Friday 26 August 2016

Britain - a land under enchantment - the RVI (Recognise, Validity, Importance) mantra

Mrs Maltwood looked with a geomancer's eye at the Somerset plains and understood in a flash the secret of the zodiacal giants hidden in the landscape. 

Alfred Watkins, envisioned on the Bredwardine hills, perceived the veins and arteries standing out clear against the Hertfordshire fields.

Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Tennyson and many others sought the vital spots to penetrate the layers of time that cover the face of the country. The feeling they shared was of some forgotten secret. 

They glimpsed a remote golden age of science, poetry and religion in which the vast works they saw in the landscape were accomplished. 

Each of these English visionaries knew that what he saw was but a fraction of the great mystery, the key to which had been lost. 

Britain, they felt, was the holy land under enchantment. 

At the castle of the Grail King certain things must be asked before the spell is broken, so must the right question be found to lift the veil that hides the form and spirit in the landscape. 

From The View Over Atlantis - by John Michell, 1969.


In a era when so many people and nearly-all institutions are spiritually-corrupt to the extreme point of inversion; it is by awareness of the land that much goodness may be perceived, and this relationship with the land nourishes us with truth, beauty and truth - it is the land which mediates meaning and purpose.

Having had these experiences from direct contact, they may be drawn upon again and again when circumstances are averse - we can carry the land around in our hearts.

The land is there to be 'read'; so long as we are read it like a poem written on a much re-used ancient manuscript with earlier writings still shining through. And the core meaning does not come-through in paraphrasable content but directly to the heart - we feel its effects, we feel the difference it has made to our deepest thinking; but cannot re-state or communicate that meaning - at least not directly.

The problem is not communication - it is actively cutting-off communication. The land is one-sidedly communicating with everybody all of the time; but most people for most of the time are blocking the communication - perhaps only trying to open-up when visiting a well-known 'beauty spot'. (Often enough this is exactly the worst possible time to break the closed-off, blocking habit - due to the crowds, regimantation, and pressure to respond.)

Perhaps a mantra will help: RVI - Recognise, Validity, Importance

If we experience the land as alive, meaningful, significant to us personally; we need to Recognise the experience is happening; acknowledge the Validity of the experience (that it is something real and true); and recognise that the experience is Important (not an accident, not random nor an epiphenomenon - but a significant occurrence that needs to be taken note of).

Of course we probably won't be able read the landscape like an epic poem; or indeed appreciate more than an inkling of what is being communicated - but even that inkling is valuable, because it is divine.

And even the merest glimmer of recognising the validity and importance of a divine communication is necessarily and always life-changing.  


John Fitzgerald said...

I only ever do it in portions, but I find the Liverpool to Newcastle train journey particularly emblematic in this respect - from west to east, from one port city to another, through the industrial powerhouses of Manchester and Leeds, across the wild and magnificent Pennines and past the great cathedral cities of York and Durham. There are so many levels here, so much history, so many aspects and dimensions of the same national narratve. If I was a different kind of writer I'd write a novel based around this train trip!

Anonymous said...

The medieval practice of lectio divina might provide a framework here. It is a method of prayerful reading of Scripture but could be used to prayerfully "read" surroundings as well. It is made up of four phases: lectio (the actual reading), meditatio (detailed envisioning of what is read), contemplatio (exploring the spiritual meanings behind the vision), and oratio (offering prayer in response). In the case of looking at one's surroundings, the lectio would be intentionally looking at your surroundings and taking in what is to be seen, heard etc. The meditatio is the vision itself, so it seems to me lectio and meditatio, in this case, are merged steps (although i suppose meditatio might also include considering what brought your particular surroundings to where they are now--for example, the growth of a tree from a sapling etc.) The contemplatio would be considering what spiritual message or truth your surroundings are offering to you, and oratio would be whatever prayer that consideration inspired.

Bruce Charlton said...

John - Agreed.

?DLD - Yes, this is quite close to my own meditative practice which I evolved over several years - although it typically works best for me in a (selected) coffee shop.