You created men and women to be your stewards of the earth, always praising you for your boundless love.*
If one were to need a word to sum up the entirety of the Celtic world view, it could be nothing else than “wholeness.” The Celtic world view is a one that informs the entirety of life, the entirety of living. It is then to our advantage to discover what comprises the Celtic world view, or if you will, Celtic spirituality.
While we as modem people can quickly present a definition of our personal world view, we must remember that “world view” is a word that the ancient Celtic peoples knew nothing of. They were simply people of their mythos who sought to live by their myth as they understood it. Of course this is the definition of “world view,” which is also the definition of the philosopher, theologian and psychologist, who are concerned about the irmer workings of such things. “world view” as a term has nothing to do with how we live out our life, it is only a description of why we have lived it as we have.
Accordingly, if we were able to travel backwards in time and interview an ancient Celtic person, they would probably not tell us about their mythological basis of living, although they would certainly mention a god or two. What they would draw our attention to would be their commitment to family and tribe and pursuit of practical matters. And in sharing this with us they would undoubtedly do so passionately, demonstrating that they were a passionate people bent on celebrating life. And we would come away, rightfully so, feeling that they are a deeply fervent people. The interview, however, will tell us very little about why they are so. For this we must turn to their myth and seek to read between the lines. And although a daunting task, given to much debate, we can arrive at a consensus of who the ancient Celt was, at least according to their world view, if not necessarily in actuality.
The Celtic world view may best be described in its sensitivity to Creation. It is sensitive to the whole nature of Creation. It is sensitive to the holy nature of Creation. It is sensitive to the divinely co-creative role of creation. It is sensitive to the divine web of Creation.
1. Sensitivity to the whole nature of Creation.
Celtic spirituality has no understanding of sacred and secular, rather there is wholeness to all of Creation that extends not only to nature, but also to humankind and her endeavors, as well as to the numinous.
2. Sensitivity to the holy nature of Creation.
There is in Celtic spirituality what may best be described as an eco-spirituality. All of nature in Celtic spirituality is intrinsically holy, and this includes humankind. Thus, in Celtic spirituality, creation, sin, redemption and the Other-World take on an entirely different perspective than western thought and religion usually affords them.
3. Sensitivity to the divinely co-creative role of Creation.
All of Creation, especially humankind, according to Celtic spirituality, function both within their relationship with one another and with divinity in a on-going, co-creative capacity. To put it as one early Celtic Christian theologian put it, “God needs Creation to continue co-creatively with him his creative act.”
4. Sensitivity to the divine web of Creation.
Celtic spirituality presents life as a divine inwardly/ outwardly spiraling web, a pilgrimage. This is not a web that traps and fatalistically draws us in, but a divine web that we co-create, with the numinous and one another, that gives meaning to the entirety of life. In Celtic spirituality it is not the finished web that is significant, but the process of creating it Herein lies the difference between the traditional western concept of journey, with its objective linear journey, and the Celtic concept of pilgrimage with its subjective, spiral pilgrimage. Journey is about end, pilgrimage is about process. Life, in Celtic spirituality, is about living in the present, not about getting somewhere.
It is in this deep-seated spirituality that we discover the true Celtic identity, that which we must have if we are to enter the next millennium with some resemblance of wholeness. Celtic history, as the Celts lived it, can not be drawn from the cold, hard facts that we call “history. ” Yes, these facts do indeed tell us something about the Celts, but we can only understand and apply it when we understand the ancient Celtic people as spiritual beings, that is people who lived by their world view – even if unaware of doing so – and it is this example that will help us remove the chaff from Celtic spirituality and apply it to our everyday life in a way that does not recreate nostalgic “memorials,” but moves us forward toward wholeness.
PDF Chart with (1) Overview of the Basic Themes of Celtic Spirituality and (2) Comparison of Celtic Church, Roman Church, Creation Spirituality, and Celtic “Paganism”
* From the Celtic Psalter. This psalter is the longest poem to emerge from early Ireland. It is divided in 150 shorter poems in imitation of the Psalms of David and relations the entire biblical story from creation to the resurrection. The psalter is traditionally attributed to Oengus the Culdee, an Irish hermit of the ninth century.
© Frank A. Mills, 1995