Three recent encounters have brought my awareness back around to something that is core to those of us following the Druid path in DOTR–how we work with and relate to the Three Realms of Sky, Earth and Sea.
First encounter: an incredibly well done article on spirituality by Doug Muder in the recent edition of UU World entitled “Before Words: the Spirituality of Humanism.” If you don’t get the UU World, you can read the article online here. I have long been a collector of definitions of spirituality, having taught courses in a number of settings from high school to graduate theology over the years. The number of ways that people define spirituality are almost limitless, but I think Muder has found a way that ultimately includes them all. He writes: “Spirituality is an awareness of the gap between what you can experience and what you can describe.”
Second encounter: an old friend posts on a certain social media website posts the following: “looking inward you become despondent. Looking around you become disillusioned. Looking up you become devoted.”
The writer tells us something about his own experience in these words. He is attempting to describe, perhaps, something he finds in the gap, but what he finds there does not at all express what I find in the gap. His post, however, incited me to write the following:
“Looking inward I become still. Looking around I become connected. Looking up I become awed. Earth, sea and sky. Three ancient guides. Three simple reminders for living our integrity, in relationship to all things, and with vision.”
This is my attempt to describe what I find in the gap between what I experience and what I am actually able to describe. Because it is “gap material” for me, my description may not at all describe what you find in the gap.
Third experience: I had a delightful email interchange with one of our Aspirants recently over the Aspirant’s work with the Three Realms Working. The Aspirant was concerned because as she works with them, she is finding that she envisions them as Sky, Sea and Earth, with Earth in the middle, connecting two different experiences if vastness. I share below some of my own thoughts that came from that dialogue.
As a mentor and as a Druid I appreciate the concern that the Aspirant raised for a) taking what she thought was a different approach, and b) how that might affect her relationship with the others in the Order. She shared that with me, and I think we are both richer for it. By sharing some of this here, I think we can all be enriched by this kind of sharing out of our own “gaps”. A few more thoughts.
First, this Aspirant is doing exactly what we envisioned in creating the lessons: working out one’s own relationship with the Three Realms. I find it enriching to hear another person’s description of the experience. And words do fail, don’t they? That won’t stop most of us from trying to put our “gap” experiences to words, but it’s wise for all of us to remember that words fail when we are writing or talking about our “gap” moments. The words I find to describe my experiences may or may not communicate to others very well what I have actually experienced. At best, our descriptions of “the gap” may give others a glimpse.
The Aspirant was concerned that she was “changing the practice”. If by that she means changing the order in which we hail, honor and make connection with the Three Realms, I don’t see that as really changing the practice. The practice is a simple (but powerful) ritual by which, through gestures, words and intention we connect with and call our awareness back into the Three Realms. I have seen Irish versions which place them in different orders, one even which begins with Earth (I can make an argument for that–starting with the ground of our shape, form and present moment existence).
So one Druid wants to invoke Sky, then Sea and then Earth. And that Druid has a powerful experience and understanding for why she/he does that. That Druid should keep working with it and see where it takes her/him. As we all continue to work with the Three Realms (one of the key vows that we make on entering the Order) we might find it helpful to consider the following.
1) What does the particular way that you work with the Three Realms reveal to you about yourself? Is there a word or image that keeps showing up when you try to describe your gap experience?
2) How does your work with any one of the Three Realms allow for the material reality that it is? Our approach has us swimming in mytho-poetic material and that means that we engage the Three Realms as metaphor (just like my expression above where I see in them “integrity, relationship and vision” for earth, sea and sky). While each of the Three opens up a treasure of metaphor for us, they are also, each, a material reality.
3) When working with the Three Realms, what is the experience (what are the experiences) that you are trying to give expression to?
4) You are a Druid of the Order “of Three Realms”. In our public ritual, we will most often invoke sky, earth and sea in that order, but in your private workings you will do what you do. That’s true for all of us, and it is a defined feature of how we see ourselves as an order. A public ritual that has recognizable features is necessary for public, communal connection, but we insist that the individual be free to explore and develop his/her own path.
5) As you develop your individual spiritual path as a DOTR Druid, you bring that richness to any public conversation or gathering that we have. We all do. The energy of this order is not built by conforming to a single way but by bringing the tapestry or our paths together in conversation and ritual. That’s real Druid magic, in my opinion. We will always be in conversation about what the Three mean to us, how we work with them, etc.
Please feel free to comment on this blog, your own experiences in working with the Three Realms. More than a few times, Aspirants have asked mentors essentially to tell them what to do and what to think about the Three Realms. No can do. This is what it means to walk the Druid Path. Engage the Realms, encounter the gap between what you experience of them and what you are able or NOT able to describe. That, friends, is a Druid spirituality.