Cathedrals of the Spirit:
The Messages of Sacred Places

by T. C. McLuhan,
364 pages,
ISBN: 0060951192

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Brief Reviews
by M D

This book is a guide to "sacred places" throughout the world. The places in question are not, as one might at first assume, traditional religious sites, but are instead either natural wonders or primitive shrines (e.g., Stonehenge). The book combines soft-focus photographs of these places with remarks about "the sacred" by a wide variety of ancient and modern philosophers, artists, religious leaders, and so on. Its explicit aim is to help us regain wholeness through our experience of such places, to rediscover our lost origins, to reintroduce us to ourselves.

While this book suffers from a problem typical of books of its kind-the quotes that accompany its photographs are often torn from their context and the real views of, or divisions between the authors remain unexpressed and unexamined (it is hard to believe, for example, that the author of Revelation would have approved of the general aim of this project)-its main drawback is that Ms. McLuhan offers no account of how we have lost ourselves or why we need to regain wholeness, and hence of why we need this book. The reader is forced therefore to infer this from her introduction and the commentaries that accompany the photographs. And, as far as this reviewer can make out, reacquaintance with oneself means, paradoxically, a giving up of oneself, or of the hope that one might be able to work out "the mystery of existence" by means of rational thought or by embracing more traditional religious explanations. Instead, losing ourselves at the sacred site (Ms. McLuhan speaks approvingly of a Native American who says, "I am the Grand Canyon"), opening ourselves so that the sacred site chooses us (not the other way around), setting human consciousness free, and acknowledging the great mystery of life all come in for high praise. Exactly why we need to do these things, however, remains the real mystery of Cathedrals of the Spirit. Reintroduction to ourselves, if it is indeed necessary, requires a better introduction than this book.



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