Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 24th, 2009
Scottish researcher Gordon Rutter has shared the news that prolific Fortean author John Michell, 76, of whom there is a retrospecitve of his work in the latest issue of Fortean Times, passed away this morning at 12:30 am from cancer. Michell died at Poole, Dorset, 24th April, 2009.
I first met John in 1973, at an American meeting of the International Fortean Organization (INFO). The guy had a twinkle in his eye and was as bright as the stars he wrote about. His most cryptozoological work, Living Wonders, coauthored with my good friend Bob Rickard, reflected his Fortean point-of-view, needless to say, with humor and intelligence. Indeed, Michell’s legacy is an intellectual roadmap of the thoughts occurring among many who were taking this end of the 20th Century’s Fortean journey. He will be missed.
John Michell (born February 6, 1933) sometimes credited as John F. Michell, was an English author. Michell is best known for his books on earth mysteries, metrology, ley lines, sacred geometry, sacred sites, geomancy, gematria, archaeoastronomy, and Fortean phenomena. He also wrote about Plato, euphonics, simulacra, the lives and works of eccentrics such as Comyns Beaumont, Julius Evola, eccentric behaviour such as trepanning, and the Shakespeare authorship question.
Michell was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He then worked as an estate agent in London, before seeing his first book published in 1967. His writings influenced the development of the counter-culture. Gary Lachman states that Michell’s book View Over Atlantis (1969) “put Glastonbury on the countercultural map,” and Ronald Hutton describes it as “almost the founding document of the modern earth mysteries movement.”
By the late 1960s Michell was closely associated with members of the Rolling Stones. At this time Michell took the view that “an imminent revelation of literally inconceivable scope” was at hand, and that the appearance of UFOs was linked to “the start of a new phase in our history.”
John Michell, pictured in Michigan in 1990, while visiting with scholar David Fideler. Photo by David Fideler, used with permission.
In the 1980s, Michell was a member of the Lindisfarne Association and a teacher at its School of Sacred Architecture. He lectured at the Kairos Foundation, an “educational charity specifically founded to promote the recovery of traditional values in the Arts and Sciences,” and also lectured at The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.
John Michell was the author of over forty books, numerous, humorous short treatises and articles in publications such as diverse as the International Times, The Temenos Academy Review, and The Spectator.
Since 1997, he wrote a column of humor, philosophy and social commentary in Britain’s The Oldie magazine, an anthology of which was published in 2005 as Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist. His better known works include The Flying Saucer Vision: the Holy Grail Restored (1967), The View Over Atlantis (1969, later revised as The New View Over Atlantis, 1986), which stimulated renewed interest in ley lines, City of Revelation (1972), which concerns sacred geometry, A Little History of Astro-Archaeology (1977), Phenomena: A Book of Wonders (1977 with R. J. M. Rickard), Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions (1984) and The Lost Science of Measuring the Earth: Discovering the Sacred Geometry of the Ancients (2006) with Robin Heath.
Michell’s books received a broadly positive reception amongst the Fortean, New Age and Earth mysteries movements and he is credited as perhaps being “the most articulate and influential writer on the subject of leys and alternative studies of the past,” said Danny Sullivan in Ley Lines.
Ronald Hutton describes his research as part of an “‘alternative’ archaeology which is quite unacceptable to orthodox scholarship.”
A recurring theme in Michell’s books, from Living Wonders to Twelve Tribe Nations to The Measure of Albion, is of universal truths codified in nature and continually rediscovered, from ancient times to today.
Ioan P. Culianu, an expert in gnosticism and the Renaissance, wrote in 1991, in a review of The Dimensions of Paradise: The Proportions and Symbolic Numbers in Ancient Cosmology:
“After some deliberation the reader of this book will oscillate between two hypotheses: either that many mysteries of the universe are based on numbers, or that the book’s author is a fairly learned crank obsessed with numbers.”
Michell also wrote on metrology, and has been cited in academia for his work in this area.
In 1996, Michell published on the question of Shakespeare authorship. In describing the arguments for the various candidates, he did not expressly favour any candidate, but judged some hypotheses more plausible than others, particularly the Oxfordian theory. Who Wrote Shakespeare? garnered generally mixed reviews: Publishers Weekly was critical while The Independent gave praise to Michell’s treatment of the subject.
1969 The View Over Atlantis
1972 City of Revelation: On the Proportions and Symbolic Numbers of the Cosmic Temple
1974 The Flying Saucer Vision: the Holy Grail Restored
1974 The Old Stones of Land’s End
1975 The Earth Spirit: Its Ways, Shrines, and Mysteries
1977 Phenomena: A Book of Wonders, with Robert J. M. Rickard.
1979 Natural Likeness: Faces and Figures in Nature
1979 Inventorum Natura with Plinius Scundus C.
1981 Ancient Metrology: the Dimensions of Stonehenge and of the Whole World as Therein Symbolized
1982 Living Wonders: Mysteries and Curiosities of the Animal World, with Robert J. M. Rickard.
1982 Megalithomania: Artists, Antiquarians & Archaeologists at the Old Stone Monuments
1983 The New View Over Atlantis
1984 Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions
1985 Stonehenge – Its Druids, Custodians, Festival and Future
1988 Geosophy – An Overview of Earth Mysteries, with Paul Devereux, John Steele, John Michell, Nigel Pennick, Martin Brennan, Harry Oldfield and more, a Mystic Fire Video.
1986 Feng-Shui: The Science of Sacred Landscape in Old China, with Ernest J. Eitel.
1989 The Traveller’s Key to Sacred England
1989 Secrets of the Stones: New Revelations of Astro-Archaeology and the Mystical Sciences of Antiquity
1989 Earth Spirit: Its Ways, Shrines and Mysteries
1991 Twelve Tribe Nations and the Science of Enchanting the Landscape, with Christine Rhone.
1994 At the Center of the World: Polar Symbolism Discovered in Celtic, Norse and Other Ritualized Landscapes
1996 Who Wrote Shakespeare?
1997 New Light on the Ancient Mystery of Glastonbury
2000 Unexplained Phenomena: Mysteries and Curiosities of Science, Folklore and Superstition, with Robert J. M. Rickard.
2000 The Temple at Jerusalem: A Relevation
2001 The Dimensions of Paradise: The Proportions and Symbolic Numbers of Ancient Cosmology
2001 A Little History of Astro-Archaeology
2003 The Traveler’s Guide to Sacred England: A Guide to the Legends, Lore and Landscapes of England’s Sacred Places
2003 Prehistoric Sacred Sites of Cornwall
2005 Esoterická Anglie: pr’vodce po posvátn’ch místech, legendách a pov’stech, with Miloslav Korbelík.
2005 Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist
2006 Prehistoric Sacred Sites of Cornwall
2006 Euphonics: A Poet’s Dictionary of Sounds
2006 The Lost Science of Measuring the Earth: Discovering the Sacred Geometry of the Ancients, with Robin Heath.
2007 The Star Temple of Avalon, with Nicholas Mann, Philippa Glasson, & Robin Heath.
2008 Dimensions of Paradise, The: Sacred Geometry, Ancient Science and the Heavenly Order on Earth
2008 New Light on the Ancient Mystery of Glastonbury
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