In our home page we say that a key feature of the Enabling Process is
1. Inspiration – Knowing how to understand and access this Wisdom – recording the information that is received – then envisioning the action needed to bring the project into reality
Glastonbury in the UK is a remarkable town offering a range of facilities and services that enhance the development of what we call ‘Accessing the Wisdom’. Here we give outline information of the town .
here we give outline information of the townSome of the key facts of this town are:
- A unique landscape and a rich history of myths and legends
- In the Middle Ages it had one of the largest and most prosperous Abbeys in England
- With the dissolution of the monasteries, the Abbey fell into ruins
- The town became a small market town in a remote corner of England
- Over the years it developed some modest industries which declined post the second war
- In the early 20th century came a renewed interest in the town and its long history
- In recent years this interest has grown steadily and now half of the town’s economic activity is provided by what is called the ‘ alternative community’.
- The town is growing into an internationally recognized center of Pilgrimage and contemporary spirituality
Glastonbury, in Bronze Age times was held to be a holy place; a prominent conical hill, on a remote island surrounded by tidal marshes with only a narrow causeway leading to higher ground in the East. In the early first century we find traces of resident hermits and a legend of a visit by Joseph of Arimathea and his young nephew Jesus. The place attracted mystics whose prayers reinforced the existing atmosphere. The original hermitage grew into an established monastery coming into historical focus in the 10th century with the thriving Benedictine Abbey, its Abbott Dunstan and pilgrim visitors drawn from afar.
To support the monks and visitors, a small town grew up around the Abbey supplying the services of candle makers, launderers, butchers, bakers and assorted others. So we see a spiritual heart supported by a secular town. Economic harmony reigned as wealth brought to the monastery by pilgrims and patrons flowed out to support the town. The Abbey was a dominant landlord, owning most of the houses, farms and manors for miles around, and many local people were tenants. The dependence of the town upon the monks for economic prosperity was accepted, but there could be resentment, when they were seen to be over-authoritative.
With the dissolution of the monasteries and the destruction of the Abbey, the spiritual heart, and most of the income, of Glastonbury was lost. For many years various efforts were made to find an alternative source of revenue but with little success and the town drifted into becoming a small isolated market center. In the 19th century, a renewal of activity occurred with the arrival of the railway and canal. The improved access to the rest of the country opened new markets and potential for increased sale of local products. The Moorland and the Clark families built factories to process sheepskin and make shoes, providing jobs for the blue-collar workers, and, for a time, the economy was buoyant.
After the Second War the cost of manufacturing footwear locally became too high and production was moved overseas with only a distribution center remaining. There also came a decline in the demand for sheepskin products. As a result most of the local factories were closed with the loss of some 1,500 jobs – a major blow to such a small community.
With the closure of the Abbey, few pilgrims arrived but people interested in local history continued to visit. The post-war years saw a slow revival of interest in Glastonbury as a pilgrimage town. This started with hippy travelers, and a reputation as a worldwide sacred site began to grow.
Glastonbury is held by some to be a ‘thin place’ where the spiritual world is closer than the norm. In early times this could be experienced in the hills, the streams, the woods and the marshes full of fish and fowl – a place burgeoning with earthly and spiritual life. Today much is changed but the atmosphere remains. Meadows and woodland still exist and an awareness of the closeness and reality of nature can be felt when walking in the sacred sites of Chalice Well, Bride’s Mound and the grounds of the ruined Abbey. In the countryside, around the Tor, lies what is claimed to be the Glastonbury Zodiac – a pattern of natural features, which appear to reflect on earth the pattern passing of the constellations in the sky. Somehow, this sacred numinous environment has survived the recent large-scale building of houses, supermarkets and modern infrastructure.
The original town grew up around the Abbey. With the dissolution of the monastery it lost its spiritual centre. Glastonbury has always been a place of transformation and, to realise its true potential, it needs to return to the balance of a mystic heart with a supporting town. There are some signs of this happening
The Alternative Community
The Mystic heart is beginning to emerge in a contemporary guise. Of the resident population of some 10,000, about one third would say they were ‘called’ to Glastonbury and experience some sort of a spiritual purpose. They are supplying the specialized services needed to support the spiritual aspects of the place and are known locally as the alternative. In 1985 this group was small and rather like a specialized college in one corner of the town. Most of the members knew each other and were involved in a number of local projects. The long-term residents recognized these newcomers but tended not to be in sympathy with their activities.
Today this group has grown in number and has come to resemble a ‘University’ with ‘Faculties’ – groups of people running individual projects but not necessarily knowing or being involved with others. This community has a growing awareness of itself although it is still fragmented and there is a lack of overall cooperation and cohesion. There will need to be a better understanding of the town as an integrated whole, and its purpose, if it is to reach its true potential.
The ‘Market Towners’
There are some 7,000 inhabitants who see Glastonbury as a conventional Somerset market town and many of them have no concept of the town’s emerging role as a center of transformation. These people deliver many of the vital services and are essential to the life of the town today.
A Town Divided
The concept of two separate communities is obviously an over simplification – there are people who are at home in both towns. But this is a useful model in understanding the dynamics of the town. It is certainly is a town divided.
On the one hand there are the ‘market town’ people, some of whom are suspicious of the ‘alternatives’. They see them as being personified in the unkempt people sitting on the benches outside the church drinking Special Brew, and in the many Crystal Shops. The alternatives are seen as being difficult to understand and to work with. On the other hand there are the ‘alternatives’ that are full of energy and enthusiasm and are prospering with their own activities but have given up trying to work with the other part of the town.
Today Glastonbury has an atmosphere that allows people to enhance their own level of consciousness and awareness. This is welcomed by many of the alternative community but some local residents are disturbed by the growing unconventional nature of their town. Originally, it seemed as if this lack of understanding was an obstruction to progress, but it has become clear that these differences have created a need for clarity of purpose and outreach to others, which has in turn led to a much stronger awareness of the inter-dependence of all parts of the town.