Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet

I share this evening a second excerpt from the book The Mist-Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers, and Seekers by Frank MacEowen. This excerpt is actually by MacEowen! (You may recall that the first excerpt I shared was from the book's foreword, written by Tom Cowan.)

In this evening's excerpt, MacEowen explores the sacred world from the perspective of Celtic spirituality (including Celtic Christianity). In doing so, he lifts up the symbol of the Celtic knot and shows how the flowing weave of this ancient symbol mirrors our journeys of communion and contact with “those luminous places” where two worlds often meet and we experience God.

Increasingly (or better still, ever-deepeningly) I feel as though my work as a palliative care chaplain is all about cultivating or perhaps more accurately, revealing these luminous places. I do this whenever I encounter and engage with patients in ways that invite them to explore deeply the challenges they are experiencing in their lives. Through such exploration, I trust that together we experience, in MacEowen words, “the sacred world that is already around and within us.” I also trust that we experience an invitation to orient ourselves to the “sacred questions in our hearts,” questions to do with who we really are and the things that give meaning, hope, and/or an awareness of God's presence and action in our lives.

It is holy work, to be sure. And for me, it is all about, as MacEowen says, “opening ourselves to [meaningful and heartfelt] contact, encounter, and dialogue with life,” as well as being willing to “hang out with the unknown.” All of which, I'm discovering as I read The Mist-Filled Path, are characteristics of Celtic spirituality, and indeed all expressions of the mystic path (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).


From a Celtic perspective, the sacred world is vast. It includes our ancestors, the spirit world, the world of nature, the human world, and the rich inner world of each person as expressed through dreams. The sacred world, as it is worked with in Celtic tradition, is replete with thresholds of opportunity, renewal, and healing. And yet as Esther de Waal has said of the Celtic spiritual path, it is not necessarily one that follows a “clear-cut pattern of having some end and goal in view so that the purpose can be clearly established and then followed. For the really significant journey is the interior journey.”

Thus this book may feel to the reader a bit like the flowing cords of Celtic knot work one sees in both pre-Christian and post-Christian Celtic art. We will weave back in on themes at times in service of remembrance and deepening. At times it may feel as if we have doubled back onto familiar ground. This flowing weave represents the nature of holy dialogue in Celtic tradition, which encounters the sacred world once via the journey or quest and a second time via pilgrimage and remembrance.

The Mist-Filled Path as a spiritual vision is characterized by communion and holy contact with what we will call here the in-between, those thresholds of numinosity and liminality, or in Rumi's words, those luminous places “where two worlds touch.” Opening ourselves to this kind of contact, encounter, and dialogue with life, as well as having a willingness to hang out with the unknown, are all characteristics of the Celtic spirit. These same qualities are ones I hope that you will feel supported in cultivating.

The Mist-Filled Path is not about sequined magical robes, long-lost priesthoods, or stereotyped media notions of Celts, druids, shamans, and mystics. Though undoubtedly influenced by the ancient legacy of the druidic tradition, with its love of nature and emphasis on merging with the sacred, this book is more generally about our collective human tradition of making life holy. It is about finding true magic in every moment by reclaiming a view and experience of the sacred world that is already around and within us. It is about welcoming the influence of this sacred world and orienting ourselves to the sacred questions in our hearts.

– Frank MacEowen
Excerpted from The Mist-Filled Path:
Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers, and Seekers

pp. xxxi-xxxiii

NEXT: The Mysticism of Trees

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thomas Moore on the Circling of Nature as the Best Way to Find Our Substance
“Radical Returnings” – Mayday 2016
Drawing the Circle Wide
Balancing the Fire
Beltane and the Reclaiming of Spirit
“I Caught a Glimpse of a God”
At Hallowtide, Pagan Thoughts on Restoring Our World and Our Souls
Somewhere In Between
A Prayer for the Moment Between
In This In-Between Time
Interfaith Chaplaincy: Meeting People Where They're At

Opening image: Artist unknown.

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