Introduction: Through Archaic Eyes
This project, “Places of Spiritual Power” is intended to show how the archaic (i.e.: tribal, etc) religions world-view accesses the sacred through features of the natural environment or sanctifies the environment at various locations for the same purpose. I hope to illustrate through photographs and text that this world view is as relevant and as capable of apprehending the numinous in the present moment as in the distant past.
In his book, “Sacred Earth: Places of Peace and Power,” Martin Gray proposes 32 categories for defining the varieties of sacred space. This is useful to a point, and I have fit most of my thirteen chosen sites into eleven of his categories. Where to put the Medicine Wheel on this list was problematic. The problem was with the list, not the wheel. There were no clear cut choices (you can see the complete list at http://www.sacredsites.com/sacred-places/02-sacred-place-categories.html
-- Sacred mountains: McKenzie Mountain; Ring Mountain (with Mt. Tamalpais)
-- Sacred bodies of water: McKenzie Pond; Wilmington Flume
-- Healing springs: Thatcherville Spring (Hunter’s Home)
-- Healing and power stones: McKenzie Pond Boulders; Balanced Rock
-- Sacred trees and forest groves: Pest House Pine Grove; Moody Pine; The Favored Tree
-- Ancient ceremonial sites: Ring Mountain
-- Regions delineated by sacred geographies: The Path
-- Oracular caves, mountains, and sites: NCCC Medicine Wheel?
-- Sites where relics of saints and martyrs were/are kept: John Brown’s Farm and Grave
-- Places with enigmatic fertility legends and/or images: Ring Mountain
-- Unique natural features: McKenzie Pond Boulders; Balanced Rock; Wilmington Flume
As I said, such a categorization (an artifice of the modern, western mind) is useful up to a point; but that point is quickly passed. The archaic eye, fully open, sees spirit everywhere. In Shinto (the closest thing we have to a truly archaic worldview in the midst of a modern, industrial culture) the term “Kami” has central importance; but it has been misinterpreted as meaning “Gods.” It is indeed that but also beyond that. Kami is the divine perceived in the manifest universe, or, more correctly, as
the manifest universe.
Kami is most readily apprehended in places or things or persons that appear to us as non-ordinary, uncanny, awe inspiring, “eminently wonderful.” Motoori Norinaga, writing at the end of the eighteenth century, said, “…we often find cases in which rocks, stumps of trees, and leaves of plants spoke audibly. All these are Kami.”
Spoke audibly? How does one respond to this? “Oh, isn’t that quaint?” Or maybe just, “That’s whacko!” The people we call schizophrenics might at another time or in another place be called shamans. When it comes to hearing what the stones have to say, most of us “normals” are not so finely attuned; and we cannot hear the voice of the divine over the noise of our own brains, let alone the noise of the world our brains have made. The problem with being able to be moved to tears by a pebble is that it’s hard to survive in our current culture when inhabiting that level of vulnerability. Yet we must acknowledge these things. If we don’t, we are subjecting ourselves to a kind of spiritual starvation.
Rocks and stumps and the leaves of trees (and Gods, for that matter) aside, Motoori also says, “The universe and all things therein are without a single exception strange and wondrous when examined carefully.” Though what we see is wondrous in and of itself – would be so were we never to see it – the wonder that we see is not in what we see but in how we see it. “When we are attentive to things, rather than attempting to control things through narrow, rational categories, we are opened up to their wondrous – and therefore divine – nature.” Being “opened” is the key to living successfully with and on our Earth.
The following photographe and vignettes are exercises in careful examination, attempts toward “opening,” and of seeing through archaic eyes.
 Martin Gray, Sacred Earth: Places of Peace and Power
(New York: Sterling, 2007) p. 11-12.
 Robert S. Gall, “Kami and Daimon A Cross-Cultural Reflection on What is Divine,” Philosophy East & West
, 1 Jan. 1999, p. 64.
 Gall p. 63-64.
 Gall p. 64.
 Gall p. 65.