Thursday 1 June 2017

The Sacred Measures of Albion

Edited from: A Defence of Sacred Measures by John Michell

It is necessary, for the reasons set out in this pamphlet, to oppose with the utmost vehemence the proposal to abandon our traditional standards of weight and measure in favour of the metric units invented at the French Revolution. The fundamental reason for emphasising the importance of this issue is that it clearly epitomises the conflict between two contrasting philosophic or cosmological points of view...

The point at issue is whether an enlightened, humane and scientific civilization should adopt as its standards of measure units such as those still in use in England, which were formerly, and for good reason, regarded as sacred, having the advantages of tradition, inherent meaning and natural application, or whether the metric systern, which has none of these qualities nor any of its own to replace them, is the more appropriate...

Sacred measures are those units which relate to natural constants on more than one scale and demonstrate the unity between the macrocosmic body of the universe and the human microcosm. The present British units, the foot, mile, acre etc, are by this definition sacred; the metric units are not.

The foot and the other linear and land measuring units that relate to it are of indefinable antiquity. They were known to the Sumerians, Chaldeans and the ancient Egyptians and appear once to have been universal, for they survive in different parts of the world, wherever the interests of the people are still given precedence over those of modern technology and commerce.

Their advantages for all human purposes are obvious. A carpenter gauges an inch by the width of his thumb and its tenth part by his practised eye; a builder estimates the length of a wall by the two yard span of his outstretched arms, and a surveyor paces by the yard. Cloth is sold by the cubit, the distance from elbow to finger tip, and other such units as the span and handbreadth were formerly used which have now generally become obsolete.

Of course no two people have the same bodily dimensions, and the canonical man has never existed save as an idea or archetype. These traditional units are not, however, imprecise or inaccurate. Ancient societies regarded their standards of measure as their most sacred possessions and they have been preserved with extreme accuracy from the earliest times. A craftsman soon learns to what extent the parts of his own body deviate from the conventional standard and adjusts accordingly.

Sacred units of measure apply not only to the human scale but also to the astronomical. For this reason they were said, at a time when such language was more generally understood, to have been "revealed" to men, not invented by them.

The whole pamphlet is at:

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