The Malta Independent 26 May 2018, Saturday

Exploring The consciousness of the megalithic temple builders

Malta Independent Sunday, 7 October 2007, 00:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

Metageum’07 is a week-long event that includes an international conference, guided visits to sacred sites, and workshops exploring the “Consciousness of the Megalithic Temple Builders”, which will be held at The Caraffa Stores, Birgu between 3 and 11 November.

The three threads centre on the theme of understanding the consciousness of the people who built the megalithic temples and consist of an international, inter-disciplinary conference on different ways of approaching the thinking and imagination of the Neolithic people who built the megalithic temples in Malta and elsewhere in the world, a series of workshops enabling us to make the imaginative leap into the Neolithic worldview, and a tour of Malta’s megalithic heritage.

Conference thread: Speakers at the conference range from archaeologists, psychologists and artists, to researchers in esoteric subjects. This conference is intended to present new results of research, and to encourage debate and discussion. It does not hold any particular position on the interpretation of the temples. Different people hold radically different perspectives, some of which are diametrically opposed to each other. The aim is to create a space in which the evidence and competing claims can be seen, heard, discussed and assessed. After the morning plenary sessions, attendees can choose to stay for more presentations at the conference venue, go on field trips to the temples or participate in the workshops. The list of renowned guest speakers from the archaeological field, both academic and independent is long and highly interesting, and includes such world-renowned researchers and authors as Graham Hancock.

Tour thread: Each afternoon a bus will take a guided tour to one or more of the megalithic temples and other prehistoric sites. Margaret Frendo, a professional licensed tour guide with several decades of experience introducing people to the Maltese temples, will lead the tour. Margaret’s experience goes back to the heady days of the 1980s when goddess groups performed ceremonies at the temple sites, through to the security-tightened present day.

Experiential thread: This spans a broad range of disciplines: archaeology, psychology, and philosophy on the one hand, and art and music on the other, as well as including esoteric and therapeutic perspectives. In this vein, the event starts off with an optional “trance-dance” run by Body Temple, a New York-based group who have offered this structured form of group shamanic activity for a number of years. The trance-dance evening will provide a sample of shamanism. For conference attendees who wish to go further with shamanic journeying, Body Temple will be providing workshops each afternoon. For those who are not yet ready to step into the Neolithic mind-set, there will be a choice of afternoon talks, or guided visits to the megalithic temples around Malta.

Erika Brincat talks to PETER B. LLOYD, Metageum’s lead organiser, about this highly interesting and wide-spanning event.

Could you tell us something about your background and how your interest in temple culture worldwide developed over the years?

Metageum is not just about the stones. It is really about the consciousness of the people who put the stones there. And it’s the whole question of consciousness that has led me to study the stones. The mysterious phenomenon of human consciousness was neglected by academic philosophy and psychology for many decades, and it was only in the 1990s that it emerged as a field if study in its own right. At that time, the Journal of Consciousness Studies started up in England, and this has become a cornerstone for reporting research on the nature of human consciousness. At the same time, the University of Arizona began its series of major conferences entitled “Toward a Science of Consciousness”. I have been very much involved with this, presenting papers at these conferences and workshops. In fact, the most recent conference in that series, jointly organised with the University of Budapest, took place in Budapest in July, and I was able to promote Metageum there, and found a lot of interest in Metageum and Malta’s prehistoric past.

What we may call the “ordinary” state of consciousness is only the tip of the iceberg. In everyday life we use only a small fraction of our mental capabilities. The human mind can do a lot more. One way of accessing those latent abilities is through so-called “altered” states of mind. Basically these are trance states in which the conscious mind is guided into inner realms. Trance states are perfectly natural; in fact we often go into mild trance-like states when we daydream. My wife, Deborah Marshall-Warren, will be drawing on her many years experience as a hypnotherapist to explain how trance states provide a portal to the inner mind.

There is a lot of evidence telling us that the Neolithic people who built and used the ancient temples regarded these trance states as very important. All the signs indicate that they used the trance for what is called shamanism. Basically, shamanism is a way of communicating with spirits in order to carry out spiritual healing, both of the individual and the community.

So, these temples provide a way of finding out something of the utterly different world of the Neolithic people. These people were not savages. They were very good engineers who could build massive temples using blocks of stone that weighed tens of tons. They maintained astronomical observations over decades, and aligned the temples to solar and lunar events.

By studying the ancient temples, and reconstructing how Neolithic man may have experienced and understood the world, we can potentially learn a lot about human consciousness and its hidden depths.

Would you call your approach scientific, esoteric, historical, or an amalgamation of all these aspects?

My own approach is philosophical. I am driven to understand the nature of consciousness and the nature of the so-called spiritual realm that is revealed through non-ordinary states of mind. But my background is in science. For six years, I worked as a researcher in the Mechanical Engineering Department of Cardiff University, and for another six I was a software developer in a clinical trials research group at Oxford University. I have no doubt that scientific knowledge must form the starting point of our investigations. But really the physical sciences can only go so far. At some point we have to move beyond what is scientifically knowable and grapple with the nature of God and spirit, but to do so in a way that respects both reason and intuition.

The Metageum event encourages different approaches to intertwine and cross-fertilise each other. I do not expect scientific archaeologists to start basing their theories on dreams or visions; nor do I expect esoteric workers to start limiting themselves to what can be proven by archaeological findings. Each distinct discipline can be enriched by the others, and has something valuable to bring to the table.

What led to the decision to host your international conference on exploring the megalithic mind here in Malta?

As so often in life, a series of events conspire together to steer us, perhaps synchronistically, in a certain direction.

First of all, there is no doubt that Malta is the best possible place to host this particular conference. This is where the megalithic tradition of Europe began. We are at the epicentre of the extraordinary movement that led people over thousands of years to build massive stone structures at sacred sites throughout Europe as far as the British Isles. Malta’s oldest temple, Ggantija, was built a thousand years before Stonehenge was started, and five centuries before the Pyramids of Egypt were built. And the island has a staggeringly rich heritage of about 30 temple sites. It is overdue for worldwide attention. Everybody knows of Stonehenge. But, when I am abroad promoting Metageum, I keep on hearing people say, “I had no idea that Malta had this rich prehistoric heritage!” So, we want to help put Malta on the megalithic map.

Malta is also the perfect place at this particular time. This year sees the completion of the remarkable Brochtorff Circle project, a unique collaboration between the University of Malta, Heritage Malta and the University of Cambridge to excavate and analyse the underground temple in the Brochtorff Circle at Xaghra in Gozo. After seven years of excavation, and 13 years of computer-based analysis of hundreds of thousands of fragments, Caroline Malone and Simon Stoddart of Cambridge University will be reporting on their findings at Metageum; and Reuben Grima of Heritage Malta will be giving his personal views on the “megalithic mind”. At the end of this year, a massive tome will be published that brings together the phenomenal wealth of information this project has yielded. Also, a related project to re-examine systematically all the handwritten records of Themistocles Zammit’s excavations in the early 20th century comes to conclusion this year, with the publication of its results.

This is the year to celebrate Malta’s prehistoric heritage! How could we consider holding Metageum anywhere else?

How would you describe the Metageum’s mission?

To instil in people a sense of wonder about the ancient temples of Malta, and elsewhere, and steer them toward further reading, study, and exploration of the mysterious mental world that our Neolithic ancestors inhabited.

Is it to provide a forum for debate and discussion about recent scientific and archaeological finds, as well as to broaden awareness of temple culture by allowing participants to deepen their understanding through sharing and experiencing the rich diversity of angles from which it can be observed, understood and revealed?

Absolutely. That’s precisely what it’s about. And it includes not just the conventional approach to archaeology, but also some interesting independent approaches. For example, Dr Anton Mifsud is well known for his very challenging theory that Malta may be the remains of Atlantis. When I first heard this notion, I was quite dismissive. As indeed Dr Mifsud himself was. But over the past 10 years he has carried out an amazing private research project, that has yielded a mass of evidence, which certainly cannot be dismissed out of hand. Dr Mifsud’s book formed the basis for the Maltese section of Graham Hancock’s book and TV documentary on drowned civilisations. He has been working like a man possessed for the past few years, deepening his research and preparing a new book that is due out early next year. Dr Mifsud will be reporting on his private research at Metageum.

We will also have Dr Hubert Zeitlmair, whose diving mission discovered what appears to be a submerged megalithic temple off the shore of Malta. These researches are very controversial, and I really want to engender an open debate, based on the hard evidence, about whether Malta could possibly have been Atlantis. Metageum is neither pro-Atlantis nor anti-Atlantis. But we believe that the theories and evidence should be openly presented and debated.

Could you tell us something about the talk you have just given at Alex Grey’s Gallery, The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in New York City (15th August), as well as the one to be held at the Gateway Building, University of Malta, in October?

The talk in New York was the culmination of a series of promotional talks in Malta, England, and America. Here are some highlights. It started with a presentation to a 150 enthusiasts of megalithic temples at the Megalithomania conference in Glastonbury, organised by Hugh Newman, who is a leading light of the resurgence of interest in geomancy in England. Next was a talk to an enthusiastic group at Malta’s GaiaFest – an inspiring event conjured into existence each year by The Gaia Foundation. It was followed by a talk at the uplifting mountain site of Sedona in the US. The tour resumed at the end of July with the mud bath of the Glade Festival in England, where I shared a very wet geodesic dome with authors Graham Hancock and Erik Davis.

As in other places, people came up to me and said they had no idea Malta even had any ancient temples, and would never have guessed that it had a rich concentration of the oldest megalithic temples in the world. The next talk was in a tipi on Pendle Hill, in the Shamania Festival, where I talked about the shamanism that was central to the lives of Malta’s Neolithic people. The third festival was the Big Green Gathering, historically an offshoot of the Glastonbury Festival, which now attracts more than 20,000 people. Back in the States, I gave a talk at the remarkable MegaCo07 in upstate New York, where delegates took part in building a stone circle with stones of up to 10 tons, using only the technology available to Neolithic people.

And finally to the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, which is the gallery of visionary artist Alex Grey. Alex is a leading figure in the field on “entheogenic” art, which finds inspiration in psychotropic substances that reveal a spiritual universe beyond the mundane one. There is undoubtedly a link between this living art movement and the art we find in the ancient temples. Alex himself was very excited about Metageum and the recent researches into the mysterious world of Neolithic Malta.

I am lucky that I have been able to represent Metageum, and Malta’s ancient heritage, at these events. But I am also lucky in having the support and help of several enthusiasts, making Metageum possible: in Malta, my wife Deborah Marshall-Warren; Natasa Pantovic who is part of the organisational team, Carmen Houlton, Geraldine Camilleri, and Francis Aloisio (who have been essential in making connections), Stephania Abela-Tickle (who is being superb in converting the dream into a practical reality), and from the States, Susan Waitt (who has been very helpful in promoting Metageum).

For October, Gloria Lucente of the University of Malta has kindly invited me to speak on the influence of the prehistoric past in literature and film. The megalithic mind is an almost inscrutable mystery, and it is interesting to see how writers tackle this.

Can those who are interested in attending the Metageum book on-line, and what is the booking price of the event?

Yes, people can book directly on the website, or they can print out the booking form and mail it with payment. There is a lot of flexibility – people can book for individual days, since not everyone can take the whole week off work. In fact, the last full day of the event, Saturday 10th November, gives a very good overview for anyone who can attend for just one day. The speakers include Dr Anton Mifsud (on Malta as Atlantis), Peter Marshall (on Malta’s role in the lost civilisations of Europe from England), Dr Louis Lagana of the University of Malta (on the influence of prehistoric Malta on modern art), and Erik Davis, author and journalist from California, will tie it all together. Finally, to conclude the conference, Jennifer Berezan, the famous singer-songwriter from California, will hold a concert of her own songs, including ones from ReTurning, an album that was originally recorded inside the 6,000-year-old hypogeum at Hal Saflieni, with the legendary Maltese percussionist Renzo Spiteri.

For Maltese nationals, the charge for the full set of conference sessions is Lm142; for one day (such as the overview day on 10 November) it is Lm28. The concert on its own is Lm8. There are also workshops and guided tours that can be booked separately. All the details are on the web site.

For more information and a series of interesting links, please refer to www.metageum.org

  • don't miss