Where does sacredness live?

Here is a beautiful essay on the nature of the sacredfrom the ever thoughtful, Adam Frank.


The older I get the more I begin to think that the philosopher Immanuel Kant was at least partially correct when he held that, for all our inquiry into the "objective world," human beings never get a direct view of things-in-and-of-themselves. Despite the power of our reasoning (including science), we can not get direct access to some perfectly objective, perfect "God's eye" view of universe. Instead, the view we gain is mediated. It's filtered by what Kant called "categories," which for him were things like space, time and causation.

So what, then, is this experience of sacredness? Perhaps, in the moments when that strange, pregnant feeling of presence rises up to meet us — that sense of more and of less — we are gaining an intuition of the thing-in-itself. While Kant spoke of his categories as intuitions, I believe I mean something else. I mean the ability to hear the whispers of what lies beyond the boundary of the expressible and the inexpressible.

I once heard poetry described as just this kind of boundary. And what is true for poetry is equally apparent in music, dance and all our forms of art. They allow us to amplify the whispers that speak through our intuitions of the boundless.

These whispers even appear at the edges of our explanations. They are what give explanations their power to enthrall us and ignite our awe. They animate the fierce poetic economy of mathematical physics and the thrall of Hubble Space Telescope images. In this way science, too, becomes a gateway to the experience of sacredness.

In the end, what we have is a conversation, a lifelong dialogue with life. It's a conversation expressed not in words but in the immediacy of experience and the poetry of the one, single now. And that is exactly where the experience of sacredness lives.