At the close of our time on Lewis, An Lanntair hosted an open conversation between ourselves and Alastair McIntosh. Alastair is a Scottish writer, academic and activist. He was brought up in Leurbost on the Isle of Lewis and has written widely about spirituality, human ecology and land reform. After an introduction to our work and the Re Soundings project, Alasdair spoke about the impact of the reformation on the spirituality of the Hebrides and questions soon followed. It was a fascinating conversation and the quote below from Alastair is a summary of his discussion around the absence of bells on Lewis.
“There’s two great strands in how religion talks about the divine. Cataphatic religion asserts what God is. For example, “God is love.” Apophatic religion holds that any attempt to define or represent God is at best insufficient and at worst, idolatrous. It seems to me that while the sounding of a bell links to the cataphatic tradition, our Hebridean bell-less belfries can refreshingly be experienced as an apophatic statement. We need both traditions. I stare into the blue beyond as viewed through this curious architectural feature of the Highland church, and I ask: “What is the sound of an empty belfry chiming?” The answer that comes chiming back across the universe is this: “Nothing less than The Bell of Creation.” ”