John O’Donoghue


1955-2008; b. Caherbeanna, nr. Blackhead, County Clare, son of a stone-mason; became a priest and later left; studied philosophy and English; completed a PhD thesis on Hegel from Tübingen Univ.; created convergence philosophy of persons based on existentialism and Celtic folklore; titles incl. Anam Cara (1998), Eternal Echoes (US 2000), Conamara Blues (2001), and Divine Beauty (2004); Benedictus: A Book Of Blessings[2008]; lived in West of Ireland as native speaker; occas. broadcaster on RTE; campaigned against plans for Burren Interpretative Centre; d. 3 Jan. 2008, in his sleep on holiday in S. of France; m. Kristine Fleck.

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Anam Cara: Book of Celtic Wisdom (1998), rep. as Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World (q.d.); Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Yearning to Belong (US 2000), and Do. [rep.] as Exploring Our Hunger to Belong (London: Bantam 2002), 476pp.; Conamara Blues (Bantam 2001), 142pp.; Benedictus: A Book Of Blessings[2008], in USA as To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (NY: Doubleday 2008).

Also a audio-cassette, Wisdom from the Celtic World (1997).

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See obituary by Martin Wroe [online] & copy in RICORSO Library [infra].


For a priest and academic who spent most of his time living in solitude in a remote spot on the west of Ireland, O'Donohue was as startled as anyone else by his success. Not long after he had decided to leave the priesthood - he found himself having "less and less in common with the hierarchy" - his 1997 book on Celtic spirituality, Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World (1997), became a word-of-mouth hit, racing up the bestseller lists.
 For a student of Hegel who had written his PhD in German, O'Donohue found it amusing that pop stars and presidents had his book at their bedside, that Hollywood directors and household name actors sought his counsel. It confirmed his view that there is an intersection between philosophy, poetry and theology which can host an audience increasingly exiled by what he called "the frightened functionaries of institutional religion". As an accomplished poet, he had the literary tools and dazzling vocabulary to speak a language that persuaded you he was right.
  His books, emerging every three or four years, were written in a kind of long-form, prayer style which was impossible to read quickly and did not work for everyone. They were the distinct product of a life often spent in meditation and solitude. Not that he was not a gregarious, fun-loving companion, and mesmerising storyteller in the bar, but that his public presence grew from private silence. One of his great influences, the German mystic Meister Eckhart, [...]

—Obituary by Martin Wroe, in The Guardian (15 Nov. 2008); see full-text version in RICORSO Library, "Reviews" - via index or as attached].

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Celtic spirituality
: ‘Celtic spirituality is emerging as a new constellation in our times [...] For the Celts, the world is always latently and actively spiritual [...] The pagan world and the Christian world have no row with each other in the Irish psyche.’ (Anam Cara; quoted in Edna Longley, Poetry and Posterity, Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 2001, and cited in Elizabeth Lowry, review of same in Times Literary Supplement, 29 June 2001, p.9.)

Beauty: ‘Ontologically, beauty is the secret sound of the deepest thereness of things.’ (Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, Bantam Press 2004; quoted in Fiona Gault, UG Diss., UUC 2009.)

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Websites: there is a a memorial website at See also Anam Cara, a spiritual retreat centre in Scotland at

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