Wednesday, March 30, 2011



In the west of Ireland many houses have open fires. At wintertime when you visit someone, you go through the bleak and cold landscape until you finally come in to the hearth, where the warmth and magic of the fire is waiting. A turf fire is an ancient presence. The turf comes out of the earth and carries the memory of trees and fields and long-gone times. It is strange to have the earth burning within the domesticity of the home. I love the image of the hearth as a place of home, a place of warmth and return.

In everyone's inner solitude there is that bright and warm hearth. The idea of the unconscious, even though it is a very profound and wonderful idea, has sometimes frightened people away from coming back to their own hearth. We falsely understand the subconscious as the cellar where all of our repression and self-damage is housed. We have imagined monsters down there out of our fear of ourselves. Yeats says, 'Man needs reckless courage to descend into the abyss of himself.' In actual fact these demons do not account for all the subconscious. The primal energy of our soul holds a wonderful warmth and welcome for us. One of the reason we were sent onto earth was to make this connection with ourselves, this inner friendship. The demons will haunt us if we remain afraid. All the classical mythical adventures externalize the demons. In battle with them the hero always grows, ascending to new levels of creativity and poise. Each inner demon holds a precious blessing which will heal and free you. To receive this gift, you have to lay aside your fear and take the risk of loss and change which every inner encounter offers.

The Celts had a wonderful understanding of the complexity of the psyche. They believed in various divine presences. Lugh was the god who was most venerated. He was god of light and giftedness. The Shining One. The ancient festival of Lunasa takes its name from him. The earth goddess was Anu, mother of fecundity. They also acknowledged the divine origin of negativity and darkness. There were three mother-goddesses of war: Morrígan, Nemain and Badb. These play a crucial role in the ancient epic, The Táin. Gods and goddesses were always linked to a place. Trees, wells and rivers were special places of divine presence, the ancient psyche was never as isolated and disconnected as the modern psyche. The Celts had an intuitive spirituality, informed by mindful, reverent attention to landscape. It was an outdoor spirituality impassioned by the erotic charge of the earth. The recovery of souls in our times is vital in healing our disconnection.

In theological or spiritual terms, we can understand this point of absolute non-connection with everything, as a sacred opening in the soul which can be filled by nothing external. Often all the possessions we have, the work we do, the beliefs we hold, are manic attempts to fill this opening, but they never stay in place. They always slip, and we are left more vulnerable and exposed than before. A time comes when you know that you can no longer wallpaper this void. Until you really listen to the call of this void, you will remain an inner fugitive, driven from refuge to refuge, always on the run with no place to call home. To be natural is to be holy; but it is very difficult to be natural. To be natural is to be at home with your own nature. If you are outside your self, always reaching beyond your self, you avoid the call of your own mystery. When you acknowledge the integrity of your solitude, and settle into its mystery, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder.

Spirituality becomes suspect if it is merely an anaesthetic to still one's spiritual hunger. Such a spirituality is driven by the fear of loneliness. If you bring courage to your solitude, you learn that you do not need to be afraid. The phrase, do not be afraid, recurs three hundred and sixty-six times in the Bible. There is a welcome for you at the heart of your solitude. When you realize this, most of the fear that governs your life falls away. The moment your fear transfigures, you come into rhythm with your own self.

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