Watch This Space For Céile Dé Friendly books
Here are some books that we like to recommend to people. All of the books here reflect to a degree similar thoughts, feelings or approaches to those of our own tradition. So please keep visiting this page as we add more titles over time.
We have been frequently approached by publishers, who would like us to write about the Céile Dé Path, fulfilling this is a long-term project. As soon as our first book about the Céili Dé by a Céile Dé becomes available we will let you know.
After being out of print for a while, Dolores Whelan's excellent book is back in a second edition available directly from the author at
Among other updates, she has added more meditations, including some on a bonus CD.
This book is an excellent read, particularly for people who are new to the Spiritual tradition of the Gael and would like to know what it is all about. Dolores talks well about her own Irish Gaelic spirituality in particular; its culture and its simultaneously poetic and earthy world-view. She skillfully introduces us to the concept of mythic thinking, allowing us to more easily penetrate the sometimes confusing world of Celtic Legend.
Her walk though the major Festivals of the Gaelic tradition is a tremendous help for people who seek to root their celebrations in real country traditions, rather than following slightly more 'new-age Celtic' approaches.
Noel O'Donoghue was born years ago, in a part of Ireland that, at that time, still held alot of what we would call "the Céile Dé squint on life". His writing is both moving, honest and down to earth. A good, informed and feelingful introduction into that glorious mix of Pagan and Christian that is the Living Celitic Spiritual Tradition.
Like many of the old ones, who often live and breathe the Spirituality of the Celtic Folk Soul without even being aware of the treasure they carry, Noel O'Donoghue has sadly recently departed to The Land of the Ever Young.. He has offered us much in his work, perhaps because he did know the worth of his experience.
The narrative of this book is as entertaining and compelling as the title... and a gentle twinkling humour is evident in both.
Thomas Cahill tells the story of how Europe evolved from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era. Without Ireland, he argues, the transition could not have taken place. Not only did Irish monks and scribes maintain the very record of Western civilization -- copying manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, while libraries and learning on the continent were forever lost -- they brought their uniquely Irish world-view to the task.
As Cahill delightfully illustrates, so much of the liveliness we associate with medieval culture has its roots in Ireland. When the seeds of culture were replanted on the European continent, it was from Ireland that they were germinated.
How The Irish Saved Civilization reconstructs an era that few know about but which is central to understanding our past and our cultural heritage. But it conveys its knowledge with a winking wit that aptly captures the sensibility of the unsung Irish who relaunched civilization.
QUOTE - "How the Irish Saved Civilization is a shamelessly engaging, effortlessly scholarly, utterly refreshing history of the origins of the Irish soul and its huge contribution to Western culture...For its portrait of St. Patrick alone, it will resonate in the memory."
--Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler's List and The Great Shame
Subtitled - " A Study of the Christianity we lost".
The book argues that the religion that flourished in the British Isles during the so-called Dark Ages had more in common with Eastern traditions such as Buddhism than with the later institutional Christianity of the West. This was the religion taught by the Celtic Church, which, over the early centuries of the Christian era gradually moved into confrontation with Rome - a confrontation that finally ended with Rome's victory at the Council of Whitby in 664 AD. The author examines the history, teachings and customs of the Celtic church, linking them culturally and spritually with the religious traditions of the Druids, the Jews of the Middle East and the Coptic Christians of Egypt.
It would appear that this book is no longer in print. But it can easily be found if you know a good second hand book seller.
Edward C. Sellner
A fascinating account of the Celtic soul friend or "Anam Chara".
Sellner traces the origins of the anam chara to the Druidic tradition of mentoring. Contact by the Celts with the desert fathers and mothers further developed this practice: the desert Christians had a "mentor with whom to share spiritual thoughts, find inspiration, comfort, gentle rebuke and often close friendship".
A history of the Celtic church follows. Sellner quotes from numerous saints and church leaders. Spiritual gems pepper the pages, including many examples of soul friendship and its benefits. In ancient Celtic spiritual communities, it was normal for people, professed, ordained or not, to have an anam chara to turn to for advice, comfort and inspiration.
The Céli Dé are referred to a few times, but only the 8th century reform movement which lasted until the 14th century. An ongoing tradition is not mentioned except in reference to traditional prayers, the blessing of wells and other folk/feast day customs that are still practised, especially in Ireland.
The central chapter on "soul making" explores the different ways having an anam chara can make a difference: it is seen as "seeking healing and reconciliation with God, others and oneself‘": "the best preparation for dying is in how well one lives, one day at a time". A soul friend is a guide, healer, and friend; compassionate, non-judgemental but able to challenge, a humble mediator. They can "speak heart to heart, and experience in their mutual disclosure, the acceptance and forgiveness of God".
Sellner feels so strongly about the importance of soul friends that he advocates a spirituality that includes them in the present world, with friends, churches and conflicting parties and the marginalized.
This book was more wide-ranging than I expected from the title. It was a fascinating read with lots of interesting and inspiring background information.
- By Marion from the Edinburgh Céile Dé Group.
A good introduction to the legends of the Gael, although her insistence on telling the stories in "an Irish accent" infuriates some people! Her two main books are "Gods and Fighting Men" and "Chuchlainn of Muirthemne". Both of these books are made available here, inside one cover, as "Lady Gregory's Complete Irish Mythology"
Selected and translated by Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson
As the title suggests this is a selection of poetry and prose drawn from all six Celtic Languages - Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Breton and Manx.
Its main themes are Love, Nature, Magic, Religion, Humour and Satire, and the great Hero tales. It provides a unique insight into the Celtic mind, both Pagan and Christian, from the earliest times up until the nineteenth century.
Alwyn and Brinley Rees
One of the few studies I know of the spiritual cosmologies of the ancient Celts that is both easily available and reliable.
This is an invaluable aid for understanding the myths and rich symbolisms of the Gael and the Brython - and how they compare with those of other world traditions, particularly those of the Indian subcontinent.
The authors take us through not only the ritualistic social and, indeed, geographical structure of the ancient Gael, but show how their legends informed those constructs, deepening our relationship with the Mythic world view and the forces of Order and Chaos, as well as our understanding of this life, and the next.
It would be impossible, after reading this book, not to marvel at the intricacy of the ancient Bardic tradition and to respect the high position it held in ancient society.
People seem to either love or hate Fiona MacLeod. But everyone should give the books a try. Fiona was actually a man (William Sharp) who wrote under this assumed name. A contemporary of WB Yeats, he gathered many of the tales on his travels around the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Some of them he - or rather Fiona, wrote "herself". The downside is that it is sometimes difficult to know which are collected and which are created. The upside is that there is much folklore to be gleaned from the books if one can discern carefully.
Some of these writings are a glorious unselfconscious mix of Celtic Christian and Pagan. They also carry that certain "celtic twilight" of the Victorian era..
They are all antiquarian books these days, but luckily most of them can be read online. Go to http://www.sundown.pair.com/index.htm
We would most recommend -
THE WINGED DESTINY... studies in the Spiritual History of the Gael.
Streit has an Anthroposophical background. And like many Anthroposophists, he seems to have the unfortunate tendancy of stating speculation or psychic impression as if it is undisputed fact. This can make the book uncomfortable at times, unless one can tell when he has gone "over the line". But all in all it's still a worthwhile book, touching on the widely-held belief in esoteric circles that the Druids foresaw and welcomed Christ consciousness.
His errors are mostly so glaring that any average Celtic student will spot them immediately - Mistranslations of the meaning of "Samhain" for instance - and attributing "The Song of Amergin" to Taliesin...
Streit seems to have the knack of bringing us into an earlier understanding of the meaning of The Christ, informed by Druidic wisdom and Solar spirituality... Whether the place to which he takes us is "correct" or "incorrect" finally seems less important than what we do know for certain - that it is a philosophy many of us seem to both want and need in our lives today.
The book is illustrated with many wonderful photographs.
Christ-centred / Mysticism
The Wisdom Jesus (Shambhala, 2008) is a book based on scholarship, written by an Episcopalian priest who has become a teacher of the Christian Wisdom stream. This stream, carried in the once suppressed so-called ‘Gnostic gospels,’ has remained alive within the Roman Church through its mystics – and outside it amongst, for example, the Céile Dé. (Cynthia Bourgeault writes about the Christian Wisdom streams that fanned out from Palestine in various directions, including all along North Africa, and up through Spain to the Celtic lands…)
In Cynthia Bourgeault’s understanding, the main aim of the Wisdom traditions is transformation of consciousness – the process of learning to live in the material world of duality, with all its limitations, from the perspective of unitive consciousness. This happens through disciplined practice (she outlines five – and it is interesting to spot the similarities to some of our own practices) and through the active surrender of our hearts and minds to Love, moving us deeper into the dimensions of the Spirit.
The Wisdom Jesus has a companion volume, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene (Shambhala 2010) in which Bourgeault explores three of the lost gospels, the gospels of Mary Magdalene, Thomas and Philip. These combine to present a picture of Mary Magdalene as the disciple who really ‘got’ what Jesus was about, integrated it and was ready to pass it on – but was opposed and sidelined. First of the disciples, Mary Magdalene also emerges as having been Jesus’ beloved companion.
And what she ‘got’ fundamentally included the path of ‘kenosis.’ (The term comes from the Greek ‘kenosein,’ meaning ‘to empty,’ and is used frequently by St Paul.) It is a path characterised by the image of limitless generosity and abundance seen in the idea of the Trinity, with its picture of a total and perpetual self-giving between the ‘divine persons.’ It is the path the books of the New Testament, as well as the lost gospels, make it clear that Jesus taught. And it is a path where, rather than storing energy to ‘send it upward,’ we recklessly ‘give it away’!
When I first came to the Christian tradition, I was mystified – and troubled – by what I understood to be its concept of salvation, and perplexed – and troubled! – by some of its attitudes towards sex. Thirty years and two theology degrees later, I find both issues addressed in these books in a way that has truly been more satisfying than any I previously encountered. These two books mark a new level of digesting the information that has come to us through the lost gospels. They set out to show what Jesus taught. And for those who feel weighed down by some aspects of the Christian past, those seeking a life-giving dimension of Christ-centredness that has eluded them so far, and those eager to learn more about some of the context out of which our own tradition emerged, they are recommended reading.
Absolute required readng within Céile Dé circles for anyone who wishes to understand more about the inner teachings of our tradition. This is a rare book indeed, in which many of the concepts, philosophies and methods that, Needleman argues, were a definitive aspect of esoteric manifestations of early Christianity are brought into focus. These little-known ideas, some of which might be provocative indeed to the mainstream church, such as "growing a Soul"; the wisdom and sanctity of the body; the power of mythic thinking; the necessity of the inner witness, or observer, are all the supporting pillars of the Céile Dé tradition.
Until (and indeed forever after) we have our own book about our own tradition finally available in print, this is the one to read. Although it does not speak at all about "Celtic" esoteric manifestations of Christianity as such, it takes us right to the root of what it is all about once mere cultural and linguistic terminologies have been stripped away.
Written in 1911, this is a modern classic, a comprehensive study of the spiritual life and religious experience.
The most important experience, Underhill claims, is to be "in love with the Absolute". Although the book is predominantly Christian in its language, Underhill also draws on the writings of the Sufi tradition such as Rúmí and 'Attar.
The characteristics of mysticism are defined (as much as that is ever possible) as well as its relationship to psychology, theology and symbolism. Underhill also explores the classic stages of mystic consciousness, from the self to union with the Absolute.
Also included are a summary of European mysticism and a wonderful bibliography.
This book is a must for any who come to the Céile Dé tradition... whose heart is Love... whose journey is through Love...towards Love and into that "Beyond and Here" place where all traditions rest in unity and wordlessness.
By Ravi Ravindra
Recently re-issued under the title - "The Gospel of John in the Light of Indian Mysticism".
Although this book is difficult to categorise as "Celtic", we love to recommend it because it captures beautifully such an important way of approaching the Gospel and indeed Christ Consciousness.
We try to encourage people to learn to approach all Scripture from as many new angles as they can muster, so that they can free their minds to receive something new. One way to do this is to read the New Testament as if it were a symbol for something... another way would be to read it in the Light that Ravindra lends us here.
Robert Ellwood, author of The Cross and the Grail : "A dazzlingly brilliant spiritual and cross-cultural study of the most mystical of the books of the Bible, the Gospel of John. Few will finish this book unchanged, either intellectually or spiritually."
James George, Parabola : "Shows the benefits that cross-cultural perspectives can bring, helping readers to see with the heart as well as the head. . . . The best study of St. John’s Gospel that I have found."
The Beacon, May/June 2005 : "In this new revision, Mr. Ravinda is surely helping to establish an interfaith sensibility in which beauty and truth in all religions can be simultaneously appreciated and embraced."
Perennial Wisdom from other Traditions
Set in India, this is the Diary of a British woman's relationship with her Sufi Teacher.
Near the start of the book, Irina Tweedie, a self-confessed "head type"- a theosophist who has "studied it all", cynically challenges her teacher to "produce Love" in her. The rest of this moving and fascinating account shows us just how he proceeds to do so...
The teacher appears both merciless and luminous in his approach as the gradual changes in Tweedie emerge... painfully... through time.
In the Céile Dé tradition, the Anam Chara relationship can be as rich and challenging as the relationship between Tweedie and her teacher, who remains nameless throughout. Rather as this teacher behaves with the different people who visit him, an Anam Chara will respond in strikingly different and often paradoxical ways with each person s/he meets and teaches, depending not only upon each individual's needs, but also upon their fortitude and inherent ability to respond to the unsettling nature of a genuine transformative path.
It is not for everyone. Some simply cannot cope. this is the diary of a woman who could.
Another excellent book from Jacob Needleman.
The author dares to ask a question that many may avoid and others indeed, in this age of relativism, may even deny is a valid question. As in Needleman's other highly recommended book, Lost Christianity, he explores many of the basic tools of transformation available to us in real life situations; that is a great part of their worth, we begin to learn that complex practices, valuable though they may be in their own right, are not the only way towards deeper self-understanding; sometimes all it takes is a good honest look at ourselves and our highest wishes - and then measure those against what we actually do!
Once again, much of the knowledge that Needleman offers in this remarkable book is close in many ways to the teachings of Céile Dé and serves as a valuable introduction to our own philosophy of inner growth.
Possibly the best-known books that have been produced over the last ten years about the unique transformative power of simply being present to oneself.
No complicated technique is taught... The reader is simply invited to be present to the moment and to see how addicted the unawakened mind is to holding on to the past, being anxious about the future - and (this bit would be how a Céile Dé teacher might phrase it, rather than Tolle) losing power to both of these constructs that could otherwise be gainfully directed towards "growing a Soul" (i.e. moving towards awakening)
Whilst Tolle touches on his concept of the "pain body" briefly in his first book, he develops it further in "A New Earth"... Whether one takes this concept literally or figuratively, it is an effective and thought-provoking model. It would be difficult for anyone who is able to be present to oneself at least some of the time not to be greatly affected and inspired by Tolle's teachings.
Contrary to what you might expect from the misleading subtitle (The Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment) this book is not a healthy corrective for people who suspect they might have "made it"! It is a multi-faceted read that covers many of the typical challenges, struggles, illusions and charlatanism one might come across in this day and age if one is following a committed spiritual path.
As well as holding up a clear mirror to our own capacity for naiveté and self-delusion, author and anthropologist Caplan boldly faces the grave distortions and fraudulent claims to power that characterise the "spiritual marketplace" in our times. Dozens of first-hand interviews with students, respected teachers and masters, together with broad research are synthesised into a treatment of the modern spiritual scene to assist readers in avoiding the pitfalls of this precarious pass.
Much of the material is drawn from the United States, but the stories are universal.
P D Ouspensky
An excellent introduction to the work of Ouspensky and the Gurdjieff tradition. The book is fairly small and consists of five lectures describing the human condition and touching upon ways we can begin to move towards inner awakening.
For more details about Ouspensky, Gurdjieff and their relationship to certain aspects of the Céile Dé tradition, please see *In Search of The Miraculous" below...
P D Ouspensky
This book recollects the teachings of an individual to whom Ouspensky refers only as "G."- known to be G I Gurdjieff.
Originally published near the time of Gurdjieff's death and authorized by Gurdjieff himself, it is considered one of the best expositions of the structure of Gurdjieff's ideas on consciousness, self-remembering, the three-brained nature of human beings, and his cosmological structure of the universe as nested worlds.
While the book has been criticized by some of those who have followed Gurdjieff's teachings as only a partial representation of Gurdjieff's ideas, it nevertheless provides what is probably the most concise explanation of the material that was included. This is in sharp contrast to the writings of Gurdjieff himself, such as Beelzebub's tales to his Grandson, where the ideas and precepts of Gurdjieff's teachings are found very deeply veiled in allegory.
It is also important to note that Ouspensky did receive permission from Gurdjieff for the publication of "In Search of the Miraculous", a distinction that was seemingly withheld from almost every other student of Gurdjieff.
Céile Dé particularly recommends the first 90 or so pages of the book, which covers areas such as man’s "state of sleep" (unenlightened nature) and the use of self-remembering as a tool towards awakening. Many of these methods from the Gurdjieff tradition undoubtedly came to him from the Orthodox tradition, which in turn is rooted in the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the early Christian era. It is here that we realise, in reading Ouspensky, that we have come full circle… as the wisdom of the Desert Fathers was a great source of teaching and inspiration to the early Céile Dé and many of their philosophies and practices are still held within our tradition today.
Gurdjieff: "A man does not see the real world. The real world is hidden from him by the wall of imagination. He lives in sleep. He is asleep.
Only by beginning to remember himself does a man really awaken. And then all surrounding life acquires for him a different aspect. He sees that it is the life of sleeping people, a life in sleep. All that men say, all that they do, they say and do in sleep.
How can one awaken? How can one escape this sleep? These questions are the most important, the most vital that can ever confront a man."