|Even though it is a reality distinct from the
ordinary, the sacred does make itself known in the world of human
experience. Appearances or manifestations of the sacred are called
hierophanies. The sacred can make itself known through
persons, places, objects and times. Although these means through which
the sacred appears may be quite ordinary, they are made extraordinary
because they share or participate in the sacred realm.
|Hierophanies are thus like doorways or points of contact
between the ordinary world and the sacred. A hierophany can make it
possible for the sacred to enter the ordinary and, at the same time, for
the ordinary to enter into and participate in the sacred realm.
|Eliade notes that every manifestation of the sacred in the
profane actually transforms both space and time. If the sacred is made
know in a place, for example, people naturally assume that the sacred
can breakthrough again at that same place. The time in which the sacred
breaks through into the ordinary realm is also transformed. Certain days
and times thus commemorate both the past experience of the sacred and
serve to re-enact that experience (more about this when we discuss
|Some scholars suggests that
hierophanies can be classified by media and by pattern.
- Media refers to the particular means by which the sacred
appears. For instance, the doorway to the sacred realm may be
through a person, a place, an object or a time.
- Pattern refers to way in which the person, place, object or
time is sacred. The way something functions as a doorway to the
sacred can be classified as:
- Prophetic: the object, person, place or time conveys a
revelation or message from
the sacred realm
- Sacramental: The sacred is present in some way in the
object, place person or time.
- Mystic: The object, person, place or time is united with
(or assists in the union with) the sacred, usually
through a particular state of being.
Each individual discussed in chapter three of Exploring Religious
Meaning has an experience of the sacred. In so doing, each one
becomes a particular type of doorway to the sacred realm.
|Moses and Gandhi would fit the Prophetic
pattern while Sufism, the Buddha, Saint Teresa and Juan Diego
conform to the Mystic pattern.
|Although the text book does not adopt
Eliade's approach , much of what is discussed in the section on
Experiencing Religion can be understood from the framework built on the
concepts of the sacred, profane and hierophanies. We will thus be
referring back to the concept as we study chapters 4 and 5.