A Talk for The Society of Leyhunters Spring Moot 2010
It is a most intriguing and fascinating hobby. In these days when rambling over hill and dale is such a popular amusement, there should be countless opportunities for young people to discover markstones and other reminders of bye-gone days, and to trace out possible alignments from them on the maps when they return home.
Mark Culling Carr-Gomm, The Straight Track Club (1938)
Leyhunters are really hunter-gatherers in to-some-extent respectable clothing. They are people who are interested in gathering information and in tracking. This impulse is buried deep in our psyches as human beings – after all, we have been hunters and hunter-gatherer for far longer than we have been suited and ‘civilized’. And it seems that the urge to hunt for physical objects and for food exists also on the intellectual, emotional and spiritual levels. Carson McCullers wrote a book with the memorable title ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ which conveys so well the way we go searching for love in the world. Our minds are of course voracious in their search for knowledge too, and at a spiritual level we talk about being a ‘seeker’ – going on a quest. In essence it’s the same thing – whether we’re looking for food, for love, for information or for illumination. We’re hunting, we’re sniffing and listening, and we’re looking for directions and patterns: which way did that animal go? Does the herd come to drink here at dawn every day?
This crucial ability of the brain to identify patterns has evolved in response to our need to seek nourishment. But in addition, this pattern-seeking ability also helps us to find meaning in life, to be artistic, and to theorise and hence make discoveries. In fact it is so strong that we will even find patterns and attribute meaning to them, even when the patterns have occurred randomly and there is no inherent meaning in them. This understanding has been evoked to explain why conspiracy theories have such an appeal for many people, and it also suggests why there is such an overlap amongst those interested in spiritual seeking and conspiracy theories: people are looking for the more-than-obvious, for deeper patterns beneath the surface.
Now some conspiracy theories may be nutty and completely off track. Some spiritual seeking may be driven by neurotic needs and superstition, but not all of it. We all know that often things are not what they appear to be – that hidden forces are at work in business and in politics, and that life is indeed far more beautiful and mysterious than we can imagine. How do we deepen our spiritual inspiration, and our appreciation of this world, and satisfy the hunter at all levels of our being?
I would suggest that one way would be through cultivating our pattern-recognition ability. So lets explore this theme for a while, working our way towards the subject of ley hunting before finally engaging in a bit of research together on this theme.
One way to cultivate our pattern-recognition ability is to start with the personal: trying to trace the patterns in your own life. Here age will work to your advantage – you’ll have more material to go on! Think of your family tree, then add in to that tree people who have exerted major influences on your life. This may not work for everyone, but try it out. When I tried it, I discovered an interesting pattern. Thinking of ley lines I realised that three people – three elder figures to me when I was younger – stimulated my interest in leys and in sacred landscape: one was my Druid teacher Ross Nichols, the other the late John Michell, author of the seminal ‘View Over Atlantis’, and key figure in the revival of interest in ley lines in the 1970s, and my grandfather, Mark Culling Carr-Gomm, who was a friend of Alfred Watkins and helped to found the ‘Old Straight Track Club’. What was the pattern I found? All were linked to my father, who worked for Ross Nichols and knew John Michell, who shared his fascination for the Shakespeare authorship controversy.
So when I realised this pattern, it was very satisfying. It gives me a sense of comfort, of meaning, of connection to the past, to the land, to the world of culture and spirituality and family. What does the pattern mean? Why is it there? Does it give a glimpse of hidden forces at work, of Intelligent Design? I don’t know. Maybe there’s no reason. It simply being there is sufficient to me to work its magic. It’s like art. When we look at a picture that satisfies us, that pleases and moves us, we don’t ask ‘Why?’or ‘What does this mean?’ do we?
So the first suggestion is to look for patterns amongst people, amongst influences in your life and relationships. Of course psychotherapists get huge mileage out of this, and justifiably so.
Let’s now look at a set of patterns familiar to us all, and that occurs with Place. What happens when you connect the dots, for example, that mark all the places you have lived in? I didn’t think this would yield anything when I did it, but to my amazement I discovered it did: joining the points in London, Ireland, France, Bulgaria, and Lanzarote made a big triangle. If I added in New Zealand it confused the picture I have to admit. Again it may or may not have meaning, but it may be worth exploring for you. The only benefit I can derive is a sort of mild curiosity and amusement that discovering this triangle has brought – quite different from the experience I felt when I connected the people together that I mentioned. But the impulse to research starts with curiosity and so I think this sort of line of enquiry would be worth pursuing.
Now what happens when you put People and Place together? Place is interesting in itself – the nature, the electromagnetic fields that exist there, the geology etc. but when you add people you get the possibility of story. People and Place, Character and Setting, are the two great ingredients of Story. “So what?” You might say. Well, that’s the relationship that is most under threat at the moment, AND it’s the relationship we have so spectacularly screwed up – by relating to Place in an exploitative and abusive way. For this reason it is the most important relationship to explore. Otherwise the story we’re all living through, and our grandchildren will live through, will turn into a tragedy. In fact, looking at the rate of species extinction it is a tragedy already isn’t it? And that’s why I have called this talk ‘The Most Important Relationship.’
Let’s explore this relationship in a deeper way now. (In the rest of the session at the Leyhunters’ Moot we did this through meditation, inner journeying and sharing).
Related posts in this blog: http://philipcarrgomm.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/three-old-fellas/