William Collins, 2021
Reviewed by Ian Mowll
This book starts with a beautiful piece saying that we have, within us, a deep knowing of how to be in the world which is sometimes at odds with what is taught in mainstream religion. One of these ‘knowings’ is that the Earth is sacred. This ‘coming home to our true selves’ is one of the main reasons that I have been drawn to green spirituality and this book has helped to reawaken that feeling of home coming within me.
This book is about Celtic spirituality, largely expressed through Celtic Christianity. I have often felt drawn to Celtic Christianity and this book has given me a comprehensive overview of this spiritual tradition with its history and ideas.
Celtic spirituality brings together the transcendent (that which is beyond) and the immanent (the physical world) – whereas mainstream Christianity emphasises the transcendent. Celtic Christianity also emphasises creativity and includes the divine feminine. And, as it has pagan roots, it grounds itself in the Earth – seeing the divine in all things.
The book goes through the history of Celtic Christianity starting with Pelagius (AD 390 – 418) and the split with Rome with its emphasis on the transcendent and its neglect of the immanent. Further chapters trace this spiritual tradition through history with such people as St Brigid of Kildare, John Muir, and I am delighted that Teilhard de Chardin has a whole chapter. Through all of this, I see a spirituality that is not stuck but is evolving, alive and growing.
There is a radical thread that runs through the book; a non-acceptance of the mainstream, and a desire to emphasise the physical, practical and immediate. An example is the chapter on George MacLeod who often said, “Are you a Presbyterian or a Christian?”
Inevitably the Scottish Isle of Iona is mentioned as a home for Celtic Christianity and I now feel a stronger urge to make a pilgrimage to that isle and its community that sees the sacred in all things.