• Parabola 42:3 The Sacred

Parabola 42:3 Autumn 2017

The Sacred

WHAT IS THE SACRED? How can we strengthen our relationship with the sacred?

These questions are explored in this Fall 2017 issue of Parabola. The English word sacred arises from the Latin word sacrum, which to the Romans meant what belonged to the gods or was in their power, within the temple. The profane, by contrast, or profanum in Latin, meant what was in front of the temple, and therefore outside of it. And so we often think of the sacred as that which is set apart—a place like an altar, a cemetery, or the Wailing Wall; an object like a Quran or a monk’s robe; a teaching like that of The Lord’s Prayer.

There is a more inclusive approach to the sacred as well. In traditional indigenous understanding, nature—including all life but also the land, the seas, the sky—is sacred. As the Sioux writer Ohiyesa says in our opening pages, “The Great Mystery is…in earth and the water, heat and cold, rocks and trees, sun and sky; and he is also in us.”

Yet not all is sacred. We may intuit, for instance, that waging war is not sacred per se, although there may be wars fought in a sacred cause. We sense the same about banking, about sports, about indoor plumbing and Oreos and artificial intelligence. In David Ulrich’s essay that begins this issue, we can easily distinguish between the beautiful Hawaiian island considered sacred by many, and the bombs that litter it after decades of war games and that so clearly desecrate it.

In another essay here, Michel Conge, who studied with G.I. Gurdjieff, speaks of a “divine spark”—an image that appears in every tradition in some form. Without that spark, that connection to and embodiment of the divine, there is no sacredness. That connection is nearly infinite in variety, and so in this issue we are able to consider the sacred from multiple perspectives. There are interviews with a Sufi sheikh and with a man who lived with a black bear; meditations by a rabbi and an encounter with a Christian pilgrim who prays incessantly to Jesus; lessons from the Hindu classic the Bhagavad Gita, insights from the Baha’i faith, wisdom from Dostoyevsky and Plato.

We hope you will enjoy and benefit from this issue of Parabola. May it help us all to live in remembrance of the sacred.
—Jeff Zaleski

Table of Contents


Ohiyesa, The Great Mystery: A Native American prayer

David Ulrich, To Honor the Sacred: A photographer envisions the sacred and the profane on a Hawaiian island

Betsy Cornwell, The Fairies's Right of Way: It's not nice to mess with the Little People

Anonymous, Lord Jesus Christ Have Mercy on Me!: A pilgrim introduces the Way of the Heart

Phil Borges, The Wisdom of the Animals: A conversation with wildlife educator Steve Karlin

Joshua Boettiger, When We Can Let It Shimmer: Meditations of the Sacred

Tracy Cochran, Spinning Straw: Naming Rumpelstiltskin, and the path to self-knowledge

Ravi Ravindra, The Yoga of Sacred Knowledge and Discernment: Life lessons from the Bhagavad Gita

Plato, The Cave, translated with commentary by Eliot Fintushel: Leaving shadows for the light of the Real

Robert Atkinson, Rays of One Light: A Baha'i understanding of human evolution and destiny

Michel Conge, Presence and Prayer: To cherish the divine spark

Lex Hixon, Remembrance: A conversation with Sufi Sheikh Muzzafer Ozak Effendi

Lillian Firestone, To Repair the Past: Tending to the ancestors

Lee van Laer, A Universal Symbol: The miracle of the Enneagram

Shephali Patel, Sacred Soil: Embracing earth, born of the stars

Rodney Collin, On the Road to Emmaus: The Fourth Way path of self-remembering

Fyodor Dostoevsky, He Was Not Ashamed of that Ecstasy: The cosmos calls to a young Russian monk


The Story of Sujata Anonymous / Buddhist

A Jataka tale retold with commentary by Margo McLoughlin


Spirit of the Earth: Indian Voices in Nature

Michel Oren Fitzgerald & Joseph A. Fitzgerald, editors / reviewed by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos

The Hidden Third

Basarab Nicolescu / reviewed by David Appelbaum

Nassr Eddin Hodja and His Donkey

The Brotherhood of the Dancing Camel / reviewed by Bob Scher



Parabola 42:3 The Sacred

  • ISBN: 03721596423
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