This relates to formal religious and what Mason (2002) terms 'secular' spiritual values, by which he means non-institution-based spiritual experiences. Historic church sites, which may have their origins in early medieval times (Making a difference: Case Study 1), were at the heart of Scottish communities and are often still physically accessible. With their time depth and place-centered focus, such sites offer unique biographies of their communities, even to those no longer interested in them for spiritual/religious reasons. Much of these stories, with their potential international interest, are linked to, if not directly bound up in, the carved stones, notably gravestones. The same applies to places of worship of other denominations and faiths.
The meanings and values attached to the carved stone inheritance of the Church by today's believers have not been researched. However, in at least one instance the stones are being evoked as Living Stones for religious observance although, interestingly, not illustrated (Pray Now Group 2015). This can be contrasted with some past attempts to move carved stones into churches for their protection when the congregations of the time did not want to give them too much liturgical importance (e.g. Strathmiglo, St Madoes, Dupplin at Forteviot; pers comm. M Hall). They are also beginning to play a role in church-led, faith-based pilgrimage tourism (Faith in Cowal: Case Study 12; Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association, established 1966; Pilgrim Journeys: Exploring Scotland's Sacred Places, established 2016 by Scotland's Churches Trust working with VisitScotland).
The social value of carved stones at past and present places of worship for non-believers and those of other faiths requires research (see Section 4.3.3). In a predominantly secular society, how are carved stones (that may require training to understand their texts and visual imagery, or to appreciate their historic significance) to be understood and valued in a religious context (Figure 86)?
Figure 86: A significant place may also be created in the present, as in the past: Depiction of a renowned Buddhist teacher carved in low relief and painted in traditional Tibetan Buddhist style, Holy Isle, off Arran (1990s). © Katherine Forsyth
The non-institutional spiritual appreciation of carved stones—of the numinous qualities of their materiality and setting, and its relationship to where and how the carved stones are being preserved and presented to the public, has also not been researched.