by Dr. Patrick MacManaway
Geomancy is the practice of creating right relationship between person and place. Both art and science, it honours not only the physical aspects of that relationship - the proximity of water, of food and shelter resources, aspects of climate and seasonal change, ease of movement through the landscape, considerations of the ecosystem and its' niche in the bioregion - but also it is honouring of the emotional aspects of our relationship with environment - how we feel in a given location, considerations of aesthetic beauty and the subtle residues of place memory - and of aspects of our intellectual relationship with place - its' history and significance geographically and politically for a community.
To a greater or lesser extent, either at a conscious or unconscious level, these aspects of our relationship with landscape and environment have never left the awareness of western culture. They surface over and over again in the art of the culture, in poetry and prose, in sketch and painting and sculpture. Here is the focus of disputes between the varying interests of local communities and commercial development, of pressures of tourism, of mineral resource extraction, of territorial disputes between peoples and nations the world over. The identity with place is the most primary and poignant of our identities - "where are you from" is one of the first questions that we ask of a stranger. We live, however, in a culture which has become estranged from it' spirit.
Organised religion has gradually become more and more remote from the everyday lives of many individuals and increasingly concerned with its' own politics and power structures to the point that for many, a relationship with spirit is something remote and transcendent - only accessed at intermittent places in time and space, very different from the ever-present witnessing of powerful, imminent and personal spiritual connection experienced in previous times. We consider people either to be more or less on their spiritual path, and judge this through the amount of time that a person spends in prayer or meditation, or involved in overtly spiritual activity. A shift in perspective from one of human beings walking a spiritual path to one of spiritual beings walking a human path reveals a different truth however, and bears witness to the inevitability of our spiritual presence, whatever we may be engaged in - work, family life, recreation, even sleep and the active life of our dreams.
A reclaiming of this ever-present and personal experience of the spirit in all things is reemerging however, in every part of our lives and our consciousness. The holistic revolution that is occurring in health care is a clear example of this, recognising the body-mind-spirit connection and the necessity of addressing each of those levels to create balance and vibrant health in our lives, and has echoes and resonance with more holistic thinking in every field from power generation to politics. The ecological movement has gathered great force and momentum, both at grassroots levels and at the level of national and international institutions. Yet it still lacks the incorporation of the spiritual component.
Geomancy - the reintegration of spirit into our relationship with place
The modern geomantic movement represents that reintegration of spirit into our relationship with place. At this level - and one may rightly argue that this is the most important of all levels - geomancy holds up the reality of the relationship between not only the spirit of an individual with the spirit of place, but also the relationship between the spirit of the community and the culture with the spirit of the wider landscape.
Only when this piece of that relationship is returned can the circle of human experience again be whole, and the qualities of respect and reverence for landscape be present for us once again.
Without a reverence for the sprit of our environment we will continue to consider landscape as an exploitable resource, whether for aesthetic, recreational or material purposes. Without a recognition of the spirit present in all things, our ecological strategies will be based in the same paradigm of exploitation that has led us into our current crisis.
Why should it be that the spiritual component of relationship is the most important of our many concerns ? Why should this most subtle and least tangible of realities be the most defining element in the jigsaw puzzle of human consciousness?
The Spiritual Component
It holds this imperative because from this tiny seed grows forth all other elements, all other assumptions and their associated and consequent paradigms and behaviours. We can see this most dramatically and agonizingly in the conflict between industrialized cultures and the indigenous peoples that they displace, whether it be the divergent interests of the modern Australian population and their government with the aboriginal inhabitants of the Australian landscape, that between the modern American and the native inhabitants of that landscape, the loggers and rubber merchants of south America with those indigenous peoples - the list is long and reaches into every part of the world.
What these conflicts hold in common is the conflict of paradigm - the inevitable mismatch between cultures that hold their connection with spirit in abstraction and at arms length and those that move and live with an awareness of spirit as being as present and ubiquitous as the water of the ocean is to the fish that swim in and through it.
At the present time, geomancy represents the emerging wave of global consciousness that will return us to our holistic relationship with our surroundings, with both a concomitant simplification and sophistication within that relationship. As we reach towards the return of holism, we reach from a place of disintegration however, and here is the place where geomancy itself is most rapidly and necessarily in growth and internal evolution.
Much of the contemporary geomantic awareness is itself split and fractured. The seduction and engagement of our culture with Feng Shui holds the practice as a curiosity and abstraction, and efforts to explain or integrate those understandings often revert to a language of "common sense", of interior design or enhanced functionality, or otherwise come across as highly superstitious - this last intensified because of the foreigness of the eastern concepts to the western mind.
It does not serve the movement to denigrate or play down the spiritual nature of these teachings, but they must be seen to be real and grounded. This is hard in a culture that has lived for hundreds of years with suspicion and fear of those who would speak out of personal spiritual experience, and which has persecuted those who would allow magic to be part of their reality. The denigration of the imagination and the imaginal realty - that most potent and creative place of human dialogue with spirit - similarly serves to alienate us from the most powerful technologies available to us.
Difficulties and the disintegrated consciousness of separateness are present in much of the traditional western geomantic traditions also, where we have been taught to revere and hold sacred only parts of our lives - in the Christian tradition for example only Sunday is held sacred in the time cycle of the week, and only the church and its church yard is held to be the only sacred component in the landscape. This leads to a diminished and largely empty relationship with other parts of our lives and our landscape.
If we see the quality of the sacred to be a quality of relationship that we can carry with us and infuse into every part of our lives and our landscape, a rich vista emerges around us, and we can again glimpse and begin to reenter the golden age, which as we have been told, has never passed from the earth but only from the sight of men (a curious and perhaps apt gender comment !). This is not to overlook the enormous significance and importance of power centres in the landscape however, places where the earth's' energies are most intensely focussed and amplified, where the spirit of place and the tutelary deities are most available to human interaction, and where spiritual practices are appropriately focussed and which have been used and fine-tuned as temple sites for millennia.
Spirit of the Land
An understanding of the nature of different aspects of the spirit of the land and the spiritual energies that move and circulate through and around the earth is as essential to the geomancer as is an understanding of the nature and importance of the circulatory system of the blood for a physician. There is an important issue of context however. The heart as the central organ of the circulatory system serves to pump the vital essence of blood through major vessels and tributaries, but the whole system is present only so that the humble individual cells in all organs and tissues can be suffused and enlivened. Similarly with the circulation of earth energies - power centres and temple sites represent the vital heart of the system, lines of ley energy the channels of energetic distribution, and the capillary grid and the whole surface of the earth that it serves is the matter that gives the system a context and function to serve.
Expanding our Paradigm to a Fully Holistic One
As we look forward to the unfolding of geomancy in the new millennium then, there are a number of interwoven elements that will gradually find their context and relevance both in the system of geomancy as a coherent practice, and also in the holding of geomancy as an integral part of the cultural paradigm. Expanding our paradigm to a fully holistic one is the key for both of these growth areas.
Our culture is on a path, for many symbolised by the consciousness of the New Age, to reclaiming the connection between body, mind and spirit, and in that process will gradually become more relaxed and familiar with the integration of the spiritual component - the body mind connection has become accepted, the spirit still held a little awkwardly. As this occurs, this awareness will move increasingly outward from the experiences of the individual with themselves and others to include the experience of the individual in their environment. When this occurs, geomancy will have arrived as a component of the cultural paradigm.
Within the geomantic community, we can aid this in two ways - firstly by continuing to expand our own understanding of the system with which we are engaged, increasing our awareness of the connection between human experience and place, and also the impact that human activity has on the spirit of place - the relationship is a reciprocal one. As we do this, it is of importance that we create a geomantic paradigm that is contemporary, returning our attention over and over again to core and generic geomantic principles and seeing through the elaborate frameworks of established geomantic systems to perceive their shared and common threads.
Back To Nature
Start not by reading of foreign codes of practice but by sitting quietly and listening to what the trees and the spirit of place have to share with us. The second challenge for the contemporary geomancer is to evolve a language and framework of geomancy that can be embraced by the culture - if this is done elegantly, the relevance and impact of geomantic awareness can be embraced most easily by our community, the information slipping into the collective pool of consciousness seamlessly and without a ripple. This can be done by repeatedly drawing attention to direct and personal experience, by holding ourselves as part of the circle of our community rather than standing at a distance, and by telling mythic stories.
This is a time of great crisis and challenge, and with it we are offered great opportunity for deep and far-reaching change. Paradigm change is accepted as a current necessity, and both language and the assumptions about the world that it carries and conveys are rapidly changing and globalising. To offer a culture starved of authentic and personal relationship with spirit the reality that they have always already had it and that they need only allow an awareness of it into their lives is truly to teach a starving man to fish - the future of geomancy and its' place in the culture is assured - as geomancers our challenge is to strive towards excellence and bring forth a geomancy that is whole and beautiful.
Mystics and magicians serve their communities best when they can let divinity speak through them clearly and without complication. May we open ourselves to the transmission of spirit into the world through unconditional love and with purity of purpose.