In the monastic traditions of other faiths, a formal rule of life plays a central role in the activities of the regular clergy, and indeed the term “regular clergy” itself (which derives from the Latin word regula, “rule”) derives from that custom. While details vary from order to order and from faith to faith, the core principle of each such rule is the whole and unreserved dedication of the self to the divine. Each precept of a monastic rule serves as a means by which the details of daily life may be brought into accordance with this central principle, and common obstacles to that reorientation of life may be avoided.
That principle, in the great majority of these faiths, finds its usual expression in terms of a highly specific rule of life in which prohibitions central to the wider faith are taken to extremes. Religious traditions that are uncomfortable with human sexuality, for example, normally expect their monks and nuns to accept a lifelong avoidance of any form of sexual contact; faiths that have a difficult relationship with the concept of individual freedom and autonomy, similarly, tend to expect vows of obedience from their regular clergy. Druidry has no such discomfort with either of these elements of life, or for that matter of anything else that is part of the way of Nature, so a rule suitable for the regular clergy of a Druid order must take a different approach.
That approach takes its beginning from one of the central concepts of the contemporary Druid movement: Awen, the spirit of inspiration. Each soul, according to the lore of the Druid Revival, has its own unique Awen. To put the same concept in terms that may be slightly more familiar to many readers, each soul has its own purpose in existence, which differs from that of every other soul, and it has the capacity—and ultimately the necessity—of coming to know, understand, and fulfill this unique purpose.
In Barddas, the anthology of 19th century Druid traditions compiled from the writings of seminal Druid Revival author Iolo Morganwg, a unique Awen is said to be present in each soul from the moment it comes into being, and guides it on its long journey up through the Circle of Abred—the realm of incarnate life in all its myriad forms—to the human level of existence. It is at the human level that the individual Awen for the first time may become an object of conscious awareness. Achieving this awareness, and living in accord with it, is according to these Druid teachings the great challenge of human existence, and the degree of each life’s success or failure at this task determines whether the soul proceeds into the radiant life of Gwynfydd, remains at the human level for another incarnation, or returns to some earlier point in the realm of Abred to recapitulate its journey and learn the lessons that were inadequately absorbed the first time through.
Thus the rule of life that the clergy of the Gnostic Celtic Church are asked to embrace may be defined simply by these words: find and follow your own Awen. Taken as seriously as it should be—for there is no greater challenge for any human being than that of seeking his or her purpose in existence, and then placing the fulfillment of that purpose above other concerns as a guide to action and life—this is as demanding a rule as the strictest of traditional monastic vows. Following it requires close attention to the highest and deepest dimensions of the inner life, and a willingness to ignore all the pressures of the ego and the world when those come into conflict, as they will, with the ripening personal knowledge of the path that Awen reveals.
It also requires, crucially, a willingness to renounce one of the less creditable dimensions of today’s popular culture—the widespread conviction that having some particular set of beliefs makes one better, wiser, more honest, more realistic, more sophisticated, or more of some other praiseworthy quality than those who have different beliefs. Each person’s Awen, as already noted, is unique, and a way of understanding the cosmos and the spiritual powers that shape it that is perfectly appropriate for one person will be hopelessly misguided for others. Thus a respect for individual differences in belief and practice is mandated by the Rule of Awen: those who claim the right to follow the guidance of a personal spiritual vision themselves, by that very fact, renounce the right to pass judgment on the personal spiritual vision of others.
From this recognition comes one of the few prohibitions placed on the clergy of the Gnostic Celtic Church. Receiving holy orders in the GCC is not a conferral of authority over others in matters of faith and morals, or in any other context, but an acceptance of responsibility for oneself and one’s own life and work. The clergy of the GCC are encouraged to teach by example, and to offer advice and instruction in spiritual and other matters to those who may request such services, but it is no part of their duty to tell other people how to live their lives.
If, upon reflection, a candidate for holy orders comes to believe that it is essential to his or her Awen to claim religious or moral authority over others as part of the priestly role he or she seeks, he or she will be asked to seek ordination from some other source. If one who is already ordained or consecrated in the GCC comes to the same belief, in turn, it will be his or her duty—a duty that will if necessary be enforced by the Grand Grove—to leave the GCC and pursue another path.
The Hermitage of the Heart
So personal a way of life as that defined by the Rule of Awen requires a conception of the role of regular clergy that is more closely akin to that of the independent hermit than that of the monk or nun living under a collective discipline. Still, the traditional solitude of the hermit is neither easy to attain in today’s crowded world nor appropriate for the needs, and the Awen, of many people otherwise well suited to the work of the GCC. In place of the outward trappings of the hermit’s life, therefore, the GCC proposes an inner orientation—the Hermitage of the Heart.
The life of any person who cultivates an inner life and an orientation toward the Divine in today’s obsessively materialistic world must inevitably have important resonances with the lives of hermits in other ages. There is the same sense of standing apart from the outer world, the same embrace of a freely chosen discipline, the same provision of a place of solitude; the difference is simply that the most suitable place of solitude for the hermit of today is found within his or her own heart.
The practice of the Hermitage of the Heart embraces the whole of life; it calls on the priest or priestess to maintain the inner clarity and the spiritual orientation of a hermit in a hermitage all through his or her daily round. Within that framework, the more specific practices that are recommended to the priests and priestesses of the Gnostic Celtic Church have their places: the practices of the home altar, morning prayer, and evening lection, to enrich and orient the inner life; the Communion ritual to provide the central flame around which the rest of the inner Hermitage is built; the solitary Grove ritual to provide symbolic structure to that Hermitage; and the Sphere of Protection ritual to define and maintain the boundaries of the Hermitage against the pressures of a far from supportive world.
Those who feel called to explore or embrace these possibilities are welcome to read further, and to apply for reception as deacons according to the forms and requirements outlined on our Ordination Requirements page.