Temenos…Thoughts on Sacred Space

Helmsley North Yorkshire Photo Rob Burton 2011

Spring has come to the North of England and hour-by-hour the flow of creation moves the colours, light and forms on the surfaces of the deep valleys, crags pointing skyward and the rolling moors of the Yorkshire Dales and North Yorks Moors. As you move through the landscape one is confronted by an undulating countryside of steep woodland paths towards summits that open out into vistas in an experience that moves the viewer to reach out as if across a vast universe of thought and form; alive, breathing, ebbing and flowing with eternal and infinite creative energies. From the peak of Sutton Bank and travelling onward and north into barren and deserted valleys the land and sky appear to go on into  boundless and unfathomable reaches of time and space. At this time of year the senses are touched by amplitude greater than the self and man is humbled in his own mere humanity as we walk like ants upon a breathing living planet. Life and the earth herself ebbs and flows and the sensual tides of nature radiate the new  with an active stillness and silent contemplative consciousness perceiving gently the spring lambs only a day old, the budding of spring on flora and fauna and the call of birds sounding a celebration of a flow, creation and recreation; a joyful universal chorus. This is the same landscape of powerful natural inherent forces interpreted by both J.M.Turner and John Martin in their travels in the North of England, and, although easy to reinvent with the gloss of Romanticism, the deeper sense of the universal underlies the subjective portrayal and objective form. The earth sensed as the space around us brings man into an intimacy of sensation and manifests an embodied connection to the ultimate ground of being; within each moment and each breath is divinity and the sacred. In the resonance with nature and primal space the consciousness is moved from the ordinary through levels of transformative potential. In the momentary experience I am witness to rays of light piercing the clouds reaching to mankind like the fingers of an unknown maker piercing through the heavens  to the panorama that unfolds until the vast horizon. In this space one is essentially consumed by the experience of the Kantian sublime. In the contemplation of the tremendous power of the sublime forces of the earth emotions seize the viewer that can be fearful and terrifying but also uplifting and emancipating cutting through the personal boundaries of ego, self and other.

In the Scottish Borders traveling south from the ancient and poetic hills of Sir Walter Scott along the Esk valley we move through one such a landscape of awe in which the magnitude of the primal forces of nature begins to overwhelm the senses. After rising up and over the high barren moors you suddenly drop down the hillside to be confronted by  the Stupa and the wonderfully authentic Tibetan finery of the Samye Ling monastery. Samye Ling monastery was the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery to be established in the West. Founded in 1967 it is a centre for Buddhist meditation and spiritual practices, Tibetan Buddhist study, humanitarian aid, Tibetan medicine and Tibetan cultural practices. Over the past few years the monastery has grown in many ways from the fabric of the buildings to the number of people from around the world who visit the centre to practice Buddhist teachings and meditation or simply to connect with the sacred atmosphere that permeates the whole valley with sense of the divine.

Samye Ling Monastery Photo Kate Burton 2011

Within the temple itself the air vibrates with a golden light. The energy within this sacred space moves us from the sublime to the numinous experience. The senses comprehend the sacred space of the temple as wholly other bringing the observer into an association that is entirely different from anything experienced in ordinary reality.

Samye Ling Monastery Photo Kate Burton 2011

It is an overwhelming sense of an energy that evokes silence. From the outer sublime energy of universal consciousness experienced through nature and our engagement with the earth we enter into a more subtler vibration of the numinous within the enclosed sacred space moving from the wild invisible forces of the natural world to the subtle energies of connected inner spiritual practices; from the macrocosmic sacred space to the microcosmic and the sacred within man.

The meaning of the Greek word Temenos is the sacred space surrounding a temple or altar. Carl Jung, the influential thinker and founder of analytical psychology, used the same word to refer to the inner space deep within us where soul-making takes place. To Jung the Temenos is a space to heal, reorganise and regenerate the fragmented personality. In 2010 a giant sculpture named Temenos was unveiled in Middlehaven, Middlesbrough in the North East of England. Temenos it is a staggering 110 metres in length and almost 50 metres high. It is the work of Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond both well known for the monumental scale of their work. Temenos recalls a huge butterfly net as a large hoop form is connected to a smaller hoop by a tube of steel netting. In placing it in the town of Middlesbrough it symbolises both of the earlier discourses on sacred space. As one walks up to it one its filled by its sheer presence and the space it fills. It can be seen across the distance of the town and is a symbolic locus within the Middlehaven area ;where once the huge steel girders would be loaded onto ships to build the bridges and industrial structures that connect man’s economies and social capital across the world. In an inner sense it is a symbol of the regeneration of the healing and regeneration of a transforming society and culture moving from the worlds of separation and alienation of the modern to a deeper sense of community and being and belonging in an awakened society.

North East writers and performers Ek Zuban have been commissioned to create a compilation of creative writing, poems and collaborations with artists that respond to the Temenos sculpture of Kapoor and Balmond to be launched at the Middlesbrough Literary Festival. An important aspect of this work has been the facilitating of workshops with community and young peoples groups who all have a stake-holding in the Temenos and the ‘Tees Valley Giants’ project. In working with these interest groups there has arisen a deep connection to the work and it’s prominence in the local landscape. Local school children have perceived it as a mythical time tunnel transporting them to a land of dreams and desires and a special place to see into their inner visions. The local visionaries and poets see the link between the ordinary and the sacred space or numinous sensibility of the work. It’s monumentality fills one with awe and the symbolic imagery of circular geometry and the signifiers of nets generates a deep discourse between the individual, and the sense of universal and local in the communities and societies that appropriate the work.

Dancing with Mother moon copyright Rob Burton 2009

Text  © Rob Burton. Rob Burton is an artist and writer on the arts and consciousness and is currently working on publishing critical and theoretical texts on the artist as the mediator of the transpersonal. Please contact Embodied.creative@gmail.com for more information.


About embodiedcreative

Awakening Arts is a worldwide network of artists, patrons and friends who support Art which uplifts, inspires, transforms and awakens.We are a growing resource nexus working in synergy to create exhibitions, retreats and symposiums.
This entry was posted in Art and consciousness, Arts, creativity, Creativity & Consciousness, Inspirational artworks, Sacred Space, Temenos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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