Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Michael Line, the Qabalah, and the Tarot.

As Beltaine approaches and mythic archetypes stir in Great Britain, it seems a good time to give this material an airing again. It has appeared in various forms since my first ever journey along the line almost exactly 20 years ago.

In July 1990, during a visit to Glastonbury with my friend and psychic questing colleague of the time, Alex Langstone, I had a wild idea. Why not try and traverse the entire length of the famous St Michael leyline, initially presented by John Michell in The View Over Atlantis, during the Mayday Bank holiday weekend (a time when the sites along it are alleged to align with sunrise)? The pace we would set led to the event being named the Michael Line Rally. It was conceived of as a holiday, a pilgrimage, and an experiment. Some sort of activity other than simple site-seeing was intended for each place we visited. Perhaps a meditation or ritual of some kind.

The sites represented a tremendous diversity of aspect. A theme was needed to link them together, to provide some conceptual continuity. I was looking for something that could incorporate the idea of pilgrimage through the multi-faceted sites, within the continuum of earth energy currents of the St Michael force and its counter-balance, the newly formulated St Mary Line, which weave their way around the basic line of sites. (For a full explanation of the Michael/Mary interaction, see The Sun and the Serpent by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst.)

I put my mind to work.

In the extraordinary Green Stone of Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman there is an episode known as the “Lights of Knowledge” Quest. From my association with Andrew Collins I knew details of this not mentioned in the published version. The main point is that in traversing most of the Michael Line, heading down towards Cornwall, Graham Phillips came to believe that various sites along it resonated with the energies of the Qabalah in an orderly sequence, so that a coherent Tree of life could be drawn with them mapped out upon it.

For what follows I have to assume some prior knowledge of the Qabalah in the reader. Here’s a listing of various sites assigned to the Tree of Life. See if they feel right to you or not.

Kether. The Merry Maidens stone circle.
Chokmah. St. Michael’s Mount.
Binah. Dozmary Pool, Roche Rock, Hurlers stone circle area.
Chesed. Brentor.
Geburah. Crediton.
Tiphereth. Glastonbury.
Netzah. Avebury, Silbury Hill.
Hod. White Horse of Uffington, Wayland’s Smithy area.
Yesod. Dorchester on Thames.

The Merry Maidens stone circle is not normally considered to be a part of the alignment. In recent years Miller and Broadhurst’s dowsing work has suggested it does connect to the main current. A Malkuth site was never designated. I opted for Bury St Edmunds as a workable possibility.

The Michael Line has sometimes been thought of as a possible spinal column of a Blakean Albion figure. This is not conceived of in the sense of physical earthworks in the manner that the Glastonbury Zodiac landscape supposedly models giant effigies. It somehow lives in an inner realm of the nation’s consciousness. A Suffolk village named Eye has influenced views on which end of the line the head would be. Central to Qabalistic lore is a giant cosmic being named Adam Kadmon on whom the Tree of Life can be drawn. His feet are in the earthly realms, his head at the Crown of Creation. The path of High Magic lies in realising that cosmic figure is latent within us all and can be activated, thus raising us to our highest, fullest, most total capacities. In the specific physical locations on this figure of the different spheres of the Qabalah, a similarity can be seen with the Yogic concept of the chakra centres of energy along the spinal column. The middle pillar of the Qabalah correspond s to the spinal column of Adam Kadmon and ourselves. There are specific practices arising out of the Golden Dawn tradition for working with and energising the centres of this middle pillar. Knowing that Blake was aware of the Qabalah, I didn’t find it hard to broadly equate Albion with Adam Kadmon. I wondered how far, working with Graham Phillips’ material, the analogy could be profitably extended? Maybe the giant’s head was in Cornwall?

I began to toy with the idea of taking it as read that, in some archetypal realm, an Albion figure exists along the Michael line and that treating it as a kind of Adam Kadmon and playing Qabalistic games with it would be doing it a favour. My attitude was to treat it as an experiment with reality. Believe it and see what happens as a result of believing it. I also felt that Adam Albion was generally conceived of as being distinctly male. I didn’t think it was taking too many liberties with Qabalistic thought to think of the figure as androgynous in some way. It was in keeping with the theory of the Qabalah, if not always the practice. This idea could be taken further with the concept of the dual Michael/Mary energies that wind, like a caduceus, around the spinal column, in the manner of the Ida Pingala currents of Kundalini yoga.

As pilgrims of the path of light, we would start at the source, the crown, trying to fill ourselves up with light and take it down through ourselves, through Albion following the downward eastern path of its manifestation in the sunrise orientation. By the end, hopefully, we would have helped to in some way activate the centres of this figure and their corresponding areas in ourselves. This was the plan to get the line humming.

The middle pillar would be our centre of gravity and the caduceus of Michael/Mary a continual balancing process throughout the journey. I felt that the Middle Pillar sites needed the Qabalistic cosmic figure emphasised, but how to do it? I also knew that Graham Phillips had done some unpublished work using the Tarot in the landscape. He believed that sometimes certain sites embodied the aspects of particular cards. Once this was understood the card could be used as a gateway into the inner realms of the place. In the Golden Dawn/Crowley tradition the Tarot cards are assigned to different places on the Tree of Life. The 22 Trumps correspond to the paths between the Sephiroth. Regarding the middle pillar, the path from Kether down to Tiphereth is Atu II, the High Priestess. Tiphereth to Yesod is XIV Temperance. Yesod to Malkuth, XXI the World.

I looked at the Michael Line sites that corresponded to the middle pillar of the Qabalah and the Tarot cards that joined them to see if there might be any possibilities for visualisation pathworkings. What I found was so apt and fertile for creative exploitation I could hardly believe it possible. I shall give a detailed description of these examples, and how they were used, as it possibly gives the essence of the feel of our journey.

Glastonbury Abbey’s ruined Mary chapel was the place I chose to enter the realm of Atu II, the High Priestess, linking Kether with Tiphareth. Its floor no longer exists and the crypt Chapel of St Joseph of Arimathea beneath it has now effectively merged with it, creating one vibrant space. We sat in front of the altar focusing, in our imaginations, on a cross that used to sit atop it in those days. A point of blue light emanated outwards from it filling the whole place, until seeming to have become a transparent veil with the pillars of the Temple and Qabalah, at either side of it. Behind the blue light, the cross faded, leaving the outline and sense of presence of a female form. With this the veil parted, revealing the Virgin Mary in a Queen of Heaven Isis aspect, seated on a throne. Behind her, steps led up to a door opening onto the landscape we had travelled from Cornwall, in particular the Kether Merry Maidens site.

The Qabalistic sphere of Yesod is concerned with the astral realms. It incorporates lunar and water symbolism. Graham Phillip’s Yesod site was at Dorchester in Oxfordshire. This is the place where the Michael Line and the River Thames cross. To bring the energy from Tiphareth to Glastonbury, we would pathwork with the Temperance card. The particular one that had inspired me was in the Mythic Tarot, in which the figure represented (often the Archangel Raphael), was Iris, the Rainbow Goddess, and which featured a rainbow as a prominent part of its imagery.

Now think of all the many versions of this card you may have seen and try to picture our scene. It is dusk by the banks of the Thames in early May. The evening star hangs in the heavens and reflects rippling in the river’s waters. Around a lantern at the water’s edge we sit now, closing our eyes. In our imaginations the light of the lamp expands outwards, through and around us, until an egg of glowing energy encompasses us. Just beyond we begin to see, as if in daylight on the bank, a shimmering wavelet of light that condenses into an ever clearer form. The Rainbow Angel of Temperance stands tall and serene before us. One foot is in the waters of the river and one is on the bank. In each hand is a chalice. One is gold and is filled with the solar aspects of the Michael Line. The other is silver and of the Thames and Mary. Endlessly, gracefully, the Angel pours the contents of the chalices between them. Eternal equipoise in the harmony of the two currents at this site. In the mid-distance the Dorchester landscape blurs as a giant rainbow arches across the sky. As it reaches the ground on the left we see Hod with the White Horse of Uffington and Wayland’s Smithy. On the right we see Netzah, Avebury and Silbury Hill. In the centre, just beneath the rainbow, in the far distance, we see Glastonbury Tor. We try to feel a sense of energies moving through the landscape to find their harmonisation at Dorchester.

A painting specially commissioned from Glastonbury artist and Michael Line Rally veteran Yuri Leitch for my 2006 Megalithomania conference presentation.

Bury St Edmunds proved to be a good Malkuth. Its ruined Abbey provided the setting for the Qabalistic climax to our epic journey. Two ruined pillars, once joined as an arch, formed the frame for an imagined recapitulation of our complete travels to that point. We saw ourselves dressed as monks and pilgrims travelling from site to site and finally emerging through the gateway between the pillars to rejoin our physical bodies sitting nearby. We then saw, using AtuXXI, the World card as a jumping off point, the figure of Albion flanked on either side by St Michael and the Virgin Mary. Behind Albion, on the horizon, the sun appeared, ascending, and as it moved just above him, Michael and Mary both reached a hand out into it, and on doing so, it became a crown which they placed upon his head. Mission accomplished. A rendition of Blake’s Jerusalem was in order regardless of what any passing tourists may have thought.

Drawing by Yuri Leitch from 1991 depicting the journey from Michael's Mount to the ruined church at Hopton that included recurring lion and unicorn imagery.

The Michael Line Rally was carried out in full in 1991 and 92. In 1997, now living in Glastonbury, I felt the need to try the journey again when the General Election was announced for Mayday. It seemed likely that the archetypes and energies of the sacred landscape would be massively switched on. Sure enough, in the week leading up, I had a major brainstorm in which a flood of further Qabalistic Tarot imagery enabled me to make good use of the complete Major Arcana linking all of the spheres. As we travelled the line I did wonder if this cerebral Qabalah was imposing a structure onto the landscape that was not appropriate, however much it seemed apt to me.

On returning I discovered that, during the course of our journey, at a place near the course of the Mary current, a crop formation had appeared in the form of a complete Qabalistic Tree of life with all 10 sephiroth and the 22 paths between them. Regardless of how it arrived there, the concept of “hoax” would have to be re-defined in order to accommodate its synchronistic levels of meaning. Crop circles have been appearing for a long time now. A Tree of Life could have manifested on numerous occasions. As it is, it waited until a group of people were travelling the landscape carrying out detailed Qabalistic pathworkings at sacred sites (and not that many people are doing such things anyway). This was all the affirmation I needed. My work with the Michael Line continues to develop and represents one of the great joys of my life.