What is the Phenomenology of Sacred Place and Sacred Space?
I find myself to be part scientist and part spiritualist, in that I enjoy and find meaning in studying both, sometimes opposing, concepts. And I have come to understand that to truly comprehend the sacred aspect of place and space is to understand a need for the union of the physical and spiritual components of our human existence.
As a scientist, I find a need to obtain some level of confirmation in my studies.
As a spiritualist, I enjoy mystery and am not compelled to find all the answers in order to draw conclusions. I tend to be enchanted by phenomena—phenomenology being a study of unexplainable structures of experience.
Sacred Place and Space are wonderful examples of this experiential thought process.
The word structure is key in studying authentic phenomena, in that this type of study is not of one-time abstract occurrences, but requires some type of structure to the events of interest.
This structure may be one of consistency in experiences, or in the sheer number of people experiencing a specific phenomenon. While sacred place and space cannot be proven by science, the number of people believing in such a concept, and the commonality of experiences occurring at such sites offer a level of validity, a level of potential actuality.
Now let me further apply this to sacred place and space.
Based on my textual studies, interviews, and experiential visits to sacred places and spaces I conclude the following.
l One must understand the concept of the singular aspect of sacred place and sacred space, before understanding the concept of sacred places and spaces. A sacred place or space for me might be different for you. These are very individual locations. To find meaning in places (multiple), we must first find meaning in place (individual).
l Sacred place and sacred space are different entities. Place, suggests some type of material structure. Space, is much more obscure, harder to describe, more of a flow of energy, than a solid form.
l A sacred place may be a building, a piece of land, or a small place within a larger place that presents the divine to mankind. A sacred place may offer a connection with the spiritual essence of nature, or connect us with our individual spirit and soul. This place may draw us into it by touching our senses, yet it is intended to lead us beyond the physical to the metaphysical. A sacred place may offer a sense of peace, awe, and security in the midst of a troubled world, or it may be a place where sacred memory is stored to be shared with those who are open to expose and experience it.
l A sacred space presents an other-worldly atmosphere more so than a sacred place. This space is what surrounds, runs through, and within a sacred place. The place may draw us in, but it is within the space that we experience the sacred. Through the existence of sacred space, the spiritual world erupts into our physical world of sense perception and touches us at the level of the spirit and soul.
l Within my research, I conclude that it is within sacred space that the sacred and the spiritual reside and constantly flow. But, the energy that is within this space can benefit from a place to attract the human spirit, soul, mind, and body.
So what happens at a sacred place?
Something offers us a gift of mystery and enchantment. This physical sensory stimulation develops into spiritual sensory awareness. We enter the thin-space of sacred space and transcend from a physical state of being into a meta-physical or spiritual state of being which I call in-spirit.
We have entered the sacred space of sacred place. It is a process anyone can achieve and the benefits of such an occurrence are far beyond our traditional understanding of sacred place and space.
Prof Mark Hilliard launched Sacred Place and Sacred Space last week at Castle Durrow. He will complete his spell in Laois at Abbeyleix Heritage House, Abbeyleix, at Friday, June 16 at 7:30 pm in co-sponsorship with the Abbeyleix Further Education Centre. If you are interested e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org