About Searles

Searles Ó Dubhain is a long time traveler of the Druid Way. He is a student of Ogham and its uses as well as a writer and teacher about them. His Celtic Workshop classes have been available online since 1993. His Ogham Divination series expanded into nine books for students that are offered in three volumes as The Cauldron of Formation, The Cauldron of Vocation and The Cauldron of Celebration. Professionally, he has worked in the defense and aerospace industries for over thirty years.

Unverified Personal Gnosis, Truth and Imbas

Unverified Personal Gnosis, Truth and Imbas

by Searles O’Dubhain

Thumbnail photo of Searles O'Dubhain.

Searles O'Dubhain

As Amergin White Knee has taught us in the Cauldron of Poesy materials:

"When the Cauldron of Knowledge is turned by divine ecstasy, rather than by human joy alone, its special grace is a gift that transforms a person, who becomes both sacred and knowledgeable, so that their works include miracles, prophecies, judgments and precedents. It is these people who establish the wisdom that guides our knowledge and regulates the forms of our speech. Though this knowledge comes from within a person, its truth and its power is from the gods and originates from outside of a person."

This is one of the main abilities of the Draoithe (Irish Druids) and the Filidh (Irish Vision-Poets) that distinguishes them from all others. It is the knowledge that illuminates and is known as imbas in Irish and is called awen in Welsh/British writings and traditions. Some modern folks term such inspirations as UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis). This seems to be an attempt to negate prophetic knowledge and inspiration as being only imagined (until it is verified by currently accepted science or through academic logic alone). To apply this term as a blanket to divinely inspired knowledge is to overlook a few truths from that heritage:

In ancient Irish society and tradition, that which was true was considered to have its own power to stand alone in the world or anywhere, to the point that those who heard truth could see its meaning and importance even when it seemed to contradict those things that were supposed to be the “accepted wisdom.”

To this point, it was the Druids and Poets who were seen to be the sources of imbas and the judges of truth in that society. This attitude and basis in that society had an accompanying paradigm saying that no person could be a Druid, Poet or Judge who had ever been demonstrated to have broken the truth and to have presented a falsehood.

Generally, the imbas or awen that was received by a Celtic Seer was seen to be verified in Nature or in the actions/results of the people presented in the traditional tales. If not already a tradition, then  the results of a divine prophecy or a discovered wisdom had to be eventually demonstrated in society by examples or outcomes (remembering that a given for a wise person in Irish Celtic society was that they retained their status and position only so long as they were shown to be true and correct).

As Katheryn Simms observed and stated in her article, the “Poetic Brehon Lawyers,” this idea of truth from imbas bringing real results to the people was not just an Irish or a Welsh notion, but was a pan-Celtic concept:

“The pagan belief that the moment when a judge issued his verdict was an encounter between the human and the divine, and that the will of the gods was outraged by an unjust decision, while just judgements drew down divine blessings, is already testified among the Celts of Gaul in the first century B.C. where Strabo remarks that the druids were chiefly trusted to try cases of homicide, and that when there is an abundance of these they consider that there is also abundance of the land, presumably because their many just judgements drew down the gods blessing on the crops. “

Imbas is not a free ride. It has to be demonstrated to be true wisdom from the gods. Such inspiration and universal truth is not unlike Einstein’s brilliant understanding about the ways in which matter and energy are related. The truth of it came to him in a flash and he spent years (if not the rest of his lifetime) proving and expanding upon this insight. I expect that ancient and modern druids also do the same with their own knowledge that is received from the minds of the divine. It is not enough to receive the revelation; one must also do the work of bringing the new truths back to the people in a useful and relevant way.

Being true and wise is wonderful but one must also be useful and productive. That is why the demonstration of imbas is to be found in the results that grow from its seeds rather than in claims or even discussion. The tales are filled with how prophecy and the uncovering of hidden things is accomplished or demonstrated to be true. These tales formed the basis of society’s codes of living and morals to the point that prophecy and divine truth were considered to be usual rather than exceptional (or to be challenged as untrue out of hand, as is often the case in our more disillusioned and skeptical modern society). The use of the term UPG, a classification and claim that something is merely made up or an illusion, as a club nowadays to quash inspirations and unusual wisdom to the point that thinking remains within the confines of accepted wisdom, is also a great wrong. Society must continue to advance in its life or it risks the death of stagnation and rot that accompanies the imprisonment of any idea or material thing. Innovation and inspiration deserve open fields upon which to exercise their creative truths to the benefit of all. To keep these in a box only makes for humus and decay, to the point that only nature in her long-term laboratory can transform them into anything new or renewed.

So, let’s rejoice in imbas and rather than calling it UPG, let’s get up and go out into the great laboratories of existence, science, and Nature, to ascertain what the power of truth has uncovered for us via inspiration and knowledge provided to us by the gods. It is only through the verifiable and proven results that we should be known as druids and not by our own or anyone’s claims, or even the acclamations of others, for there really is a truth against the world. Sometimes, one must journey far to find it and bring it back to the people and the lands where life is lived.


Review: Deep Ancestors

Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans

By Ceisiwr Serith

Review by Searles O'Dubhain

I recently read a book by Ceisiwr Serith, a member of ADF, that is a treasure of information concerning ancient Pagan and Indo-European practices. It is titled Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Serith shows us a way to discover, derive and learn about the practices of this very ancient Pagan culture in ways that allow us to bring those practices forward into our modern lives. Since it is about Indo-Europeans, it contains references to ancient Celtic, Irish and Welsh practices as well.

Deep Ancestors is a great read about our Proto-Indo-European ancestors. It uses the best available information from linguistics, archaeology and cultural cross comparisons to determine not only the “what”, the possible and the known about these people, it also gives one example of how they probably conducted rituals as well as the why. One would expect such a fact filled book to be a difficult read since it is based on current scholarly works and references, but this is not the case at all. Ceisiwr Serith has expressed the concepts and details about these cultures in a very readable and easily understood manner. Many useful and ready to use illustrations and examples are provided. The book is a treasure of knowledge about the foundations of modern day practices in the Pagan world that come to us from the past. It explains the roles of the deities as well as the cosmogony and cosmologies of the universe. For those whose religions and practices are rooted in the original tree of the Common (or Proto) Indo-Europeans, it is almost a Rosetta Stone of cultural awareness. It covers the structures and values of our deepest, ancient Pagan philosophies. Using this book one can easily construct personal, family or group rituals that have meaning from the past through the present.

I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand and flesh out their current Pagan practices with the traditions and outlooks of our far ancestors. They are the beginnings of our religion and we have the responsibility to honor them by carrying forward their knowledge. Here we can learn the ways to get into touch with their spiritual awareness as well as the structure of being itself. Deep Ancestors explains to a great extent why and how the Celtic branch of the Great Tree is like it is. It also gives us an opportunity to form our own branches and families of that tree. It also branches across the board into comparative analysis of all the major, known Indo-European cultures and their philosophies. For those who follow Continental Pagan practices, it is a key to understanding their roots and branches as well.

[amazon_link id="0976568136" target="_blank" ]Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans [/amazon_link]
Author: Ceisiwr Serith
Paperback: 298 pages
Publisher: ADF Publishing (October 19, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0976568136
ISBN-13: 978-0976568131
Price: $24.95.