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Spirit Survives in Ireland

Posted on 04 November 2013, 9:51

After looking over the contents page of Emerald-Spirit, an intriguing book about Ireland by David Stang, (below) I was especially anxious to read the chapters dealing with Irish spirituality and mysticism.  I questioned whether I should skip the early chapter about the weather in Ireland. How interesting can weather be?  But I decided to bite the bullet and read it anyway.  At the conclusion of that chapter, I wondered if Stang had won a Pulitzer Prize or some other award for his writing.  That chapter alone was worth the price of the book.


“...the Irish skies – I would be willing to bet – have had a lot to do with shaping Irish spirituality,” Stang, a retired Washington, D.C. lawyer who has owned a second home in Ireland for many years, offers.  “The cloud layer is often quite low and can take the form of mist or fog. The effect is to bring heaven, or the home of the gods. so close to the earth that you can not only see it but feel it touching your face.” 

Stang goes on to point out that the dark days instill in the Irish a certain melancholy, while the bright days induce an almost manic state of bliss,  As a result, the Irish “monocosmic consciousness” is constantly being reinforced by its kaleidoscope skies.  “When you cast your eyes towards the horizon and see, streaming through the cloud cover, majestic rays of light, you can only begin to suspect that the Deity, or at least a mighty host of angels, is close at hand,” Stang explains the phenomenon.  “The majestic rays of light are as plentiful as rainbows in Ireland. And everyone knows about the spiritual magic of rainbows.”

And then there’s the landscape.  “There is something magic about the landscape, the way it changes from minute to minute,” Stang continues.  “The visible suddenly becomes invisible, then returns again as if under the control of spirit beings.  If you relax and let the panorama phantasmagoria speak to you, your consciousness may click into a realm of fantasy where charms, magic, and mystery all dwell contentedly together.  This allows your rational mind to let itself lapse into a semi-stupor so your child’s mind can awaken and listen. The child’s mind is fuelled with curiosity and a belief that all things are possible.”

In a chapter titled “Religion on the Rocks,” Stang observes that many have left the Church or remain only nominal parishioners.  The reason is much the same as in other countries – various clerical scandals and disagreement with certain Church teachings.—but there is perhaps a bigger reason.  “Through watching American and British movies portraying the glories of a materialistic culture, and by being bombarded with advertising, a growing number of Irish are beginning to believe that they are what they buy,” Stang explains.  “They are learning to measure their self-worth by the clothes they wear, the houses they live in, and the cars they drive.  The more they have, the better they tend to feel about themselves.”

This materialistic mindset seems to be especially prevalent among those under 35, the consciousness of hard times tempering somewhat the spending habits of those over 50.  An increasing number of Irish, Stang further notes, believe that they are losing their Irishness and no different now than Yanks or Brits.  “Their mistake is in assuming that their belongings are the principal means of demonstrating their collective identity,” he offers.  “Many appear to forget that social and cultural identity are shaped by more than material possessions alone.”

Stang, who teaches a course in philosophy and spirituality to graduate students at American University, wrote the book before the current economic recession or depression, however it is classified.  Asked how things have changed, if at all, he replied that during his residence in Ireland this past summer he found many people, including some of his best friends “steeped in their dark sides – morosity, begrudgery, depression, pessimism, cynicism , suspicion, distrust and victim identity.”  He says it is as if “the Great Famine of the 1840s has returned and won’t leave and they are becoming more bitter every day. Economic hard times seem not to be improving. In one sense this is driving them back to before they became manically materialistic, but on the other hand their having feasted on the Celtic Tiger has caused within them a hunger to return to the easy money days again.”

Nevertheless, in spite of the decline of religion and the influences of materialism, there are still – at least in rural Ireland – thousands of Irish whose spiritual roots have not been deadened by the materialistic quest to be ONE with one’s toys.  “There are still many Irish people who believe in other-worldly inhabitants and there are quite a few who say they are in communication with them, or at least able to observe and identify such entities,” Stang states, going on to say that thousands of Irish pilgrims journey to sacred places in Ireland and abroad each year.  Especially important to them are those associated with Marian apparitions.

Stang interviewed a number of women who claimed to have witnessed Marian apparitions and concluded that each one believed that what she saw was much more than a vision.  It was an actual appearance.  “They also tend to believe that it is not any inherent capacity on their part that enables them to have visions, but that they were chosen by Our Lady or Our Lord to witness such appearances,” he adds.

Death, Stang says, is a very big thing in Ireland.  “Rural and small-town Irish often curse their neighbours behind their backs, but the moment the neighbour is dead, they say, ‘God rest his soul; I’ve never had any unkind word to say about him.’  Life-long enemy or not, they go to his funeral – sometimes it seems, as a form of penance to avoid retribution for unkind words and deeds previously inflicted on the now dead man.”

There is a concern, at least in rural Ireland, that even though the body is dead, the ears, eyes, memory, an soul of the deceased person is still lurking close “Unspoken, but apparently felt by the members of each community in rural Ireland is a concern – half-conscious, half-subliminal – that though the body may be dead, the ears, eyes, memory and soul are lurking close by and are probably able to detect even the most secret thoughts of anyone who approaches the coffin.” 

The person calls upon the dead person’s family, expresses condolences, sends a Mass card and joins in the Rosary prayers. doing whatever necessary to help the still-lurking soul make its way into the afterlife. “Before the Mass, you shake hands with any family members standing at the door…You are certain to be on our best behaviour and think only the purest of thoughts, because the dead man’s soul may well know what is running through your mind, and God himself – present in the Blessed Sacrament – certainly does.” 

As Stang sees it, the Irish have heart-centered souls.  It is a soul filled with empathy and compassion and one that feels with intensity. “When they live out of their heart, and soul, it shows,” he concludes.  “They exude a reverence for being alive, humility, kindness, compassion, graciousness, sociability, cheerfulness, and humour.”.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores. 

Emerald Spirit by David Stang is available from Amazon.

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Next blog post: November 18 .



Hi Mike,

Thanks for your excellent review of an exceptional book.

David Stang is a Patron member of The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies, Inc. He attended our 38th annual conference this year in Virginia Beach on the theme,“Spirituality, Consciousness and Science.”



Boyce Batey, Tue 5 Nov, 05:24

Dear Mike,
Please give my greetings to Dave Stang! Also, have you seen his video series that Stang produced in honor of the 100th year anniversary of the publication of Will James’ Varieties of Religious Experience? (Dave filmed me as a very tiny part of that heartful project of his, which included modern day mystics, after delving deeply into the life and writings of James.) Sadly, I don’t think his videos were ever shown on public TV.
Thanks for sharing here about Dave Stang and Irish spirituality.
Best wishes,

Jane Katra, Mon 4 Nov, 20:05

Many years ago, I observed that, my friend, Dave Stang, was the most spiritual person I had ever known.  He still is, and I treasure his wisdom, wit, insight, compassion, and love of life. Those qualities are found well reflected in his new book.

Theodore Kronmiller, Mon 4 Nov, 15:43

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