In Part I of my exploration of Mircea Eliade’s, The Sacred and the Profane I went over the concept of Sacred Space. How religious man sanctifies space spiritually connecting him to the Axis Mundi of the Cosmos anchoring him to the heavens and the underworld through the act of divine sub-creation. In Part II I will introduce the idea of Sacred Time and how religious man can exit the historical present and take part in the divine eternal.
Part II: Sacred Time
In the same way, Religious man experiences Sacred Space in a numinous mythoreligious fashion, he experiences Sacred Time outside and distinctly different than mundane profane time. Sacred Time like Sacred Space is not homogenous or continuous. Sacred time is periodical, festival time, unlike the mundane experience that is ordinary, and temporal.
Sacred Time is reversible and recoverable. It is a paradoxical circular time that exists in an eternal mythical present. Every instance of Sacred Time is primordial time made present. Religious festivals, rites, rituals, etc. are the recreation of a sacred event that took place in a mythical past. For each festival and rite, the participants find and connect temporally to the same sacred time.
Mundane time is linear and exhaustible. It has a beginning from which it logically flows towards an annihilating end. To the desacralized Bugman yesterday will never return and existence is a meaningless unbroken line towards death and dissolution.
Yet even the mundane experience hints and shadows of Sacred Time. Think of the sensational experience of time flowing. Certain events that are happy seem to pass by faster or have near-sacred significance. Emotional memories of important times in our lives often feel like yesterday. Our formative school years seem like yesterday compared to the distant mundane past of more tedious portions of our lives. The mundane man, desacralized as he is still experiences these breakthroughs as a function of our created natures.
But the Religious spiritual man refuses to live in the historical present but attempts to regain and reenter a Sacred Time that is eternal and transhuman.
Pagan religions return man, using ritual, to a primordial mythical time outside the historical.
This mythical point in time is the beginning when the world was created. Before something is created there was no time. Time is created. A thing’s time did not exist until it came into existence. Consider the apple. Until it was created, or in the Judeo-Christian tradition, named, the apple did not exist in time, it did not have time.
When religious man takes part in the sacred rituals he is recreating and living simultaneously with the creation of the cosmos. Often recreating the actions of the gods through imitation, because at the beginning of time man is given models by the Gods. When he performs the ritual work it is a symbolic recreation that allows him to be present at the creation of the world.
Through ritual, the manifestation of the sacred reality is re-created and reinforced.
Renewal of Sacred Time
In the previous piece, I laid out how Sacred Space connects Religious man to the heavens and the underworld. How a church, temple, or holy grove is a break in the mundane homogenous world. In the same way that the holy place is a sacred separate space the rituals and rites that take place inside constitute a sacred break of historical time.
Consider the Christian Church, a separate place, holy and different than the street on which it stands. Inside the church you are on Sacred Space, and once the Divine Liturgy begins you are now also no longer in historical time but taking part in sacred Biblical time. Liturgical time is transhuman.
Sacred time is conceptualized and understood as a circle around the Axis Mundi represented by the Church, Temple, Shrine, or sacred mountain. Consider the astrological elements of Stonehenge, Aztec, and Mayan temples, and almost every religious space known to man. The revolution around the Axis represents a year and upon return, there is a sacred renewal.
Time leaves the sacred primordial point and becomes corrupt, mundane, and desacralized. Once the circle around the temple is complete, man takes part in the ritual of the new year. A time of purification and expulsion of the corruption, sins, and demons of mundane existence. The past is annulled and reborn. New year and other creation ritual festivals abolish the profane time that has worn down man and create the renewal of mythic time anew.
End-of-the-year ceremonies, ancient and modern are almost always chaotic, wanton, and filled with loosening of sexual morals. They are symbolic destruction of the past. We still see hints of this in our modern New Year’s Eve parties followed by the making of resolutions for the upcoming year.
Christianity is unique because unlike pagan religions the sacred ritual time is not primordial. One does not return to the point of creation when taking part in holy rites and observances.
God exists outside of time and enters historical time through theophany. In Christianity, God, Jesus Christ sanctifies historical time by becoming human. Biblical time is actual time sanctified for the Christian. When taking place in Divine Liturgy the Christian relives the sanctified time of Christ’s presence in historical time. During communion one is experiencing the same time that Jesus Christ and the Disciples did in the first century.
Just like pagan Sacred Time, Christianity has a circular Liturgical calendar centered around acts of birth and renewal. In this case the Birth of Christ and the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
The need for Mythological Sacred Time
Through sacred scriptures and knowledge, Religious man understands the critical creation myths that guide him through life. The myths reveal sacrality because they show the creative work of the gods. At the beginning of time man is given these models by the Gods then he performs the work following those models allowing him to live a life of meaning.
The myths surrounding the primordial time reveal the creation and every creation is a sacred interruption into the profane world connecting the present to the eternal. Sacred Time is an irruption of Divine Creativity into the world.
The Religious man considers himself a man in how well he imitates the original mythological actions of the Gods. He wishes to be on another plane, therefore he strives to approach as close as possible to the divine models. He has a desire to live in a world made new, fresh, pure, and strong and by participating in the sacred rituals of renewal he takes responsibility for the world itself.
Ritual Sacred Time is man’s desire to be near and present with the Gods. Sacred Space combined with Sacred Time allows man to be present in the divine.
Disconnecting from Sacred Time
The more religious a man is the more models he has to guide his attitude and actions, becoming more real, and less in danger of becoming lost in actions that are meaningless, subjective, and aberrant.
When Sacred Time becomes desacralized and nihilistic man turns away from the past and faces the void of mundane annihilation. We see this every day in our current existence where man has become disconnected from the past, a Bugman that has no sacred models to follow so becomes wholly consumed by the demons of conspicuous consumption and meaningless pleasure-seeking.
Create Sacred Space and through rituals new and old reclaim your place in Sacred Time.