Negotiating the Sacred and the Possibility of Indigenous and Pagan Discourse
Michael York
Bath Spa University / Academy for Cultural and Educational Studies (London) /
Cherry Hill Seminary
Indigenous Religious Traditions
AAR 3 November 2008
A3 -119

The concept of the sacred is central to all religious and spiritual orientations. This does not preclude that the concept is perpetually contested; indeed, this in a nutshell is what differentiates one religion from another. The term and notion of the 'sacred' constitute the crucial discourse between all religious and spiritual practice. All the same, despite the contesting between religions over what is sacred, what the sacred is, there is additionally a constant process of re-interpretation and negotiation that occurs within any specific tradition by its respective adherents. In the present talk, however, my emphasis is to seek a possible basis of dialog between contemporary paganism and indigenous spiritual traditions that any shared understanding of the sacred might provide. Along with Wendy Griffin, who heads the Women’s Studies department at Long Beach State University in California, I am currently the co-chair for the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group of the AAR. As I have sought to do from when I first attended the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions that was also held in Chicago, present-day Western pagans tend to argue that fundamentally they have affinities and links with many if not most of the world's indigenous traditions. I remember in this connection being told by several Native Americans who represented their traditions at the Parliament that I would have trouble with the term ‘pagan’ when it came to Native Americans since, despite what could be understood as animist understandings along with pluralistic perceptions of the divine, most Amerindians identify as Christians. I would trace the major roots of this situational development to the 1870s (for the West Coast) and 1890s (for the rest of the country) Ghost Dances that resulted largely in the evangelization of the indigenous population of North America. So, while recognizing that the comprehension of affinity between contemporary pagans and Native Americans is not reciprocal, my present proposal is to engage with the AAR's Indigenous Religious Traditions Group over the possibility of shared understandings concerning the sacred as a key fundamental to religious and/or spiritual thought.
My argument employs a sociology of alternative religions methodology and theoretical analysis to navigate the sacred as something that is discursively constituted. Part of my line of reasoning consists in comprehending the world’s various religious and spiritual expressions as blends of four essential ideal-types. In sociology, the ideal-type is recognized as an ideal rather than a concrete reality, and it is employed primarily as a means of measurement – e.g., how close does a specific religion conform to the ideal and how and why does it differ? The ideal-type is not a classification as such in as much as a classification is primarily a grouping or range of groupings constructed according to ad hoc selection using arbitrarily chosen features or characteristics.

The four ideal-types I employ are the Abrahamic, the dharmic, the secular and the pagan, and these are identified by how the relationship between the supernatural, the world and humanity are posited and identified. Whereas the secular dismisses the reality of the supernatural, preternatural, magical or numinous, the dharmic denies the reality of the world or at least its value or both. The pagan and the Abrahamic share a position that considers both the world and the preternatural as realities but differ in their respective interpretations of these in terms of meaning assignment, value allocation and even validation enactment. In their ideal formulations, the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism hold not only to a divided understanding of the supernatural (such as God and Satan) but, crucially, to the consideration that the supernatural is wholly other – something completely apart from the world of time and space. Paganism, by contrast, holds that the holy is or at least includes this world and is not something that is radically other than it. The term I have come to employ for this is ‘corpo-spirituality’ that suggests that the corporeal world is imbued with the spiritual and, indeed, is itself spiritual. Admittedly, this last is often a difficult concept for Westerners to grasp. Thanks to our historical Judeo-Christian enculturation, we in the West find it incongruent to think of matter as spiritual, but this is precisely what ideally distinguishes pagan religiosity from its contenders.

But before proceeding further, I wish first to reassert that I am so far speaking only of ideal-types. In reality, virtually any religion will retain elements from at least one other ideal-type if not more. For instance, while Hinduism is dharmic in doctrine – considering the manifest world as maya or illusion, it is also fully pragmatic and tolerates bhakti practice as a legitimate pathway toward moksha, enlightenment or release. Consequently, in its everyday vernacular manifestations, Hinduism is fully at home with idolatry and the concept of holy place. Likewise, Roman Catholicism, with its Mariolatry, veneration of saints and relics and institution of pilgrimage, often gives the supernatural concrete location. And just to provide a different kind of example, many individual Western pagans are of secular and/or humanistic sympathies and abandon belief in or consideration of the gods or supernatural/preternatural. The formulations of Abrahamic, dharmic, secular and pagan are ideals; actual Abrahamic, dharmic and pagan practice merely conforms to their respective ideal to one degree or another but melds with different and sometimes incongruent elements as well.

So far, however, I have resorted to such expressions as the ‘supernatural’, ‘preternatural’, ‘holy’, ‘numinous’ etc., and the question now is where and what is the sacred? How can we understand this notion? How does the sacred differ from the divine, holy, numinous and supernatural/preternatural? What distinguishes the sacred per se? What dialog of discourses is possible between indigenous religious traditions and contemporary Western paganism concerning perceptions of the sacred? And how might these perceptions connect the sacred to the ordinary?

In seeking to locate the seminal understanding of a word-concept, my personal fall-back is to examine the term’s etymology. Following in the line of Julius Pokorny and Calvert Watkins, ‘sacred’ derives from the Latin sacer meaning ‘holy’, ‘sacred’, ‘dedicated’. According to George Dumézil, the Latin sacer refers to “that which has been cut off from ordinary usage and belongs to a god.”[1] The Indo-European root behind the Latin term is *sak- that represents the verb ‘to sanctify’ which is sometimes seen as a variant of *sek- ‘to cut’, ‘to demarcate as something separate’. Consequently, the sacred itself may be understood as the special that is set apart and demarcated from the ordinary. Durkheim, in turn, elaborates this into a distinction between the profane and the sacred and defines religion in terms of the beliefs and practices concerning the latter. In a strict pantheistic framework, the term would lose meaning since if everything were sacred, there could nothing special and sacred in a sense that distinguishes it from the ordinary or profane. Consequently, ‘sacred’ is a term and concept that is viable for both theism and the theological pluralisms to be discerned among both indigenous and pagan orientations. These last are still to be distinguished from the biblical dichotomy between holiness and uncleanness - a binary opposition that Mary Douglas develops in her Purity and Danger analysis of the anomalous. Pagans tend to proclaim that everything is sacred but meaning by this that everything is holy. In other words, there is a distinction to be made between the holy and the sacred with the former referring to ‘wholeness’ or ‘completeness’ (from *kailo- ‘whole’, ‘uninjured’, ‘of good omen’). The wholeness of everything is holy, and yet, in the dynamics of both indigenous and pagan reflection, there are possible concentrations of holiness that make them special, distinguishable and, hence, sacred.

What I wish to argue in the development of discursive dialog between indigenous and pagan understandings is that the sacred for both traditions is conceived less as a relatively static quality or state of being belonging to a place, locality, object or occasion (Eliade's 'hierophany') and more as a destination and intention - a specially qualified goal, target or purpose toward which an aspiring person might direct herself/himself. Whether this undertaking is conceived in terms of preternatural or secular desiderata and/or realities, the sacred as privileged sanctity remains a unifying and possibly bridging agency. As Blain and Wallis contend, the term 'sacred' is one that merits continual theorizing, contest and negotiation in which the idea of a single 'truth' is abandoned. The temporal and geographic interplay of both indigens and pagans with landscape, each other, humans in general and various agental understandings of value offers innovative and challenging possibilities to more conventional and established discourse.

As I have already said, traditionally speaking, the sacred itself is to be distinguished from the profane. Because the sacred applies to something that is separate and set apart, it is technically incorrect to say that everything is sacred. When we wish to emphasis the pan-divinity of everything, the more correct term would be the ‘holy’ – that is, as something holistic, whole, complete, while the sacred is to be distinguished from it as perhaps the first among equals, a primus inter pares, and as something unusual, as something that makes it different from the whole. It is the sacred which gives us focus and motivation and keeps us from becoming lost in pure qualitative excess. In the same manner as we distinguish home, community, country, loved ones and material goods from the allness of the physical realm, so too do we consider the significance of the holy day, the festival, the commemorative occasion, the sacred feasting from the all-encompassing march and flow of time. The celebration is something we look forward to, enjoy as and when it happens, and remember as something special after it has passed. It is, or it has been designed to be, a moment out of the ordinary. In the same way we distinguish sacred time, we also distinguish – or at least can distinguish – sacred place and location.

In earth-based or nature-based spiritualities that celebrate the holistic, matter or matter-energy is understood as the holy or at least the base of the holy. It need not always be sacred because the sacred is that which is set apart, that which is distinguished from the whole, that which is special. But curiously, our English words for ‘holy’, ‘whole’ and ‘health’ all derive from an original root (*kailo-) that signifies being whole, uninjured and of good omen. Translating this to the whole universe, the cosmos is primordially understood as something that is fundamentally holy, complete, wholesome, of good omen. There is, however, another Indo-European root that signifies being ‘whole’ (*sol-), and from this both the Greek holos (‘whole’) and Latin salvus (‘healthy’) find their derivations. From these words, English has acquired its own terms of ‘safe’ (free or secure from harm, injury, danger or evil), ‘salvation’ (as a derivative of ‘safe’), ‘catholic’ (meaning universal) and ‘solid’ (of definite shape and volume). In 1926, from the Greek holos, Jan Christian Smuts coined the terms holism and holistic to refer to the theory or belief that reality as living matter comprises organic or unified wholes that are more than the mere summation of their parts. A modern-day heir to this anti-reductionistic analysis of things through their simplistic components alone is the science or theory of complexity as promoted by the Santa Fe Institute among other centers. The study of complexity is an investigation into the dynamics of spontaneous self-organization and spontaneous surprise. For the pagan, it is the very experience of augmentation, of something being more than the mere summation of its parts, that is an experience of the awesome. We translate or interpret an awesome experience as an experience of the divine, the sacred, the holy or, to use Otto’s term though not in the sense in which he intended it, the numinous.

There are some other terms that delineate the general category of the sacred as well. Georges Dumézil follows Walter Baetke in appraising the complementary German words weihen and heilig as differing conceptions of the sacred. The former, like the Latin sacer, refers to “that which has been cut off from ordinary usage and belongs to a god.”[2] The latter is more positive and cultic and originally compared to the Latin augustus, although in Rome, the term sacer came to absorb the significances of both prohibition and the holy, while augustus fell into disuse until the first Roman emperor resurrected it. But ‘august’ remains latently a word in the English language that has spiritual and religious significance. It has synonyms in both ‘noble’ and ‘majestic’, and both latter terms are employed to express the sublime. Rudolf Otto, in fact, links consciousness of the sublime with consciousness of the numinous,[3] and among the elements he associates with the holy, beside awfulness and urgent energy, he includes overpoweringness or majestas.[4] The majesty of the divine is to be recognized as interchangeable with its augustness.[5]

The ‘sublime’ is another term that can be used to delineate the holy or sacred. The pre-Latin etymology of ‘sublime’ is unknown. It derives from sublīmis that signifies ‘uplifted’. Another term, adjacent to ‘sublime’ in the English dictionary, whose earlier derivation also remains a mystery, is ‘subliminal’, that which is ‘below’ or ‘beneath’ (sub) the ‘threshold’ (Latin līmen, līmin-).[6] At first thought, the meaning of ‘subliminal’ appears to be the opposite of ‘sublime’. The subliminal refers to unconscious stimuli, that which is below the threshold of conscious perception, adequate to produce a response but not conscious awareness. But here we are once again concerned with liminality – with that very edge of consciousness: complexity theory’s ‘edge of chaos’.

In contrast to the sublime and subliminal and what they tell us about the sacred, to return to the idea of the holistic and its related derivatives as the safe, catholic and solid, it is this very connection of solidity with the holy as something complete that becomes a pagan justification for the sacredness of tangibility. A sacred object – whether talisman, tree, rock, standing stone, well, spring, idol, etc. – appears to generate an aura of attraction to those who are sensitive to revering such, an invisible quality of allure that is similar to a magnetic field in its being operative but unseen. It is this aura of attraction that renders a place sacred – one that is bolstered by the myths and legends that accumulate around the object or place, by the renown (whether historical fame or word of mouth from others that one knows or encounters), by its status as a pilgrimage site, and by the desire of the person to see, touch or feel the area. Consequently, the aura of a shrine’s locale or sacred place can be both immediate – as in a tangible presence felt on the spot – and trans-physical – pulling us simply by thinking of it and our being attracted to the idea of it. In the urban developments of paganism, the temple came to supersede the shrine, but whereas the temple has a pre-thought ‘template’ behind it – a preconceived idea and sacred precinct marked out on the ground by priest, augur or geomancer, the shrine at the heart of the temple is less something that is ‘laid out’ as such and more something that naturally emerges and is spontaneously located.

Whether we are considering a venerable tree, a pure water spring, an expanse of lake, a grove of trees, a special mountain, a mysterious cave or grotto or even an assembled fetish or crafted figure, we have various instances through pagandom and indigenous sensitivities alike that are embodying holiness in concrete and visual form or representation. A sacred site may be augmented through the art and architecture that become attached to it, but these last are embellishments and are not essential to the sacrality of the place itself. The temple, idol and icon of a shrine are simply receptacles that have been designed to entice the sacred into further residence: to make the center a revered home of divinity. For a large part, the reproduction, representation and vessel are to serve as mirroring reflections of the hypostasis of the holiness that undergirds the sacred site. For the pagan worshiper, they become access vehicles for those who wish to experience the numinous when understood as special, miraculous, uncanny, weird, eerie, awesome and subliminally unearthly. But as beatific as these qualities might otherwise seem to be, pagan understanding almost invariably locates them in the tangible rapture of physical presence. It is for this reason that sacred place and space are as central to pagan spiritual consciousness as they are. The holy site, as a primus inter pares, is what links many to the divinity of nature as a whole – the microcosm for the macrocosm, the immediate for the distant and all-encompassing, the holographic jewel in Indra’s net that reflects and contains the hierophany of the entire multiverse. The shrine or sacred place may be a lake, pond or waterfall. It may also be, or be centered on, a sacred stone or rock. Both could be used for healing the injured or the infirmed. Both might be centers for oracular inquiry.

From an Abrahamic perspective, the physical incorporation of divinity is termed idolatry, and, along with polytheism, condemned in the Decalogue. Paganism, in response, holds little truck with the Ten Commandments as a whole. If it approaches them at all, it does so selectively – agreeing with not killing, stealing or lying and with honoring parents and ancestors but certainly not with the first and second commandments that prohibit the worship of other gods and the making of ‘graven images’. Once again, therefore, the pagan of today is not in synch with the mainstream society of the West – both its Christian components and those of secular science. As the quest for enchantment is itself a challenge to established mores, so too is any sensitivity to the divine in tangible form. The engrained ridicule that becomes associated with such ‘primitive behavior’ and the disinclination as a result to engage in such practices has colored much current sentiment across the contemporary Western pagan world. Pagans of today remain uncomfortable with the thought of bending a knee or prostrating before a physical image of a deity. But idolatrous veneration is not necessarily constituted by its outward activity as it is by what that activity is directed toward. If the focus includes the physical – such as nature, then it is still a safe bet that we are talking about tangible reverence.

Combining the polycentric and/or henotheistic idea of worship with the notion of sacred location and concentration of devotional energies, the aura of enchantment that adheres to the lingam of Kashi Vishvanath, to the statue of Venkateswara at Tirupati, to the Black Madonna images of Częstochwa, Le Puy and Einsiedeln, and formerly to the Golden Calf of Exodus 32, to the Parthenon Athena and to the Roman palladium, etc., renders each of these as an instance of a numinous or charged focus within the broad parameters of multitheistic comprehension. Likewise, in our homes, many of us have a special shelf, niche or altar that is employed for focusing ourselves on the sacred. Each instance is expressive of corpo-spiritual veneration that contends for legitimacy and validity as part of pagan expression. In fundamentals, I contend, it differs little from the spiritual sensitivity to nature and natural physical embodiments that we detect among indigenous spiritual traditions with their intense concentration on the immediate locality and its nurturing potential – both in terms of the physical needs for life itself and the spiritual needs of accord and growth for the concerned tribe or community.

In Hinduism, there is the word tirtha meaning ‘ford’ or ‘crossing point’ that is used to designate a holy place – whether shrine, temple, sacred river, mountain, etc. With sacred place as the tirtha, its primary function is to serve as passageway into the miraculousness of the otherworld, the zone of stimulation, special knowledge and possible regeneration. This is the land of magic as opposed to the empirical world of the more ordinary here-and-now. As complexity theory understands the ‘edge of chaos’, too far across the border, there is perpetual randomness and pure anarchy; too far from the edge, there is stasis and sterility. Despite all its dangers, it is the ‘edge of chaos’ where order itself emerges. This is the precarious area in which spontaneous self-organization occurs. From this perspective, it becomes clear that the magical otherly is the edge itself – the liminal as distinct from the subliminal. The shaman’s negotiation of the otherworld is a negotiation of the liminal zone itself and one not ‘too far’ beyond it from which there is no return. To draw a line between the liminal and the subliminal in this sense is an art and one for which shamanic technology is perhaps the most suited.

It should be obvious that the liminal that leads to the subliminal is the place in which the shaman and the pagan worshiper encounter the sublime. It is the līmen as a distinguishing border that circumnavigates the sacred – whether as a holy place or idol, and whether as a holy festival or special occasion.[7] It is the līmen that is both the separating agent and the tirtha. It is the gateway, and the object of theoria, ritual contemplation and cultic worship is the magical act of reversal in which, by crossing the miraculous threshold, the entry into the miraculous, one inverts the subliminal to obtain the ‘upliftedness’ of the sublime. The sublime can only be the pinnacle, the mountain’s peak, that which is just below the ‘uppermost’ boundary of the “god-won ordering,” the “god-established order”, of our world.[8] In this sense, the sublime is the antithesis of the bottomless and endless vacuuming vortex that pagan humanism seeks to circumvent. The avoidance of the black holes of cosmic suction is to be obtained for the pagan through a successful negotiation, straddling or dancing along the edge of chaos – through worship, theoria and vigilant mindfulness if not also lucky trance in which the devotee and the object of devotion become something viably more than their separate parts, transcending the abyss for rapture of the sublime, uniting with the divine. In such endeavor, the sacrality of place becomes an important tool and aid. It is the ideal locus for ritual whether in the form of a totem, a ceremony or a work of art. It is the place for putting something together properly in order to obtain value and worth.

I think in principle, the dynamics of corpo-spiritual interaction between the divine, the natural and the human that we find with contemporary Western paganism, with the ancient paganisms of the Greco-Roman world and beyond, and the traditional spiritualities of indigenous peoples of today share a distinguishing affinity that is different from the disenchantment emphases of secularism, from the here-and-now world denying positions of dharmic religiosity and from the hierarchical dichotomies of Abrahamic religion. For pagan spirituality, the ultimate spiritual metaphor is that of roots which penetrate deep within the soil. It is this connection with earthly nutrition that is understood as the seminal source and springboard for life – including a life that blossoms and flowers and reaches into the empyrean. Along the deepest membrane of radical connection, there is virtually no boundary: host and dependent dissolve into one another. But the earth as host and matrix is this-worldly, that which brings us into the here-and-now. She is both corporeal and hedonic; she is nature and other-nature. As we see with the French use of the term tellurique, the telluric is both the ‘earthly’ and the ‘magical’. The earth is the locus of the most immediate and accessible sacred. When we apply the word ‘sacred’ to the earth as a whole, we are no less distinguishing her as special, if not unique, within the cosmos itself. In general, the sacred is the extraordinary, that is, that which is separate, cut off or distinguished and exceptional from the rest or at least its immediate surroundings. By contrast, our term ‘holy’ delineates the whole or complete in the sense of not just the object itself but the numinous magnetism to which people might respond that is considered or felt to be resident within. The holy earth or Gaia or Tellus is a precious object to which we have duties and responsibilities in the this world / real world sense, but her holiness or completeness is that she is not simply a complex and marvelous mechanism but also something more than a machine alone; she includes or generates an intrinsic, even if invisible, paranormal life-force, the telluric. This is the corpo-spiritual in which the physical and numinous interpenetrate and may even become one-and-the-same.

I am fully aware that I have used a preponderance of obtuse and academic terminology in this discussion. My defense herewith is that the present venue is after all an academic forum. But despite the vocabulary and esoteric concepts, my basic endeavor is to delineate the distinguishing features of paganism as an ideal-type as concerns understandings of the sacred, what it is and what it might be, and to seek therewith a possible basis for future dialogue with indigenous spiritual traditions. In summary, I contend that the essential features of paganism include some if not all of the following: nature as essential spiritual resource and metaphor, a this-worldly emphasis, corpo-spirituality, numinous enchantment, polytheism, humanism and a non-puritanical stress on enjoyment. Native American and other indigenous religious traditions share with the various forms of paganism in the drawing of insight from natural regenerative cycles, with a primary concern in the here-and-now rather than the hereafter, with an understanding of tangibility as the source of the divine, as imbued with the divine, as part of the divine or even simply as the divine. In contemporary Western paganism, there is an appreciation of magic and the sacred as a quality that bridges the empirical and preternatural worlds; in indigenous traditions, sacred power as something invisible yet operative and special is known as mana for the Melanesians, orenda for the Iroquois, manitou for the Algonquians, wakan for the Lakota, ashe for the Yoruba and so forth (cf. the Roman numen and the Greek daimon). There is also a pluralistic and gender differentiated understanding of the divine or sacred that is held by both pagans and indigenous peoples in general – whether as gods and goddesses, ancestors, culture-heroes, animal species as participants in legend or quasi-personifications of aspects of nature. What might seem to be contrasting would possibly be paganism’s humanistic understanding and its open acceptance of the hedonic. But native traditions speak of Bear-Woman, Water-Woman, Old Man White Oak Acorn, White Buffalo Calf Woman, Mother Earth, etc. that reveals a related concern with personhood. And in regard to pleasure, while Western emphasis is centred more on the individual, indigenous orientations concentrate instead on the well-being of the community or tribe as a whole. In all, pagans and native peoples alike locate the sacred – both visibly and invisibly – in the present world, in nature, in the corporeal, in the magic of ritual, with the ancestors, spirits and deities, in human or person-to-person relations and as the fundamental affirmation of a joie de vivre.

So in conclusion, I wish here to affirm that, whether we are speaking of the indigenous religions of Asia, Africa, Oceania or the Americas, whether of contemporary Western paganisms or classical and ancient paganisms, whether of Siberian and related shamanisms, whether of Chinese folk religion or Japanese Shinto or the Afro-Latin diasporic traditions, we will find an understanding of the sacred throughout all of these as something embodied, pluralistic, nature-rooted and numinously effervescent. Whether we can term these various but related spiritual and religious traditions as pagan or nature religion or earthen religion or corpo-sacral understandings, they share a particular comprehension of the sacred that distinguishes them collectively from those expressions that conform more closely to the Abrahamic, dharmic and secular ideal-types. It is upon this foundation that dialogue within and between these related orientations might fruitfully occur.



Blain, Jenny and Robert Wallis. 2007. Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/Rights: Pagan Engagements with Archaeological Monuments. Eastbourne, UK / Portland, Oregon: Sussex Academic Press.

Bolen, Jean Shinoda. 1994. Crossing to Avalon: A Woman’s Midlife Pilgrimage. San Francisco: Harper.

Douglas, Mary. 1966. Purity and Danger, an Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. New York: Praeger.

Dumézil, Georges. 1970. Archaic Roman Religion, tr. Philip Krapp. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

Eliade, Mircea. 1972. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fontenrose, Joseph. 1959. Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Origins. Berkeley:
University of California Press.

Otto, Rudolf. 1958. The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the non-rational factor in the idea of the divine and its relation to the rational, Second Edition, 1950. Originally, Das Heilige (1917), translated by John W. Harvey in 1923. New York: Oxford University Press / Galaxy.

Pokorny, Julius. 1948-1969. Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Bern: Francke.

Smuts, Jan Christian. 1926. Holism and Evolution. London: Macmillan.

Watkins, Calvert. 2000. “Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans, Appendix I: Indo-European Roots.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin. Pp 2007-55.

York, Michael. 2003. Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion. New York: New York University Press.

“ 1995. The Divine versus the Asurian: An Interpretation of Indo-European Cult and Myth. Langham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.



[1] Dumézil (1970:129).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Otto (1958:41, 45f). Otto also says that “In the arts nearly everywhere the most effective means of representing the numinous is ‘the sublime’” (p. 65). See also, p. 17.

[4] Ibid. pp 19-23.

[5] Otto (1958:76).

[6] Douglas Harper’s Online Etymological Dictionary ( considers ‘subliminal’ to be “Apparently a loan-translation of Ger. unter der Schwelle (des Bewusstseins) ‘beneath the threshold (of consciousness)’, from Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841), author of a textbook on psychology published in 1824” (accessed 17 May 2008).

[7] Bolen (1994:118f) refers to the liminal as a “moment” in which the timeless and time, the visible and invisible, intersect.

[8] Fontenrose (1959:219). See also York (1995:231).