Modernity in the WestThe following are some final and personal thoughts concerning the challenges facingWestern Christianity and post-modernity in the West. They suggest how some aspectsof Celtic Spirituality might play its part in addressing these challenges.Challenge of Modernity and Relevance of GodThe first challenge is the relevance of God in the modern age. It gathered great strengthin the later half of the 19th and throughout the 20th Century. Materialism, wars andconflict played their part in dulling people’s senses to the Presence of God. Theseeming inability of Faith Traditions, and particularly Western Christianity, to present ananswer to these challenges did not help. Increasingly, people, and particularly theyoung, began to question the relevance of the ‘paternalistic’ God that is all too oftenportrayed by Western Churches.This is a challenge that all Faith Traditions face but more particularly those in the morematerialistic West. However, it is, to some extent, a challenge of our own making. Overseveral centuries, Western Christianity – to a large degree seems to have failed to faceup to the consequences of our materialistic past and present. It has failed perhaps toremind people of their inter-dependence and their TRUE relationship with this planet andcreation. It has presented a man made in the image of God and has to a certain extentlost sight of the wonder and mystery of the Creator. In doing this it has turned its own‘theology’ on its head and seemingly presented a God made in man’s own image.Challenge of EcologyThe challenge of ecology and the environment is crucial and one that is connected withsome of the points above. Many people and especially the young, are ‘turned off’ by areligion which seems to have failed to emphasise its connection with creation and thisplanet – to have seemingly lost or forgotten its own Creation Narrative – in Genesis .Losing touch with the ‘Presence of God’ in all creation has led to man, and mainly mennot women, abusing the planet. The land , the ‘Earth’ and its riches are a ‘gift’ fromGod to be held in trust ( see Genesis) A failure to see the Sacred in Creation has led toa cavalier attitude to the world and perhaps hence the current great and loomingdisaster of the GREENHOUSE EFFECT.Modern science increasingly warns us of the impending disaster of our over-exploitationof our Blue Planet and our greedy use of fossil fuels. Unlike our distant ancestors andmost of the Aboriginal Cultures, we have lost our sense of the sacredness of MotherEarth.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  4. 4. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 4The Challenge of a Paternalistic GodThe presentation of God as a male, paternalistic figure is another great challenge. Thisis a major block for many and particularly to those who challenge the many thousands ofyears of male dominated paternalistic culture.God is neither male nor female and as Jewish Scripture reminds us ‘in the image ofGod we were created – male and female’. Our God is essentially Spirit as are we.Hans Kung the respected German Theologian reminds us of the dangers of aPaternalistic God. Many cultures have a concept of a God who is either female or bothmale and female. ‘The designation of “father” for God is misunderstood if it is taken asthe opposite of “mother” (see Hans Kung;- Does God Exist) Our concept, ‘borrowed’from Judaism is very simplistic and has led to men assuming they have a ‘God – GivenRight’ to dominate women. Yet MOST Faith Traditions are kept alive by women. Wehave ‘skewed’ the concept of God to fit in with a male dominated culture and forthousands of years women have suffered. In this modern age, people will no longeraccept this.Many of the great leaders, mystics and saints have pointed this out. Guru Nanak, thefounder of Sikhism, reminds his followers that ‘ Of woman we are born, without womanonly the True One exists’ The Jewish Scriptures present God with both a mother’s andfather’s care. The prophets remind us, as do the Wisdom Scriptures, of the femininity ofGod. Celtic, Coptic and Eastern Traditions recognise the importance of the feminine inGod. In the Celtic tradition the Spirit (of the Trinity) is often represented as a woman.We urgently need to recover our understanding and sense of inter-connectedness andthat we are ALL , both male and female, made in God’s image. This sense of oneness,whilst not denying the virtue and fact of our uniqueness, leads to a respect fordifference. A respect for both the feminine and masculine aspects of our commonhumanity and this in turn could lead to less discrimination , oppression and violencebeing shown to females.The Challenge of DualismThe concept of a dualistic God is another great challenge. This has ‘crept’ intoChristianity and many other aspects of Western and Middle Eastern life. In the main thisis due to the major influence, for over 1600 years, by the Platonism of the Greco-RomanCulture. In addition Christianity has had 300 years of the Cartesian Principle and to whatis often referred to as ‘the age of enlightenment’ Consequently, the paternalistic andcognitive aspect of the human psyche has been elevated and the feministic andaffective and intuitive aspects demoted. The consequences of all this has been a mixedblessing. We have to some extent lost sight of our spiritual heritage.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  5. 5. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 5This has led to the growth (unintentionally to a certain degree) of a DUALISTIC notion ofGod. There is a Transcendent God , a God who is somewhere up THERE! Thisleaves us as mere humans DOWN HERE! This is often depicted in pictures showingpeople looking up to heaven to see the Paternalistic ‘Old Man with a beard ‘on a cloud!Thus we have the distorted theology of ‘Pie in the Sky when you die’Yet many people in there ordinary experiences encounter an Immanent God. This is aGod or a sense of ‘Presence’ at the core of their being. These experiences lead to themshying away from this Transcendent and often angry old man God. This ‘picture’ of thetranscendent God fails to connect with their experience of the spiritual in life. However,their cultural filters , formed by centuries of paternalistic ideas ‘warn’ them to beware oftheir intuition and leads to so much confusion, particularly amongst the young.In addition, this dualism fails to represent the God both IMMANENT andTRANSCENDENT and thereby fails to present a more holistic picture of the God we canknow and experience in this life. Therefore, those who experience God in the‘immanence of Presence’ are often left without means of sharing and discussing thisGod. In the Celtic Tradition, this is a God well known and often talked and prayed about.( See Part 1 – Presence , for further aspects of this.)The Challenge of RATIONALITY V MYSTICISM AND COSMOLOGYA further challenge is that of rationalism versus mystery and the Cosmic God ( Christ).We have to a certain extent created a ‘topsy turvy’ God World! We have indeed turnedthings upside down! Instead of us being made in God’s Image, we have tended to makeGod in our image! And this leads to us creating a ‘rational God’.In the West this has become a paternal male authority figure who resides somewhere upthere! This of course reinforces the paternalistic right to rule and thus exert power over.It mirrors much of the hierarchical systems and structures that dominate most cultures,even so-called Western Democracies.Yet God is neither male nor female and certainly God, whatever or whoever God is, isnot up there (wherever ‘up there’ is). God is Spirit. God is also inexpressible and we(male & female) are created in God’s image but we are neither God nor exactly like Godbut we are spiritual people.In addition, both the Mystics of all ages and of all religions and the Cosmologists andScientists agree that there is a great ‘Mystery’ at the heart of Creation. TheScientist/Cosmologists try to explore the HOW of it and the Mystics the WHY and WHOof it. The Mystics throughout the ages have always pointed out to us that the WHY andWHO of it is God, by whatever name you call it. Thus in Hinduism we have the 1000names of God and Muslims often refer to the 99 names for Allah. These numbersmerely attempt to point out the ultimate Mystery of the Absolute.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  6. 6. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 6For Christians, this Mystery is expressed in the God of the Trinity and Christ by His Birth– Death and Resurrection is ‘mystery’. We need to regain some sense of the awe of thisMystery and avoid our over-emphasis on the humanity of Christ.This challenge ofmystery, has often led to young people wandering overseas in search of the ‘mysticalGod’. They are attracted by the Eastern Traditions, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism,or the ‘New Age’ movements, all of which seem to present both aspects of God, theTranscendent and Immanent and particularly the holistic and mystical aspect of theDivine.A further aspect of this is the importance of recognising the advances made by scientistsand cosmologists in broadening and deepening the boundaries of our knowledge. Inaddition, theologians and religious scholars have deepened our knowledge andunderstanding both of the Scriptures and of God. All these advances challenge our‘theology’ and our need to ‘update’ an often outmoded concept of God and Creation.This can be both painful and difficult but it is essential if we are to recover our sense ofthe Mystery and Presence of the Divine in all aspects of life and creation . Perhaps ourgreatest danger is to hold on to outmoded and incorrect ideas and thus to attempt tomake God in our image.All the above advances have been incorporated into Creation Spirituality and one of itsgreatest and most influential exponents is Matthew Fox. He writes about and commentson the ‘Cosmic Christ’ and the Christology of the 20th and 21st Century. In his book,The Coming of the Cosmic Christ ( 1988) he outlines the ‘shift’ that may need to takeplace if Christians are to face the challenges of science and modern theologicalscholarship.He outlines a series of important shifts along a series on continuums. All these are shiftsand challenges that are a result of our growing scientific and mystical understanding.These shifts are laid out in the table shown overleaf. It is important to note that most ofthese ‘shifts’ would have intuitively made sense to the Celts of the early part of the firstmillennium.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  7. 7. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 7 Our Need to Shift FROM TONewton Einstein‘Parts’ mentality WholenessRationalism MysticismObedience Creativity(as a prime moral virtue) (as a prime moral virtue)Personal Salvation Communal Healing ( compassion as salvation)Theism Panentheism( God outside us) ( God in us & us in God)Fall - Redemption Religion Creation Centered Spirituality( Adapted from Matthew Fox ( 1988) – The Coming of the Cosmic Christ)Celtic Spirituality, with its deep sense of God’s pervading presence, its understandingand reverence about and for creation and with its sense of the mystical would have fewproblems with any of the above.THE NEED FOR A SECURE BASEPeople long for a ‘secure base’. John Bowlby, a famous psychologist has contributedgreatly to our understanding of bereavement and loss and particularly how youngchildren react and adapt to the effects of good and poor parenting. He talks and writesabout the need for a secure base and how, whenever this is threatened we react eitherwith submissive apathy or anxiety or aggressive angry behaviour. In other words, peopleneed some security, some safe haven or base, some strong roots from which to live inand explore the world.This need for security is not merely a psychological need, it is an holistic need. We alsoneed both physical and spiritual security and all three needs are intertwined, like theleaves of the Irish Shamrock.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  8. 8. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 8People of all Faith Traditions require this strong base. Christianity is no exception.Arguably, in this increasingly multi-cultural and multi-faith world, with a growing sense ofour inter-dependence, we need to feel more secure and rooted on our own tradition if weare to meet and dialogue with others in mutual regard and respect. This dialogue can bechallenging as we begin share values, concepts, ideas that are rooted in seeminglydiverse cultures. For many of our young people, who are desperately searching formeaning, the short, simple answers of much of Western Christianity do not ring true.Especially from a culture that in the last century led to two world wars, the horrors of theGulags and the Nazi Concentration Camps and the ethnic cleansing in many areas ofEurope and Africa.As a consequence, many young people are disillusioned and so they search in the Eastand in the New Age movements. This is not a new phenomenon. In the 1930’s whenfascism was rearing its head many idealistic people went to India to visit Gandhi.Gandhiji used to tell them to return to the West and read, reflect on and understand StLuke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. Maybe this is something we all need to do.For it contains a very powerful message of right living and the consequences for failingto do so.CELTIC CHRISTIANITY – A POSSIBLE ANSWER?Celtic Christianity and its deep Spirituality, with its emphasis on the non-dualistic God,its sense of the Indwelling Presence, the holiness of place and creation, the over-arching protection of this God and its emphasis on the inner and outer Journey, hassome possible answers to these challenges. It could provide us with many elements of asecure base, a spirituality which has much to say in these times.It is a tradition firmly rooted in Western Culture and particularly in Britain and Ireland. Ithas a strong sense, awe and reverence for the ‘Mystical Union’, which for Christians isrepresented by the Trinity. It believes in the Cosmic Christ, the Christ of the Cosmos andof Creation. It is centred firmly on the Christian concept of Jesus, the God who becameMan, who came to liberate us from the powers of evil. But it also has retained a strongsense of the wonder of Creation and its Creator.It is ‘green’ in its approach to ecology and our need to hold this planet in trust and not tomisuse it. It rejoices in and recognises both the Transcendent and Immanent God andthe fact that this God has both feminine and masculine aspects. In common with earlyChristian communities in Syria and in Egypt, it symbolised its understanding of thefemininity of God by representing the Spirit as feminine. This was repressed by the earlypaternalistic Church who preferred a masculine concept of God. The Celtic Churchretains the concept of the ‘mystical God’ and sees no distinction between the secularand the sacred. God is in all, with all and is ALL.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  9. 9. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 9In short, Celtic Spirituality can answer the challenges outlined in the previous pages,with a spiritual tradition that is almost 3000 years old and with almost 2000 years offaithfulness to the Christian Good News. It believes strongly and naturally inenculturation, that is, in accepting people for who they are, in respecting their cultureand in presenting them with a Faith that is solid, respectful and one that is filled withGood News. Perhaps it has something to tell 21st Century Christianity about how to ‘do’Mission?ConclusionsThis has been a journey which has briefly touched on some of the main aspects of CelticSpirituality and particularly those of presence, place, protection and pilgrimage; the fourgreat Ps of this spirituality. These are major and complex concepts, which deeply touch,inform and inspire this approach to spirituality. This is a ‘living spirituality’ which isintimately connected to the world, creation and to God. It is all about the intimaterelationship between people, creation and the Creator. These four points are nowsummarised.1. Presence The Celts had an abiding sense of God’s ‘Presence’; this could be likenedto the Hindu practice of awareness or the Buddhist practice of mindfulness. God was inall and around all. Celtic Spirituality interweaved pre and post Christian themes. Thewhole of creation, including man and woman, were permeated by God’s ‘Presence’. Goddwelt within us (the Immanent God) and around and beyond us, the Transcendent God.2. Place Although Celts believed that God was within and around all and that therewas a connection between this life and the afterlife; they also believed that certainplaces were ‘thin places’. Thin places, were those places and moments when the veilbetween our sense of this life, as experienced by the body/psyche, and God’s presence(and the after life) was almost pierced. In other words, these were times and placeswhere between God and us there was no between – an experience recounted by MotherJulian of Norwich. Such thin places always exist. Celts particularly found these nearwater, in oak groves, mountain tops and in the day –to-day places where we sit and arepresent to the ‘presence’. This practice of the present moment is identical to BuddhistMindfulness and assists us to drop down into the depths of our consciousness andthereby be more present to God’s ‘Presence’.3. Protection Celts believed in the power of Good and Evil and in an afterlife.To them, Christ came as a liberator and the message of the Cross was one of liberation.A liberation offered for and on behalf of basically good people to protect and insulatethem from the powers of Evil. Celts did not see this Easter Story of Jesus as one thatfocused on the salvation of bad and sinful people. The latter is a very repressivetheology and contradicts the concept of a Compassionate Creator who only creates‘perfection’. For Celts the story of the ‘Fall of Man, outlined in Genesis was seen as ametaphor and not a literal fact.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  10. 10. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 10In addition, in Celtic at , we need to remember our friends, families and the saints whohave left their bodies have gone before us. They have joined the angels and Christ andare therefore available to us in times of need and protection. Therefore, CelticSpirituality is steeped in the practice of prayers of protection for all times and occasions.This leads to the lovely Celtic Tradition of the Caim or Lorica.4. Pilgrimage Celts believed that the inner journey reflected the outer journey. Weare all on a pilgrimage back to the Source. Therefore, pilgrimage was seen as avaluable spiritual practice. Not necessarily to any particular Holy Place, although thatcan /could be useful. More importantly, pilgrimage involved journeying prayerfully andmindfully with God. The great (and many) Celtic Missionaries set out on this Journey tospread the Good News of Truth.Some Final Points Celts valued equality and both believed in and practiced theconcept of equal rights for both sexes. They respected and valued other cultures andtraditions as well as knowledge, learning, the environment and creation. CelticSpirituality pre-dates both the Green Movement and Creation Spirituality. It providessome very important pointers for the modern Western Christian Church.This series ends with a reflection from Thomas Merton. I feel that this mirrors thethoughts, feelings and faith of many of the Celtic saints and missionaries who over aperiod of several hundred years fearlessly and faithfully set out to share their vision ofGod with others. They set out in hope and with confidence and with humility. Theyaccepted other peoples and cultures and merely offered to them their vision of what itwas to be human, to be in harmony with creation and more importantly with the Creator Peter Creagh ( Satsang Member UK Midlands & North) www.satsang-companionship.org.uk©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  11. 11. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 11 The Road AheadMy Lord God,I have no idea where I am going.I cannot see the road ahead of meand I do not know for certain where it will end.Nor do I know myself,and the fact that I think I am following your will does notmean that I am actually doing so.But I believe that the desire to please youdoes in fact please you.I hope that I will never do anything apartfrom that desire.And I know that if I do thisyou will lead me by the right road,though I may know nothing about it.Therefore will I trust you always.Though I may seem to be lostand in the shadow of death,I will not fear, for you are ever with me,and will never leave meto face my perils alone. Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  12. 12. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 12BIBLIOGRAPHYThe following are some of the main sources which support all chapters/short papersin this series on Celtic Spirituality. Other sources are quoted in the text as theyoccur. In addition, many of the opening and closing prayers have been adaptedand/or compiled or written by the author (Peter Creagh) in the ‘style’ of CelticSpirituality.Adam, David,(1987) The Cry of the Deer , London, Triangle/SPCKAdam, David,(1985) The Edge of, London, Triangle/SPCKGlory Backhouse,H & Pipe,R ( Eds)( 1987) Revelations of Divine Love – Mother Julian ofNorwich , London, Hodder & StoughtonBamford, C & Marsh,WP (1986) Celtic Christianity – Ecology and Holiness, Edinburgh, FlorisBradley,I (2003) The Celtic Way, London , Darton-Longman-ToddCahill,T (1995) How the Irish Saved Civilization - New York, DoubledayBeresford-Ellis,P (1992) Celtic Inheritance – London, ConstablLleelyn,R (1990) The Dart of Longing Love – Daily Readings from the Cloud of Unknowing,London, Darton-Longman-ToddMatthews,J & C (1993) The little Book of Celtic Wisdom, Dorset, ElementMatthews,C (1994) The little Book of Celtic Blessings, Dorset, ElementMatthews,C (1989) THe Celtic Tradition , Dorset, ElementMcKinney,D ( 2004) Walking the Mist- Celtic Spirituality for the 21st Century, London ,Hodder& StoughtonO Fiannachta,P (1988) Saltair – Prayers from the Irish Tradition , Dublin, Columba PressO Malley,B ( 1998) Celtic Blessings , Norwich, Canterbury PressO Malley,B ( 2002) A Celtic Primer , Norwich, Canterbury PressStreit, Jakob (1977) Sun and Cross, Edinburgh, Floris PressTobin, G (1999), The Wisdom of St Patrick, New York, BallantineToulson, S (1993) The Celtic Year, Dorset, ElementVardey,L (1996) God In All Worlds, New York, Vintage Books©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections

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