Resurrecting the language of the sacred in a post-truth world
When I was a little girl I used to go to Sunday school. I don’t remember much about it, except that we would dress up for this occasion. At the time we lived in the West Coast of Tasmania, where it was very cold and very wet. Religion was never discussed in our family. Sunday school was more of a thing that you did because it was the thing to do.
When we moved to North Queensland, Sunday school was left behind. However, when I went to a Protestant boarding school aged 11, Church going was compulsory. Dressed from head to toe in white, with gloves and hat, two by two we would parade to Church each Sunday. Truly a sight to behold. I remember thinking many times that there was so much hypocrisy evident in this religious thing. Pray on Sunday but spend the rest of the week acting out something completely different. At least this is what the elders who where responsible for our care seemed to do.
But post boarding school, other than the occasional wedding and funeral, Church and religion were not on the family menu.
Australia is, in general, a very non religious country. What I mean by that is that we keep our religion quiet. Our evangelicals are evangelical only to people who seek evangelicalism. There is a clear understanding that our spiritual world is private and that we have infinite choice around that. We are certainly not God fearing. Heck, our birthright is convicts, people looking for a fair go, and rejects, not people seeking religious freedom. I find it fascinating that the USA, were people did go to seek religious freedom, is one of the most unfree places on earth when it comes to religion. Unless you are a particular brand of Christian. But I digress from the topic.
Somewhere along the winding pathway of political correctness we threw the baby out with the bathwater. Just like this unspoken drift from Sunday school to nothing, in our sensitivity to be egalitarian, we stopped using sacred words. Words like reverence, sacrosanct, piety, sin, soul, spirit, evil, hell.
We talk about energy, but not about grace.
We have sterilized our language just as we have sterilized our children and our homes, terrified of the lurking pathogens that are actually a vital part of our ecosystem. The superbug is only super because nature has a beautiful way of restoring balance to the ecosystem. Our immune systems need regular practice at immunity.
Sacred words invite the sacred into our hearts and homes. I have always loved the inscription that was on the door of Carl Jung’s home.
Vocatus atque non vocateus, Deus aderit. Invoked or not invoked, God is present.
Or to put it another way, from a soldier in World War 1. I have never seen an atheist in a fox hole.
As Caroline Myss quotes, “Religion is just a costume party”, but inviting the sacred, in what ever form that is, into our hearts and homes, invites a connection to a larger something that has at its core, ‘we are all one.’
We have all been in hell. It’s that place where we lose connection with the sacred, with the self. Where you are under the spell of an addiction, or anger, or rage, or a pattern of behaviour that has been playing in your life for decades. It is the place where you are completely broken and there is no where further down to go.
Evil is something I have had little experience with, fortunately. But we all know it exists and thrives today, as it has forever.
Sin, well consider that first time, when you were a child, that you lied, or stole, or hurt someone on purpose. You remember that time? You knew it was wrong. The question is, did you keep up the behaviour until it became normal so that now you no longer see it as a sin? Have you normalised lies to yourself, or to others? Before you skip over that question, ask it again? Have you normalised lying to yourself? We all do, and when we do, we violate the sacred that is us.
Reverence..I love this word. I love how it sounds when you say it. I love what it means. I even wrote the article, Reverence as a Business Practice, at the time the only article on this subject I could find on google. (Imagine that??) Just imagine if we brought reverence back into our lives as a practice. Reverence for self, for family, for our work, for our environment?
Sacrosanct…well some things, and ideas, and actions and places should be held as sacrosanct. Non negotiable. Let’s start with our deepest values and their expression in our lives in all domains.
Finally, we have grace. A miracle is when the laws of the universe, such as gravity, are bent for one person, or one situation. A miracle occurs in the field of grace.
We have all experienced grace. It is the gift that comes from a stranger at exactly the right time. It is the beautiful sunrise, the smell of a rose. It is what is present when my whole body shakes when truth is revealed. It present when an artist or master is creating their art. Grace is also present when we die, when tragedy occurs, when the flood waters rise, and the winds tear down lives. Grace is poetry, and dance, music and love. Grace is the ever present thread.
The language of the sacred connects us to a deeper story. It is the song we have been longing for. Let us take off our sterilisation masks, let us get our hands in the dirt, with the bugs and microbes, this glorious ecosystem of light and dark. Let us speak of reverence, and evil, and sin and grace, as well as of bodhisattva’s, and the Tao.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
I want to marinate in the richness of the sacred. Want to join me?
(This article was inspired by the work of Caroline Myss.)