We have had a great response to our call for locales spiritually meaningful to our readers. Here's a sampling of E-mails we've received:
I first saw Mount Shasta, a 14,295-foot, free-standing Cascade volcanic mountain in Northern California, in 1964 as my family was driving across the country. It took my breath away when it became visible from the highway. I sensed a tug that seemed to be the presence of God on that mountain. Being 15 at the time and even though we did not live in California, I told myself if I ever had a chance I would climb the mountain.
Our family moved to Sacramento in 1967, and then I made it my business to find a way to climb the mountain. I discovered that the local indigenous American Indians believed the mountain was sacred, and some local nonindigenous Americans thought there were legendary pygmies living on the mountain. I made serial attempts to climb the mountain with my son in the 1980s but because of weather conditions had to abort the ascent three times. Finally on the fourth try, we made it to the top and I did indeed feel as if we were at the foot of God on top of the mountain. We climbed it again a few years later. I felt each time as if we were on sacred ground while on the mountain; there is a special peace and majesty there.
Every time I see a picture or visit the base of the mountain, I smile,f because I know God is embodied in the mountain. Even though this defies logic, the feeling to me is quite special.
Now that you have devoted a special issue to "Sacred Places," how about giving equal treatment to the other side of the tale. Present a special issue that tells the true story of religions--that they developed in a time of human ignorance about the operation of the world, hence natural activities were attributed to supernatural beings.
It is disappointing that so many humans still attribute the universe to supernatural causes and do not accept that the universe operates under a basic set of physical, chemical, and biological laws. We may not yet understand all of those laws, but we know a vast amount more than did the people of 2,000 to 5,000 years in the past.
Religion may do some good things, but one only needs to look at the hatred in the world today to see where religion can take humanity.
William H. Bauer
My favorite spiritual refuge and source of tranquility is St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Mass., where I participate in a weekend retreat once a year. It is a Cistercian monastery in the tradition of such notable monks as Thomas Merton. The Benedictine rule of silence, the simplicity of monastic life, the atmosphere of utter reverence, the daily regimen of prayer accompanied by Gregorian Chant--all are conducive to the creation of a milieu of joy, hope, peace, and the kind of spirituality that makes it more possible to feel the presence of God and to discover God in our fellow man.
There is a giant oak tree that sits about 250 feet back from the shed where the Boston Symphony Orchestra plays during the summer at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass. The tree stands alone in the middle of a huge lawn. It is at least 200 years old and gnarled, yet utterly grand in its stature.
My family has had a home near Tanglewood for over 50 years. I came of age there, fishing with my father on the lake just below the grounds, listening idly to BSO members practicing in the neighborhood of unassuming cottages I lived in, watching as my parents went to and from hundreds of concerts, and basking in the power of the summer thunderstorms that would roll in like clockwork, in the late afternoon, nearly every day.
Every time I stand under that tree I find sanctuary. It makes no difference whether it is in July during the middle of a James Taylor concert populated by screaming fans or in icy February, when the grounds are deserted and the air is raw. When I am “with” that tree, I am happily alone and at peace. I am at home, as much as I ever hope to be.