"In the Absence of God/Dwelling the Presence of the Sacred" (Excerpt) by Sam Keen
---"Sacred Mountains" Marina Petro
At first the path leading to an oasis is nearly imperceptible. A slight veering away from the arid landscape and the painful disciplines of self-examination, doubt, and asceticism. A turning toward the promise of transformation— the redolence of green fields and flowering trees coming from a yet-unseen wellspring of life.
The transformation that begins in the desert occurs in the inner spiritual landscape and does not immediately alter the facts of our quotidian existence. A wide variety of metaphors have been used to describe the experience.
It is as if:
the darkness becomes luminous;
we are surprised by joy;
anxiety gives way to courage;
we are healed of our dis-ease;
we are fully alive although we are still destined to die;
our defense mechanisms are disarmed, and we dare
to be vulnerable in a dangerous world; we regain an innocent eye; we are born again; a chrysalis is emerging from the cocoon.
These metaphors of awakening, enlightenment, and metamorphosis point to momentary peak experiences of transcendence. But William James warned us that, while it is notoriously easy to have religious experiences, it is difficult to create a religious life. So, before considering how we craft a religious life by re-owning our elemental emotions, learning to speak in poetic ways about G-d, and practicing justice, we turn our attention to those largely fleeting experiences in which we have premonitions that we are encompassed within a sacred web th; includes all sentient beings. These minor oases are memories of Edenic moments of childhood; a sudden fee of being quickened or enthusiastic (possessed by a god); momentary epiphanies and visions.
I remember a time when my world was magical and every moment was charged with a sense of the numinous. Twice upon a time, long ago and far away, I inhabited a garden of innocent delight and sacred pleasure. Before my fall into Presbyterian religion and modern profanity I lived in a seamless world, with no clear boundaries between time and eternity, self and other, sacred and profane. I was six years old and there was only Now and Forever.
I remember staring into the mirror, seeing the stranger's eyes of my reflected self and asking, "Who are you? Where have you come from? Why are you here?" I knew even then that I, the knower, could never be known to myself.
I remember sitting on my father's lap, secure forever, beyond the realm of death, feeling the vibrations of his rich baritone voice singing "Danny Boy," keeping time with the beat of my heart.
I remember lying on my back outdoors on moonlit summer evenings, watching the endless drift of cloud castles, formed solely for my amusement.
I remember waking on dark nights when the chorus of cicadas was suddenly interrupted by ominous rustling sounds in the backyard. Bears? Burglars? (As it turned out, it was only the insomniac next door, Mr. Traylor, wandering in quest of elusive sleep.)
I remember rearranging rocks in small creeks to produce an elaborate symphony of water music—babble, ripple, gurgle, whoosh.
I remember perfectly ordinary mornings when everything seemed charged with anticipation, a kind of pervasive Christmas spirit, as if some extraordinary surprise awaited me around every shrub and tree.
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