John Michell

Article excerpt

Expert on ancient knowledge and pioneer of the New Age

John Michell was a great British antiquarian, the veritable successor to John Aubrey, the 17th-century explorer of the megalithic temple at Avebury, William Stukeley, who studied Stonehenge in the 18th century, and Alfred Watkins, who in the early- 20th century rediscovered ley lines - the lines of earth energy running between ancient sites.

Michell's research was characterised by his belief, stated in the preface to his The View over Atlantis, that: "The important discoveries about the past have been made not so much through the present refined techniques of treasure hunting and grave robbery, but through the intuition of those whose faith in poetry led them to scientific truth." His life's work was to use his own dazzling intuition and ability to communicate complex scientific and philosophical ideas, through lectures and some 40 books, and to bring ancient knowledge to a wider public, much like a philosopher in the Platonic tradition.

Michell was born in London in 1933 and was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read modern languages. He served in the Royal Navy and later joined the civil service as a Russian interpreter.

His writing career began in 1967 with the publication of The flying saucer vision: the Holy Grail restored. Emerging at the height of UFO interest, and a year before Erich von Dniken's Chariots of the Gods, this work proposed the idea that flying saucers were not necessarily craft from other planets. Instead, they could be seen as emanations of the human psyche, archetypes in Jungian terms, which were being observed especially at sites with ancient religious significance. As Michell put it: "The strange lights and other phenomena of the post-war period were portents of a radical change in human consciousness coinciding with the dawn of the Aquarian Age."

In 1969 he published the first of his works on sacred geometry, The View over Atlantis, where he examined the research of Alfred Watkins, reawakening and developing the ideas from Watkins's 1925 book The Old Straight Track. Michell showed how the rediscovery of ley lines and the patterns both within and between ancient monuments demonstrated traces of what he called "a gigantic work of prehistoric engineering".

In May the same year, Michell established the Research into Lost Knowledge Organisation (Rilko), together with founder members Keith Critchlow and Mary Williams. The organisation was headed by Commander G.J. Mathys, with Janette Jackson as honorary secretary and Elizabeth Leader as archivist. Rilko, of which the present author is a member, continues its charitable activities to this day, in organising lecture series and republishing previously lost or ignored works of ancient wisdom.

Alexander Thom's research into prehistoric monuments, espoused by Michell, showed that a measure known as the megalithic yard - close to the modern yard - was being used by the builders of old. …