What level of encryption is required to preserve a sacred space?

Stephen MarshMormon 13 Comments

One of my grandfather’s hobbies was the study of ancient mystery religions, especially Eleusis and Eleusinian Mysteries.  One thing that was striking in reading his work was how much we don’t know.  The rites continued for thousands of years, but the initiates kept confidences.  They abided the social covenant [http://adrr.com/adr2/ethics2.htm].  The same is true of the sacred mysteries of the early Christian Church which were completely lost by the third century A.D. or so.

Myself, I’ve had an interest in modern mystery religions and paths of sudden enlightenment.  Some, like Primal Scream, are open.  Some, like EST, are closed.  A striking feature of many is the complete willingness of anthropologists studying them to complete disregard any interest the participants have in preserving the confidence that is part of a sacred space.

Of course their motives are pure.  They say so.  They take all the benefits, others experience all of the costs.  What other measure is there of pure motives.

Not to mention, what seemed like a hobby that crossed generations and brought me a sense of being closer to an estranged grandfather, now makes me feel like a voyeur, at least in the modern era.  Especially as I have my own sacred spaces I would like preserved.

I know, that is a long introduction to the question:  what level of encryption is required to preserve a sacred space?  With temple dedications, the parameters of the sacred are wide.  They are recorded and thereafter freely available, so there is no confidentiality expected.  They are sometimes broadcast, so they are not limited in space.  But the broadcasts are encrypted to preserve the nature of the sacred space while the dedication service is ongoing.

So what does it take to preserve a sacred space, and when are our motives pure in the violations of the sacred spaces of others?  What about the nature of the loss when the knowledge passes?  Nibley preserved the confidences of the Hopi sacred spaces, but his knowledge of those sacred spaces died with him.  Does that matter?  Are we better off with tatters of knowledge of a tradition that has suffered a break in transmission than we would have been with a complete knowledge gained forty to fifty years ago when the preservers of the tradition were still vital and able to discuss its depths and intricacies with a scholar?  How does that reflect on our own sacred spaces?

What level of encryption is required to preserve a sacred space?

Comments 13

  1. That’s interesting. It makes me think of two things (that don’t necessarily answer your question). First, I remember when I was young, and I first learned about the Egyptian pyramids. The Egyptians believed that the pyramids would aid their journey to the next life, and that they were sacred, in essence. And we break them open and show them to the world, and King Tut is on tour. And that’s okay because… we know their religion is wrong? I thought that was strange when I was young. We only have to respect the religion of living people.

    Secondly, it reminds me of a song I once heard… “Song for a Dead Friend” by an amazing musician named Kevin Gilbert. He wrote this song for an old friend who had committed suicide… and it’s full of inside jokes, and little secrets the two people shared together. I almost felt incredibly guilty for listening. It was a song FOR his dead friend, and I felt no right to listen to the lyrics.

    I guess I’m just all for preserving the sacred.

  2. That’s a good question and I will need to think about it. On one level I believe that whet is required is that the religious societies who own these places work with those wanting to “explore”.

    For example. if a university wanted to study the Mountain Meadows Massacre, probably a place we we don’t want fooled around with, we should let them, in my opinion, we should require them to work very closely with us.

    As for those societies where they are all dead? Well, that is tough again but it some sense I would think they would want at least someone to know about them so that their traditions are not completely lost. The Hopi may actually find it unfortunate that Nibley did didn’t confide their secrets in at least one trusting individual to keep thier tradition alive.

  3. “The same is true of the sacred mysteries of the early Christian Church which were completely lost by the third century A.D. or so.” Huh?

  4. Post

    c.biden — The early Christian Church had mysteries, rituals and sacred rites, that are well acknowledged to have been lost. The Gnostics were pretenders to possession of same.

    Of course the LDS Church claims to have restored them.

  5. As with the question, “What level of encryption is required to preserve *anything*?” I think the answer is: there is no level that will preserve everything.

    The fact is that with any sacred space, there will be those who find openness and dissemination more sacred than the privacy. Add the internet and all bets are off.

  6. Post

    LDS guy, 128 bit is probably more than enough since the preservation is only temporary and symbolic. Good point.

    For a nice example, http://www.gnosis.org/library/pistis-sophia/ps103.htm

    And those of the whole region of the space of that Ineffable give no answers in that region, nor give they apologies, nor give they tokens, for they are without tokens and they have no receivers, but they pass through all the regions, until they come to the region of the kingdom of the mystery which they have received.

    “In like manner also those who shall receive mysteries in the second space, they have no answers nor apologies, for they are without tokens in that world, which is the space of the first mystery of the First Mystery.

    “And those of the third space, which is without, which is the third space from without [? within],–every region in that space hath |243. its receivers and its explanations and its apologies and its tokens, which I will one day tell you when I come to speak of that mystery, that is when I shall have told you of the expansion of the universe.

    I’d then suggest MacRae (e.g. mi.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=64 — lets see if that will get past the spam filters which block more than one url per post).

    A good search term for more is “disciplina arcani” or “disciplina arcana”

    Well acknowledged, with disagreement about what it means.

    e.g. (from Wiki)

    It is characteristic of the disciplina that the subject of the silence was not the dogma and the sacramental gift, but the elements and the ritual performance.[6] Origen, in Contra Celsum, argues that it is the doctrine of the Christians, and not only their rites, which should be secret in character.[7] Even if the elements of ritual performance, such as missa fidelium and other Christian rites were under the disciplina arcani during the early stages of Christianity, (especially during the III-IV century), nobody at the present time can definitively state which other subjects comprised the disciplina. Indeed, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, St. Basil, St. Ambrose of Milan and many other Church Fathers of early Christianity mention an “oral tradition,” as in St. Basil’s appeal to the “unwritten tradition” in de Spiritu Sancto:

    “Of the dogmata and kerygmata, which are kept in the Church, we have some from the written teaching (εκ της εγγραφου διδασκαλιας), and some we derive from the Apostolic tradition, which had been handed down en mistirio (εν μυστηριω). And both have the same strength (την αυτην ισχυν) in the matters of piety. […] They come from the silent and mystical tradition, from the unpublic and ineffable teaching”.[8]

    Andrew, the rites themselves are not well acknowledged, just that they were kept as mysteries and an accurate form of them can not be assured (Origin even writes about it). Lots of disagreement of just what was going on, many questions. To say “we lost sure knowledge of which rites and how they were performed” is not to say “we agree on what the rites are or were.”

    Hope that clarifies things.

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