by John Michell
[City of Revelation: On the Proportions and Symbolic Numbers of the Cosmic Temple.
Garnstone Press:London 1972. ISBN 978-0-85511-040-6]
A mystery too deep for present inquiry concerns the ancient geographical arrangement of temples in relation to each other. That there was some esoteric scheme linking the various centres has always been an item of occult tradition, and the idea is supported by the discovery of identical figures of numerology in all cosmic temples; but the first modern indication of a planned location of ancient sites was provided by Alfred Watkins in his principal work, The Old Straight Track, first published in 1925, and recently republished. Scarcely anything is now known of the aims and methods of this forgotten science, whose monuments are the relics of a neolithic world civilisation. However, the invariable inclusion of the number 3168 as the perimeter of the cosmic temple suggests that, following the ancient practice of relating microcosm to macrocosm, this number may have been used in the greater measurements of sacred geography.
Evidence that this may be so is found in the Welsh Triads, verses of great antiquity that incorporate oral traditions from prehistoric bardic historians. In one of these, Glastonbury, the choir of Ambrosius or Stonehenge and Llan Illtud Vawr [which is Llantwit Major in Glamorgan] are described as the three perpetual choirs of Britain, where 2400 saints maintained a ceaseless chant, 100 saints at each choir for every hour of the day and night. These correspond to the twenty-four elders in Revelation who stand before the throne of the Lamb, 'having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song.' When the song changed, a new age began.
The song of the elders in the temple varied with the seasons and cycles, changing every hour and every year but never ending, and this concept of the perpetual chant forms the highest expression of the temple's function. The rulers at the sacred centre were deeply concerned with the passage of time and with the interpretation of its prevailing influences. The quality of a time, like the quality of a place, is something which is easier to feel than to communicate. Photography is a recent invention, but it is already noticeable that the earliest plates show a landscape which, even where little physical change has taken place, is in some way different from the same scene as it appears in a modern photograph. It is not simply a matter of different equipment, for a picture taken now with an early camera remains perceptibly of the present. There is, as it were, a quality of light that varies in every age, always apparent in the work of the different generations of painters and now becoming discernible in photographs.
As the light of a time varies, so does the sound. It was understood in the school of Pythagoras that each of the heavenly bodies resonates at a certain pitch, and the prevailing celestial harmony, varying according to the relative intervals between the planets, rings continuously in our ears, imperceptible because we have never experienced its absence. The sound of a time nevertheless has a considerable influence on human behaviour. Fashions in music orbit round a central, immovable canon of eternal harmonies in response to the planetary cycles. The success of a popular musician depends on the extent to which he is in tune with his times. Once expressed, the matter becomes obvious.
The song that the elders sang at the perpetual choir was an astro logical chant, pitched to the music of the spheres, celebrating the order of the heavens and guiding the ritual order of life on earth. The temple was the central power station of the whole country, transmitting throughout the nation the current of the divine word, generated through the ceaseless activity of its astrologers, priests and officials. As the times changed, so did the song, and the pattern of life was adjusted accordingly. The hours of the day, the seasons of the year, all the greater and lesser cycles of time were reflected in the temple ceremonial. Plato in Laws speaks of a kingdom in the remote past, ruled by the gods in person, and later, on the departure of the gods, by their trained human representatives. The first human rulers possessed the true canon and the cosmic temple, its projection, the perfect instrument of government, from which proceeded the daily life of the individual and the seasonal events in the farmer's and hunter's year. The transient dream of earthly existence was sustained by the reality of life within the temple.
The round of festivals in the Church Calendar and in the country side is composed of fragments from the old perpetual chant. The church, in succession to the temple, preserved the records of the past and measured the progress of time, both daily and astronomical. The chime of its clock and the regular tolling of the bells were heard far across the quiet meadows of the former landscape, regulating the activities appropriate to the hour in the same way that the Church festivals were once observed in connection with the various stages in the cycle of agriculture. At Glastonbury Abbey there was an elabor ate astronomical clock which perished after the Dissolution but was similar to the clock at Wells Cathedral, which was made by the same master in the fourteenth century. This remains in fine order and displays a circular dial, divided into 24- hours, set within a square frame like the plan of the New Jerusalem. Every hour a star moves round the circle and a golden sun advances one twenty-fourth part of its orbit. The days of the lunar month are indicated and also the age of the current moon. Processions of knights appear hourly and a figure called Jack Blandifer kicks the bells with his heels. This ingenious mechanism is a medieval monument to time, an artful representation of a function of the temple.
There is a curious symmetry in the geographical locations of the three perpetual choirs of Britain. The axis of Glastonbury Abbey is orientated about 3o north of east in the direction of Stonehenge, the distance between Stonehenge and Glastonbury being some 38.9 miles. This is also the distance from Glastonbury to Llantwit Major, the site of the third choir, and if lines are drawn on a map from Glastonbury to Stonehenge and Llantwit, they form an angle of about 144o. Moreover, the angle at Stonehenge between the line from Glastonbury and the line down the Avenue towards midsummer sunrise is also 144o. If the midsummer line is produced 38·9 miles from Stonehenge, it terminates at Goring on Thames, where a temple was formerly sited near the river crossing of several pre historic tracks.
144 is the typical New Jerusalem number and it is also the number of degrees in the outer angle of a dekagon. It is therefore possible assuming Llantwit, Glastonbury, Stonehenge and Goring to occupy four of the ten points of a dekagon, to compute the geographical position of the centre on which the perpetual choirs pivot. It turns out to be on the Malvern Hills above Ledbury, the oldest rock formations in England. The exact spot is just south of the prehistoric city on Midsummer Hill; it is at a hamlet marked on the map as. Whiteleafed Oak, the meeting point of three counties, Worcester, Hereford and Gloucester. There is a legend of the Whiteleafed Oak, but it is not recorded, and although local people remember others who once knew it, they themselves have either forgotten the story or do not care to tell it. There is an alchemical flavour in the name; the oak was sacred to the Druids, a whiteleaved or variegated specimen no doubt particularly so, and it is certainly as it should be that the legendary tree at the centre of the perpetual choir cycle is now the boundary mark of the three festival choirs of Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester.
That this may not be altogether fanciful is indicated by the fact that a circle struck from the Whiteleafed Oak, with the three per petual choirs of Llantwit, Glastonbury and Stonehenge on its perimeter, has a radius of 504 furlongs and circumference of 3168 furlongs. [These units revised in this article to less than 500 furlongs and 3168 other units]