John Philip Newell is a Celtic teacher and author of spirituality, who calls the modern world to reawaken to the sacredness of the Earth and every human being. John Philip’s most recent book is called “Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul: Celtic Wisdom for Reawakening to What Our Souls Know and Healing the World.” John Philip began the School of Earth and Soul, which was originally called the School of Celtic Consciousness. Reading John Philip’s book and talking to him today has inspired me in so many ways. John Philip’s writing and his teaching offers the possibility of leaving others living and being and relating in new ways that are healthy, that are sustainable, and that are fulfilling. It’s a big promise, and it’s not a simple algorithm, but there is inspiration.
In this interview on the School for Good Living podcast, John joins Brilliant to discuss Celtic spirituality and the divinity that can be found in all things. John provides lots of insight on understanding the sacredness of the Earth and the people around us. Throughout this discussion, John also provides a lot of insight on how this knowledge can be a key to good living and how these perspectives open us to new possibilities of healing and overcoming the difficulties this world has to offer.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:12] The crises that we are in the midst of today, whether ecological, political, or societal, stem from the fact that we treat the Earth and one another as less than sacred. These words were written by my guest today. His name is John Philip Newell. John Philip is a Celtic teacher and author of spirituality, who calls the modern world to reawaken to the sacredness of the Earth and every human being. John Philip’s most recent book is called “Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul: Celtic Wisdom for Reawakening to What Our Souls Know and Healing the World.” John Philip began the School of Earth and Soul, which was originally called the School of Celtic Consciousness. Reading John Philip’s book and talking to him today has inspired me in so many ways. You, like me, I’m sure are concerned about the future of life on Earth, it seems that the challenges we face are huge. They’re complicated. If there’s a solution, it probably won’t happen in our lifetime for many of them, and it can be easy to feel insignificant or powerless in the face of so numerous and so complicated of challenges, but if there is a solution, and I think there is, it will not come solely from technology or from policy. John Phillips writing and his teaching offers the possibility of leaving others living and being and relating in new ways that are healthy, that are sustainable, that are fulfilling. So it’s a big promise, and it’s not a simple algorithm, but there is inspiration, I hope. But if you don’t already know John Philips’s works, I hope that you explore it a little more fully. This podcast, of course, is a great way to do that. You can also check out what he’s created at EarthandSoul.org. You can learn more about him through a Google search, of course. And I hope you listen to and enjoy and benefit from this conversation with my friend John Philip Newell.
Brilliant Miller [00:03:55] John Philip, welcome to the school for Good Living.
John Philip Newell [00:03:59] Thank you, Brilliant. Good to be with you.
Brilliant Miller [00:04:02] John Philip, will you tell me, please, what is life about?
John Philip Newell [00:04:08] Yes. I think it’s relationships. Relationship, relationship, relationship is how I would put it. It’s being in true relationships with one another. And I learned to open my heart to your heart when we’re together. And to receive and to give from the center of our being to one another, it’s about relationship with Earth. With every thing that has being attempting to open the heart and my being to both give and receive from the heartful being. And that for me, that perspective changes everything, I think it challenges how we think about one another and how we look at one another, how we speak. We attempt to relate and to be true to one another.
Brilliant Miller [00:05:05] Thank you for that. Why is that so hard? Why is that so hard for me? Why is that so hard for so many of us? What gets in the way?
John Philip Newell [00:05:15] Yeah, well, I think. And not not to put down the ego because the egos are a gift of consciousness. Faculty of Consciousness if you will. But I believe that the ego is given to serve the center and not to be the center. And I think that that’s the challenge. I find that challenging in my own life daily. And I think that that’s true of the collective ego of humanity in relation to Earth’s. When we began to think that we conserve the human species in opposition to serving Earth or being true to and then of course, we do enormous damage to Earth and to ourselves. And I think that that’s true at the collective level between nations and between religious traditions, between communities and as well as individual level. So one of the teachings that I draw from in a new book, a sort of French Celtic stream. And uses a phrase that I find so helpful in this sense, we need to decentralize ourselves, but he calls it ex-sam-tration and finding the true center of our being not within ourselves in a limited way, but at the heart of one another in the heart of things. We can find our shared center in that sense. And then they echo does what I think is there to do, and that is to truly serve the sacred center at the heart of all that.
Brilliant Miller [00:07:20] So your most recent book, “Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul: Celtic Wisdom For For Reawakening to what our Souls Know and Healing the World,” I found this just looking online. I hadn’t been aware of your work before that. I know you’ve been working for decades to share this wisdom. I was very pleased to find it. I told you before we began recording that in the last couple of months, I’ve been sharing it broadly with people on airplanes and with my mindfulness group. I run it with the newsletter I write and so forth because it just speaks so much to, I think, what we’re looking for right now, even though we might not recognize it and it’s rooted in this deep tradition of which I had very little familiarity, this Celtic wisdom. So I actually want to start there with you. Will you tell me who were / who are the Celts?
John Philip Newell [00:08:18] Yeah, we sometimes refer to the Celts or generally see the Celts as consisting of Scotland and Wales, Cornwall, Brittany. But that’s just the edge. That, in the sense, the French at one stage was a network of peoples that spanned the whole of Europe, ranging from as far out east in Europe to Turkey. Galicia, which just means the map, the Gales, the lamb of the Celts and right through to places like goal maps, scales taking in Galicia and Spain right on the coastline. So at one stage are around 500 BCE at the ranch, the whole middle of Europe, and this was not an empire, but rather massive, interconnected, interdependent network of tribes people sharing a common language base. And one of the really interesting things to me is that the language basis for the Indo-European so Gaelic, the Gaelic spoken in places like Scotland and the Gaelic Ireland, it is much closer to Sanskrit than it is to any other, any modern language in Europe. So it speaks of this ancient connection within deaths that I think in so much Celtic wisdom and Celtic vision we can hear, in the sense, the sacred universe. So that’s who the Celts are.
Brilliant Miller [00:10:08] Thank you for that. Yeah, that’s my sense as well. You know, in college, I was an Asian studies major, as well as an English major. So I’ve been fascinated by, you know, these cultures, eastern cultures for a long time and had the opportunity now to travel pretty broadly in Asia. And I definitely think that my sense of reading your book and learning more about the Celts and what they believe and how they lived, it was kind of like filling in a dark spot on a map in my understanding because I’d had a sense now to be in Japan and China and India and so forth and see, you know, the legacy of a lot of that, that wisdom. But in Europe, it seems like, first of all, there’s so many layers like even still, I’ve come across these articles online. I’m sure you’ve seen about a discovery in London of these Roman coins or, you know, something, and it’s just layered on top of layer, on top of layer. But we seem to live in a way that we think we’re the only culture that’s ever lived a very narrow view. And reading your words, it just it was really beautiful to sense. There is this and it seems there’s this underlying spirit or current, which of course, has some kind of harmony with indigenous cultures. I think here in the United States and you use this, I’m not sure if these were your words or you were maybe pointing at someone else’s work about. These are not given to compete with each other. Will you talk about that?
John Philip Newell [00:11:38] Yeah, yeah. The phrase that I find it helpful because these words are so close and sound that I say they’re given not to compete with each other, but to compete at each other. And I have found this to be the case emphatically and my relationships with native teachers, with Jewish teachers, the teachers with Britain’s teachers that I find what I’m offered in that relationship is in a sense, an invitation to a greater completion of vision. And one of the things that I have loved about inter spiritual the interfaith relationship is that, yes, of course, my Jewish brother, my Jewish rabbi, will give me wisdom from his Jewish inheritance. But the big surprise? I mean, it shouldn’t have surprised me so much. But when I began to pay attention to it, I knew that’s what he also offers me, is often with wisdom perspective on Jesus. And that’s exactly how it should be. I think that that teachers and sort of devotees from from other traditions can sometimes see a shining in one’s own inheritance that we’ve missed. Because, of course, in so much Christianity that we’ve wrapped Jesus up with a straitjacket, maybe rather than wrapped with some of the doctrines about him. And to the extent that we sometimes miss the pearl in our own, our own tradition. So that’s been part of my experience and Brilliant, while we’re speaking about this fascinating link between India and the Celtic world, Sanskrit, Gaelic. And I think to share something that I’ve been involved in, in fact, up here in Scotland at the moment, just a number of days ago, we did a live stage production dance music song word based on the script that I’ve written about the Celtic spirituality of the Western Isles. But in that live stage production, we’re sometimes using Gaelic music and sometimes using Sanskrit, and we’re allowing the music of these ancient cultures to just have a meet and be woven together on stage. And the dancer and the production effect is one of my daughters who spent five years and then there and in a part of her part of her journey was, in fact, through this beautiful, sacred dance form of southern India. And in many ways, she it was through another tradition that she reexamined some of the heartbroken Celtic inheritance more deeply. So we sort of experience through art form as well as through word this intermediate thing between Celtic and Indian wisdom.
Brilliant Miller [00:15:04] Wow. How beautiful. That’s really special.
John Philip Newell [00:15:09] It was it felt a real convergence. And, you know, we want to we want to celebrate March 16 for the next stage for this night’s live stage productions.
Brilliant Miller [00:15:23] Wow. What do you call it?
John Philip Newell [00:15:25] It’s called Hebridean Treasure at Lost and Found. And so it’s an exploration of this rich oral tradition of prayer, poetic utterance. Is where incantations or chants that were used to rising sun, the setting of the sun’s birth of the child, death of a loved one, the kindling or lighting of the morning fire and swurring or covering the hearth fire at night. So they they belong very much to life and the sacredness of nature, rather than being sort of formally religious prayers. And they were passed down for hundreds of thousands of years in the everyday’s and then part of the story that I tell is how this tradition was persecuted or suppressed by a form of Calvinism at the time of the Reformation in Scotland, centuries after. And then how these people this culture was decimated at the time of the highland clearances and people were torn from their ancestral lands. And of course, you know, this is a particular story, it’s a story of what happened to Hebridean Culture and Hebridean Wisdom and the Western Isles. But at the same time, it’s a universal story. It’s what has happened again and again to peoples and a threat made to wisdom which we so desperately urgently need. These traditions hold great wisdom for this moment in time, especially in our relationship with Earth.
Brilliant Miller [00:17:18] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, for the last few years, I’ve been involved with a group of young investors and philanthropists and entrepreneurs and so forth, and many of them are second or third or even fourth or fifth generation of some of the wealthiest families in the world. And part of what I love about the group is that they’re asking, you know, who am I in in this context and what is my responsibility and so forth? So I think there’s this kind of self-selection of a lot of these members. And then the other thing is that many of them are actively working to make a difference for life, and they’re going about it in so many different ways, whether it’s human trafficking or it’s climate change or it’s animal welfare or whatever. And I – have resisted jumping into any one of those particular causes first. Any one of them seemed so overwhelming, which isn’t a reason to do nothing. I know. But the other thing that I just keep returning to in your book reminds me of what you’re saying now reminds me of is that I think there’s a route, there’s a common route of all of these problems that we’ve created. That’s consciousness or a remembrance of the sacred or however we might phrase it. And I often find that it’s difficult to know how to go about right because I don’t want to be a crusader or a do-gooder. I think paradoxically, many people who want to do this work, who are attempting to do this work, probably doing more harm than good, trying to force people to be a certain way or something. But where I’m going with all this, I think, is just asking you like to share is this narrative of Empire. You know, whatever you call that authority who disregards the sacredness so that it can do what it wants with matter, whether that matter is property or whether it’s people like, I had never seen that kind of so simply framed as I did in your book. But that seems to be to me, the real issue, because any of these problems, I don’t think, we’ll solve them with technology or legislation or policy or whatever. It will be a remembrance or returning to an awareness of and not just intellectually, but then living that right? How do we go about like, first of all, when you speak to that simple model, maybe of empire and then and then the second is like, if we see it that way, what do we do about that? Like, how do we live?
John Philip Newell [00:19:49] Yeah, yeah. I think that articulation of what this tradition offers is very true to how I understand the supreme wisdom in the cultural world, and that is precisely why these Celtic teachers I mean, I have nine chapters in the new book and each chapter is given to a particular prophetic figure in the world, a way of seeing that emerges over the centuries from as early as the second century right through there. And one of the common themes running through it is nearly every one of these teachers was excommunicated, judged as heretics, silenced by the Vatican, etc.. So what is it in this way of seeing this so inconvenient to have to empire or to holders of power? But of course, the the first expression that I deal with is explicitly in relation to a Welsh teacher. And they just in the 4th century and so being banned by the Roman Empire and on the charge of disturbing the peace. And what was really disturbing was the convenience of Empire because it was not convenient for Empire to be to be told that that at the heart of every human being is an expression of the divine. It’s not convenient to empire. To be told to be at the root of wisdom or the wellspring of wisdom is deep within every human being. Because what Empire likes to act not just the Roman Empire, but the British Empire and the American Empire, any nation that tries to exert control. The rest of the world for its own so-called well-being and benefits at it. What Empire wants to do is, in a sense, dictate or tell the people what to do. And similarly, this applies to the way in which the cultural tradition has consistently seen the sacredness of burnt empire doesn’t want to be told that what we do to master what we’re doing to the divine because that Empire wants to exploit, exploit matter again for its own limited well-being. So that’s a pattern that the genius itself over the centuries on the theme of remembering, I think it’s this one feels has felt so important to me and continues to be, one of the ways the Celtic tradition puts it is that we we have forgotten who we are and we’re being invited to wake up to our true depths and to those depths at the heart of one another. Each person, each life form a unique and unrepeatable expression of the divine. And so the what is my role in relation to you or to another human being? What is our spiritual tradition wisdom meant to do? And for me, I think it’s so important liberating to remember that our role is to simply through our words, through our actions, through our interrelationship, try to wake up. What is already there, so it’s not, you know, the past trend and so much imperial Christianity has become a sort of conquering her triumph over other peoples. And whereas this Celtic Christian wisdom supreme has been not, I have truths that may generously tell you what it is, but rather to look to awaken that source source of wisdom, that source of truth be you, and that that frees this tradition and any great spiritual tradition that I think operates with the sense of innate sacredness. It frees us from the tendency to sort of self-righteousness, we have truth. This is what the rest of the world needs. It’s much more the divine is deep within you. We don’t have to invoke that. We don’t have to somehow deposit it in you from above or from afar. Our love for one another, our responsibility for one another is awakening that. And my sense is that when we wake up to the sacred with one another, then we’re either where we long to live in different ways, belong to interrelate, in ways that serve that scepter. So I think there’s a real key link between this remembering and a radical change in action and desire.
Brilliant Miller [00:25:45] Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s my suspicion and it reminds me of a term. I’m not sure I have this right, but I think the Greeks called the enemies. This idea that all learning is really just remembering. Yeah, I think there’s something in that and it’s very different and this is part of I think what drew me to coaching is this idea that it’s very different from therapy, you know where therapy tends to be, I believe there’s a time and a place for therapy, I do believe, but where I think a therapeutic model tends to believe you’re dysfunctional and we’re going to return you to function, you’re inherently flawed or you’re somehow got flawed, and we’re going to help you work again.
John Philip Newell [00:26:27] We’re going to have a second version of Original Sin.
Brilliant Miller [00:26:31] Yeah, yeah, I think so. I think so in this. No surprise it was, I heard, a professor of religious studies who shared this model, and again seeing it for himself simply was about where Western religions by and large tend to believe, you know, man is here or humans are here and God is up here somehow. And he called those the religions of revelation versus the religions of release where God is imminent, not transcendent. And I thought, what an amazing, no wonder like, that’s a worldview I think we’re almost trapped inside, you know?
John Philip Newell [00:27:08] Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it it reminds me of something that Martin Buber said, the great Jewish teacher of the 20th century. I mean, he belongs to a tradition that in many ways would be described as transcendent. But he’s sort of trying to turn it over, and he speaks about that first great story of revelation, which I think is history for this distinction and the story of Moses encountering a bush that is on fire and one of my rabbi friends says to me, You know, the important thing about that story is not that the bush was burning, but the Moses noticed because every bush is burning a whole unit, the whole universe is burning bush. That’s what we were being invited to wake up to. And it’s it’s it’s certainly a consistent thread in the Celtic tradition. We find it resonating. And the other traditions that it’s about, not so much so the revelation of the divine as the disclosure of what is deep in every place. And I was thinking of Buber a few minutes ago because he says about that that story of release or revelation of the burning bush. It says that the greater story of release or revelation is the more deeply it points to what is present everywhere. So instead of seeing this as an exception to reality or as a forum to add to the rest of reality, it’s actually a disclosure show. And I think that’s what’s interesting about the word revelation. Maybe the word revelation is closer to where we’re meaning release because it comes from the left rap lyrics, which just means to lift the veil and to disclose, to share what is deeply there.
Brilliant Miller [00:29:31] I love that. So, OK, there’s a few things from your book that I want to ask you about, because for me, they gave a term to something that I think I recognize, or just more of a general sense, even if it wasn’t a term or a word that I think might be a value to people listening as well. The first thing is something I believe this again is Pelagius talks about something called a soul friend or an anam cara, which sounds that sounds like sounds great actually to me. But will you talk about what this what is an anam cara or what is a soul friend?
John Philip Newell [00:30:12] Yeah, it’s very important to a teacher like Pelagius in the fourth century. And it’s interesting to see how important it is consistent through the centuries so that the anam cara word really means a lover of our school. And the police chief says about how important it is to have a man of courage, says the person that carries the body with that head to head. In other words, he says, it’s pretty, pretty important. And he says, show everything to your camera and hide nothing. And that’s not because my anam cara, the lover of my soul, knows more about this with him than I do. But in the presence of her love, I’m able to set free to try to articulate what is stirring in my soul, what’s trying to come up into greater consciousness, what’s trying to awaken? Because there’s there’s often a lot of inhibition around sharing from deep within, and this has having been helped by a tradition by many religious traditions that try to claim the truth. Truth is already essentially been revealed, and we need to make sure that we we sign up to our terms that we’re true to it in our expressions. So there’s been a lot of inhibition in that. I think that what the relationship with this opening, this whole opening of the heart, opening the mind in the presence of love is that we find ourselves articulating, in fact, what we haven’t known before, and of the act that allows awareness, that allows wisdom to rise up into our consciousness in ways that then affect how we’re going to choose how to live. So I think this avatar relationship expresses itself early on and becomes world, and it’s a much cherished function or a way of accessing it. I think I mean, that same teacher played just that for fifth-century Welsh monk. He also speaks about learning to read what is written and the very sort of fabric of our beings so that it’s the capturing of this. Reflective discipline on one with the importance of having an out there or having some others that we can then show. Sure, what is within us as a way of reducing reducing consciousness awareness.
Brilliant Miller [00:33:30] That’s such a beautiful concept and it brought up so much for me. Again, it’s almost like a coalescing for me of certain things I’d heard or come to believe that through my own experience and one of them is this idea. So this goes back, of course, to the very first thing we talked about a relationship and not only having a soul friend who can, you know, who serves that purpose for us, but then us also being that for someone else or for others. So that essential unity or the opportunity to be in relationship? It was one and then another was something that I remember reading in a book from another guest on the show, Stephen Koepp, who teaches at Kripalu. And I know many people, but he brought this idea of relationships as containers where we can heal, right? If we had a period of growth. And I know this, I think Roger’s talked about this and so forth that if our soul’s growth was somehow impeded. You know, which is amazing, and I think many people know this if they just look around in their own lives that we might grow up and have a big body. But many of us, in certain ways at least, are still just children. Yeah. Bigger children, but that our relationships can provide this function of us continuing the growth that maybe we should have had at a younger stage in our life and how amazing just being a witness or being witnessed. And then what I think Forrester wrote about, I don’t know what I think. Like, how can I know what I think until I write it? The kind of thing like that, we’ve probably all had that experience of saying something, whether to a friend or again, a therapist or coach or something. It was like, Oh, I didn’t realize that I really believe that it’s the sole friend to give us the space and perform that service. It’s really an amazing, amazing gift.
John Philip Newell [00:35:21] And this is something that I have increasingly come to love with our dialog, such as what we’re having right now. And that is that an inner dialog is not about me presenting the thoughts of yesterday. And I also believe in the importance of being able sometimes to present Vision A.. I think one of the very beautiful things for me about dialog is that when you say something to me or where you asked me a question in a context like this, it’s a matter of opening your mouth and sometimes being surprised at what comes out of it, you know, in a good dialog when there is this heart to heart soul connection and in a sense freedom of expression that it’s not a one way of blessing it. This experiment is very much an opportunity to further illuminate oneself, as well as hopefully serving the others.
Brilliant Miller [00:36:45] Yeah, I think that’s probably that idea, right between wherever two or more are gathered in my name kind of thing.
John Philip Newell [00:36:50] Yeah, yeah, that’s right.
Brilliant Miller [00:36:52] I think so. Okay. So that was one thing. Another, and I think we’ve kind of touched on this a bit already. But again, you gave a word to this that I hadn’t heard, this idea of pantheism. When you talk about this idea and why it might matter to us in our current moment. Yeah.
John Philip Newell [00:37:13] So the experts are much more familiar to many is the term pantheism and derived from pan, meaning all things are God. So pantheism has tended to be used as a term to refer to a belief that everything is god. And interestingly, within the Christian tradition, the Celtic Christians have previously been accused of practice because people have heard Celtic teachers say with the sacred to speak within all things. And in the 19th century, a phrase was developed that I think is sure to what these Celtic teachers have been saying, and that’s just the term empty, put between pantheism and what you get is not all things are gone, but that is defined as in all things that also can make. It is a philosophical term and it’s of value. I am always aware that so many of the great Celtic teachers that I draw from are not so much philosophers as poets and their expression. And so while there’s an acceptance of the value of the term, that is what you tend to get from the Celtic stream of wisdom is something much more like the life within. the soul within the soul, the sun behind the Sun as a way of speaking of the sacred essence, it doesn’t somehow confine the divine or the sacred to the known, but see everything as manifestation or expression of the bond. And I know speaking from within the Christian household of this, this is my inheritance that I see myself as some of the Christian household. I think this is one of the big, big issues and maybe the biggest challenges for Christianity at this moment in time. And that is, will we allow the light shining divine that we so love in Jesus? Will we allow that shining to lead us to a door that night to look for it, to be part of liberating it in one another and in all things? Or will we continue to give the impression that the light that shone so beautifully in Jesus, the light of love, the light of passion, the light of wisdom is somehow foreign to you or to me or to all people. And I think temptation can help us, certainly in the Christian tradition, get away from the sense of seeing the Christ figure as an exception to humanity instead of and sort of a manifestation of the Christ. You know, I love the way my friends speak about Buddha in nature as being deep with them. And the Christian has showed that back we’re being offered a way of speaking of the Christ deep within every human being, as we’re speaking of this intersection of the divine and the human spirit and after the dispute with them, all things.
Brilliant Miller [00:41:10] Yeah, I think you’re right. And I think again, this, like a soul knowing or a deep recognition that does exist within each of us. And then in some ways, the language just gets in the way. Right. The idea is to get in the way, but I return to this a lot. I don’t know if you’ve seen this series that was on as popular on Netflix. It might still be running from a couple of years ago, and it was a book, a New York Times bestselling book, Tidying Up: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Do know this? So it’s this. It’s this Japanese woman who wrote this book about how to clean your living space and then keep it clean. And it’s worked. It’s worked for many, many, many people, including me, by the way. But part of what I love about it is one of the steps in the process is as you purge these belongings that no longer serve you, that you thank them, that you actually carefully, you regard where it came from. Was it a gift? Was it at one time useful? You know, did it have sentimental value, whatever? And then you literally thank it verbally or at least, you know, in your mind, and then you donate it? And I just think that part of the reason that was such a phenomenon maybe continues to be for some people is because of that soul knowing like, Oh yes, that article of clothing warmed me for many seasons. But now, you know, I no longer want it or whatever. Yeah, I think that speaks to exactly what you’re saying now.
John Philip Newell [00:42:47] Yeah. And this remembering the gift or how one can receive it is. We will live. Even with what the actual possession of redistributed?
Brilliant Miller [00:43:05] That’s right, that’s right. And I think it’s no coincidence that this, you know, this work, this approach that Maria has created and shared comes from a culture that at some deep level still has this sense of animism that everything is alive in some way. So I think it’s pretty remarkable. And I remember reading a few years ago, something by the Eastern Teacher show where he had said there is no God but life itself. And at the time, especially from the West, like the Christian perspective in which I was raised, that was almost, I think it’s like for me, like blasphemous or at least challenging. I was like, Oh, that’s really interesting. But I’ve pondered on that a lot, and it really does resonate with me.
John Philip Newell [00:43:50] Yeah, yeah. And that gets very close to when we get on the extreme. Once they go to see it as the essence of all that rather than a presence or a sacred thing that might only be found in certain people, certain times, or places. It’s how are we going a century Irish to defer to Chapter two in the new book. He loves to play with its words. I love the way it plays with words that are theos or the form of God. And he says that all is derived from the verb, which means to flow and they sense just flow deep within all things. That’s the sort of subterranean flow of the Divine Act. And it says if somehow that flow were down or stopped, then everything would cease to exist. So that flow of the divine miss. It’s not simply a feature of life that may or may not be there. It is the very essence. So how do we release that flow? How do we serve a time we’re set free at one another? And you know, I’ve often thought if we had gone with every game as understanding as to the root of the word of God, we would study not theology, but we would study flow ology. Well, that might help us remember that the set of the Divine is not to be seen as out there or transept, but the very stream of lives. And yeah, and the. Kenneth White, a modern-day poet trying to put the final Chapter two of the book. He likes to play further on his playfulness. This has got us not terminating the flow. And God is the glue flow, and that is deep within the whole thing since the shining light. And I like to play it further on that. Pray for us and say God is not trying to slow down to the slow flow, but we need to let go of the glow flow. We don’t have to create that from afar. It’s letting go of this, this deep essence of the divine and in one another. And so. Living in that relationship of trust and belief in that flow.
Brilliant Miller [00:46:58] Yeah. That, you know, that reminds me of something I once learned that the Lakota word in that Native American tradition I forgot one can long Wakin Tonka and I that was another guest on the show who shared this, that the way. One way that it’s translated is sacred energy in constant motion. I was like, That is really beautiful. And this idea that you’re talking about now about flow. I love that too because I think about the flow state, you know, something that has been popularized in positive psychology over the last couple of decades or so. And this idea that when we achieve a flow state, whether it’s in sports or it’s in a creative act or just playing a game or something that the ego version of us seems to disappear. Yeah. And it’s just we’re fully engaged in life. There is no subject-object. It’s just, you know, there’s no conscious thought, it’s just action and involvement. And I think it’s really wonderful.
John Philip Newell [00:48:00] Yeah, yeah. And if something is so flowering or further unfolding, then it’s finished. And that’s the very nature of the university is that it just keeps, keeps unfolding, a lot of our sort of religious systems have wanted only to the fixed notion of the unchanging God or the eternal in that sense, instead of seeing that this flow of it is deep within the Soul. It’s also looking for new forms of manifestation, their expression.
Brilliant Miller [00:48:44] Yeah. You know, and I love your take on this because there’s another kind of theory I live with, which is that ultimately what each of us is seeking in us and really, I love what Joseph Campbell said about this. The mythology is that ultimately what each of us is seeking is a feeling. It’s really a feeling. We think it’s a car. We think it’s a certain kind of relationship. We think it’s a net worth or whatever. But at the root of it, there’s an experiency. And so the theory I have is that sometimes we’re lucky enough to have these certain experiences, whether they’re these transcendent, their metaphysical, they’re just extraordinary or whatever, and we want to hold on to it and we want to be able to reliably recreate it and we want to share it with others. And it’s at that moment we start to kind of codify it. But what we really do is like, calcify it and then it loses the energy or the life or the aliveness that it had very often through what was well-meaning. Right. But these rituals become commandments or something, and we disconnect from the real energy, I think, or the aliveness of life. So again, I don’t know that there’s a question there, but what’s your take on that idea that what we’re looking for is an experience? And when we try to preserve it or recreate it or share it, we just then we kind of make it a religion out of it.
John Philip Newell [00:49:58] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And it sort of takes me back to our conversation. We’re talking about the burning bush. I just encountered with Divine, this shining and in the bush, and this is an encounter with the divine. And he says, What? What’s your name? And he wants to define a sense to give a man. And the response from the shining or burning is who I am. I have been where I have been. I will be where I will be. Don’t try to name me. Don’t try to tempt me. Don’t try to somehow claim me as part of the system. And I think that’s how to see one another. You know, the there are certain things we love to say about ourselves. I might say about you, if you are American, you just think these words that we can use to somewhat point at the other, but always, you know, I’m being invited to remember that you, you are of the marvelous, that you’re the one who can’t speak to the times and there’s a great love in the Celtic world, and this is something that I’ve always been deeply attracted to, and that is the wildfire also domesticated untamable essence of our being. We can’t have nailed down and make it serve our systems of thought or systems of belief. I think what we’re being invited to stand in relationship with that presence with one another and in all things and allow that encounter counter the desire to again be our deep security rather than thinking we can name it or define it.
Brilliant Miller [00:52:27] I like that. Yeah. And another thing in talking about this about the wildness of the namelessness, ineffable quality that, you know, that might exist here. I have this other theory I’d love to get your take on, which is that we’ve created the technologies or even the problems. Unconsciously. Right. That’s almost what you had said. A man will do anything no matter how absurd, in order to evade, avoid facing his own soul kind of thing that I wonder if as a society, whether it’s social media or something, you know, the automobile, the car, whatever the technology is or the problems that go along with that as a way of helping us reawaken, right? Because there’s a pain, there’s an urgency, there’s a collective action required and so forth. So I tend to believe otherwise. I’m not sure how to make sense of it that we’ve created these technologies and made these problems as a way of helping us return to an awareness of our essential selves. What do you think?
John Philip Newell [00:53:34] I think the great challenge is to allow anything that we create to see her serve that undefinable, ever unfolding center rather than to restrict it. I remember someone like to take charge of this French teacher in the 20th century. He saw the telephone as this opportunity for a greater sense of inter-relationship to enter the interrelatedness of humanity to really service what called this new sphere, this dimension within the human account can’t be defined. And you know we’re living in an age that has sort of stepped up that technology in a very big way. And I think we forever are having to choose as individuals, but also together in a relationship to make sure that it’s being harnessed by the sort of soul force that it is at the heart of our being and not make us captive to it. I mean, it’s another version of how Jesus approaches religion and religious law is associated with the Sabbath was what was once made for man’s Sabbath. And you know, how does any development, whether religious or technological or cultural, how does it keep serving sort of this deep and knowing of the sacred through one another?
Brilliant Miller [00:55:55] And what a wonderful question, what a great question. It might not, maybe it is a technology, something else I really want to ask you about is prayer. You’ve written an entire book about prayer. That’s something I imagine has been very, very important to your life and your teachings for a long time. It’s something I’m still working to understand more or practice more, and I realized it’s one of these things that for many people can be off-putting. It’s like, you know why, how or to whom, you know, in that kind of thing. Yeah, but just kind of generally, how do you think of prayer? What is it? How do we do it? Why should we do it? Anything else related to it that you might share? Just kind of an immediate response like that?
John Philip Newell [00:56:44] Yeah. I mean, a couple of things. One is that the more I’m given this gift of life for years and the more I am drawn to silence to an absence of words, even though I’m such a lover of words, so it’s a real I think good or creative tension. So I find myself in terms of my daily rhythm and discipline. You know, when I wake up in the morning, and I love the early morning, I love to try to be rising with the Sun or just before the Sun, which is more challenging in the summer in Scotland, in the winter, in some of the winter. But you know, when I wake up, my first sort of conscious thought is, Oh. I get to have half an hour of silence. And I just love that simple beauty of silence, and I do see it as you know, having grown up in the Christian tradition. Sometimes I speak of that as prayer. Sometimes people practice meditation. That’s how everyone defines and speaks of it. I do see it as as an opportunity to to bring the heart of my being in terms of the receptivity to the harmful. And then, you know, as you say, I have written these prayer books to try to give articulation to what I can’t articulate because I think that sort of takes me back to some of our earlier conversation about the importance of the anam cara, and that is the importance of just trying to utter from the soul. And even though there’s this recognition that we can’t give it everything, the full definition or complete definition, there’s something very beautiful about the act of trying. You know, this is true of love. It’s not that we so love to find, to try to find expressions, verbal expressions, physical and emotional expression to the one or to the ones that we know of is something, there’s something we’re getting, it seems close to the heart of creativity when we’re trying to give expression to this mystery of love. And the end has been really interesting for me as a writer to note very different styles of writing when I write prose in the realm of theology or spirituality. When I read my writing afterwards, I can sort of see myself all over the page. So in that sense, maybe the Eucharist is not in the neck, it’s the frame that’s some empathy or is more involved. Consciousness is more involved when I write prayer, which I see as more sort of poetic expression. I often don’t recognize myself and prayers poetic utterances since the time I’ve tried to give expression to. And I think that’s because a prayer. My experience of it is not just coming from within a limited time. I feel it’s coming from within us. I feel I’m drawing from much more an openness to the soul within our soul. And that’s one of the reasons why I so, so love poetic prayer related writing. And I sometimes say that consciously to do a moving from a piece of prose and to a piece of poetry, because I think the language of prayer comes much more directly from the unconscious and it does from the conscious or rational mind?
Brilliant Miller [01:01:44] Well, and that idea still of silence as a form of prayer, that’s new to me, and I like it. I really like it. And I remember reading somewhere right about this instruction to pray unceasingly. And then it’s kind of like that joke. Twenty four hour banking time for that, right? Like, how do you pray and live? But then I remember, you know, a teacher of mine, Sadhguru, he says, we do not meditate. We become meditative. And I thought, how interesting to approach prayer as a way of being, a way of living? Yeah, it’s really, really an interesting challenge and why we might want to do it to me, like you’re saying, just kind of it’s an orientation to life where it could be.
John Philip Newell [01:02:33] Yeah, yeah. And one of the cherished memories of the Celtic stream of wisdom is this. Memory of John, the beloved who it was, said that he leaned against Jesus at the Last Supper. And it was said of him first that you’ve therefore heard the heartbeat of God. And then he becomes a symbol of the practice of this within ourselves and one another with the Earth. Listening to the beach of the Sacred Things, and that certainly to be is it’s an image symbol that’s for prayer that it’s this deep listening posture and the sense first and foremost, it is to listen and then finding ourself wanting to express in response to this. Listening for the beach, the beach and mother of all things.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:45] Yeah. And maybe as a starting point, this one, I said you. You gave language to some things that this was one of them is the holy work of inner attentiveness. Yes, that is a cool description.
John Philip Newell [01:04:00] So divisive that I would say that’s a lovely phrase for saying.
Brilliant Miller [01:04:09] Maybe that was why you’re writing prayer.
John Philip Newell [01:04:11] Yeah. Yeah, that’s true.
Brilliant Miller [01:04:14] Well, OK. So we’ve covered so much and there’s so much more to that than I could ask you about and we haven’t even transitioned to the enlightening lightning around writing and creativity. Let me just ask you before before we transition what I know we haven’t talked about the feminine. We haven’t talked. You touched on Christ. I’m actually really curious because I’ve had some other readings where that starts to differentiate very much between Jesus, the man and Christ and so forth. But anyway, that’s something I thought I might want to ask about. But what haven’t we talked about that either you want to talk about or you think might benefit the listener at this point? Anything else from Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul that you’d like to to touch on?
John Philip Newell [01:04:56] Yeah, well, I think, you know, chapter two on Saint Brigid as icon is. It’s a very important part of the stream of counterfeit. It’s an integral part of what this tradition is offering us because I think certainly in the Celtic world, the reverence for the feminine reverence for the Earth are inseparable world. And the shadow side of the masculine that is so dominated by our Western world, politically, culturally, from the players of interest herself from the raid itself over against the terminal. So what we’ve done to Earth, this is this whole thing with the subordination or Romney abuse. So just to recognize that these things are so interwoven and Celtic, Christian and I access through the beautiful, iconic Irish woman of the 5th century. And I think that Bridget is very beautiful in the way she is a liminal figure or invite system to live in all places. And one of the liminal places that she stands herself or positions herself is there’s no back doorway or threshold place between the Christian in a way that deeply honors both. And she represents this rich meeting her marriage through her wisdom.
Brilliant Miller [01:06:58] Yeah, I loved so much reading about that liminal and just recognizing that we’re always like we’ve talked about already with flow and in transition that we’re always in transition to the threshold. I mean, that’s the threshold between, you know, the time and eternity, you know, so you have a character like a figure that represents that.
John Philip Newell [01:07:22] Yeah. Yes. Yeah, yeah, that’s true. I am. My 97 year old mother died just three weeks ago, and her last couple of days were very much in place, which life and death? Seeing the unseen and she went to this very same place in a peaceful place. And from that threshold place, it was as if she was nursing us even in the way she died. So the lingering at that liminal place after, I think that’s what went the figure of friendship does on so many fronts. You know, whether it’s the liminal space between the scene of the optimism decline and the tumult between humanity and the creatures. And also, this is the liminal place between the rules of the universe, which is trying to manifest what’s trying to be born among us and what’s trying to be born in our consciousness. So to sort of intentionally place oneself in the liminal, so much of our culture, western religion of thought, this was quite dualistic rather than to see the liminal place, the place that connects so-called opposites as one of the most creative places to be, if not the most creative and one of the things I loved about the Celtic dream is that these teachers placed themselves between had them so this was a flow of moving from head start and I think that when I experienced that threshold with, I feel like the most creative.
Brilliant Miller [01:09:33] Wow. Well, thanks for sharing about that, I’m sorry for the loss of your mother. Thank you. Well, OK. Oh, there is speaking of transitions, it’s not just transitioning to the interview, it’s maybe a personal question, but I did think I saw it on the website or at least found it somewhere online. I wonder if you’d be willing to talk a little bit about just a couple of years ago in 2020 that you relinquish your ordination as a minister of the Church of Scotland? That sounds like a pretty big deal.
John Philip Newell [01:10:06] Yeah. Yes, I think it was a significant moment for me. It was a realization that what I’m teaching in my writings and in my teaching is not deeply connected to what I signed up for when I became a minister of the Church of Scotland, it was not deeply connected to what was important for me for the sort of integrity of my own journey to ask, Well, why am I keeping that title? Reverend of the Church of Scotland, when it’s not in fact reflected in my teaching and writing and what is dearest to me in terms of provision of reality and what’s most important to me in my own life and relationships, it’s not to be absent from the cradle step of the church, but many, many of those creates and statements are actually opposed to what they are actually saying something opposite to what I’m saying the essential sacred be. So what was really important for me as a sort of personal actor, now it’s important I let go of that relinquishing. Because it doesn’t represent who I am, I’m longing for what I’m trying to be. And part of that was sort of conscious realization that there’s an ancient stream, there’s a pattern of the Celtic world of the wandering pitchers or in the medieval period, they were called wandering Scotts and they were a real headache, which took me to the established church. They were a headache to the Vatican because they didn’t sign up to obediently follow the doctrines of Christianity. So they were in fact set free to try to speak from within the human soul and to challenge the pulse of how we’re ordering ourselves as a society through the ancient. And there was the realization in May that in this Judeo-Christian tradition, that somehow there’s always we’ve always there in our scriptures made room for the prophetic voice that pulls it off from the wilderness rather than from the heart of the forum within the four walls of religion are the establishment and I don’t want to wear. To give any impression that they’re speaking from the desert to the wild is somehow more pure or for a place of higher elevation if it’s more that we need both the prophetic. We need people speaking very much from the edge or from the defiant base. But we also need sort of courageous, visionary people to be speaking from within the four walls of religion as we have inherited it. And many of my best friends continue to be our priests, certain ministers within the church, the Church of Scotland, Episcopal tradition and so on. And I have enormous respect for so many of whom are dear to me. So given the decision to relinquish was not a statement of judgment against others. And I’m also aware that within the Christian tradition, we we are at a momentous time. I think changing faiths to Christianity and millions untold millions of my brothers and sisters in the Christian household began life within the church and no longer there. So I know because so much of what’s happening within the four walls of religion is not deeply addressing some of the earnings of Germans today. So I think the decision to relinquish this was was a moment in my life when I wanted to to very clearly say, I belong to that diaspora. I belong to that exiled group and and to try to give articulation to what it is that we’re yearning for and to really pay attention. I believe that part of the way forward is to pay attention to the earnings of our soul and so that that’s what I’m trying to do and to continue the enormous freedom, as well as the enormous insecurity in answer to how operating within a highly deprived system.
Brilliant Miller [01:15:54] Yeah. Well, there’s so much there, and I think at different times in our lives, we all have a face similar. Question or challenge opportunity of whether it’s a relationship or it’s a career, it’s just some of the role or athletes or something. And so we all get to do that. And to your last point, too, I’m reminded of something I once heard Tony Robbins say, but the quality of our lives is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty we can comfortably live with. I guess that’s that’s like, that’s amazing if we can, if we’re willing to go beyond what is familiar, what’s comfortable. Not to the point that it stresses us out or causes us anxiety, but we keep finding toward the edge leaning toward that edge.
John Philip Newell [01:16:36] Yeah, yeah, that’s beautiful.
Brilliant Miller [01:16:39] And then it just might not be directly related. But when you talk about the wandering, the SCOTUS Fagan, is that the term?
John Philip Newell [01:16:45] Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [01:16:46] There was one other word that I really loved this idea of a pair of grenade or grenade. Yeah. Well, you talk about that for a moment, and we’ll ask this too. Because if a metaphor, if not literally, but at least as a metaphor for what we’re doing as we’re living, I think there’s so much beauty and power in that. But what is Peregrine nation and why did you include in the book?
John Philip Newell [01:17:09] Yeah. So in the particularly in the Irish, so the Celtic stream there was this practice called cremation and and the person who would be sort of wandering and this was on the grieving and. Her condition was sometimes spoken of as seeking one’s place of resurrection, sort of letting go of the moon in order to sail out into the Americans, in the belief that the place of new beginning or a place of new awareness, a new realization transformation. So it was sort of letting go of the familiar who Paragon Nation sometimes happened very literally in terms of setting sail, sometimes without without a rudder to to sort of blow by the elements to to where one’s place of new beginning one, if its most extreme form, it was sort of set sail on the boat without a rudder. So the rudder represents this of wanting to be in control or wanting to direct and then the sense allowing an elemental energy of much greater amounts to take us to a place that we don’t yet know. And the the the ninth chapter of the book, The Final Chapter, is on this poem that I’ve already referred to Kevin’s wife, and he works a lot with the Paraguayan nation, and his way of putting it is that we we are being invited to. Set sail or journey to what he calls a new found land to open our imagination to. To to open to ways of seeing ways of being wage relating that we have experienced before, and I think that that’s a real part of our nation. It’s about finding a place of resurrection in what we don’t yet know. And I always find it important to remember, call you distinction between resurrection and resuscitation because sometimes the word resurrection is spoken. But what really matters is resuscitating, you know, something that we’ve already known or something that we’ve already been for. And Carl Jung says the church in the Easter story at the risk Christ is not where his body was laid. It is the Christ story is is much more. Something we could imagine. So it it’s not about sort of resuscitating the old. It’s about opening to what we don’t yet know. And and I think that that’s what all of us are being invited into with it, whether it’s in our lives individually or whether it’s connected together or we’re being invited to do new territory. And part of what that calls us to do is to set sail from from the Neal to serve faithfully. Have let go in order to be to be open to the new.
Brilliant Miller [01:21:05] Yeah, and maybe that’s a little earlier to write about the the glow, let the light, the glow
John Philip Newell [01:21:14] just like go to the go kind of thing.
Brilliant Miller [01:24:29] We’ll transition now. I’ll ask you these nine short questions. You’re welcome to answer as long as you like, but for my part, I’ll just work to keep us moving through. And then I’ll ask you two or three questions about writing in the creative process.
John Philip Newell [01:24:42] Yeah, yeah. It’s good. OK. OK.
Brilliant Miller [01:24:48] All right. So the enlightening lightning round. So please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a.
John Philip Newell [01:25:01] Dance.
Brilliant Miller [01:25:03] OK. Question number two here I’m borrowing the investor and technologist Peter Thiel’s somewhat famous question. What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
John Philip Newell [01:25:36] Yeah. I think in the context of my own sort of religious theological upbringing, I would say that very few people within that tradition look for the divine of the heart your whole life.
Brilliant Miller [01:25:56] I think you’re right. OK, question number three, I realize this might be a stretch, but I invite you to exercise some imagination if required. If you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a T-shirt with a slogan on it or a phrase we’re saying or a quote or equip. What would the shirt say?
John Philip Newell [01:26:16] I am who I am.
Brilliant Miller [01:26:19] OK. Question number four, what book other than one of your own, have you gifted or recommended most often?
John Philip Newell [01:26:35] I think the Carmen Psychedelic of the songs of the gales.
Brilliant Miller [01:26:42] Is that a book that has many translations, and if so, is there one, in particular, you’d recommend?
John Philip Newell [01:26:48] As far as I’m aware, it’s only been translated from Gaelic, English and many versions provide the Gaelic on what the original gaelic on one page and the English translation on the other. The original 6.4. But it has thank god it’s been made available. This one-volume work is much more accessible. Press-wise, you have the songs of girls I’ve given this, which I know. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [01:27:29] All right. Question number five. So your work involves a lot of travel. What’s one travel hack meaning something you do or something you take with you when you travel to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
John Philip Newell [01:27:42] I take with me a willingness to do a lot of sleeping when I travel and to let go to sleep and to restrict travel instead of trying to combine travel and work.
Brilliant Miller [01:28:05] All right. Question number six, what’s something you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
John Philip Newell [01:28:17] Siesta, I describe myself as a siesta fundamentalist. Yes. Yeah. I find that letting go to sleep in the early afternoon. Yes. So, so renewing of my strength. I come out of siesta, all with clarity about something in the morning I might have been struggling with at accessing we access. We are conscious of just physically letting go and experiencing a type of resurrection halfway through the day.
Brilliant Miller [01:28:58] That’s that’s beautiful. And if I may just touch on this briefly, I tend to think this is one of those ways in which our society, especially the Western culture, maybe in particular the American culture that values hard work and so forth, and self-sacrifice to some degree dishonors nature where I think our bodies want to rest in the afternoon. And we know it’s a shift and you have this many breaks and then get back to work as hard.
John Philip Newell [01:29:27] Yeah. It belongs to a natural cycle.
Brilliant Miller [01:29:31] Yeah. And for me, the thing of naps, because my dad died at 64, he didn’t believe in naps. I think he probably would have lived longer if he’d napped and done a few other things to take care of himself. But for me, my life changed when I took a tour of Frank Gehry Architectural School just outside of Phenix, Arizona. Yeah, and he had I saw in his private space, he had a little bench where he mapped and he would draw a curtain. And it was understood by all the students and everyone there that if that curtain was drawn, don’t disturb Frank. But I remember thinking, if there’s someone who could achieve so much, contribute to so many, and then be celebrated long after they were gone and he took a nap in the afternoon, I’m going to too. Yeah. So you’re confirming for me. Thank you. OK. Question number seven. What’s one thing you wish every American knew?
John Philip Newell [01:30:23] Yeah, I wish you knew the beauty of the Western Isles strong and especially the island of Iona,
Brilliant Miller [01:30:34] I have looked at how I would like to go. I’ve looked at it looks by the way I like those for this year have filled up pretty well.
John Philip Newell [01:30:40] Yeah, that’s right. They have it’s it has an Irish priest, a friend of mine once said about how it has something of the freshness of the first day of creation that it’s a sort of purity of air and light coming out of that. It’s it’s a place that I unabashedly am an evangelist for in terms of saying, I think it’ll be good for your body and soul.
Brilliant Miller [01:31:09] Yeah, that’s amazing. I understand that you and your wife served as warden of Iona.
John Philip Newell [01:31:14] Yes. We were the leaders of the Abbey community for four years. That’s amazing. But I’m now back every year doing this one-week international, one-week pilgrimage events on the island. So, yeah, one’s coming up next week. In fact, our first one since the pandemic began two years ago, so it’s great to be physically gathering again with International Zone.
Brilliant Miller [01:31:46] That’s awesome. Well, thank you, and I love that description, something of the freshness of the first day of creation. Is that right? That sounds beautiful. OK. I have added that that is on my list and I’ve long wanted to do a walking tour around a coastline and just I understand you can go like two little beds and breakfasts and take many, many weeks. Yeah, but I’d love to continue on. So thank you for that.
John Philip Newell [01:32:14] Well, let me know when you come OK.
Brilliant Miller [01:32:17] OK, let’s see. Question number eight coming down the stretch. So what’s the most important or useful thing or something useful, it doesn’t need to be the most, about making relationships work. What have you learned about making relationships work that serves you well?
John Philip Newell [01:32:36] Belief and in what time has to unfold in the relationship? And I think that I would say that, but the high points of a relationship, but give it time would be even richer, and below are challenging points that shouldn’t necessarily prepare for the challenging times that give it time for them. And there’s going to be some perspective, and we avoid the drama that can sometimes do damage to friendships or relationships if we don’t give it time to mature and deepen. Hmm. Yeah, thank you.
Brilliant Miller [01:33:25] OK, and final question here is about money. So aside from compound interest, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve learned about money?
John Philip Newell [01:33:40] I think that money can represent some freedom. So it’s a choice and it’s sort of moving beyond sort of survival and survival mode. Money can sometimes open up this sort of freedom of choice, which I appreciated. Yeah. I think so, too. I mean, you know, there’s the other side of the question, you can always be asked as well. What’s the limitation or bondage or imprisonment to match with? On the positive side, I would say that it’s opening up a realm of being open to the press, to being open to the future in a way that is dictated by finances.
Brilliant Miller [01:34:45] Oh, awesome, thank you. OK, well, and speaking of money, something I have done a small gesture of gratitude for you making time to share so generously your experience and your wisdom with me and everyone listening, as I’ve done on the micro-lending site Kiva.org. So it’s a nonprofit organization that has they make microloans for entrepreneurs in developing countries. So through them, I’ve made a microloan of $100 to a woman named Vanessa in Ecuador, and she will use this to buy groceries and cleaning products, and personal care products that she’ll sell. So in that way, improve the quality of life in her community and for herself and her family. And then I won’t make any interest on it. But when she repays the loan, it will then be recycled to another entrepreneur. So I believe it will be a virtuous cycle. Our conversation will do some good and even those who ever hear it. So thank you for giving me a reason to do that. Thank you. OK, so last last couple of questions here about writing and the creative process. I think there are really just too two questions that I’d love to ask. And then if something else pops up, it feels like you want to share on this topic by all means. But the first question, it’s kind of it could be a big question, but it’s just you’ve written many books and writing a book is still. And I think it probably always will be a huge undertaking right up there with earning a college degree or starting a company or, you know, anything else that we might achieve in our lives. And something many people aspire to. How do you do it? What is your process to actually take whatever thoughts you have, put them into words, put them between a cover, put them out into the world and by the way, to do it in a way that people enjoy and benefit from, What’s your what’s your secret, John Philip?
John Philip Newell [01:36:39] OK. Uh, I as a sort of wandering teacher, I, of course, have the opportunity to be teaching in a live context with people. And that’s an important part of my writing process to develop vision, the articulation of vision in a live context where I’m. Trying to refine the articulation, and I get to see the light shining in people’s eyes when I make a connection to notice, when eyes glaze over, when I see that I’m not doing a good job of articulating a vision. So for me, major writing projects and certainly in the ground with prose began with me having the opportunity to try articulation of vision now, usually over a number of years before I even sit down to working on the book. So that’s an important part of it for me. And of course, the questions that come from the comments that come out of the live teaching context are very instructive. You know, I don’t see that process as a solitary one at all. I’m really learning from the people who are gathering with me to engage with vision. And then the actual writing process, they’re a couple of things that are really important to me. One early morning. So the day after my time of meditation, I like to be a desk writing extreme. There be around the time of progression of the Sun and I’m I feel most clear in the morning and when I’m writing it, I will give. I will give a full morning to it and not try to do anything else. But then I will truly stop at lunch and I don’t return to it in the afternoon or evening. So I believe you know, what works for me is the clarity of the morning. And the other thing is that I write, I write extremely slowly. And for me, it’s one word of the time I produce working, and the business is called a very clean manuscript that does a lot of editing or reworking because I’m really editing as I write. It’s important for me to have the right articulation and font formation of words because it is when something is clearly expressed. And I think it’s simply and clearly expressed. I think that’s what we’re getting closer to the heart of the matter. And there’s a poet in this context who and Edward your same spelling as John Muir at one year. And he says in one of his writings, the challenge with truth is not that it’s too complicated for expression. The challenge with truth is that it is too simple for expression. And that’s something I believe, and I know that when my reckoning starts getting complicated, I realize I’m further away from the truth, so I’m leaving for the clarity. So I strive for a tremendous simplicity of writing and compare what I write now with what I wrote, I did my doctoral thesis. I was introduced when I was writing very long and complex sentences in those days. Whereas what I prefer. Nearly always, this is true, right? Extremely simple. Simple sentences. And so that’s what I aim for and for me, it’s always one where this time it’s I tend not to have bursts floodgate. So it’s just one word of time and I show up at the desk and showing up at the desk to do the one word this time is what it’s important for me and what works.
Brilliant Miller [01:41:29] I imagine you do write with the benefit of a computer.
John Philip Newell [01:41:32] I do, I do, I make my initial notes in advance with a pencil. But when it comes to actually working on the text in terms of writing it, it’s on my laptop.
Brilliant Miller [01:41:51] How much do you think about the reader in the moment of drafting how connected do you feel?
John Philip Newell [01:41:58] I mean, in part, that’s already happened through the teaching context that the listener, in a sense, is it becomes part of the reader for me so that the listener as the questioner, the observer as well, where it in a sense helped shape my, my sense of who the reader is. And I also when I write, I often choose a person that I particularly have in mind and also that someone, someone that I know is sufficiently well to be alert to, well, what would this mean to him or what would this mean to her? And it’s usually very intentional in my case, you know because I’m because I was sort of trained as a theologian, it’s really important for me not to be writing to other theologians, but to make sure again that my language is simple, that it’s more poetically inclined rather than philosophically inclined to use to again, to tend to look for words. In my case, they were derived much more from the Celtic and Anglo stream of inheritance, rather than from the Latin inheritance, which so many of our Latin-based words are quite sort of philosophical or more abstract. And you know, as I was saying before, instead of temptation, I would prefer to speak for life, but that and write.
Brilliant Miller [01:43:49] OK, I promised only two or three and I’ve asked more already. But I’ll just end with this one, I suppose, is what advice or encouragement would you give to anyone listening who is either already in the middle of their own creative process? What’s sometimes called the messy middle, or it’s a dream they’ve been harboring for a long time, and for whatever reason, they haven’t started? What do you say to a person who either hasn’t gotten into action or inaction, but might be stuck? In terms of writing a book. Yeah.
John Philip Newell [01:44:26] Yeah, I think it’s all right. A couple of things, one I would say is not to make hasty decisions, but the value of what is being written. I know that some days I will look at the piece I am asking and think, Oh, this, this is rubbish. I mean, it just needs to go into the bin. And then there it is and look writing and directing. This is brilliant. I actually write this so that I think we’re prone. I mean, I certainly know myself, I’m prone to those vicissitudes. So don’t make any hasty decisions. I would say give it time to revisit it. And the reality is it’ll usually get somewhere in between neither rubbish. And it’s important. It’s been important for me to have something the equivalent took care of people who love me. But nothing is also too to know how to critique them helpful for critique. So I recently lost my old professor, Douglas Duncan, my professor of English literature, when I was a young man and I’ve stayed in a relationship with him his entire life. He died of age 90 in December, and every single piece of writing that I worked on over my life before publication, he would see it as well, and he would. He never ceased to be my professor. In that sense, he really loved me. He believed trying to do, but he realized that part of this loving me was to say, This is clear to me and this personal anecdote you’re getting in the way of your message. Whatever, whatever he felt or discerned the reaction he would give, give me a critique that came from a place of love. And I think that it’s important to, if possible, find someone who loves us enough to know how to be helped.
Brilliant Miller [01:47:03] So that’s great input. Well, just on that thread, how do you know when to trust, like when to listen to, when to trust, when to follow the guidance of a loving critic versus your own kind of sensibility?
John Philip Newell [01:47:18] Yeah, yeah. I think that there needs to be this, this meeting place, and it’s easy to get sort of blown around by what one editor has to say or everyone’s loving critic has to say so. Absolutely. And that’s that’s a really important point. It’s important to see the center of the whole one. And for me, that at the center is rooted on a daily basis and in meditation that that’s where I’m at in this sort of deep, deep listening mode. And that helps me pay attention to what my editor does, what nothing to search for because I think if one doesn’t have that sense of center and uniqueness of voice because each one of us has this unique voice. And I think that’s the thing that is really important to writing, not to compare. One or one has to say with another writer because each one of us is called culture very unique and that’s the value of each having opportunity to have for us. So and I think the other thing for me in the writing process, especially in the realm of publication, is not to be striving to. To be a success and in terms of how other people measure success, I think a successful piece of it for me to be measured in terms of best seller lists, it’s to be measured in terms of whether one is giving as true an expression of one’s soul, love and passion and creativity as you can about that, for me, is absolute. The other things are very relative and they come and go.
Brilliant Miller [01:50:48] OK, so again, John Philip Newell, Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul, Celtic Wisdom for Reawakening to What our Souls Know and Healing the World. John Philip, thank you again for being so generous with your time and your wisdom. I’ve really enjoyed this.
John Philip Newell [01:51:02] Thank you.
Brilliant Miller [01:51:16] OK, we’ll take care. Bye bye. I think that earlier in that interview, I referred to, I think I said Frank Gehry with the architectural school in Phenix or outside of Phenix, but it was, if I did, I was mistaken. It’s actually Frank Lloyd Wright who had that school there. So, OK, so about John Philip Newell.