Posted by: shawnjohnston | November 1, 2007

Gnosis, Sacred Space and the Kingdom of Heaven

The word “sacred” is derived from the Latin sacrare, which means, “to make sacred, consecrate.” The word “space” is derived from the Latin spatium, which means “room, area, distance, stretch of time.” So Sacred Space could be defined as a consecrated or holy area, distance or time. This definition could be taken in many different ways. The most common application of the term is in an area that is set aside specifically for rituals or moments of a specific spiritual or holy nature. A church or altars are good examples of this.

When each of us attempts to live a spiritual way of life, it is common and in some ways necessary to create a stretch of time that is dedicated to holy or sacred endeavors, which usually include contemplation, meditation and/or prayer. This often naturally dovetails with the setting aside of a specific place in one’s home or in going to a specific location to perform these things. So a Sacred Space can be both a physical space and an appointed time frame both of which contain this activity of a spiritual practice.

As one’s spiritual practice gains maturity with practice and dedication, you can begin to discern a mindset or “state of being” that will come over you during this allotted time and often can become attached to this place. It is possible to sit or reside within this space outside of the usual time of your practice and feel something of that state of being within it. It can include feelings of peace and wellbeing, of calmness and compassion. So as we move forward with our practice what was once only a physical space or an allotted time, is now burgeoning into a state of being, or “feeling”.

In the Scripture, Jesus has a name for this, the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. In
Luke 17:20-22 it says:

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”

Thomas 3 and 113 has this to say:

Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

His disciples said to him, “When will the kingdom come?” “It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’ Rather, the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.”

The Kingdom is not a physical place but indicative of an interior landscape. Just as our own spiritual practice becomes mature and it is no longer the actual space or time, but an interior reality that has blossomed within us, so to is it with the Kingdom. We become the Kingdom and possibly more profoundly; we realize that we always were the Kingdom. It is through this way of seeing what is before us, through the lens of God’s love, our inherent connection to the Mystery and knowledge of the Heart, that the Kingdom becomes a reality, not by “careful observation” or by “watching for it”.

The Kingdom can be understood as a state of being or a way of perceiving that gains us access to God and allows us to re-unite with Him in wholeness, and also AS that state of wholeness. It would not be worthwhile to understand it as being a physical place. The Nag Hammadi tells us in several places that the Kingdom is not a place we can see or go to, but a reality we can perceive if we wish to do so. So to does the Bible though perhaps somewhat more obliquely.

When understood from this vantage point, we can begin to gain an understanding of the somewhat hidden nature of gnosis. Gnosis is not (or is rarely so) an “Event Horizon” with its world shattering implications. It is little different from the state of mindfulness described by the Zen Buddhists. We practice gnosis every day in the things we do, say, think and act on. Gnosis is a state of mind, a way of living or attempting to live with a unitive understanding of the people and things around us. Gnosis is peace, compassion, kindness, and love.

Every step we take can be an act of worship, mindful of the impossible gift being conscious of that step is, and the obligation every step and every action we take carries and the responsibility we have to those around us. Being better or less than someone else is an illusion. There is no better. There is no less. There just is.

If we can practice in this way, then we live is such a way that gnosis is every step, every word, every emotion. The Kingdom is here with us now and with it the ability to understand and partake in the sacredness of the mundane, in the holiness of the moment. Each of us is a conduit, a doorway by which the Divine can participate in His creation. When we see this and embrace it through gnosis, we enter the Kingdom, we become the Kingdom and we ourselves become a Sacred Space. They are all different facets of the same gem, different shades of the same Light.


  1. Well Shawn, You did it…you “hooked me” with the excellent summary of this post that you placed on the PTG. I just had to “check out” your website after that (this) insightful post.

  2. hi Shawn.

    i enjoyed reading this post and gleaned much from it. all of the best as you travel your new path, having recently decided not to travel further towards ordination at this time.

    here’s to the hidden purposes of G-d and the joy of dis-covery.

    go well meantime.


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