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Updated: Feb 21, 2023

As an undergraduate and graduate student, I took all the courses in anthropology that I could get my hands on. As an undergraduate my major was American history and in graduate school, it was organizational sociology. There was something about long ago and far away that fascinated me, and still does.

Now, the second Tuesday of each month I facilitate the Dharma Cloud Book Study. In researching my current book offering, Awakening to Zen, by Philip Kapleau, I was reminded of a line of discussion in the nineteenth and early twenieth century theology, on the Holy and Mundane or Sacred and Profane. The former by Rudolf Otto and the latter by Mircea Elidae

Numinous means the sense of having a non-rational understanding. It is that intelectual understanding is not complete, rather the only way to aquire a sense of knowing is not categorically, but various variables and conditions. This or that, yes or no, suggests absence of the best way to act, while on the other hand it is helpful to make day to day action take place by way of possibilities– Rudolph Otto.

Otto developed the concept of “Numinous,” as a category of value and a “state of mind (experience)”--- as a way to express the non rational as an aspect of awe, (beyond categorical)...

In The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade observes that while contemporary people believe their world is entirely profane or secular, they still at times find themselves connected unconsciously to the memory of something sacred. It's this premise that both drives Eliade's exhaustive exploration of the sacred—as it has manifested in space, time, nature, and the cosmos, and life itself—and buttresses his expansive view of the human experience.

Joseph Cambbell in his documentary MYTHS, speaks similarly in that ancient religions use both and seem to know which to use when but do not see the two views as seperate. For example they don’t comprehend the question of difference as if tree and the spirit of the tree are the same even though different words may be used to describe a tree.

I suggest Dogen goes one step beyond. Enlightenment or illumination is seeing form and energy at the same time while becoming conscious of doing so without distinction. Kazuaki Tanahashi in Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, notes on page xxxiii, Dogen’s view:

”...when all preconceived notions of objectives and goals are lost, you float free and let myriad things advance themselves. This is the realm of the unconstructed.”

Please join us as we explore numinous Tuesday night February 21, 2023


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