We are often asked similar questions by different people. We aim to list generic versions of these questions here, so that you can find the answers you are looking for. Please keep visiting this page as we add to the list of questions.
If you mean, "Can I be a part of this tradition even though I am not a 'Celt?" Then yes, certainly... There are probably more non Tibetans following Tibetan Buddhism these days than Native Tibetans, for instance. I have heard a Tibetan Lama say that there are certain nuances to the cultural aspects of of Tibetan Buddhism that a non-Tibetan will never entirely appreciate and that is likely to also be the case with the Céile Dé Tradition, but these things are not what is really important. At the end of the day, this path (and other paths too of course) is not here to offer us yet another set of ego-based identifications, such as 'I am Celtic' or 'I am Gaelic', it is more about losing the need for adjectives and nouns and simply being 'I Am'... Whether we are Buddhist, Céile Dé, Sufi or anything else, we will all have the same experience when we attain our Ultimate State.
If you are asking from another perspective, such as that of a person's readiness or ability to undergo real inner work, that may be another matter; perhaps you might like to read an article about states of being and powerful transformative work on our articles page - The article is called, 'Advice at the Threshold'.
I'm afraid that we don't offer any form of distance learning, such as a correspondence course. Our tradition is built around group teachings and ultimately the Anam Chara relationship - a one to one spiritual relationship. Not ideal for people who live far away, I can appreciate...but nevertheless, it is the only way our tradition works. It is and always has been very person centred.
As well as the above, we feel that there are many correspondence courses available that can take a person to a certain level of knowledge. There probably is no need for yet another one. We prefer to concentrate on what such courses cannot offer - actual physical contact and a life-long soul friendship, for those who seek that level and type of commitment.
I'm sorry if this is not the answer you were hoping for, but we remain very traditional in our teaching styles and so this is all we can offer... It is perhaps our weakness and our strength, we do not aim towards "mass-production" in any way.
I'm afraid that we are unable to have retreatants who are not actually following the Céile Dé tradition. This is largely for all sorts of practical reasons; for instance, all retreatants join us in all of our prayer times that are spread throughout the day and they would need to be well-versed in these practices to be able to join in with us.
Anyone who has attended a Céile Dé teaching event and has decided to follow the tradition is welcome to join us in our monastery for a personal retreat.
There are three levels of Commitment to the Céile Dé Path for those wishing to deepen their knowledge and spiritual life within the Tradition. These ways are not considered to be hierarchical; neither are they necessarily progressive.
1.The Caim - the community who follow the tradition, either as part of a local group or as a lone practitioner (called a Dìsertach).
2.The Muinntir - (The Lay-Order) The Community of deeply committed followers of the tradition that surrounds the Order.
3.The Céile Dé Order - Living under the Rule of the Céile Dé. A deep and abiding commitment to a growing relationship with God, within the vehicle of service that is the Order.
The Caim is made up of both interested newcomers and people who are following the Céile Dé Tradition as their Path.
In practice, as they are feeling their way with the tradition, people will naturally first present themselves as a Caim member. As the Céile Dé Tradition takes for granted a level of commitment higher than that of "spiritual tourism", it tends to follow that those who do not ever wish to follow this path in a dedicated way tend to fall away after a period of time. This is largely because the subtleties of the more advanced practices do not reveal themselves unless the practices are adhered to with a greater dedication than a 'browsing' member would be likely to manifest. It is also the case that long-term members not following the teachings or basic practices in the prescribed way would have an adverse effect on the group as a whole... however, it is recognised that we were each a seeker once! And their stage on the Great Journey is to be respected and nurtured.
This is the Community of Céile Dé practitioners who are, in their passionate commitment to their paths, equal to members of lay-orders in other traditions, such as the 'Franciscan Third Order' or the 'Benedictine Oblates'. In essence, if you are called to be a Muinntireach, it means that, had your life circumstances been other than what they are (family, work commitments, etc) you may very well have considered profession into the Order itself. Indeed, some may progress from Muinntir membership to the Order at some future point in their lives, if their life circumstances change. Those joining the Muinntir do so ceremonially - and commit to placing the Céile Dé spiritual tradition at the very core of their lives.
To be a Muinntireach means to dedicate a sizeable amount of your life towards your spiritual life within the vehicle of the Céile Dé tradition. For many, this necessitates shifting things around in their lives and perhaps a degree of cutting back in some areas (work, other interests) to make this extra time possible. This taking of their Spiritual discipline to a level also includes the support of a committed one-to-one Anam Chara relationship.
There is a twelve month minimum trial period for anyone who aspires towards the Muinntir. During this time, the aspirant lives exactly as though s/he were a part of the Muinntir. This means adhering to the guidelines of the Muinntir and engaging in an Anam Chara relationship. At the end of this time, the situation is reviewed from both sides. At that point it may be decided that more trial time is needed. If it is clear at this point that the aspirant, the Muinntir and the Order will all benefit from welcoming him or her as a permanent Muinntireach, then the date of the entrance ceremony will be set.
Part of belonging to the Muinntir involves not only receiving, but also giving support; both to the Order and to the Muinntir as a whole. An important part of our sense of spiritual community is centred on mutual giving. A Muinntireach lives by a set of guidelines, called a "Seol" (Gaelic for way, method). The Seol is adapted from the Rule of the Order to suit the life of a Muinntireach; it is expressly geared towards helping a Muinntireach to live a committed Spiritual life whilst also managing a full time job and/or a family.
Muinntir members need not live in close proximity to each other or to the Order. Until recent years many people preferred to live close to their Anam Chara, however in more recent times, now that the Muinntir has grown in number and has extended to include members from beyond Scotland, this is no longer always a possibility.
THE ORDER OF CEILI DE
After a total of 3 years training as an Anruth (novice), an entrant formally dies to their old life and is reborn into a new life; total commitment within the liberation of the Vows and Rule of the Order.
The period of time as an Anruth allows the entrant to experience and be prepared for how life will be when they make their final commitment to the Order. During this time, an Anruth is closely watched by his or her Anam Chara (spiritual mentor) in order to ascertain their readiness for this major step on their spiritual journey.
Entry to the Order involves a two day long ceremony, part of which is an overnight vigil. The Anruth dies to his/her old life and is born again as what the ancients called a "Mac" or "Der" "Bethad" (a son or daughter of Life). S/he becomes an Aonaran (a solitary, related in meaning to the ancient term used by the Desert Fathers and Mothers - Monachai - from which we derive the modern word, monk). As well as taking vows, the Aonaran is given a new name.
From then on, every aspect of an Aonaran's life reflects this commitment. Leading a contemplative life, alongside active work for the Order, fills every day. The work of an Order member will reflect where their God-given skills lie; it could be teaching the tradition or administrative work, etc... but it will also often simply be doing whatever they can, based upon what is needed in any given moment. Seeing what needs to be done and doing it is a great discipline in itself.
Although Order members live a monastic life-style where silence is held much of the time, the life of an Aonaran is not wholly cloistered; the Céile Dé Order has always sought to emulate the rhythm of the Life that Christ seemed to lead - a movement from seclusion and prayer out into the world... and then back towards an inner life of silent communion with and deep listening to God.
What happens next if I want to join a Céile Dé group? What sort of commitment do you ask at the level of group membership?
Here are the words from a document that we usually offer to people who ask that question:
JOINING A CÉILE DÉ GROUP - AND THE MINIMUM COMMITMENT LEVEL FOR MEMBERSHIP
If you are new to Céile Dé, we want you to feel welcome and want you to have the opportunity to get a good sense of what both our Céile Dé groups and the aims of the tradition generally are about, so that you can be sure that Céile Dé offers a path that feels right for you.
Here, laid out as simply as possible, is how we have discovered it works best when it comes to guiding newcomers into the most basic level of commitment to the Céile Dé Tradition -
1. GROUPS ABROAD - If you want to join a Céile Dé group outside of Scotland, you might find it useful to attend at least one teaching retreat/workshop given by a Céile Dé teacher before joining a local group. You will find all scheduled Céile Dé teaching events abroad listed on the events page of our website. If you feel called to join a group near you before you have attended a teaching event, someone from your local group will be able to introduce you to at least the foundational practices of the tradition.
Please note that regional group meetings are not teaching events. The purpose of local group meetings is to give time both to sharing practices together and to deepening understanding of the tradition, by talking about the teachings that have been given in the main teaching events group members attend. Each person present at these gatherings will contribute towards the quality of the sharing within the circle.
Please visit our "Groups" page to see a list of all the groups we have that are currently able to take new members.
* GROUPS WITHIN SCOTLAND - As with our groups abroad, please note that local group meetings are not teaching events, the purpose of these local gatherings is to give time both to sharing practices together and to deepening understanding of the tradition, by talking about the teachings that they have already received. Each person present at these gatherings will contribute towards the quality of the sharing within the circle.
If you are interested in joining a local Scottish Céile Dé group, it is a prerequisite that you also attend the day-long teaching gatherings arranged for your group, that take place roughly every three months in Central Scotland, OR that you attend the twice yearly three day teachings that take place in the Highlands. You might also like to taste the tradition by first attending one of our occasional public workshops. Any such event will be listed on the events page of our website.
If you are interested in Scottish group membership, please go to our "Groups" page and contact our Scottish Teaching Gathering, "Caim Na h'Alba", for more information.
2. After a set foundational period as a guest within your Céile Dé group (each local group will have set its own unique time period for this, dictated by how often they meet) you will have the chance to discuss with someone the possibility of committing as a full group member. This is not a "heavy" commitment; it is in fact the very minimum level of commitment we ask from any part of our Community. (see "Levels of Commitment" above on this FAQs page). Here is a quick and easy outline of the minimum requirements of a Group Member. You will see that most of it amounts to no more than common sense and consideration.
A Céile Dé group member is :-
* Someone who aims (and more often than not succeeds) to practice Rùn (also known as our "daily practice") twice daily, as is recommended in the teachings.
* Someone who seeks as best as they can, according to the current level of their knowledge of the tradition, to observe the festivals in some way, either alone or with the nearest group if possible.
* Someone who commits to attending the teachings of the Céile Dé Tradition when they are given in the nearest possible location by a visiting teacher (unless, of course, there are occasional extenuating circumstances that make attendance impossible)
* Someone who works to know well all that they have been taught.
* Someone who strives at all times to integrate and embody the teachings in their daily lives.
* Someone who seeks to blend with and adopt the intentional culture in Céile Dé gatherings (this will become clear to you during your initial visits, things like: holding silence when requested; punctual attendance; not interrupting the flow of teachings; or others when they are talking; not talking for too long, etc.).
* Someone who does their best to be mindful of the few but necessary practical requests of the administrators of Céile Dé, thus keeping their workload to a minimum (i.e. remembering to make payments or send booking forms for events on time, without needing several reminders; bringing certain things with you if requested to do so, etc.).
* Someone who chooses not to give energy to negativity, such as gossip or the implanting in another Caim member of negative feelings towards any other member of their sacred circle and the Céile Dé community at large.
* Someone who is mindful of the fact that, if they do not attend many group teachings, even though their membership seat is being reserved for them, or do not maintain the requested level of commitment, they are in effect keeping someone else, who may long to be a dedicated member of a Céile Dé group, on the waiting list.
* Someone who recognises that all of the above is not intended to be "rules and regulations" but that it acts as a strong container that will not leak the necessary energies required to make an effective esoteric school. Further, they recognise that if all of the above goes too greatly against their grain, they are probably not ready to be walking a path in which the above all feels natural and a bit of a relief - as though they have come home.
3. At the appropriate time, you will be invited to discuss, either with your teacher, or a representative from your local group, how you feel about all of the above as well as your experiences generally during your foundational period. Then, you will either leave the group, hopefully taking some good experiences and memories with you, or it will feel very right for you to commit to full group membership with a simple, gently welcoming ceremony.
There is no Céile Dé group anywhere near where I live. Does that mean I cannot follow the tradition?
It is possible to follow the Céile Dé Tradition in a solitary way - in fact that has been the way for many since the tradition first began.
What is not possible however is to follow the tradition without getting regular ongoing teachings from an ordained teacher within the tradition - and this may present a challenge for some. At this time, teachings are given regularly (once a year) in the North of England and in the East and West Coast USA. Easiest and most frequent access to the teachings is in Scotland, where the Order is based.
If you are sincere and passionate enough in your desire to follow the Céile Dé tradition distance need not be an insurmountable obstacle. It might be possible for instance to make it a priority in your life to travel to any of the above places once a year for teachings, or you could also seek them in the way they were always given until this millennium, by travelling to stay close to a teacher and receive one to one teachings for a few days. Please contact us using our main contacts page if you wish to discuss how you might follow the tradition outside of group membership.
I have been a member of a Druid Order for several years. Now I would like to join your Order as well.
We receive a great deal of communication from people who have done one or more of the modern Druid courses available. It is perhaps understandable that when they see our website, and read terms such as "Celtic spirituality" and sometimes even "Druid" and, of course the word, " Order", they come to the conclusion that we must be another modern Druid organisation that functions in much the same way as most do.
You will have seen elsewhere on our FAQs page that we do not offer a correspondence course. Neither is the Céile Dé Order a Druid Order. Many of the excellent Druid courses available today offer courses that may last up to three years or more, at the end of which one becomes an "Order Member". Joining the Céile Dé Order however is more comparable to becoming either a Buddhist or a Franciscan or Bendictine monk. Becoming a Céile Dé Order member entails a dying to the old life and a rebirth to the new; living a monastic life under vows.
As with other traditions, it is possible to follow the Céile Dé path and lead a life of deep commitment to your inner life without ever joining the Order; monastic life has always been for the very few who feel called in that direction... which, as St Francis said, is probably just as well, or there would eventually be no people left in the world! :-)
I have been to one or two of your workshops and would like to pass on the teachings to my friends. Is that all right?
We are very grateful to you for having the sensitivity to ask this question. But I am afraid that we have to ask you not to pass on any Céile Dé teachings that you have received.
Within the Céile Dé Order there are certain people who are recognised teachers. If and when anyone from within the Muinntir (the committed followers of the tradition) also feels called to teach and has adequate being, understanding and skill, then they can also be ordained as teachers. Please allow me to do my best to explain why we work this way.
The Céile Dé path is not an exoteric tradition (such as the mainstream church and most religions). It is an esoteric stream. This means that it's real teachings are not resident in the words and practices, but in the energy that the teacher transmits through the words and practices. This energy "activates" the methods of inner transformation that are taught and that combination of ingredients is what produces results in people, if all of the ingredients are properly taken and applied... and can do harm if incorrectly applied or unsupported by an experienced teacher. The teachings of any powerful spiritual tradition take years of dedication to fully assimilate within one's whole being. For this reason, we only allow people who have been through this process to a certain level to pass on the teachings.
More and more, we are realising that what we have until recently assumed would go without saying (as it did in the "old days" - see also "Fonn-ed memories" on our Articles Page) now needs to be clearly stated to everyone who receives our teachings:- These teachings need to be protected by being properly taught only by a recognised tradition-bearer. We are now clearly and openly requesting this from everybody we teach at any Céile Dé gathering.
Apart from the fact that half-knowledge can only be half-taught and half-understood, resulting in an ongoing dilution and weakening of the whole tradition, until all that is left is the exoteric (outer) level, such as empty ceremony that has been stripped of all transmitted power, or is limping along on borrowed energy, it is also the case that any recognised teacher makes themselves available in an ongoing way to any person they have taught, should they need guidance when powerful inner experiences erupt; as they should and will do if the teachings are applied correctly and with dedication. People outside of our teaching circle would have no such support mechanism.
In the past few years, since we began to teach the tradition more widely, a few people have passed a few bits of the teachings on here and there... usually because they find the tradition so "wonderful" and they want to share it with people whom they think it would "help". Some people even believe they are helping the tradition in this way, by "getting it out there", so that it is more widely known. As a result, we have already seen some dilution of the tradition. What this actually means is difficult for anyone on the outside to understand, I appreciate that. But the "it" that has "got out there" continues to get passed from person to person, until eventually the "teachings" that result bear more resemblance to processed fast food than to the home-grown organic produce, lovingly cooked and individually served according to your individual nutritional needs, that it once was.
It takes years for the teachings to take root inside of you. And they can only grow in direct proportion to the increase in the quality of your inner being. This being-development (called "growing a soul" within the tradition) also forms a part of our deeper teachings and is the work not of a Céile Dé teacher, but of a teacher who is also an Anam Chara.
This infinite inner voyage, accompanied all the way by a guide who cares more for your inner life than you are often able to yourself, is far from the part-teachings that may be passed around in a casual way, that are not only potentially damaging to people, but will through time, there is no doubt, strip the Céile Dé tradition forever of its power and meaning.
This stripping of meaning is a fraught issue for Céile Dé at the moment.. So many of our sacred terminologies are being put "out there" and have been misapplied. Sacred words are containers of great transformative energy. But only whilst they are kept sacred by people... Hence the ancient and often misunderstood laws against blasphemy or the utterance out of context of sacred words.
Céile Dé have all but lost the power and meaning that our ancient term "Anam Chara" once held for us because it has fallen into wide and common use. It is still hanging on in there though, perhaps because, by and large, people have not disrespected the word overmuch. Perhaps because it has a lot of power to lose, it will take a long time to go... Perhaps if we hold the rest of the tradition relatively intact, it will survive this "spiritual fast-food age".
Céile Dé has survived for a long time. We are placing a great deal of trust in the people we teach, in the hope that it will still be here for the future.
So... do forgive us if we appear at times to be cautious... The reason the tradition affects you so deeply is BECAUSE it still possesses its power. For centuries many dear souls have held the chants, the practices, the teachings intact within their hard-won, brim-full hearts, allowing the power to do its work in that innermost sanctum. What would it say about us in this age... how would we be remembered by the future... if we were to strip it all to nothing within the space of one generation?
I've heard alot about Anam Charas and believe that they are a part of your tradition. Can you tell me something about the Anam Chara?
Anam Chara is a Gaelic term, meaning "Soul Friend".
The main focus of an Anam Chara relationship within the Céile Dé tradition is always Spiritual growth and soul-nourishment .
For people who are deeply committed to using the Céile Dé tradition as their Spiritual vehicle, an Anam Chara relationship is at the heart of their spiritual lives. A good Anam Chara relationship grows and deepens very quickly, as each Anam Chara is trained to share equally their own stories of the ups and downs of their inner lives, when it is appropriate and helpful to do so. Very soon, a personal language begins to develop between the pair, with its own spiritual or psychological terminologies that only these two soul friends will understand!
Not every Céile Dé Order member is an Anam Chara. To become a Soul Friend within our tradition, you need first of all to be a trained teacher. Then more training is given to attain the level of Anam Chara. Vows are taken by every Céile Dé Anam Chara. They include, amongst other things, an oath of absolute confidentiality and a dedication to listen deeply and nurture at all times the growing soul of every living being who sits before them, whilst actively discouraging that which is unreal, always according to the vulnerability or capability of the person concerned.
It is thought by some that the private confessional of the Roman Catholic Church grew out of the Celtic Anam Chara tradition, which in turn, some believe, grew out of the mentoring relationship between a Druid and his/her pupil. However, there is far more to Anam Chairdeas (Soul Friendship) than the notion of confession or even the concept of spiritual teacher. It seeks, above all, to foster a depth of relationship that is both mentoring and sharing. Both challenging to the False Self and encouraging the emergence of the True. It is most often a relationship for life and can often endure beyond death.
These days, some people who are not following the tradition also seek out occasional Anam Chara talks. If such a talk were to be useful for you, it would be because you have something happening in your spiritual life that you would like to talk about, in an atmosphere of deep, sanctified sharing and utter confidence. Or possibly you feel something on your path is lacking or needs development, clarity or direction. It could also be because you would value the opportunity to ask a Céile Dé Order member some questions about the tradition, in a space outside of a group gathering or workshop, that will not have you concerned that you are "hogging the teacher" !
Anam Chara Conversation is not life coaching. It is not about focussing on or solving issues in your everyday life; job; relationships, etc... although, of course, these problems can sometimes tangle up our relationship with the Spiritual.
Anam Chara conversation is mostly about finding new ways, or strengthening old ways of realising our Spiritual dimension as our centre of gravity and source of Selfhood.
Because Anam Chairdeas is rooted in the Céile Dé tradition, it is natural that teachings from the tradition are also woven into these conversations. The difference between Anam Chara teachings and group teachings is clearly that these one to one exchanges would be entirely addressing the requirements of the individual. The level of the conversation will be pitched directly to where you are within yourself, so the teaching at this level can be more intense. It is also implicit within the vows of an Anam Chara that they seek at all times to address your needs, not your wants. This can be challenging for some... as it encourages you to have the ability to discern the difference between your (surface) wants and your (deeper) needs. It is often the conflict between these two that can cause dis-ease in our lives.
St Brighid of Kildare is famous for having said, " A person without an Anam Chara is like a body without a head..".
"In the Early Irish Church, the Term Céle Dé was used prior to the 8th cent to refer to religious persons in service to God, but thereafter came to mean an adherent to teachings of the new movement."
- Michael Byrnes
Encyclopedia of Medieval Ireland
St Maelruan founded a movement that is now commonly known as the Céile Dé Reformation. His aim was to return back to an earlier, simpler spirituality that was more Irish in flavour. The result seemed to be an incredibly severe form of asceticism that bares very little resemblance to the life of our Céile Dé Order.
Perhaps the only similarity that the current Order shares with the Céile Dé Reformation is that of being called to manifest a vision inspired by an earlier form of Celtic Spirituality. But in the case of the current Order, that form was never entirely extinct, so there was no need to "reform" it. It has always been a living inner flame held by a few stalwart souls throughout the centuries. We have merely sought to blow new life into the ever-glowing embers of the tradition and feed and be fed by its fire.
The term Céile Dé is often found in writings with reference to a time before the 8th century. It is mostly used as a term for holy men and women who lived in solitude. When they occasionally were moved to live together in community, these monasteries were formed and held together by a founder, or Érlam. The Érlam is and always was an individual who felt inspired to draw people together to live under his/her vision. Each community or federation of communities had their own Rule, which was either written by the Érlam or was passed on or adapted from the Rule of another community. (see the Rule of the present Order on our Articles page).
One might call St Maelruan an Érlam, but he is not our Érlam.
In Scotland particularly, the term Céile Dé - or Culdee - has been used by the people for centuries to denote either a religious hermit or an older expression of Celtic Christianity, that is not under the patronage of the Roman Church. The name of our Order is related to this usage, rather than being directly related to St Maelruan's Reformation.
It is impossible to know when the term Céile Dé was first used, history dissolves into Mythstory very quickly in all things Celtic! It is interesting to note that "Céile Dé" is Irish rather than Scots Gaelic. There must be a reason why the Irish linguistic form was always retained here in Scotland, eventually corrupting or anglicising itself into "Culdee". For certain, the term is much older than the 8th century and was used in very early times to single out those who experienced the One God as opposed to the many. Ancient Céili Dé (plural) often also called themselves Mac Bethad or Clan Bethad - the Sons of, or the Children of Life... as indeed we still do today.
Céili Dé is the plural of Céile Dé...
We have been asked that question several times... So often in fact that one Order member has taken the time to read one or two of his books! It would seem that Stephen Lawhead's books are fiction that is inspired by a blend of Celtic Myth and history. It is likely therefore that the Céili Dé in his books are similarly presented.