So what is it about the sacredness of precipitously perched dwellings that makes them so alluring - a primal longing, to seduce us to quest for higher ground, to get closer to the clouds, the heavens, and reach for some zenith of divinity throughout history? What draws us to scale the highest tower, to ascend the longest stair, to cross the highest bridge, or to risk life and limb to brave the harshest conditions climbing the highest peeks? Why spend the resources to excavate whole mountains to build within the walls of cliffs abandoning all practical notions and flirt with disaster?
These castles in the air, erected by mad kings, vain noblemen, and tyrannical emperors, seemingly sacrificing common sense, blood, sweat, human bondage and burden, to pacify their whims and follies. In the ever cyclic war faring nature of humans, there is the notion of the practicalities of safe haven, as fortification to ward of the enemies and outsiders. But I think it goes beyond that – something more enigmatic and abstract.
If not to pacify the gods, then maybe it was to defy the gods themselves, an attempt to conquer nature – a vain attempt at immortality and quest for divinity. Indeed, it could very well be something to do with reaching for the heavens akin to the Tower of Babel, or conversely a sacred burial site to entomb and preserve, and to try and achieve immortality for the Egyptian emperors in the catacombs of the pyramids.
One can’t wholly argue against the sacredness of why monks chose to build on monolithic granites cliffs where access is seemingly reserved only for those capable of floating in air. Sometimes, it’s as if accessibility is purposefully hidden, an urging for exploration to be solved like a riddle, and a quest for which the reward is the mere destination, and thus born of a spiritual journey of sorts.
How our heart and spirit longs for such high places wishing to be at the highest window looking out at the vastness of the earth. It beckons us, as a child is drawn to climb a tree, or a jungle gym, to be amongst the filigree of branches, structure, and labyrinths. It is a matured spiritual aspiration born of childhood longing. It is a meditative natural tendency to climb, explore, and be alone.