Friday, June 1, 2018

Earthen Humility (1 June 2018)

We are in the World and of the Earth;
children of the Universe;
descended of stars
long-ago gone supernova.
Earthen Rann # 1
[Recited in Morning Meditation]

When I go a-walking, sauntering out either to places known or to a destination I have never yet visited, I oft come into a deeper awareness of my surroundings_ and of my own being-in-becoming_ than I had before tripping out the door and footing it to a path.  This ongoing deepening of awareness is fostered and facilitated by my having been engaged in ambling, sauntering and sojourning for decades; it is an ever-evolving praxis.  Practiced at it, when I am waeccan in my situ; that is, when I am awake to my situation; being in the World and of the Earth—I realize that I am at-home in Earth & Cosmos and that I am an animal.  A spiritual and a creative animal, for sure; but an animal nonetheless.
I understand this as a touchstone of self-awareness and of ongoing awakening in the World.  I am embodied. I am a physical creature; in scientific terms: a vertebrate, a mammal, a primate and one particular instance of our own species, Homo sapiens.  This awareness has come to me over time; not all at once—I have come to accept my being an animal via a decades-long spiritual and poetic adventuring, accompanied by philosophical explorations and heightened experiences in Nature; out in the Woods on the hoof!
I didn’t always think of myself this way.  Over the decades I have imagined that I was many things; a crewman on the submarine Seaview (when I was 7 – 10 years old), a Witch, a Born Again Friend of Jesus, an Atheist, a Pagan, a Monk, a Celtic Mystic, and now a Poetic Naturalist—all of this naming indicating that I have been an Imaginer and a Dreamer all my life.  _And I still am!  By the art of devout walking, I have come to consciousness – over and over again – of the fact that while I can imagine being & becoming all kinds of things, yet I am first and foremost a biological entity, breathing and eating and sweating and experiencing everything that I have ever experienced, imagining everything I have ever imagined as an embodied being; suspended between birth & death, regardless of what – if anything – may lie beyond that final ‘doorway’ at the end of my embodied journey.  I am an animal.
It is this realization—
That I am a biological creature;
An animal in the evolutionary sense;
A physical entity subject to the laws of physics
– which grounds what I have come to call “earthen humility.”  
The word “humility” is connected to an older word: humus, which meant ‘earth’ or ‘soil,’ and as I reflect on this, the first sensation that comes to mind is of being ‘down in the dirt’ in a positive sense; playfully, as when gardening and even when out on the hoof.  “Out to the Woods” is the cry I always yearn to heed!
A natural humility arises out of the awareness that we are of the Earth and attends on the fact of being awake (“waeccan”) – awakened by our experience and what we have learned of ourselves – to the fact that we are dwellers in the Earth. We are of-Nature; not poised ‘above it’ or existing merely as a ‘consumer’ of the abundance of the Earth—but a living part of the life-web that covers and suffuses this planet!  And once we wake up to our true earthen nature; our physicality – we also come to realize that we are mortal.  We are here for but a short time and then we are gone; each and every one of us.
The fact that we are animals like other animals is always a source of amazement and wonderment to me!  Why does this surprise so many people?  _And so upset others?  Yet, like it or not, science can find no ontological ‘divide’ between us and ‘the other animals’ in their being, as if we were ‘something else.’  In any case, what would we be?  “Strangers here” – or perhaps ‘unearthly’ beings ‘passing through this mortal coil?’  There is (yet) no evidence of such an extraterrestrial origin, and at the same time seemingly incontrovertible evidence that we are at-home on this planet; we evolved here—our genetic code proves it as much as the paleontological record. 

Whenever I affirm this, I experience a re-connection with what I can only call a naturalistic ‘piety.’  It awes me to contemplate our common ancestry with all living things on this planet.  There is no deeper meditation on our humanity than to reflect upon the history of life on this planet and our place in it.  I meditate upon this, as if on my knees!  I am humbled before the vastness of the cosmos and the deep time in which we exist.
 
I find it interesting to reflect on how I have come to this understanding of our animal nature.  Having long practiced what can be called ‘spiritual disciplines’ – from a variety of traditions and perspectives, as you could well guess from the list of ‘imagined selves’ I cited above – what I now experience as earthen humility was nurtured earlier in my life by myths that I lived by, by spiritual teachers and later by my study of philosophy and poetry, storytelling and aesthetics.  I found the seeds and touchstones of earthen humility along the way in many sources, Pagan, Christian and Secular.  I remember Christians who spoke of our being “in Nature” and Nature being God’s Creation – and so not to be despised or evaded.  I remember these touchstones of a now naturalistic faith fondly!  Evelyn Underhill, for instance, said in Practical Mysticism (1943), that:

“To elude nature, to refuse her friendship, and attempt to leap the River of Life in the hope of finding God on the other side, is the common error of a perverted mysticality.  So you are to begin with that first form of meditation which the old mystics sometimes called the ‘Discovery of God in His Creatures.’“ (15)

St. Bonaventure in the 13th century said, in The Journey of the Mind to God, that:

“In our present condition, the created universe is itself a ladder leading us toward God.  Some created things are His traces; others, His image; some of them are material, others spiritual; some temporal, others everlasting; thus some are outside us and some within us.”

Etienne Gilson, a 20th century Catholic theologian, said in The Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy (1940) that:

“Just as it is not Christian to run away from the body, so neither is it Christian to despise Nature.  How can we possibly belittle these heavens and this earth that so wonderfully proclaim the glory of their Creator, so evidently bear on them the marks of his infinite wisdom and goodness?”  (89)

Agnes Sanford, a woman known for her healing ministry in the 20th century, said in The Healing Gifts of the Spirit (1966):

“The simplest and oldest way in which God manifests Himself is through and in the Earth itself.  And He still speaks to us through the earth and the sea, the birds of the air and the little living creatures upon the Earth, if we can but quiet ourselves to listen.” (51)[i]

Through such sources I was wakened to being in and of the Earth, not simply “on” it—eventually becoming ‘at home in the Earth.’

My adventures in religion also taught me that as human animals we are spiritual animals; that is—we seek for better ways of living life, desiring to live it to the fullest.  An earthen spirituality is a praxis for living this life in which we find ourselves – once we wake up (i.e., become waeccan).  A spiritual praxis brings us to wholeness; it aids in our becoming the best version of ourselves that we can be—and this quest is simply an extension of the kind of cultural tools and physical inheritance that we have as the particular kind of animal that we are.  We are unique in certain ways (one, of course, being our capacity-for and use-of language & technology, which is how I am communicating with you)—even while having more in common with other animals than we have differences.
Spirituality deepens out of an awareness of our mortality.  Religious spiritualities taught me this, and I find it no less true as a naturalist[ii] and a physicalist.[iii]  An earthen humility acknowledges our ‘mortal coil’ and nurtures an awareness of our limits.  We need not be surprised at our being mortal nor at our frailty and being vulnerable (to infections, disease and other afflictions).  Our experience of Nature should reveal this, if we are paying attention to its cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth.  An earthen humility frees one of the delusion that just because I am a believer in x, I will always be healthy and free of tragic fates.  A religious humility also understands this as a delusion.[iv]  Embracing earthen humility empowers you to be the particular animal that you are, with all your gifts, limitations, brokenness and aspirations toward wholeness and self-realization.

“We are at home in the Earth.
We are of the Earth.
We are Here.”
Earthen Rann # 2
[Recited during the day 
when re-centering is needed]

What happens to the Earth happens to us, in one way or another. 
How much better to live in the World and realize that you are of the Earth.  By the World I mean the humanly constructed ‘World;’ the social and cultural systems that we human animals have created to help us survive and, more importantly, live our lives as fully as possible, given our individual gifts and abilities balanced against our mortal constraints.  We are in the World, but we are of the Earth.  You can alter your cultural allegiances, your beliefs, your way of life and your social connections, status and function, yet you are still, and always were, a manifestation of this planet-home we call Earth.  We are of the Earth.
The art of walking[v] opens a person to the Earth as experienced.  A devout scientific and aesthetic study of the Earth and its ecosystems deepens our experience of being-here and brings us to a rational as well as emotional understanding of our connection to the planet and reveals runes of our place in the Cosmos.  Why ‘devout?’  Because the Earth and its history are in some sense our ‘ultimate concern.’  Without the Earth, we would not be here.  If life on Earth dies, so do we.  There is nowhere else in the local cosmos where we might yet live; not without what science fiction writers call ‘terraforming’ a planet—that is, turning it into a likeness of Earth.  We cannot just leave the Earth behind; we must take it with us if we are going to survive elsewhere.  We are of the Earth, and in the Earth.  To study the Earth and its c. 4.5 billion-year history; to explore the evolution of life in all its diversity—is to study who we are and come to know where we have come from.
Ultimately, the result of such devout study is a realization that everything is connected.  Though this idea became a cultural meme and almost a cliché at one point, it is grounded in a scientific understanding of the evolution of the cosmos.  As Michio Kaku said in Hyperspace (1994), speaking as a scientist:
“Instead of being overwhelmed by the universe, I think that perhaps one of the deepest experiences a scientist can have, almost approaching a religious awakening, is to realize that we are children of the stars, and that our minds are capable of understanding the universal laws that they obey.  The atoms in our bodies were forged in the anvil of nucleo-synthesis within an exploding star aeons before the birth of the solar system.  Our atoms are older than the mountains.  We are literally made of stardust.  Now these atoms, in turn, have coalesced into intelligent beings capable of understanding the universal laws governing that event.” (333)
 We are “children of the Universe; descended of stars long ago gone supernova.”  To meditate upon this is to deepen into earthen humility.  This is another aspect of the consciousness I understand as earthen humility.
Meditating on our evolution out of Nature’s ever unfolding and spiraling web, we come to appreciate that we are also a manifestation of naturally occurring elements at the chemical level.  DNA – a complex hydro-carbon molecule – is the engine of life.  The DNA which codes for my being-in-becoming is the same genetic code that is in you; whoever you are.[vi]  We are each – all of the billions of us now on the planet and everyone who has come before and those who will come after – a variation on a wondrous chemical theme called deoxyribonucleic acid.  Our diversity and individuality are linked to all of the wondrous possibilities carried within that double helix; even our nature as cultural animals with the ability to build social worlds and manipulate Nature through technologies is rooted there.
That each individual human being is a manifestation of their DNA means that we are all related.  Every single human being you meet on this planet is a human being; an individual arising out of the species code—not a ‘foreigner’ and therefore not an ‘enemy’ until we make them such by prejudicial choice and/or narrow-minded action.  It is the arrogance of social and cultural traditions that allows – even encourages – us to demonize other human beings, rather than embracing them first and before any other consideration, as ‘brothers and sisters.’  We are – as far as science has shown – a single species.  And as such, by social analogy, a single ‘family;’ the ultimate family—one to which we all belong.
Once we deepen into a consciousness of earthen humility, it becomes apparent that this sense of ‘family’ can be extended to include all of life, as every life-form on the planet, so far as we have found, has its own DNA or uses DNA to its own purposes—and has its own evolutionary history.  We are not ‘alone,’ here.  We live in the company of an unimaginably vast extended family that includes everything from microorganisms to elephants and whales and everything in between.  While there is no room for sentimentalism about the life forms on this blue-green ball – many of them are dangerous and can undermine our individual existence, even being capable of wiping out great numbers of us in a short time (think of the Black Plague in Europe in the Middle Ages) – our existence subsists within the Web of Life in the state in which it has subsisted over the last few millions of years. This is the ‘environment’ in which our species came to be.  A strong-minded love of Nature, therefore – the acceptance that our existence is intertwined with that of our biosphere – is a vital ingredient in the kind of consciousness I call earthen humility.  _I do not therefore find it poetically incorrect to refer to Nature metaphorically as “Our Mother.”
Earthen humility fosters an awareness of who, what and where we are, as individuals, as a species and then as one particular life-community on the planet.  If a ‘god’ created us, we now know that in some way the process of that creation was evolution, and that biological evolution is a manifestation of the vast and expanding universe in which our home is situated and by which it is sustained.  We may as yet have an ‘adolescent’ understanding of the Cosmos as a whole, yet – in spiritual as well as empirical terms – our present understanding is a giant leap beyond the pre-critical fairy tales on which we nurtured ourselves over the last few thousand years (e.g., religious creation stories), even if those stories were ‘divinely inspired’ aids to get us through our spiritual childhood as a species![vii]
We are growing up, spiritually, and our understanding of Earth & Cosmos may yet undergo as-yet unimagined revolutions as Science and the Arts that interpret it advance.  Yet we are here_ guided by the understanding that we now have.  And so_ here is where we must be waeccan (i.e., “awake), living out this journey toward self-realization: in the World and of the Earth, awake to being children of the universe, descended of stars long-ago gone supernova!
This is my runing of earthen humility.
Blessed be!



[i] While I learned the basic attitude of Earthen Humility through these religious writers, I am always saddened to be reminded how many people in those religious traditions are not embracing Nature in the ways advocated by the great spiritual teachers of these traditions.

[ii] I use this word to imply that there is nothing “supernatural” in Earth & Cosmos.

[iii] I use this term to imply that matter and energy – including Dark Matter and Dark Energy; regardless of what these turn out to be – make up the universe.

[iv] I believe it was Bonaventure who defined humility as thinking neither more nor less of yourself than you ought.

[v] On the Art of Walking, see my blogs: “Autumn Walking” (24 September 2013), “The Art of Walking” (2 November 2014), “Winter Walking” (2 February 2015)

[vi] Unless you are actually an alien from another planet!  _A possibility I don’t deny outright, though there would be a quick and easy test of the claim someone would make that they are an alien. A DNA test!

[vii] Like the nursery rhymes and fairy tales we still tell our children, religion’s ‘creation stories’ were meant to help awaken us, in particular, creations stories attempt to explicate our relationship to the Divine and the Nature.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Patrick and the Faery—A Dance of All (17 March 2018)

-        Montague Whitsel

Down by the Cromlech where the green water flows,
_down by their Abbey when it snows—
The Faery come out with Dust on their clothes
_dancing in their Dolmen_ there it glows!

Down by the portal to the Sidhe there he goes_
_down by their Abbey when it snows—
St Patrick comin’ out, dancin’ in his throes
_circling with the Faery_ there he knows—

The wind and the pain and the fire in his head
_down by their Abbey where it starts—
The circle is a-turning, the Spirit looks ahead
_to the hooley at Meath_ amid the Airts!

Refrain1—
Dancing East_
Dancing West_
Ole Pádraig goes winding in and out!
Dancing North_
Dancing South_
He Crosses all the World and comes about!

Dancing at Meath with the Faery in their stead
_out beyond their Abbey where they go—
Circling with Patrick on the mead and the turf
_re-rhyming in a hooley_ there they go!

Dancing round the Well of the Olde Mystic Life
_Saint Patrick and the Faery tone the Tune!
Spiraling out their woes, writhing to the fife_
_down at their Abbey_ there they rune!

Refrain2—
Dancing East,
Dancing South,
The Faery come winding round the ring!
Dancing West,
Dancing North,
All the Good Folk laugh and sing!

Down by the Crannog where the Sluagh-Sidhe abide
_out beyond their Abbey where they ride—
Saint Patrick with the Faery, merry do they glide
Stepping on the sods_ there they slide!

A slippin’ through the otherworld, in peace they abide,
Joining hands and hearts_ division they deride—
Together now they dance_ for Love so full astride,
gathered at old crossings_ in rhymes to reside!

Coming now together where the Mystic Water flows,
Down at the Dolmen where the Faery Dust glows_
Patrick and the Faery, in their ráth they unclothe
the Presence of the TRIBANN_ witch now shows—

The unity of All in the World that’s now a-comin’
_out below their Abbey when it Snows—
Dancing in the UnderEarth in a Deep Blue River;
_let us all dance, now_ where it goes!


CODA—
          Dancing with the Faery _there he goes!
          Dancing with Saint Patrick_ there they go!
          Dancing with the faery _ there he goes!
Dancing with the All_ let us go!
Dancing with the All_ let us go!
Let us go!

Finis


Terms

Airts – the Four Directions (North, East, South, West).  In mythic terms, the four towers of the four directions.
Crannog -- a house, oratory, or other structure set out on the water near the shore of a lake or river,  set up on pillions and having a wooden deck around it.
Cromlech – a circle of standing stones with a dolmen or other stone structure within it.
Dolmen – a lithic structure, usually with three or four standing stones over which a flat stone is laid.  Probably an old Neolithic burial, but in Celtic times often treated as ‘portals’ between the ‘worlds’ and later – by the Celtic saints – as places of prayer and meditation.
Dust – Refers to “Faery Dust”
The Faery – the Olde Folk of the Celtic lands—the “Sluagh-Sidhe  (pronounced “Shew-a-shay”  People of the Sidhe)
Hooley – a house party; in this context: in the Otherworld with Faery music, dancing and singing.
Meath – the ‘central’ county of Ireland; in myth the seat of the old gods and goddesses and in spirituality a symbol of the “center’ of the person; the Heart—the place wherein we dwell most authentically in silence and solitude.
Sidhe – a name for the Otherworld or for the doorways between this world and the Otherworld.
Sluagh-Sidhe – “people of the Sidhe” i.e., the Faeryfolk


Friday, February 2, 2018

A Musing Life (2 February 2018)

“I travel through the untrodden places of the MUSE, where no one has gone before; it is a delight to approach fresh springs, and to drink.”
-        Lucretius  On the Nature of Things  (1st century BCE)
“The poets of every age are united in a common devotion and in a common dedication ‑‑ a devotion to their native tongue and a dedication to the Muse, a Goddess who, luminous and serene, remains the primal source of that light which irradiates the poet.” (27)
-        John Press   The Fire and the Fountain (1966)

 “The GODDESS has once again become the MUSE.”
-        Elinor W. Gadon  The Once and Future Goddess (1989)

What is the Muse?
As I now understand it, the expression – ‘The Muse’ – is a metaphor for the ‘source of inspiration,’ which resides naturally within us as the creative animals we are, wired by our evolutionary history to be creators.  Every human being has the capacity to be inspired, in small or great ways.  Artists either have a stronger sense of inspiration – because of their particular neurological wiring and life experience – and/or nurture it throughout their lives, making it stronger and more focused.  While this is clear to me now, it was not always so.  I have come to this understanding by way of a long and winding poetic adventure, along which I explored my own ability to create and sought to understand this ‘source of inspiration’ in religious and supernaturalist terms.  The story of my history with ‘The Muse’ is my a-musing life.
‘The Muse’ – as indicated in the epigraphs – has long been thought of as an external touchstone; a rune or vehicle for inspiration that ‘comes to us, from somewhere else.’  Creative religious people and mystics often relate to their personification of ‘the divine’ (God, Goddess, gods and goddesses, etc.) or perhaps venerable religious personas as their Muse.  Some creative and visionary people have found themselves inspired to creativity by other human beings, either alive or long dead.    I have been down each of these paths over the last fifty years and have had a succession of ‘muses.’
What does it mean to ‘have a muse?’  Is it necessary for the creative life?
Does the Muse have to be ‘personified?’
Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve been revisiting my various ‘personifications’ of the Muse, from childhood until the last decade of the 20thcentury,  and have been wondering why the Muse has so often been personified – not only for me, but for other creative people as well – and whether there is something psychologically beneficial in experiencing the Muse as such (i.e., ‘personifying’ the source of inspiration as a ‘Muse’).
My earliest ‘Muse’ was connected to my experience of ghosts I believe I’d seen over the course of my childhood and adolescence. (I was a very imaginative kid!)  My experience of what I came to call the ‘Ghost in the Hallway’ when I was nine and then the ‘Ghost in the Graveyard’ when I was eleven, hot-wired my youthful imagination to ‘supernal’ possibilities; seeming to show me a path beyond the ordinary rounds of daily life—a place where imagination could become manifest, at least in stories, poems and music. 
Why did a ‘ghost’ inspire me to creative acts and imaginative reveries?
Because that was interesting to me when I was nine to twelve years old, and even later in my life—up until about forty years of age.  The fact that I imagined ‘meeting’ these two spectral women over the next few years played into some of my earliest storytelling and writing.  When I was imagining them, I was ‘in touch’ with the ‘source of inspiration.’
I didn’t think of these two ‘ghost women’ as ‘muses’ until much later; not until the early 1980’s; when I was beginning to realize myself as a ‘poet.’  By then I’d had two more experiences of what I took to be ‘ghosts.’  Again, both were of spectral women.  These ‘sightings’ were shared with friends who also believed they ‘saw’ or ‘sensed’ the ‘ghost’ with me.  Regardless of the ontological status of these ‘ghosts,’ I later integrated these imaginative experiences into what I called my ‘Four-Fold Muse’ and told stories about the four women who comprised that ‘spectral association’ in poetic narratives.  But before that_
In HS I had been introduced to one of my first mystical ideas; that of The Blue Flower of German mysticism.  I recall vividly in active remembrance the emotional and intellectual experience of hearing our German teacher briefly tell us about the Blue Flower, and that’s all it took!  I began ‘researching’ it on my own.  I had also been introduced to other mystical ideals in books on the Occult, but few struck home like The Blue Flower.  It was Novalis who first introduced this poetic idea; the Novalis who said “the more poetic, the more real.  This is the core of my philosophy.”  _An aphorism I took to heart and recorded in a little notebook that I kept for decades.
The Blue Flower, which was a core image in German Romanticism (I was attracted to Romanticism even at that age, though I didn’t yet know what it was!), symbolized longing for an ideal, the yearning for growth, radical innocence, love, and union with the divine as ‘Goddess.’  I resonated with all those things, though without any deep understanding.  Looking back from a later vantage point, I can see that my fascination with the Blue Flower anticipated my later fascination with the Goddess, with the Virgin Mary, and even with female singers (Pat Benetar, Stevie Nicks, Emmylou Harris, Loreena McKennitt, Moya Brennan, etc); whose music inspired me to creativity, poetic visioning and storytelling!
The ideal of the Blue Flower and the ‘four ghosts’ stayed with me through the 1970’s.  Then, in 1980, I began to imagine the family who came to be known as ‘the Whittiers’ as a vehicle for telling my tales about Christmas and Yule; stories that were not religious in cast or conception but rather revolved around a Pagan and Naturalistic understanding of the Winter Solstice Season.  Within that process I came to imagine a number of women who seemed powerful to me and who eventually came together as a kind of ‘Triple Goddess.’  I quickly imagined a fourth woman joining the group, and then intuitively linked these 4 female characters with the four ‘ghosts’ I had experienced.  Together they became “The Four-Fold Muse:” their names were Magdalena, Christabell, Angellique and Elisabeth—and they were featured in an invocational poem that summarized, for me at that time, the creative process.[i]
These four fictional women – who featured in such old tales as “Ladies of the Wood” and “Incantamentum” – were my inspiration; or rather (perhaps) the touchstone of my imaginative energy—all through the mid- to late 1980’s.  It was with these four imagined women ‘haunting’ me that I wrote early drafts of The Fires of Yule, The Whittier Hearth, and a wide variety of mystical poems, essays and poetic narratives, some of which, in matured form, made it into my published books.
This poetic ‘personification’ of the source of creativity as the “Fourfold Muse” deepened through my immersion in various feminist authors I read, including Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon (1986), Elinor Gadon’s The Once and Future Goddess (1989), Merlin Stone’s When God was a Woman (1988), and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance (1989).  These books fostered in me a much deeper appreciation of the feminine, deepening my understanding of women and their plight in history and the need for radical reform leading to full equality between men and women.  Leonardo Boff’s The Maternal Face of God (1987) then led me into the next stage of my Musing Life by introducing me to the mysticism of the Virgin Mary.
My imaginative quest for poetic maturity had led me, through a variety of runes and touchstones, into Catholic mysticism and in that context to the Virgin Mary as Muse of Poets by 1989.  My devotion to Mary was as “Source of Inspiration” as much as Mother of Christ.  I saw her as the Mother of Poets and as Mistress of the Moon, Sea and Stars; imagery which I knew came over from ancient Paganism and that had been integrated by the Church into the Christian mythos of the Virgin Mother of God.
Remembering Novalis while composing this blog today, I realized that he, too, had been a devotee of the Great Mother mythos, and that for him as well the Virgin Mary was connected to the Goddess.  Were the ‘seeds’ of my fascination with this Christian Mythos of the Muse sown in my adolescence through encountering the myth of the Blue Flower?  Marian Blue has always reminded me of both The Blue Flower and Eckhart’s “Great Underground River that cannot be dammed up and cannot be stopped” – his metaphor for ‘GOD.’  However it happened, by 1990 I was writing daily and invoking the Virgin Mary as my Muse.  I would continue to honor her as Muse until I left the churches and their religion behind in 1997.
 Through the 1990’s, as I became more and more frustrated with organized, institutional religion, I turned ever more to Celtic spirituality as an alternative.  Celtic mysticism integrated both Christian and Pagan symbols, ideas, practices and motifs into a single Path; one that I was yearning to take by 1994-5.  As my sojourn in the churches came to an end, I turned to Celtic spirituality as an ‘interim’ tradition that would, at one level, ease my transition out of organized religion and also lead me on to whatever was going to be ‘next.’  While immersed in Celtic spirituality I came to understand and invoke the Muse as the Triple Goddess: Boann—Brighid—Ceridwen.   A description of this Triple Goddess can be found in my book on Celtic spirituality called WellSprings of the Deer (2002).
After publishing this book, I broke communion with mythic icons of the Muse as I went deeper into science, which wholly transformed me along with my entire worldview!  I once told a friend that my Muse had ‘abandoned’ me.  Yet I always believed She would be back.  As I re-grounded myself in the revelations of science over the course of a decade, I re-sourced the creative process in non-supernatural terms and came to realize that the seeds of inspiration are within us, and that, as the human animal we are, we are deeply and innately creative.  I came to understand that the effects we experience in meditation are not coming to us from a divine being or some Otherworld, but are, rather, consequent on the way we are wired, neurologically, as human animals, constructed via our life experiences.  I came to see that all my imaginative ‘visions’ and poetic ‘experiences’ were manifestations of this evolutionary programming; though in its own way unique to me as an individual pather of wisdom and creative self-realization.
We are the Creative Animal.  We are the Imagining Animal. 
Once I found myself re-grounded in the revelations of science I was free to begin imagining new scenarios and writing stories about them.  The Imagination plays a role in science, which grapples with the physical, objective world in which we find ourselves.  The Imagination also grapples – as in music, literature, poetry and film, etc., – with our intersubjective experiences (with others in the world) as well as our own subjective experiences.  It can create fictional worlds and fantastic scenarios as well as exploring and helping us to understand the objective, external worlds in which we live: the Earth & Cosmos that is our Given. 
Over the last few years I’ve begun thinking about the Muse, once again, reflecting on the various guises under which I have known ‘Her.’  And so, the questions: Does the Muse have to be personified to be effective?  And more deeply: Can a person be creative without having any kind of ‘muse?’
To the second question I would have to answer “yes, definitely.”  _At least if I mean by that question “any kind of personified Muse?”  We are imagining animals who can be ‘inspired’ to do one thing or another by any number of touchstones.  My understanding at this point is that the source of inspiration need not be personified.  Learning to be imaginative and channel one’s creativity – one’s creative vision – is a matter of poetic self-discipline.  As I said the outset, the idea of ‘The Muse’ is a cipher for the source of inspiration, which is innate to us.
When I am writing in a more rational, logical mode, I am often unaware of anything like a ‘Muse’ guiding me.  That metaphor recedes into the background of consciousness and I more directly appropriate and connect-to that state – emotional, intellectual, even physical – in which I can enter the flow of creative writing.  For several years, while immersed in the study of science and mathematics, I did not ‘call upon’ the muse or even imagine her in any particular way.  Yet, having had imagined ‘Muses’ guiding and inspiring me over the course of 40 years of my life, I was attuned to the mythic mental construct of a ‘Muse,’ and eventually ‘She’ returned to me, though without the artifices of religious belief or supernaturalism.
And so, in my own experience, I have found an imagined (imaginary) and personified Muse to be energizing and liberating in terms of my own creativity.  Why?  Perhaps because a personified ‘Muse’ functions to take the creative person ‘out of themselves;’ liberating them from the ordinary-waking-self which so often and so easily gets ‘in the way’ of creative visioning and poetic adventuring.  Why?  Possibly because poetic creativity is intuitively guided and grounded more in the subconscious than in the conscious mind?  While editing, revising and re-writing texts (including this one) is undertaken in a rational, practical ‘state of mind,’ the actual impetus behind creative work comes from a much deeper place; the source of inspiration within us—a psychological source.  By personifying it, we perhaps ‘step aside’ from our ordinary waking self and allow it to become ‘active.’
When I imaginatively engage with my Muse; communing with the “Four-Fold Muse,” the “Virgin Mary” or the “Triple Celtic Goddess,” I experience a side-step; a ‘stepping aside’ from the practical, work-a-day consciousness in which I normally live and can thereby ‘go out’ – in my imagination – to a place where I can more freely create.  Imagining and ‘heeding’ a personified Muse allows me to get out of my own way!
Thus, I continue to lead my Musing life, even now, as a Poetic Naturalist.




[i] These poems, “A Poetics of the Creative Process” and “Invocation of the Four-fold Muse” can be found in the front matter of my book Tales from the Seasons.” (AuthorHouse, 2008)