Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Kything-The Loving Presence

Madeleine L'Engle

Originally posted to the Pagan Blog Project 2014,Week K

"My heart is a kything place where we ever meet."

                                                                - Caitlin Matthews, Celtic Devotional

Kything is commonly defined as an act of spiritual presence or contacting another through telepathic means. My first experience with kything came through reading Madeleine L'Engle's books A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. She explained that she found the word kythe in an ancient Scottish dictionary belonging to her grandfather, and that the word meant " to make visible". L'Engle was a stoic Episcopalian who promoted Universalism; in the liberal Anglican Communion, she is considered as a modern mystic.  The ultra conservative branch of the Church attempted to have her branded as a heretic.  I met Madeleine L'Engle on a red eye flight to Denver, Colorado in September of 1979; we were both on our way to volunteer at the Episcopal Church's General Convention. In the wee hours of a cold Wednesday morning,we had to change flights and found ourselves walking the entire length of the Kansas City airport concourse in search of an unlocked ladies room. By the time we'd used the facilities and found  a cup of hot coffee, we were engaged in an animated, thoroughly enjoyable conversation and had solved most of the world's ills. I was 23 and clueless that I'd just spent two hours in a private audience with one of the world's most famous authors. We had lunch a couple of times over the course of the convention ( by that time I realized who she was) and before we parted company she personalized a copy of A Wrinkle in Time for me and included her mailing address, so we could keep in touch.

One of those things we talked about was the communication of one person with another on the astral plane by kything. L'Engle believed it was possible to "know the mind and emotions of someone with whom you have an existing close bond", such as a sibling or a lover or a special friend...all you had to do was quite your mind and visualize that person in your third eye. It helped if you had something that you had received from the other to hold because it made the connection stronger. It was also easier if the person you were attempting communicating with was also thinking of you at the same time-the connection was quicker and more vivid. A few years later when I began to study the Craft, I realized that kything is a form of sympathetic magick.

Caitlin Matthews presents a lovely, simplified version of kything a loved one in her inspiring book Celtic Devotional. The method she uses is a visualization ritual sent out as a heart-level prayer. during the process you envision little things about your loved one: the crinkly smile lines around their eyes, the roundness of their lips and brightness of the eye. It is a wonderfully lyrical experience.

I learned another version of kything during a discussion of the book "Kything,the Art of Spiritual Presence" by Louis M. Savary and Patricia H. Berne [Paulist Press, 1989] at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, NC. Although Savary, a former Catholic pries,t and Berne, a clinical psychologist, use L'Engle's work as a foundation to teach  meditation and contemplative thought as a way to open the individuals insight through a conversation with the higher spiritual self, I found the writing and cumbersome language stereotypical to that of the 1980's New Age Movement. There are also several things that bother me about their approach, even though empirical information from various controlled experiments dot the pages of this book. Specifically, the wordy psychobabble and clinical feel- even though the book is presented under the genre of spirituality; contradictions concerning techniques (first the authors attempt to explain the technique of "grounding" as being "present to the self", then a paragraph or two away saying that grounding  prior to kything is not key to making successful contact. I think the thing that disturbs me most is the statement that if you don't know what the person looks like that you're kything you should visualize an image that represents them. It begs me to pose the question of why you would be kything someone you don't really know...and  feels slightly like an invasion of privacy- more of it being like remote viewing that connecting at a spiritual level.
[http://www.thewellspring.com/flex/professional-integration/2463/kything-being-present-to-another.cfm] Personally, I prefer the original concept by Madeleine 'LEngle and the technique suggested by Caitlin Matthews because they keep the feeling of kything being a sacred spiritual act in balance, making it more than just ESP/mental telepathy. The former is an invitation to spiritual union, the latter sounds more like generalized mind reading wrapped in New Age contrivance.

For further reading: http://www.virtuar.com/tango/articles/2007/kything.htm


  1. What a lovely word! It has been too many years since I enjoyed L'Engle's books -- when I pre-read them upon purchasing them for my children years ago. Time for a re-read!

    1. She's a wonderful writer! You'd probably enjoy Glimpses of Grace, an anthology of quotes and reflections.



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