Celtic Junction Arts Review

Issue 23, Samhain 2023

Archiving and Articulating Celtic Heritage
A quarterly publication of CJAC's Education Program

George Russell by John Butler Yeats. Public Domain

“More than anyone else… AE’s life had a single objective, and that objective was not supremacy in a single craft but as complete a perfecting of the self as was possible in the circumstances which destiny had decreed,” stated Monk Gibbon in his post-humous yet celebratory anthology The Living Torch (1938) selected from several decades of articles and editorials by ‘AE’ George Russell (1867-1935) from his weekly journal, The Irish Statesman.

The practical mystic, visionary poet, artist, and economist AE (George Russell) was, along with his friend and rival W.B. Yeats, the crucial catalyst and center of the Irish literary and cultural Renaissance that is usually dated from 1890-1940 by literary historians. Universally loved and celebrated for his goodness, Russell was a sage and great soul. He personified Carl Jung’s concept of the Self – the wiser and more mature dimension of spiritual realization within the human personality.  In this second article in a series on Jung and the Irish Writer – based on a class in Celtic Junction’s Education Program co-taught by Mary McCormick and me – we continue to unfold the connections and parallels between the achievement of Irish authors and Jung’s profound psychology of creativity and healing.

Photo by Reamonn O’Ciarain. July 17, 2023. Pictured: Jim Conway (Chairman of the Lurgan A.E. Festival), Michael McKernan (A.E. researcher/author and Honorary Treasurer of the Lurgan A.E. Festival), Arthur Russell (closest living relative of A.E. on this side of the Atlantic), and John Donohoe (art collector, A.E. expert, and psychologist).

We are delighted at the Arts Review to support the resurfacing of the legacy of this great literary, artistic, and spiritual figure, AE (George Russell). Shining further light on this ‘Forgotten Genius,’ is a new contributor Michael McKernan, author of two key books on Russell and Honorary Treasurer of the Lurgan-based Russell Festival which has been celebrating AE’s legacy in the town of his birth since 2017 (begun there on the 150th anniversary of his birth). Inspired by the book, art collector, and psychologist, John Donohoe, McKernan and his colleague, Jim Conway, are the two crucial and unstoppable Lurgan-based figures leading the AE revival now. While AE may not be as well known as his contemporary Yeats today, from 1900 to 1930, Russell “was a leader across just about every sector of Irish life,” states McKernan in an illuminating overview article emphasizing Russell’s extraordinary contribution to Irish life. “He was a political thinker, economist, rural reformer, publisher, editor, poet, artist, and visionary. No one else in the history of that time comes close to matching Russell in the sheer breadth of his contribution to public life.”

A new national and international AE George Russell Appreciation Society was launched at the United Arts Club in Dublin on Saturday, October 28, 2023, with international attendees Zooming in from Japan and the U.S. This launch garnered media coverage from both RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) and the BBC. The Chair of the new iteration of the Society is Marianne McGee who will bring the organization forward supported by an energetic leadership team to assist the mission of resurfacing this great literary and spiritual figure. I also am playing a part in this story. I was elected to the role of International Vice-Chair to assist with the task of renewing interest in this neglected cultural giant. Anyone interested in being a Founder Member can contact the editor at education@celticjunction.org

Mystery photo. Image courtesy Morin family

Brian Miller, a regular Arts Review contributor and Librarian at the Celtic Junction, does his own incredible work of establishing a solid historical record in resurfacing the figures and family members contributing to Minnesota’s own Irish musical heritage in his comprehensive article “Eight Hand Reel: A Rare Glimpse of Twin Cities Irish Culture in the 1930s.” An extraordinary record of research and detective work, it is another important archival record as the identities of musicians in a “Mystery Photo” takes Miller on a journey back to the Festival of Nations and the Irish contribution to cultural life here in Minnesota in the 1930s.

The magical realist saga of The Map-Maker’s Tales continues in this edition. Unfolding vellum maps over his desk keyed to different centuries, this time our intrepid protagonist from Minnesota learns a lost piece of Dublin lore concerning that city’s little-known multicultural past. The lesson derives from a Finnish Knife Fighter’s blade held in the archival storehouse of Old Dublin artifacts by the brusque and irascible mentor and chief storyteller, the Great Professor. The lesson of this Great Professor’s story? Always follow a seal when it is showing you a way out of misfortune!

This edition celebrates the international and transatlantic connections of memory, history, and imaginative lore that tie Minnesota to the global story of Irish culture.