Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mircea Eliade, the renowned religious historian, spoke of the axis mundi as the sacred cosmic center connecting heaven and earth as distinct from the secular world. [1] Often the axis mundi has been reflected in religion and mythology as a pole or tree, Jewish and Christian traditions has also tended to utilize the axis mundi in the Genesis narrative as the original Garden and the Tree of Life in particular, as well as the temple as the pathway between heaven and earth. Christian traditions would also place the cross in this same avenue of thought as the sacred tree that restored humanity to God.

The Christian landscape is oriented, first and foremost, around the Christ-event: the incarnation. Yet, the physical or geographical spaces in which we encounter the Christ anew, in our ongoing salvation, retain for us special significance associated with the revelatory event. Sacred geography is sacramentally rooted in Christ enabling the geographical landscape to become a tangible record of our spiritual journey. Places and things become holy where we have met the incarnate Axis Mundi. They become an axis of access where God takes the initiative to establish a personal and historic covenant.

It is these places which linger in my memory and are invigorated by my imagination. And it is to further the discussion of the roles that place, memory, and imagination play in our lives that this blog is dedicated to.

[1] Mircea Eliade (The Sacred & Profane: The Nature of Religion (San Diego: Harvest Book, 1957), 53. Jon Pahl also suggests that while Eliade’s conception of sacred space as “hierophany” or manifestation of the holy is still widely used, it has also come under significant critique. Beyond the critique of origination for sacred spaces, Eliade’s second step of orientation remains a very helpful aspect from his thought (Jon Pahl, Shopping Malls and other Sacred Spaces: Putting God in Place (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2003), 45-48.).