New Age movement— England—Glastonbury. Reimagining Earth 44 three. Orchestrating Sacred Space two. Stage, Props, and Players of Avalon 93 five. Place-Myths and Contested Spaces three. Red Rocks to Real Estate seven. Vortexes and Crossed Currents: Contemporary discourses of nature 37 Figure 2. New Age and ecospiritual discourses of nature 42 Figure 4. Glastonbury Abbey 68 Figure 4. Climbing the Tor 72 Figure 4. Hare Krishna, Hare Rama: Mapping of Glastonbury place-images and -myths 94 Figure 5. Market Cross, High Street Figure 5. National Trust donation box at foot of the Tor Figure 6.
Passing Bell Rock Figure 6. Looking up to Schnebly Hill Figure 6. Medicine wheel at the Airport vortex Figure 7. Somerset County 75 Map 4. Glastonbury Peninsula contour map. Courtesy of Nicholas R. Mann 75 Map 5. Courtesy of Gothic Image Publications Map 5. Glastonbury area, Zodiac shaded Map 5. Glastonbury Zodiac Map 5. Phoenix figure, Glastonbury Zodiac. Mann Map 7. Note Y formed by routes 89A and Map 7. Sedona chakra association sites. Courtesy of Light Technology Publishing Map 7. Sedona interdimensional access points.
Courtesy of Light Technology Publishing Table 5. Glastonbury place-images and -myths 95—98 Table 6. Sedona place-images and -myths — preface and acknowledgments Human history has been a rather episodic affair. Depending on where and when one was born into it, the world may have looked comfortingly—or oppressively—certain, stable, and secure; or it may have been dizzyingly openended and uncertain.
Ours is one of the latter episodes. The certainties that had held together much of Euro-American modernity—stories about human progress, scientific rationality, and technical and social advance—seem to have lost much of their credibility of late, even in the West itself. Our nascently global society exists in what could be called a metanarrative vacuum.
For all the signs and symbols that increasingly fill this vacuum internationally tradable currencies, the English language, T-shirts, Pepsi, Nike , there is no commonly accepted and genuinely credible grand narrative about who we are and what our purpose is on this Earth. So a bewildering array of competing tales are emerging to fill the gap. Among the more powerfully imposed are those of transnational capitalism and technoscience: But these are only two of the competing tales in the much contested arena of global culture.
This book is about one of their less visible but rapidly spreading alternatives. Specifically, it is about a certain global-subcultural strand of ideas, an alternative narrative, according to which humans and our planet are in the midst of an epochal shift to a more enlightened and ecologically harmonious era. It is about what they do when they arrive there, and the wider social and natural contexts and effects of their activities. I describe and analyze the circulation of ideas about the Earth and about nature as these make their way between science, popular culture, and these alternative cultural milieux.
I examine the clashes that occur between contending interpretive communities at two specific places that have been identified by these movements as sacred sites, as well as the negotiations between these human communities and their nonhuman environments, as people attempt to anchor their ideas about nature in the landscape itself. As such, this work takes an interdisciplinary approach to a subject that, by its nature, slips and slides across disciplinary boundaries. It is therefore addressed to several audiences, of scholars and of the broader public.
To scholars in cultural and religious studies, this work contributes an ethnographic and sociocultural analysis of the New Age and earth spirituality movements in two of their local variants , interpreted in context of a larger set of global processes. My intent is to bring these movements within the purview of a range of ideas developed by geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, and other scholars—ideas about postmodernity, global cultural change, and the politics of space, place, and landscape. On a somewhat theoretical plane, I hope my thoughts will contribute to the ongoing work of theorizing the relationship between people, culture, and natural environments—an area that for some time has been characterized by, at one end, a social constructivism that ignores our human dependence on the natural world, and, at the other, an objectivist realism that reduces the human realm to the dimension of quantifiable causal relations.
By focusing on imagination, interpretation, and the embodied experience of living in particular places over time, I hope to contribute to a growing movement of postconstructivist sociocultural and environmental theory. To environmental theorists and activists, this book provides an examination and assessment of a set of ideas by which nature and the Earth are being conceived, discussed, represented, and defended.
But this solution is fraught with risks and challenges, many of which I will identify and explore. Finally, this book is also aimed at readers who are themselves drawn to landscapes and places they feel to be special, sacred, or powerful, and who wonder what this urge might mean in our time, and what, if anything, they can or should do about it. My hope is that this book can contribute to the forging of conversational links between these disparate audiences, and can help us think through a few of the environmental and cultural dilemmas of our day.
Jody Berland provided invaluable supervision, mentoring, critical insight, and enthusiastic support, and has become a friend whose counsel I will continue to trust on all things scholarly and worldly. Roger Keil and Jordan Paper spent many hours reading my work and offering generous feedback, encouragement, and expertise, while Jennifer Daryl Slack provided extremely helpful advice and critique as its external examiner. I also gratefully acknowledge the generous material support of a twoyear doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and a G.
Earlier versions of some chapters have been presented at conferences, and parts of chapters 6 and 7 have appeared in Social Compass 44 3 Comments on these, and more recently those of an anonymous reviewer for Indiana University Press, have helped me immensely. I am also grateful to Marilyn Grobschmidt, Jane Lyle, Bob Sloan, Miki Bird, Carrie Jadud, and the others at Indiana University Press whose patience, perseverance, and general helpfulness have made this book possible; to Bob Furnish for his many insightful and sensitive editorial suggestions; and to Freya Godard for her perceptiveness up to the last minute.
My heartfelt thanks extend to those whose friendship, assistance and interest in the project carried me through months of fieldwork: Nor can I forget the treasured chance encounters, resonant moments, and friendships inadequately explored along the way: From all these and others who have lived much closer than I to the sites described in this book, I beg forgiveness for any inaccuracies, misperceptions, hasty judgments or outright errors that have crept into my account, and I alone take responsibility for them.
To Yuri, many thanks for your flaming red truck, which kept me moving through the North American leg of my fieldwork. I am most grateful to Sherilyn MacGregor, without whose loving companionship, encouragement, and wise and critical counsel, the last few years would have been unthinkable; and to my parents, Peter and Irene, whose love for me knows no bounds. In a book about place and landscape, I feel a need to also thank and remember those places that have shaped me and formed my understanding of place and our human place in the world: This book is especially dedicated to the memory of my beloved brother, the Reverend Marian Iwachiw, whose respect for and faith in my own abilities supported me, especially, and all the more paradoxically, since his premature death midway through my wanderings.
May his passion for truth, his tremendously kind and, in the end, overextended heart, and his bearlike, loving embraces continue to nourish all those who knew him as they have nourished me. It is invested with powers, capable of being organized and choreographed. It is story and telling, temporality and remembrance.
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The desire is for solution to problems of all kinds that arise within the human situation. The belief is that somewhere beyond the known world there exists a power that can make right the difficulties that appear so insoluble and intractable here and now. All one must do is journey. Perhaps our hopes for accountability, for politics, for ecofeminism, turn on revisioning the world as coding trickster with whom we must learn to converse. Though this power might not always be equitably shared nor wisely deployed, it is a power, so the story goes, that has been harnessed by human ingenuity from the forces of nature.
It is the power of the steam engine, the turbine, the atom, and the silicon chip and, aiding in the circulation of all of these, the power of the dollar, pound, or yen. It seems paradoxical that some of those more privileged within this economy of power—relatively educated and, on a global scale, well-off Westerners—betray doubts about this techno-humanist project. Millennial times encourage such doubts: In one of its more recent guises, this power takes on the form of the Earth itself, the body of a being increasingly known by its feminized, ancient Greek name Gaia.
Many of these people consider themselves part of an emerging New Age of spiritual and ecological awareness. They share a desire to communicate with a numinous, extrahuman Other—a realm of power, meaning, and intelligence found somewhere beyond the boundaries of the ego, and be- 4 departures yond the confines of a rationalist modern worldview. This desire is felt to be part of a broader societal imperative—a refusal of the disenchanting consequences of secular, scientific-industrial modernity, and an attempt to develop a culture of reenchantment, a new planetary culture that would dwell in harmony with the spirit of the Earth.
This desire for contact with an extrahuman Other, if it is taken seriously, raises a series of questions: In their most stark formulation, these concerns revolve around the question: A religious believer would typically answer this question by affirming the first possibility—that these Others are quite real and may proceed to make significant distinctions between them, for instance, between benevolent and maleficent ones , while the majority of secular intellectuals would likely deny their reality as such, explaining them instead as wish-fulfillment fantasies or useful social constructs at best.
I will stake out a third position in this book, one that avoids the sterile, as I see it, dichotomies that underlie the terms of the question—dichotomies which separate the human from the nonhuman, and the real from the illusory. My premise, rather, is that both of the opposite poles of these paired dichotomies emerge out of an interactive web that is tangled and blurred at its very origins.
This is a tangled web within which the world is ever being created—shaped and constituted through the imaginative, discursive, spatial, and material practices of humans reflectively immersed within an active and animate, more-than-human world. It is a tangled web of selfhood and otherness, identities and differences, relations both natural and cultural; a web through which circulate meanings, images, desires, and power itself the power to act, to imagine, to define, impose, and resist.
And I will suggest a few ways in which we might begin to reimagine our lives, and the landscapes which surround us, from within a recognition of this messy entanglement. How, amid the tangled politics of living in places where the Earth seems to speak louder and clearer than elsewhere, are we to make sense of its speech? Philosophers call the art and science of making sense hermeneutics—an allusion to the messages delivered by the Greek god Hermes, the meanings of which were never self-evident but had to be carefully unpacked and interpreted.
This study aims to make sense of two landscapes, distinct and unique places on the surface of this Earth, by providing hermeneutic readings of the social, cultural, material, and ecological forces which interact to shape them, and by burrowing into the cultural images and discourses produced by those groups of people who live in close interaction with those landscapes. To this task I bring the tools of the social scientist: At the same time, this book provides a study of the geographics of the sacred in the New Age and earth spirituality movements.
The two places on which I focus, Glastonbury and Sedona, are among the most widely celebrated of sites believed to be sacred by followers of New Age and earth spirituality. As a result of their popularity they have become vigorously contested between competing interpretive communities. These local struggles, in my view, represent intensified versions of broader cultural clashes—struggles between competing worldviews and notions of nature, land, place, and relations between humans and nature.
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As large numbers of people perceive society to be in the midst of a thoroughgoing crisis, an ecological, cultural, spiritual, and political crisis of an unprecedentedly global scale, attempts are made to reconceive the myths or master stories of society to respond to this crisis. They invoke seemingly nonmodern sources, which range from the creatively anachronistic pagan folk traditions, premodern ethnocultural identities, re-creations of ancient Goddess-worshipping cultures to the more audaciously speculative, prophetic, and fantastic alleged extraterrestrial contacts, freewheeling decipherments of Mayan codices, psychic revelations of ancient civilizations like Atlantis, and so on.
This search for new or amodern Latour stories with which to build an alternative metanarrative, casts its net closer to home as well in its quest for interpretive resources. In particular, it draws upon scientific ideas that are thought to be compatible, such as Gaia theory and organismic or holographic conceptions of nature. As New Agers and earth spiritualists move to such pilgrimage centers, these various representations and beliefs about nature, landscape, and history clash with those of other people living there, and struggles develop over what to do and how to live at these sites.
The latter, in particular, imposes a monetarization and rationalization onto space and time which is antithetical to certain of the values of New Age and ecospiritual culture. As I will show, the responses which emerge out of the tensions and clashes between these are predominantly the following.
With the first science , there is a range of interactions and negotiations which take place between science and its popular consumption: With the second capitalism , there may be attempts to develop an alternative economy of sorts, but more frequently—and usually more successfully—there is the development of a tourist-based service industry catering to the needs of tourists, pilgrims, and spiritual seekers.
These attempts in turn affect the nonhuman landscape.
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The questions I will raise and try to answer in the process include the following. In what lies their charisma or potency? Specifically, how are the landscapes themselves—their component features, numinous qualities, and active ecological agents—woven into the activities of diverse groups of people? How do these differences and conflicts play themselves out in the practice and politics of everyday life? Do these ideas and practices facilitate or enable possibilities for developing counterpractices and spaces of resistance to the commodification of the Earth? Over the last thirty years, the term has been used to describe a heterogeneous spectrum of ideas, beliefs, organizations, personalities, and practices, many explicitly religious, others less so, all of which together make up a large and decentralized subculture.
Without stretching the term too far, New Age spirituality or, more broadly, New Age culture as a whole, can be seen to include the ideas and practices of several million North Americans and Europeans, affecting many others less directly. New Age culture, however, is neither easily identified nor circumscribed. It includes people who identify themselves with a variety of specific religious or spiritual traditions, as well as tens of thousands of more eclectic seekers and dabblers, self-styled gurus, and conspicuous consumers drifting through the contemporary spiritual marketplace.
Though my gaze will be limited to the North American and British contexts, New Age culture has increasingly become international, affecting local traditions and giving rise to hybrid forms of religious and spiritual practice and identity. Among these streams are two which will figure prominently within these pages. The first is a broad and loose grouping of orientations which I will be calling earth spirituality or 8 departures ecospirituality I will use these terms more or less interchangeably, though they are not, strictly speaking, identical. Earth spirituality overlaps with, but is in some ways quite distinct from, the mainstream of the New Age movement.
Markedly different in its emphases is the second stream which will figure prominently here, and which I will call New Age millenarianism or ascensionism. Despite their differences which may be very significant for believers , the two streams overlap and blend, in practice, within the amorphous culture of New Age and alternative spirituality. The latter characteristic has led many scholars to speculate that New Age spirituality may, in large part, be a response to the increasingly globalized and polyglot culture of postmodern capitalism e.
Johnson ; Bruce ; Heelas , ; Kubiak Postmodernity is said to signify a new historical epoch marked by an exhaustion of the metanarratives of Euro-American modernity—the belief in the linear forward march of objective Reason, technological and social Progress, and their unified subject, Humanity— and by corresponding shifts in historical consciousness, artistic sensibility, and individual and collective identity. Internationally, relations between once colonial or imperial societies and former colonies, or, more generally, between the global rich and poor, have altered. Postmodern lifestyles in turn produce postmodern personalities: For neoconservatives nostalgic over the real or imagined meanings of an earlier age, postmodernity represents the intensification of modernity accompanied by the unleashing, to the furthest extents, of narcissism, desire, instinct, impulse, hyperindividualism, and hedonism e.
For the traditional left, meanwhile, this latest phase of capitalist expansion only intensifies the gap between a wealthy global elite and a growing and increasingly marginalized and powerless underclass. Understandably, there are countermovements—fundamentalist religious groups, ethnic nationalisms, new religious and ecological movements—all expressing a cultural desire to reestablish a sense of communal and universal foundations. Privileged tourists may set out from their safe abodes to explore the world of their perceived others, seeking signs of some sort of authenticity, but those others learn to resist the categories imposed on them, or play them with a nod and a wink.
Postmodernity reflects this mirror play of images and desires, this fragmented and deterritorialized landscape within which new identities and places are being constructed and contested, and where the very notion of authenticity has become a sales pitch, a joke, or a site of cultural or ethnic strife. In this globalized and polyglot, spatially and temporally compressed world, physical landscapes have themselves become more fragmented, contradictory, contested, and indeterminate in their meanings.
They are spaces of discontinuity and heterogeneity, bringing together meanings from incommensurable cultural worlds. Carnivals, brothels, prisons, gardens, museums, cemeteries, shopping malls, amusement parks, cruise ships, festival sites—such heterotopic spaces simultaneously mirror, challenge, and overturn the meanings of those features to which they refer in the surrounding society.
The sacralization of Sedona and Glastonbury can, in this sense, be seen as attempts to create such heterotopias of resistance. On the other hand, with the blurring of such dichotomies as sacred-profane, nature-culture, urban-rural, private-public, and commercial-noncommercial, heterotopic space is that which is neither mere commodity nor noncommodity—it is both of these and none, including as it does a surplus of contradictory meanings and practices which cannot be brought into a unifying synthesis.
As ar- 12 departures gued by Baudrillard , Jameson , Hannigan , and others, the heterotopic space par excellence of postmodernity may in this sense be the theme park Disneyland , the fantasy city Las Vegas , or the shoppingentertainment complex West Edmonton Mall. Neither the red rocks of Sedona nor the green hills and waters of Glastonbury are quite as artificial and commodified as these kinds of spaces. Indeed, their construction as sacred, natural, and authentic would seem to pit them in opposition to the consumer-entertainment mythology of Hollywood and popular culture which is embodied by places like Disneyland and Las Vegas.
Yet, as I will show, the sacralization of Glastonbury and Sedona—the attempt to shape them into sacred land haunted by the noble spirits of Indians, Celts, and mysterious others—has itself depended on a history of far-from-sacred pursuits: The resulting mixture of desires and power plays has turned both into multivalent and conflict-ridden heterotopias.
Far from being merely the emblems of a marginal but idyllic rurality surrounded by natural power, they are both firmly entwined within the cultural and political-economic circulations of advanced, postmodernizing capitalism. Within an increasingly homogenized global culture, then, there is a concurrent heterogenization Appadurai and localization—ongoing attempts to redefine and reinvent specific places and to reposition them within contested and contradictory geographies of space.
Places are remade for a variety of reasons: My intent will be to shed some light on the role they play, exploring their potential to contribute to an ecologically sensitized differentiation of places, spaces, landscapes, and communities. I say strange not because there is anything particularly unusual about south-central England. But these two days, the eve and the day of the summer solstice, introduced me to a different kind of landscape, a more diffuse and nomadic sort of subcultural geography which congealed according to its own curious logic.
I was picked up by a carload of young men heading for Stonehenge, the most celebrated and, at the same time, most commercially defiled ancient stone monument in Britain. With a strong police presence surrounding the megalithic site this year, our vehicle joined what was to become a nearly mile-long convoy of semi-dilapidated cars and colorfully painted vans and buses snaking along the Wiltshire countryside.
The convoy of self-styled travelers finally settled for the night on a country lane outside the town of Amesbury, then proceeded to party the way they imagined that their ancient forebears may once have done—with bonfires, music, diverse intoxicants, and general revelry. In the hazy morning I set out again, accepting an unexpected lift to the larger but less popular stone circle at nearby Avebury. By evening I had arrived in the small town of Glastonbury, or, as its devotees would have it, the sacred Isle of Avalon. For some, it is even thought to be the center of a giant zodiacal earthwork carved thousands of years ago into the surrounding countryside, as well as a long-time pit stop for UFOs; and, with its famous Tor and its numerous springs, one can easily see how it might be taken for a place that was sacred to an ancient Earth Goddess.
Making my way up the windy hill, I passed by scattered bonfires resounding with the strumming of guitars and beating of bongos. Partway up, in a large clearing on one side of the Tor, a solemn ritual was being performed by a couple dozen berobed members of a contemporary Essene order. Finally I reached the broad, gently sloping summit, where well over a hundred people were gathered.
The atmosphere was festive: All this appeared spontaneous enough to me, but not to a few of the more anarchistic revelers present, whose quirkily satirical sheep bleats —maa-aaa, maa-aaa—though ignored by the more devoted celebrants, indicated to me some of the diversity of this gathering. Still drowsy, I sat and gazed out into the ocean of gray all around, the town far below, and the idea dawned on me that here—on this hill that may have been sacred to Christians, pagan Celts, and their more mysterious predecessors—the transcendentally sky-directed religiosity of my own Greek Catholic upbringing was somehow being reconciled with the earthy and more pagan orientation of my subsequent intellectual searches.
Here, it seemed to me, Earth and sky meet, and pagan and Christian, ancient and modern worlds, intermingle in some strange harmony. Nothing at all seemed out of place here: Over a decade has passed since this event, but it has remained in my memory as a kind of anchor point within my travels. Critical Sympathy During the three years in which I conducted this research, in the mids, I was a participant-observer of this increasingly global subculture. I attended meditation retreats and psychic fairs, group visualizations and ritual circles.
In each of these activities, I could, and often did, fit into the role of participant. This role came easily to me, as I had had contact with certain streams of these alternative cultural movements for well over a decade prior to taking on this research, and I remain sympathetic to the urge infusing the quests of many of their participants. I am buoyed by the diversity of expressive styles and the pluralistic democratization of spirituality that can be found in these movements particularly in the more creative and self-reflexive branches of neopagan ecospirituality , and I see these as a healthy postmodern antidote to the various resurgent fundamentalisms at large in the world.
At the same time, I have been dismayed by the depoliticization and privatization of New Age values and ideas since their emergence in the countercultural brew of the s and s. The general lack of political analysis in the New Age movement extends not only to its engagement with the general culture, but also to relations of power and authority within New Age groups and organizations, and to its problematic relations with other disempowered groups, such as contemporary Native communities.
I am disturbed by the speed by which New Age ideas have been commercialized and sold, turned into commodities, marketable fads, and individual lifestyle options —and by the way many New Agers uncritically devour, regurgitate, for a price, and otherwise appropriate the symbols and practices of other traditions. My interest, therefore, is marked by a critical and skeptical perspective which sees New Age and ecospiritual beliefs as potentially disempowering and disenlightening as much as they may facilitate personal empowerment and enlightenment.
My observant participation, therefore, has always been tempered by my own personal commitments: As a scholar and activist, I place myself among those who believe that engaged, critical, and reflexive sociocultural research has much to contribute—not so much to knowledge for its own sake, but to the development of a wise, just, intelligent, and ecologically sensible and sustainable society. Such a view makes it easier for the cultural analyst to see the effects of these beliefs and how they play themselves out in the broader cultural arena. Gardner ; Faber Rather, I see them as representing alternative rationalities, more or less coherent within themselves, vying with each other and with the dominant rationality scientifico-positivist, utilitarian, and instrumental for epistemological status and recognition.
Whatever the shortcomings of the responses described herein, I believe the task itself requires our utmost attention. And yet, the landscape is hardly a tabula rasa to be shaped like putty into whatever people desire; so I present a model for interpreting places and landscapes as heterogeneous productions, shaped or orchestrated not only by the activities of human social groups, but also by nonhuman biological and material others, the actions of which resist as well as accommodate human impositions on the land.
The first is a town marked by a significant and focal landscape feature, Glastonbury Tor, which together with an ensemble of other landscape features is soaked within a complex, many-layered, and much-contested history or geology of cultural myths and meanings. The second is in some ways a more obviously natural landscape; the layers of cultural myths and meanings on which I will be focusing here range from those of Native Americans to present-day New Age pilgrims, evangelical Christians, and a high-stakes real estate industry. These four chapters constitute the substantive core of this book; and readers more interested in either of the two sites than in broader theoretical or sociological questions may wish to proceed directly to the relevant chapters 4 or 6 , returning to chapters 2 and 3 afterwards.
Following these place-readings, I attempt, in the final chapter, to pull together the theoretical and empirical strands making up this work.
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Drawing on some of the specific place-stories of my interview subjects—stories about how they came to their destinations, and how they have been changed by them—and on the representational discourses and imaginal languages that circulate around these places, I develop a hermeneutic phenomenology of such ecospiritual heterotopias. The model I present involves recognizing three active constituents in the making of such places: These three factors interact with each other, but also with the outside world, with competing interpretive communities, and with broader sociocultural realities.
I end with a few tentative suggestions which I hope might encourage and facilitate dialogue between New Agers and ecospiritualists, their skeptical detractors, and others involved in the social life of the places they share. These concentrated at various points that came to be regarded as totemic spots, sacred areas, power places, or temples. They were points of geographical sanctity. Three themes predominate in the expanding body of New Age and ecospiritual literature.
First, there is the idea that the Earth is a living organism or being of which we are a part: In this chapter I will examine these three sets of ideas and trace their growth and contestation within the ranks of their supporters as well as scholarly detractors.
The literature in these areas is vast and wildly varying in merit, so my overview will focus on a selection of key figures, ideas, and moments, which I will contextualize within broader debates over prehistory and over the natural environment and our relationship to it. In chapter 3, I will focus on the practices by which these ideas and models are actualized in specific places.
Ideas and practices can hardly be understood in separation from each other, however; and the place-readings that make up the remainder of the book will make clear that it is the interaction between the two that is most important for us to understand and critically analyze. Something happened to cause a significant—but not total—loss of memory. While virtually all modern cultures consider the Earth to be deaf, dumb and inanimate, the people who lived on our planet for tens of thousands of years, from the dawn of the Paleolithic some 40, years ago, experienced it as a great living being that was responsive, intelligent and nurturing.
The great G-words paired and recoupled like recombinant DNA in the murky, high-nutrient soup of the New Age subconscious. Try as [scientists James] Lovelock and [Lynn] Margulis might to bring their living Earth brainchild up as a proper scientific theory, their budding princess, like most any other beauty, did not care a fig to be understood when she could be adored. Following a suggestion by novelist William Golding, Lovelock named the hypothesis after an ancient Greek goddess. Since then, the speed at which the idea has been taken up outside 20 departures the academy has been astonishing.
I will briefly deal with each of these and with their interrelationships. Ideas of biospheric holism are not new. Within science, organismic conceptions of the biosphere have been proposed by James Hutton, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Alexander von Humboldt, geologist Eduard Suess, who coined the term biosphere, and Russian earth scientist Vladimir Vernadsky, who developed it most fully Grinevald Of greater popular impact have been the ideas of Jesuit priest and geologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Together with Eduard Le Roy and Vernadsky, and influenced by the vitalism of Henri Bergson, Teilhard developed the idea of the Biosphere as the organic totality of living beings; but he couched it within a far-flung philosophy of cosmic evolution that was to strongly influence a number of New Age thinkers of the s and s.
Parallel sources for the Gaia idea can be traced to the neopagan and Goddess spirituality movements. The notion of the Earth as a living organism and deity, one of whose names is Gaea, was proposed as early as by Tim Zell of the neopagan Church of All Worlds. Reimagining Earth 21 In the beginning there was a state of paradise in which the whole world lived in harmony—men with women, humans with the natural world.
No-one had dominion over anyone else. Society was matriarchal and the goddess was worshipped. Then men began to take power for themselves and to replace the goddess with a male god. They exploited women and the natural order. Their rule has been characterized by war, injustice, and rationalism. But a New Age is dawning in which people are returning to the goddess and realising their connectedness with all Being.
Soon patriarchy will be overturned and peace will come to the earth once more. It is, like that of Gaia, not a new idea cf. Georgoudi ; Hutton ; but its recent spread can be accounted for by two main factors: In a nutshell, Gimbutas proposes that Neolithic Old Europe was a peaceful, egalitarian, gylanic woman-centered , Goddess-worshipping culture that spread from western Ukraine in the east and the Aegean peninsula in the south, to beyond the Carpathian Mountains into central Europe.
Its end, according to Gimbutas, came through a series of invasions by horse- and chariotriding, patriarchal Indo-European pastoralist warriors. Gimbutas has assembled a voluminous amount of evidence to support her theory, and presented it in a series of widely read and lavishly produced books , , Taking their cue from Gimbutas herself, such speculative prehistorians draw liberally from archaeology, folklore, etymology, place-names, freewheeling reconstructions of megalithic science and astronomy, and leaps of intuition, to weave a spell of narrative associations.
The power points are precise geographic locations where there is a unique energetic dynamic which allows for a mutually beneficial relationship between the planet and humans. Humans may assist in the energy balancing and thereby the healing of Earth by visiting the power points. They may also benefit from the various Earth spirit energies emanating from those sites. Whereas the Gaia myth has served to articulate possible relationships between people and the Earth as a whole, much of the earth mysteries discourse focuses in on specific places and on energies believed to be present and accessible at these places.
It thus serves to support New Age and ecospiritual efforts to resacralize landscapes and to protect them from practices that would deny their sacredness, such as industrial development. These ideas constitute the largest source of material informing the Gaian landscape politics to be examined in the later chapters of this book.
The beginning of the earth mysteries movement is usually traced back to the English businessman, magistrate, and field naturalist Alfred Watkins. Though research on the geometrical alignments of ancient sites had been undertaken sporadically since the mid-nineteenth century Heselton In his book The Old Straight Track, Watkins presented the complete case for a network of completely straight roads used by traders and travelers in early England and aligned through a variety of prehistoric, Roman, and medieval monuments.
He portrayed Britain as a vast archaeological relic, a meaningfully organized structure of lines and centers, the ancient meanings of which were far more advanced than archaeologists of the day acknowledged. To pursue the new field, Watkins founded the Old Straight Track Club, a group of ley aficionados, which flourished between the wars and inspired thousands of other enthusiasts. Ley hunting became a favorite pastime for numerous clubs, for whose members it was as good an excuse as any for an outing in the countryside.
Between the wars, it was in Germany that ley line theorizing was taken up and developed.
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Teudt claimed that the Teutoburger Wald district in Lower Saxony—with its astronomical lines linking sacred places, all centered around the dramatic rock formation called Die Externsteine—was the sacred heartland of Germany Michell By the s, analogous ideas about ancient civilizations were being advanced in other quarters. Positive results for the sun and moon led Hawkins Further encouragement for such speculative prehistory was provided by the theories of Euan MacKie, according to whom the ancient Britons were part of an international prehistoric intelligentsia possessing an intellectual and religious elite like that of the ancient Mayas.
Southwest, and many other places e. In a group of ley aficionados, including Philip Heselton and Allen Watkins son of Alfred , founded The Ley Hunter, a magazine which was to become the longest-running publication devoted to earth mysteries it is still publishing today.
The new journal soon attracted the attention of others who were to become household names in the field, including John Michell, Paul Devereux, Anthony Roberts, Nigel Pennick, and Paul Screeton. Michell brought together previously disparate fields such as sacred geometry and ancient architecture, numerology, gematria, pyramids, Chinese geomancy, and ley lines into an alluring narrative of a glorious past whose fragments remain to haunt and inspire us: Reimagining Earth 25 A great scientific instrument lies sprawled over the entire surface of the globe.
At some period, perhaps it was about years ago, almost every corner of the world was visited by a group of men who came with a particular task to accomplish. With the help of some remarkable power, by which they could cut and raise enormous blocks of stone, these men erected vast astronomical instruments, circles of erect pillars, pyramids, underground tunnels, cyclopean stone platforms, all linked together by a network of tracks and alignments, whose course from horizon to horizon was marked by stones, mounds and earthworks.
Whether this enormous surge of energy, which within a few hundred years covered the whole earth with stone circles and earthworks, was released from one group or race, or whether it flowed spontaneously as a wave of universal inspiration is not yet clear. Alongside other proponents of sacred geometry Pennick ; Critchlow ; Lawlor , Michell proposed that there are correspondences between geometrical shapes, mathematical principles, natural energies, and cosmic harmonies; and that these principles, relating to form, shape, proportion, number, measure, and materials, were utilized in the design and construction of sacred monuments and their placement within the landscape.
One of the ways in which these energies can be perceived is through dowsing, that is, divining with metal rods, twigs, or other aids. Dowsers have, over the decades, enthusiastically mapped out not only the underground water sources for which they are better known, but countless other purported energies in the vicinity of ancient sites. Depending on the dowser. Crystals placed on them could stop, reduce or deflect leys. Different leys—equivalent to the Chinese yang white tiger and yin blue dragon lines respectively, those flowing through higher areas and those in lower-lying valleys —supposedly meet at nodes or concentrated power points.
Graves notes as well the negative effects of highways, pylon lines, mining and quarrying, and so forth on the energy system of a landscape. A pivotal idea for Graves is the positing of a subtle, imaginal realm of existence which mediates between humans and nature, but which has been displaced by the hegemony of Cartesian body-mind dualism. The sacred sites, as we have seen, are on node-points of the energymatrix: Mary line and which tends to move through lower-lying areas including holy wells , and on to the East Anglian coast. According to Miller and Broadhurst, dragon lines on this path pass through many churches and mounds dedicated to St.
For instance, the apparent opposition between the Christian archangel St. No less attractive in their writing is the palpable sense of excitement they convey in the process of discovering, in the course of their on-the-land pilgrimage, hitherto unknown or forgotten secrets of the Earth spirit itself. Groping toward a Science of Sacred Place Sensing a need to establish scientific credibility for earth mysteries research, Ley Hunter editor Paul Devereux in launched the Dragon Project now the Dragon Project Trust , an interdisciplinary research effort to document and measure unusual energy phenomena, such as magnetic or radiation anomalies, ultrasonic emissions, and light phenomena, at stone circles in Britain.
The project would use scientific instrumentation and methodology, and would draw on the combined energies of dowsers, psychics, electronics engineers, and archaeologists, among others. A shoestring operation, the project has lumbered along since then in fits and starts, making slow and generally ambiguous progress and resulting in occasional articles, reports, and radio and television interviews.
Devereux surmises that widely reported light phenomena at megalithic sites may be related to the natural radiation of the stone used, usually granite Devereux b: This hypothesis parallels the claims of North American researchers regarding the apparent association between sacred sites and underground uranium deposits e. Southwest , a connection that has also been supported by the work of a few neurophysiologists Persinger , ; Derr and Persinger ; Persinger and Derr , ; Regush In line with this more pragmatic approach, Devereux and his colleague Nigel Pennick In the s, Cambridge mathematician Michael Behrend began detecting vast networks of ancient site alignments across southern Britain, plotting them with the aid of computers, and finding that churches and megalithic sites were set out in vast geometrical formations such as heptagons and decagons and according to multiples of fixed distances.
In her popular book Terravision: Earth mysteries researchers join ranks with parapsychologists and transpersonal psychologists, citing scientific research supporting a correlation between ancient and traditional sacred places, areas with frequent UFO sightings or unusual psychospiritual experiences, and geophysical landscape characteristics.
It includes the study of the flora and fauna, the climate and the local magnetic and electrical fields. It attempts to explain their relationship to adjacent natural features, to heavenly bodies, to underground currents and to the nature invested in the place by human activities. Devereux advocates an approach to sacred sites that combines conventional archaeology, systematic observation, archaeoastronomy, folkloristics, sacred geometry, scientific measurement, and monitoring of energetic properties, clairvoyant techniques such as dowsing, direct sensing, and remote viewing , geomancy strictly speaking the attempt to read the orientation and relationship of sites with one another and with topographical and astronomical factors , and speculative forays into previous worldviews.
For those active in this multidisciplinary field, this work is exciting and explicitly responds to a cultural need; there is a feeling that such geomancy is crucial in the much-espoused reorientation of relations between humans and the rest of nature. Proponents of such a paradigm shift, however, forward their ideas within a broader interdiscursive arena; and, in the debates over earth energies, Gaia, Goddess civilization, and the like, their work brings them into inevitable tension with mainstream archaeologists and prehistorians, physical scientists and psychologists, and other specialists.
The boundary conflicts that result constitute highly charged sites for the cultural contestation of ideas about the Earth. In what remains of this chapter, I will examine the boundary conflicts surrounding New Age and ecospiritual interpretations of prehistory and the broader context of contemporary environmental discourse, within which New Age and New Paradigm ideas are shaped and contested. The past is and has always been contested territory, and the more distant the past, the wilder and more varying the claims made about it. Scientific archaeologists and prehistorians have carved out the intellectual authority to speak on behalf of this distant past, but this authority has always been subject to challenges from within as well as outside the scholarly world.
Moreover, paradigms do change, and even challenges from the fringes can provoke insights or raise important questions. At those times when social or cultural movements attempt to appropriate scientific support for their claims, however, the relationship between them and the scholarly establishment can become quite strained.
Yet in the dissemination of these ideas, popularizers have tended to abandon all but the most tenuous connection to their scholarly foundations. Most of the popular writing on ancient Goddess civilizations, for instance, has relied almost exclusively on the work of Gimbutas, without even hinting at its tendentious position within the field e. Gimbutas herself has been heavily criticized by other archaeologists, among them feminists, for her artistic license and unwarranted overinterpretations of data.
Contrary to the idea of a peaceful and ecologically benign Neolithic in Britain, for instance, some present-day archaeologists argue that it was crowded, warfare was endemic, environments were disrupted on a large scale with forests burned and wastelands created , and yet, that ritual monuments were everywhere. Hutton points out that remorselessly androcentric societies like that of ancient Rome, or cities like Babylon and Athens, created remarkable poetry, art, and a plenitude of female goddesses. In Hawaii, the goddess Pele seemed in charge, but the actual society was very male dominated.
In contrast, early Christianity had an overwhelmingly female membership and appealed to women, despite its lack of obvious female imagery. Earth mysteries proponents generally define their project in opposition to that of the scientific establishment: In recent years this antagonism has abated somewhat, as archaeologists have more openly embraced dialogue with their extra-academic counterparts.
So, if the dreamers were obviously wrong on details, it is the archaeologists who have been struggling to catch up with the generalities. But he admits that any rapprochement between the camps is made difficult by the religious motivations of earth mysteries proponents, and by their frequent antipathy toward orthodox institutions. He claims that this antipathy results in an overreliance on outdated archaeological ideas, and a critique of a model of archaeology that is at least twenty years out of date ff.
Frazer, Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, and Marija Gimbutas—who have been judged guilty by their peers of skimming over details in their quest for vast, global generalizations. Myths about an earlier Golden Age, a Fall into modern industrial society, and a sentient Earth with which we can communicate in order to restore Reimagining Earth 35 that Golden Age, carry a particular resonance in our time.
The English word dragon is a translation of a Latin term, used in the Middle Ages to describe the fire-breathing, flying reptilian monster of Scandinavian and Germanic myth. In that myth, these creatures feature as threats to humankind, to be slain by heroes, and they entered the pan-European medieval imagination in that guise. They did not exist in ancient Celtic, or Roman or Greek mythology, although human-eating serpent-like monsters often dwelling in water did. Nor were they found in ancient Egypt, where the closest equivalent, the crocodile, had positive sacred associations.
Their legendary function, however, is quite different, for they are viewed as vessels of great spiritual power, very often beneficial to humanity. Funny You Should Say That. Navigating the Fourth Dimension. Fast Astral Projection for Beginners: Your Guidebook of Astral Traveling Techniques. A Book of Pagan Prayer. The Voice of Rolling Thunder.
Sidian Morning Star Jones. The Power of Ecstatic Trance. The Call of Sedona. Know Your Own Mind. Fallen Angels and the Origins of Evil. The Mysteries of Sedona. The Ultimate Soul Journey. You're Trying Too Hard. Source of the Dream: My Way to Sathya Sai Baba. Classics of Spiritual Philosophy and the Present. How to write a great review. The review must be at least 50 characters long. The title should be at least 4 characters long. Your display name should be at least 2 characters long. At Kobo, we try to ensure that published reviews do not contain rude or profane language, spoilers, or any of our reviewer's personal information.
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