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Taking 'the curved path' with John O'Donohue

‘To be holy is to be natural; to befriend the worlds that come to balance in you.’

Anam Cara.

An edited version of this essay appears in The Melbourne Anglican December 2017.

John O'Donohue is interested in the work of the soul. If the human soul is to be known at all it must understand itself in relationship. Ultimately it rests in mystery.

This, however, this is not O’Donohue’s starting point. His premise is existential. Words like aloneness, nothingness, emptiness are used frequently in his works. His is a vocabulary of anxiety and isolation that touches on so many of our modern day preoccupations. But into that lexis he pours ancient wisdom, the language of early Celtic Christians, and the astute insight of contemporary thinkers. Beginning with the philosophical notion that the human self can experience itself existing as a separate identity in an otherwise random universe, he delights in taking the reader on a bridge over an abyss, to show us the contours of a different landscape. We now see the world, as William Blake said, with an eye that ‘alters all.’