Barddas and the journey of the soul

In Barddas, Iolo Morganwg devotes a section to his theological views. There is quite a lot more on this theme in Barddas, but I think this excerpt covers the key points. Not all contemporary Druids believe this, but I do. I want to post Iolo’s words here to set the tone for a discussion of the soul’s journey, and of reincarnation, in Druidry as I understand it.


  • The Circle of Abred, in which are all corporal and dead existences.
  • The Circle of Gwynvyd, in which are all animated and immortal beings.
  • The Circle of Ceugant, where there is only God.

Q. Through how many forms didst thou come? and what happened unto thee?

A. Through every form capable of life, in water, in earth, and in air. And there happened unto me every severity, every hardship, every evil, and every suffering, and but little was the goodness and gwynfyd before I became a man.

Q. Thou hast said, that it was in virtue of God’s love thou earnest through all these, and didst see and experience all these; tell me how can this take place through the love of God? And how many were the signs of the want of love during thy migration in Abred?

A. Gwynvyd cannot be obtained without seeing and knowing every thing, but it is not possible to see and to know every thing without suffering every thing. And there can be no full and perfect love that does not produce those things which are necessary to lead to the knowledge that causes Gwynvyd, for there can be no Gwynvyd without the complete knowledge of every form of existence, and of every evil and good, and of every operation and power and condition of evil and good. And this knowledge cannot be obtained without experience in every form of life, in every incident, in every suffering, in every evil and in every good, so that they may be respectively known one from the other. All this is necessary before there can be Gwynvyd, and there is need of them all before there can be perfect love of God, and there must be perfect love of God before there can be Gwynvyd.

Q. Why are the things, which thou hast mentioned, necessary before there can be Gwynvyd?

A. Because there can be no Gwynvyd without prevailing over evil and death, and every opposition and Cythraul, and they cannot be prevailed over without knowing their species, nature, power, operations, place, and time, and every form and kind of existence which they have, so that all about them may be known, and that they may be avoided, and that wherever they are they may be opposed, counteracted, and overcome, and that we may be cured of them, and be restored from under their effect. And where there is this perfect knowledge, there is perfect liberty, and evil and death cannot be renounced and overcome but where there is perfect liberty; and there can be no Gwynvyd but with God in perfect liberty, and it is in perfect liberty that the circle of Gwynvyd exists.

Q. Why may not perfect knowledge be obtained, without passing through every form of life in Abred?

A. On this account, because there are no two forms alike, and every form has a use, a suffering, a knowledge, an intelligence, a gwynvyd, a quality, an operation, and an impulse, the like and complete uniformity of which can not be had in any other form of existence. And as there is a special knowledge in each form of existence, which cannot be had in another, it is necessary that we should go through every form of existence, before we can acquire every form and species of knowledge and understanding, and consequently renounce all evil, and attach ourselves to every gwynvyd.

Q. How many forms of existence are there? and what is the use of them?

A. As many as God saw necessary towards the investigation and knowledge of every species and quality in good and evil, that there might be nothing, capable of being known and conceived by God, without being experienced, and consequently known. And in whatsoever thing there may be a knowledge of good and evil, and of the nature of life and death, there is a form of existence which corresponds with the attainment of the knowledge required. Therefore, the number of the kinds and modes of forms of existence is the sum that could conceive and understand with a view to perfect goodness, knowledge, and gwynvyd. And God caused that every living and animate being should pass through every form and species of existence endued with life, so that in the end every living and animate being might have perfect knowledge, life, and gwynvyd; and all this from the perfect love of God, which in virtue of His Divine nature He could not but exhibit towards man and every living being.

Q. Art thou of opinion that every living being shall attain to the circle of Gwynvyd at last?

A. That is my opinion, for less could not have happened from the infinite love of God, God being able to cause, knowing the manner how to cause, and continually willing every thing to exist that can be conceived and sought in His own love, and in the desire of every animation whilst opposed to evil and death.

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