I stood in awe, inside the sacred space inside Notre Dame, after walking the circuit around the building and its impressive gothic architecture. While we tourists gawked, the faithful worshipped, as they did every day, as they did regardless of our other, more secular interests. The smoke rose from the Catholic censer, the light shone down through the majestic stained glass, and the place emanated divine presence simply because so many had called upon it for so long. Their God shimmered through the space because they called upon it; because they took solace in it; because they made it real. 

I have a complicated relationship with Christianity and no desire to absolve it for its heinous crimes against those I consider to be my people; the heathens, the pagans, the natural healers, the Druids, the ones who worship the Old Ones. But calling in the sacred is something that should be beyond religious differences; beyond your cult or my mythic reality; beyond conflict. 

Sacred flames for departed souls

When I was Director of Studies at the Phoenix Institute I decorated my glass office wall with these abstract images, all taken from a set of photos I took from within Notre Dame that day. I felt like I had accidentally made modern art out of sacred art, which had been captured out of focus. Maybe it was meant to be; maybe I was reframing coincidence for meaning. I don’t mind which – that is matter for everyone to interpret for themselves. (Those pictures are lost in time now, like the Notre Dame we remember is.) Regardless, at the time, it seems that while we were studying holistic counselling and creative arts therapies, we were all trying to tap into that inner light that gave us the insight to find guidance in healing – for ourselves and for others. That’s something I want to remember today, as we grieve for this loss of the sacred dimension in Paris.

The faithful – and the not-so-faithful, in my case – in the sacred hall

Although I cleave much more closely to the sacred in nature – to what some call ‘the church not made by hands’ – I recognise any space made sacred by the attempt to be in conversation with the creative face that is beyond the human, that is greater than anything we can conceive, that puts us back in touch with the divine spark behind all life and the very existence of the cosmos. I give thanks for this space and what it meant to anyone exposed to its magnificent Gothic beauty and the way it gave access tot he otherworld within and beyond this one. Amen, Om, Aum, Aho, Home: may all the scared words be spoken in reverence on this day of mourning for one of the great sacred spaces of the world. 

It’s gloomy, compared to a sacred grove, but the effect is inarguable.