Tuesday 19 September 2023

What makes a successful pilgrimage, and why?

View of Glastonbury Tor from Wearyall Hill (where boats would arrive when Avalon was an island) 

In relation to my post from earlier today, which emphasized the role of individual, autonomous thinking in the world; a recent visit to Glastonbury seems relevant. Glastonbury has unsurpassed importance in the deep (and mythical, as well as historical) nature of Christianity in the British Isles. 

Yet since the 1970s, it has become a magnet for a New Age neo-paganism that is "anything-but-Christianity" in its basic stance. 

This -- even when New Age neo-paganism weaves-in versions of Christian legends about Jesus visiting Somerset as a child; the site of the first Christian church in Britain (and perhaps the first outside Palestine); a foundational role of Joseph of Arimathea; and the influences of the Holy Grail (also, perhaps, the Spear of Destiny). 

Thus, many of the people encountered in and around Glastonbury are on the anti-Christian side in the spiritual war of this world. 

On the other hand, Glastonbury was the chosen residence (and spiritual focus) of the recently deceased writer Geoffrey Ashe - which counts for something positive in my book. 

So, the situation is that the surface and social aspects of Glastonbury are mostly hostile and aversive to my kind of Christian spirituality; while the depths and resonances are tremendous. 

A visit therefore depends (even more than visits usually do) on the attitude we bring to the place. I think this is the case now days, with our autonomous consciousness, than it was in the past. For example, in ancient times and into the middle ages, it seems that a place of Holy pilgrimage would have an objective and essentially-irresistible beneficial effect on the pilgrim. 

But, even if so, that is certainly not the case anymore: to physically move oneself to what was called the Holyest Erthe in England is no longer beneficial unless one brings the right frame of mind. So much is clear from observing modern 'pilgrims', or hearing them talking about their experiences. 

This recent visit was with my brother; and focused on the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, seeking books by Dion Fortune and Gareth Knight in the esoteric bookshops, the Chalice Well, and the Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill. 

For, no doubt, a combination of reasons; our visit to Glastonbury was successful in terms of pilgrimage. We were able to see through whatever was aversive about the surface and many of the people; and experience what lay deeper. 

The question that comes to me now, is whether this benefit was wholly explicable in terms of perceiving the past shining through the present. And I think not. 

I think that the past as such has not this power; and what we are actually experiencing in such situations is the effect of living thinking of the alive (and the so-called dead) people for whom Glastonbury is a living spiritual resource. 

In other words; perhaps we are dealing with something much like what ritual magicians term 'thought-forms', or something like Jung implied by Archetypes. The positive, holy, creative thoughts of Christians have made a living, always-present spiritual resource that may be tapped-into by those who share such motivations. 

To tap-into such thought-forms does not require geographical proximity; yet the complex of attitudes and actions required to place oneself in Glastonbury, and to move around it in an attitude of expectation, can shape the mind to become especially receptive.

And, not only receptive. Having linked to a thought-form, our own thinking will (to some extent) modify, add-to, enhance that thought-form; and it is our experience of this participation that is exactly what makes a pilgrimage special and beneficial. 

1 comment:

RHS said...

"I will not cease from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand..."