Last week I was touring the East Coast with my alt-country side project The Flutterbies. One of our shows was at a church in Dover, DE. The chapel was beautiful: stained glass, vaulted ceilings, dark wood pews. And the acoustics in the space were ideal; the natural reverb was lush and gorgeous.
Down the center aisle was a Steinway full grand piano, perfectly tuned and balanced. I sat and played an hour before our gig, reveling in the vibrations, resonant and lovely. During our set, I sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in that ambient sanctuary and I literally felt God. It may have been my most sublime artistic moment.
Since that evening, I’ve been thinking a lot about sacred spaces. Churches, temples, and shrines all seem to have the same effect on me: as soon as I step inside I feel reverent, humble, and inspired.
What is it about these places that moves me this way? What residue lingers in the air after years of prayer and devotion, hallowing a physical space, making it what Celtic Christians used to call a “thin place,” an area where the barrier between the secular and sacred becomes permeable?
What makes a place tangibly holy, and could there even be a scientific explanation for it?
Turns out, there may be.
Some quantum physicists believe we move in a field of subtle energy, much like fish swim in water. This energy sea underlies our physical universe; it’s so fundamental we can only perceive it indirectly. The implications are intriguing… Imagine a ship on the ocean; it leaves waves behind as it travels. For as long as these waves churn before they dissipate, the surface of the sea becomes a recording of the ship’s presence and motion. Analyzing the wave patterns we can tell where the ship was, what direction it was moving, and possibly even how massive it is.
The energy sea in which we live is like an ocean, except unlike water, physicists theorize it’s superfluid. This means it’s a medium with no viscosity, no friction, so waves moving within it never dissipate! The field of energy in which we live may thus be a permanent recording of universal events. The cosmos may literally have a memory.
So what does this have to do with thin places? Like any activity, religious ritual surely makes waves in the energy field underlying a sacred sight. Maybe years of repeated reverence cause more and more waves to layer and interweave into a thick tapestry of spiritually-inspired quantum energy. And maybe this energy, when repitition makes it grow sufficiently dense, becomes physically perceivable, if only subtly.
If this is true, I wonder if repeated events in any location cause it to become full with energetic memories. Perhaps thin places don’t have to be only spiritual. They could also be secular: childhood bedrooms, beloved gardens, concert stages, etc.
Do you have a thin place—somewhere you feel timeless, connected to powers greater than yourself?