Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tree Huggers & Temple People or... How Does Space Feed the Spirit?

Rustic pulpit, March 16th, 1879, from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views @ Wikicommons.
Rustic pulpit, March 16th, 1879, from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views @ Wikicommons.
Quite possibly the only churchy-indoor-space that might compel me to darken its doorstep.

We have been moving, again. I do believe we have reached a frequency of moving that qualifies as absurd. Or completely mad. Or something. This time, the distance is short & very hopefully permanent -- as far as Alaska goes. Please knock on a tree, table, pressboard, masonite now, please.

There was much damage control to be done in the new unit & much demolition & rebuilding & remodeling has happened. We retire every evening exhausted & tense, but with increasing hope that this has a conclusion which is nearing ever closer with each strenuous day. Now that the grunt work has significantly abated, our efforts have turned to squeezing as much swank into each square foot as humanly possible. This is the part of the process that has gotten me thinking -- thinking about space...

When I talk to other pagan folk about "sacred" spaces & places, it always seems that they fall into one or the other side of the indoor/outdoor dichotomy. This is one of those subjects where people seem to have strong feelings. The Druids ("Oh, those Druids...") pretty universally go outside. Alaskan Druids don't seem to care if its so cold outside that it hurts to breathe. Out they go. In corresponding with other animists, it sure seems like we also have that tendency, often struggling with issues over being house-bound. On the other hand, my Thelemite cohorts prefer to be indoors, or so it seems for the most of them. Then again, Thelema has all those specifications & rules for worship which seem to require a dedicated indoor space. Wiccans, ("Oh, those Wiccans...") seem to be the most plastic about space, but perhaps this is because their "sacred space" is created by circle-casting. As individuals however, they do seem to have strong personal tendencies, for example, the High Priest; he prefers indoors, period. But, we all know the hedgewitch-types who prefer the outdoors. 

This brings me to my quandary: How does space feed the spirit? More specifically, as I look ahead to the coming months of intensive indoor dwelling, I wonder how can we design/create indoor space that inspires & nourishes the soul (in particular, of the outdoors-oriented worshipper), a place where I won't spend quite so much time gazing longingly out the window at the Darkness?

I have been trying to remember the time before the altar-altering mushroom incident when I worked to create "sacred spaces" indoors, trying to remember the thoughts in an old book I have stored away in the desert house entitled, A Home for the Soul, trying to remember what it was about certain small Mexican churches my mother & I visited in Albuquerque, trying to grasp what gives the niches & meditation spaces on temple grounds of the Rosicruscian Order, AMORC their set apart, otherworldly, "sacred" feeling.  What is it that transforms a people-space & imbues it with a sense of spiritual significance?

I am thinking it is, to a large extent, art.

But not entirely because the range of human "sacred spaces" stretches from the the most baroque, rococo cathedrals, to the "rustic pulpit" pictured above, to the streamlined simplicity of a reflecting pool. Art is part of this, but not the all of it. So, what is it? What are the cues that tell us a people-place is hallowed, "spiritual" or "sacred"? What is it that whispers to our subconscious, "This place is special, pause a moment & feed your soul..."? This, I would like to understand.


Nestis said...

Oh...good question! For me, my feelings of how "sacred" a space is, is directly synonomous to how free I feel there. This feeling of freedom is informed by 1) a sense of relative safety (which is a direct result of my upbringing) and 2) the degree to which I can express myself in this space both legally (can I get naked and drink wine in this place?), aesthetically (where can I put that statue of Baphomet, anyhow?) and interpersonally (is this space above all one of love and trust between the souls that occupy it?)

If I owned a large house on a large plot of land, where I could drink and dance and cast off my clothes among the trees on a warm summer evening like a proper maenad, I may feel differently about the indoor/outdoor thing. But yeah, the Gnostic Mass isn't exactly the kind of thing you can do impromptu in a city park. I do think it would be awesome to hold an outdoor (or semi-outdoor open air tent) Mass at the Summer Solstice festival some year. Something I'd like to work towards, at any rate. :)

Moma Fauna said...

Nestis, thank you for your thoughts. I am enjoying mulling them over as I finish up this chapter in moving.

1) "...a sense of relative safety..." This is interesting because I personally find that I experience "sacred" places (this really is a poor way to express it) as places in which I feel quite vulnerable. Say, for instance standing on a bluff in high winds as a storm rolls in, or when I find myself face to face with a bull moose, (or two or three -- it has happened), or in the silent heat of the desert when I recognize that without the trappings of human material existence, I would be lost & dead in a very short time. On the other hand, when I think of places constructed by human hands; temple spaces, landscaped spaces, the people-spaces, I think the sense of safety & security is very important. Interesting.

2) "...the degree to which I can express myself ..." I think this is important, but it is also dependent upon how one expresses one's worshipfulness, prayer, rapture, or what have you. I suppose for those who sit in tranquil meditation, this might be a nonissue. Aesthetics I am thinking, as essential to just about everyone, regardless of tradition (but I am open to being corrected) as is that sense of interpersonal trust & camaraderie of fellow adherents/practitioners, unless of course, the practitioner is of the solitary sort. So, aesthetics is still the most important feature it seems.

I have always loved the idea of the "sacred garden" with statuary & the option to cast off one's clothing (or not, if you are like me & always seem to sit on something itchy). That is most certainly a difficult thing to come by as we pack ourselves more & more closely together like lemmings. I suppose this is why I always find myself running off into the less inhabited spaces. But, even in remote places, it seems there is always the opportunity to stumble upon the passing trapper, hunter, hiker, etc. which is not necessarily as much a problem for the naturist as it might be for the taken aback passer-by. ;)

Thinking out loud: I am still considering the elements of "sacred" spaces (can we come up with a better way to say this? "spiritually evocative"?). Scent, I believe is important to me. If a place smells right, it can make my head swim. If it smells unpleasant, artificial or off-putting, it's a deal-breaker. (Lucky for me I have a fondness for some mighty peculiar smells.) I wonder what this means...

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