A leading spiritual teacher reveals how Celtic spirituality—listening to the sacred around us and inside of us—can help us heal the earth, overcome our conflicts, and reconnect with ourselves.
John Philip Newell shares the long, hidden tradition of Celtic Christianity, explaining how this earth-based spirituality can help us rediscover the natural rhythms of life and deepen our spiritual connection with God, with each other, and with the earth. Newell introduces some of Celtic Christianity’s leading practitioners, both saints and pioneers of faith, whose timeless wisdom is more necessary than ever, including:
Pelagius, who shows us how to look beyond sin to affirm our sacredness as part of all God’s creation, and courageously stand up for our principles in the face of oppression.
Brigid of Kildare, who illuminates the interrelationship of all things and reminds us of the power of the sacred feminine to overcome those seeking to control us.
John Muir, who encourages us to see the holiness and beauty of wilderness and what we must do to protect these gifts.
Teilhard de Chardin, who inspires us to see how science, faith, and our future tell one universal story that begins with sacredness.
By embracing the wisdom of Celtic Christianity, we can learn how to listen to the sacred and see the divine in all of creation and within each of us. Human beings are inherently spiritual creatures who intuitively see the sacred in nature and within one another, but our cultures—and at times even our faiths—have made us forget what each of us already know deep in our souls but have learned to suppress. Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul offers a new spiritual foundation for our lives, once centered on encouragement, guidance, and hope for creating a better world.
About the Author
John Philip Newell is an internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher, speaker, and author of several books, including Listening for the Heartbeat of God, and A New Harmony. The former Warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland, he is the founder of Earth and Soul (a Celtic Initiative of Study, Spiritual Practice, and Compassionate Action) and teaches regularly in California, New England, Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and Canada and leads international pilgrimages to Iona. He lives with his wife in Edinburgh, Scotland.
“As this book makes clear, the Celtic spiritual tradition is a clear-flowing stream that can help us in the hot and thirsty moment. There are deep lessons to be learned from these remarkable women and men.”
— Bill McKibben, author of Falter
“Newell offered me a new creation story for Christian faith, one that matched my deep sense of what it means to be made in the image of God and called to communion with all living things. I commend his book to anyone who is ready to be born again.”
— Barbara Brown Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Holy Envy
“Many of us have been indebted to John Philip Newell’s writings for years but, in this book, he reaches new depths in his vision of the earth and the human journey. We, including a new generation of readers, need this Celtic wisdom urgently.”
— Richard Rohr, New York Times bestselling author of The Universal Christ
"Newell invites us into the counterintuitive truth that much of the wisdom we need to navigate this moment has already been spoken in the past. I'm convinced that we've only begun to see just how far and wide his voice is going to be heard."
— Rob Bell, New York Times bestselling author of Love Wins
“Not just a book about the wisdom of Celtic saints and seers of the past, this is the work of a contemporary Celtic prophet urging the world to awaken to the beauty and justice that is the heartbeat of all that is. Savor its words; live its wisdom.”
— Diana Butler Bass, author of Grounded and Grateful
"This wonderful book draws deeply from the well of Celtic wisdom across the centuries to help us to recognize the sacred both around us and in us, calling us to wake up and see that there's no going back to small, limited notions of God and the sacred."
— Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and author of Love is the Way
"This powerful, insightful, and refreshing book takes us back to where our tradition took some bad turns in the past and then sends us forward into the future with exactly the treasures we need. I love this book. I learned from it. I recommend it with highest enthusiasm!”
— Brian D. McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity
“In this wonderful book, Newell dives deeply into the life-affirming wisdom of Celtic tradition to deliver a powerful message of hope to our frightened and disoriented world. With the help of venerable exemplars, he lays before us a path of reconnection: with our earth and with our own deepest humanity.”
— Cynthia Bourgeault, author of The Meaning of Mary Magdalene
“An inspiring, informative, timely, and beautifully written book—it will help not only Christian readers but readers at large who wish to re-evaluate our relationship with the earth.”
— Satish Kumar, Editor Emeritus, Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine
“A roll call of great teachers, sources and subjects that awaken us to the sacred that we already know deep down and that might still save us, laid out with a clarity and beauty that leaves us inspired--this book is a gem.”
— Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary
“Shows how imperial and Celtic Christianity clashed over the centuries and how vital it is that this time Celtic thinking carries the day. Such a spirituality is needed for a time of eco-crisis by re-awakening our love of the sacred Earth before it is too late.”
— Matthew Fox, author of Original Blessing
“What a rare luminous gift! Reading this is like drinking from the well of renewal after being parched in the desert. Newell invites us into an ever-deepening earth-based spirituality. This book has the power to transform the way we participate in the community of life.”
— Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Co-directors, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology
“Newell paints compelling portraits of those who kept the Celtic spirit alive over the centuries. Most were considered heretics in their day by the religiously orthodox. Newell’s courageous and soulful writings will insure his place in that sacred, historical gallery.”
— Jerry Wright, author of Reimagining God & Religion
“John Philip Newell’s writings always bring me ‘home’. In a world of increasing isolation, he powerfully transports us back to what we have forgotten: that all things and all beings are sacred and interrelated. This is gritty spirituality at its best – earthy, liminal, connecting!”
— Roy Barsness, Seattle School of Theology & Psychology
“This reminds us why Newell remains one of our world's most important theologians, indeed a global phenomenon. I am a better person, and a better Christian, because of his work.”
— Joel N. Lohr, President of Hartford Seminary
“As we face times of global crisis, pandemic, and climate change, this book shares the prophetic insights of iconic forebears to guide us to new ways of living and acting.”
— Pat Cane, Founder of Capacitar: Healing Ourselves Healing Our World
“Through the lives of an array of spiritual pioneers—an excommunicated monk, legendary nun, wandering scholar, dissident theologian, trailblazing environmentalist, paleontologist-priest, soldier-clergyman, and a poet-prophet—Newell invites us on an enlightening pilgrimage. Taking this journey with him is a profoundly sacred experience.”
— Paul-Gordon Chandler, Episcopal Bishop of Wyoming
“Through the lives of Celtic visionaries, Newell guides us to embrace our shared humanity, earthly home, and the sacred nature of our bodies. This Celtic vision holds the key to a life-sustaining future for our planet.”
— Lauren Artress, author of The Path of the Holy Fool
“In this elegant and important work, Newell gathers the life-giving Celtic wisdom and luminous insights of spiritual masters. Richly conceived, skillfully rendered, this book reveals Newell as the most recent voice of a living tradition gaining momentum in a world longing for its beauty and sanity.”
— Kathleen N. Deignan, CND, founding director of the Deignan Institute for Earth and Spirit, Iona College
“Presents us with a truth that at a deep level we already know and will want to immediately share and I found so helpful. He makes a compelling case that this is a moment of truth that will have powerful implications for the future of Christianity and the world.”
— Malcolm Young, Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco
“Awe-inspiring and transformative! Every page is fragrant with beauty, wisdom, and holiness. It stirs our soul. We feel deeply moved to take action to resolve the issues of our time.”
— Imam Jamal Rahman, author of Spiritual Gems of Islam
“Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul is both a feast and a powerful medicine for the human soul. I loved every page of this book. Beautifully written, this book nurtures the reader's sensitivity to the sacredness of the earth and the human soul.”
— Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev, author of The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets
"In Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul you’ll rediscover the deep truth of the Celtic Christian tradition. Grounded in history, replete with poetry and song, Newell's book us into deeper awareness. There is much to savor here."
— Mary C. Earle, author of Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings
“Every page conveyed a healing truth that made my heart beat fast. Newell’s words clarified my life’s vocation for care of self, care of all others, and care of the earth. This book shimmers with the tonic of redemptive truth.”
— Ed Bacon, author of 8 Habits of Love
“Newell takes the reader on a journey of healing, wholeness, and ecological integrity, illustrated through the lives of great teachers from the past. What could be more urgent today than to pause, reset, and find the truths and insights to become a soulful and healing presence?”
— Heather Eaton, author of The Intellectual Journey of Thomas Berry