What follows is part of a series that I have done broadly entitled Personal Brythonic Relationships. This series is around 4000 words so i have decided to post these in sections. I have posted earlier versions of these elsewhere, but this is the final version . It is always difficult to try to describe something so personally subjective as connection and relationship and earlier attempts to post this have not resulted in much discussions, I suspect the reason being my useage of both subjective, historical and scientific perspectives creating a perspective difficult to comprehend in it’s entireity. However, I post here and invite comments from interested parties.
Relationship with the Land.
One of the main thrusts of mainstream religions is the potential for the redemption of the individual through the adoption of the teachings of the (usually) divines representative(s). Some of these teachings could be viewed as profound for their ability to transcend time with a universal truth and as such are valid as metaphor for various experiences. However, the adoption of these religions by the individual may involve a (sometimes) unconscious admission of previous inherent fault by that individual, with the teachings leading that same individual to a reward system qualified by subsequent actions that determine the quality of the reward.
Some of the great thinkers in the field of spirituality, and indeed some of those same appointed prophets from those very religions, convey the concept that the accumulation of materials is illusionary, and that part of humanities real goal is to achieve a form of connection with the spiritual aspect of life that needs no physical limitations for interaction. For example Jesus is quoted as saying his kingdom was of a spiritual nature and not a material one, the inference being that materialistic gains were illusionary and of secondary importance.
These mainstream religions offer differing frameworks by which to experience the spiritual aspect of life, but it is usual for the individual to have to make cultural and behavioural changes to initiate this aspect.
It would initially appear therefore, that the premise imposes upon the individual some implied admission of intentional / unintentional fault qualified by the previous methods and processes of living, and it therefore gains a psychological advantage rendering the relationship unequal at the outset. To achieve the desired outcome, the individual has to first admit to the implied fault, thus handing personal power over to the religion’s representative in the understanding that the other party has the tools, through the teachings of the nominated religion, to change the faulty perceptions, actions and thoughts of the individual, leading to redemption in the form of the reward used as the goal.
Whilst this approach may lead to a system favoured by many, increasingly many others are now looking for a different approach based upon a more equal relationship between spiritual and physical realms.
Living conditions for earlier generations meant that they were more exposed to the whims of nature for their existence. Weather patterns could, for example, lead to the deaths of civilizations through floods, famines etc.
Therefore, relationship with deity would have been of a more directly “intense” nature with the reality that your life could be ended on the altar dedicated to a particular deity / deities if it was considered, through a form of divination, to be appropriate for appeasement. We have many examples of this throughout the world including, of course, the British Isles.
This type of interaction was largely based upon the physicality of the times. Natural weather conditions, because they were not subject to human whims, were placed in the realms of the Gods. Therefore those same Gods had to be placated to insure favourable living and growing conditions.
Throughout written history, the individual is furnished with the locations of various sites that were the setting for specific acts. Some locations have acquired this status through subsequent archaeological finds, usually, though not exclusively, more so if that archaeology backed up the “historical” data on offer.
These sacred sites around the world have long been said to possess an “atmosphere”. Of course, this may not represent anything apart from the pre-conceived expectation of the individual, a psychological predetermination of what may be present. However, it is being increasingly speculated, through some current scientific approaches, that a framework may exist that furnishes a hypothesis that suggests that previous interactions made at a site may have left some residual traces of (emotional) interactions, not currently quantifiable, but no less possible.
One possible useful analogy to use here, would be in the formation, transmission and storage of information. This has it’s origins, it’s method of transmission and it’s destination. The origin could be represented by human or non human interactions. The method of transmission would be through the biological or psychological processes of the originator (if known) and the result would be present in the environment at it’s destination but changed by the interactions (processes). The action of transmission into the environment may leave that information present in that same environment but not necessarily perceptible or quantifiable without the correct “equipment”. Therefore, there may a multitude of physical information left in the environment and that information may be present for an indeterminate amount of time, accessible only by the right “equipment”. Norbert Weiner and Claude Shannon, primarily in the late 1940’s, set out the position that all information has a physical reality and from this came the actualization of the computer, the “right equipment” borne from this physical reality.
Using the computer to refine our analogy, we may consider the environment as the hard-drive, the medium used to store the information in a physical form. The human or non human processes may represent the operating system, used to both deposit and retrieve information into or from the environmental hard drive and the original interactions represent the input creating the “raw” information.
Sacred sites could, therefore, be candidates for greater concentrations of these interactions, resulting in an environment that may contain a multitude of different layers of interactions. These layers may be both positive and negative in nature and the balance could affect the perception of the individual experiencing the physicality of the environment.
If we accept this premise, then the subjective senses of the individual may be receptive to some areas and its interactions and not others. The biology of the individual may determine how the experiences are perceived, and a certain combination of interactions and / or biological processes could be responsible for how a person interacts with the physicality of their environment.
Logically, following on from this, the description of what represents a sacred environment may be open to a more subjective interpretation, as opposed to it being based primarily upon a historical context. A certain combination of these interactions, coupled with the “tuning” of the individual’s biological and mental processes, sometimes achieved through training from different various sources, could result in what may be described as a sympathetic resonance with the environment. This could give some limited explanation as to the basis of one aspect of an individuals potential spiritual relationship with the landscape.
For those of us who believe that their relationship with the British Isles maybe experienced somewhat differently to some other cultures from other areas of the world, this may give us some clues as to why. The environment of the British Isles and the history of inter-tribal hostilities, attested through, for example, the coinage finds made, represent a large period of prehistory through to early mediaeval times, indicating changing and shifting populations. Even in the relatively “stable” years of Christianity, feuding and hostilities continued with greater numbers of people constantly engaged in warfare, thus adding the potential for more interactions to be layered into the environment.
This doesn’t lead us to assume there were greater numbers of people around to create these interactions, but the enclosed nature of island living and smaller land mass, give us an idea as to the potential volume of these emotional interactions.
Earlier British generations considered places where the elements of Earth, Water and Air met to be special places where one could potentially experience connection with deity. The geology of the British Isles lends itself to provide an abundance of such places which meet the aforementioned criteria.
For areas of the world with a long history of stable inhabitation by native populations, we observe very specific and powerful rituals. Ceremonies and interactions based upon many lifetimes of nurturing from both sides use many elements from their local environment as a common denominator by which a means of exchange can be arrived at.
From a British point of view, our history is one that has seen many changes of populations, both genetically and culturally. This has led to a mixing of spiritual belief systems, contributing to the layers previously discussed, each distinct in it’s effects and yet contributing to the bigger picture of the environmental landscape.
Thus we have the potential available that is not dependent upon a single or relatively small number of sources for a “perceived complete answer”, but a vast database, the land, with which to use to create one’s own spiritual framework. It is my contention that to develop a relationship with the land, a nurturing process be built around rituals and ceremonies (personal or otherwise) specific to that landscape. It is possible that because of the volume of interactions created through the myriad of different belief systems throughout the history of the British Isles, there lies the potential for these to be experienced in many forms.
The amount of potential information also available through the current technological advances mean that we should, through a reasoned, logical and methodical approach, be in a position to better structure these into a form appropriate for our intentions.
If the individual has now rejected a goal orientated reward system that promises gain through servitude, then relationship with the land may offer that same individual an experience that is not dependent upon the outcome but is based more around the experience.
Relationship with the land offers the opportunity to experience interaction without the expectation of material gain as a consequence and may, in fact, offer the individual the opportunity to contribute some of their own influence / experiences into the layers of their locality. This, I would suggest, may provide a route which could represent the opportunity to widen one’s own experiences of living and also experience the act of connection in a structured subjective level based through a local environmental context.