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What Makes a Place Spiritual?

Updated: Apr 24

God, history, geography, people, or something else entirely?


I had the recent opportunity to visit both Glastonbury and Stonehenge, and my experiences there led to me to the title question - what is it that makes a place ‘spiritual’?


I’m always on the lookout for the best spiritual places, whether it’s an ancient monument, a remote hilltop, or even a music festival. Can spirituality be found in all sorts of places at different times, or are there places which are always spiritual?


signpost pointing to spirituality

If you’re heading to a place of historical spiritual significance, you’ll most likely know about it in advance and this might lead to expecting to feel something when you’re there. If you blindfolded me and took me to Stonehenge, in some kind of weird spiritual kidnapping, would I know I was somewhere spiritual? Perhaps the knowledge is part of it, as is being able to physically see it and feel the associated the awe and wonder that a photograph can never recreate.


So, is a spiritual place one of historical significance? Of religion or worship? Do people decide if somewhere is spiritual or does the geography decide? Can an ‘ordinary’ place be spiritual or does it have to be special in some way? For me, the answer lies in the feeling you get when you’re there, which relates to everything else in turn. As I’m finding with most things in life, it’s complex to understand and yet oh so simple to feel.


 

In this article

 

Churches & Buildings


diagram showing cathedral power generators
Cathedral 'cells'

I always get a feel of the energy when I enter a church or cathedral and it stays with me while I’m wandering around, slowly dissipating once I’ve left. I’m not religious and don’t believe I’d therefore feel the same influences a religious person might feel. The buildings themselves are impressive, as is the history and age, not to mention the care and attention in the details. Are these physical factors alone enough to make me feel the way I do, or is more required?


I believe a large part of the energy I feel within churches comes from the architecture, and I don’t mean merely in a visual sense. Not to dismiss the awe and wonder created by a suitably impressive cathedral... I’m talking about the antenna-like design of spires and the potential to harness energy from the atmosphere. This might be a wild theory for many of you no familiar with Nikola Tesla’s work, but it’s certainly possible.


The church builders certainly knew about frequency and vibration if we consider the Cymatic patterns in their designs. The above photo shows church windows and the patterns different frequencies make when passing through water.


Stonehenge


My first ever visit to Stonehenge was an odd one. I had romantic ideas of touching the stones, sitting down and meditating, absorbing everything it had to offer. Instead, I got a busy tourist attraction with security, barbed wire, and threatening signs everywhere; it all rather killed the vibe for me. It was visually impressive, from afar, and it seemed to have an affect on me that my companion didn’t share. Maybe as it was her second time, or because this is part of my English history? It’s difficult to say with any certainty.


stonehenge restrictions fences

I suggest the spiritual feel of the place was somewhat diminished in light of the restrictions in place. We met another couple there who were similarly disheartened; on the positive side at least, the whole experience ultimately led to me writing this article. I told them about our next destination, and all about Spiritual England of course, and I hope they decided to check it out!


Woodhenge


artist depiction of Woodhenge

I must admit, I had no idea what Woodhenge was or that it even existed prior to researching our visit to Stonehenge. Apparently, it’s as old as Stonehenge itself, but even my spellchecker has no idea what I’m talking about. I guess it’s just not all that impressive, lots of cylindrical stones of a similar size in a pattern in the ground, which is pretty difficult to distinguish at eye-level.


The photo on the noticeboard (above) shows something rivalling its famous stoney neighbour - I hope they attempt to rebuild it one day in all its original glory.


man meditating at woodhenge

It was just us, a couple of children, and a large family who were enjoying the site of one of the oldest man-made structures in human civilisation. Admittedly, this one isn’t still intact and the replacements are small concrete blocks, so it isn’t quite the same, but I reckon it’s amazing all the same.


Did it feel spiritual? Not especially so. Would I go back? Sure, but only if I was passing by, which is also true for Stonehenge.



Glastonbury + Tor


You know you’re in Glastonbury as soon as you arrive - the shops are all weird and interesting, as are the people wandering around in bright clothes and bare feet. Truth be told, on my first visit to Glastonbury I skipped the town centre completely… I spent the vast majority of my visits to Glastonbury up at the Tor; the tower stands out from a distance and it seemed to call to me from afar.


Glastonbury Tor in distance

This is another place full of myth and legend, from King Arthur to the Isle of Avalon, and there’s even a tale of St Patrick taking leadership of a sect here some 800 years ago. This was truly an island back in the day, with dense forest and marshland all around. What was it that drew these people and formed these stories, was it the same thing that attracted me? I wasn’t the only one drawn here and I noticed everyone had a bright smile and friendly eyes.


We visited on the Spring Equinox and enjoyed the beats of a drum circle in the tower, another day I made friends with a young lady from Wales who’d brought her firestick to juggle. I had the pleasure of chatting to a young couple who’d come up from London and were well aware of the spiritual associations of the Tor. The kind lady training a massive Rottweiler as a therapy dog deserves a mention too.


Sunset view over Glastonbury from Tor

I could never get tired of watching the sun set across the endless countryside dotted with little towns and villages. Even with a constant flow of visitors, Glastonbury Tor seemed to retain its unique spiritual feel where Stonehenge had seemingly failed.



Spiritual Festivals


While staying near Glastonbury, I read a book detailing the history of the famous festival of the same name. It’s hard for me to consider Glastonbury as anything resembling spiritual these days, but it got me thinking of 'spiritual' festivals I'd been to. I had a truly wonderful experience at a festival in Cumbria, notable for being the first festival I’d gone to where I came back a healthier and more complete person. There were no massive headline acts or giant crowds and I spent the majority of my time sober and within a small circle of tents designated ‘the healing area’.


The people, the activities, the music, the general vibes, and the sun seemed to shine forever; it all combined to make for a spiritual experience. The festival wasn’t ostensibly ‘spiritual’ and I’ve been to those that were, from Buxton to Budapest, but this one had something different.




churchyard sunset bench view trees

Do People Create Spirituality?


The particular combination of factors which makes something spiritual is perhaps different for us all, which suggests a place can only be spiritual if we decide it is. Sometimes a room can be transformed by smells and objects, with a ceremony or ritual to create the right ambience. Other times, these things are all there in spades and yet it just feels flat. Is it a mood, perhaps a combined mood, or is it more substantial, like the history, architecture, astronomical location or even Ley Lines?


Perhaps the defining factor and key component of spirituality is the people involved, but does the place affect the people or the people affect the place? It’s all a bit chicken and the egg. We’ve all likely experienced a situation where a single person or group of people have destroyed the ‘vibe’ of a place. We may have also marvelled at someone almost single-handedly transforming the feel of a room upon their arrival. As we learn more about the power of intent, we can begin to imagine how the collective thoughts of a group might create a sense of spirituality in a place.


I loved travelling abroad for festivals when I was younger because it meant only those willing to make the effort were there, and you could feel that reflected in the atmosphere. Imagine traveling to a ‘holy place’ and gathering there with a bunch of other people with the same intentions. Perhaps there are priests or monks wearing ‘spiritual’ clothing and outwardly projecting a sense of peace and tranquillity.


priests in cathedral

Combine all of this with rules about behaviour and etiquette, and it ensures this quiet reverie isn’t broken by bad actors. Furthermore, religious and spiritual leaders are almost always capable of creating a certain feel all by themselves; they have a commanding presence capable of influencing the hearts and minds of those around them. I can see how all of these factors, working in tandem, can easily create a sense of spirituality.


The Internal Spiritual Place


The spiritual experiences I generally find are those of solitude, which just so happens to remove that external influence of people and some places just aren’t particularly suited to meditation and contemplation. For me, nothing beats a high place in nature, a view out over the sea, or an expansive never-ending sky above. They’re both breath-taking and thought-taking, momentarily forcing even the most active mind into a meditative state. Maybe this is what really makes a place spiritual for me, this significant presence taking over and just leaving you staring out of your head.


I felt this presence on a random hill in Somerset and I saw it in the face of a man who’d climbed the same hill for the same reason. I also experienced it profoundly during a visit to an ancient church in the tiny village of Rodney Stoke. The church wasn’t meant to be open at the time, but the doors were open thanks to a lady waiting patiently for a choir to arrive. It was small and beautiful; however, it was in the churchyard where I found what I was seeking, on a bench beneath two old trees.


man with dog on bench

This was the feeling I was after, that sense of spirituality as it is to me - a deep and all-encompassing peace of mind, body, and spirit. I know this is what lies within me and inside us all, no matter the location; we just have to seek and nurture it. I didn’t need to travel to Stonehenge or climb a famous hill in Glastonbury, nor fly to the Taj Mahal or hike up Machu Pichu; for me at least, I just needed to ignore the satnav and follow a random sign down a tiny village road.










For more information on the spiritual path, different spiritual practices, and your spiritual development & growth, visit Spiritual England!


 
Adam Pike - Holistic Healer

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Holistic Healer & Health Consultant | Director of Spiritual England


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