A Tamil Epiphany from John Philip Newell

Probably the English speaking world’s foremost teacher of Celtic Spirituality, John Philip Newell and his wife Ali and four children have devoted themselves to a new vision of reality. Newell’s shared vision resembles Father Bede’s vision and life-long devotion to returning our sacred planet to health and wholeness by assisting in the process of balance – between male and female, creation and creature, God and humanity, and the world’s religions.

John Philip Newell celebrates the sacredness of the universe under the belief that everything that exists is made of God. Newell sees that an essential part of the pathway towards healing in our world is to become more deeply conscious of our brokenness, individually and collectively. Newell teaches that transformation will come in our lives and world to the extent that we choose to bear the cost of transformation. Newell’s practice of spirituality is his belief that meditative discipline and prayer serve the way of transformation.

Born on May 4, 1953 in Ontario, Canada to a Christian pastor who was director of World Vision Canada, Newell was reared in the Newell family ministry. Yet, during his young adulthood John Philip made pilgrimage to India and spent time at Shantivanam. “As a young man I spent time with Bede Griffiths, an English Benedictine monk who lived most of his life in India. In the East, in the wisdom and meditative practices of Hinduism, he found what he called ‘the other half of his soul.’ Like the wise men, he needed to go beyond the boundaries of his homeland, beyond the boundaries of his inherited tradition, in order to see more deeply, more truly. This also was my experience in India at Bede Griffith’s ashram. On the second afternoon of my visit I awoke from a siesta in which the briefest of dreams had come to me. In the dream a beautiful young Indian woman, dressed in a sari, sat on the edge of my bed and leaning over me looked into my face and said, ‘My mother tells me that I have always loved you.’ I awoke amidst floods of tears. Sometimes when truth deeply pierces us we weep. It is as if something has been set free to flow again in our depths.

Some would say that I should have known that I was loved. My religious tradition had told me that. And I had been blessed by a loving family and reared with a strong sense of self-worth. So, some would say that I should have known this. But I didn’t. There was a place deep within me that did not know, and I believe there is such a haunted place in most of us. For me it took a visit to the East. It took a messenger from the unconscious clothed in the garb of India for me to remember, or maybe for me to know truly for the first time in my whole life, what my religious tradition had been trying to teach me, that God is Love. Do you know that you are loved? Do you know it in the heart of your being? This is the truth of epiphany, that you are loved, that you are part of this beautiful Light of God, that you too are called to shine for the healing of the world.”

Fastforward to 2013 and Newell has launched the Praying for Peace Initiative in New Mexico to nurture greater relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and in 2011 co-founded Salva Terra: A Vision Towards Earth’s Healing www.salvaterravision.org. The Bede Griffiths Trust extends our deepest gratitude to John Philip for sharing his vision that came in a dreamtime awakening so many years and miles away from Scotland, Canada, and USA where Newell leads most of his retreats, workshops and pilgrimages today.