Hyphenated Life

Everything Is Sacred

July 08, 2021 Hosted by Andrew Daugherty & David L'Hommedieu Season 2 Episode 11
Hyphenated Life
Everything Is Sacred
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Hyphenated Life
Everything Is Sacred
Jul 08, 2021 Season 2 Episode 11
Hosted by Andrew Daugherty & David L'Hommedieu

We are delighted and humbled that Titan of Celtic Christianity, John Philip Newell, joined us from Edinburgh, Scotland to talk about his upcoming book, Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul.

John Philip is one of the leading Celtic teachers and authors of spirituality in the world. He calls the modern world to reawaken to the sacredness of the earth and every human being.

Hyphenated Life bonds with JP around the similar paths we take towards breaking down the wall between the sacred and the secular by recognizing the sacredness in everything and everyone.


Show Notes Transcript

We are delighted and humbled that Titan of Celtic Christianity, John Philip Newell, joined us from Edinburgh, Scotland to talk about his upcoming book, Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul.

John Philip is one of the leading Celtic teachers and authors of spirituality in the world. He calls the modern world to reawaken to the sacredness of the earth and every human being.

Hyphenated Life bonds with JP around the similar paths we take towards breaking down the wall between the sacred and the secular by recognizing the sacredness in everything and everyone.


Speaker 1:

It reminds me of a wonderful week that we have in the high desert of New Mexico. A number of years ago, when I was teaching with my rabbi brother from Santa Fe, not homework lab, we did the whole week on, on marsh and goobers . Uh , I thou and , um, and the , uh , you know, the, the hyphen between I am now is , um, I mean, we increasingly came to see that that is , uh , that's the very essence of relationship it's in that sort of high thumb , uh , connection between the heart of my being and the heart fear of being, or the heart of me and the harsh purple thing around band. So we were celebrating the hyphen. Oh , wow.

Speaker 2:

We often say as a sort of catch phrase , you know, trying to live life in the hyphen , um, to not get caught in the false dualities and the polarization of our world. And, you know, it's , it's saying the same thing that you are saying in your book, you know, that , uh , we need to recognize the sacred in everything in the planet and each other and ourselves. And the more we try to separate those worlds and pretend like it doesn't exist in some places. And it does, and others, the further the divide culturally, you know, it just it's it . Yeah. So we seek to delve into the blurred lines between sacred and secular conceptually. We could not be more thrilled, excited , um, humbled, grateful to be joined by John Philip Newell, the great Celtic spirituality , um, theologian . I mean,

Speaker 3:

He's been such an inspiration. I, I call him all , he's an author, he's a teacher, he's a mystic, a revolutionary, I would say a Sage. He is somebody who really has helped bring Celtic, Christianity and Celtic spirituality. This sidestream of the Christian tradition , uh, into popular consciousness. And , uh, we're so, so delighted. He's been so inspiring to me , uh, to have a chance to talk to him today is a complete , uh , dream and delight. And , uh , so if you don't know who John Philip Newell is, you'll get to know a little bit more about him today. We're talking about his new book, sacred earth, sacred soul that just released two days ago , uh, through Harper, one publishing and a wonderful book that is in some ways, probably a culmination of a lot of his work over the last many years , um , as a teacher and an author, but , uh, delighted to welcome John Philip Newell a , you know, let us know we can call him JP, which is pretty cool. Yeah, that is , um , well, I,

Speaker 1:

I , um, I was concerned that if she called me, John, I wouldn't know who you were speaking to. Yeah . I , I , my family and friends have always , uh , I've never used John . Um, so , um, that was the decision of my mother 68 years,

Speaker 4:

Welcome to hyphenated life. We invite you to join us on this journey to explore the connection of the sacred and the secular that inspires us to become more fully alive.

Speaker 3:

Hello friends , welcome to another episode of hyphenated life. We are delighted today to welcome John Philip Newell , uh , to hyphenated life, this wonderful conversation, a Celtic teacher and author of spirituality who calls the modern world to reawaken to the sacredness of the earth and every human being. For those of you who might be familiar with John Phillip Newell's work , um , he's Canadian by birth, a citizen also of Scotland. And he resides with his family in Edinburgh and works on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2016. He began the school of earth and soul originally called the school of Celtic consciousness and teaches regularly in the United States and Canada, as well as leading international pilgrimage weeks on the wonderful isle of Iona and the Western Isles of Scotland. His PhD is from the university of Edinburgh, and he has authored over 15 books, including a new ancient harmony sounds of the eternal, the rebirthing of God and his now book that , uh , as we're recording this, we'll be in releasing this two days ago, a releases sacred earth, sacred soul, John Philip Newell, what an absolute delight to welcome you to hyphenated life today. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:

Thank you, Andrew and David.

Speaker 3:

Well , um, so there's so much to talk about. And , um, we were talking before a little bit about how here at pine street church in Boulder, Colorado, we record this podcast in the basement of our church. Uh, and , uh, you know, one of the things that I just want to say upfront is I am hugely influenced by John Philip Newell in ways that I know. And in some ways that I don't know , um, but Celtic, spirituality has been deeply formative for me over the last decade or so. And it began , um , on a pilgrimage to Iona in the summer of 2012. And , um , uh , I do have permission to call John Philip Newell , JP, which makes me feel like, you know, I have sort of, you know, a VIP access or something like that. But , um, uh, so , uh, JPS work has really influenced me and Christ of the Celts. Uh, John Phillip was one of the early books that I, that I read that really formed my own theology. And as we were talking about the whole premise of our podcast , uh, of the hyphenated life, what does that mean? Uh, we were talking about Irenaeus. Uh , the glory of God is a human being fully alive. Um, and then , uh, Mary , uh, Madeline linguals a wonderful line, there is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred. And so today to talk about your new book sacred, a sacred soul sacred earth is, is , uh , a huge moment for us. So thank you. So I , I wanted to , uh , just sort of talk a little bit, you, you say kind of right away , um, in the introduction of the book , uh , sacred earth, sacred soul, that you have nine sort of figures from a Celtic Christianity. That really is really the outline of the book. I was just kind of curious to start , um, very simply , uh, how did you pick these nine figures?

Speaker 1:

Um , I think I went there much with , uh, figures who have been , you know , may have spoken to my heart and my mind. And , um, Paul was something of a chronological line through the centuries. I think one of, one of the reasons why I'm always very keen to point to , uh , a succession of historical figures over the centuries is that I think that one of the rich features of this tradition that we often refer to it as Celtic spirituality, it has , um, uh, a rich sort of ancestry. It , it , um , has , um , folded and developed over many centuries. Uh, so this is not a way of seeing that just sort of popped out to the blue now. Um, but it has a deep lineage. And , um, I mean, I couldn't fail to start really, I think, with, with Pelagius and in chapter one , um , he, he is perhaps the most sort of seminal figure in, in this tradition. I think that he signals , uh , the themes around sacredness of the earth and sacred most of the human soul that , uh, every other great teacher in this stream picks up on. And then, you know, I go right through to finishing with a contemporary of mine of ours , Kenneth White poet , and , uh , one of the , um , attractions for me and Kenneth, I mean , his, his poetry so powerfully expresses some of the insights and celebrations of sacredness of birth, sacredness of soul . Um, but also one of the things I like about Kenneth Wyatt is, is that he's not a tidy sort of soon up thinker. And I think in many ways he is a good reflection of where many of us are at this moment in time. Uh, we're, we're still on a journey and we're following our conviction of sacredness with the earth sacredness of the human soul. And , uh, we're, we're placing a confidence in, in , uh , that instinct for the sacredness at the heart of all things, but we don't know exactly how it's going to play out. Um, you know, collectively in terms of our communities in terms of our individual lives, in terms of the journey that we're on , um, as an earth community at this critical moment in time. So there's something very, open-ended about , um, Kenneth White's vision that I wanted to, to end with, to , in the sense, invite the reader into that continuing unfolding journey. This isn't a fixed up , um, highly defined tradition. Um, it is trying to stay true to essential vision and realizing that the thing that is living is forever changing unfolding

Speaker 3:

You begin with uh plagiarists. And , um, even when I read Christ to the Celts , um, I was so struck by that. It's like, where's this heritage been all of my life. And, and we've talked a lot even , uh , here in our community pine street, church, Boulder, we've talked a lot about, you know, the, the, the doctrine of original sin, but where was the doctrine of original blessing? And , um, I love how you have used him to, you know , help reclaim and in a different way, sort of that side stream of Christianity through the Celtic world. And I love how you began with him. And I wonder if you might say a little bit, I know you've talked some about how the fourth century was so formative in Christianity, not, not for the, not for the good necessarily, but what would you say about plagiarists in terms of what we could have the chance to reclaim for a kind of contemporary Christian spirituality today?

Speaker 1:

Yes, the , uh, the fourth century was, was , uh , an enormously critical moment in the unfolding of , uh , Western Christianity , uh, you know , uh, a church that had sort of one day, and this had been persecuted by the mighty Roman empire , uh, and the next day almost , uh , became the , the religion of empire. Um, so , uh, it's, I find it important to sort of get into the , the mindset of what must've been happening in the F in the fourth century. Um, uh , an enormous relief of course, to be , uh , freed from the threat of persecution. Uh, but the freedom from persecution came, came at tremendous costs so that the , um, we, we know the phrase, an inconvenient truth, and , um, the empire didn't want him to convenient truths. They wanted essentially to be able to continue as they had had, had lived and treated the earth and treated other nations. Uh , so some of the sort of radical , um, vision that I believe is at the heart of the crash vision about sacredness of the earth, sacredness of every human being there for how we handle the earth, how we view and relate to one another , uh, is, is radically challenged. If, if we, if our starting point is that every creature and the matter of the earth and every human being , um , are sacred. So , um, Pelagius is , um , is a wonderful figure. I mean, I've been, I've been thinking for many years, he , uh , pretty exciting , uh , film could be made of pledges life. This , this teacher who's , who really stands up against the might of empire and , um, and the might of the Imperial church and , um, and proclaims that right at the heart of the gospel is this celebration of the sacredness of every human being and up the earth. Uh, and we've been under the shadow of so much of, of what began to happen in the fourth century when Christianity became religion of empire. And so many of our creedal statements , uh , that still formed the sort of center and structure of so much Western theology that all was formulated in the fourth century and still dominates a lot of Western Christian perspective , uh , whether in the Roman Catholic tradition or in the Protestant and reformed traditions. So , uh, Pelagius is, is a voice. And I, and one of my feelings about all of these historical figures that I I draw on is that , uh , is that we need, we need their voices again. And that often when , uh , when we recognize our need and look for , uh, articulation of vision, these figures from the past , um, come to life again within us and among us. And I think plagiarism is one of these figures that is to addressing the, the yearnings of our hearts for this moment in time, in terms of how we view one another the earth. Um, so I , I, you know, as, as you mentioned, Andrew, he , he is perhaps the most misrepresented teacher of all time. And certainly those, those of us who studied theology in Edinburgh , um, generation after generation of theological student, was required to write an essay comparing polygynous with Santa's costume of hip hop . And it was known full well in , in advance who the hero should be and who the villain was to be. And , um, we were told that , um , very little , uh , about pledges . We were, we were told that there were no writings available from his hand. Um, but what we now know is that there are many writings available , uh, from, from his hand , uh , we were told the T taught that we didn't need grace , um, is very clear from his writings that he , he did believe that we needed grace, but by grace , um, he did not see grace as , as an energy from God that is opposed to our nature. Um, but rather he saw the, the , um, the , the stowing of grace from God as given to reconnect us with our nature, that would become not something other than natural, but truly natural.

Speaker 2:

If they were to make a movie about palladium , who do you think should play him? I'm thinking, and it's probably influenced by the Marcus or really his character that Russell Crowe played in the gladiator. I could see like a , a sort of a yin and yang brother twins , secret twin brother of Marcus Aurelius also played by Russell Crowe to come in and , uh , you know, similar time period fighting the empire. Uh, I would go see that movie. I think

Speaker 3:

I love your cinematic imagination, David that's really?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah. I think I might tap it forward down to the Hopkins.

Speaker 2:

Wow. Yes. He just won an Oscar didn't he? I believe

Speaker 1:

He did. Yeah. And they, they might have to pat them out a bit. The , um , at one of the criticisms at director that alleges was that he was overweight from, from having eaten too much Scott's porridge. I don't know. I mean , a lot of what was said about him was , um, you know, we , we need to sort of read between the lines as to what w w w what was the criticism really? And , um , a lot of the criticisms of privileges, for instance, refer to them , spending too much time with women. Uh , and , um, and this is because he believed that women were to be taught to read and to interpret the scriptures. And , uh, this, this, it was not just , uh, an idiosyncrasy of , of alleged . Yes , this was something that was very typical of the Celtic Christian world , um, uprising and honoring of the place of the feminine and a role of leadership by, by women. Um, so , uh , when Pelagius arrives in Rome, in the fourth century , uh , with Christianity already in bed with empire , um, one of the features of Imperial religion was this tragic subordination of women. And , um, a lack of celebration, even a fear of the feminine

Speaker 2:

You talk about , um, in your looking back to these, these figures in the history of Celtic spirituality, how we're , we're not looking back to them to save us now, but as referenced to help reorient us. And that the stories that we learned from them are playing out still. Um, and this idea, you know, this divergence in the fourth century where one sort of narrative became dominant and the other fell into obscurity , um, you think of marginalization of people. Um , you had a beautiful , uh, anecdote in your book about you were speaking to these, these ideas that you write about in the book in a , I believe it was a Mohawk elder hat . Was that one of your, one of your , um, speaker engagements and, and spoke to you afterwards, that he wished that the colonialists who came over to occupy north America, instead of coming to look to, you know, take advantage of the land and the people it's stead, if they came to look for the light in the spirit and soul of the native peoples, how their story might be different. Um, I don't know if you can speak to that a little bit about today in , in , in historically, and today, specifically how marginalization comes to be because of not paying attention to all these things that you've you are writing about.

Speaker 1:

Yes. Uh, that was , um, for me , uh, a powerful moment to, to hear the Mohawk elder speak so powerfully , um, and , and to offer such a critique of , uh , um, European expansionism, but also what the arm of the church and that Imperial expansionism represented. Um, and , uh, his words speak very powerfully and alternate to the historical , um , sacrilege of, of nature traditions, and failing to see, and to look for the light at the heart of every people at the heart of every tradition. But I think his words , uh, speak prophetically to, to this moment in time , uh, not only in terms of our failure to recognize the sacredness of the earth and the effort to handle the body of the earth and the resources of the earth with reverence and with care and with equity. Um, but , uh , they speak prophetically of, of, of how we have , uh, often treated the so-called other , uh, the other race , uh, the other sexual orientation, for instance, and , um , have , um , allowed that sort of lack of perception of sacredness at the heart of the other, to , um, to justify , uh , uh, and ignoring of , or a mistreatment or an exploitation of the so-called other ,

Speaker 3:

Um , John Phillips . I wanted to also ask just in terms of the whole, this moment in history, obviously coming through the last , uh, 16 months of this global health pandemic, that your book sacred earth sacred soul is , is dropping at this time in our history. Uh what's what sort of drove you, or inspired you to write this right now and for it to come out at such a formative time , uh, not just in the United States where we are, or where you are in Scotland, but just as a global call, a cosmic sort of vision that in some ways you reclaim through these Celtic lenses, these Celtic figures , uh , what inspired you to write the book?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, the , um, the sort of synchronicity of , of the book coming out at , at this moment in time is really wonderful. Um, I believe , um, I , I can't in fact take, take credit for that really. I mean, I was, I was working away on these themes before we entered the pandemic and , uh, the pandemic in , in many ways has, has allowed me more time than I might've otherwise had to, to , um, finish the book to Polish it, I think to deepen that , to , um, uh , work closely with an editor from Harper, one making learn by name who , um , who is , uh , is a challenging editor. And , um, and I think he made it a much better book , uh, through the wrestling that just that we often had. Um, I think that , um, one of the things that has always been important to me in my, in my life as a teacher and writer , is that these two aspects of, of what I focus on teaching and writing have never been held in separate compartments. I , um, uh , uh, I love to teach and , uh , and I have been missing the sort of physical gathering , uh, aspect of teaching. I, I really love to be able to see that the light in people's eyes as , uh , connections are made. And, and I think it's also important to note when, when people's eyes glaze over and I know the time, you know, I need to go back to the drawing board, I need to sharpen the top. Um, so , um, the, the teaching context has , has always been the primary context within, which are out of which I write . So , um, although I sometimes fantasize thinking, wouldn't it been lovely to be talked to where I'm at Highland cottage and never have to get on a plan again, and , um, and just spend my life writing. The reality is I've never been the combination that, that is important to me. So , um, I , I think that the, the, the particular synchronicity of it coming out now just feels like sort of pure, pure grace. To me, it feels like there's been a , um, a hand in this that is , that does not just my, my hand. And I believe that , um, deeply , uh , about life and our , our journey, but I'm , I'm very thankful that it's coming out now. And I think that there's , um, it depends , DEMEC has been a time of , um, a new awakening, new , uh , attentiveness , uh , to our relationship with the earth and one another. Uh, there's been a growing awareness , uh , certainly from biodiversity scientists that, that this is a pandemic in the sense of our creating it, it is , um, we have , uh , created , um, a type of disturbance or type of , um, uh, unwellness madness , uh, within the, the, the, the world of , um, of , um, uh, infection or viruses leaping from species to species. Um, so I think a book that addresses and calls for, for a recovery or waking up again to the safe , with most of the earth in one another , um, is, is coming, coming at a very important moment. Um, and , um, I think that the , uh , it, all of us, I think can in our work , um, are primarily just called to, to keep sort of plodding on with, with the insights the gifts were given. And , uh, and, and the sense of offer those over to, to , uh, the bigger perspective of our interrelatedness and, and the weaving together of our lives and our vision , uh , through the work of the spirit. Um, so I'm, I'm feeling grateful that it's coming after this moment in time. I think earlier, I , I was maybe becoming impatient, you know, why, why are we not getting this book out earlier? But I see now that it's , uh, it's a wonderful timing. Yes.

Speaker 3:

T timing with a capital T as sometimes say when that sort of synchronicity happens. Um, I'm , I'm so curious, of course, I'm a pastor, so I have a little bit of a different angle of vision on , uh , what I think , uh , you're offering through the book. Um, John Philip , and , uh, just curious about what you might say, because you , you, you say in the book, what is unique about the Celtic tradition , uh, compared to most other Western traditions, is that it cannot be reduced to a set of doctrines or beliefs. And , uh, we've already talked a little bit about , uh, Pelagius in , in the doctrine of original sin, and I love , uh, you know, what he , what he says. And I think you mentioned actually Christ of the Celts that he had taught that when we look into the face of a newborn child, we're looking into the face of God, freshly, born among us. And that's been so beautiful to me as , as a father, certainly. Uh , and one of the earliest theological questions ever asked my daughter, I think she was four. I said, what does God look like? And she said a baby. And , uh , I think I was reading your book about that same time. I, I just wonder what you might say about just the wisdom of the Celtic tradition for here and now, because one of the, one of the , um, uh, passions of mine and, and our church with our local partners here in Boulder called out Boulder and together homes, a lot of the LGBTQ plus community , uh, especially youth where we look at those numbers and it's, so , uh, it , it is so devastating to know that, you know, for whom , uh , LGBTQ youth, if religion is important to them, there is a 40% greater chance of them taking their own lives. Um, what, what would you say in terms of the wisdom of the Celtic stream? Plagiarists certainly your book about the sacredness of all life and how that might relate to the LGBTQ , um, community today? I

Speaker 1:

Think , I think one of the things that I've , um , most appreciated and tried to try to honor and continue in my own life from teachings from, from the Celtic stream is , um, is there the realization that those of us who have a teaching role or an articulating role , uh, our primary role I believe, is to try to give voice to what is already deeply within the other. Um, and I , I think that the , um, so our , our role is sort of , um, is an awakening of, of one another , uh, an awakening of , um , uh, uh , knowing of that sacredness of the earth. The knowing of the sacredness of the other that I believe is deep within us and how , how can we set that free in the , in the way we speak and the way we teach and the way we live and relate. Um, so , uh, that's quite different from , uh , a more , um, uh , pronounced doctrinal approach in which we've often , um , as a Christian tradition, given the world, the impression that that truth is sort of dispensing about. Um, and , and that this truth will probably be in the sense as opposed to what is deepest in the listener. Um, and , uh, so I, I found it so liberating , uh , to, to, to know that my role , um, my particular little role is, is to , in, in my own way, give, try to give articulation to give them . And , um, and I think that was one of the sort of sensibilities of younger generation. And I see it so clearly , uh , in my, in my own children , uh , they have, they have , um, has some, some that I sort of powerful natural sensibilities around the sacredness of the earth and the sacredness of , of one another, where wherever one falls on the, on the sexual , uh, orientation , um, uh , identification, spectrum , uh, and, and , uh , they are not seeing one another early in terms of any category error , any identification, they are much more alert to , uh , the , the quality of spirit and the love that they, that they discern in the lives and relationships of their peers. And , um, I think, I think that they, and , and that's as true, I think, in relation to the sacredness of the earth as well. I think so many of us in, in my generation and perhaps in our generation generations have had to learn , uh , or have had to wake up in a new way to the sacredness of the earth, because so much of our sort of cultural, religious education , uh , training, neglect , neglected that, that deep knowing. Whereas I think many in , in , um , the younger generation have quite naturally perceived and been in touch with what , in the book I call , um, a deeper knowing that we can release in one another. And that is the sacredness of the other , uh , wherever they fall on spectrums of sexual orientation or spectrums of race or spectrum of religious [inaudible] .

Speaker 5:

If you want to know

Speaker 3:

And learn more about John Philip Newell, go to earth and soul.org earth and soul.org and attend the virtual book launch of sacred earth, sacred soul on July 10th . Thank you, John Philip Newell. And thank you everybody for listening to hyphenated life. This is the finale of season two. We will see you back in the fall for season three, blessings, peace, love joy, harmony, to all of you from us to you and go to hyphenated life.org. If you want to reach out and connect with us, we would love to hear from you, and you can find us on Facebook and Instagram hyphenated life. So you said

Speaker 5:

[inaudible] .