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John Michell Mysteries

~ MYSTERY ARCHIVES ~
~ BOOKS BY JOHN MICHELL ~


ARCHIVE for Thursday 13th December 2001 - The faces in the rocks

Antonin Artaud was a French poet, famous in the 1930s. Doctors said he was mad. They locked him up and treated him with electric shocks. One of their reasons was that Artaud saw faces and images in natural rock formations.

In 1936 he went to Mexico to try out the native drugs. The peyote cactus gave him a wonderful new insight. In the shapes of the local mountains he saw images he recognised. They were the very same as the religious symbols of the local people. And the people themselves looked rather like the figures that Artaud could see in the rocks.

It seemed to him that he had discovered a great, ancient secret. All over the world nature creates simulacra (things that look like other things). But here in Mexico, he said, the whole landscape has been shaped in harmony with the native people and creatures.

Was this the work of gods or of some giant race in the past? Over-excited by these questions, Artaud returned to France and fell into the hands of the mad-doctors.

Reading about Artaud's vision, I too was excited. We are all naturally inclined to see patterns. But, at the same time, nature produces patterns, sometimes with clear meaning. A butterfly opens its wings to display the eye-and-nose image of a monster. Other creatures have false features in their markings, evidently to scare away enemies.

There are symbols throughout nature, and there are many faces. You can see them on the backs of crabs and spiders, in passing clouds, in the rotting limbs of an old tree. At some places - e.g. the Brimham rocks near Pateley Bridge, Yorkshire - the whole area is like a design centre of creation. Human and animal simulacra mingle with unknown figures in the outcropping rocks.

My excitement came from Artaud's suggestion, that the images you see in nature are likely to resemble the people and wildlife of the district. I found some good examples of this, and put them in a book called Simulacra (long out of print). One of them is a picture of a rock in Wales which looks like the profile of a sharp-nosed woman. I was pleased to have a letter from a local gent who said it looked just like his wife.

A good introduction to this subtle mystery is a book that has just come out. The Secret Face of Nature is by a German photographer living in England, Jurgen Kronig. Walking on Dartmoor, he was impressed by its great stone rock-piles, standing up like gods, beasts or demons. There are some great pictures of them in this book. And he has found many other 'things that look like other things'.

So what does it all mean? I do not know, but I think it has something to do with magic.

John Michell


Order The Secret Face of Nature by Jurgen Kronig from Mirror Direct for 19.95 (p+p is FREE)

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Call 0870 0703 200
or send cheque/PO payable to Mirror Direct to PO Box 60, Helston, Cornwall TR13 0TP

Other countries visit: www.gothicimage.co.uk
The Secret Face of Nature by Jurgen Kronig
published by Gothic Image, 7 High Street, Glastonbury, Somerset, BA6 9DP, England, UK


If you have a favourite mystery subject - from spontaneous human combustion to ancient Celtic ritual sites, write to John, suggesting a theme. And if you have any answers or theories about the mysteries John will be highlighting, he would particularly like to hear from you.

Email jon@cainer.com with subject heading: John Michell
Please note, we regret that due to time restrictions personal replies may not be available.


John Michell is a prolific author. Below are just two of John's books which might interest you. We have arranged with our friends at The Daily Mirror for website visitors to order books mentioned on this site.

This service is for UK orders only.

Unexplained Phenomena, A Rough Guide Special
(co-author Bob Rickard, rrp 12.99) at the special Mirror Direct price of 9.99 + p&p.
Who Wrote Shakespeare?
(Thames & Hudson, rrp 8.95) for the Mirror Direct special price of 6.95 + p&p.
Call 0870 165 8587


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