Sunday, November 17, 2013

Anam Cara: Soul Friend

A week or so ago, I mentioned that I have started reading a wonderful book entitled Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom. The book, written by John O'Donohue, was apparently an international best seller when it was published in 1997, and I was introduced to it through quotations from it in another book I recently read.

According to Wikipedia,
"O'Donohue became a novice at Maynooth, in north County Kildare, at age of 18. Here he earned degrees in English, Philosophy, and Theology at St Patrick's College in County Kildare. He was ordained as Catholic priest in 6 June 1979. O'Donohue moved to Tübingen, Germany in 1986, and completed his dissertation in 1990 on German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel for his PhD in philosophical theology from Eberhard Karls University. In 1990, he returned to Ireland to continue his priestly duties, and began his post-doctoral work on the 13th century mystic, Meister Eckhart.
"O'Donohue's first published work, Anam cara (1997), which means "soul friend" in Gaelic, was an international best-seller and catapulted him into a more public life as an author and much sought-after speaker and teacher, particularly in the United States. O'Donohue left the priesthood in 2000 ... Just two days after his 52nd birthday and two months after the publication of his final complete work, Benedictus: A Book of Blessings, O'Donohue died suddenly in his sleep on 4 January 2008 while on holiday near Avignon, France." 
I have fallen in love with the prose in O'Donohue's book, and I will quote from it in posts from time to time and perhaps add a couple of my own thoughts. Here are some passages that I've recently read.

Love Is The Nature of the Soul

"The soul needs love as urgently as the body needs air. In the warmth of love, the soul can be itself. All the possibilities of your human destiny are asleep in your soul. You are here to realize and honor these possibilities. When love comes in to your life, unrecognized dimensions of your destiny awaken and blossom and grow."

"Sometimes a friendship turns, and the partners fix on each other at their points of mutual negativity. When you meet only at the point of poverty between you, it is as if you give birth to a ghost who would devour every shred of your affection ... Others want to love, to give themselves, but they have no energy. They carry around in their hearts the corpses of past relationships and are addicted to hurt as a confirmation of identity."

The Anam Cara

"In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam cars, you could share your inner-most self, your mind and your heart ... The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other."

"In everyone's life, there is great need for an anam cara, a soul friend. In this love, you are understood as you are without mask or pretension ... Where you are understood, you are at home ..."

"Love is the threshold where divine and human presence ebb and flow into each other."

"A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you."


"Ireland is a land of many ruins. Ruins are not empty. They are sacred places full of presence ... The life and passion of a person leave an imprint on the ether of a place. Love does not remain within the heart, it flows out to build secret tabernacles in a landscape."

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