The following are the four areas of research Nick Hanks is currently exploring:-
- ‘NATURAL PHILOSOPHY’
- ‘SACRED PLAY’
- ‘DOORWAYS TO THE DIVINE’
- LANDSCAPE ARCHAEOLOGY & HISTORICAL RESEARCH
Progress is rather slow as academic research is not part of his day job, and having dyslexic his reading speed is about a third of that of others so he needs to be very selective about what he spends his time reading. A number of these strands compliment each other and overlap.
NATURAL PHILOSOPHY – current thinking and my own thoughts on human nature and how to be in the modern world
This is the catch all title I am giving to my current wide ranging literature review which is both academic and personal. To provide a wider context for the understanding of ritual, and what it means to be human. I am looking at various topics including:- human universals and unique qualities that differ from other animals, the nature of the mind and cognitive biases, the mismatch between human nature and the modern world, how human behaviour can be changed, spatial perception, origins of ritual and ritual efficacy.
I have also been on a lengthy personal process which started with writing down my own personal worldview, favourite maxims and quotes, and has now moved on to gathering data on current thinking across disciplines, about the topics listed above, and then to check against them. As my maxims put it “I want to find out what is right, rather than trying to prove myself right”, whist bearing in mind that “the map is not the territory” and that “ideas are tools not rules”. The main reference I use is New Scientist magazine which allows me to maximise coverage and currency in my literature review, but I will be looking at a selection of practical philosophical and other literature as well. (Note: I do not have access via an academic institution to relevant journals).
This is both an exercise to better understand the various topics listed above and to understand myself, so that when I write up other research I can be as honest as I can about my own personal biases and world view up front. I am also using this process to gather scientific and philosophical points on how to lead a good life, become a better person and so make an, on- balance, positive contribution to the world. This has been a long process but will hopefully condense down to a few easy to remember maxims and simple practices for daily use.
SACRED PLAY – ritual theory for practitioners
Practitioners of ritual have been studied by academics and contributed to their understanding of ritual and development of theories. But as a former practitioner I had realised that many of these ideas would benefit those who practice by giving them a better understanding of the ritual process. For example a number of rituals that I have experienced that didn’t work, theory has explained why this was the case. So I am gathering those theories and ideas that in my experience would be most useful (as well as more general scientific research from ‘Natural Philosophy’ strand). Much of this material has already been gathered and I just need to collate it.
DOORWAYS TO THE DIVINE – patterns of ritual space
I think archaeologists understanding of how prehistoric ritual sites were used is lacking due to few of them have a background in ritual studies or performance. I have both. And having encountered Ronald L Grimes’ modes of ritual; Ceremonial, Liturgical, Magical and Celebratory, I wondered whether the different modes of ritual had different spatial requirements. If these could be discerned, by looking at contemporary practice, then perhaps when these were applied to the prehistoric sites a better understanding could be had of how they were actually used and the societies of the time, rather than just putting them in the catch all phrase of ‘ritual’. My research to date (see 2012 Publications) has shown a clear pattern for Liturgical space, and preliminary work indicates there will be differences for other modes. It is hoped that with cases studies on other ritual spaces by myself or others involved with CPASE (Contemporary Paganism and Alternative Spiritualities in Europe) will provide enough data to define the spatial requirements (if any) for these other modes. I also have more literature reviewing to do on spatial theory.
I have carried out research on a number sites (see Research Reports in Publications) that divided into two types:-
- Landscape Archaeology; detailed studies of landscapes development through all time periods. Written up as reports.
- Historical Research; transcribing documents about historic properties concerning their occupants, architecture, contents, gardens and estates. Transcribed in to HTML and key facts extracted and entered in to a specially designed database.
I am intending to write these up in more accessible formats either for book or web publication. Some additional research will be done to bring the material up to date.
SLAUGHTERBRIDGE (former projects)
Nick Hanks was a foundered director of STEP (Slaughterbridge Training Excavation Project) and TESP (Tintagel Environs Survey Project). He is no longer actively involved in the project or in the updating of these pages. The project continues being overseen by Dr Niall Finneran of Winchester University as part of North Cornwall Heritage.