Sacred Places

An Exploration of Their Mysterious Powers

What is the actual nature of the sacred sites? How can we explain the extraordinary - and often miraculous - phenomena that occur at them? Hundreds of millions of pilgrims journey to these power places each year. The momentum of both religious tradition and modern tourism is commonly suggested to explain this astonishing movement of people. Yet much more is going on than mere religious custom or vacation travel. How do we account for the enormous popularity of these places? What makes them sacred, and what do people hope to gain from their visits to the sites?

When I first began to study and visit these places, I was overwhelmed by their many differences. In addition to a wide variety of Paleolithic and Neolithic sacred sites, thousands of places were venerated by the historical religions of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Islam, Sikkism, and Zoroasterism. Some sacred places were naturally-occurring geological features such as caves, mountains, forest glens, springs and waterfalls. Other holy places were identified by a variety of human-made ceremonial structures such as pyramids, stone rings, temples, mosques, shrines and cathedrals. Many of these places had been venerated since deep antiquity. Others had become pilgrimage centers only recently. Initially confused by this great diversity, I failed to recognize certain elements common to sacred sites around the world.

As a beginner in the study of holy places, I lacked two things essential to a deeper understanding of the subject. I had not acquired knowledge concerning the world's pilgrimage traditions and sacred sites. More important, I had not visited enough of the sites to experience and understand their power. Only with the passage of many years - during which I visited nearly a thousand pilgrimage places and read extensively on pilgrimage traditions, sacred sites and related subjects - was I able to peer beyond superficial differences to discern factors common to the places irrespective of their geographic location or time of use.

Thus far, I have recognized twenty factors that contribute to the mysterious power of sacred sites. I believe these various factors function, independently and together, to create, perpetuate and amplify a presence or field of energy that surrounds and saturates the sacred sites. This energy field, or power of place, may be defined as a nonmaterial region of influence extending in space and continuing in time. To conceptualize this idea of sacred sites having spatially defined energy fields, it is useful to consider the phenomenon of magnetism. As any school child knows, if you place a magnet beneath a plate of glass having iron filings on top, the filings will be influenced by the power of the magnet. While science is not able to fully explain the dynamics of this power, the phenomenon is real. It is called a field.

Similar to the power of a magnet, the power of a sacred site is an invisible field of energy permeating the area of the sacred site. Myths and legends of the sacred places tell of certain sites that have the miraculous ability to heal the body, enlighten the mind, increase creativity, develop psychic abilities and awaken the soul to a knowing of its true purpose in life. I believe that the energy fields of the sacred sites are responsible for these extraordinary phenomena.

Evidence indicating the existence of such energy fields may be found by studying the discovery, development and continuing use of sacred sites. In other words, how were the sacred site locations initially discovered or chosen? What are the ethos and the esoteric wisdom that went into the construction of the structures and artifacts at the sites? Why do human beings continue to visit the sites over long periods of time? Considering these questions will allow us to build a convincing argument for the existence of subtle energy fields at the sacred sites.

Although this information is intellectually fascinating, my primary purpose in discussing it is to introduce the idea of a power of place existing at the sacred sites, and to assist people in experiencing that power when they visit the sites. Simply by walking into the immediate area of a sacred site a pilgrim enters into the energy field of the place whether they know of the presence of energy fields or is unaware of them. Our experience of the energy fields, however, may be amplified by consciously connecting with them through knowledge, intention and meditation. By knowing of the existence of the fields, by mentally intending to connect with them and by practicing meditation when we are at the sacred sites, we can actually establish a psychic linkup with the power of place. Such a linkup with the fields will assist us in more fully benefiting from the power of the sacred sites.

Paul Devereux, an authority on the geophysical aspects of sacred sites, comments that:

When a person visits a ceremonial monument, is it their intellect, their five senses, their intuition, or the electromagnetic fields around their bodies that perceive the place?....One may individually respond in a limited set of ways to a site, but it is crucial to know that one's preferred reactions are only part of a network of knowing that is involved in a more complete description of the place. (1)

I believe that the nature of a person's experience of a sacred site may be influenced by them having what Devereux calls a "multi-mode" approach to the sites, that is, by experiencing the sites from the vantage points of both knowing and feeling, both mind and heart. Knowing means having an understanding of such matters as the mythology, archaeology, history, geology and (possible) celestial orientation of a site. Feeling means the ability to sense and tune into the presence of power at a site.

The ancient people who discovered the power places and erected structures at them quite probably related with the sites through both feeling and knowing. If contemporary people wish to access the energy fields of the sacred sites they should likewise use both knowing and feeling. In the beginning sections of this essay I will deal with the matter of knowing by discussing several factors that contribute to generation and perpetuation of the sacred site energy fields. In the final section of the essay I will deal with the matter of feeling by showing an easy-to-do meditation technique for actually connecting with the energy fields.