Cambrofuturism and the Future of Celtic Christianity
When discussing the possible outcomes of dystopic societies in science fiction, a topic often brought up is the deterioration of culture and language. The is certainly the case in Owain Owain’s Y Dydd Olaf, a Welsh sci-fi novel that explores how technology can accelerate language death and the deterioration of communities. Considering the history of Welsh culture – if not Celtic culture, generally speaking – anxieties about the future of one’s ancestral language and community are warranted. While Welsh and possibly Irish are on the rise, languages such as Scottish Gaelic, Manx, and Breton are on the verge of extinction.
While there is merit in discussing how technology can negatively impact communities and culture, there is also room for discussing how they create by aiding in the proliferation of Celtic culture and languages. In Hacking into Future Wales: Haciaith and Cambrofuturism, Miriam Jones makes the case for how the latter is made possible through the advent of Internet connectivity and social media. This is certainly true where apps like Duolingo and social media have allowed individuals to connect and learn together that transcends spatial constraints. Discussions at events such as the Hacio’r Iaith, or Haciaith, have demonstrated how technology can be used to improve the current state of Welsh literacy. Rather than accepting the fears of past Welsh sci-fi authors as truth, they are quickly being proven as false by using the root of their fears as an advantage.
This has given rise to a movement centered on the Welsh experience known as cambrofuturism, a term coined by Rhodri ap Dyfrig to stand for the regeneration of Welsh culture, a “breaking away from claustrophobic, one-size-fits-all, traditional-focused Welshness is part of the drive to create new worlds, and the reason why technology plays a vital role in the synthesis.” In Futurism in Nostalgic Wales, Jac Lewis discusses how Dyfrig co-founded the Haciaith as a vehicle for developing methods that integrate Welsh with cybernetics. While this approach has been centered on advancing Welsh culture, the core idea can be expanded to include the Gaelic experience to produce celtofuturism.
A Celtofuturistic view would entail a recontextualization of how we use technology, adapting from the wisdom present within the Celtic Christian tradition. This entails abandoning the modern notion that theology and science are antithetical, embracing the idea that they are complementary and equally necessary for the intellectual and spiritual development of humanity. Our minds must be open to understanding that knowledge is found through the sense and the intellect, disproving the philosophy of physicalism. Borrowing from Eriugena, mastery of ethics, science/philosophy, and theology are necessary for the potential of humanity to flourish. As caretakers of this planet, emerging technologies will be oriented towards a careful balance of meeting social needs and the responsibility to safeguard creation. This includes geoengineering as a hopeful method for addressing environmental concerns, reversing the negative impact of society on our planet.
Though technological advancement, we can explore other planets and galaxies for the sake of gaining an even greater understanding of God through his creation. A common theme present among Gaelic stories is the impetus towards travel and adventure, the desire to explore new locations. We see this in the immram, or voyage tales, a pre-Christian genre of fictional stories. In Three Celtic Voyages: Brendan, Lewis, and Buechner, John Lawyer illustrates the genre as an adventure to unknown lands in search of the universal human desire for immortality, bliss, and eternal happiness. Within these tales, we see a desire for an intangible ideal of perfection and the quest to become more than human. This desire for perfection was later adopted by Christian monastics looking to integrate the indigenous spirit into the budding Insular Celtic Christian tradition. We see this in stories such as the Navigatio Sancti Brendani, where the titular Saint attempts to explore beyond the shores of Ireland and discovers a diverse range of monastic practices. Thus, space exploration exists as the Immram Mór – the Great Journey – of humanity.
As our technologies become increasingly advanced and how we define the relationship between humanity and machine becomes more intimate, cultural groups will also need to begin asking what role do emerging technologies have and what impact they will make. While technology can certainly be used to fragment and dissolve communities, it can also strengthen communities and cultures through its potential uses. Within the larger Celtic community, it is possible for technology to be used as a medium for a wider range of connectivity, making it larger and more dynamic. Emerging technologies could play a role in fulfilling the ancestral dreams of the Celtic people, offering a new world to explore and novel means of interacting with the environment.