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Seven Pillars House of Wisdom > News > Memorial: John Michell 1933 to 2009

Memorial: John Michell 1933 to 2009

May 05, 2009

British philosopher and author John Michell passed from this world Friday, April 24, 2009, at the age of 76. Several of John Michell’s close friends and associates from within the Seven Pillars community share their tributes here. 

Also, please read John Michell’s article, “Walking in Paradise or Toward It”, reprinted from Elixir Magazine, Issue Number V, on Walking.

David Fideler, writer and editor

John Michell was always on the lookout for the key that, once turned, would allow us to see the world from a deeper, transformed perspective.

At the beginning of his seminal work, The View Over Atlantis, he illustrated this idea with the story of antiquarian John Aubrey (1626–97). One day Aubrey was riding his horse by the town of Avebury, not far from Stonehenge. Suddenly, in a flash, Aubrey realized that the entire village was built within a huge, megalithic structure: a prehistoric temple. But for hundreds of years, the townspeople had not noticed it, simply owing to its sheer size.

John used this idea of a large, unseen structure to describe his idea of Atlantis. In this reading, “Atlantis” is not a place or even a civilization, but the prehistoric code of knowledge that inspired the great megalithic builders.

Ultimately, his work was based on an instinctive affinity for the thought of both Plato and Charles Fort. Following Plato, John always sought out the highest vision and “best possible account,” yet tempered it with skepticism for rigid belief systems and a humorous appreciation for human obsessions and eccentricities.

John resonated with the Platonic (and Pythagorean) insight that reality is archetypal in nature, and that the most fundamental ordering principle at work in the universe is number and harmony. The cosmos, as John liked to point out, has no difficulty harmonizing all the conflicting elements within it.

Charles Fort, the American journalist and chronicler of strange phenomena, provided him with a healthy skepticism of official science and dogmatic explanations, which have the effect of over-simplifying the world. As John wrote, “Wherever you look, in archaeology and ancient history or in the modern records of parapsychology and strange phenomena, you find evidence to contradict every theory and ‘certainty’ of official science. The real world is quite different from the way our teachers describe it, and it is a great deal more interesting.”

Coming at things from such a well-informed, deeper angle—which made him unique—John could write about all kinds of eccentric topics, such as UFOs and crop circles, and take them seriously without necessarily believing in specific interpretations. By taking the Fortean approach to “accept everything, but believe nothing,” the mind remains free of dogmatic theories (which become obsessive and self-reinforcing), yet capable of seeing the archetypal patterns of myth that are always at play.

With an ever-present twinkle in his eye, John Michell brought a mind-opening perspective to every topic he wrote about, or discussed in memorable, late-night sessions with friends at his London flat in Notting Hill. He was one of a kind, and showed how you could be a mystic, skeptic, scholar, philosopher, and a student of human folly, obsessions, and eccentricities, all at the same time.

Paul Devereux, specialist in the anthropology of consciousness, archaeoacoustics, and psi phenomena

John Michell's passing is most saddening. He showed me many kindnesses over the years, and we exchanged our last notes literally just a few days before his passing, a scholar and a gentleman to the end. I think his enduring legacy will not be his association with leys ("ley-lines") and other geomantic adventures, about which he could at times be somewhat mischievous, but rather his geometric, geomatric and proportional investigations. That profound probing into the mystery of the cosmos was the work of genius, and will provide the springboard for further research for generations to come.

William Irwin Thompson, cultural historian and founder, Lindisfarne Association

John Michel was a generous and gentle soul who loved the visions offered us in ancient cosmologies as we sped by them on the M5 on our hurried way to spas. With ley lines and stone circles, he rewove the broken web of life and taught us all how to re-spell time and space. With a wonderful twinkle, he would assert the most crankish of ideas—a monarch for Ireland or measuring life with elbows and thumbs instead of meters and liters—and take the time for a scholarship of recovery that was love in action. There was no one like him, and no one to replace him. But we need not grieve, as he lived his life as he chose and was always in a celebratory mode. I remember when he ended his term as Scholar in Residence at Lindisfarne-in-Manhattan, he hired a street musician from the West Village who had come to New York from Appalachia—that hinterland of 18th century migrant Celts—and presented our community with concert of Blue Grass as his farewell back to London. (John was an early Green and loved grass in all its epiphanies!) And so there was, and still is, music as he goes.

Keith B. Critchlow, professor, geometer, and author

Each generation has its messengers. These are sometimes recognised but often not. John Michell was both. He awakened a new wave of interest in Plato as a living practical philosophy as well as reawakening the sense of sacred science. By sacred we mean that which is essential to human life.

John had an exceptionally broad life serving his country in many dimensions. He was an accomplished artist, a practical (mathematical in the true sense) philosopher, a prophet of what attitudes will need to be recovered for Albion to survive the difficulties it is both in and will experience soon.

John’s works are of immense value to the open-minded seeker of truth. His ‘Dimensions of Paradise’ is a special favourite and significant gem.

We acknowledge a deep loss to the nation.

Phyllis Benjamin, President, The International Fortean Organization (INFO)

Requiem for the Long Man of Notting Hill

John Michell was an original who revealed old truths with the skill of the true alchemist and who used those truths to fit the jigsaw pieces of the universal puzzle into art, geometry and language worthy of the Creator.

Not since Charles Fort has a man understood so well that in order to see clearly one cannot be locked into a rigid belief system.  John Michell was a true philosopher king who learned through thoughtful study and careful fieldwork and who then revealed, with the intoxicating, pioneering strokes of his very own palette, the old systems of measures and weights as golden keys to universal truths.  He knew and understood, in the real Platonic sense,  that the universe was governed by universal laws perhaps best expressed by mathematics but also revealed to generation upon generation through not only man’s art but also through the very artistry of the landscape itself.

Ben Johnson said Shakespeare was the soul of the age; John Michell put the soul into this age. John Michell at Home

John Michell understood the Cosmic Joker. He was a true Fortean who got the joke and as a result was a merry soul to the end. Like Ben Hecht who, upon reading Charles Fort’s “Book of the Damned”, slapped his forehead saying,... “henceforth I am a fortean”,  upon reading John Michell’s work you too will slap your forehead. But you will say, “henceforth I am a Michellian”.

No doubt he is looking in on all of us but he is also out there measuring the dimensions of Paradise and when he gets to the Golden Throne of Heaven, just think of how many questions he will have answered.

So on behalf of true Forteans everywhere we say a resounding thank you for gracing our lives, a very well done indeed and a Bon Voyage with Love until we meet again.

Additional Tributes Online

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/books/03michell.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/may/06/john-michell-obituary

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