I was sent this piece by my friend Peter recently and I thought I’d share it.
It is part of the prologue of a book by John O’ Donohue who was an Irish Author. He died in 2008. The book is about Celtic spirituality. The name of the book is called Anam Cara. The meaning of Anam Cara is explained here.
It is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone. Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits. A world lives within you. No-one else can bring you news of this inner world. Through our voices, we bring out sounds from the mountain beneath the soul. These sounds are words. The world is full of words. There are so many talking all the time, loudly, quietly, in rooms, on streets, on TV, on radio, in the paper, in books. The noise of words keeps what we call the world there for us. We take each other’s sounds and make patterns, predictions, benedictions and blasphemies. Each day, our tribe of language holds what we call the “world” together. Yet uttering of the word reveals how each of us relentlessly creates. Everyone is an artist. Each person brings sound out of silence and coaxes the invisible to become visible.
Humans are new here. Above us, the galaxies dance out towards infinity. Under our feet is ancient earth. We are beautifully moulded from this clay. Yet the smallest stone is millions of years older than us. In your thoughts the silent universe seeks echo. An unknown world aspires towards reflection. Words are the oblique mirrors which hold your thoughts. You gaze into these word mirrors and catch glimpses of meaning, belonging and shelter. Behind their bright surfaces is the dark and the silence. Words are like the god Janus, they face outwards and inwards at once.
If we become addicted to the external, our interiority will haunt us. We will become hungry with a hunger no image, person or deed can still. To be wholesome, we must remain truthful to our vulnerable complexity. In order to keep our balance, we need to hold interior and exterior, visible and invisible, known and unknown, temporal and eternal, ancient and new, together. No-one else can undertake this task for you. You are the one and only threshold of an inner world. This wholesome-ness is holiness. To be holy is to be natural; to befriend the worlds that come to balance in you.
Behind the facade of image and distraction, each person is an artist in this primal and inescapable sence. Each one of us is doomed and privileged to be an inner artist who carries and shapes a unique world.
Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace. No where else is there such intimate and frightening access to mysterium. Friendship is the sweet grace which liberates us to approach, recognise and inhabit this adventure. This book is intended as an oblique mirror in which you might come to glimpse the presence and power of inner and outer friendship. Friendship is a creative and subversive force. It claims that intimacy is the secret law of life and universe. The human journey is a continuous act of transfiguration. If approached in friendship, the unknown, the anonymous, the negative and the threatening gradually yield their secret affinity with us. As an artist, the human person is permanently active in this revelation. The imagination is the great friend of the unknown. Endlessly, it invokes and releases the power of possibility. Friendship then, is not to be reduced to an exclusive or sentimental relationship.
The Celtic mind was neither discursive nor systematic. Yet in their lyrical speculation, the Celts brought the sublime unity of life and experience to expression. The Celtic mind was not burdened by dualism. It did not separate what belongs together. The Celtic imagination articulated the inner friendship which embraces nature, divinity, underworld and human world as one. The dualism which separated the visible from the invisible, time from eternity, the human from the divine, was totally alien to them. Their sense of ontological friendship yielded a world of experience imbued with a rich texture of otherness, ambivalence, symbolism, and imagination. For our sore and tormented separation, the possibility of this imaginative unifying friendship is a Celtic gift. The Celtic understanding of friendship found its inspiration and culmination in the sublime notion of the anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul; cara is the word for friend. So anam cara means soul friend. The anam cara was someone to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life. This friendship was an act of recognition of belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the friend of your soul.
A friendship blessing.
May you be blessed with good friends
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul
where there is great love, warmth, feeling and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May this transfigure that which is negative, distant or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them
May they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth and light you need for your journey
May you never be isolated; but may you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your