If any one book put ley lines on the map, re-enchanted the British landscape and made Glastonbury the capital of the New Age it was John Michell’s seminal 1969 tome The View Over Atlantis. On the 40th anniversary of its publication, BOB RICKARD ponders how The View Over Atlantis, its precursor The Flying Saucer Vision (1967), its sequel The City of Revelation (1971) helped create a new paradigm in our approach to strange phenomena, and offers an essential John Michell bibliography.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the first publication John Michell’s The View over Atlantis, probably the most influential book in the history of the hippy/underground movement and one that had far-reaching effects on the study of strange phenomena. Its central argument was that ancient sites (be they tracks, crossroads, standing stones or holy ground) not only formed ley-like alignments but contained a meaningful structure of number and proportion encoded in their design, and that this ‘canon’ of number was somehow related to the then new subject of UFOs as well as to the revelation of ‘forgotten’ knowledge of great significance.
It’s hard now, even for those who lived through it, to impart just how intoxicating was that decade straddling the Sixties and Seventies. We were all budding forteans then, eagerly devouring the latest books by Frank Edwards, Harold Wilkins, Pauwels & Bergier, Peter Kolosimo, Robert Charroux, von Daniken, Raymond Drake, Ivan Sanderson, Andrew Tomas, Brad Steiger, John Godwin, Vincent Gaddis… and even Lobsang Rampa. They and many others in related fields mashed together an intoxicating mix of ancient civilisations, parapsychology, pseudo-mysticism and historical mysteries.
But while these authors piled up exciting facts and speculation, it was John Michell who, using much the same material, forged an intellectual bridge between the distant past and the unfolding present and provided satisfying spiritual nourishment that inspired hippies everywhere.
John opened View over Atlantis with a simple example, but he returned to its lesson again and again later. He described how, in 1648, the antiquarian John Aubrey became aware of the Stonehenge complex as forming a vast ancient temple in the Wiltshire landscape. “It was not hidden... yet Aubrey was the first of his age to notice it”. Compare that to Charles Fort’s observation on the invention of steam engines: that the principle lay in open view through the ages “until came steam engine time”– that is, until the time or the psychological environment was conducive to the recognition and employment of its revelation. This was heady stuff. It seemed to me as though John, like Fort, came out of nowhere, aglow with his vision, illuminating the land and people around him.
John’s works can be seen as concrete expressions of Fort’s advice to find things out for one’s self, and his books offer deceptively simple proofs, laid out step by step, for anyone to see or to check. Re-discovering the eternal prima materia governing the relationship between ‘above’ and ‘below’ was John’s own vision of the Atlantean message of the celestial mandalas represented by the UFOs. For John, Plato’s Atlantis became a symbol for the internal revelation of a cosmic blueprint.
The View over Atlantis, its precursor The Flying Saucer Vision (1967), and its sequel The City of Revelation (1971), provided a synthesis of and a context for all the other weirdness of the era. It’s fair to say that it played a big part in the foundation of Fortean Times itself by helping create a readership that wanted more things to think about and a place to discuss them. The overall effect was to help the burgeoning interest in strange phenomena spread out into mainstream culture.
In that social and psychological upheaval of the era, a maelstrom of new things in art and music, drama and drugs, John Michell was a calm centre, wise as well as knowledgeable, always thoughtful and with piercing eyes that had seen ‘other’, more splendid things.
And these three books of his seemed to bring it all together. Not only did they directly inspire the Glastonbury Fair of 1971 (which grew into the Glastonbury Festivals of more recent years), but they also established and sanctified the relationship between a myriad of subjects, which seemed then to make sense logically, mystically, and spiritually.
John’s work branched off in numerous directions, and the ‘canon’ he had rediscovered underpinned everything from crop-circles, spontaneous forms in Nature and tribal monarchism to ‘driven’ outsiders, long-lost rings, and the library angel phenomenon by which crucial ideas are revealed by accident or ‘coincidence’.
So much of what we now take for granted as the familiar landscape of alternative culture – from ley-lines and free festivals to the rediscovery of Britain’s sacred sites and the birth of the New Age – sprang directly from these three seminal works by John Michell. Through them – and indeed, through all of John’s subsequent writing and painting – shines the dedication of a true scholar-visionary and a genuine prophet.
AN ESSENTIAL JOHN MICHELL BIBLIOGRAPHY
- The Flying Saucer Vision: the Holy Grail Restored (Sidgwick & Jackson/Abacus) 1969; 2nd edition (Abacus/Ace) 1974;
- The View Over Atlantis (limited edition; Sago/Garnstone); revised edition (Sago/Garnstone, Ballantine) 1972
- contrib, Glastonbury: A Study in Patterns (Research Into Lost Knowledge Organisation, RILKO)
- intro to The Old Straight Track (by Alfred Watkins, 1925; Garnstone)
- contrib, Britain: A Study in Patterns (RILKO)
- City of Revelation: On the Proportions and Symbolic Numbers of the Cosmic Temple (Garnstone); reprinted [or 2nd edition?] 1973
- A Defence of Sacred Measures (Radical Traditionalist Papers No.l; Cokaygne)
- The New Jerusalem at Glastonbury (Zodiac House)
- The View Over Atlantis (Abacus)(Ballantine)
- The Fall of Babylon (Radical Traditionalist Papers No.2; Cokaygne)
- A Defence of People and Population (Radical Traditionalist Papers No.3; Cokaygne)
- A Little History of Bladud (West Country Editions)
- The Old Stones of Land's End (subscription edition; Elephant Books); 2nd edition (Garnstone) 1974
- intro to Bladud of Bath, the British King Who Tried to Fly (by Howard C. Levis, 1919; West Country Editions)
- Souvenir Programme for the Official Lynching of Michael Abdul Malik (with William Levy; Cokaygne)
- into to Feng Shui (by Ernest J Eitel, 1873, Cokaygne); new edition, with subtitle (The Science of Sacred Landscape in Old China) (Synergetic Press) 1986
- The Propaganda of the Metric System (by Edward Nicholson, 1912; Radical Traditionalists)
- intro to The Old Straight Track (Abacus)
- intro to The Standing Stones of Maeshowe (by Magnus Spence, 1894; RlLKO)
- intro to The Canon (by William Stirling, 1897; RILKO/Garnstone)
- The Earth Spirit: Its Ways, Shrines, and Mysteries (Thames & Hudson; Avon); reprinted [or 2nd edition?] 1989
- editor, The Fanatic magazine No.l (J Michell)
- editor, Just Measure magazine No.l (Anti-Metrication Board)
- Souvenir Programme of the Anti-Metric Garden Fete (Anti Metrication Board)
- intro to Mother Shipton (by Anon, 1916; (West Country Editions)
- co-editor, The Fanatic magazine No.3
- editor, Just Measure magazine No.2 (Anti-Metrication Board)
- The Hip Pocket Hitler (Hassle Free)
- editor, Un Autre Monde (J Michell)
- Phenomena: A Book of Wonders (Thames & Hudson)
- A Little History of Astro-Archaeology: Stages in the Transformation of a Heresy (hb, Thames and Hudson); pb 1978, reprinted 1989, 2001
- Earth Mysteries: A Study In Patterns (Acme Gallery)
- A Short Life at the Land's End: J.T. Blight FSA, Artist, Penzance (by subscription)
- editor, Just Measure magazine No.3 (Anti-Metrication Board)
- To Represent Our Saviour as That Great Cock is not Blasphemy (Radical Traditionalist Papers No.4 ; Open Head)
- editor, Just Measure magazine No.4 (Anti-Metrication Board)
- Simulacra: Faces and Figures in Nature (Thames & Hudson)(US title: Natural Likenesses)
- intro to Inventorum Natura (Paper Tiger)
- intro to The House of Lords UFO Debate (Pentacle & Open Head)
- Schumacher Lectures (contributor; Blond and Briggs)
- Ancient Metrology: the Dimensions of Stonehenge and of the Whole World as Therein Symbolized (Pentacle)
- Megalithomania: Artists, Antiquarians & Archaeologists at the Old Stone Monuments (Thames & Hudson/Cornell University Press)
- Living Wonders: Mysteries and Curiosities of the Animal World (Thames & Hudson)
- The Concordance of High Monarchists of Ireland (Radical Traditionalist Papers No.5; J Michell)
- The New View Over Atlantis (Thames & Hudson)
- intro to The Pallinghurst Barrow (by Grant Allen, 1892; J Michell)
- Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions (Thames and Hudson; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich); reprinted (Adventures Unlimited) 1999
- intro to 3 Stories by George Gissing (J Michell & Richard Adams)
- Stonehenge: Its Druids, Custodians, Festival and Future (Radical Traditionalist Papers No.6; J Michell)
- intro to Lost Lyonesse (by Beckles Wilson, 1902; Pocket Pals/AdCo)
- intro to The Life, Hymns and Work of Proclus (Phanes)
- contrib, Chernobyl and the Time After (Dianus Trikont)
- The Dimensions of Paradise: The Proportions and Symbolic Numbers of Ancient Cosmology (Thames & Hudson); 2nd edition (Adventures Unlimited) 2001; 3rd edition, with new subtitle (Sacred Geometry, Ancient Science and the Heavenly Order on Earth) (Inner Traditions) 2008
- A Traveller's Key to Sacred England (Knopf); 2nd edition (Gothic Image) 1989, 2003
- Euphonics: A Poet's Dictionary of Sounds (Frontier Publishing); 2nd edition (Wooden Books) 2006
- Geosophy: An Overview of Earth Mysteries (VHS video, Trigon)(Empress, 1990)
- Secrets of the Stones: New Revelations of Astro-Archaeology and the Mystical Sciences of Antiquity (Destiny)
- Twelve Tribe Nations and the Science of Enchanting the Landscape (Thames and Hudson, Phanes)
- At the Centre of the World: Polar Symbolism Discovered in Celtic, Norse and Other Ritualized Landscapes (Thames and Hudson)
- An Orthodox Voice (JAM Publications)
- Who Wrote Shakespeare? (Thames and Hudson)
- Sacred England: Traveller’s Guide to the Legends, Lore and Landscape of England's Sacred Places (Gothic Image)
- intro to Lo! (by Charles Fort, Mr X’s revision; John Brown)
- New Light on the Ancient Mystery of Glastonbury (Gothic Image); reprinted 2008
- Unexplained Phenomena: Mysteries and Curiosities of Science, Folklore and Superstition (Rough Guides); expanded 2nd edition 2006
- The Temple at Jerusalem: A Revelation (Gothic Image/Samuel Weiser)
- The Order of the Ages: World History in the Light of a Universal Cosmogony (Sophia Perennis et Universalis)
- The Face and the Message: What do They Mean and Where are They From? (Gothic Image)
- Traveller's Guide to Sacred England: A Guide to the Legends, Lore and Landscapes of England's Sacred Places (Gothic Image)
- Prehistoric Sacred Sites of Cornwall (Wessex Books); reprinted 2006
- Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist (essays from Oldie, ed. Joscelyn Godwin; Dominion)
- Crooked Soley: A Crop Circle Revelation (Roundhill Press)
- The Lost Science of Measuring the Earth: Discovering the Sacred Geometry of the Ancients (Adventures Unlimited)
- The Star Temple of Avalon (The Temple Publications)
- How the World is Made: The Geometry of Creation (Thames & Hudson)