Tag: Anam cara

Anam cara

Love as seen through the Celtic spiritual belief of bonding souls.

Who hasn’t lifted their eyes to the skies above and become lost in themselves?  Whether the drama of a turbulent daytime sky or the deep mystery of an endless, clear night, sky?  Doesn’t matter who we are or where we have or haven’t been in our lives, experiencing that shift from ‘reality’ to a place of souls is familiar to all.

Right at the front of Richard Bach’s lovestory book The Bridge Across Forever, there’s this quotation from E.E. Cummings:

 – how fortunate are you and I, whose home

is timelessness: we who have wandered down

from fragrant mountains of eternal now

to frolic in such mysteries as birth

and death a day (or maybe even less)

Then on page 9, Richard Bach writes as part of his introduction:

We think, sometimes, there’s not a dragon left. Not one brave knight, not a single princess gliding through secret forests, enchanting deer and butterflies with her smile.

We think sometimes that ours is an age past frontiers, past adventures.  Destiny, it’s way over the horizon; glowing shadows galloped past long ago, and gone.

What a pleasure to be wrong.  Princesses, knights, enchantments and dragons, mystery and adventure …. not only are they here-and-now, they’re all that ever lived on earth!

Our century, they’ve changed clothes, of course.  Dragons wear government-costumes, today, and failure-suits and disaster-outfits.  Society’s demons screech, whirl down on us should we lift our eyes from the ground, dare we turn right at corners we’ve been told to turn left.  So crafty have appearances become that princesses and knights can be hidden from each other, can be hidden from themselves.

Yet masters of reality still meet us in dreams to tell us that we’ve never lost the shield we need against dragons, that blue fire voltage arcs through us now to change our world as we wish.  Intuition whispers true: We’re not dust, we’re magic!

Copyright (1984) Richard Bach.

Richard Bach’s hugely popular lovestory is widely summarised, thus:

‘Did you ever feel that you were missing someone you had never met?’.

Haunted by the ghost of the wise, mystical, lovely lady who lives just around the corner in time, Richard Bach begins his quest to find her, to learn of love and immortality not in the here-after, but in the here and now. Yet caught in storms of wealth and success, disaster and betrayal, he abandons the search, and the walls he builds for protection become his prison. Then he meets the one brilliant and beautiful woman who can set him free, and with her begins a transforming journey, a magical discovery of love and joy.

Just pause and listen. Hear your intuition whispering to you: You are not dust, you are magic!


Now let’s turn to another author: John O’Donohue.  WikiPedia has an entry that starts:

John O’Donohue (1 January 1956 – 4 January 2008) was an Irish poet, author, priest, and Hegelian philosopher. He was a native Irish speaker, and as an author is best known for popularizing Celtic spirituality.

His death in January 2008 just a few days past his 52nd birthday was a huge and tragic loss.  Not just to his family and all who knew him, but to all those in the world who dream the spiritual bonding with another person.

John O’Donohue’s book is no better appreciated than by hugging the meaning of that Celtic phrase anam cara, assuming you aren’t a Celtic speaker!  A quick web search finds an explanation typically like this:

In the Celtic Spiritual tradition, it is believed that the soul radiates all about the physical body.  What some refer to as an aura. When you connect and become completely open and trusting with another person, your two souls begin to flow together. The forming of that deep bond is described as having found your anam cara or soul friend.

Your anam cara always accepts you as you truly are, holding you in beauty and light. Inevitably, to appreciate this relationship, you must first recognize your own inner light and beauty. This is not always easy to do! The Celts believed that forming an anam cara friendship would help you awaken to your own inner light and beauty, as a pathway to experiencing the joys of others.

According to John O’Donahue, an accomplished Irish poet, philosopher and Catholic priest, “…You are joined in an ancient and eternal union with humanity that cuts across all barriers of time, convention, philosophy and definition. When you are blessed with an anam cara, the Irish believe, you have arrived at that most sacred place: home.

Do you sense how the writings of Richard Bach and John O’Donohue are two hues from the same rainbow?

Take a few minutes and explore the John O’Donohue website that has much to remember about this wonderful man.  Embrace such profound insights on the universal themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death as:

  • Light is generous
  • The human heart is never completely born
  • Love as ancient recognition
  • The body is the angel of the soul
  • Solitude is luminous
  • Beauty likes neglected places
  • The passionate heart never ages
  • To be natural is to be holy
  • Silence is the sister of the divine
  • Death as an invitation to freedom

I’m going to offer two videos.  They are both of John O’Donohue.  One is 51 minutes and one is 5 minutes.  Do watch them both but if for whatever reason you cannot do that, then please watch the shorter one.


Now read this quotation from the book.

Your beloved and your friends were once strangers. Somehow at a particular time, they came from the distance toward your life. Their arrival seemed so accidental and contingent. Now your life is unimaginable without them. Similarly, your identity and vision are composed of a certain constellation of ideas and feelings that surfaced from the depths of the distance within you. To lose these now would be to lose yourself.

and recognising this post is day three of writing about love, here’s another quotation:

If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.


Are Jean and I touched by the spirit of anam cara?  Leave you, dear reader, to judge that.  In fact, leave you with the sign that is on our front gate!


Soul friend

Reflections on the Irish poet and author, John O’Donohue.

John O'Donohue

While many will have heard the name of this wonderfully inspirational man, John O’Donohue is not a name known to the masses.  Yet his writings are, without fail, beautifully moving.  Indeed, this Post was prompted by me coming across a piece from his first book, Anam Cara, meaning ‘soul friend’ in Gaelic, and, as any dog owner will attest, dogs are the animal example of a soul friend to a human.

John tragically died well before his time, in January 2008, just three days after his 56th birthday.  As the John O’Donohue website reveals,

John O’Donohue vanished from among us on January 4, 2008 as physical presence, but it is impossible to write about John as someone who “was”; he so thoroughly “is”. In the context of the immense presence of his absence, the following biographical facts and dates can serve only as time-bound points of orientation for those who wish to try and locate history.

John was born in January 1956, the first of four children to Patrick and Josie O’Donohue. At the age of 18, John entered the novitiate at Maynooth where he completed his BA in English and Philosophy in 1977 and his degree in Theology, in 1980. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1982, received his MA in 1982 and, in 1986 began work on a doctorate at the University of Tubingen in Germany. John was awarded his Ph.D in Philosophical Theology in 1990. In his dissertation, Person als Vermittlung, (published in Germany in 1993), John developed a new concept of Person through a re-interpretation of the philosophy of Hegel. The prestigious Review of Metaphysics commended him for “breaking new ground in our thinking about consciousness . . . [with] a richer and deeper notion of Personhood.” In John’s words: “Hegel struck me as someone who put his eye to the earth at a most unusual angle and managed to glimpse the circle toward which all things aspire.”

There is so much more to say and write about this lovely man, but for another time.  Let me close by publishing this extract from Anam Cara. But a plea!  Before you plunge ahead and read these words, just slow yourself down.  The thoughts behind the words below are profound, romantic and applicable to all, yes, every one of us.  They offer peace and calmness – embrace them with a peaceful and calm mind.

The eye celebrates Motion

The human eye adores movement and is alert to the slightest flicker. It enjoys great moments of celebration when it beholds the ocean as the tide comes in, and tide upon tide repeats its dance against the shore. The eye also loves the way light moves; summer light behind a cloud crawling over a meadow. The eye follows the way the wind shovels leaves and sways trees. The human person is always attracted to motion. As a little baby you wanted to crawl, then to walk, and as an adult you feel the continuous desire to walk into independence and freedom.

Everything alive is in movement. This movement we call growth. The most exciting form of growth is not mere physical growth, but the inner growth of one’s soul and life. It is here that the holy longing within the heart brings one’s life to motion. The deepest wish of the heart is that this motion does not remain broken or jagged, but develops sufficient fluency to become the rhythm of one’s life.

The secret heart of time is change and growth. Each new experience which awakens in you adds to your soul and deepens your memory. The person is always a nomad, journeying from threshold to threshold, into ever different experiences. In each new experience, another dimension of the soul unfolds. It is no wonder that from ancient times the human person has been understood as a wanderer. Traditionally, these wanderers traversed foreign territories and unknown places. Yet, Stanislavsky, the Russian dramatist and thinker, wrote: “The longest and most exciting journey is the journey inwards.”

There is a beautiful complexity of growth within the human soul. In order to glimpse this, it is helpful to visualise the mind as a tower of windows. Sadly, many people remain trapped at one window, looking out every day at the same scene in the same way. Real growth is experienced when you draw back from one window, turn and walk around the inner tower of the soul and see all the different windows that await your gaze. Through these different windows, you can see new vistas of possibility, presence and creativity. Complacency, habit and blindness often prevent you from feeling your life. So much depends on the frame of vision – the window through which we look.

Think about the times we live in, challenging times for so many.  Then realise that what we see (and feel) is so dependent on how we look.  Let me repeat those last few lines, “Through these different windows, you can see new vistas of possibility, presence and creativity. Complacency, habit and blindness often prevent you from feeling your life. So much depends on the frame of vision – the window through which we look.”