Return to Erin's Journal | Return to Druidbooks Main
To get the dirt on The Twenty-One Lessons, click
Otherwise, read on...
Druidbooks lists well over one hundred books -- on subjects ranging from ancient Celtic archaeology to Hindu cosmology, Greek religion to Welsh folklore. As one of the most comprehensive Druid bibliographies on the Internet, one might wonder: why isn't Douglas Monroe's The Twenty-One Lessons of Merlyn or The Lost Books of Merlyn included in this list of recommended Druid books?
The reason is simple. This is a list of recommended books, not just available books. There is a huge difference.
Many books have been published, not only in recent years but at various points over the last few centuries, that claim to contain "the truth" about Druid culture. Often, these books claim to provide privileged information on "hidden" or "esoteric" truths, often consisting of material from "ancient" books to which the author had special access.
It's a beguiling concept. One book that contains "the truth"! Alas, without exception, books that make claims like this turn out to be fraudulent.
The Twenty-One Lessons of Merlyn is a great case in point. This book claims to be "the complete course in authentic Celtic Druidism" (as if there were such a thing as non-Celtic Druidism), featuring a course of study "based upon history rather than fantasy", including "genuine" lore and "authentic" lessons from the "authentic" Merlyn-the-Druid...all based on the so-called Book of Pheryllt, an "actual, never before published" manuscript from the sixteenth century!
Well, here are a few questions:
In short, nearly all serious, scholarly students of Celtic Paganism and Druidism dismiss the writing of Douglas Monroe as nothing more than fantasy. Isaac Bonewits (the founder of ADF) calls this book The Twenty-One Lessons of Hogwash. Ellen Evert Hopman (a leader of Keltria and the Order of the White Oak) wrote an in-depth letter to Douglas Monroe, identifying some of the many flaws in the book.
"But I read the book, and I liked it!"
Alas, The Twenty-One Lessons of Merlyn is a best-selling book on Celtic spirituality. Chances are, many people who are interested in Druidism will stumble across this book -- and without anyone to steer them in a better direction, they'll read it. Sure, many folks will go on to read better material, such as the books listed here in Druidbooks. But how many others may abandon Druidism and Celtic spirituality altogether, after being put off by Douglas Monroe's sexist, pompous, and erroneous writing?
If you have already read The Twenty-One Lessons of Merlyn, please do not see this as an attack on you personally! If you enjoyed it, that's okay. But please understand -- it's not an accurate picture of Druidism. Responsible, hard-working scholars who have the integrity to admit when they don't know an answer have written dozens of useful and interesting books on Celtic culture, religion, and society. Many of these books are listed here in Druidbooks. Almost all of them present a view of Celtic society radically different from what Douglas Monroe depicts. Read a dozen books from Druidbooks -- take your pick. And then go back to The Twenty-One Lessons, and you'll see what I mean.
Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness
I don't want to belabor the point. Douglas Monroe is not the only fantasy-writer who has tried to pass off his imaginary world as reality. This has happened before, and will no doubt happen again. What is truly important are the many worthy books that are, and will be, available. We who care about intelligent scholarship and academic integrity must continue to read, review, and teach books truly worthy of the Druids.
Remember, the ancient Druids were scientists, philosophers, and lawyers. We have no reason to believe they flew in UFO's, beamed over to Ireland from Atlantis, or stuck crystals up their nose. On the other hand, we can assume they stood for rigor and discernment in the pursuit of knowledge. If we dare to call ourselves "Druids," the least we can do is approach our research and study with a similar standard of discernment and excellence.
Read good books.
It will make you a better Druid in the end. And if you want a few recommendations of where to start, click here.
Return to Erin's Journal | Return to Druidbooks Main | Thanks so very much to Taliesin Llyr for assembling this list and making it available