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I came across this recently. It is an extract from a talk given in London by a sufi (muslim) teacher to his largely Christian students. Another slant on the purpose of pilgrimage which is interesting, though I'm not sure I'm buying.
10 September 1992:
The places one has visited in the past and which one will conceivably visit again in the future are places...which were built upon or rebuilt or constructed from the very beginning, according to certain designs and specific indications as to the value and quality of the position of the place in relation to the other places.
There is nothing supernatural about this. On the contrary, it is a highly scientific type of construction. Such places are constructed with a definite intent, along with the magnetic and other fluxes which occur when certain types of material are put together to cause this energy to flow and increase the value of the ambience of the place.
Although these places function in the absence of people, the presence of and visits by people who come together to visit these places, are in fact a catalyst for the increased functioning of that place during the time it is being visited.
Some people have used wordings in which they said that some places take on a magical quality. Magic is not my business; facts and utility are my business. To express something as magical means that it is beyond the control of nature and that it is therefore not a natural thing in which a human being can participate. It automatically puts it into a superstitious area.
The presence of numbers of people in a place constructed on a certain site according to a given plan does add a depth to the quality of that place, and I think people recognize this. It is valuable because many of the confusions, worries and hang-ups people suffer from seem sometimes to go away after one visit to such a place.
This is not a recipe for all and everything, and it is not just limited to places of the Tradition. Any place of that positive nature which has been positively charged from a solid, revealed religion or from a good and workable philosophy will relieve a person of a lot of the negative circulating in their being.
Everybody knows there are miracle cures attributed to various places which are not explicable by normal medical science, or by normal physics or anatomy. Although such occurrences are unusual, they are entirely explicable, not as some magical or superstitious event: what happens is rather that, whether physically or mentally afflicted from an outside source, or whether it is their own problems, confusions or difficulties which are afflicting them, the person will benefit from such a place because they pass through an area which is highly charged in a positive way, and the degree of charge goes a long way to nullify the negative charge they are holding in themselves as a result of certain physical, mental or personal problems.
Such things are not supernatural: they are quite natural in the sense that they come about as a result of certain factors coming together, with the people visiting the place acting as a catalyst in the overall formula.
This sort of place is activated, working, full of energy, and it manifestly and demonstrably has some characteristics: the moment people of the Tradition come into it, the reaction increases so that the amount of positive energy also increases.
This is why we always say that those who visit such places visit on behalf of everybody in their group, because they both participate in that energy and take it back, which means that the whole group benefits.
A person from a group therefore not only represents the group physically, but he or she is actually the catalyst on behalf of the group and has access to the energy which is latent in the place, and which becomes active when people visit it.
Once again, this phenomenon is not limited to places used or built by the Tradition. It exists in various other places and can be a result of other equally ancient philosophies which have also recognized the value of certain places, for instance which have built monasteries, castles, mosques, abbeys, synagogues or whatever on those places, thus benefitting from the aura of positivity which exists in that place.
Such places are what we call the hotspots. They are full of energy and they communicate: not in some spooky, supernatural science-fiction way, but through the people who visit them.
In the Middle Ages, you had the familiar Pilgrim's Walks to Compostella and other places. People walked predetermined routes, visited certain abbeys, sites and ruins, and saw certain relics. They were making contact and establishing connections with people, because the Tradition functions through and because of people. In the absence of people it is an energy, a function and a philosophy, but when the people are travelling, visiting, communicating together, communicating with the places; they add the extra element to the equation which causes the energy to flow.
You might say that the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and Notre Dame de Paris are both buildings. But even if they are both places of worship, where is the connection? They were both built with a function, and that function was endowed by the designers and by the building itself, so that the people who visit one and then the other in whatever order are making the connection between the two. It is an actual physical human contact.
The fact that both are on the surface of the earth certainly does give them a contact, but the contact is also established and maintained by successive generations of travellers, by the pilgrims who have travelled the various pilgrim routes, whether they go from Europe to Jerusalem, travel within Europe itself, or within the Middle East or Central Asia. The old Pilgrim routes are the ones which, if one follows them, one can see the diagram.
If you mark certain points on the map and place the diagram on that, you will find that it exactly follows the diagram. There are no loose ends because an equation is a closed factor: x + y = something. If the value of x is known and the value of y is known then the final result of = z must also be known.
The same applies to the connection between the pilgrim tracks, whether it be from Jerusalem to the Holy Sepulchre, or from Notre Dame to Chartres. These routes all represent diagrams that are perfectly coherent and perfectly closed, in the sense that the energy is maintained within those areas.
The element which makes the exchange work is the human contact, the human element.
So, from the Middle Ages on, the idea of pilgrimages following certain points arose, and it comes as no surprise to anybody who studies such things to find that they link up: whether they are pilgrimages from West to East or from East to West, they both link to. form a coherent pattern of contact.
John Brierley Camino Frances Guide
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2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
I could buy most of that!
Throughout the history of humankind, structures have been erected in carefully chosen locations with predetermined alignments to the heavens and the earth ( eg: the Pyramids at Giza and the Mayan Pyramids). The great cathedrals of Europe, built by the Sons of Solomon, were no different.
The symbology in the stonework of these monuments tells the stories of the builders, their beliefs and the mindset of the people at the time. When I was in Estella I bought a CD ‘Simbolos en San Pedro de la Rua’ which is the result of 24 years of study and interpretation by Maria Antonia Bariain. It gives one a fascinating glimpse into the many symbols in the stonework of this great church.
(San Pedro is undergoing extensive renovations and will be closed until April next year when it is hoped to have it open to visitors during the day. They have a relic of St Andrew which was brought here in the 13th century by a bishop of Patras.)

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