Though Druidism, with all its fame and prestige, had now passed away, yet the spirit of it survived in its order of Bards who, now scattered throughout Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and many parts of Britain, became wandering minstrels and sole depositories of Druidic philosophy and learning. There are clear evidences of their existence in all these countries. They were treated with the utmost respect and exempted from taxes and military service, and reverenced as the sole survivors of an age of freedom and liberty, the traditions of which are still cherished in the heart of every true Celt, for they gave poetic expression to the religious and national sentiments of the people which have never become entirely extinguished. It was, however, chiefly in Wales that Bardism attained its highest development and continued to exert a powerful influence even after the introduction of Christianity into that country. This was also the case through the middle ages, and after the conquest of Wales.
At stated intervals great festivals or Eisteddfodaw were held at which the most famous bards from various districts met and contended in song, the umpires being generally the most learned of the princes and nobles. To this day, these festivals are celebrated not only in Wales but in America, Australia, New Zealand and wherever Welshmen abound, who still cherish and retain many of the Druidic traditions, apothegms, symbols and emblems. In Brittany and other parts of France still exist ancient customs and superstitions of Druid origin which have utterly repelled the eradicating influence both of the Catholic and protestant clergy. Through these Bards has been handed down what knowledge we possess of the theology and philosophy of the ancient Druids. The Barddas one of the great occult books preserved in the bardic college in Glamorgan has been published, and contains a vein of teaching and thought clearly which may certainly be regarded as of Druidic origin. Editorial exigencies preclude us from pointing out at great length the many similarities and interesting analogies and correspondences with the religions and philosophy of the East which are presented in the above-named work. To do this in an adequate and satisfactory manner would swell our remarks into a volume, and we therefore most reluctantly limit ourselves to giving short extracts in which are expressed some of the chief teachings of the Druids and a translation of The Circles of Existence which we trust may not prove devoid of interest to the student and general reader. For the better understanding of them we would observe that the Bardic theology is expressed in tercets or verses consisting of three lines, the number three being held in great esteem by the ancient Druids.
THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY.
Three are the Circles of Being.
Cyleh y Ceugant — The Circle of Space.
Cyleh y Abred — The Circle of Evolutions.
Cyleh y Gwynfyd — The Circle of Happiness.
Three are the successive states of animated beings.
The state of existence in Annouin,
The state of liberty in Abred,
The state of happiness in Gwynfyd.
Three are the phases of existence:
Commencement in the Abyss (Annou-for).
Transmigration in Abred.
Completion and perfection in Gwynfyd.
As supplementary and forming a commentary on these circles, we give the following extracts — Souls when purified ascend to still higher spheres from whence they can no more descend. Souls that are sullied with earthly impurities are refined by repeated changes (incarnations) and probations till the last stain of evil is worn away and they are ultimately ripened for immortal bliss in a higher sphere — the abode of the Blest — of the Sages — of the Friends of Humanity. With respect to the creation of the Universe we learn that this grand event took place "by the voice of the Divine energy, that is, by its melodious sweetness, which was scarcely heard when, lo! dead matter gleamed into life, and the non-entity which had neither place nor existence flashed like lightning into elementation, and rejoiced into life and the congealed, motionless shiver warmed into living existence, the destitute nothing rejoiced into being a thousand times more quickly than the lightning reaches its home." One of the Masters being asked, with what material did God make all corporeal things endowed with life? replies, "With the particles of light, which are the smallest of all small things, and yet one particle of light is the greatest of all great things, being no less material for all materiality that can be understood and perceived as within the grasp of the power of God. And in every particle there is a place wholly commensurate with God; for there is not and cannot be less than God in every particle of light, and God in every particle; nevertheless, God is only one in number. On that account every light is one, and nothing is one imperfect co-existence but what cannot be two, when in or out of itself."
How were animation and life obtained? "From God and in God they were found; that is from the fundamental and absolute life; that is from God uniting himself to the dead, or earthliness; hence motion and mind, that is, soul. And every animation and soul are from God, and their existence is in God, both their pre-existence and derived existence; for there is no preexistence except in God, no coexistence except in God, and no derived existence except in God and from God."(1) With reference to the evolution of men we give the following: "It is necessary that every living and animate being should traverse the circle of Abred from the depth Aunwn, that is, the extreme limit of what is low in every existence endowed with life, and they shall ascend higher and higher in the order of gradation or life, until they become man, and then there can be an end to the life in Abred, by union with goodness."
"But no man at death shall go to Gwynfyd (Nirvana) except he who shall attach himself in life, whilst a man, to goodness and godliness. The man who does not thus attach himself in godliness shall fall in Abred to a corresponding form and species of existence of the same nature as himself, whence he shall return to the state of man as before. And then according as his attachment be either to godliness or ungodliness, shall he ascend to Gwynfyd (Nirvana), or fall in Abred when he dies. And thus shall he fall for ever, until he seeks godliness, and attaches himself to it, when there will be an end to the Abred of necessity and to every necessary suffering of evil and death."
THE CIRCLE OF ABRED (EVOLUTION).
Three necessary things are there in the circle of Abred, — the primordial origin of life, the protoplasm of all things, mortality and death.
Three things shared by every animated being whilst in Abred, Divine aid without which there could be no consciousness, the privilege of sharing in divine love, and harmonious action with the Divine in order to attain the end and object of their destiny.
Three necessary causes operate in the circle of Abred, that of the development of the bodily structure of every animated being, that of the attainment of universal knowledge, also that of moral growth in order to triumph over the spirit of evil (Cythraul) and obtain self-deliverance from evil (Droug) for without these there could be no progress.
Three essentials are there in order to obtain perfect knowledge, reincarnations in Abred, in Gwynfyd and reminiscence of past experiences.
Three are the things inevitable in Abred, the transgression of law (natural and spiritual), deliverance by death from Droug and Cythraul, growth of spiritual life.
Three are the essentials to man's triumph over evil, — suffering, calm endurance of change, — liberty of choosing, by which he can determine his own destiny.
Three are the alternatives offered to man, Abred and Gwynfyd (heaven and hell) necessity and liberty, — good and evil, all in equal balance, man being able to attach himself to one or the other.
By three things man falls under the necessity of Abred; ceasing to strive after knowledge, refusing and resisting good — preferring the evil, in consequence of these he descends in Abred to the place for which he qualifies himself and begins again his pilgrimage through the circle of evolutions.
Three principal things to be acquired in the stage of humanity — knowledge — love — and moral power. These cannot be acquired anterior to the human stage but through the exercise of liberty and free choice. They are the three victories. They begin with humanity and attend it through all the cycles of the ages. Three are the privileges incident to humanity — the adjusting of evil and good, giving rise to comparison — liberty of choice giving rise to judgment and preference — increase of moral power. These are necessary in the working out and accomplishment of human destiny.
THE CIRCLE OF GWYNFYD. — (HAPPINESS).
Three are the principal blessings in the circle of Gwynfyd, — freedom from evil, freedom from care, freedom from death.
Three things attainable by man in the circle of Gwynfyd, his primordial genius, — his primordial love and memory of past incarnations without which he cannot attain to perfect happiness.
Three are the Divine gifts to man, — a life complete in itself — an individuality absolutely distinct, — and natal genius. These constitute the personality of every animated being.
Three are essentials to universal knowledge — transmigration through the stages of being — the memory of each incarnation and its experience — the power of passing at will into previous states for the enlargement of knowledge and experience and these are attainable in the circle of Gwynfyd.
Three are the things of endless growth; fire or light, — intelligence or truth, — spirit or life; the ultimate result of which is the rule over all things when the circle of Abred (evolution) will terminate.
Three are the things continually decreasing, darkness, error and death.
Three are the things which ever become stronger, Love, Knowledge and Justice.
Three are the things which daily become weaker, Hate, Injustice, and Ignorance.
Three are the beatitudes in Gwynfyd, the reciprocal sharing of benefits, — the willing recognition and ready acknowledgment of individual genius and Universal Brotherhood based upon the love of God. Three are the prerogatives of the Divine, to be self infinite, to become finite in the finite and unification with all the various states of existence in the circle of Gwynfyd.
From this outline of Druidic teaching we learn: that in those remote ages, the doctrines of reincarnation and Karma, were understood and grasped with that clearness of apprehension so as to make them facts of the Universe. Its moral teachings were pure and healthy, inculcating chastity in all the relationships of life, the infringement of which was visited with the punishment of death. Druidism throughout its whole career kept itself perfectly pure and un-contaminated from those vices and phallic impurities which have so shamefully degraded most of the great religions of the world ancient and modern.
1. Barddas, p. 257. (return to text)
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