Annotated Bibliography of the works of John Moriarty

Book descriptions taken from the Lilliput Press for books they published.

Dreamtime by John Moriarty

Dreamtime. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 1994.

Dreamtime: Revised Edition Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2009.

A Book of Revelations mediated by stories and personal excursions in literature, philosophy and sacred writings, John Moriarty articulates the wisdom of humanity. He draws on cultural landscapes in India, China, Egypt, Australia, the Americas and Europe. The book is now recognized as a classic of spiritual writing. It enlarges our capacity for symbolic understanding in an age of millennial anxiety.

Turtle was gone a long time: volume one

Turtle Was Gone a Long Time. Volume One: Crossing the Kedron. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 1996. [abbreviation Crossing the Kedron]

This first volume of a remarkable trilogy by John Moriarty. The title derives from the diver myth found in Siberia and North America, in particular among the Maidu Indians of California. Diving to the floor of the abyss to find intuitions of the world, the work is a mystical quest, from form to void and back, and enacts one of the central themes of European literature, the journey from Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. In a century in which the human being first set foot on the moon, it attempts ‘to come ashore upon the earth in its perennial first morning’. And just as Homer’s Odyssey underpinned Joyce’s Ulysses, so Turtle is informed by the eschatological journey of the soul as Ancient Egyptians understood it-the post-mortem experience of an underworld, its powers and terrors, yielding to fields of light. The Overture or introduction is a synoptic rehearsal of what follows: three nocturnes in a Tenebrae. ‘Engwura Now’ contains forty poems enlarged by prose commentaries-rites of passage proposing an emergence into instinctive maturity, a New Heroism. In profound dialogue with religions and cultures, it seeks to ‘make them more hospitable to more of what we are’. ‘Tenebrae Now’ is composed of six parables or stories drawn from everyday life in the West of Ireland. They form a pilgrim’s progress towards Good Friday, not as traditionally interpreted but as a mystical journey. ‘Tep-zepi Now and Tai-wer’ returns to the mornings of infinite possibility, and to the potencies-cosmic and cultural-of the beginning. Crossing the Kendron [John 18:1] offers a series of texts describing one individual’s spiritual initiations and transformations, Gethsemane self-encounters and purifications. Ambitious, Dantesque, shamanic, this Beagle voyage across Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Aboriginal and Native American waters seeks the myths, stories, parables and great sayings that will guide and enlighten us in our openness, and availability, to the earth in which each reader is invited to plumb his own depths, and to emerge sacrilized and renewed. Not least, it announces a major contribution to Irish literature and philosophy. Out of print for over a decade, Crossing the Kedron also contains Moriarty’s personal selection of his best poems.

Turtle was gone a long time: vol two

Turtle Was Gone a Long Time. Volume Two: Horsehead Nebula Neighing.   Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 1997. [abbreviation Horsehead]

This second volume of a remarkable trilogy, continues John Moriarty’s spiritual journey embarked upon in Crossing the Kedron. In a Prelude to Horsehead Nebula Neighing, the author poses two questions. Are we the iceberg into which the earth has crashed? Have we lost, or did we ever acquire, evolutionary legitimacy? Moriarty goes on to question the axioms and assumptions of the late twentieth century and to suggest other cosmologies, myths and metaphors through which we may ‘walk beautifully upon the earth’. Mediated through poetry, philosophy and literature – from the sacred writings of Christian mystics to coffin texts of the Egyptians and cradle texts of the Navajo Indians – Moriarty transforms humanity’s Pequod voyage of self-destruction into an Ishmaelite quest for Divine Ground. In his call for cultural regeneration, the author invokes alternative tongues, Native American and Hindu, shamanic north and classical south. Readings from Meister Eckhart, Malory and William Law, Pascal and Melville, Berkeley, Blake and Black Elk, Darwin and Nietzsche, the Bible, medieval morality plays and the Mandukya Upanishads guide us along ancestral trails in dialogue with ‘the great tradition’. With exhilarating singularity of vision, Moriarty offers readers paradigms of co-creation and self-interrogation, and through a process of calling-to-witness makes manifest ways of being in the world.

Turtle was gone a long time: vol three

Turtle Was Gone A Long Time. Volume Three: Anaconda Canoe. Dublin: The Lilliput Press 1998. [abbreviation Anaconda Canoe]

This concludes a remarkable spiritual journey undertaken in volumes one and two, in which Turtle dives to the floor of the abyss to recover hidden intuitions about the world in a journey from ignorance to knowledge, darkness to light, from paradise lost to paradise regained. This third and final volume derives from an Amazonian myth in which, on the first morning of the world, a woman of defining importance for religion and culture ascends the primeval river in an Anaconda Canoe. As she ascends it we cannot but acknowledge her as a kind of Cortez, Ishmael, Kurtz or Jonah, come to challenge us in our most fundamental beliefs about ourselves and our universe. From the classical-Christian shores of Europe and the Mediterranean, to the farther reaches of Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas, John Moriarty trawls the deeps of world literatures, mythology and sacred texts. The metaphoric richness in which his work is elaborated lends Anaconda Canoe, and this entire trilogy, its power to arouse and re-open the road to civilization and culture, establishing Moriarty as a major contemporary figure in Irish literature. As Thomas Mann said of The Magic Mountain, ‘This is a book of departure, its service is to life, its will is to health, its goal is the future’.

Nostos (autobiography). Dublin: The Lilliput Press 2001. [no abbreviation]
Nostos is a Greek word meaning ‘homecoming’. In its plural form, nostoi, it was the name of an extensive body of literature in ancient Greece about the Greek heroes who returned from the Trojan Wars. Most of this literature has perished, but we do have The Odyssey, describing the long homecoming of Odysseus to Ithaca. Moriarty’s book assumes that for various reasons humanity is now exiled from the earth, but by reimagining it and ourselves as involved in a common destiny, it enacts a homecoming, a nostos to it. Nostos is a continuous narrative describing early on how its author lost his world as surely and completely as the Aztecs lost theirs when Cortez came ashore. Thereafter, in places as far apart as neolithic North Kerry and London, Periclean Athens and Blackfoot Dancing Ground, Manitoba and Mexico, Kwakiutl coast and Connemara, the author fights his way to a kind of rest, to a requiem, at the heart of things as they terribly and resplendently are.

Invoking Ireland: Ailiu Iath n-hErend. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2005. [abbreviation Invoking Ireland]
In the nineteenth century, here in Ireland, we started to walk away decisively from a native language that was a way of seeing and knowing things. In the twentieth century we started to walk away from a religion that in many of its ideas and practices was a folk religion. In this century we are walking away from local accents, from the big open vowels upon which so many of our poems depend for their full auditory effect. Overall, in line with revolutionary ambitions elsewhere in the world, we have moved from rites that related us to time and eternity to rights within a body politic. Could it be that we have moved too far, too fast? The Chinese say that the sage is to be found not walking ahead of humanity, finding a way for it, but behind it, picking up the inestimable treasures it leaves behind it in its flight into an ever-receding future. While he doesn’t claim to be a sage, here too is where we find Moriarty, walking hundreds, even thousands, of years behind us, picking up things. As its centenary approaches, Invoking Ireland offers an alternative to the 1916 Easter Rising Proclamation. Here Moriarty proposes not a Republic but anEnflaith, reinstituting a Birdreign in which all things live ecumenically with all things, uniting man with nature, magic and the divine. Standing shamanically and mystically with the heroes of political thinkers, among them Plato, St Augustine and Rousseau. Asking Irish people to reconnect with their deepest springs, Moriarty reads the Tales in the light of a modern depth-psychology of which most Celtic scholars are still quite innocent. His commentaries are like the unleashing of lost ancestral forces, flashing forth again in our moment of current danger. These visionary texts are a reminder of the life-force that beats within us all.’ – Declan Kiberd, author of Inventing Ireland.

Slí na Fírinne. Slí na Fírinne Publishing, 2006. [abbreviation SnF]
[Slí na Fírinne Publishing was Moriarty’s own effort to publish on his own] This book sets out his plan to establish a Christian Monastic Hedge School.

Night Journey to Buddh Gaia. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2006. [abbreviation Buddh Gaia]
In a letter to his friend Charles Ford, Jonathan Swift wrote: ‘I have finished my travells and I am now transcribing them: they are admirable things and will wonderfully mend the world.’ In Night Journey to Buddh Gaia, John Moriarty, like Gulliver, is a traveller to exotic places: ancient Egypt, Sumeria, Babylonia, Canaan, Judaea, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment and modern Europe, ending in the Waste Land of our own making. Calling them psychles (rather than cycles) of Western history, and seeking to mend them as he does so, Moriarty takes the reader on an exodus. Emerging, he concludes that our cultural pasts still sponsor ‘ecological havoc’, and calls for a Naissance not a Renaissance. He believes that we must be radically original, and refound city and psyche, the one a sacramental simulacrum of the other. As the ancient Egyptians enacted a night journey through their Underworld to Sunrise, the scarab beetle pushing its ball of clay before it, this book charts a night journey through the darkness of nature and culture to Earthrise. Seeing our planet coming up over a lunar horizon, Moriarty names it Buddh Gaia (from the Sanskrit and Greek), suggesting enlightenment – future, present and back through the geological ages. Here is a book in profound dialogue with the mystics and master spirits of civilization: Sophocles, Malory, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Milton and Racine are enlisted, with Buddha, Eckhart, Traherne and Browne; Blake, Hoderlin, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley and Melville; Pascal, Newton, Kant, Nietzsche and Heidegger; Rilke, Conrad and Yeats; Stevens, Lawrence and Muir; Picasso, Dylan Thomas, Geoffrey Hill and Robert Lowell. It follows its Bright Angel Trail down a Karmic Canyon to the depths of mind, engaging with the roots of language, mythology and archetype, with the nature of belief and un-belief, forging tools with which to think and perceive. Whether rehearsing a personal Passion Narrative, orchestrating songs of origins, or in his inspired readings, Moriarty bequeaths to us a wisdom literature. As Europeans seek to re-imagine themselves, Night Journey to Buddh Gaia might also be seen as a possible prelude to a European constitution.

Serious Sounds. Slí na Fírinne Publishing, 2006. [no abbreviation]
A wonderful walk through the story of Moriarty’s childhood growing up on a small farm in north Kerry, and his lifelong engagement with traditional Catholic sacraments, taking as his point of departure Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Church Going’ – a richly meditative essay of extraordinary resonance that begins with a visit to the island of Inis Fallen on Loch Leine: ‘People say we live in a time of ritual deprivation. Not so people of my age born into Christian Ireland. From three days’ of age I was inducted onto the Christian sacramental road, and that journey I rehearse in this book.’

Urbi et Orbi. Slí na Fírinne Publishing, 2006. [no abbreviation]
Latin for ‘to the city’ [Rome] and to the world. It is a papal address and apostolic blessing given on certain occasions.

What The Curlew Said (Notros continued). Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2007. [abbreviation Curlew]
‘Now again I live in a river-mirrored house, the house a cottage, and the river that mirrors it broadening out twice a day into an estuary lake fished by otters and herons and, when the salmon are running, by a sole old seal. One of the herons I know. Screeching and croaking an angelus that announces only himself, he comes in flying low over the water and, the rhetoric of his wingfolding perfect, he stands there, outstandingly, poised for the kill. Young though he is in this lifetime, he is old in incarnations. Night not in them even when he closes them, his eyes are for opening outwards only. Outwards always. Even in sleep. Him especially. Him looking so priestly, so poised for death-dealing in his chasuble of fine feathers. Him, if I could, I would talk to.’ This autobiography, a sequel to Nostos, concludes the story of John Moriarty’s life in Connemara during the 1980s and subsequent return to his native Kerry. He writes with compelling detail about his time at Roundstone and environs, restoring gardens at Leitirdyfe House and Lisnabrucka, and building his own house at Toombeola. He reflects on his Kerry childhood and the death of his father; he describes his adopted family, a sortie to Dublin for Christmas, the writer Tim Robinson, and his neighbourhood and community; he celebrates the returned pine martens and the fauna and flora of a historic landscape; he undertakes a lecture tour in Canada organized by his former students; and throughout he engages with the immensities of the natural and spiritual worlds that form his habitat. In this posthumously published work, completed just weeks before his death, John Moriarty calls to account the literatures and legacies of European thought made manifest in the western extremities of Ireland. They bore witness to his own inner and outer journey, now documented in this compelling, writerly masterwork.

Brendan O Donoghue, Adventures In Philosophy: Stories, Quests, for Thinking Heroes (Gill Books, 2018).
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