Celtic Spirituality in Kentucky

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Newell on Celtic Spirituality in Lexington, Ky, April 2006

Philip Newell and Celtic Spirituality, Lexington, Ky, April 28-30, 2006.

I was invited to be one of the co-sponsors to help bring Philip Newell to Lexington, by Dr. Pearl Rutledge. I listed my ecclesiastical affiliation, the Celtic Christian Church as one of the sponsors. Already familiar with the concepts and having taught workshops to psychologists and laity on Celtic Spirituality, I was interested here in the metaphors Newell chose and the manner and goals of his teaching. We began at Christ Church on Friday evening, followed by a full day workshop on Saturday.

N. outlined three themes he would address: Love of Christ, Love of Creation and then These two loves are One. (In the latter, he used many quotes from Teilhard)
I do not propose these as the remarks of the speaker or an accurate summary of his teaching, but only the perceptions of this imperfect and wounded man. We can hear only what we are ready to hear, see only what we are prepared to see. (This always differs, which is one reason why we need each other for wholeness.)


"Each moment is from God, therefore when we miss the moment, the uniqueness of that opportunity, we have missed God." His favorite and rich metaphor are “Listening” and the “Heartbeat of God.” We need to learn to listen deeply within ourselves and all things to the Heartbeat of God. There is a new birthing of Christ's presence in the world, many signs of God's continuing creating and redeeming, and the oneness and inseparable connection of all life. "

Christ is our freedom, our life, our wisdom and teaching us, leading us into the Listening to the Heartbeat of God, to be found everywhere. He contrasted insights from the Secret Book of John, with the Imperial Church of the Mediterranean. Humanity has forgotten who we are, Christ comes as our memory , as the memory of wholeness. We suffer from forgetfulness. We have forgotten that which is the deepest within us: the Image of God. We have been asleep, in the bondage of forgetfulness.

(Dr. John Parks, Muslim for 12 years remarked that the Muslim word for man, humanity, is one who has forgotten).

There are three marks of our forgetfulness: 1) we are imprisoned in a false self; 2) we lack Wisdom and 3) our lives are marked by anxiety and fear of error and insecurity.

Christ says I am the memory of Wholeness. How are we to be awakened? Christ is the Awakener. Which leads us to a radically different view of the Cross. Not atonement, not substitutionary payment (which is not found in the Gospel of John) not the Celtic view. Instead the Cross is a showing of Self-Giving, a Gift to God. God does not require a payment. This view is responsible for great error in religious history. That there is suffering in love is from God, The Cross therefore is a kind of Icon of God, Love means suffering. If we prefer not to suffer, we should choose not to love. Because Love has the greatest of costs, of returning to our Truest Self. We shall find our depth and our meaning to the extent that we give ourselves away.

What we are being invited to is an Awakening, Here the story of Lazarus was expounded upon as a metaphor for our own awakening. What are we being invited to wake up to in our suffering and that of the world. What is the stench of decay in us and around us, What is the Tomb, what is the Binding, the loosening we need. Jesus says "Unbind him, let him go." We should pray, Christ, show us your wounds among us?

LOVE OF CREATION. N. Interspersed his teaching with meditative chants played from tapes, and prayers taken from the Celtic traditions.

Here he spoke of Creator loving the wildness of creation, the untameable, the boundless. He began with quoting Genesis. There was darkness, Let there be Light. How do we discern the falseness within us? Always what cannot be said is greater than what can be said, about God, about anything. We are surrounded by unspeakable mystery. Light, sun, moon. Moonlight draws us better into mystery, what cannot be said or realized, but only imagined.

Whatever we say or can say about a human being, none of these express the mystery of Who we are, and who we are called to be. Once we assume anything about anyone, we move into a Lack of Reverence. Power of Anam Cara, (my reference is also I and Thou, Buber). The Soul Friend is one with whom we share everything and hide nothing. We need to be heard from one another, and it is only as this happens can we become whole, and move into the wholeness of Life.

Everything we most deeply need was planted in that first spark of life within our Mother’s womb. (Here I have a story of how the Guardian Angel given each of us marked us for forgetfulness, so that we could individually, one by one, undertake the road to discovery, the journey to healing.) Nature is the Gift of Being. Grace discovered is the Gift of Well Being.


Just before the lunch break and for two hours I had to leave to witness a wedding. When I returned, N. was talking about the life and pilgrimage of Teilhard de Chardain, and how he arrived at the oneness of the Birthing of Christ and Love and Creativity in the world. The Cross was not a symbol of expiation, but the disclosure of God, God's nature.

[Insert brief meditation here. I have tried to conceive and talk about how if God is love, if the nature of God is love, then this must include Suffering, as one cannot love without suffering. My traditional Catholic friends have rejected this possibility whenever I have tried to present it]

One sign of the new birthing of God is the yearning for Oneness, for community, for Unity in love today, but this Oneness is a costly journey, because we must leave all our boundaries and presumptions. So much of what we Christians have done is DOMESTICATE GOD, try to tame the untameable One, signified mainly by the Imperial Mediterranean style of religion, emphasizing Original Sin and therefore the implicit need for hierarchy, teachers, moral codes and creeds.

What fundamentalists fear is the Costliness of leaving boundaries and moving into the Oneness of God and of Creation. The Celtic view is that nothing in the cosmos is profane for those who know how to see. Yet in embracing the riskiness of loving, e can be saved only by becoming One with the Universe,

Here N. spoke of the celibate Teilhard's long relationship with a woman, Lucille, I believe was her name. He wrote about the fragrance of the feminine, and found that his love for her made him more truly himself. T. wrote that our yearning for union, for commingling was holy in itself, as the core of every creature was its power to love. Although the relationship with Lucille was over a decade and she invited him into a physical relationship, T. refused.

Application. For the rest of us, we must save Christ from the literalists so that the world can be served. The next step for the journey was to Listen to the People of the Earth. Although the workshop was scheduled to end at 4 p.m., we ended shortly after 3, with these comments being the summary conclusion.

The manner of conducting this workshop was speaker oriented, with chairs in a semi-circle. He accepted Q and A. after each of the three sessions. He spoke in a low quiet voice which invited those present into a meditative stance of receptivity, quiet attention and wonder. His presentation really drew the participants into a contemplative state. I found his teaching style unique and impressive. I think his audience was moved and persuaded to the richness of the Celtic view. His metaphors were well chosen and well - delivered.

I will offer a critique of his teaching method in another post. Unfortunately he did not use his time to practice what he preached, and lost a wonderful opportunity to seize the moment to evoke authentic learning and application of these powerful metaphors. I shall offer these comments later. Once more I do not presume to have accurately or substantially presented N.'s teaching but only my perceptions from my own notes.

Paschal Baute
Sunday, April 30, 2006.