If all is sacred, is nothing sacred?
This is related to a previous discussion here at FPR.
The categories of “sacred” and “profane” have a long history in the study of religion. And attempts to collapse the sacred and profane can be understood many different ways. I actually find it valuable to consider “All as Sacred”; but not in the sense that “the sacred” is simply a spatial category. IMO, the sacred is a relational category contingent on how we perform within a given space. In other words the sacred is a mode of becoming involving multiple parties (us and God in most cases), rather than a state of being that exists independent of my performance and simply within a given space. In this light, everything is sacred in that there is a proper and an improper way of us performing life’s events (including the option of non-performance in cases that call for it). To perform it improperly is to desecrate a sacrality within ourselves. The sacred, IMO, need not be understood simply an external quality found in a given sphere.
4 Replies to “If All is Sacred”
If I understand you correctly, I would agree that the sacred can be considered the correct performance of certain actions. To a certain extent, this is a way of seeing all actions as sacred, but it is not the same as sacralizing all actions. There is a different imperative involved. In your view, the correct performance is sacred, while in a traditional view the performance itself is sacred.
Yeah but given all the different belief systems out there, it seems to me that sanctity/profanity is relative to the believer.
I haven’t read Eliade, but I am currently reading Remi Brague’s The Law of God: The Philosophical History of an Idea and one of the main questions he’s to provide a history for is where, when, and how this split between the sacred and the prone occurred in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity (variously). To put this all too simplistically, he seems to argue that for Islam, at least in the beginning (after all, I’m only about 1/3 through the book!), there is no break: political power and religious power are the same. In the beginnings of Judaism, there was not really danger of conflation: the political was seldom in mixed with the sacred, and even before the relatively brief period of kings in Israelite history, Samuel gave stern warnings about such a move first. Christianity, however, partly through Paul’s appropriation of Greek thought, brings in a (non-monotheistic, by the way) tradition which effects a kind of separation. (Again, please don’t take my bad summary of Brague as a poor reflection on the book itself!)
You’re understanding me correctly.
David (and Robert C.),
Sure, and this has been one of the biggest critiques of those such as Eliade who assume that the sacred is an ontologically real category, and then set about to describe all of the manifestations of “the sacred”. In his “Patterns of Comparative Religion”, for instance, he goes through the ways in which trees, the sun, the moon, and other objects are considered sacred (he uses the term “hierophanies”–manifestations of the sacred). The more facets of the sacred he can capture, the closer an understanding it provides of what the sacred is.
Eliade’s position, IMO, fits with what many LDSs believe; and he demonstrates that interesting work can be done, but is also highly problematic outside of creating a more ecumenical theology for many religious traditions.
It would be interesting to compare a Mormon conception of the sacred/profane with an early Christian or Hebrew usage of the categories.