Philippe Charlier recently had a conversation about objects, spirituality, and more with Prince Michael of Greece. What follows is a slightly edited version of it:
PC: Dear Michael, we’re in your home, first of all, I’d like you to describe me your home, how is it, why all these antique objects, new objects, modern objects, some are your wife’s, some are yours, can you just introduce these?
M: I think it’s difficult to describe it because it’s a mix, it’s a combination, it’s many additions through our long life, mainly it’s old, half of it I inherited because I come from an old family, and we inherited books, paintings, some of it we bought, and some of it is modern, mainly because of my wife who is a painter, a recognized painter, and we had the chance to know a lot of famous artists, in France, in Greece, in America where we lived and where are our friends and most of the works of art of contemporary art that we have in our house were, painted, sculpted, whatever you want, are from intimate friends of ours. So, it’s either my ancestors, either our friends. That is the base of the things you see around us, which is nice.
PC: But I am sure, for you, these are not just objects. They’re animated.
M: I think that many objects, paintings, statues, works of art, have a … I won’t say, life, but yes a kind of life in itself. For instance, portraits. I cannot put any portrait in my working room, I cannot, I mean … I had, for a few months, a portrait of a famous ancestor of mine, I could not work. I had to stop and kick him out, and offer his face to a friend of mine, and so I got rid of him. And then, well … it’s something personal, a kind of thing rather special, but portraits between each other either get on well, or don’t get on well. When I put an ancestor in this room, where I work, the others either like him, or don’t. And if they don’t like him, then they make me understand, and then I have to take it out.
Portraits between each other either get on well, or don’t get on well.
PC: And how do you understand … do you find the atmosphere change?
M: … no, not the atmosphere, it’s not physical at all, but I just simply feel they’re not happy. I look at them very often, and I know if they’re happy or not.
PC: Like living in groups.
PC: And when you crack an object, for example, an icon …
M: We have icons, we have Greek icons, because we’re Greek, but an icon is not like a portrait. An icon is a spiritual object, which has a lot of aura and energy, mostly positive energy. Yes, they’re objects but they’re charged with a kind of energy. Hopefully, the icons in this room are mostly positive … yes, they’re positive, because otherwise I’d feel it.
PC: And is it the same for objects from India, for example, the Ganesh.
M: Yes, I mean, objects from every religion are the same : Buddhist objects, Islamic objects, it’s exactly the same, yes. They all have an energy, they’re charged. You know what, I think, the energy mostly comes from the believers. The believers who came to worship, to admire, to pray in front of these objects, to make wishes, who prayed with hope, love, whatever, they leave something. They leave a kind of an aura of energy into the object and that is what we feel sometimes. When an object is sculpted, or painted, at the beginning it has no energy, of course, it comes from the people who visit, see, react to a particular object.
PC: By worshipping, you give life to an object.
M: Exactly, exactly.
When an object is sculpted, or painted, at the beginning it has no energy, of course, it comes from the people who visit, see, react to a particular object.
PC: You know, what you just described is the voodoo aspect of objects.
M: No, no … I didn’t know that. But it’s quite normal. If you feel something towards an image, say, if you see a statue or an icon of the Holy Virgin, it’s not the piece of wood, plaster, or marble that you admire, it’s the image, the idea of the Holy Virgin. There’s a contact, and a kind of energy is created that sticks to the object.
PC: What is the kind of relationship between you and the world, the landscape, all that is around you that you search for, when you’re travelling, for example, in India, Galapagos, Scotland …
M: I’m very sensitive to nature and I need to be in contact with it. I think, I practically like every kind of landscape, whatever it is. Of course, being Greek, being brought up in the Mediterranean, I have a tendency to prefer the sea. I need the sea, I need to see the sea and to have physical contact with it.
PC: And when you’re in an old Greek sanctuary, what do you feel? I don’t speak about the very famous ones … Parthenon, Acropolis … no, no, no …the very tiny ones, isolated ones, without any tourists …
M: Frankly speaking, very few have no tourists.
PC: No, but you can find some.
M: I think you’re wrong, because even the most sacred places of Greek antiquity, which are the most visited on earth, still have an extraordinary and positive spiritual energy …
PC: I was saying, maybe, it is more difficult to grasp it in these places.
M: For instance, we have a very small apartment in Athens, and from the window of the dining room, I see the Acropolis night and day and I can tell you, there’s still a lot of spirituality in a place where millions of tourists, even the ones who don’t understand any of this, walk every day. Delphi is the same. Olympia is the same. So, it’s not only deserted, and little visited old places that retain their aura, even the most visited ones have it, it’s very strong.
PC: And do you think making an offering to an old Greek statue has any meaning? For example, giving an apple to Athena?
M: Anyone can do what they please, especially when it’s kind and positive, and a gesture of love, but I don’t feel this need at all. What I’m saying it’s not a recipe. If you or anyone feels like giving a flower, a perfume, incense, whatever … why not … but …
PC: Not even for the beauty of the gesture?
M: (laughs) It is true that I have, in Patmos, where I live part of the year, a chapel near my house which I consider my oratory and it is true that I light some incense in front of the icons every day just to thank them for giving me their hospitality. But I don’t think this is a recipe to be followed, neither do I think it’s absolutely necessary. I think in contact with spirituality, or high-rank spirits, or whatever, you don’t need offerings. You just need to offer your soul.
PC: When you go to India, for example, to Kerala, or Rajasthan, or any other favourite place, what are you searching for?
M: I don’t think there’s a difference between what I am searching for in India, in Rajasthan, and what I’m searching for in general, in life. And what I’m searching in life is more knowledge, serenity, a peace, advice, guidance, light, positive energy and I find it in India as I find it in other places. But, let’s say, there are places where it’s easier to look for these things, and yes, India is very nice because I love India and everything in India.
I think in contact with spirituality, or high-rank spirits, or whatever, you don’t need offerings. You just need to offer your soul.
PC: And what do you do when you feel bad energy?
M: First thing is to protect myself. I think all of us, each of us, have ways to protect ourselves against bad energy. We feel where it exists, and we have very easy, I mean classic ways, to protect ourselves, like meditation, asking for light, asking our guide spirits to protect us. And I do that, you might know that I am very interested in ghosts, so I visit haunted houses, and I went to a place in Ireland, supposed to be the most haunted place in the country, called Leap Castle. And I went there and felt there were no ghosts at all, only bad energy left by someone. Ghosts are never nasty or bad, but bad energies are. And I asked to be left in the underground, and I must admit that I was a bit terrified because, really, it was bad. And I tried to protect myself, and okay, nothing happened, and I was trying to understand what was going on, what is happening.
PC: Last question, what does the colour red signify to you?
M: Nothing in particular. I like it, but …
PC: Because you have a ring with this red stone…
M: Ruby, yes. But no, frankly I like colours, but I don’t – perhaps because I have no knowledge – give them qualities, or assign powers to colours. It’s a science that I do not know.