Brendan Cathad Myers, PhD
Born: July 4, 1974 - Elora, Ontario
Brendan Cathbad Myers, PhD, is a philosopher and author known for his contributions in environmental philosophy, Druidry, mythology, and applied virtue ethics.
Philosophy and Writings
While not Wiccan himself, Brendan Myers has spoken at numerous Wiccan conferences and festivals and has graced many Wicca bardic competitions with his own musical works on the guitar with themes drawn from Celtic mythology. His musical talent, academic work, and friendship has had a direct and positive impact on Canadian Wiccan culture.
Myers has written prolifically since completing his doctoral degree in 2004 and published at least one book every two years as well as several articles. Normative in their conception, Myers' works fundamentally examine ideas regarding the interconnectedness of creation and emphasize the importance of strong moral character as vital to the health and well-being of the world and society. Myers criticizes utilitarian views, especially "negative" utilitarianism, which holds that ethics require nothing more than the minimization of harm, and of deontological views, which emphasize social duties and adhering to social norms, i.e. rules. As an alternative to utilitarianism and deontology, Myers explores the ethics of character and identity, self-knowledge and shared life.
Myers' philosophical interest in character-ethics is first evident in an essay entitled "The Ethical Paradigm of Druidism," in which he introduced the concept of the "Sacred Truth." An influential voice in Neopagan communities, Myers has been frequently quoted in prominent Pagan works, such as Living with Honour by Emma Restall Orr (p. 105), Progressive Witchcraft by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone (p. 62, 222), What Do Druids Believe? by Philip Carr-Gomm (p. 57), Way of the Druid by Graeme Talboys (pp. 247-9), and Celtic Wicca, by Jane Raeburn (p. 36). Myers was also quoted on the OBOD website in its "Ethics & Values in Druidry" essay. The Other Side of Virtue is required reading for students in counseling and pastoral care program at the Cherry Hill Seminary, a post-graduate training center for Pagan counselors and leaders.Dangerous Religion
The seminal idea in Myers' first book, Dangerous Religion: Environmental Spirituality and its Activist Dimension, entails the theory of "global animism," which posits that life on earth is connected by a pool of shared energy in constant motion. Myers proposes further that the health and prosperity of life on earth can only be vouchsafed by ensuring that nothing interferes with or corrupts this energetic life-force, such as pollution or resource-depletion. (pp. 151-163) Global animism has an eclectic philosophical foundation, drawing from several sources, including the work of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, as well as Aboriginal (i.e. Native North American), Eastern, and Druidic traditions of thought. Myers presents these ideas as a "thought opera," interspersing philosophical discourse with storytelling and poetry.
Mysteries of Druidry
The Mysteries of Druidry: Celtic Mysticism, Theory, and Practice examines the mystical romanticism of Druids in the ancient Celtic world, whose worldview stemmed from nature, warrior prowess, the near-worship of poetry and music, and magic. Myers discusses basic spiritual principles as they appear in Celtic myth and legend, including the Sacred Truth, the Great Marriage, the Hero's Journey, the Otherworld, and others. The thesis is explanatory rather than philosophical, i.e. to show the principles that constitute the foundation of the Celtic worldview in relation to religion, and to show their relevance to the modern world. Myers also posits that the human frailty of deities in Celtic mythology has much to teach people about how to become their best selves. Also a guidebook for the practical application of Druidic principles, Mysteries of Druidry also offers suggestions for meditation and ceremonies, both for individuals and groups, as a means for re-enacting Celtic stories in ritual form.
The Other Side of Virtue
"The call of the immensity" is a virtue-based theory of ethics that comprises the backbone of Myers' third work, The Other Side of Virtue: Where Our Virtues Came from, What They Really Mean, and Where They Might Be Taking Us. The argument suggests that human beings hear the call of an immensity when they are confronted with an experience or situation that is universal, unexpected or unfamiliar, and unfathomable or uncontainable. An immensity also calls an individual's life into question and forces her to critically examine who she is. The text focuses on three immensities in particular, i.e. the earth, other people, and death. The virtuous individual is able to face the associated visceral, psychological, and material challenges; cope with and learn from the immensity; and so able to live a good life while helping the world in the process (pp. 230-238.)
Myers posits that an individual can embody and live excellence by approaching the world with wonder, humanity, and integrity, despite the challenges associated with particular immensities. Without these virtues, human beings are much less likely to lead worthwhile and meaningful lives: For example, the "bereft" person, who responds unconstructively to an immensity, ends up leading a life of frustration and misery (pp. 297-8). Immensities constitute opportunities to choose to embrace life – in its painful and pleasurable guises – to enable an individual to be the best version of himself he can possibly be.
A Pagan Testament
Myers' fourth book was primarily a study of folklore and literature related to various goddesses who feature in contemporary Pagan culture and practice. However, Myers also demonstrates how much of this material is in accord with themes introduced in his previous books, especially the critique of utilitarianism, the importance of environmental awareness, and the development of virtue and excellence of character.
Personal Life and Major Influences
Myers was born the eldest son of an Irish-Canadian family in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, in 1974 and spent most of his youth in the village of Elora, Ontario. His Irish Celtic heritage interested him from his early teens and onward. In Celtic mythology, in particular, he found what he believed to be a distinct and coherent worldview, in which to explore his philosophical and spiritual interests (c.f. Murphy-Hiscock, Out of the Broom Closet, p. 100).
Myers completed a bachelor's degree in drama and philosophy in 1996 and then a master's degree in philosophy in 1999, both from the University of Guelph. His university studies would move him to become increasingly interested in ethics and environmentalism and ultimately to reject the Catholicism of his youth in favor of a Pagan ethic and to become an active member of the Neopagan community. His master's thesis, "Animism, Spirit, and Environmental Activism," reflects his growing interest in civil disobedience and left-wing politics. During this time, he also worked for social and environmental causes, attended the protest against the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, and chaired a chapter of the teaching assistants and sessional lecturers' union (Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 3913). Myers continued his academic career in Ireland, and eventually completed a doctoral dissertation entitled "Time and the Land" at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Another major inspiration for Myers' theory-building process was his two visits to the Vogelsberg area in the German state of Hesse in the summer and fall of 2004. The beauty of the landscape and local architecture and the personal challenges he encountered there, such as the language barrier, appeared to him as instances of larger philosophical challenges that everyone faces in their lives once in a while. From this experience was born his theory of the immensity. He wrote most of The Other Side of Virtue as he traveled back and forth between Germany and Ireland. (c.f. Myers, The Other Side of Virtue, p. iv; Murphy-Hiscock, Out of the Broom Closet, p. 101)
Myers returned to Canada in December of 2005 after finishing his doctorate. He has taught at several different Canadian universities, including the University of Guelph, McMaster University, and other post-secondary institutions in Ontario. The federal government of Canada hired him to conduct policy research on Aboriginal affairs. The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids awarded Myers the Mount Haemus Prize for philosophical research in Druidry in 2008.
- Dangerous Religion: Environmental Spirituality And Its Activist Dimension (2004), Dubsar House/Earth Religion Press: El Sobrante, CA, USA. Buy here.
- The Mysteries of Druidry: Celtic Mysticism, Theory, and Practice (2006), New Page Books: Franklin Lakes, NJ, USA. Buy at Chapters.ca.
- The Other Side of Virtue: Where Our Virtues Really Came from, What They Rreally Mean, and Where They Might Be Taking Us (2008), O Books: Ropley, Hampshire, UK. Buy at Chapters.ca.
- A Pagan Testament: The Literary Heritage of the World's Oldest New Religion, (2008), O Books, Ropley, Hampshire, UK. Buy at Chapters.ca.