The Celts


1. The Celts



The crisp light of early morn

Was the dawning of hope and pride,

When aloft by youthful vigour borne

I mounted my colt astride.

Shield and buckler strapped I tight,

And provisions for the journey fastened;

So with one glance at the face of my lady bright

Upon my shield emblazoned,

I took the reins and westward hastened.



2. Aldebaran

Along the way, I know not how,

My horse’s hooves struck air not ground,

And soon the Pleiades and Plough

Appeared with shimmering sound;

And stars like diamonds all around,

Shining a path of ghostly sheen,

Drew us on like a mote of dust

Caught in a silver beam;

And naught could I do but trust.



3. I Want Tomorrow



In the castle gardens’ shade

She sings a plaintive song

Of longings that ne’er do fade:

“May the morrow may not tarry long,

For endless days drag on forever

‘Til her love arrive

Her heart’s bonds to sever;

And ere she die,

Her soul to kiss alive.”



4. The March of the Celts



Down to Earth we journey on,

I and my bewildered steed.

The way is hard, the light is gone,

But still my heart doth lead,

Across the moor, across the sea,

To the beat of an ancient drum,

The beat of the heart of life;

And round about the insects hum

To the sound of a distant fife.



5. Deireadh an Tuath



Mists of the damp earth rise

Wreathing ghostly forms,

Spirits long dead but wise,

Free from life’s cruel storms.

Rather than curse, they bless,

And denuded of worldly care,

With gentleness they caress

Those who close enough dare

Stop and stare.



6. The Sun in the Stream



The parting clouds reveal

A fulsome light,

Hyperion’s golden wheel,

Welcome to my sight

After such auguries of night.

The sun in the stream

Gladdens the heart

And sweetens the dream

Of which it is part.



7. To go Beyond (I)



And from across a sea

Of swirling dreams

The lilting melody

(Or so it seems)

Of a beautiful maiden

Lightens the load

With which I am laden

And paves the road

To her fair abode.



8. Fairytale



Out of the music box

Of childhood, an old tune,

Like a lullaby, rocks

To sleep the drowsy moon.

But all too soon

The years steal upon us,

Filling innocent minds

With thoughts that wrong us:

Thoughts unkind

Forge ties that bind.



9. Epona



Up ahead the horse goddess,

Riding on the winds of the north,

Comes down for a rest,

And spying us, sets forth

To set us this test:

“Whether it be best

To wed an immortal soul in death

Or a mortal soul in life?”

Ere I can take a breath,

My horse replies, “vielleicht”,

And takes the goddess to wife.



10. St. Patrick



So now on foot went I,

With shield, buckler and spear,

‘Til I came, by and by,

Upon a chapel drear,

All bereft of charm or cheer.

But entering in, a choir

Of heavenly angels did sing,

Which, like a moving fire,

To my tired soul gave wing.



11. Cú Chulainn



Thus refreshed, I marched on

Through the driving rain;

All fear was gone –

I was the hero Cú Chulainn.

No bandits or robbers could assail

A warrior so brave;

They surely must all fail,

As with a double-edged wave

I’d send them to an early grave.



12. Oisin



Through rain and fog

I fought, nail and tooth,

And came at last to Tir na n Og,

The land of perpetual youth.

Three hundred years in truth

Were but three days there,

And when I returned again

(With a sprightly young mare)

I had stayed ten.



13. Portrait (Out of the Blue)



The picture on my shield,

As though washed away with tears,

Was faded and peeled –

It had been a thousand years!

Could it be that my lady was dead?

Could it be true?

But another portrait appeared in its stead,

Of even more beautiful hue,

Out of the blue.



14. Boadicea



But where were the forest vales?

Into the distance stretched miles of sand,

Like in the Arabian tales;

The green fields were a narrow band,

Everywhere else desolate and wasteland.

I rode across the desert plain,

The like I had never seen,

And imagined what grief and pain

Must have befallen Boadicea queen.



15. Bard dance



From the bitter tears that fell

Upon the parchèd ground

There formed a bardic spell

That spread for miles around.

The grass sprang up lush and lean,

The strong trees pushed up hard,

And all decked in green

And spangle-starred,

Danced the magical bard.



16. Dan y Dŵr



By the shore

I found me a boat

Fast moored,

And setting it afloat,

Cast off across the moat.

Beneath the waters

That I troubled,

The memories of sons and daughters

Bubbled.



17. To go Beyond (II)



Down wafted the maiden’s song

From the castle on high.

The journey was long

And the years had slipped by;

Though it may wink, time never lies.

I climbed the grassy knoll

With flowers in my arms;

I heard a bell toll,

There, where she sleeps, safe from harm.

Absolute Faith

As Paul Tillich makes clear in The Courage to Be, we all suffer from the existential anxiety of guilt and condemnation, doubt and meaninglessness, fate and death.

Relax.

Be not afraid.

Go with the flow

And walk with God.

On Trust in the Heart

The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose;

Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear.

Make a hairbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are set apart;

If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.

The struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against’ is the mind’s worst disease;

While the deep meaning is misunderstood, it is useless to meditate on Rest.

It is blank and featureless as space; it has no ‘too little’ or ‘too much’;

Only because we take and reject does it seem to us not to be so.

Do not chase after Entanglements as though they were real things,

Do not try to drive pain away by pretending that it is not real;

Pain, if you seek serenity in Oneness, will vanish of its own accord.

Stop all movement in order to get rest, and rest will itself be restless;

Linger over either extreme, and Oneness is forever lost.

Those who cannot attain to Oneness in either case will fail:

To banish Reality is to sink deeper into the Real;

Allegiance to the Void implies denial of voidness.

The more you talk about It, the more you think about It, the further from It you go;

Stop talking, stop thinking, and there is nothing you will not understand.

Return to the Root and you will find the Meaning;

Pursue the Light, and you will lose its source,

Look inward, and in a flash you will conquer the Apparent and the Void.

For the whirligigs of Apparent and Void all come from mistaken views.

There is no need to seek Truth; only stop having views.

Do not accept either position, examine it or pursue it;

At the least thought of ‘Is’ and ‘Isn’t’ there is chaos and the Mind is lost.

Though the two exist because of the One, do not cling to the One;

Only when no thought arises are the Dharmas without blame.

No blame, no Dharmas; no arising, no thought.

The doer vanishes along with the deed,

The deed disappears when the doer is annihilated.

The deed has no function apart from the doer;

The doer has no function apart from the deed.

The ultimate Truth about both Extremes is that they are One Void.

In that One Void the two are not distinguished;

Each contains complete within itself the Ten Thousand Forms.

Only if we boggle over fine and coarse are we tempted to take sides.

In its essence the Great Way is all-embracing;

It is as wrong to call it easy as to call it hard.

Partial views are irresolute and insecure,

Now at a gallop, now lagging in the rear.

Clinging to this or that beyond measure

The heart trusts to bypaths that lead it astray.

Let things take their own course; know that the Essence

Will neither go or stay;

Let your nature blend with the Way and wander in it free from care.

Thoughts that are fettered turn from the Truth,

Sink into the unwise habit of ‘not liking’.

‘Not liking’ brings weariness of spirit; estrangements serve no purpose.

If you want to follow the doctrine of the One, do not rage against the World of the Senses.

Only by accepting the World of the Senses can you share in the True Perception.

Those who know most, do least; folly ties its own bonds.

In the Dharma there are no separate dharmas, only the foolish cleave

To their own preferences and attachments.

To use Thought to devise thoughts, what more misguided than this?

Ignorance creates Rest and Unrest; Wisdom neither loves nor hates.

All that belongs to the two Extremes is inference falsely drawn –

A dream-phantom, a flower in the air. Why strive to grasp it in the hand?

‘Is’ and ‘Isn’t’, gain and loss banish once for all:

If the eyes do not close in sleep there can be no evil dreams;

If the mind makes no distinctions all Dharmas become one.

Let the One with its mystery blot out all memory of complications.

Let the thought of the Dharmas as All-One bring you to the So-in-itself.

Thus their origin is forgotten and nothing is left to make us pit one against the other.

Regard motion as though it were stationary, and what becomes of motion?

Treat the stationary as though it moved, and that disposes of the stationary.

Both these having thus been disposed of, what becomes of the One?

At the ultimate point, beyond which you can go no further,

You get to where there are no rules, no standards,

To where thought can accept Impartiality,

To where effect of action ceases,

Doubt is washed away, belief has no obstacle.

Nothing is left over, nothing remembered;

Space is bright, but self-illumined; no power of mind is exerted.

Nor indeed could mere thought bring us to such a place.

Nor could sense or feeling comprehend it.

It is the Truly-so, the Transcendent Sphere, where there is neither He nor I.

For swift converse with this sphere use the concept ‘Not Two’;

In the ‘Not Two’ are no separate things, yet all things are included.

The wise throughout the Ten Quarters have had access to this Primal Truth;

For it is not a thing with extension in Time or Space;

A moment and an aeon for it are one.

Whether we see it or fail to see it, it is manifest always and everywhere.

The very small is as the very large when boundaries are forgotten;

The very large is as the very small when its outlines are not seen.

Being is an aspect of Non-being; Non-being is an aspect of Being.

In climes of thought where it is not so the mind does ill to dwell.

The One is none other than the All, the All none other than the One.

Take your stand on this, and the rest will follow of its own accord;

To trust in the Heart is the Not Two, the Not Two is to trust in the Heart.

I have spoken, but in vain; for what can words tell

Of things that have no yesterday, tomorrow or today?

Seng-t’san

The Disciple

When the Word becomes flesh, the kingdom of mind dissolves and the anointed Son of God, the Christ, joins together the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth.

And the disciple does the same.

When the Word becomes flesh, the kingdom of mind dissolves and the anointed Son of God, the Christ, takes up His cross and drinks from the cup of suffering.

And the disciple does the same.

When the Word becomes flesh, the kingdom of mind dissolves and the anointed Son of God, the Christ, takes away the sins of the world.

And the disciple does the same.

The Word Made Flesh

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14

The Word (“el Verbo Divino” in Spanish) is a fairly clumsy translation of the original Greek word, Logos. For the Stoics the Logos was the principle of divine reason and creative order pervading and animating the universe. It was the kind of “logic” (from logos) that held everything together.

If we think of the Logos as a kind of spirit, then John’s statement that the Word was made flesh means that this spirit became fully embodied, fully incarnated (“carne” means flesh). It is a statement of radical nonduality: spirit and flesh are one. How this happened is a mystery, but the Christian faith rests on the belief that somehow Jesus was this nondual spirit-body or God-man, full of grace and truth.

Now “grace” and “truth” are clearly two aspects of the broader concept of the Logos. But they are also words. You could say that the words themselves, like everything else in the universe, are animated by the Logos. There is a kind of spiritual power in these two words. If you meditate on the word “grace”, for example, repeating it quietly to yourself over and over, you will eventually feel this power, which is not just a form of energy, but is pregnant with meaning.

Perhaps there is value in translating Logos as Word after all. If you meditate on the word “grace” for an extended period of time every day, it will become your mantra. At a certain point, you will have internalised it to such an extent that it will make perfect sense to say that this word has been made flesh. It is now a part of your very being.

You are what you eat. The food you put in your mouth is digested and metabolised and transformed into energy. The same is true of the words you put in your heart. However, we are not normally aware of this fact, since we usually read and hear all sorts of words in a fairly random, chaotic way, so that each individual word barely registers.

For a word to be “made flesh”, it has to be treated with special reverence and given special attention. It has to be a mantra. Liturgical prayers are mantras. They are repeated over and over again until they sink deep into the subconscious, deep into the body. Sacred scriptures are potentially mantras. Read in the right spirit of reverence and attention, they permeate your very flesh. It turns out that the flesh is in fact, in some mysterious panpsychist way, conscious.

The word is made flesh because mind and body are not-two. Therefore we become what we think and say, hear and read. If you truly believe in the Incarnation, you will become the Incarnation. The Word will become your flesh too. But it requires conscious intention, active attention, lively faith and dedicated practice. As Zen Master Dogen was fond of saying, “practice and enlightenment are one and the same”.

Shamanic Christian Zen

There are three worlds:

  1. The kingdom of earth (take a walk in the woods);
  2. The kingdom of mind (read a good book);
  3. The kingdom of heaven (take a strong dose of magic mushrooms).

Zen is direct pointing to reality outside the scriptures, in other words, entrance into the kingdom of earth through meditation.

Christianity is direct pointing to reality inside the scriptures, in other words, right ordering of the kingdom of mind through the logos.

Shamanism is direct pointing to reality beyond this world, in other words, entrance into the kingdom of heaven through psychedelics.

The three grow together like the three twisted strands of an ayahuasca vine. This is the essence of Shamanic Christian Zen: the three kingdoms of heaven, earth and mind evolving together, disclosing ever more of the infinite mysteries of existence.

Entrance into the kingdom of heaven and entrance into the kingdom of earth are both so-called “mystical experiences”, one internal and the other external. The kingdom of mind must be able to accommodate both types of experience in a coherent and convincing way, and religion is the only thing that can do this. Neither science nor philosophy are up to the task. Religion represents both the revealed Word of God in the kingdom of mind and the joining together (re-ligare) of the three worlds.

Divorced from mystical experience (Heaven and Earth) and/or religion (the Word), the mind-world and its culture becomes what the Rastafarians call Babylon. Without religion, mystical experience is blind; without mystical experience, religion is lame. Religion should be mystical and mysticism should be religious, otherwise they will both be colonised by the agents of Babylon.

Shamanism by itself is not strong enough; Christianity by itself is not strong enough; Zen by itself is not strong enough; but all three together can beat Babylon. However, not everyone wants to “beat Babylon” or “escape from Samsara”. Most people just want to get cosy in Babylon. Psychedelics, meditation and religion for the sake of therapy or a sense of community or consolation are motivated by the desire to get cosy in Babylon.

Ultimately, there are only two options when it comes to the existential motivation at the root of human life: get cosy in Babylon (the worldly-wise) or get out of Babylon (the gnostics).

What about you?

The World, the Earth and the Heavens

The socio-cultural world of human intercourse, the world of getting and spending, is too much with us. Or rather, we are too much with it. Why? Because it’s the only world we know. Or rather, it’s the only world we know intimately.

Some people are drawn to the peace of the woods and the mountains. They love to ramble alone, feel the cool air on the face, watch the clouds scud across the sky, the dappled light dance through the leaves. William Wordsworth dedicated his life to expressing the wonder felt by the Soul in Nature. The world of the Lakeland poets was not “the world”, but Nature, “the earth”:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Nature lovers have one foot in the human world and one foot in the natural world. Sitting by a stream, following the eddies of water, they may completely forget their worldly cares and worries and enter a state of quiet contemplation and communion with Nature. Some might make a conscious attempt to still the mind and relax. They might call what they are doing “meditation” or “mindfulness”. What they are really doing is retreating from “the world” and stepping onto “the earth”.

There is a tug-of-war in the human heart between “the world” and “the earth”. For most people, “the earth” is just a holiday from “the world”, a temporary respite from the responsibilities and pressures of work and family life. Mostly they are in the world, but just occasionally, in the woods, by the sea or up a mountain, they find themselves on the earth.

People who feel a strong nostalgia for the earth feel homesick and sad in the world and long to reverse the dominance hierarchy so that the world is on the earth instead of the earth being in the world. Most are also fervent environmentalists, lamenting the destruction of the natural earth by the human world. Some even consider their love of the earth as a religion, as in the Water Protector slogan, The Earth is My Church, Nature is My Religion.

There is “earth religion” and there is “world religion”. We generally think of earth religion as some kind of indigenous shamanism or paganism, “a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn”, but it is also at the heart of Taoism and Zen Buddhism. Through mindfulness and immersion in Nature, the followers of earth religions free themselves from the “mind-forg’d manacles” of the social world and enter a place of original natural innocence and vitality.

“World religion” is secular humanism. The focus is primarily on the world of human culture and the improvement of society. It generally manifests itself in the guise of politics, whether through an incremental, progressive creed or a utopian, revolutionary one. Environmentalism may play a subsidiary role in the overarching political agenda, but only because “the earth” is seen as an important aspect of “the world”, just one item among the many clambering for “social justice”.

In the psycho-spiritual battle between “the world” and “the earth”, the world generally wins, and the earth devotees end up resentful and depressed. Worldly duties and responsibilities, as well as the incessant psychic attacks from the entertainment media, the news media and social media, make it exceptionally difficult to stay grounded on the earth, as the Huni Kuin tribe from the Brazilian Amazon realised:

“In 2000, Ninawa Pai Da Mata decided to move his village deeper into the jungle, in Acre state, in an attempt to protect and revive traditional life. ‘We had to move to escape many things the westerners brought – alcohol, foreign music – and to embrace our own culture and spirituality again, to listen to the wisdom of nature,’ he says.”

Jane Dunford

Not everyone can move deeper into the jungle though. Or move to the Lake District. And the pull of the city and the internet is strong. Modern trains and broadband are fast. And the pull of work, family and friends is generally stronger than the pull of the trees and rivers. Life is expensive and demanding.

The history of Western Imperialism (as well as Eastern Imperialism) testifies to the victory of “world religion” over “earth religion”, of science and technology over nature and spirituality. But it’s not just indigenous earth religions that have suffered from the spectacular success and dominance of the secular world religions. The “heaven religions” have also suffered.

Modern secular people think that they live in the world, and that part of the world involves going for walks in Nature. There is nothing else. Heaven and hell are just fictions or psychological projections, the figments of a delusional medieval religious imagination. Modern secular people who hanker after a “creed outworn”, neo-shamanism, neo-paganism, neo-“earth religion”, believe in living as close to Nature as possible, with as little Culture as possible, but they don’t usually believe in heaven or hell either. And they certainly don’t like the idea of “our Father, who art in heaven”.

Genuine shamans not only believe in heaven, but they go there all the time, through vision quests and soul flights. Their magical brews take them beyond the world and beyond the earth to another, transcendent reality, sometimes blissful and full of awe, sometimes painful and full of horror. Sometimes “heaven” but sometimes more like “hell”.

Every time I take a strong dose of a psychedelic in a ritual setting, whether ayahuasca, DMT, psilocybin or LSD, I end up in a strange but familiar place I can only describe as heaven. It can get a bit rocky and turbulent at times. Occasionally it can feel as if I am on one of the lower rungs of hell or being dragged backwards through an infinite hedge of purgatorial fire. But it is recognisably a kingdom of heaven.

When I come back down to earth, I invariably find myself on earth and not in the world. I feel compelled to go for a walk in the countryside or in a park. I feel connected to the trees and the water, the earth and the sky. Suddenly, the world is no longer too much with me. It has shrunk in size from that of a giant Empire State Building devouring octopus to that of a tiny gad fly.

Heaven and earth are more than a match for the world. But earth without heaven always seems to lose. Hence the need for something like Shamanic Christian Zen, which puts the world in its place, on the earth and under heaven. The world is too much with us because we have forgotten about the earth and heaven. We have turned from the true Trinitarian God of earth, world and heaven and worshipped a false mono-god, followed false mono-prophets and sold our souls to a false mono-religion: “the world”.

If you treat “the earth” and “heaven” as escapist holidays from “the real world”, you are at heart a devotee of the world, a secular humanist, even if you profess otherwise. You may cultivate mindfulness, go wild swimming or forest bathing for improved physical, mental health and spiritual health; you may even take psychedelics or enjoy religious services (or both at the same time). But, as Thomas Traherne put it centuries ago, “till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars” and “till you are as familiar with the ways of God in all Ages as with your walk and table”, in other words, until heaven and earth are more powerful and real, more salient and meaningful, more close and intimate than the human world of getting and spending, “you never enjoy the world aright”.

Sins of the Bore, Bully and Clown

Glucose is a trip-killer, which is why you shouldn’t stir honey into your mushroom tea. Ego is a spirit-killer, which is why you shouldn’t stir sin into your community.

The three character types responsible for most of the fussing and fighting, confusion and grief, and existential inertia in cults, communes, churches, synagogues, sanghas, companies, parties, schools, families and book groups are the Fearful Bore, the Narcissistic Bully and the Cynical Clown.

Each has its own special cocktail of sins and vices. The Fearful Bore is an amalgam of the Victim and Muppet archetypes, whose chief sins are Fear and Envy. The Narcissistic Bully is the public face of the Diva-Demon complex, full of Pride and Loathing. The Cynical Clown is the problem child of the Addict and Muggle, ruled by Lust, Gluttony, Greed and Sloth.

This may be hard for some people to hear, but in the Kingdom of God there is no sin, and in the communion of saints there are no Bores, Bullies or Clowns.

These three are not the only offenders, however. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and there are all sorts of other permutations to be had on the Wheel of Babylon, such as:

The Victim-Demon or Suicidal Psycho (Fear and Loathing),

The Addict-Demon or Selfish Pig (Lust, Gluttony, Greed and Loathing),

The Muppet-Diva or Black Swan (Envy and Pride),

The Muggle-Diva or Decadent Aristocrat (Sloth and Pride).