The Sacred

  This image is from the project Abstract Symmetrical Photographs  

  click on the image to enlarge

Frithjof  Schuon: Language of the Self
The Function of the Sacred Image
What is the sacred in relation to the world?  It is the interference of the uncreate in the created, of the eternal in time, of the infinite in space, of the Supra-formal in forms; it is the mysterious introduction into one realm of existence of a presence which in reality contains and transcends that realm and could cause it to burst asunder in a sort of divine explosion.  The sacred is the incommensurable, the transcendent, hidden within a fragile form belonging to this world.

Art will be more inward and more profound than verbal expositions, and this explains the central function which a sacred image can assume.

It is necessary to relearn how to see and to look, and to understand that the sacred belongs to the field of the immutable, and not to that of change.


Frithjof  Schuon   Art from the Sacred to the Profane ~ East and West
Sacred Art is Heaven Descended to Earth
A thing is true by its symbolism and holy by the depth of its beauty; all beauty is a cosmic mode of holiness.  Sacred art is Heaven descended to earth, rather than earth reaching towards Heaven.

No art in itself is a human creation; but sacred art has this particularity, that its essential content is a revelation, that it manifests a properly sacramental form of heavenly reality, such as the icon of the Holy Face . . . the statue of Shiva dancing  . . . the carved images of the Buddhas  . . .  and in certain cases, the calligraphic copying--likewise ritual--of the sacred Books . . .  Sacred art is first of all the visible and audible form of Revelation. . . The form must be an adequate expression of its content. . . 

To say that one prefers the works of God to the works of man would be to simplify the problem unduly, given that in any art meriting the epithet "sacred" it is God who is the author; man is merely the instrument and what is human is merely the material. . . All things being interrelated, it goes without saying that aesthetic emotion may convey . . . a spiritual intuition or even a truth which the artist may not necessarily be conscious of, but which will be transmitted none the less.


Seyyed Hossein Nasr   Knowledge and the Sacred
Sacred Art as Revelation
Like the words of sacred scripture and the forms of nature, works of sacred or traditional art ultimately are a revelation from that Reality which is the source of both tradition and the cosmos. . . Traditional art is at once based upon and is a channel for both knowledge and grace or that sciential sacra which is both knowledge of a sacred character.  Sacred art is at once truth and presence. . . Art reflects the truth to the extent that it is sacred, and it emanates the presence of the sacred to the extent that it is true.

As far as sacred art is concerned, this content is always the sacred or a sacred presence placed in particular forms by revelation which sanctifies certain symbols, forms, and images to enable them to become "containers" of this sacred presence and transforms them into vehicles for the journey across the stream of becoming.  Thanks to those sacred forms man is able to penetrate into the inner dimension of his own being and, by virtue of that process, gain a vision of the inner dimension of all forms.  Only the sacred forms invested with the transforming poser of the sacred through revelation and the Logos which is its instrument can enable man to see God everywhere.

A work of sacred art melts the hard shell of the human ego and leaves an indelible mark upon the soul. . . Sacred art is a means of remembrance of what man is and the celestial abode from which he has descended and which he carries still the depth of his being.  


Mircea Eliade,  Symbolism, the Sacred, the Arts ed. by Apostolos-Cappadona
Sacred Art : Sacred Space
How does any space transform itself into sacred space?  Simply because a sacrality is manifested there.  The manifestation of the Sacred in any space whatsoever implies for one who believes in the authenticity of this hierophany the presence of transcendent reality.  The Sacred does not belong to the profane world, it comes from somewhere else, it transcends this world.  A manifestation of the Sacred is always a revelation of being.

Sacred space is the place where communication is possible between this world and the other world . . .  The Center is precisely the place where an eruption of the Sacred into the world occurs . . . the space becomes sacred, thus real par excellence.   


Martin Lings,  What is Sufism
Sufism and Sacred Art
For the aim and end of Sufism is sainthood, and all sacred art in the true and full sense of the term is as a crystallization of sanctity, just as a Saint is as an incarnation of some holy monument, both being manifestations of the Divine Perfection.

But sacred art is as a Divine Grace which can make easy what is difficult.  Its function--and this is the supreme function of art--is to precipitate in the soul a victory for sainthood, of which the masterpiece in question is an image.  As a complement to discipline--we might even say as a respite--it presents the path as one's natural vocation in the literal sense, summoning together all the soul's elements for an act of unanimous assent to the Perfection which it manifests.

The Kaaba as 'The Centre'
The Kaaba (literally 'cube' for such is its shape), the 'House of God' in the centre of Mecca, is a symbol of the Centre of our being.  When the exile turns his face in the direction of Mecca he aspires above all, if he is a Sufi, to the inward return, to the reintegration of the fragmented finite individual self into the Infinitude  of the Divine Self.

The Heart as 'The Centre'
In vertue of being the centre of the body, the heart may be said to transcend the rest of the body, although substantially it consists of the same flesh and blood.  In other words, while the body as a whole is 'horizontal' in the sense that it is limited to its own plane of existence, the heart has, in addition, a certain 'verticality' for being the lower end of the 'vertical' axis which passes from the Divinity Itself through the centres of all the degrees of the Universe.  If we use the imagery suggested by Jacob's ladder, which is none other than this axis, the bodily heart will be the lowest rung and the ladder itself will represent the whole hierarchy of centres or 'Hearts' one above the other.

The Heart corresponds to the centre of the Garden, the point where grows the Tree of Life and where flows the Fountain of Life.  The Heart is in fact nothing other than this Fountain. . . The extreme significance of this penultimate degree in the hierarch of centres is that it marks the threshold of the Beyond, the point at which the natural ends and the supernatural or transcendent begins.  The Heart is the "isthmus" which is so often mentioned in the Qur'an as separating 'the two  seas' which represent Heaven and earth. . .  Moses says: 'I will not cease until I reach the meeting-place  of the two seas.'   He is formulating the initial vow that every mystic must make, implicitly if not explicitly, to reach the lost Centre which alone gives access to transcendent knowledge.  

[In the Sufi's] turning away from the world in the direction of the Heart . . . there lies a powerful discipline of consecration.

*     *     *   

Also visit this related link:   

*     *     *

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.