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How To Develop Your Mystic Understanding of Celtic Knotwork

Aug 23, 2007
Often on Celtic jewelry websites you will see that a merchant has labeled certain knots as having particular meaning, such as "unity," "friendship," or "love." More often than not, these labels are marketing tactics. Even to say the knots symbolize how the world is interconnected, though true in the most general sense, does not provide much information relevant to a deep understanding of Celtic knots. In this article, I'll show how to interpret Celtic knot work from a universal perspective, based on a fusion of teachings from Native people and classic Western philosophy.

We'll begin with a few concepts to lay the foundation necessary for this thought. A core belief held universally in many indigenous cultures is that everything that exists is alive. This may seem like a concept that is alien to Western thought, until you read Plato's account of creation in the Timaeus, where he expressed the same concept as a "likely story." http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/timaeus.html

This view of the cosmos in classical Western culture that was allied with indigenous values was eventually decimated by the march of empires. Power structures are intimately connected with the commoditization of the material world. The rise of institutional Christianity, which history shows is ruled by the god of war, Mars; not the prince of peace, provide a "spiritual" justification for disconnection: the scripture says, man has dominion over the earth, which contradicts the indigenous view that man's purpose is to bring balance to the earth. Today, the power structures of empire, are the corporations, which view everything on the earth as commodity in a resource-to-cash-to-trash economy.

The circle energy in our culture has been weakened. What remains is a empty longing for connection, filled by anti-depressants, drugs and rage. The tremendous gift of life is structured in such a way as to squeeze out the spirit for the sake of making a living. Yet somewhere in the psyche is a dim remembrance, a longing to return somewhere east of Eden.

Everyone was once from a tribe that survived by being rooted close to the natural cycles. The Celts did not build temples; they made offerings to the spirit of a grove or the sacred spring. If the rocks, trees and clouds speak to you, respect and reverence of all that exists in the natural world follows. We see fragments of this type of perspective in the stories of Orpheus, and the miracles of St. Frances of Assisi.

If we borrow this concept, bringing spirit and soul back into the material world, and view all that exists as alive, then the knots themselves can be viewed as alive. We have to shift our concept away from high school biology to understand.

From a Platonic perspective, the pure forms of the circles, squares, triangles in Celtic knots drive creativity in the universe. Everything around us is formed from some kind of geometric shape that are the blue prints of all that exists. If we see these shapes as alive, then the corollary is to see that they have the same right to exist as we do.

This concept, again, involves quite a stretch. It is a radical view of seeing what is as a radically equal element of the whole. As humans, we are used to seeing ourselves as the most important species that exists, but how can we know, other than by our own biased faith which has created gods in our own image, that the universe as a whole sees us that way?

Yet this right to exist forms the basis for relating to these knots. If we are spirit and matter has spirit, we can have a spirit to spirit relationship to anything. We can contemplate and communicate with things, gaining insight and forming an alliance which can be like medicine. This can be done in any environment. We can be urban tribes people, searching for connection where ever it may be. This spirit to spirit relationship is the basic understanding behind mystic Native philosophy. It is also a way for all of us who did not have this background to begin to bring some kind of connected circles back to our lives.

This radical concept is contrary to the mechanistic Cartesian view, yet it is not so far from modern particle physics. Experiments published in major scientific journals have shown that human DNA does influence matter. Studies have shown that prayer actually works, which means that there are many operating principals behind what appears that influence events in mysterious ways. We depend upon our psychic readings of energy all the time for information: we walk into a room and get a feeling, for example. Our capacity to empathize depends upon energy. But mostly this has been an unexamined, unconscious ability in people who have been conditioned through education to identify with the left side of their brain.

Native people speak of the "great hoops," which is another way of saying that we are all connected. To attempt to live in harmony with "all our relations" means assuming a new level of rewarding responsibility. Prosac isn't needed when we're a deeply connected part of the whole.

Let's now explore how knot work motifs exist as inspirited, complex blue prints by looking at one of the most common Celtic motifs: the circle. Planets, eyes, bones, tires, electrical wire, wedding rings, cells are all composed of circles. We speak of our circle of friends and the seasons. What goes around, comes around. Now, the question for you is, what is the modus operandi of a circle?

You can do the same exercise with a square, triangle, oval or cross. Why are bird feathers triangular instead of square? The questions are endless. Start by making a list where these shapes exist around you. Then, try to grasp how they are functioning alone and in combinations with other blue prints in the knot work.

The final step is to lean into the mystery of these shapes by meditating on them. To interact with the unseen world, you will need to believe it exists and earn the knowledge. If you develop a working alliance with these objects, they can assist on your path. Live with these blue prints like Zen koan or teaching stories.

Over time, Celtic knot work will bring unexpected insights. For those of us trying to find our new tribe, this view can shift the foundations of our perceptions and bring us information which can deepen our relationship to the cosmos.
About the Author
Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, www.celticjewelry.com, a jewelry company that practices socially responsible business.Marc authors www.fairjewelry.org a movement website for consumers and jewelers supporting green and fair trade jewelry. He also originated The Circle Manifesto,
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