May, 2010

In the Sacred

lotus mandala

I use the word sacred a lot, as if to reawaken its meaning in the memory of our being. Am I the one using it or is it using me? Perhaps words are the ones to choose and take possession of us, slowly making their way into our consciousness and whole being.

Do you often find yourself yearning for another way of being in the world? You are not alone. There are many of us feeling this way, craving this remembering to heal the entanglement in the depths of our being. In the midst of the forgetfulness plaguing modernity, there is this longing and nostalgia at the core of our being that peaks its head on a regular basis. Luckily, however painful its absence is in our lives, the memory of the sacred has not been completely erased from our awareness. Close your eyes and feel the pulse of your being reflecting the world around you.

The Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade“The cosmos is an organism at once real, living, and sacred…which renews itself periodically.” We are here connecting with something ancient within us. Archaic religious humans longed and yearned to experience the sacred with the knowledge that “where the sacred manifests itself in space, the real unveils itself.” We are yearning for the sacred, for being, for the real. All the quotes in this post come from this illuminating book I love,  The Sacred and the Profane, where Mircea Eliade contemplates and explores how far modern human beings have come from an experience of the world as sacred. Modern humans have turned the sacred cosmos into a desacralized wasteland, devoid of all meaning. The magical cosmos has become a machine without spirit.

Eliade further explains how we modern humans have not been successful in completely eradicating the sacred from our profane world. There are still remnants of the sacred in our consciousness and this is why we are disenchanted with our desacralized world. Yet we desacralize our world more every day and lose ourselves in the process. Just look around and see how we treat the Earth that sustains us, each other and the creatures and beings that share its land and waters with us. What we do to them we do to ourselves. Seeing the wasteland we are creating hurts our eyes and hearts. Is this enough to inspire change? It’s time to wake up and realize that even our best efforts to preserve the Earth’s beauty and resources are banal attempts that fail because we can’t yet perceive its sacredness. The Earth is more than a precious collection of resources. We have turned sacred earth into an object we exploit. There is something tainting our vision and blocking our hearts.

How do we desacralize our world? Take for example agricultural work that once signified the coming together of heaven and earth. In our desacralized society, “it has become a profane act, justified by the economic profit that it brings. The ground is tilled to be exploited; the end pursued is profit and food. Emptied of symbolism, agricultural work becomes at once opaque and exhausting; it reveals no meaning, it makes possible no opening toward the universal, toward the world of spirit.” Nothing signifies anything anymore.

Even though we modern humans can try hard to abolish part of our own nature, inherited from our ancestors; it still beats strong in our hearts. Even the most profane existence exhibits traces of a sacred experience of the world. There is both the memory still alive in us of feeling part of a cosmos and the reality of what we have created or destroyed in our misguided search for power. So how do we recover the sacred, how do we remember the knowledge and feeling that is within us already? Not satisfied with just traces of the sacred, is it possible to recover this heightened state of awareness in its totality, and experience the world from a different perspective that shifts not just our vision but the way we live? In the tradition of archaic religious humans, we can preserve the vision of cosmos as “as a divine creation …impregnated with sacredness” and through myths, rituals, rites of passages, ceremonies and the healing of our relationship with the whole cosmos, restore its order and sacredness.

Let’s not forget the language of this magical world that speaks to our being through symbols. Remember that the “world is neither mute nor opaque, that it is not an inert thing without purpose or significance. For religious man, the cosmos lives and speaks.” Everything becomes a cipher and “even the most physiological gesture can signify a spiritual act.” Eliade states that symbols allow the world to become transparent and show its transcendence. Just as the sky reflects expansion and infinity, the earth represents nurturance and grounding; both revealing the many dimensions of the sacred. Even if humans are not aware of the transmission, the symbol continues to convey its message. Such is the power of the symbol to reach under our skin and beyond our intelligence to touch our spirit.

How do we inhabit and engage with a world that is alive and conscious, sending messages to us as we open to receive them? In renewing our understanding of this lost language and connection, we open to “an infinite series of experiences that could be termed cosmic.” Perhaps the key in healing our sickness and our broken web lies in our ability to open to the sacred world we belong to and humbly listen to nature and cosmos. Nature still charms and enchants us the more we open our hearts in surrender. When we accept that we live in a sacred world and that we are part of it, our relationship to all that this world encompasses is transformed; for how can we hurt, ignore or not love and respect that which shares our very essence and gives us life?

May the ability to experience the sacred resurface from our depths where it lies buried, still alive and moving in strange motions in the dark corners of our subconscious and collective unconscious. May we reconnect with this lost power as we start to feel and see the sacred once again.

Praying for the awakening of healing memory, vision and action,

Marjory