Inner Peace: Sacred mystery

One planet, one people, one family, by Sally McKirgan.
September 18, 2022

Declutch the grasping mind that needs a sense of certainty in the face of insecurity

By Edward Hirsch

The following is meant as a response to our times of divisiveness by dropping the usual social or political level to a more core philosophical and spiritual level.

The human condition is this paradox of Transcendence and Immanence, Formless and Form, Above and Below, and so on. This “paradox” can be felt as a problem, even a curse, or as a blessing. From an existential view, it can be felt as an unbearable dilemma or contradiction or, as in my view, what I call a Sacred Mystery.

Sometimes the Transcendence part is overdone to the point of even denying, rejecting, or overly controlling the Immanence. And sometimes the Transcendence part is denied as fantasy, escapism, or as patriarchal or hierarchical oppression. Surely, every shadow or extreme has been acted out in imbalance, and some would want to just want to be “ordinary” and just be oblivious of all these issues, as if they were mere irrelevant distractions from “just living.”

By Sacred Mystery, I would call people not to a doctrine, but precisely the opposite, to a sense of openness and reverence before the Mystery that cannot be confined within any doctrine. This doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all, it’s just that, while we can respect many views, we can also declutch the grasping mind that needs that sense of certainty in the face of insecurity and not knowing. By Sacred, I mean a sense of reverence before this awesome and precious happening that deserves our attention, that calls us as the calling of our own hearts.

By Mystery, I am referring to the sense of Prior Oneness of all Being as well as our sense of change and plurality. That plurality is not fracturing the Oneness but is a differentiation of that Oneness. We can call it illusion if we like — not in the sense of merely dismissing it, but as reminding us that it is not what it appears to be as merely separate. In relation to that Oneness, we can say that the plurality is mere modification of it, mere bubbles on the surface of an Infinite Ocean, and we can say that it is an expression, even a unique and precious expression of That. Why can’t we embrace the Mystery of both/and rather than feel we have to relate to these as really separate and opposing positions?

Relative to the Oneness, the plurality is often simplified or symbolized as Two, and this itself is expressed as Transcendence and Immanence, Above and Below, etc. It seems that this depiction of Two can be held as a rigid dualism of warring opposites, or as a polarity expressing the inner richness potential in the Oneness. The latter is more of what I mean to convey by Mystery and Sacred Mystery. Sacred, to me, also means that it is an expression of what could be called Divine Will, that is, a Divine Intention to express Itself, rather than a mere problem, mere illusion, or mistake.

I notice that in the three main religions of the West each has a symbol that is an expression of this Mystery. Judaism’s six-pointed star is an integration of two triangles, one pointing downward (“Below”) and one pointing upward (“Above”), in harmony rather than in dominance. Christianity’s cross shows the intersection of the horizontal (as Nature) and the vertical (as Spirit), with the intersection being the human that partakes of both. Islam’s Crescent and Star show what to me appear to symbolize something like the soul or human (like the moon that waxes and wanes in reflected light) and the Spirit (like the one-pointed star as if in the heavens).

If we set aside the doctrines and dogmas that have grown around these symbols, and have so often set the traditions against each other, we see different ways of symbolizing this basic Mystery of the human condition.

If we can honor the Mystery out of which all these (and all other) traditions arise, then we are dropping out of the field of dissension and conflict into a deeper openness. It is like dropping out of the dualistic mind into the Deep Heart, which I call the Spiritual Heart.

Edward Hirsch, M.A., teaches about the “Practice of Presence” at OLLI and offers free weekly Zoom meetings in the teachings and practices of Presence from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays on a drop-in basis (

Send 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Richard Carey (

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at
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