ANAM CARA

by contemplativeinquiry

This post is about the anam cara, or spiritual friend in Gaelic tradition, and about the use of language. Recently I wrote about allowing more space and using fewer words. This wasn’t a renunciate view of language, which I value highly. My hope was that “more space” would allow “something new to emerge”, and that my words, though fewer, would be better chosen.

I am starting to see some fruits from this strategy. I’ve also recently said that I experienced Sophia “as a psychopomp or inner guru”. Now I would say, “anam cara”. This term is known from the early days of Christian monasticism in Ireland and is in current use within the Scottish-based Celie De – see http://www.ceilede.co.uk/

It is a mentoring relationship, not a peer one, but it includes the sense of a real personal connection, not just a role. People speculate about whether it is an inheritance from indigenous Druidry. Subjectively, my relation with Sophia feels like this: much more than psychopomp or inner guru. In my understanding ‘anam cara’ is gentler, subtler and less formal.

The Sophia I experience is not a rhetorical device (personification) or a glove puppet arbitrarily selected by me. She is also not – in my sense of things – a mind independent celestial being. Rather she is the felt presence, the voice, and at times the image of a deeper nature – and my inner link with the Oran Mor (the song of what is). From a personality perspective, this deeper nature is ‘not me’ and not owned and controlled by ‘me’, so I have to work at relationship.

From the perspective of deeper nature, the separation doesn’t exist. At times Sophia can point beyond herself and then I may enter the subjectivity of deeper nature and experience the world differently. The little ‘I’ and the anam cara are as one, beyond separation and immersed in the song. But most of the time that’s not how it is in my subjective life world, and a link to that fuller reality is provided by Sophia and her nudgings and promptings.

I don’t make any fundamental distinction between nature and spirit. All, for me, is contained in the word nature (or terms like the Oran Mor).  Nothing is lost. Cosmos, relationship and practice remain the same. But the use of a nature language is truer to my experience.

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