First published in Glastonbury’s Oracle magazine
John Michell (1933 – 2009) put Glastonbury firmly on the map as capital of the New Age world. He wrote 40 books, the most influential being his 1969 book The View Over Atlantis. Professor Ronald Hutton said this was “almost the founding document of the modern earth mysteries movement.”
In this book, the author said that the seven hills of Avalon – which included the Tor – were built by ancient people to mirror the constellation of the Great Bear. This tied in to traditional mythology representing King Arthur as a bear. It also linked ancient structures to the stars, implying mysterious cosmic connections with the universe.
He also showed how pre-Christian sacred sites sit on key nodes of earth power. For example, the Michael ley line runs from St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall through Glastonbury Tor and Avebury. All along this line are churches dedicated to St Michael. This is because long ago people had marked this line with their special places of magic. As was the custom, Christian churches were later built on those power spots.
By the twentieth century, people were beginning to think there was more to the world than school had ever taught them. Michell’s writings gave voice to a growing awareness of the latent powers and mysteries of the earth.
As his biographer Paul Screeton said, Michell “re-enchanted the British landscape and empowered a generation to seek out and appreciate the spiritual dimension of the countryside – not least attracting them to reawaken the sleepy town of Glastonbury”.
THE CAMBRIDGE REBEL
John Michell didn’t start life as a counter cultural icon. He was born into a wealthy family who sent him to Eton and then Cambridge, to study Russian and German. However, he soon began to chafe against the conventional mind-set of the university.
“The whole atmosphere there was extremely rationalistic and materialistic,” he said. “I was never sympathetic to that, but saw no way of questioning them. The first chance of a breakthrough was in the 1950s when the first UFO books came out. It was quite obvious that people were having experiences that weren’t allowed for them within the context of our education.”
THE SCHOOL OF UFOs AND LEY LINES
He lost interest in university, left without a degree, and went to work in his father’s property business. In 1966 he converted his Notting Hill flat’s basement into the London Free School, where he gave courses in UFOs and ley lines.
Andrew Kerr took part in this school. When he later set up the Glastonbury Festival, John helped him design the Pyramid Stage to be an exact replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza, as a great example of spiritual engineering.
Karl Miller, editor of the Listener, described Michell as “Less a hippy, perhaps, than a hippy’s counsellor – one of their junior Merlins, promoting the idea of England as a site of spiritual redemption, and bringing together popular ideas about sacred geometry, Druids, sacred landscapes, earth energies, Atlantis and UFOs.”
EFFECTS ON GLASTONBURY
Author John Michell had a huge effect on Glastonbury, reviving this town as a centre of spiritual awareness and mystical experience. He also created and inspired organisations that are still part of Glastonbury’s special infrastructure.
In 1969, he established RILKO – the Research Into Lost Knowledge Organisation, which is still going strong. They describe themselves as “An organisation providing a platform for the dissemination of hidden knowledge incorporated in myth and legend, number and geometry, art and music, architectural proportion, megalithic structures and the geomantic layout of cities and landscape.”
Another Michell legacy is the annual Megalithomania Conference. This name came from a 1982 book he’d written about lost civilisations, ley lines, geomancy and archeo-astronomy.
In 1990, he co-founded and edited The Cerealogist, a magazine about crop circles. He said that strange lights in the sky, crop circles and other phenomena were all signs of huge changes in human consciousness that would ultimately usher in the more enlightened Age of Aquarius. He taught that benign ETs were the gods of ancient legends, and had helped early humans to create a civilised world. He believed these lost spiritual teachings are now returning to create a new golden age.
Glastonbury’s Gothic Image published his books, and he worked closely with Jamie George’s Mystical Tours. Michael Law, who then worked there, shared the following anecdote, saying, “This is my favourite story, not on the cosmic level, but on the human.”
One morning John parked his Morris Minor across the road and ‘floated into’ Gothic Image, worried because his car was playing up. Someone who knew about motors popped over to investigate – and discovered that it had absolutely no oil or water in it. John was amazed. He thought it was enough just to put petrol in! A few days later, he returned with a big smile to say his car was going well again.
RUMOURS AT THE END
His younger brother Charles described John’s life as “turbulent in a peaceful sort of way”. Following his star, he somehow wafted above everyday matters. Maybe because of this, the facts of his final years are misted over with rumours. One story is that he and Prince Charles visited Chalice Well to bathe their eyes in its special waters.
His Glastonbury marriage also soon entered the realms of speculation. In April 2007, in St Benedict’s Church, he married Denise Price. This was followed by a beautiful outdoor handfasting ceremony.
Denise told me they’d known each other for a long time before this, and over the years he’d proposed to her three times. However, the marriage ended within the year. This naturally created much chitchat around town. In 2015, Denise Michell became the first Druid Mayor of Glastonbury.
Another rumour about John Michell was that he was the original inspiration for the character of Dr.Who. Like a time-lord, he strode across the vistas of history, explaining its mysteries to whoever cared to listen. Was his dowsing rod the original sonic screwdriver? Like much else about this influential writer, we may never know for certain.
The New Avalonians are people now passed on who contributed in some way to Glastonbury in the last fifty years or so. If you’d like to share anything about this, you’re welcome to message me through the contacts page on my website: www.pastlivesglastonbury.co.uk
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