The Enlightenment thinkers believed that if you could separate organised religion from the state, there would be no more wars. It was, MacGregor writes, to ignore a crucial element in the human psyche: the need to belong and to have a story, a narrative, not only as an individual but as a community, complete with legends and myths; and it was ever thus. At Göbekli Tepe in south-eastern Turkey, 6,000 years before Stonehenge was built, hunter-gatherers were already cooperating in the making of a shared site for religious ceremonies. It suggests, MacGregor notes, that “we lived with the gods before we lived at close quarters with each other”. Analysing, one by one, objects from every corner of the world and every moment in history, he describes the way that humans have used places, as well as objects that can be touched and felt, to make connections with the divine. It is this interweaving of history and the links between time and place that make his book so enjoyable and so impressive.
Every so often, after the public has left, the cleaners in the British Museum come across little offerings laid at the foot of statues, most often Hindu ones. The cases of exhibits themselves are full of these propitiating gifts, whether in clay, silver, gold, wax or metal. A 19th-century Japanese picture of a shrine, found in an agricultural community, has a pedestal, decorated with three foxes; visitors to the shrine regularly brought tofu with which to feed them. In the north of what is now Colombia, the Muisca, who lived between 600 and the 1530s, were skilled gold makers, to judge by a rare piece that has survived. Having made their delicate, exquisite objects, they threw them into a lake as offerings to the gods, to ensure a peaceful equilibrium between heaven and earth. It took the arrival of Europeans, who dredged the lake and plundered everything they found, to put an end to such gracious selflessness.
As a bee seeks nectar from all kinds of flowers, seek teachings everywhere. Like a deer that finds a quiet place to graze, seek seclusion to digest all that you have gathered. Like a mad one beyond all limits, go where you please and live like a lion, completely free of all fear.
Divine music is a curative virtue; it is a gift from God that brings healing and comfort to the soul. This music can uplift one’s spirit up to a higher dimension of being that is filled with peace and joy. Divine music is the sound of true life, wisdom, and bliss. This music transcends geographical boundaries, language barriers, age factors; and whether educated or uneducated, it reaches deep into the heart and soul, sacred and holy, like an Infinite sound of glory entering the Lord’s sanctuary.