Sunday, March 16, 2014

Patrick and the Druids

“Patrick used his training period [as an enslaved young man in Ireland] to learn from the people he lived with: he knew from immersion the ways of the Druids. He used intelligence, not might, to conquer the Irish. Since he was not trained in Rome for a classical liberal education, he was simply sharing the essentials of the faith from his consciousness of Christ in Trinity. He shared his own faith, his own spirit-filled energies, his own immersion into the light of mysticism.

What did he learn while being a slave? he did not return [to Ireland] as a warrior or a political arm of the Roman Church but as a bishop who offered the Christian way of life: the Good News (kerygma), community (koinonia), liturgy (leitourgia), and service (diakonia). Missing was power and control of a new system from afar. The Druids taught him mysticism. He taught the Druids a personal Christ who would give each distinct soul a life after this one on earth.

Not unlike the new physics of today, the Druids viewed the world in a way that we might call miasmic, like the turf in Ireland. The illusion we have of things being discrete, of objects and people having a material (call it ‘existential metaphysics’) integrity—that things and people stand alone and unconnected—is just that: an illusion. The fact is that everything in the world weaves into everything else and melds into existence, like the roots of a tree digging into and becoming enmeshed in the earth. This could not have been more different from the way that people in other parts of the world, like the coast of Turkey or France, approached the relationships among people, creation, and material objects. While the Greeks were impressed with the crystalline separateness of everything and how clearly objects stood out in the Aegean or Mediterranean sunlight, the Druids saw a vaporous mist of everything, permeating everything else; even thoughts wove in and out of people, as well as nature, like wispy tendrils of a rolling fog.

The wisdom developed by the Druids maintained the reality of what we know to be true: everything is connected to its surroundings. Things flow into things, thoughts into thoughts, people into the earth and back again. The system that would derive from this approach would be open and pluralistic, receptive of wisdom or insight from wherever it came. Celtic wisdom would see the person as not quite a separate entity but inured into an earthly ground of existence.

The Druids developed this approach into a complete system of rituals. Patrick recognized truth wherever he found it. Then, he used his personal influence: he befriended a chief, a woman in need, a sick child, and people here and there. He attracted a crowd but was attentive to the person before him. The particularity of the human Jesus being the Christ of the Cosmos was a perfect fit for the Irish intellect. The wisdom of the Druids—to name the undifferentiated matter that we call mystery—was appropriated by Patrick since he had his own experience of the presence of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Again, the exchange was sweet: Patrick learned the ways of mystery and consciousness through the Celtic spirituality. Then he proclaimed the Good News that all were saved and would have life in Christ during this lifetime and the next.”

--Mary Margaret Funk, OSB - Discernment Matters: Listening with the Ear of the Heart


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