We will commence by building and entering the Sacred Abbey. This is a magical image that, besides having its prototype expressed upon the physical plane in numerous examples throughout the world, is also fashioned in the world of the imagination. It is a design or pattern that was first conceived in the heavens, but is increased and contributed to by all who have worshipped, worked or walked with reverence within it.
We take as our model the pattern of the great constructions for which the High Middle Ages had a particular facility. It was indeed part of the historical mission or destiny within the Divine Plan of this period. The Divine Plan is the restitution of the fallen world back toward the original perfection, and these buildings served as bridges between Heaven and Earth. A Heaven that might be conceived as a true and real terra firma, and an Earth that is and was like a floating island, that had slipped from its attachment to the main land and which was being secured by having the links remade, by these bridges or means of access to the heavenly main land.
Each abbey or cathedral has its own unique individuality. (We shall henceforth use the term ‘abbey’ because although cathedral fits the usage as well, an abbey has the tradition of a connection with a contemplative order – which adds far greater power and depth.) It is an application of what we spoke of in the beginning, about the flow of the waters of consciousness. An abbey is like a deep pool in a garden. A pool containing life of another order of existence, that, standing in the common light of day, we may gaze upon in wonder as we look into the depths at the hints and shadows of another mode of life.
Thus the vision serves its purpose, for unlike any garden pool, here are links to a greater world, the heavens themselves. But insofar that any garden pool has its own characteristics, is an expression of its immediate milieu, so is every abbey unique in that it is a separate pool of consciousness. One in which the pilgrim soul can be immersed, cleansed, refreshed, baptised, made new.
This is sensed by the crowds who still flock to these places, despite the secular assumptions of contemporary society. These are a temporary shallows, we have to say, that will lead in time to new depths. For humankind is like a river, which will in time lead, by whatever devious meanders, to the universal encompassing sea. The modern consciousness in its present historical diversion senses its own shallowness and seeks for pilgrimage in the guise of what is now called tourism. A shallow substitute in its way, for the ancient pilgrims faced a harder journey than is found or expected today, but what it lacks in quality is made up for in quantity. And the pursuit of being ‘taken out of themselves’ is rendered faster, more varied, than ever it could have been in olden days. The same human needs and instincts remain in search of expression. It is only the mode and means that vary, according to the climate of specific historical times.
The same applies, although in slightly different ways, to those who travel to ancient sacred sites, or to historical buildings where important events of state took place. Each of these in their way are centres of power, within the body of the human consciousness. Pools or basins hollowed out by great events, or persistent custom, or dedicated ceremony, which can still contribute to the sacred cultural heritage.
And a spring of such kind is increased by its use. This may be by the intelligent and devoted application of a few individuals, as in the upkeep of some obscure ancient site or shrine, or the wider flow of masses, uncomprehending in the main, to major public sites. Even though the conscious contact may be shallow, little realised at the time of the visit, much may be gained by the individual soul. Some resonance will remain that may in future time and in another place, (perhaps not even of this world), cause the recognition of a heavenly pattern within the soul and of its true origin.
The Abbey Papers pp.41-42