William Edelen: The Sacred Life


The Contrary Minister

When I finished this exquisite closing paragraph of “THE LABYRINTH OF SOLITUDE” by Octavio Paz, my eyes were moist.

“Modern man likes to pretend that his thinking is wide awake. But this wide awake thinking has led us into the mazes of a nightmare in which the torture chambers are endlessly repeated in the mirrors of reason. When we emerge, perhaps we will realize that we have been dreaming with our eyes open, and that the dreams of reason are intolerable. And then, perhaps, we will begin to dream once more with our eyes closed.”

Behind my closed eyes a dream did begin to take shape. My dream saw Western Christianity, that has now degenerated into hundreds of fighting, squabbling denominations, creeds and sects, evolving toward a higher consciousness and a rediscovery of the sacred, that could lead us out of the maze. The giant barrier standing between us and this rediscovery is the desperate clinging to an archaic, anthropomorphic, supernatural God, “out there” somewhere, watching over us as a divine windowpeeker or waiting in the role of a cosmic bellhop.

The sacred is not just a prehistoric stage in the history of human consciousness, it is an element of that consciousness that has been crowded out by “the dreams of reason that are intolerable.” JUST TO LIVE AS A HUMAN BEING IS A SACRED ACT. The true atheist is not a person who no longer believes in the existance of an anthropomorphic God, but the true atheist is that person who REFUSES TO RECOGNIZE THE SACREDNESS OF EXISTENCE, from the very breath of our bodies to the rhythmic ballet of the constellations, and the Mystery within those expressions.

What is “religion” without an anthropomorphic, supernatural “God”? What remains of our spiritual quest?

The answer is EVERYTHING. Sacred reality remains. It would be a way of life founded upon the sacredness of our very existence. It says that the sacred life is a life lived in the pursuit of truth. It is a life lived in the pursuit of excellence, wisdom and love.

Awareness of the sacred reality of existence includes the sacraments of birth, marriage, reproduction and death. (a sacrament is quite simply a symbol of the sacred and spiritual realities) Sacred realities include our mental, moral and spiritual growth, the existence of human ideals, dreams and visions. It finds holiness in natural realities that includes not only celestial bodies, rocks, waters and evolving life, but also human beings with body, brain/mind and spirit.

It is daily standing in awe before the unfathomable mystery that dances through electrons and galaxies. And there is more to living the sacred life; it is to shed over every daily task the light of truth and personal integrity. It is to turn to other members of our species, Homo sapiens, and cast some sunshine on their daily path, to lighten somehow, in some way, their sorrows and give them the joys of affection. It is to blow on the divine spark within their hearts.

“Sometime our light goes out, but is blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being” wrote Albert Schweitzer, and so it is.

Perhaps before it is too late we will understand that “our dreams of reason have been intolerable” and have led us into “nightmares of torture chambers, endlessly repeated.” Perhaps, once again, we can “dream with our eyes closed” and with clear vision see the part that we, you and I, can play in restoring a consciousness of the sacred to our collective memory.

And then, perhaps, yes, perhaps “swords will be beat into plowshares…” and the least shall… finally… be considered side by side with the greatest.”


One Comment

It has been my great pleasure to receive the writings of William Edelen for some time. Suddenly they stopped and I wonder why. In any event, my sincere thanks to him for his reflections on the Great Mystery before us.