Back to Home Page or Contents Page or Past and present beliefs or Index
by Alan G. Hefner and Dan Arnold
Numinosity is the relationship between other people, places, and things and the individual. This concept seems to be the combination of the words numen and numinous. Numen* is defined as a spiritual force or influence that is often identified with a natural place, phenomenon, or object. Whereas numinous* is described as supernatural and mysterious; filled with a sense of the presence of divinity (holy); appealing to the higher emotions or the aesthetic sense (spiritual). Therefore, after objects or things have acquired, or been given, an emotional or spiritual force they have obtained numinosity toward the individual or people. (*From Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary/Thesaurus [computer program])
Without numinosity things and other persons remain mere images to the individual because there is no psychic energy exchanged; that is, the individual feels no emotional attachment. The lack of numinosity in many lives of contemporary society is the result of the scientific understanding of things. Currently most things, including people, are described in scientific terms, which have dehumanized the individual.
One of the products of this dehumanization process has been the elimination of connections, particularly instinctual connections, between persons and things. A majority of the civilized world has started regarding things, even animals and plants, as possessions or objects. Little, if any, thought or feeling is given to the existence of these things or objects. This feeling of carelessness has become so persuasive that it has spilled over into man's relationships with his fellow human beings.
Although many feel they have lost something within their lives, they do not know the exact nature of their loss. Increasingly more people are recognizing that they are losing their spirituality, and this is the reason for their dehumanization. Their recognition was not aided by their orthodox spiritual leaders, those who were more interested in maintaining their institutions than the sacred meaning that they stood for, but rather by probing deeply within themselves with the help of others who also came to this recognition.
Their probing not only centered on themselves but also on their ancient history. For some their search for what they had lost within their lives led into the history and ways of their ancestors; ways that many had been told were wrong or evil. It was discovered ancient people did not think of the earth just as dried, inhuman matter, but as a living entity that they respected and called Mother Earth. For the ancient people, Earth was their mother with whom they were emotionally attached to. The people knew she took care of them and they took care of her. They felt that they came from her and called her Mother Nature. Mother nature was not just an image then as she is to many in our current world. No, she was spoken to and revered just as a human mother would be. And, some even called her Mother Goddess.
In ancient, and more recent, times Earth was thought of and identified as a spiritual entity. Everything was believed to have come from this entity, which was worshiped as the Divine, or the Divine principle. This principle was within everything that it had created or bore, which included the universe, earth, and all things within. Early people felt no isolation from the cosmos as many feel today; no, they felt emotionally tied to the cosmos and everything within. Their existence as well as the existence of the universe, earth, and everything within was considered sacred because it all had come from the Divine.
It is thought this Divine spirit was called mother at first, then later father, but to those truly worshipping this spirit gender made little difference; they were worshipping the Creator spirit with whom they communed. This was a time when the sound of thunder was a voice of an angry god, and a bolt of lightning his missile; rivers contained spirits as did forests and meadows; trees were sharing the life principle withss man; the snake was the embodiment of wisdom; a mountain cave might be the home of a great demon, and people thought of stones, plants and animals as living things from which they heard voices talking to them.
Many think such times of enchantment are gone forever, and the sad part is that many do not care. They apparently seem satisfied with their scientific and sophisticated attitudes. Many classify and explain everything in cold calculated terms and feel mastery within their separate selves. Still, at times, they seem to question what is wrong with the world.
Others who have studied the ancient ways and helped to give birth to them again will gladly tell these people what the wrong is. They would tell them that the world is still mystical. The people who have returned to, or revived, the ancient ways would say that there is still a strong, emotional bond between Nature and her children. These people have rediscovered the sacred rituals, secret formulas, and many others things that once came out of the primeval forest to give life to the world. Simply, what these mystical ties compose is the numinosity between the world, its parts, and the individual, all things becoming inclusive and alive.
Jung, Carl G.Man and his Symbols.Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1964. pp. 94-96