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Visiting the Oracle

The organism as a whole in an environment

We are on a trip to Greece and went to visit the oracle at Delphi today.

Unfortunately, I never thought to first visit the oracle who lives in Silicon Valley because the archaeological sites were closed at 3pm today! Guess it’s a winter thing, if that’s what they call this sunshine with a bit of drizzle.

You could see a few ruins from a distance, but couldn’t go in and walk around. A bit annoying obviously, but it meant we actually spent some time on the roadside looking down and up at the mountains — the views FROM Delphi rather than OF Delphi.

I’m glad we did. Instead of automatically going straight into the site and becoming “mr tourist walking around slowly acting all serious inspecting rocks” I just stood and looked around and felt what this particular landscape makes you feel, if you arrive there without any of preconceived notions or anticipations putting a block between you and… whatever it is confronting you. And the landscape at Delphi imposes itself ON you.

‘Spiritual Bro’ alert: I shivered and had a rush of energy go up my spine. I came, I saw, I shivered.

I’ve had many of these events before but I wasn’t in that zone at all (and was more preoccupied with the lightning bolt that had just driven us around the winding mountain roads.)

It’s hard to describe how weird the mountain rocks behind the sites are: the shapes, the colours, the steep angles— it all seems to have a real physiological effect on you.

I hadn’t been thinking about this stuff in advance or reading about Delphi and the Greeks etc, so I hadn’t primed myself — it was just, smack, this is how you will feel now little mortal. I can see why they would “choose” this place for a wee bit of oracling.

It got me thinking about how much landscape must be affecting your mind-body relationship at all times, but we mostly ignore or don’t “hear” it. There is something artificial about mentally ripping yourself out of context, from the land around you, and indulging in abstract worries about how your mind and body don’t feel so aligned today. I doubt these red rocks care — I know I didn’t while the environment imposed itself on my organism.

Delphi also felt familiar in a pleasant way (don’t worry I won’t start getting weird now) — or at least the bit I was allowed to see, like those people without tickets hanging around outside the music festival with a few beers. This strange feeling, induced by the strangeness and beauty of the landscape (and/or?), is more than enough to put you in the mood for altered states — but without having to smuggle any of the earth’s intoxicating vapours through security.

Kevin D Mackay