Monday, February 11, 2008

Anam Cara - The Soul Friend

My friend Jami gave me this great book by the recently late John O'Donohue called Anam Cara. Here is a very cool quote on deep friendship.

In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend. So anam cara in the Celtic world is the "soul friend." In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam cara you could share your innermost self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the "friend of your soul." The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship....

In everyone's life, there is a great need for an anam cara, a soul friend. In this love, you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintance fall away, you can be as you really are. Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. When you are understood, you are at home. Understanding nourishes belonging. When you really feel understood, you feel free to release yourself into the trust and shelter of the other person's soul.

I agree that everyone needs this, and so few of us have it. I feel blessed to have two such friends in my life these days (hi Susie, hi Jami).

And contrary to the popular thoughts on male-female friendships, it is possible to have a deep, soulful relationship with someone of the opposite sex without there being some romantic and/or sexual agenda. A man and a woman can feel deep love -- what one might consider agape rather than Eros -- for each other without going to bed together. In fact, this love can be shared between men and between women.

This is not to say that there isn't sexual energy (the Eros element), because I think there is in all relationships. But there is a difference in feeling the energy rising from the battery of the body and wanting to engage in a sexual relationship. Too many people confuse these things. I have -- going the other way (mistaking agape for Eros).

Anyway, I think this is a valuable concept that we need to recognize in our lives -- to seek it out and nurture it. It's hard to find, but when we do, we need to be brave enough to embrace it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi, Bill :)