Sounds of the Eternal: Meditative Chants & Prayers
J. Philip Newell J. Philip Newell is a poet, a scholar and a teacher. Formerly Warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland, he is currently Writer Theologian for the Scottish Cathedral of the Isles as well as Companion Theologian for the American Spirituality Centre of Casa del Sol in New Mexico. He is internationally acclaimed for his work in the field of Celtic spirituality, including his best known titles Listening for the Heartbeat of God and his poetic book of prayer Sounds of the Eternal. Canadian by birth, he lives in Edinburgh with his family where he undertook his doctoral research in Celtic Christianity. Since then he has played a leading role on both sides of the Atlantic in the re-birthing of a creation spirituality for today. Sounds of the Eternal: Meditative Chants & Prayers Chanting is an ancient meditative practice in all of the great spiritual traditions of the world. To chant is to shift our focus from the surface of life towards it's centre. It is to be renewed in what is deepest in us, our sacred core. These chants are a new expression of an ageless discipline. They can be used either individually or collectively. And we can choose either to listen to them or to sing them. In chant the intention is to hear the words sounding within ourselves. The simple repetition of a phrase is designed to free us from distracting thought and to call us back to the present. For at the heart of the present and at the heart of all life is the divine. The prayers and chants of this recording are based on the words and themes of Sounds of the Eternal: Morning and Night Prayer, a book in which J. Philip Newell tries to give expression to the common ground between spiritual traditions. If there is to be any hope for the healing of the nations we need to recover an awareness of our shared origins as people and as creatures. We come from the same soil. We are sacred, not because we are Christian or Jewish or Muslim. We are sacred because we have been born. As Meister Eckhart the 14th-century mystic says, 'The soul is naked of all things that bear names'. The heart of our being cannot be contained by the definitions and boundaries of religious tradition or national identity. In meditative chant we move towards the place of unity that is deeper than differences. All of these chants were recorded at The Cathedral of The Isles on Cumbrae in the Western Isles of Scotland. It was a wild wintry weekend. The storm blowing in off the Atlantic buffeted the Cathedral, sometimes rattling the slates of the roof. So the untameable winds of the sea can occasionally be heard in the recording. Perhaps there was little choice, but it also seemed right to include the wildness of creation. So many of our religious practices have become cut off from the elemental. One of the great yearnings in the hearts of many people today is to reconnect our spirituality with the undomesticated energies of the earth. And there is something of this in the music that has been recorded here. While there is a structure and order to the chant notation, most of the time the musicians are improvising, following the uncharted path of the Spirit. J. Philip Newell writes about this work, 'It has been a great delight collaborating with the key players in this project: Linda Larkin, the composer from Santa Fe; Suzanne Adam, the Scottish musical director of the project; Steve Butler, the recording artist from Edinburgh; Don Smith from Oklahoma, who believed in us enough to financially back the recording; and, of course, the musicians themselves, Sandy Butler, Simon Jaquet, Marion Lees McPherson, Ali Newell, and Joel Sanderson. Our hope is that these chants and prayers may contribute in a small way to the new well-being that many of us are looking for in our lives and for the life of the world.'