Switzerland is rich in mystical places where the weary can supposedly refuel by soaking up geobiological energy. swissinfo.ch decided to check out a few such spots.
Flipping through a book called “Places of Power in Switzerland”, swissinfo.ch picks three – urban, suburban and remote – to get a rough sampling of what’s available on the alternative energy market.
The first stop is Werthenstein, a pilgrim site along the Way of St James and not far from the city of Lucerne. It is impressive even from afar – its late Gothic church capping a cliff towering above the River Emme.
Churches are classic examples of places of power. They also provide a good chance to get a feel for how ethereal energy flows, according to geobiologist Blanche Merz, the book’s late author.
“Stand under the dome of an old cathedral… don’t think about anything, just let things flow. A subtle vibration will materialise,” she wrote.
Merz pointed out that the church in Werthenstein had widely varying energy levels in its arcades, which serve as a sheltered cemetery.
Eyes closed, an interesting exercise is to move around slowly – trying to guess whether the graves below are occupied or not. Indeed, a weird sinking feeling seems to descend whenever you find you are standing above a dead person.
The next place is Bern’s Old Town. This time the task is to follow the so-called geomantic line mentioned by Merz and linking Saint Peter and Paul’s with the Münster cathedral.
This means crossing Kramgasse, and with the trams trundling by, it’s hard to focus.
Meanwhile, it would be impossible to follow the line exactly without walking through walls. Yet the park on the other side of Münster offers a quiet open space to reflect – not to mention a sweeping view.
Pacing through the park, you strain to detect the elevated energy levels. Step back. Step forward. Back again. Then it comes – that nervous flutter in the heart.
In her book, Merz noted that many of Switzerland’s places of power were located where the Celts had once lived. She said it was only natural that these sites would later become popular as places of worship.
Before her death in 2002, Merz established the Institute for Geobiological Research in Lausanne. Roman Winiger of La Chaux-de-Fonds recently did an intensive course there.
“I always ask myself – what came first, the place of power or the church? Maybe it was a good place to begin with but became even better because of the rituals that were celebrated there,” Winiger told swissinfo.ch. Conversely, he believes that a good place can be spoiled if bad things happen there.
Today, Switzerland’s magic places attract visitors from all over the world. Vierwaldstättersee Tourismus has a whole section of its website devoted to the topic.
As manager Esty von Holzen Böhm told swissinfo.ch, “places of power have become more important over the past few years. People are trying to focus on themselves – to cool down and reflect on their lives”.
There are several of these places in Lake Lucerne Region, the area represented by Vierwaldstättersee Tourismus. Many are churches, but others are natural attractions.
“A lot of people go into nature and feel as though they have recharged their batteries,” von Holzen Böhm said. “I think the mountains themselves can give power.”
In her book, Merz described the Swiss mountaintops as antennas that send energy into the valleys – giving hikers more pep and joy.
With that in mind, why not try your luck at Engstlenalp, home to a (super)natural power station in the Bernese Oberland?
When approached via Engelberg in canton Obwalden, it takes two cable car rides plus nearly two hours of hiking to finally reach the 2.5-metre tall stone. Alpine roses surround it and a colony of ants lives on one side – its workers swarming the ground.
Some creatures, including insects and cats, are attracted to high-energy zones. But like the arcades of Werthenstein, this place also has a distinct dead spot. There’s a tree about a metre from the rock, and the space in between is the dead zone. It leaves an unpleasant, heavy feeling in the chest.
Yet the other side, where the ants are, seems to beckon despite the ankle-twisting chunks of stone littering the ground. The safest bet is to balance on the largest one, resting on the big rock for support. No heart palpitations, but it feels good.
“I feel a deep inner peace,” said Winiger of his experiences at places of power. It is very peaceful up at Engstlenalp.
Civil engineer and photographer Jean-Pierre Brunschwiler visited nearly 200 places of power last year. He had read Merz’s book and was curious to experience the sites for himself.
“It was a great experience,” Brunschwiler told swissinfo.ch. He has since kept an open mind regarding the effect of the energy on people and animals.
“I don’t know to what extent my sense of well-being at many of the places was influenced by the power itself as opposed to the beautiful landscapes and overwhelming architecture. But that’s not so crucial for me; what was key was finding that a new and positive experience had enriched my life,” Brunschwiler said.
A book featuring 164 of the places he photographed will be published in September.
Place of one’s own
While it can be fun and inspiring to visit these special places, many would agree that it is more important to feel comfortable wherever you are.
“I don’t make a point of travelling to places of power; instead I try to make sure that the places where I spend a lot of time are as ideal as possible so that they can become places of power,” said Winiger.
As Merz wrote, “having your own personal place of power can be as essential as daily nourishment”. She suggested that it could be a garden, a forest or a corner of your apartment. A photo or painting of a landscape or waterfall could also come in handy.
At the end of the day, there’s no substitute for the power of positive thinking.
Geobiology is the science of life and its relationship to the earth.
Places of power refer to natural magnetic fields and energy zones.
In the 1920s, Alfred Watkins, a British amateur archaeologist, coined the term "ley lines" to describe the alignment of places of power.
Blanche Merz (1919-2002) was a civil engineer, politician and geobiologist. She was elected to canton Vaud’s parliament – the first woman in such a role nationwide.
In addition, she served as a Council of Europe observer in Strasbourg.
She was also considered a pioneer in Swiss research on the topic of places of power.
In 1979, she founded the Institute for Geobiological Research in Chardonne. It later moved to Lausanne.
Merz wrote a number of books, including “Places of Power in Switzerland“, which is available in French and German.