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Sunday, September 06 2020

This is the third post in the series Crossing the Threshold.

                                                 Homo Spiritus

Now we can start with our history lesson. Let’s take the year 1400AD. You can use “1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” if it is easier to remember; a few years won’t make a difference for our purposes. In all the time before the year 1400, for as long as man existed on planet Earth he lived in a “sacred” world. By this I mean he had knowledge of something wholly other than himself, a different order of being, and a power before which he knew he was nothing. In other words a god. Opposite this god, this sacred, was the profane which simply meant darkness, chaos, an abyss. So it was natural that man wanted to live in as close proximity to the sacred as possible. Therefore he would consecrate every aspect of his life; food, sex, work, home, everything to his god.

Werner Herzog produced the documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” in which he went deep into the Chauvet Caves in Southern France to film the oldest known cave paintings by Homo sapiens. Herzog says we really should call the early cave dwellers “Homo spiritus” (one spirit) rather than Homo sapiens (one knowing) for there is clear evidence of religious ceremony within these most ancient caves. Think of that; from the beginning of time man has been a worshipper and has lived in a sacred universe.

Thousands of years after the men painted the cave walls in Chauvet the Apostle Paul stood on Mars Hill in Athens and gave his famous sermon recorded in Acts Chapter 17. Speaking to all the Athenians he said “…I observe that you are all very religious in all respects” (NAS). This is not what is so typically thought of today as St. Paul making an “evangelistic” call to a crowd of non-believers so they can “get saved” and go to heaven. He is telling them that “yes you are all religious men ( for there is no other kind) and you live in awe of the gods because you have statues everywhere to please them…in all respects you make every part of your world sacred. Now let me explain to you, your own statue to ‘an unknown god’. There is only one true god who has now made himself known through the incarnation, death and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. It is he that I proclaim to you”.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkein believed that the step from paganism to Christianity was not that great a step, for all men believed in a god, in the sacred, in something more than themselves. All men were worshippers. No the great chasm was the one that separated the Christian World of the Middle Ages and the Modern Western World. We must now explore that rift in order to bring us to the “you are here” star on the map of history.

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