Anglia Ruskin University E Le

1. After Reading my E-lecture on “The Sacred and the Holy”

2. Complete Cornell notes on the lecture, and submit

E-Lecture: The Sacred and the Holy

E-Lecture: The Sacred and the Holy

Interest in the root nature of religion is of concern for scholars of religion today.

Gerardus van der Leeuw claimed that the religion was rooted in sacred power. Thus, the distinction between the sacred and profane (non-sacred) is the power that is associated with the sacred.

Sacred power evokes mixed responses. One can both fear and be in awe of sacred power, but in modern life sacred power is usually thought of as benign and benevolent.

Roger Caillois claimed that religion is rooted in both the quest to acquire purity and the task of eliminating defilement. However, purity cannot be maintained forever and all human life must come into contact with non-sacred, or a profane world. For example, upon leaving a sacred space many people disrobe of sacred garments, or take a ritual bath, or perform some type of ritual that signifies that they are leaving sacred space and going back into profane space. In some communities, holy persons are kept from others in an attempt to make sure that they are not exposed to defilement.

Rudolf Otto believed that the holy was an experience that was unique to religion. He claimed that the holy was a nonrational part of human experience, often portrayed in myths and doctrines of religion. Otto used the term numinous to describe a unique religious phenomenon that evokes a “creature-feeling” within a person when they come into contact with the numinous.

The numinous stirs human emotions and evokes mysterium tremendum, which refers to an extraordinary reality that is mysterious and beyond comprehension and thus evokes awe and dread, or holy wrath and “energy.”

The numinous also produces fascinans for humans, which provokes joyful thanksgiving, praise and adoration.

Both Isaiah’s vision of the Lord God in the Temple of Jerusalem and the vision that Arjuna, the Hindu warrior-hero saw (recorded in the Bhagavad-Gita) are examples of numinous visions which inspired unique feelings.

Mircea Eliade looked at how the sacred was manifested in the history of religions by looking at the contrast between the sacred and the profane.

These are two different modes: the sacred always manifests itself as something non-ordinary while the profane is always common. Anything can be deemed sacred (rocks, trees, human artifacts, etc.) and can go from being an object of common use to something sacred. When something manifests itself as sacred, Eliade called it a hierophany, which means that the sacred appeared or that there is an opening to the holy or divine.

Sacred and profane space are also marked as different. The break between sacred space and non-sacred space is what actually establishes a sacred world. For example, when you enter a church doorway from the street the doorway marks the break between the sacred (church) and the profane (street).

Sacred space implies a hierophany, where communication with the sacred is made possible. Sacred space acts as an axis mundi or as the center of the world. Symbolically, the world is thought to revolve around the sacred space.

Designating a space as sacred is the equivalent to founding a world, according to Eliade. He refers to this as forming a cosmos out of chaos. Whether the sacred space is simple or elaborate, it represents an “opening” to heaven and is also a reproduction (on a human scale) of the cosmos or Creation. This is called an imago mundi, an image of the original world order. The symbolism on the alter or temple (or sacred space) is often an explicit replica of the cosmogony, or a mirror of the original act of Creation, a miniature prototype of God’s or the gods work.

For Jews the center of the world is Mount Zion, Jerusalem. For most Christians the center of the world is the mount at Golgotha. For Muslims, the followers of Islam, the center of the world is the Great Mosque of Mecca that houses the sacred Black Stone.

Sacred space denotes where the “true world” lies- and it is always at the center, connecting heaven and earth.

The Buddhist Stupa and Pagoda are examples of sacred space, as is Mount Zion for Jews.

Sacred space establishes a world, a cosmos, a fixed point in profane or chaotic space. Communication and passage are thereby opened between heaven and earth, a passage from one mode of being to another.

A sacred world is not necessarily supernatural, but a world that exists within the natural world which has been consecrated as holy by special times and places.

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Anglia Ruskin University E Le

1. Review the mapping Note taking method

2. Then read “society and the sacred”

3. Complete The “Mapping Note-taking” method on ” concepts of the divine”

* See the attached The “Mapping Note-taking” method I have provided. Use the template word document

E-Lecture: Society and The Sacred

E-Lecture: Society and The Sacred

Social practices influence religion and religion influences society. In other words, society and
religion have a dynamic relationship. Religion can strengthen traditional society but it can also
be an agent of change and reform of society.

There are several types of religious communities:

1. Natural religious communities are usually characterized by kin relations and there is not a
large difference between the religious and sociocultural life of the community. Natural religions
are maintained through blood, procreation, marriage, ancestor worship and rituals tend to link the
family for generations.

Natural religions can be linked by race or nationality because the people believe they share a
common ancestry, history or tradition. Often, natural religions trace their origins to a sacred

2. Voluntary Religious Communities are religious communities that have a partial break with the
natural ties. The religious unity is based upon spiritual unity but also upon sacred or spiritual
power. Marriage to another believer is usually important within these communities. Instead of
relying upon procreation for new members, voluntary religious communities rely on conversion and
proselytizing. Rituals centered upon ancestors do not play a large role within these groups.

2b. Founded Religions are a type of voluntary religious community but with distinctive
characteristics. The community is usually established through a charismatic religious leader who
is a witness to a new revelation or spiritual wisdom and then acts as a powerful reformer, building
upon existing religious foundations in order to build upon his/her new revelation.

Upon the death of the founder, many founded religions fail, but some survive. If the religion is to
survive, the oral teachings must be recorded and transmitted into an established canon. The
fellowship of believers must organize themselves, establish a constitution, lines of authority,
The english word “church” has a Christian origin. Not all large voluntary religions have
organizational structures similar to Christianity. What they do have in common is that they are
each concerned with doctrine, discipline, and cult, and can be called church-type organizations.

All human institutions, including church-type organizations, experience stresses and strains as
people believe and practice differently. This leads to protest, conflict and division. Protest,
reform and renewal can be on an individual or collective scale.

Some reforms occur and the reformer and his/her followers stay within the larger voluntary
church-type community. Often, a smaller group within the larger group becomes concerned with the
laxity of the larger group. They do not wish to leave the larger church (ecclesia) but instead
form a small group [or little church (ecclesiola)] to be extra pious. If this protest is too
pronounced or goes on too long, eventually the smaller group will probably leave and separate.

Another response by someone who may need more piety within the larger church is to join a monastic
order. Within the Roman Catholic church, monasticism helped channel those who rejected the laxity
of the larger group, as well as rejected the larger world, into spiritual leaders who could channel
their gifts for the larger group.

Some reformers separate altogether from the larger church, usually because 1) they have discovered
practices and beliefs of the original church that are being overlooked now and want to go back to
the original ways, 2) they claim a new, independent revelation that stands as a challenge to both
the church and the larger society and culture. The new teachings (whether old and recovered, or a
new revelation) become the new standard of the community. Often, once new teachings or revelations
are established, new teachings and revelations are forbidden.

Once the reformer has gained a following, they encourage those who also believe him/her to leave
the larger community and establish and independent, separatist sect, or church.

Scholars use the word “sect” to distinguish certain voluntary religious communities from others.
Max Weber first noted the difference between church and sect. Since then, sociologists of religion
have worked on developing a typology of religious groups.

Sects differ from churches and denominations in these ways:

  • they tend to be exclusive
    • they claim to have a monopoly on religious truth
    • they tend to be lay-organizations that reject religious divisions of labor
    • rely heavily on voluntarism
    • demand total allegiance and membership in the sect is often the individual’s most important
    means of personal identification.
    • exercises sanctions against the wayward, including expulsion
    • is a protest group, protesting against the larger church (that they left) but also against
    the wider culture.
  • Some scholars have claimed that within one generation, sects turn into denominations. They cite
    the lack of zeal that second generation members have, the upward mobility of first generation
    members and believe that eventually sects turn into denominations.

    However, scholars such as Bryan Wilson, have critiqued this typology and stated that it is based
    strictly on American types of development. He points out that sometimes, sects remain sects, but
    divides sects into four categories:

    1. conversionist sect- believe that an emotional conversion experience is needed in order to
    transcend the evil of the contemporary world. This is typical of fundamentalist and pentecostal
    groups within Protestant Christianity, especially in America.

    2. revolutionist sect- believe that salvation will come soon but only with the destruction of the
    present social order. These operate mainly in less developed countries, according to Wilson.

    3. gnostic or manipulationist sect- sometimes called a cult, these sects fully accept what others
    see as worldly goals- health, money, success, status. New Age movements are an example of this, as
    is Scientology.

    4. utopian sect- believe that human reconstruction of the world is needed according to a divine
    plan. The Oneida Community in the 19th century is an example of this.

    The last type of religious communities is the cult, or more often called new religious movement

    NRM do not conform to dominant characteristics of traditional sects, they are loose knit and a
    mixture of beliefs and practices. They appear estranged or indifferent to older religious
    traditions and many do not resemble the pattern of sectarian separation from an older church.

    NRM are characterized by private religious worship that is unconcerned with social issues and
    public affairs, the psychology driven culture we live in now, and an obsession for genuine

    Many NRM offer therapies for believers and teach mind control, taking responsibility for one’s own
    actions and promise their followers community and kinship.
    Be sure to read about the types of NRM in detail for the

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