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The Sacred in Place and Time


Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, c. 1490.

Sacred realms. It’s so easy to discuss such a topic in the abstract. But how can we discern and honor such places and spaces in our everyday lives, given the many issues and pressures that many of us encounter on a daily basis?


For the greater part of our lives we spin fast—both in our exterior and interior lives—as we attempt to keep up with the incessant in-flow of data and demands that pressure our attention. In this swirl, much gets overlooked and forgotten. Especially those deep, internal wellsprings within us that contain the potential to renew us.


Joseph Campbell is noted for saying, “Your sacred place is where you can find yourself again and again.” In Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor, Campbell explains that “a sacred space, then, is any area, such as the caves, in which everything is done to transform the environment into a metaphor.” [96] So how may we best manage our time to allow for the re-centering of our bodies and souls, and in so doing, touch the deeper, more sacred and metaphoric rhythms of life? But how do we even recognize the sacred? Or even develop the apposite, inner organs of perception and reception within our psyche?


Deep down, or just below the rim of consciousness, most of us have a desperate craving for an encounter—indeed, for an intimacy—with the sacred. Yet frequently we’re caught up in a world-mind-culture that feels full of cold, steely angles and prodding, sharp spikes while simultaneously being assaulted by the bombardment of negative noise and grim news headlines.


Where’s the sacred in all of this? Especially, for example, for those people who are caught up in war zones or who are on the brink of starvation. And, of course, there’s the terrains of war and starvation within our own psyches. Often we try to avoid these terrains by distracting ourselves through willful busyness, or on the other hand, on those rare occasions when we do recognize the need to reclaim our more sacred selves, there’s the possibility to actively work towards them.


Metaphorically and experientially this is the time to connect to Hestia—the goddess of the hearth—to make sacred, warming spaces within ourselves in the midst of what sometimes appears to be the swirl of mad modernity. The Hestia archetype gathers people together to bring frayed souls back to their center. Observing and absorbing the light and warmth of our soul’s inner hearth, we’re then able to gather the tired fragments of our psyche and lead them towards an integrated communion.     


In reconnecting with ourselves in this way, we can build faith in a presence and power, which is greater than our mundane selves. In this, we find something of Hestia’s renewing realm within our own psyche and consciousness. With heart warmth and firm confidence we abide in something immovable and unshakeable. From this inner hearth-home we can sustain a place within ourselves of return... a return to integration and poise. This is not a place of escape or mere refuge. It’s a resourceful realm where our authentic self may revisit and renew itself.


It’s also a realm where the soul may cleanse itself. The accruing burdens of false belief, façade, and inauthentic life behaviors lead to toxic build ups, both within our systems of body and psyche. This realm isn’t a zone of mere repose. Rather, it’s one of active pause and of vibrant, regenerative quiet. 


Now for some thoughts about sacred places beyond the above discussion about the structure (mnemonic) of the psyche. The Vesica Pisces was sometimes used by the ancients to design sacred buildings, such as Gothic Cathedrals. And ratios, such as the golden mean and the squaring of the circle can be observed in the human form itself, as has been demonstrated in the sketches and paintings of Leonardo da Vinci.


I dare to suggest that there could also be a musical physiology of the human body in its structures of chest, collar bone, arms, and legs (sculptural anatomy)... and indeed between the rhythms that pulse from—and between—the organs. Many of the ancients would say that the human body is a temple for the human spirit. It’s also interesting to recall (as a contrast) that many temples across the ancient world were built primarily not for human beings, but as dwellings for the Gods and Goddesses.


We could also remind ourselves that we in the west often make a stark, conceptual distinction between the sacred and profane. But in some cultures, such as the Balinese culture, there’s no such polarity. The Balinese work with a tripartite system in that they locate a third position, one of center and poise between poles. So in everyday experience and custom, their reality is to balance and live productively with opposing forces—not to eradicate them. Hence, the sacred and profane give constructive meaning to each other. 


Balinese spirituality inhabits the idea of sacred time. While for mercantile reasons (as well as convenience’s sake) the Balinese use the Gregorian calendar, their spiritual-cultural time arises from the intersection of various natural time rhythms, like solar and lunar relations.


Finally, and perhaps more importantly, are those zones that include both space and time. These zones are formed by quality, relational exchanges between people. In this exchange realm, transformative processes are generated because there’s transparency and translucency to the whole and holy human. And these are truly our primary, sacred places in contemporary life. It’s here that we each potentially may find a soulful refuge to recenter and renew ourselves and reclaim our inner sight.

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