Aisling Árann is a 'something' that began to happen when a group of idealistic people came to live on Inis Mór, Aran Islands, in 1985. When asked what was going on there, people might have answered in any of the following ways:
"It's a dream that a group of people have to live a life inspired by the Celtic monks"
"It's a project to create a lifestyle that rejects consumerism and globalisation and roots itself locally"
"It's a focus for alternative types, intellectual radicals and spiritual practitioners who want to change the world"
"It's a place to hang out, reorientate yourself, recover, learn and find out what you really want to do with your life"
"It's an organisation set up by people who want to create a spiritual and cultural centre on Inis Mór"
Aisling Árann is all of these things and more. When we considered these very diverse ways of describing ourselves, we felt that if we ever lost any of these aspects of ourselves, we would be the poorer for it. Fortunately, at the time, we had a Jungian analyst in our midst who gave us a tool for understanding ourselves. The resulting series of articles entitled 'The Four Ways Plus' is an attempt to describe ourselves and what we do as accurately as we can.
Understanding Aisling Árann
by Dara Molloy
If you try to put all the numbers there are, 1,2,3,4,5,6..., into a box, you will fail. Just when you have them all in and are about to close the box, you will find another number! Aisling Árann is a bit like that. Its logo is a spiral, and a spiral opens out into infinity, just like the natural numbers. Aisling Árann cannot be boxed or defined. Nor can it, therefore, be controlled! Nonetheless, it would be nice if we could have more clarity about what it is and is not. The problem is that it means different things to different people! Some associate Aisling Árann with a group of people living on Aran. But members of this group say they are not Aisling Árann, as such - that Aisling Árann is a much wider network of people from all over. Now, if we say that Aisling Árann is a network, then we are suggesting that it is like a web with no centre, no organisational structure, and no hierarchy of authority. In a network, everybody is equal, and everybody is a centre of power and light. Aisling Árann Teoranta is a legally registered company. It has articles of association, directors, and financial accounts. It has money and property. Whatever about being a network, Aisling Árann is definitely an organisation. So now we have Aisling Árann as a network and an organisation. Is it anything else? Yes! The subtitle given to Aisling Árann when it was first set up was "The Aran Project". Aisling Árann is a project. As a project, it has clear aims and objectives. Finally, we can say that Aisling Árann is a vision or dream. It is the vision or dream that brought people together on Inis Mór, to live a life rooted in the Celtic, in right relationship, and working for transformation. These four ways of looking at Aisling Árann can lead to confusion, or to insight. I prefer the latter! It so happens that the four ways of seeing Aisling Árann match the four functions of the human psyche, as named by Carl Jung. Jung identifies four essential types of people. Each type views the world from a different perspective. These perspectives are:
Each of us have all of these functions within us, but they are juxtaposed differently. Some people are strong on sensation, weak on intuition. Others live in their heads (thinking) but are very low on feeling.
Sensation: People with a dominant sensate function want
- clear direction
- a hierarchy of command
- solid commitment
- clearcut boundaries
- tight organisation.
Intuition: People with the intuitive function dominant are conscious of transcendance. They believe
- in the spiritual
- in sixth sense
- that the vision will transform
- that behind everything lies a greater power
Thinking: People with a dominant thinking function
- are interested in ideas
- tend to be intellectual
- want something to be involved in, something to do
- want to create something new together
- are interested in the product more than the process
Feeling: People with a dominant feeling function
- want to be in right relationship
- are into solidarity and support groups
- see people in terms of relationships
- respond to ideas and events through their feelings
- see relationships as coming first.
Aisling Árann is a balance between all of these and more besides. Its symbol is the spiral, opening out into ever wider regions, never quite defined. Each of us will tend to view Aisling Árann from whatever our own dominant perspective is. Each perspective has its own image of what Aisling Árann is or should be:
SENSATE people's primary desire is for a structured organisation.
Aisling Árann is an organisation, a registered company, with fixed aims and articles of association. Its rules require an annual general meeting, elections of directors and officers, and audited accounts. Authority is hierarchical.
INTUITIVE people's primary desire is for the living out of a vision or dream.
In Aisling Árann the "Aisling" is what is important. 'Aisling' means 'vision' or 'dream'. This is lived from the inside out. No structures, committees, meetings, or organisations are needed. Attempts to centrally organise are a threat to personal and household sovereignty. Nobody can own other people's "aisling" or interpret it for them. Aisling Árann is made up of individuals and households who each try to live their own vision. They are independent and sovereign, but may choose to be friends and allies.
THINKING people primarily want a project to get their teeth into.
Aisling Árann is an exciting project, within which all sorts of other projects and experiments can and do take place ... living an alternative lifestyle, running Killeany Lodge, publishing, growing a garden, building ecological buildings, rearing children without school, and so on. Each project can be independent, run by the people who have the energy for it, using structures that suit.
FEELING people like to have a network through which they can relate.
Aisling Árann is a network of people, not just on Aran but nationwide, and even worldwide. These people have elements of their personal vision in common. By being in touch, they give support and encouragement to one another. In the network there is no focus or centre point, and certainly no hierarchy of authority or organisation. The network operates through communication and visitation. It is based on friendship.
These are four very different views of Aisling Árann, all equally legitimate but not easily reconcilable. Just as the four functions sensation, intuition, thinking and feeling operate in each person to varying degrees, so too in Aisling Árann. But in Aisling Árann the four perspectives must be allowed equal weight so that a balance is created. It would not be right for Aisling Árann, made up of many different people, to have one dominant function.
What would happen to Aisling Árann if one of these functions became dominant?
Sensation: Aisling Árann becomes institutionalised. Authority and control become hierarchical. Members lifestyles are regulated by an elected commitee. The Pilgrim Constitution becomes the law. Membership is strict, and clearcut rules are attached. Each member knows his or her place, and is clear about what he or she has to do.
Intuition: Aisling Árann moves nearer to being New Age. It becomes a haven for dreamers and mystics, psychics and visionaries, miracle healers and doomsday prophets. Strange things begin to happen - people who visit enter into a psychic world of heightened consciousness.
Thinking: Members of Aisling Árann begin to do rather than to be. Projects take over people's lives, damaging relationships, and losing sight of the wood for the trees. People get caught into manic action, losing natural rhythms, narrowly focussing on specific goals while being blind to the wider realities. People suffer from burn-out, and experience the sense of something missing in their lives. The projects thrive, but at enormous cost. Often the cost is people selling out their souls.
Feeling: Aisling Árann recedes into being little more than groups of the like-minded writing to each other occasionally, and getting together as friends once in a while. Those who once lived together break up into factions as they cannot get along. Meetings become a thing of the past, though there may be parties. Competition increases and cooperation decreases.
A healthy Aisling Árann will keep all of these functions in balance.
At present there is room for people who operate out of each perspective:
- Aisling Árann, the organisation, caters for those whose main interest is in being a member of something with an opportunity to be elected or to serve on a committee and in that way be involved.
- The practice of hospitality, especially in Killeany Lodge and An Charraig, allows for networking to take place.
- Many projects like Killeany Lodge, organic gardening, building and refurbishment, publishing, craftwork and activities related to the traditional culture, rituals and ceremonies, give opportunities for people to get involved in areas of special interest and to play their part.
- The continuous rewriting of the Pilgrim Constitution, the various paper and social media publications, and this web site, give encouragement to people to live their own dreams, and to trust in their intuitions.
Two clarifications may help to illustrate how people can choose to be involved in Aisling Árann in many different ways, either inside or outside authority structures.The first clarification is that being involved in the organisation, Aisling Árann, is only one way of being involved. The organisation represents one quarter of the nameable part of Aisling Árann. There are other structures and projects within Aisling Árann that allow for participation in other ways.The second clarification is that Aisling Árann, the organisation, has an authority structure which is not negotiable. This structure is hierarchical, that is, authority is vested in elected directors. This structure was established when the organisation was registered as a company. It cannot be changed without dissolving the company and setting it up as something else. The organisation is required by law to hold an AGM each year and to have elections according to clear rules. Within this structure, however, there is some room for manouvre. In conclusion, then, while it is not possible to substantially change the hierarchical structure of the organisation Aisling Árann, it is possible to be involved in Aisling Árann in ways other than through the organisation - through living the dream oneself, through networking and finding allies, and through common projects which may involve very different structures of authority and participation.
THE ORGANISATION Aisling Árann, the organisation, is a registered company. To distinguish it from Aisling Árann as a Network, as a Vision or as a Project in this article we will refer to it as Aisling Árann Teoranta.
Aisling Árann Teoranta was incorporated as AISLING ARANN (THE ARAN PROJECT) on May 15th 1987. By licence of the Minister for Industry and Commerce the word "Limited" or "Teoranta" was omitted. Its registered number is 122032. Aisling Árann Teoranta has charitable status for tax purposes and does not pay corporation tax. The structure of the company is a standard model - limited by guarantee and not having a share capital. It has a Memorandum and Articles of Association drawn up by solicitor Niall O'Hagan of Donal O'Hagan & Co. Dundalk. The Memorandum contains a major part of the initial version of the Pilgrim Constitution. The rest is standard material with customised adjustments and inserts. Registration as a company legally binds Aisling Árann Teoranta in a number of ways. Among its legal obligations are the following:
- Registered Office: The Company must have a registered office. In this office are meant to be: the Register of Members, the Company Seal, the Financial Account Books and the Company's Minutes Book.
- Annual General Meeting: Each year the Company is required to have an Annual General Meeting. At this meeting ordinary business includes the consideration of the accounts, balance sheets, the reports of the Board of Directors and Auditors, the election of Directors in the place of those retiring, the re-appointment of the retiring Auditors and the fixing of the remuneration of the Auditors. All other business is special and requires twenty-one days notice in writing to members outlining the general nature of the business.
- Board of Directors: There can be from three to twenty Directors on the Board. They are elected by registered members each of whom has one vote. Each year one third retire and are eligible for re-election.
- Membership: the Board of Directors controls admittance to membership according to the rules of the company. These rules include adherence to the Memorandum of Association and the payment of an annual membership fee.
- Accounts: Proper books of accounts must be kept, audited annually and presented to each Annual General Meeting for acceptance.
The history of Aisling Árann Teoranta The decision to form a company with the name Aisling Árann Teoranta (The Aran Project) was made at a meeting on Inismór on the Halloween weekend of 1986. About twenty-five people attended. The company was formed in particular so that The Lodge in Killeany could be purchased and developed. It was also to facilitate fund-raising and the furtherance of our objectives more generally. Since then Aisling Árann Teoranta has been used to purchase and develop Killeany Lodge. As a voluntary organisation with charitable status it has been able to fund-raise, to apply for grants, and to operate government funded employment schemes. It has also received charitable status with the Bank of Ireland which has meant significant concessions on its accounts. Aisling Árann Teoranta has also developed an office and purchased a wide range of equipment.
It has full ownership of Killeany Lodge on an acre of land, but does not own anything else.
THE WAY FORWARD The following are possibilites and concrete proposals for a way forward for Aisling Árann Teoranta. These should be considered along with other proposals.
- Aisling Árann Teoranta is primarily a facility. Despite having a structure which is hierarchical, with elected directors, it was never envisaged that the project on Aran would operate from top down. Aisling Árann Teoranta is a facility to allow us as a group to own property, to deal with government bodies and other agencies, and to present a clear identity when necessary. It may also be useful to us in other respects for the promotion of our own dreams.
- The Aisling Arann directors have no mandate to speak on behalf of anybody other than the paid-up members and then only when specifically asked to do so. They do not have the right to tell people how to live their personal lives.
- Taking the principle that Aisling Árann Teoranta is primarily a facility, the role and powers of the directors are the following:
- to be responsible for the legal obligations of Aisling Árann Teoranta and to keep its affairs in order.
- to control the use of the name Aisling Árann, e.g. on headed notepaper, bank accounts, dealings with government bodies, agencies, the media, etc.
- to make the facilites of Aisling Árann Teoranta available to the wider Aisling network, and to exercise control and take responsibility over the way those facilities are used. (The facilities of Aisling Árann Teoranta at present include: registered name, charitable status, bank accounts, notepaper, company seal, office, property and equipment.)
- to do work specifically mandated at an AGM and to be accountable for that work at the following AGM.
- The principle of subsidiarity is a guiding principle for Aisling Árann Teoranta. This principle applies in a hierarchical power structure to effectively resist the tendency to accumulate power at the top. The principle of subsidiarity is that decisions be made at the lowest efficient level. The application of this principle has two implications for Aisling Árann Teoranta.
- In the case of a "top-down" initiative, mandated by an AGM (or EGM), the directors must work to release power to people involved in the action. This may mean that in the end Aisling Árann Teoranta is only nominally involved in what it originally initiated.
- In the case of a "bottom-up" initiative, e.g. one which begins with an individual or a grassroots group who wish to use the Aisling Árann name or other facilities, decision-making in all matters, except what clearly pertains to company facilities, remains at the base. Clarity is best obtained in these cases by a written agreement.
- Membership. Aisling Árann Teoranta is required to have a register of members which is updated annually. Until now the concept of membership has never been clear, as we operated out of a spiral model which, although it had levels, had no clear moment of entry. While the spiral model applies to the wider Aisling network it does not fit the legal structure of Aisling Árann Teoranta.
- People who feel they are part of the spiral network of the Aisling may nonetheless not want to be involved in Aisling Árann Teoranta. There are other ways to be involved. Membership of Aisling Árann Teoranta is for people who specifically want to be involved in the responsibilities and administration of the legal company structure.
Involvement Within Aisling Arann
The Second Way
Summary: Aisling Árann is not one simple structure. It is more like a living organism. In our experience of Aisling Árann we have isolated four aspects or functions Organisation, Network, Project, Vision similar to the four functions of the psyche identified by Jung Sensation, Feeling, Thinking, Intuition (respectively). A network has no centre and a minimal structure. Each member of a network can think of itself as at the centre of the network. All members are equal and on the one level. There is no hierarchy in a network.
The keywords within a NETWORK
are relationship and communication.
The keywords within an ORGANISATION
are accountability and responsibility.
The keywords within a PROJECT
are initiative and ideas.
The keywords within a VISION
are intuition and passion.
A network is made up of individuals or of groups or a mix of both. People join the network by developing relationships with people already in the network. Through these relationships they meet others and so, over time, they become more and more connected. For as long as they continue to work at these relationships they will remain in the network.The type of work required for networking is all to do with:
- right relationship
- good communication.
Right relationship means striking the right balance between being too close and being too distant. For each combination of people this balance point will be different. Finding and maintaining the balance point in a relationsip will produce good fruit, not just for the participants, but for many more around.
Good communication requires both good channels of communication and good content. The medium and the message must be both good. In terms of networking, good media for communication are:
- a personal visit
- a letter
- an e-mail
- a phone-call
- other social media
- working together
- celebrating together
- attending something together
- holidaying together.
Good content of communication requires the cultivation of such virtues as honesty, truthfulness, generosity, gentleness, forgiveness, kindness, hospitality, loyalty. Aisling Árann as a network is an attempt to describe a wide variety of connections to indiviuals, couples, families and groups from the perspective of Aran. Of course, each person in the network will want to see it from their own perspective and will describe a network centred on themselves. The Aisling Árann Network is a view of all the inter-relationships and inter-communications that are in some way connected with An Charraig, Killeany Lodge and the vision first enunciated on Aran in 1986.
Building The Network: While the possibilities for networking were there from the beginning on Aran, very concrete steps have been taken in the meantime to make it a reality. The following tools have been used:
- Hospitality: Making it easy for people to drop in, to visit, to stay a while, to find suitable accommodation. Facilitating people and making them welcome.
- Correspondence: Writing and responding with e-mails, text messages, other social media, and letters is a significant aspect of life on the island.
- The Magazine and other publications: The AISLING Magazine and the other publications hav broadened the network, creating good contact with a wide variety of writers, artists and poets and ferretting out interested people all over the world.
- Events: Gatherings of various kinds are all ways of encouraging more contact and closer friendships.
- Personal visits: While Aran is and always has been a focus for visitors, visiting also happens in the other direction, with people from Aran taking time out to visit their friends off the island.
The Spiral Logo
The logo for Aisling Árann is a Celtic Spiral with a fish in the middle. This symbol best fits the notion of a network.The spiral implies:
- various levels of participation and involvement
- open entry and exit, i.e. no rules of admission or departure
- the possibility of movement throughout
- limitless extension
A person within the network could see themselves in there somewhere - perhaps on the move. Nonetheless, the spiral has a focal point. This is the perspective from which the network is being viewed.The fish in the centre can represent the Salmon of Knowledge, that elusive fish in Irish mythology which contained all the wisdom of the world. In Christian times, the Salmon of Knowledge was identified as the Christ.
If one sees the spiral as a simplified version of a labyrinth, then it can symbolise the journey of life that is a constant to-ing and fro-ing between a journey to the centre and a journey out into the world. This article is a reflection on something that is essentially organic and happens from the inside out. Having recognised and named the life that we find among us, we now cultivate it. The above are cultivation notes.
The Third Way
Summary: Aisling Árann is not one simple structure. It is more like a living organism. In our experience of Aisling Árann we have isolated four aspects or functions Organisation, Network, Project, Vision similar to the four finctions of the psyche identified by Jung Sensation, Feeling, Thinking, Intuition (respectively). This is the third article in a series of four.
AISLING ARANN AS A PROJECT OF PROJECTS
Aisling Árann began as The Aran Project, but people at the first AGM did not like the name. At that AGM in 1986, the name Aisling Árann was coined and The Aran Project was kept to be put in brackets as its English version. But in fact the two names have a completely different ring to them. Aisling Árann suggests an inspirational dream that is full of idealism and high hopes. The Aran Project sounds like something very concrete, something that is happening on the ground and is visibly taking place.
The idea of a project suits certain people - perhaps the 'thinking' types in Carl Jung's terminology. These people want to be involved in something. They want something to do. They are often intellectuals as distinct from dreamers. They have ideas and they like to see them materialising in concrete projects. They want to see results.
But Aisling Árann is not just a collection of individual projects. It is a project of projects in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As an all-encompassing project, Aisling Árann is very ambitious. Its objective is to work to create a transformed church(spiritual community) and a transformed society based on right relationship. This sounds more like a dream or "aisling" than a project. However, the objective is to create this first on the island of Inis Mór. That is, to create on Inis Mór, among those who choose to live there and participate, a possible model of what a transformed spiritual community and a transformed society would look like if it was based on right relationship and rooted in Celtic tradition.
A PILOT PROJECT
The Aran Project is a pilot project. If it works it might spread. Community is created through achieving right relationship and on this principle structures of worship, of decision-making, of child-rearing, of work, of recreation and so on develop. These are the beginnings of the transformed church and the transformed society. That is the project. In order to be involved in this project directly, people must live on Aran. Indirectly, people can be involved in lots of ways.
THE AISLING AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The Aran Project is a bit like the Kingdom of God as referred to by Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus announced the coming of the Kingdom - the reign of God. In the "Our Father" he taught people to pray "Thy Kingdom come". And yet at other times he said: "The Kingdom is already among you". While the project to transform church and society is a massive one, on the other hand, if even a small group of people have experienced and are living this transformation, then it has already happened. The Kingdom of God, as Jesus said, is like a mustard seed very small at first but grows to be a huge tree. If even the seed is around and is alive and ready to germinate, then the full formula is already in place and we can say that the Kingdom or Aisling is already among us. In gardening terms, the Aran project is a plan to plant the seed of the Aisling on Aran and to care for it as it grows so that it is nourished and watered and protected.
It will become what it is meant to become, if those who are its guardians do their job right, and it then in turn will produce its own seed for spreading elsewhere. Happily, there is a precedent on Aran for this project. St. Enda had something similar in mind when he founded monasticism on the island in 485 CE. Ára na Naoimh, the Aran of the Saints, became a place from which Celtic monasticism in Ireland was seeded. The Irish monastic movement did indeed bring about transformation in both church and society, and was a movement based on community. So, just as Tim Severin attempted and succeeded in repeating the journeys of St. Brendan by sailing to Iceland and America in a small canvas boat, so Aisling Árann attempts to repeat the achievement of St. Enda.
A MULTITUDE OF SMALLER PROJECTS
Within The Aran Project are a multitude of smaller projects that go to make it up. To make the big thing happen, we must deal with all the little things. These myriad little projects are outlined in the Pilgrim Constitution. Perhaps some of them are not so little! They include projects like growing our own food, reviving local crafts, promoting knowledge of our folklore and Celtic tradtions, finding local sources of alternative energy, creating new patterns of ritual and ceremony drawing on the Irish and Celtic tradition, reviving the monastic model of spiritual community and so on.
Historically, these projects have come on-stream organically. For example, once people came to live in Inis Mór in 1985 it was possible to begin growing food. Craft work also began almost immediately because from the beginning there were people interested and talented in it. Killeany Lodge began as a project in 1986 when it became obvious that accommodation for guests, meetings, workshops, group ritual and ceremony and so on was going to be required.
Since then, people have come with their own personal projects. One person came to be a hermit, another came to gather the folklore, another came to do organic gardening. Some perhaps were less clear they came to find direction in their lives or to be healed or to look for support. But all of them contributed to the achievement of the overall vision and their personal projects found acceptance in the context of the broader project.
The newsletter "An Charraig" began as an ongoing project in 1986. It was superceded by The AISLING Magazine in 1991. Along with The AISLING Magazine came all the printing and publishing equipment which made possible the publication of many other things. For a time, the island newsletter Nuachtán Árann was being edited and published from An Charraig. New projects have and are emerging out of this facility all the time.
Since the purchase of Killeany Lodge in 1987 there have been continuous building projects going on. In 2003, an ecological architect was commissioned to draw up new plans for the refurbishment and extension of Killeany Lodge. The resulting plan is hugely exciting but massively expensive. How we can proceed has yet to be manifested. In the meantime, smaller refurbishment jobs continue to be done to the building and its standard of accommodation continues to rise.
The building of the new An Charraig was begun in 1992, and in 2013 there are still building projects being carried on there. In 2004, work began on building an extension to the family house. In 2011, the original structure was knocked and work began on replacing it.
In 1994, Aisling Árann was involved in organising a 6-month full-time organic growing course on Inis Mór. This led to a number of growers producing organic vegetables for the local market. In 2004, this project was expanded and renewed, under the aegis of Comharchumann Forbartha Árann but with An Charraig as coordinator. This renewed project involves the training of local people to grow their own food and to produce for the market. The number of plastic tunnels on the island grew to at least ten. Restaurants on the island are being provided with organic island produce, and locals are able to buy directly from the producers.
And so it goes on. One project leads to another or prepares the way for another. Each project operates like a building block - slowly the overall structure is growing and becoming more visible.
NO CENTRAL CONTROL
Projects require organisation but each project must find the structure of organisation that suits itself. The recognition that households of one or more people are sovereign units within the network has allowed initiatives to develop from within a household without any manipulation from outside or above. Those who belong to other households are there to lend support or to offer a challenge but have no right of interference. In this way, no one person or small group can ever take hold of the overall project but must trust that the spirit will work among all equally and that the whole will be greater than the sum of all the parts.The idea that the overall project should not be coordinated by a central person or group of people may appear foolhardy. However, it is not that no structure at all should exist for central coordination, but only that the structure should not be a hierarchical centrist one. In fact, structures have developed and are continuing to develop to coordinate all these projects.
For example, at an informal level people learn from one another and get ideas from one another. As knowledge is gained in one area it is shared so that others also learn. Equipment also is shared and people often work together or help out in the various projects. This interchange creates a dynamic which acts as a balancing mechanism between projects.
At a more formal level, people regularly come together for meditation, ritual, yoga, discussions, workshops and celebrations. These regular gatherings facilitate a sense of community, sharpen people's consciousness of the deeper and wider meaning of what they are at, and affirm each individual and household in their identity in relation to the whole. These events can be organised by any person, household or group who so wish. They are not centrally organised.
BOTTOM UP PROJECTS
Finally, there is a clear distinction between "bottom up" projects and "top down" projects. "Bottom up" projects are taken on by individuals, households or groups on their own initiative. They are quite entitled to begin anything they wish to begin without any mandate from anywhere outside of themselves. Others may choose to support and challenge them as they see fit, but they are not entitled to interfere. A "bottom up" project however may seek support from Aisling Árann Teoranta or some body within the network. In this case, the lines of demarcation must be clearly drawn, preferably in writing, so that the support body is not given, or does not take, more power or control than is its due. For example, a "bottom-up" initiative might require the use of Killeany Lodge. The Lodge management team must be consulted and give the go-ahead and may make certain conditions. However, within these conditions the impetus for the project should remain with the initiators.
TOP DOWN PROJECTS
"Top down" projects are of a different nature to "bottom up" projects. These are projects initiated by Aisling Árann Teoranta. They emerge through Annual General Meetings of the paid-up members and will be set in motion by the elected directors. Killeany Lodge itself is an example of such a "top-down" project. The directors may delegate authority to some other people and should do so following the principle of subsidiarity. However, ultimate authority for a "top-down" project rests with the directors and paid-up members, unless at some stage they choose to let go of it and set the project free as an independent entity.
A "bottom up" project cannot formally proclaim itself to be Aisling Árann without the express permission of the directors. However, this does not mean that the directors have ultimate control. Their control is only over the use of the name for public purposes. For example, a "bottom up" project may require a grant from a State agency. If the application were to come through Aisling Árann, it might have a better chance of success. The directors' role is to assess the project in terms of the laid out aims and objectives of Aisling Árann Teoranta (which is more or less what is in the Pilgrim Constitution) and if it is in line with these to grant the permission.
Aisling Árann as a project is an attractive concept for people with ideas and initiative. The project offers a broad canvas on which people can paint their own colours and shapes in their own space. Enhanced satisfaction can be gained from knowing that you are not working alone but that your particular project is contributing to the overall project in which everyone is involved and which is to the benefit of everybody. People who are into projects of a personal or communal nature are essential for the growth and health of Aisling Árann. Nonetheless, they in their turn will benefit from having around them people of vision, people with organisational skills and people who are good with people. Only when the four functions of Aisling Árann come together organisation, network, project, vision do we have the whole picture. Thankfully, they have, and we do.
The Fourth Way
Summary: Aisling Árann is not one simple structure. It is more like a living organism that has been growing and becoming individuated. In our experience of Aisling Árann we have isolated four aspects or functions Organisation, Network, Project, and Vision. These functions parallel the four functions of the psyche discovered by C.G. Jung Sensation, Feeling, Thinking, and Intuition (respectively). This is the final article in a series.
AISLING ÁRANN AS A VISION OR DREAM
The vision or dream, which we call the Aisling, is expressed in one of many ways through the Pilgrim Constitution. This is a short document which tries to express succinctly the essence of the vision which we share.
When we were first writing it, we were afraid that the things we wrote would get set in concrete. We did not want this. We are pilgrims journeying together and discovering as we go. The horizon is always changing as it moves forward with us. And so the Pilgrim Constitution travels with us. It is constantly being rewritten. It will never have a final form. Below is its present form.
Aisling Árann (The Aran Project)
Version February 2013.
Aisling Árann is a spiral network of people who share a common vision or Aisling. The Aisling is of a transformed church (spiritual community) and a transformed society based on right relationship. A group of people who share this vision have settled on Inis Mór, Aran Islands. These people, with the help of others in the network, are working on a project to give expression to the Aisling on Inis Mór. Living in various independent households, they make visible the Aisling by their lifestyle and their work. The common Aisling draws households together in friendship and mutual support. This in turn makes visible the possibilities for realising the Aisling wherever one chooses to live and provides a focus for mutual support and inspiration.
The people of the Aisling are rooted in Celtic spirituality and culture. They seek right relationship with the divine, with nature, with others, and with oneself . They work for an awareness of the sacred, respect for nature, just distribution and gender balance. Their lifestyle is spiritual, frugal, simple, hospitable, self-reliant, balanced and whole.
Enda or Éanna came to Aran fifteen hundred years ago in 485 C.E.. On Aran, he and his friends created a way of life which others found exciting and inspirational. In a short time, many settlements developed across the island and people began to visit from far and near. At the heart of this experiment was a desire to give clear expression to shared spiritual values and to do so in a creative way, drawing on the Irish cultural and spiritual tradition. The result was the beginning of the Celtic Christian church in Ireland, an indigenous church that was monastic or community based. Historically, Enda is classed as the patriarch of Irish monasticism.
On an island only nine miles in length, the stone remains of over ten monastic settlements, lived in for more than a thousand years, are still to be seen. Many of the most well-known founders of Irish spiritual communities are known to have spent time there. These saints included Colmcille of Iona, Ciarán of Clonmacnoise, Finian of Clonard, Jarlath of Tuam, Surnaí of Galway Bay, Colman of Cill MacDuagh and Brendan the Navigator.
The growth of the Celtic church in Ireland was a transformational process that led both church and society to its finest hour Ireland’s golden age. In this age, through the influence of spiritually based communities of both lay and cleric, people found the inspiration, the space and the support to extend themselves to extraordinary degrees. Remarkable results were achieved across a broad spectrum sanctity, leadership, scholarship, arts, crafts and travel. These accomplishments remain remarkable even today, over a thousand years later.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the Celtic church was its influence on Europe. History shows that, from the 6th to the 12th century, Celtic spiritual communities played a central role in the rebuilding of Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. It was the Celtic monks who laid the foundations across Europe for modern Western civilisation.
This glorious history of the Celtic church, and the role of Enda and of Inis Mór as a seed-bed within it, is the backdrop and inspiration behind Aisling Árann.
The AISLING Vision
The essence of the AISLING vision is contained in the phrases:
- Rooted in the Celtic
- Living in Right Relationship
- Working for Transformation
Those who live by this vision do so in a creative and personal way, giving it their own unique expression and emphasis.
Aim The prime aim of Aisling Árann is that people will give expression to the Aisling vision on Inis Mór. These people will be identifiable by the way they live their lives, by their work and by their professed values and beliefs. Through this will grow a sense of belonging and identity, an experience of community. Essential to the vision is a process of integration with the local people and culture.
The practical objectives of Aisling Árann are:
- the nurturing of a lifestyle that is simple and frugal, hospitable, spiritual, whole, just and balanced. At the heart of this lifestyle will be the achievement of right relationships with ourselves, with each other, with living things, with the cosmos, and with the divine.
- the creation of social structures that reflect Irish traditional values such as friendship, service, participation and sharing, and that give the most vulnerable support, protection and healing.
- the study of Irish spirituality, culture and language in such a way as to bring into the present day anything that is of value from the past and to live it.
- the creation of a new theology/mythology that weaves strands of Celtic mythology and Christian theology into a new mythology suited for people today.
- the creation of new forms of worship, ceremonial and ritual relevant to people of today that connect with the Celtic spiritual tradition and develop it.
- the creation of a wide network, nationally and internationally, of people whose vision, lifestyle, or work overlaps with that of Aisling Árann, maintaining this network through mutual communication and support.
- the promotion of relevant learning and personal development for all, including and especially, the children.
- the revival, maintenance and development of arts and crafts traditional to Ireland and especially to Inis Mór.
- the practice of organic and permacultural farming and its promotion.
- the obtaining of food locally, from land, sea and shore while respecting the ecological balance.
- the generation of usable energy from renewable sources e.g. sun, wind, water and biomass.
Tackling Global Issues - Lifestyle: Participants (cf. note 2) choose to live a lifestyle that resists a consumerist mentality and materialist values. In this way, they oppose and offer an alternative to the gross destruction of nature and the oppression of people for purposes of western 'development' and economic growth.
Wealth and Poverty: Participants work to understand world structures and the reasons for the ever-widening richpoor divide. They seek to find ways to bring about limitation, fairer distribution, communal ownership and proper use of material wealth, beginning on Inis Mór.
Local Autonomy: Participants work to reclaim power for themselves and the local community. They do this by marginalising the influence of the macro-economy and other national or multinational institutions, through self-reliance, barter and local currency, and by encouraging participative democracy and the structures that support this. Applying the principle of subsidiarity, decision-making is kept as near to the base as possible.
Globalisation: Participants oppose the negative forces of globalisation which
- rob people of their local culture, lifestyle and traditions
- force people to leave the countryside and to live in large towns and cities
- replace local economies with a global economy
- impose global products in place of local products
- enslave people economically to transnational bodies
- remove much of everyday life from personal or democratic control
- put control in the hands of corporations that put profit before people
- change the way people live and turn the world into a monoculture
Religious Globalisation: Participants recognise that the promotion of global institutions began historically with certain religions. Today, the global promotion of the institutions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism offer, in some cases, a more serious threat than that of the secular corporations. In this situation, participants make a distinction between the practice of a spiritual tradition, which people freely choose to take on, and the imposition of an institutionalised tradition which takes away people's freedom to choose.
Unemployment: Participants attempt to create structures for work that allow all to participate in a constructive and productive way in the local economy and to find their right place in it. Principles include:- respect for each person’s calling/aptitudes/interests; facilitation of each individual's giftedness; and a basic minimum income for everyone.
Diminishing Non-Renewable Materials: Fossil-fuels and other non-renewable materials are used sparingly. Long-distance travel and transportation is avoided where feasible. Renewable materials, obtained locally, are the preferred option. Waste is minimised or avoided by good maintenance, sharing, recycling, composting, simplifying or doing without.
Alienation: Participants work to restore a sense of identity, individual and communal, among people. They do this by creating conscious links with one’s history, personal and communal; by recognising and promoting each individual’s role as part of a community; and by seeking to work together towards a better future for all.
War, the Armaments Industry, Terrorism and the Nuclear Threat: Participants work for peace with justice through non-violent means. They oppose violence and the threat of violence. They promote dialogue among opposing forces, and search for ways of reducing fear and distrust. They start among themselves, working to resolve local disputes and find ways of living together peaceably. They will sometimes use non-violent actions, including civil disobedience, to make their point in particularly serious cases.
Technology: Technology can hardly be avoided. It includes the wheel and the pen. However, modern technology has significant new and sinister dimensions. It can be used to manipulate and control the lives of people. In its manufacture and use it may cause abuse to animals, damage or destruction to nature, or waste non-renewable materials. Unjust means can be used in its production, including the abuse of people and even children. It can be used obsequiously to create or promote injustice in trade. Participants are cautious therefore in their use of modern technology and try to be conscious of what they are implicitly supporting through it. Their preferred option, where technology is necessary, is a ‘soft’ technology which is appropriate to a simple, convivial and spiritual lifestyle.
Masculine / Feminine Balance: Participants of both sexes work to incorporate the feminine dimension into a grossly distorted masculine world. The masculine emphasis on rational thought, on specialisation, and on material productivity has devalued the more feminine emphasis on right relationship, nurturing and intuition. The imbalance is at every level of society, from the human psyche to structures of church and state. Participants seek to achieve masculine / feminine balance within their own relationships, in domestic structures, work structures, decision-making structures and in worship and ritual. They also work for the redress of this balance at national and global level, within church and state.
Oppression: People are particularly vulnerable to oppression and exploitation when they are dependent or lack awareness. Participants work to develop conscious and critical awareness among themselves and others. The process ranges from personal awareness one’s psychological processes, behaviour patterns and available choices to awareness of the influence of systems, structures and dominant attitudes and values within society and church on personal and interpersonal behaviour. Participants promote personal and local empowerment, and challenge thought-patterns and structures that promote injustice, oppression and domination.
Tackling National Issues in Ireland
The Celtic Church: The Celtic church, which flourished in Ireland in the early Christian centuries, offers a model and an inspiration for the transformation of church and society today. Its rich store of spirituality and culture is a treasure underused in contemporary Ireland. Connections back into this heritage have been damaged by centuries of religious and political oppression. The contemporary Irish churches do not reflect this heritage. Historically, they have opposed and oppressed it. Over the centuries the Irish spiritual tradition has been latinised and Europeanised, so that the indigenous church, with its authentically Irish expression, has been suffocated. Participants seek an indigenous church (or expression of spiritual community), where beliefs and practices that come from outside the country are thoroughly inculturated into the Irish tradition. They seek a church that, in essence, is a local spiritual community, linked to others by sharing the same spiritual tradition. It is a church that is locally controlled, without a hierarchy and is not institutionalised.
The Northern Conflict: While the Northern conflict in Ireland has been resolved politically, a lot of work remains to be done to reconcile both communities on the ground. Participants see the resolution of this as a priority. Their approach to the problem is through interpersonal networking, offering hospitality to all, irrespective of creed or politics, and operating out of a spirit of compassion and a desire to understand. Their commitment is to name and confront evil wherever it is found. They offer a spirituality and a tradition that is common to both sides in the conflict.
Emigration and Migration: Forced emigration and migration, like unemployment and alienation, are the result of many forces at work within Ireland and globally. These forces however are neither random, unpredictable, nor uncontrollable. They are mostly caused or effected by political and economic decision-making. Powerful decision-makers have imposed upon Ireland and the western world a multinational, industrial and technological model of society. It is the imposition of this model which forces people to leave their homes and their homeland in search of paid employment. Participants in the Aisling reject this model and propose in its place a model:
- where people are more important than profits
- where home and lifestyle are as important as work
- where being is as important as doing
- where people work where they live, rather than live where they find a job
- This document is a pilgrim constitution because it travels with the authors. It is always open to change and will never have a set form.
- Participants are those who live out a belief in all or part of this vision. The word is used loosely.