"Australian dream time seems strange to us because we distinguish stories from places. For the aborigines places are stories: song-lines. To "settle" a wild place means to create not only houses and farms but also the stories that make them a home. For native Australians, their deserts are home because they are verdant with stories."
David Loy, The World is Made of Stories
A few last thoughts on sacred sites (well, not last, but as I return to the many lists, calendars and responsibilities of my current life, I must put aside my passion for a little while).....this time thanks, once again, to spiritual dowser Sig Lonegren, who has spent many years exploring sacred places, in England, Europe, and in the U.S. I find his premise fascinating.
As a dowser myself, I've experienced shifts in energy - which means also shifts in consciousness and perception -many times when visiting areas that are geomantically potent, be it the henge of Avebury, or the labyrinth at Unity Church in Tucson. Sites are able to change consciousness (raise energy) because they are intrinsically geomantically potent, and/or they also become potent because of human interaction with the innate intelligence of place, what the Greeks called "genus loci". Geomantic reciprocity - as human beings bring intentionality, reverence and focus to a particular place, building sacred architecture, or engaging in ritual. The conversation becomes more active as place accrues myth, story in the memory of the people, and the memory of the land. Sacred places have both an innate and a developed capacity to transform consciousness. And the power of myth is important if we wish to engage the numinous presence, to "talk to the Goddess and petition the Gods".
"To the native Irish, the literal representation of the country was less important than its poetic dimension. In traditional bardic culture, the terrain was studied, discussed, and referenced: every place had its legend and its own identity....what endured was the mythic landscape."
Why would the ancient people who built Stonehenge spend generations hauling monstrous (and apparently specific) stones hundreds of miles to pose them in circles, laid in various alignments with the skies, seasons, and land?
According to Sig, who references psychologist Julian Jayne''s controversial book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, possibly because, as human culture and language became increasingly complex, we began to lose mediumistic consciousness, a daily, conversational Gnosis with "the One". We became more individuated. With the gradual ascendancy of left-brained reasoning he suggests the ancients developed a concern with how to continue contact with the gods, the ancestors, the numina of the land. Stonehenge was a temple on a sacred landscape - according to Sig, it may also represent a "last ditch effort" to keep in touch with the spirit world, to enhance communal experience. As the rift between personal gnosis and spiritual contact deepened, and especially with the later development of patriarchal institutions, gradually the tribal and individual Gnosis was replaced by complex religious institutions that removed individuals from the earlier tribal mind, and rendered spiritual authority to priests who were often viewed as the sole representatives of the Gods or God.
Perhaps this capacity is returning to us, a new evolutionary balance. As crisis engulfs us, we need, once again, to re-member how to "speak to the Earth".
"I have been arguing for decades that these (sacred) spaces were special places that enhance the possibility of connection to the other side - to the One. Please judge what follows in that context. You may well find that it challenges some of your paradigms you hold about the past. It combines two separate lines of investigation that support the perception that these spaces really “did what’s on the box.” The gods came to earth. And us humans in great numbers communicated directly with them. (I end with a counter argument just to keep things in balance.
Since the mid-seventies when I began work on my Masters’ degree on Sacred Space, one of the major themes I have chewed on has been the shift from the dominance of that more intuitive right brain in prehistory to the analytical left brain brought to us by (IMHO) the increase of influence of the Patriarchy. The book that really turned me on initially was The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes, first published in 1976 (see "Works Cited" at the bottom for all book references).
I must say that this has been one of the most stimulating and thought-provoking books I've ever read, and is a must in the development of consciousness studies. I don’t agree with some of what he has to say, for example, his choice of a particular word to describe how our prehistoric ancestors received their right brain information - "hallucinations." I don't think that's what they were, and later on, I'll go in to why I think so. But on the whole, I found his thesis most useful in forming my perception of this shift in consciousness.
It began with the Neolithic Revolution - the increasing use of agriculture rather than hunter gathering. It facilitated a shift in consciousness. My understanding was that the driving factor in the construction of purpose-built sacred spaces in prehistoric times was the loss of the ability of more and more of humanity to connect on a conscious level with the world of spirit. I felt, and still do, that the archaeoastronomy, sacred geometry and Earth Energies all enhanced the ability of this connection as we became more and more left-brain/rational. I wrote about this at great length in my first book, Spiritual Dowsing, initially published in 1986."
Jaynes, Julian. 1976. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. (Available from Amazon Books.)
Lonegren, Sig. 2007. Spiritual Dowsing. Glastonbury, England: Gothic Image. History of the earth energies, healing and other uses of dowsing today. A book for the spiritual pilgrim. Initially published 1986. ISBN 978-0-906362-70-9. (Available from Amazon books).