Sacred Time

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SACRED TIME . Pichugi having just given birth, Chachugi prepared his bow for the hunt. Like all Guayaki men, Chachugi was a hunter, but that was not why he headed into the forest on this cold morning in 1963. As father of the child, he had to go hunting because Pichugi, "letting fall" this new life, had made him bayja, one who attracts living creatures. It was a dangerous state, bayja, but a propitious and sacred time. Dangerous, because if he failed to return today with the prey for which man and jaguar always competed, he was most at risk of becoming the prey of jaguar. Propitious, because animals would be drawn to him despite the cold, leaping into the arc of his arrows. Sacred, because bayja and the hunt were as much a part of the ritual of birth as the taking of a bamboo knife to the umbilical cord and the lifting up of the infant from the cold earth to the warmth of a human breast. Walking into the Paraguayan forest, Chachugi knew that he had to recompose his own life in the wake of the birth of another. "In reality," observed the anthropologist Pierre Clastres in his Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians (1998, p. 37), Chachugi was "walking ahead of himself, in quest of his own self, his own substance."

In 1881, a man wrote to the Christian Neighbor of South Carolina in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of his silver watch, a watch so thick some called it a turnip. The turnip had been faithful to him, and he in turn was faithful to the turnip, which he would never exchange for some thin modern gold watch. "When I do, you may set me down for a barbarian! Not the best gold and jewelled 'Hunter' in existence would tempt me to swap. That watch marked the time when my children were born, and the record is set down in the family Bible." The ticking turnip had taken his family through births and illnesses, had "marked the time when the doctor's medicines were to be given," and had intimated at what lay beyond death and the "many records that are fast sealed up, to be opened only when another time comes." Mark M. Smith, who happened upon this letter while writing Mastered by the Clock (1997, p. 51), adds that African Americans of the same era placed clocks in their burial grounds, clocks that had been stopped at death, as former slave Elizabeth Bunts explained (p. 147): "I would not stay in a house that would not stop the clock the minute the person dies, for every minute that clock runs takes the soul that much longer to cross the valley of the shadow of death alone, and if the clock is stopped he makes the crossing swiftly and unafraid."

When Jesuit missionaries brought European clocks to China in the seventeenth century, the mandarins were impressed by the intricate mechanisms but unmoved by the tightly wound chronology that came attached. As Erik Zürcher notes in Time and Space in Chinese Culture (1995, pp. 148149), the Christian arithmetic of time seemed unwarrantably narrow to the more expansive Chinese. "Saying that 7000 years ago there was no world amounts to saying that there is a today but not a yesterday," argued the lay Buddhist scholar Hsü Ta-shou, skeptical of a Creation dated no farther back than biblical genealogies would allow, while his fellow Buddhists operated comfortably within a cosmology that extended across millions of years. "They only [use such a story] to intimidate the ignorant rabble, calling [the act of Creation] something 'beyond human imagination'but this is like telling young children that there is a ghost in a dark room."

A ghost in a dark room: Not only is time differently experienced within and across religious traditions, it is also differently conceived and formatted. These differences, debated openly within traditions and operating tacitly at crossroads between traditions, reflect the richness of the human architecture of time. If by sacred is meant that which marks or secures a connection with what lasts beyond an individual life and manifests powers beyond human agency, there is no equally brief synopsis of time, a subject that engages physicists and philosophers, novelists and neurobiologists, historians and theologians, economists and environmentalists, poets and prophets. The conjoining of time with the sacred is especially contested because much about being humanpossibility and purpose, faithfulness and forgetting, nostalgia and regret, mortality and immortalityis at stake. In order to make clear the salience and liveliness of a topic that could seem forbiddingly abstruse, it is best to begin with a review of different senses of sacred time, breaking from encyclopedic formality into a style that embodies the heat and heart of those differences.

Sharing in the Conversation

Here then are a dozen definitions, in the colloquial, with brief examples.

1. Time itself is sacred

All time is sacred time, there's not a minute to waste, make the seconds count. Each moment must be cherished, for life is a precarious gift.

So medieval Roman Catholic bishops decried the lending of money at daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly interest rates, since those who profited from loans were poaching on God's gift, the time of our lives; so the early Muslim scholar and ascetic Hasan al-Basri wrote, "There is not a single day which is ushered in by its morning twilight except it calls out, 'O son of Adam! I am a new creature, and I am a witness over your deeds. Therefore take your provision out of me, for if I pass away, I shall not recur to the Day of Resur-rection.'"

2. The sacred must be timeless

Since what's sacred must be what's true and what's true must be unchanging, only what stands apart from time can be truly sacred. There's no such thing as sacred time. There's a sacred timelessness of which we all have inklings, but time drags everyone into the muck of the profane: age, accidents, illness, nightmares, loss, death, decay. Don't confuse the hours you spend at prayer, meditation, or confession with sacred time; those are just hours spent in pursuit, honor, or awe of something eternal that's never within reach. Eternal is what we aren't; you and I, we're bastards of time, and time, to be blunt, is trauma.

So the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (19081961) backed into a discussion of time in his Phenomenology of Perception through the experience of the phantom limb, an amputee's continuing trauma of presence-in-absence; so early Daoists struggled with the paradox of a cosmos whose origins lay in chaos, hun-tun, and whose nature was infinitely chaotic, but which amounted at last to something more revealing than confusion, so long as, according to the Zhuangzi, "The sage steers by the touch of chaos and doubt"; so the Christian theologian Origen (c.185c.245), calling time a natural reality, resisted any imputation of sacredness to time.

3. Sacred time is the experience of the transcendent

A belief in some sort of soulfulness can be found nearly everywhere on the globe, and with it a conviction of times of transcendence. Sacred time must be that time during which people experience their lives as unbounded: during which they commune with ancestors or other worlds; during which they are alert to voices and figures that call and dance beyond our human confines; during which they learn how they too can escape those confines.

So, in the throes of divine possession among the Dan-hom of West Africa, Brazilian Candomblé, and Caribbean vodou, worshippers petition Legba, spirit of the open and unforeseeable, to refrain from interrupting, but Legba's help must also be solicited as translator of messages from other gods, for transcendence is as tricky as it is thrilling; so English Quakers of the late seventeenth century, German Pietists of the eighteenth century, and North American Swedenborgians and Spiritualists of the nineteenth century developed rules of discernment by which to know what voices were speaking to or through them, what was inspiration and what was aspiration.

4. Sacred time is ritual time

We're all mortal and vulnerable, and unless we're saints we can't go around all day feeling transcendent. If the sacred has to do only with the unbounded, then it's sheer escapism. Most days are going to be humdrum, that's just how it is. The sacred is the ordinary lifted into the extraordinary, which makes for a democracy of inspiration. Birth, puberty, coupling, death, those are the transfiguring times that everyone shares, and each society creates rituals around them, and also for such significant recurring events as new moons, solstices, first rains, first fruits.

So, in the uncreated, vast but finite universe contemplated by the Jaina community of mendicant teacher-ascetics and lay followers, for whom the soul is reborn in a succession of bodies bound by the karma of past deeds and the state of mind at the instant of death, Jains perform a funeral ritual in which a new body is shaped out of symbolic balls of rice that stand as guarantors of a swift and positive reincarnation for the departing soul, lest it be stuck in a sacred limbo.

5. Sacred time is epiphanous

It seems oxymoronic to rely upon a regular series of rituals to invite the extraordinary. Rather than exalting repetition, shouldn't sacred time be the time that I hold dear precisely because it surprises me, yielding sudden revelations? Sacred time should be like a bolt of lightning, a moment that I keep holy through an ongoing archive of those rare and astonishing insights by which I have come to know myself more acutely in this world.

So the ninth-century Persian ūfī, Sahl At-Tustarī, had theophanies, pre-visions of Allah, consistent with a theology that saw life unfolding as an unbroken series of instantaneous, divinely-sustained events; so among the Campa of Peru and the Waiwai of the Brazilian Amazon, it is through song and music, at once ephemeral and memorable, that the sacred enters the world of mortals.

6. Time becomes sacred through neural patterning

If the sacred is worth its salt, it has to be about more than suddenness and the self. Listen instead to cognitive scientists, who tell us that humans are hard-wired to notice quantity, periodicity, and causality. Time as before/after and time as repetition are built into our brains, hence into philosophy and theology. Is the sacred built in too? Well, we are also wired to locate patterns in our environment. Let's hypothesize that the sacred is basically an antique expression of the inborn conviction that everything we encounter is ultimately assimilable to an overarching pattern. Sacred time, then, may simply be the moment of the discovery or confirmation of such a pattern, when opiates are released in our brains and we enjoy what we call an "otherworldly" satisfaction.

So, argued the neurophilosopher Paul Churchland in The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul (1995, pp. 1718), the doctrine that human cognition resides in an immaterial soul or mind looks, "to put if frankly, like just another myth, false not just at the edges, but to the core," but in the crafting of "a proper theory of brain function" he hoped for a conceptual revolution that would "allow us to achieve a still higher level of moral insight and mutual care."

7. Sacred time is sacred because unique and inexplicable

What hubris, to think that sacred time is just a field of synapses sparkling with chemically bonded ecstasy! It has to be clear to the most bleary-eyed neuroanatomist that experiences of sacred time are triggered by what is not assimilable to, or which exceeds our capacity for, pattern. Even should we accept the materialist slant of neurobiology, there is little evidence that our opiate receptors are more indulged by perceptions of pattern than by delightful encounters with the new and unique. Scientists themselves relish anomaly; grand patterns are usually the projects of paranoiacs and megalomaniacs. The sacred need be neither surprising nor instantaneous; it must, like the best art, be irreproducible. Sacred time is misunderstood because by nature it's indefinable and, like any unique event, can be approached only by way of inadequate analogy. Trying to explain sacred time head-on is liking trying to explain to inveterate gamblers why odds of a trillion-to-one make it unlikely that they will be the one.

So in Chinese and Japanese Chan (Zen) Buddhism, masters and students approach revelation obliquely, their sacred time spent "sitting straight, without any thought of acquisition, without any sense of achieving enlightenment" (from the thirteenth-century conversations of Dōgen, recorded by his disciple Ejō in the Shōbū genzō zuimonki, pp. 9899). In this way they prepare for the puzzle of a koan which liberates the mind from time-bound logic, as in this eleventh-century verse appended to The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang by Master Fo-Jih Ta-Hui:

The Birthless is basically wordless;
To speak is to fall into words.
Kindred gather in a happy family circle;
A tiger watches the water-mill turn.

8. Sacred time is divine time

The problem with gamblers and riddlers is that they mystify the accidents of chance and personalize fortune, which leads to mystifying and personalizing everything unique and inexplicable. But the unique and inexplicable, that's the divine, and the divine, though manifested as miracle or marvel, is hardly mystifying and never exclusive to an individual. Ditto for sacred time: it's simply the time instituted for us all by the divine, intervals during which we are enabled and inspired. It's forgivable that people confuse the time they make for the sacred with the time the divine has made for them; it's reprehensible to forget that our lives and times are always at the pleasure of the divine.

So after six days of offering tributes at the temples, "On the Seventh day as the sun declines the day is desacralized; at sunset the king is desacralized," according to Ugaritic Instructions for the Ritual Calendar of the Month of Vintage (15001200 bce), as translated by Nick Wyatt (1998, p. 354). "Seven times, with all his heart, the king shall speak: As the sun declines the day is desacralized, at sunset the king is desacralized. Then they shall array him in fine clothes and shall wash his face. They shall return him to his palace, and when he is there, he shall raise his hands to heaven."

9. Sacred time is cosmic

Beware turning sacred time into stultifying obligation or authoritarian imposition, in much the same fashion as secular society, making time machinable and merchandisable, poisons the gift of time by turning it into chores and stock futures. There has to be an appreciable gravity to sacred time that makes it worthy, comprehensible, and memorable. Sacred time must be that time during which people individually and collectively bear the weight and fate of the cosmos. Neither that weight nor that fate can be long sustained by any one person; it must therefore be presented within a sacred theater of sacrifice and renewal, atonement and attunement, that is undeniably momentous. Each of us, for the well-being of the planet and our posterity, needs to bear the weight and fate of the cosmos, if only for the briefest moment, for in that moment we learn what the universe requires of us lifelong.

So Hindi men and women throughout northern India at the end of the rainy season move back and forth between participation and spectatorship in the epic play cycle of the Ramlila, lasting some places as long as thirty days, reenacting the life of the god Rāma, his victory over the demon king Rāvaa and his shattering of the great cosmic bow of Śiva, the god of devouring time; so the Mayan ball games with their deadly ritual replay of the motions of the heavens, and so the human sacrifices on the Mexica (Aztec) pyramids, where the years were bound together in spirals of death and rebirth that encompassed people, plants, cities, kings, and the gods themselves, eaten up by time.

10. Sacred time is time out

Must we resort to grandiloquence or terror to prevent sacred time from being cheapened? If we all had to wait upon a cosmic connection to claim sacred time, this entire entry might as well be blank. That's not a bad idea. What's sacred about sacred time is that it's set aside from our usual course. It can be a time of rest or ecstasy, of silence or drumming, of solitude or communion, as long as its rhythm is unusual and it alludes to forces that ride above everyday turmoil. Other definitions suffer from a subtle arrogance with regard to the sacred or to time, as if we humans had a hand in running the universe. All we have it in our hands to do, now and then, is to pause, dedicating those pauses to something beyond the immediate.

So Plato in his Laws called a religious holiday an anapaula, a breathing space, and whether as a Sabbath, a carnival, a festival, a jubilee, or days added at the end of the year to keep a calendar aligned with the seasons, most cultures recognize a time out; so, warned Gary Eberle more than two millennia later in Sacred Time and the Search for Meaning (2003, p. xiii), when we don't do justice to a sabbatical, we end up in an impermanent world, "untouched by anything we might call eternity." Whoso would know sacred time, let them stop counting the hours.

11. Sacred time is spiritually receptive time

An aphorism whose latitude erodes its attitude. Leisure time should not be mistaken for sacred time, lest the supramundane become another species of the mundane. Those who take time out to meditate, to go on pilgrimage, to fast and contemplate, or to study scripture put themselves in a receptive frame of mind, a heightened attention that has nothing in common with idle relaxation. Released from the daily grind, one ignores the pricklings of the personal in order to support profound insights.

So the Jewish qabbalist Moses ben Jacob Cordovero of sixteenth-century Safed wrote in his Or Neʾerav : "the time that is most conducive to understand matters in depth is during the long nights, after midnight; or on the Sabbath, for the Sabbath itself lends predisposition to it; and similarly on the eve of the Sabbath, commencing after midnight"; so Shintō ceremonies incorporate the Japanese principle of ma, interval, which opens up time as well as space, allowing for the entrance of spirits on which the worshipper waits with expectant stillness.

12. Experiencing the sacred, time is discovered to be an illusion

You have to realize that the closer you come to the sacred, the weaker is time's grip on you, until at last time is totally unhinged, since it is a vise of your own making with nothing absolute about it. A better aphorism might be: Sacred time is what you make of time when time is made out to be none of your own. Once you get beyond your attachments to this world, time no longer has any attachment to you, and the illusion drops away.

So in the Yoga Vāsiha, one Hindu philosophical school argues from the relativity of timehow, according to one's mental state, an instant may feel like an eon or vice versathat the object of yogic practices is to get beyond the conceit of time, at best a vehicle for reincarnation, at worst a self-deception; so Buddhists of the Śānyavāda school insist that time is merely a set of subjective conventions, and the wheel of time, the kālachakra, at best a teaching tool, at worst a prison.

Getting Serious

There's a deadline for this essay, and that's no illusion, so I'd better get cracking. But that very "get cracking" has been at the crux of the debate over sacred time between Aristotle and Augustine, the former certain of the reality of time as a measure of motion and substrate of potentiality, the latter uncertain of its reality, given the flickering of human horizons and the frailty of human comprehension. For both of them, though, sacred time is the bottom line.

Learning What's at Stake

Drama inheres in beginnings and endings. What lies between is as much the province of Sacred Time as creation or conclusion, and what is thought to lie before or beyond (the Uncreated, the Prime Mover, Eternity, the Infinite) works in tandem with each calculus of the quotidian. How religions handle the less climactic intervals is key to the spiritual framing of that ongoing dailiness by which human life is ordinarily lived.

If time has to do with instantiation, duration, sequence, causality, and change, then sacred time has to do with the implicit issues that make time of particular moment: presence, continuity, consequence, story, and transformation. Variably fraught and freighted, these issues may be expressed at a personal level in terms of self-identity, trust, generational bonds, memory, and hope. Either way, time is fully implicated in notions and experiences of the sacred, whether time is depicted as the primal ground of being or as the presiding force that sustains and destroys each world; as that which is set in motion through a cosmic act of sacrifice or as that which must be overcome on the path to enlightenment; as the slow revealer of truth, which must withstand all storms, or as the swiftness of revelation, which proves itself by the very storm of its truth; as the implacable enemy of all illusions, eroding all disguises, or as the archetypal illusion.

Without time in its manifold senses, the experience of the sacred would lack a sense of occasion (timing), urgency (timeliness), momentum (time-after-time), resolution (time-fullness) or relief (timelessness). The secular world, of course, may also be driven by time to such an extent that people of no avowed faith upbraid themselves for "worshipping the clock" and efficiency experts, bankers, taxi dispatchers, journalists, and air traffic controllers unite in a secular priesthood of timekeepers, but these are customs and clerisies of the immediate, where time "saved" is hardly, in the long run, redemptive. Those who deal in the long runastronomers, mythographers, folksingers, tombstone carversowe their professions rather to religion, to stories of cosmic origin and evolution by which time is installed in the sacred and the sacred instilled with time.

Folded into cosmology, rituals of renewal, calendars of festivals, images of a future state heavenly or hellish, time becomes sacred. This at least would be the weak explanation, granting time and the sacred separate tracks with culturally variable crossings. A stronger claim would be that time makes the sacred possible, since without it believers would be at a loss to embrace the holy in past, present, future, memory or dream. The counterclaim here would be that the sacred is time's contractor, and that it is the first job of every religion and spiritual tradition to enable time. The strongest claim would be that time and the sacred are congenital, given that humans are temporal beings whose humanity is manifested through an intrinsic awareness of mortality and an intrinsic desire to bridge each mortal span. The strongest counterclaim would be that time and the sacred are accidental categories that obscure the ultimate insignificance of human life, the realization of which can be the only respite from suffering.

The stronger claims, speculative though they may seem, have exercised many a theologian and religious philosopher, since agreement on sacred time appears to be vital to the conduct of ceremonies and refinement of liturgies that hold communities together through the years. Even for those who do not bundle time into neat parcels of past, present, and future, or whose sagas swallow the eons in great gulps, sacred time must still be reckoned, and reckoned with. Although the Ainu off the coast of Northeast Asia told no tales of the future and counted their present not by years or months but by two irregular seasons and the daily barking of sled dogs at dawn, noon, and dusk, yet (through at least the 1960s) they understood the winter, the morning, and the first half of each lunar period as times for prayer, contact with good spirits, ceremonies for the bear, and mediations with the goddess of the moon.

Exploring Possibilities

In general, each religious group determines the borders and meanings of night and day, the seasons, childhood and adulthood, life and death. Each group then establishes nodes of tension and relaxation along these divides, such that the quotidian round is structured through periods of preparation, consummation, and relaxation whose coincidence with cycles fixed by human and celestial bodies is notable but distinct. That is, the universals of breath and digestion, of sex and death, of sunset and moonfall, are differently incorporated into each society and differently experienced through its set of observances acknowledging, praising, appraising, or acceding to sacred time.

Specifically, sacred time is shaped by five acts of definition that, separately or in complex conjunction, engage the supernal. These five acts define the nature, origin, spectrum, power, and rhythm of time in relation to the sacred.

Where, at one extreme, time is understood as an independent ordering principle, time may be deified (Brahmanic Hinduism, Iranian Zurvanism, Aztec and Mayan cosmology) and the five acts of definition may together constitute a theology; where, at the other extreme, moments are experienced as parts of an indeterminate flux (early Daoism, modern pantheism), the five acts of definition may together constitute a radical phenomenology in which the sacred becomes that alone which survives from moment to moment. Most spiritual traditions plot time between the extremes of paramount coherence and particular incoherence, risking thereby logical and psychological inconsistenciesinconsistencies that, theoretically and experientially, are in turn projected onto time, which is then seen as imbued with conundrum and felt as happily contradictory, neutrally brutal, or fatally enigmatic. The nature of time may be as passionately disputed within as between traditions, giving rise to schools of thought (most forcefully in Neoplatonic, Hindu, Chinese Buddhist, and Protestant circles) at odds over ostensibly minor points that actually feed major divergences in approaches to the role of ancestors, the virtue of sociopolitical action, the chronology of grace or redemption. If, as in the Sikh tradition in India, time began with the divine creation of an existential reality that leads through an irreversible, dynamically evolutionary process to the spiritual union of human beings with God, then history, and a believer's place in history, may be active and sometimes revolutionary. If, as in the Qumran community near the Dead Sea, all events have been prepared by God as the "master of time," then one's responsibility is to honor God's decrees with the utmost purity and ceremonial precision, isolated from the disruptions of larger society, "for your mighty deeds we will extol your splendor at every moment, and at the times indicated by your eternal edicts, at the onset of day and at night at the fall of evening and at dawn. For great is the plan of your glory" (War Scroll, 1QM xiv 1314).

Given that time would, prima facie, make origins imaginable, and given that many cultures consider the original ipso facto sacred, the sacredness of time might seem overdetermined, especially where primitivist strains (as in Anabaptist, Puritan, Methodist, and Iroquois revitalization movements) strongly encourage a return to an earlier and uncorrupt or incorruptible era. However, the origin of time can be untwinned from its essence in those traditions where time is solicited primarily to initialize aging and mortality (as with the Iraqw of Tanzania, who have no origin or creation myths) or to stand as guarantor for an inherent immortality (modern Theosophy). Time may even be circumscribed at both ends, serving primarily as a measure for the precise execution of rituals geared fiercely to the present or to the immediate presence of ancestors (Ruist Confucianism, Shintō). In cases where a culture has constructed a tight nexus between space and time (Incan cult, Tibetan Buddhist maala, Icelandic saga, the longhouses of the Pirā-paranā Indians of the northwest Amazon), the origin of time and of the universe may be so entwined that each act of memory is a sacred emplacement.

The spectrum of time refers to the variety of phenomena scaled by time. For some cultures, and for industrial society, maturity, adulthood, legal rights, social rank, economic standing, and attributed wisdom are all etched by year counts, which also guide such religious ceremonies as baptism, conversion, confirmation, circumcision, and weddings; here the spectrum of time is short, dense, and finely notchedand would be further inflected with arrows of upswing and downswing. For other cultures (as with the Komo of Zaire), time as age or clock-count has little to do with rank, rights, or respect, but time as seasonality does demand attention for plantings or migrations and may track some rites of passage; here the spectrum of time is thin and marked at relatively long intervalsand the very notion of a spectrum of time would be alien. For many cultures, beyond the obvious biological, climatic, agricultural, and riverine cycles that act upon human beings, acts of prophecy, witch-detection, mediumship, healing, and clairvoyance demonstrate one's intimacy with, if not also mastery of, time; here the spectrum of time is long and complexly indexedand would be reconceived in non-Euclidean intersecting parallel lines.

Power is a tortured subject. The question is, what can time do? Of course, time's nature provides part of the answer: if time is a god, it may have diverse powers; if time is a force, it may have one sphere of influence; if time is an illusion, it deceives. But the question is at root comparative: What can time do that cannot be done elsewise or undone? What are its unique powers? Is time the sole prompter of change, or is change what prompts a sensitivity to time? Does time devour all, or do human beings fear time as a devourer because they are flawed and fall short on their promises? Is fate another face of time and are human fortunes inscribed between time's eyes, or is time in its expansiveness the best assurance of free will, for otherwise an awareness of time would be nothing but torture for all those shunted along a predestined path toward hell, karmic demotion, or the wrong kind of oblivion. Is time itself a master, a mistress, or a liberator?

Everywhere, people dance to the rhythm of day and night, lunations and tides, equinoxes and solstices. These may be celestial phenomena, but rarely are they merely astronomical, considering how much they are seen to influence living things through their powerfully regular rhythms. Their repetitions and syncopations, widely taken as intimations of the divine, are refracted in human arts of time: storytelling, fortune-telling, music-making, star-tracing, trance-dancing. The rhythms are captured with more subtlety in the extensions and compressions of sacred calendars and their punctuation by solemn Sabbaths or mortal games, in the accordion of swift and slow motions throughout a complex ritual, in the staccato or fluid discourse of the bewitched or inspired, in all of the rhythms that build beyond the thumping of the heart.

Call and Response

Nature, origin, spectrum, power, rhythm: these are analytic categories that no tradition would acknowledge in this particular pen-tangle, but they do assist in the unpacking of "sacred time," a phrase with much baggage. They do not, unfortunately, keep the study of sacred time from being knocked for a loop by a number of methodological problems common to international baggage-handling.

First, perhaps foremost, among the problems is the abstraction of Time, which for this paragraph appears alone in the upper case to emphasize that in this Case abstraction simultaneously hypostatizes. That is to say, it is hard to write about Time without ascribing to Time an independent existence. Not all groups welcome or understand the abstracting of Time (indeed, degrees of abstraction or concretion are at the nub of a controversy about notions of Time among Africans and Native Americans); few societies have hypostatized Time as thoroughly as have the countries of the industrialized North Atlantic ecumene. The problem of abstraction should have become evident through the initial quicktime of competing definitions, some of which deny Time substance or independent action, but Time has moved paragraph by paragraph to reclaim that autonomy which often is its preeminent claim upon the Sacred.

So now the Sacred demands the upper case, as if the Sacred were a book. Among religions that rely upon scripture, Sacred time seems bound up with language and efforts toward the permanent inscription of truths. For religions in which the word, oral or written, is held to be creative and instrumental, the syntax of expression would seem to define both the scope and processes of time, even as it makes strenuous any clarification of time aside from language. Sociolinguists and anthropologists have sought to infer from a language's tenses, aspects, and moods that language-group's experience of time. A highly conjugated matrix of predicates that finely parses the past, the progressive, the habitual, the punctual, the perfective, the future, the optative, and the conclusive would indicate a culture whose concept of time is highly articulated and important enough to keep company with the Sacred, which must inevitably address difficult issues of persistence and loss, order and disorder, origin and end. A meager inventory of temporal markers would indicate a culture in which time is not key to the consideration of those elements of life that are believed to give it depth or enduring significance. At least two perilous assumptions come into play here: assuming what (for most South American and many Asian traditions) remains to be proven, that time is a human construct rooted in language; assuming that concepts of time, especially Sacred time, cannot be fully developed through nonlinguistic processes such as painting, sculpture, music, and dance (as in the "dreaming" and paintings of Australian aborigines, the Lion Mask dances of Korean animism, the rock art of the San of southern Africa, or the gamelan music accompanying Javanese Hindu-Buddhist plays).

This second problem has had a graphic companion in a third and more widespread problem: the frisking of religions for signs of linear as opposed to cyclical time. Like the desire to differentiate a tribal god of judgment from a catholic god of love, the desire to differentiate the "cyclical" time of archaic hunter-gatherer or agrarian societies from the "linear" time of urban or industrial societies stemmed from Protestant historians desperate to give a universal footing to their sense of civilization's moral advance. Denizens of "cyclical" time were supposedly caught in a maze of their own making, resilient but condemned to traditionalist pieties and a pervasive fatalism, anxious for each year to be renewed in the image of the old and reluctant to plan a better world. Denizens of linear time, in contrast, were supposedly politically engaged, driven by a past that betokens a brilliant, if often apocalyptic, future, which explains why they become reformers, looking ever for improvement. That binary set, whether in the blatant stereotype sketched here or in more sinuously seductive versions, still rules public conversation, although it has been shown to be historically groundless by Jonathan Z. Smith for the ancient Near East, Pierre Vidal-Naquet for ancient Greece, Sacha Stern for ancient Judaism, and Nancy Farriss for the Mayan world.

The same binary set, with value signs reversed, was adopted in the 1990s by cultural critics deploring a frenzied busyness that was "bleeding meaningful time out of our lives," as the American philosopher Jacob Needleman had it in his Time and the Soul (2003, p. 2). People need some of that old-time cycling, he wrote, to catch their breaths and find their true selves. But nearly every religious system gambols between the cyclical and the linear, because human beings, familiar with recurrence and adept at repetition, are also fascinated by novelty and blessed with inventiveness. The best one can do with the mountain of words on cyclical and linear time is to note that priestly forms of religion lean toward the cyclic just enough to protect the temple and its servitors from violent shifts of direction, while demotic forms lean toward the linear just enough to keep possibilities open, to make for immediate second chances, to rescue the downtrodden from persecution, forced conversion, slavery.

There may be more advantage to a complementary set of terms that has been applied to Sacred Time (both now momentarily in the upper case) in cultures far removed from their roots in Greece and the eastern reaches of Neoplatonism and early Christianity: aion, kairos, and chronos. Aion is time understood as a principle, and principal, of infinite, undifferentiable, unceasing time, sometimes pictured as an ouroboros, a serpent swallowing its own tail, an Egyptian symbol of renewal. Kairos is time felt and depicted as the knife's edge, a pregnant moment on which all hangs in suspense or, as Tukanoan tribes of the northwest Amazon mean by their verb ~su? husé, that instant in which all conditions are propitious for conception. Chronos is time enumerated, the sequence of event following event, from which proceed schedules, chronologies, chronometers, and the raw data of history, but which may also mount up to a long-anticipated total, the Aztec calendar round of 52 years, the Qumran cycle of 294 years, the Mayan long count of 1,872,000 days, the allotted 6,000 years of Jewish messianism and Western Christian apocalyptics, the 7,000 years of Eastern Orthodox eschatology, or the 432,000 years of the Hindu kaliyuga, last and least of the four ages of the 28th of 71 mah(yugas (four-age cycles) in the 7th of 14 overarching manvantaras in the first kalpa or eon of the second half of the life of Brahman. The virtue of the three terms is that they are neither culturally nor mutually exclusive; although aion has special potency in analyses of Orphism, Mithraism, and Siberian shamanism, kairos in Christian soteriology, and chronos in ancient Egyptian royal cults and modern secularization, none of the terms insists upon the subservience of the others. Rather, one can see how, as in sixteenth-century Andean syntheses of local cults and colonial Catholicism or in the South African Xhosa cattle-killing movement of 18561857, communities handle crises through a complex manipulation of aion, kairos, and chronos.

A fourth methodological problem in the study of sacred time (back to the lower case) derives from a misplaced devotion to chronos. Much of the scholarly corpus makes the "time before" sacred to investigations of sacred time, seeking intact cores of religious belief that have resisted the influence of foreign raiders and invaders, colonial powers with their resident armies and missionaries, tourists, journalists, and anthropologists. Why expect sacred times to be unswerving or uncontested? As the anthropologist Johannes Fabian and ethnographer Nicolas Thomas have pointed out, Western researchers have tended to regard non-Western societies (read: non-white, or tribal, nomadic, primitive, even "stone age") as relics. Whereas all peoples going about their business on any given day are effectively coevals, once regarded as relics they become reliquaries, appearing to hold up to the world valuable remnants of ancient truths. Because sacred times and their train of ceremonies and rites of passage are presumed to be at the core of religious life, researchers have looked as much to fragments of sacred times as to ruins of sacred spaces to establish what that tradition had in mind before the incursions of strangers.

Within and without, of course, sacred times have long been subject to renegotiation, as in the shift of Manichaean cosmology and ecclesiology under the impact of Buddhism in northwestern China, or the mixed discourse of Cree heaven and Methodist Sabbath in the program of the Cree prophet Abishabis in Ontario (Canada) in the 1840s. To expect of any religion a resolute invariance and coherence in its construct of sacred time is to make two idealizing mistakes, imposing both a system and a stasis that would have turned such a religion into a museum piece from the start, in the name of an anthropological "eternal" that has proven as difficult to shake as the Ptolemaic astronomy of beautifully eternal epicycles.

Which unearths the archeological eternal. Digging through "layers of time" and walking the stone circles of Neolithic peoples or tunneling through underground burial chambers, archaeologists have found not only prehistoric time-keeping but prehistoric ritual, and through prehistoric ritual, prehistoric sacred time. Or is it vice versa: from sacred time, ritual? Their arguments are themselves elegantly circular, implying that there is something irretrievably human and visceral to the keeping of time which, because it is inexplicably human and visceral, must be numinous. Rather than couching sacred time in a culture's myths of origin, archeologists and archaeo-astronomers have often devised their own origin myths of sacred time for Iron and Bronze Age cultures in England and Israel, for Old Kingdom Egypt, for Shang China, for the prehistoric Mayansorigin myths that are then embraced and elaborated by resurgent spiritual groups (Druids, Hermeticists, Wiccans, Neopagans) strongly invested in the sacredness of an elemental or "natural" time.

The flip side of the archaeological eternal is "real time." A mischievous phrase, "real time" has come to be associated as much with unmanipulated media as with the honestly existential. "Real time" is what is happening "as we speak"; what has not been edited, prerecorded, or reenacted; what, in short, has not been tampered with. It is easy to see how the premise of "real time" can result in an implicit promise of sacred time, if one takes sacred time to be inviolate time, a pure time "delivering the goods," the good, the gods. Electronically infused with event, contemporary society further conflates aion, kairos, and chronos, identifying the eternally valid with the constant repercussions of breaking news. "Real time" is integral to utopian premises that those who live relatively unalarmed lives (i.e., those in preindustrial, "pre-contact" or monastic societies) enjoy greater access to the sacred. "Real time" is prominent in dystopian premises that those not "in touch" with what is going on "under their own eyes" (because isolated, illiterate, impoverished, disabled, or senile) cannot appreciate the meanings of their actions and are, to put it cruelly, cut off from the sacred. "Real time" informs the documentarist premise that taking cognizance of any segment of life automatically unveils the sacred, as if a "respectful" approach to the passage of time is all that one needs to access "the holy."

Returning to "Real Life" by Way of Humility

The bristling quotation marks of the paragraph above are signs of overprotectiveness regarding "time" and "the sacred." With or without seven thousand seven hundred words that less than one-thousandth of one percent of the billions of humankind will ever read, people will surely conceive, experience, and reconceive sacred time in their own fashion.

Affirmation and Departure

What then is the point of an article on sacred time? Why am I still writing? Why are you still reading? Wouldn't everyone's time be more valuably spent in working to eliminate poverty, feed the starving, comfort the suicidal?

These are not rhetorical questions. Whether in the form of a liturgical calendar through which a people's traumatic memories of persecution, enslavement, and devastation are at once condensed and transmuted (Jewish, Sikh, Cuban Santería, the Nation of Islam); or as a formal period of waiting (in exile, hospital, asylum, prison) through which fantasies and frustrations may merge and emerge in spiritual transformation; or as an active pursuit of the holy through fasting, initiation, hallucinogenic retreat, vision quest, pilgrimage, or prolonged mourning, sacred time is that time during which the contingency of human life is confronted and one must decide, again and again, how to spend one's life and give of one's time. A philosopher of language, Jacques Derrida, argued that time, belonging to no one, cannot possibly be given but is always the object of human desires to give ofand beyondoneself, a cogent postmodern reformulation of sacred time. Clearly in this mode, Alfred L. Roca of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, together with seven collaborators around the world, meant in 2004 to give a small animal, the highly-endangered solenodon, the gift of time literally and twice over. Demonstrating the origins of this shrew-like mammal in a genetic divergence that occurred seventy-six million years ago, they hoped thereby to persuade Cuban and Hispaniolan authorities to act to prevent the extinction of a species whose lineage, older than most mammalian orders, is ancestral to, and perhaps coterminous with, our own.

See Also

Aion; Apocalypse, overview article; Birth; Calendars, overview article; Chronology; Consciousness, States of; Cosmology, overview article; Death; Eschatology, overview article; Eternity; Funeral Rites, overview article; Heaven and Hell; Initiation, overview article; Inspiration; Meditation; Memorization; Millenarianism, overview article; Miracles, overview article; Morality and Religion; Phenomenology of Religion; Prophecy, overview article; Rites of Passage, overview article; Sacred Space; Seasonal Ceremonies; Secularization.


A full-fledged bibliography on sacred time might begin with a quotation from the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past (19131927), where Marcel Proust, as he is leaving church, genuflects before the altar and suddenly feels the fragrance of almonds steal toward him through the blossoms of a hawthorn bush. "Despite the heavy, motionless silence of the hawthorns," (C. K. Scott Moncrieff's translation, New York, 1924, p. 87), "these gusts of fragrance came to me like the murmuring of an intense vitality, with which the whole altar was quivering like a roadside hedge explored by living antennae, of which I was reminded by seeing some stamens, almost red in color, which seemed to have kept the springtime virulence, the irritant power of stinging insects now transmuted into flowers." That intensity of sensation so common to sacred time, that flow of memory into presence and presence into passion, resonated with the work of Proust's cousin-in-law Henri Bergson, son of a Jewish musician and himself a philosopher alive to issues of tempo and temporality, beginning with his first book, Essai sur les donnés immédiates de la conscience (Time and Free Will, Paris, 1889), which made of time a rich, indivisible flow. The task of religion, wrote Henri Hubert in 1905, using Bergson as a springboard, was to endow such uncut time with a definite rhythm of interruptions by which the sacred could be told from the profane. In his Étude sommaire de la représentation du temps dans la religion (Paris, 1905), available as Essay on Time, translated by Robert Parkin and Jacqueline Redding (Oxford, 1999). The young Hubert was also an obvious disciple of the sociologist Émile Durkheim, whose Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse (The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, Paris, 1912) informed most subsequent European analyses of the sacred. After the First World War and its killing time in the trenches, sacred time itself suffered from a kind of shellshock to which Rudolf Otto's war-stricken Das Heilige (The idea of the holy, Breslau, 1917) was incomplete antidote. It was left to Martin Heidegger, a disciple of the German philosopher Edmund Husserl (an exact contemporary of Bergson's), to put sacred time into phenomenological perspective in his short lecture, Begriff der Zeit (1924), translated by William McNeill as The Concept of Time (Oxford, 1992). Writing in Parisian exile in 1945 with the ruins of the Second World War splayed before him, the Romanian erotic novelist and scholar of Indian religions Mircea Eliade chose history over fiction as a vehicle for reviewing and renewing the options of sacred time in Le mythe de l'éternel retour: archétypes et répétition (Paris, 1949), translated by Willard R. Trask as Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return (Princeton, 1954).

Since then, many of the central works have not been monographs but wide-ranging anthologies of essays, drawn often from conferences on the topic of time in religion or the broader topic of time across cultures. These began with Henry Corbin and others, Man and Time, vol. 3 of Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks (Princeton, N.J., 1957), but it was J. T. Fraser, founder of the International Society for the Study of Time in 1966 and organizer of The Voices of Time: A Cooperative Survey of Man's Views of Time as Expressed by the Sciences and by the Humanities (New York, 1966), who etched the template with The Study of Time (1972), a series of conference volumes on which he collaborated over two decades with a number of co-editors, eventually relinquishing the series to other hands, as with vol. 11, Time and Uncertainty, edited by Paul Harris and Michael Crawford (Leiden, the Netherlands, 2004). Publication of similar collections accelerated in the years leading up to 2001: Paul Ricoeur and others, Les cultures et le temps: études préparées pour l'UNESCO (Paris, 1975); Tommy Carlstein and others, eds., Timing Space and Spacing Time, 3 vols. (London, 1978); Dorian Tiffeneau, ed., Mythes et représentations du temps (Paris, 1985); Dorothea M. Dooling, ed., "Time and Presence," Parabola 15 (spring, 1990), entire issue; John Bender and David E. Wellbery, eds., Chronotypes: The Construction of Time (Stanford, Calif., 1991); Anindita N. Balslev and J. N. Mohanty, eds., Religion and Time (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1993); Etienne Klein and Michel Spiro, eds., Le temps et sa flèche (Luisant, France, 1994); Diane Owen Hughes and Thomas R. Trautman, eds., Time: Histories and Ethnologies (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1995); Kurt Weis, ed., Was Ist Zeit?, 2 vols. (Munich, 1996); Yasuhiko Nagano, ed., Time, Language and Cognition (Osaka, 1998); Jeremy Butterfield, ed., The Arguments of Time (Oxford, 1999); John B. Brough and Lester Embree, eds., The Many Faces of Time (Dordrecht, the Netherlands, 2000); Deutschen Religionsgeschichtlichen Studiengesellschaft, Zeit in der Religionsgeschichte (Münster, Germany, 2001); and Vincianne Pirenne-Delforge and Őhnan Tunca, eds., Représentations du temps dans les religions (Geneva, 2003, essays solicited in 2001). Meanwhile, Samuel Macey, who had published at length on time and mythology, enlisted a growing community of scholars in the creation of an Encyclopedia of Time (New York, 1994), many of whose articles set a bead on the sacred. Two new journals were also launched: Time and Society (London, 1992) and KronoScope: Journal for the Study of Time (Leiden, 2001). During the centurial years 19992001, academic journals often mounted special issues on time; among those most focused on sacred time were the American Historical Review 104, no. 5 (1999), Ethnohistory 47, no. 1 (2000), and International Review of Sociology 11, no. 3 (2001).

By the late twentieth century, time had been so enlarged as a field of study that methodological critiques began to seem urgent. Time had already been problematized in physics, vividly in Thomas Gold, ed., The Nature of Time (Ithaca, N.Y., 1967), recording the rambunctious speculations of physicists toying with a phrase coined by the English physicist Arthur Eddington in 1928, the "arrow of time"a phrase further problematized by Stephen Jay Gould in Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time (Cambridge, Mass., 1987) and by Huw Price in Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point: New Directions for the Physics of Time (New York, 1996). In this context, respected models for the investigation of sacred time, such as E. E. Evans-Pritchard's Nuer Religion (Oxford, 1956) and Clifford Geertz's The Religion of Java (New York, 1960), were taken to task by other anthropologists: Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York, 1983); Nancy Munn, "The Cultural Anthropology of Time: A Critical Essay," Annual Review of Anthropology 21 (1992): 93123; and Nicholas Thomas, Out of Time: History and Evolution in Anthropological Discourse, 2d ed. (Ann Arbor, 1996). Ruling assumptions about cyclical and linear time were also undermined, as anticipated by Edmund R. Leach in two brief essays, "Cronus and Chronos," Explorations 1 (1953): 1523, and "Time and False Noses" Explorations 5 (1955): 3035, reprinted with revisions in his Rethinking Anthropology (London, 1961), pp. 124136. The critique was deepened by Pierre Vidal-Naquet, "Divine Time and Human Time," in The Black Hunter: Forms of Thought and Forms of Society in the Greek World, translated by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak (Baltimore, Md., 1986), pp. 3960; Nancy M. Farriss, "Remembering the Future, Anticipating the Past: History, Time and Cosmology among the Maya of the Yucatan," Comparative Studies in Society and History 29, 3 (1987): 566593; Jonathan Z. Smith, To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual (Chicago, 1987); Anthony Aveni, Empires of Time: Calendars, Clocks, and Cultures (New York, 1989); and Alfred Gell, The Anthropology of Time: Cultural Constructions of Temporal Maps and Images (Oxford, 1992).

Given such momentum, challenges were issued as well to dominant theories about particular religious systemsSassanid Persia's worship of Zurvan, originary god of time (according to R. C. Zaehner), Africa's futurelessness (according to John S. Mbiti), Hopi ritual atemporality (according to Benjamin Lee Whorf), the ultimate unsustainability of Hindu cosmology (according to G. W. von Hegel)by such scholars as Shaul Shaked, "The Myth of Zurvan: Cosmogony and Eschatology," in Messiah and Christos, edited by Ithamar Gruenwald and others (Tübingen, Germany, 1992), pp. 219240; Peter R. McKenzie, "Sacred Time," in his Hail Orisha! A Phenomenology of a West African Religion in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Leiden, 1997), pp. 154208; Ekkehart Malotki, Hopi Time: A Linguistic Analysis of the Temporal Concepts in the Hopi Language (Berlin, 1983); and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Time and Timing: Law and History," in Chronotypes: The Construction of Time, edited by Bender and Wellbery (Stanford, Calif., 1991), pp. 99117.

Debate continues, with a vehemence equal to that of Hubert (who with Durkheim's nephew Marcel Mauss published in 1899 a seminal study of sacrificial rites), concerning the degree to which sacred time originates in, or is primitively defined by, blood sacrifice as a psychic strategy of re-creation or as a means of collective renewal. On this, see Georges Bataille, Theory of Religion, translated by Robert Hurley (New York, 1992); Raimundo Panikkar, "Time and Sacrifice: The Sacrifice of Time and the Ritual of Modernity," The Study of Time III, edited by J. T. Fraser (New York, 1978), pp. 683727; Kay A. Read, whose Time and Sacrifice in the Aztec Cosmos (Bloomington, Ind., 1998) is also sensitive to the gendered aspects of sacred time, as is Johan Normark, Genderized Time and Space in Late Classic Maya Calendars, Museion Occasional Paper No. 1 (Göteborg, Sweden, 2000). Elsewhere too, attention has been called to gender: Warren L. d'Azavedo, "Gola Womanhood and the Limits of Masculine Omnipotence," in Religion in Africa, edited by Thomas D. Blakely and others (London, 1994), pp. 342362; Fatima Mernissi, "The Muslim and Time," in The Veil and the Male Elite, translated by Mary Jo Lakeland (Reading, Mass., 1991), pp. 1524; Susan Starr Sered, "Gender, Immanence and Transcendence: The Candle-Lighting Repertoire of Middle-Eastern Jews," Metaphor and Symbolic Activity 6, no. 4 (1991): 293304; Sarah Lund Skar, "Andean Women and the Concept of Space/Time," in Women and Space, Ground Rules and Social Maps, edited by Shirley Ardener, revised edition (Oxford, 1993), pp. 3145; and numerous contributors to Nature Religion Today: Paganism in the Modern World, edited by Joanne Pearson and others (Edinburgh, 1998). For a woman theologian's perspective, see Carol Ochs, The Noah Paradox: Time as Burden, Time as Blessing (Notre Dame, Ind., 1991).

In addition to the works already mentioned, see the following for specific geohistorical settings:

East Asia: Robert Eno, The Confucian Creation of Heaven: Philosophy and the Defense of Ritual Mastery (Albany, N.Y., 1990); N. J. Girardot, Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism: The Theme of Chaos (hun-tun) (Berkeley, Calif., 1983); Chun-Chieh Huang and Erik Zürcher, eds., Time and Space in Chinese Culture (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1995); David N. Keightley, The Ancestral Landscape: Time, Space, and Community in Late Shang China (ca. 12001045 bc) (Berkeley, Calif., 2000); Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, "Sakhalin Ainu Time Reckoning," Man 8 (1973): 285299; Richard Pilgrim, "Intervals (Ma ) in Space and Time: Foundations for a Religio-Aesthetic Paradigm in Japan," History of Religions 25, no. 3 (1986): 255277; and Ruth Fuller Sasaki and others, trans., A Man of Zen: The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang (New York, 1971).

Southeast Asia: Janet Hoskins, The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on Calendars, History and Exchange (Berkeley, Calif., 1993); Robert McKinley, "Zaman dan Masa, Eras and Periods: Revolutions and the Permanence of Epistemological Ages in Malay Culture," in The Imagination of Reality in Southeast Asian Coherence Systems, edited by A. L. Becker and Aram A. Yengoyam (Norwood, N.J., 1979), pp. 303324; Geoffrey Samuel, "The Religious Meaning of Space and Time in South and Southeast Asia and Modern Paganism," International Review of Sociology 11, no. 3 (2001): 395418.

South Asia: Jasabir Singh Ahluwalia, "Time, Reality, and Religion," in his The Doctrine and Dynamics of Sikhism (Patiala, India, 1999), pp. 2950; Maitreyee R. Deshpande, The Concept of Time in Vedic Ritual (Delhi, 2001); Werner Herzog's film, Rad der Zeit (Wheel of Time) (Germany, 2003, eighty minutes); Padmanath S. Jaini, Collected Papers on Jaina Studies (Delhi, 2000); Hari Shankar Prasad, ed., Time in Indian Philosophy (Delhi, 1992); Alexander von Rospatt, The Buddhist Doctrine of Momentariness (Stuttgart, 1995); Geshe Lhundub Sopa and others, The Wheel of Time: The Kālachakra in Context, edited by Beth Simon (Ithaca, 1991); Thomas R. Trautman, "Indian Time, European Time," in Time: Histories and Ethnologies, edited by Hughes and Trautman (Ann Arbor, 1995), pp. 167197; Peter Van Der Veer, "Ayodhya and Somnath: Eternal Shrines, Contested Histories," Social Research 59, no. 1 (1992): 85109.

Central Asia: Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism: I. The Early Period (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1996); Hans-Joachim Klimkeit, trans. and comp., Gnosis on the Silk Road (San Francisco, 1993); Samuel N. C. Lieu, Manichaeism in Central Asia and China (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1998); John Walbridge, Sacred Acts, Sacred Space, Sacred Time (Oxford, 1996) on Baha'i.

Western Asia and the Mediterranean Littoral: Petro B. T. Bilaniuk, "Chronos and Kairos : Secular and Sacred Time in Relation to the History of Salvation and Eternity," Studies in Eastern Christianity 5 (Munich, 1998) pp. 37; Gerhard Böwering, The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam (Berlin, 1980); Paul F. Bradshaw and Lawrence A. Hoffman, eds., Passover and Easter: The Symbolic Structuring of Sacred Seasons (Notre Dame, Ind., 1999); Gershon Brin, The Concept of Time in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Leiden, the Netherlands, 2001); Barry M. Gittlen, ed., Sacred Time, Sacred Place: Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Winona Lake, Ind., 2002); Sylvie Anne Goldberg, La clepsydre: essai sur la pluralité des temps dans le juda(sme (Paris, 2000); L. E. Goodman, "Time in Islam," in Religion and Time, edited by Balslev and Mohanty (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1993), pp. 138162; Richard D. Hecht, "The Construction and Management of Sacred Time and Space: Sabta Nur in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher," in NowHere: Space, Time, and Modernity, edited by Roger Friedland and Deirdre Boden (Berkeley, Calif., 1994), pp. 181235; Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī, Time in the Life of a Muslim, translated by Abu Maimounah Ahmad ad bin Muhammad Bello (London, 2000); Samuel Sambursky and Shlomo Pines, The Concept of Time in Late Neoplatonism (Jerusalem, 1971); Sacha Stern, Time and Process in Ancient Judaism (Oxford, 2003); Robert Taft, "A Tale of Two Cities: The Byzantine Holy Week Triduum as a Paradigm of Liturgical History," in Time and Community, edited by J. Neil Alexander (Washington, D.C., 1990), pp. 2142; Panagiōtēs Tzamalikos, The Concept of Time in Origen (New York, 1991); James C. VanderKam, Calendars in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Measuring Time (London, 1998); Nick Wyatt, Religious Texts from Ugarit (Sheffield, U.K., 1998); Nick Wyatt, Space and Time in the Religious Life of the Near East (Sheffield, U.K., 2001).

Europe: Guido Alliney and Luciano Cova, eds., Tempus Aevum Aeternitas: La concettualizzazione del tempo nel pensiero tardomedievale (Florence, Italy, 2000); Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. 1400c.1580 (New Haven, Conn., 1992); Alex Gibson and Derek Simpson, eds., Prehistoric Ritual and Religion (Thrupp, U.K., 1998); Jacques Le Goff, Your Money or Your Life: Economy and Religion in the Middle Ages, translated by Patricia Ranum (New York, 1988); Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, translated by Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer, 3 volumes (Chicago, 19841988), with much on Aristotle and St. Augustine; David G. Roskies, Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1984); Tamar M. Rudavsky, Time Matters: Time, Creation, and Cosmology in Medieval Jewish Philosophy (Albany, N.Y., 2000); Richard Sorabji, Time, Creation, and the Continuum: Themes in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Ithaca, N.Y., 1983); and Yosef H. Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (New York, 1989).

Africa: Thomas O. Beidelman, Moral Imagination in Kaguru Modes of Thought (Washington, D.C., 1993); Thomas D. Blakely and others, eds., Religion in Africa (London, 1994); Pierre Bourdieu, "The Attitude of the Algerian Peasant toward Time," in Mediterranean Countrymen, edited by Julian Pitt-Rivers (Paris, 1973), pp. 5572; James W. Fernandez, Bwiti: An Ethnography of Religious Imagination in Africa (Princeton, N. J., 1982); David Frankfurter, ed., Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1998); Steven Kaplan, "Teʾezza Sanbat: A Beta Israel Work Reconsidered," in Gilgul: Essays on Transformation, Revolution, and Permanence in the History of Religions, edited by Shaul Shaked and others (Leiden, 1987) on the Ethiopian Sabbath; Wauthier de Mahieu, "Le temps dans la culture komo," Africa 43 (1973): 217; John S. Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, 2d revised edition (Oxford, 1990); J. B. Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing Movement of 1856-7 (Johannesburg and Bloomington, Ind., 1989); John Parratt, "Time in Traditional African Thought," Religion 7 (autumn, 1977): 117126; Robert J. Thornton, Space Time and Culture among the Iraqw of Tanzania (New York, 1980).

Africans in the Americas: Joseph N. Murphy, Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora (Boston, 1994); Anthony B. Pinn, Varieties of African American Religious Experience (Minneapolis, Minn., 1998); Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South (New York, 1978).

South America: Brian S. Bauer and Charles Stanish, Ritual and Pilgrimage in the Ancient Andes (Austin, Tex., 2001); Pierre Clastres, Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians, translated by Paul Auster (New York, 1998); Christine Hugh-Jones, From the Milk River: Spatial and Temporal Processes in Northwest Amazonia (Cambridge, 1979); Sabine MacCormack, Religion in the Andes: Vision and Imagination in Early Colonial Peru (Princeton, 1991); Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff, Yuruparí: Studies of an Amazonian Foundation Myth (Cambridge, Mass., 1996); Frank Salomon and George L. Urioste, eds. and trans., Huarochirí Manuscript (Austin, Tex., 1991); Lawrence E. Sullivan, "Sacred Music and Sacred Time," World of Music 26, no. 3 (1984): 3351, examples primarily from South America; William Sullivan, The Secret of the Incas: Myth, Astronomy, and the War Against Time (New York, 1996).

Mesoamerica: Anthony Aveni, "Time, Number, and History in the Maya World," KronoScope 1, nos. 12 (2001): 2962; David Carrasco, Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies of the Aztec Tradition, revised edition (Boulder, Colo., 2000); Barbara Tedlock, Time and the Highland Maya, revised edition (Albuquerque, N. Mex., 1992); E. Michael Whittington, ed., The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame (New York, 2001).

North America: Melissa Axelrod, The Semantics of Time: Aspectual Categorization in Koyukon Athabaskan (Lincoln, Nebr., 1993); Edmund S. Carpenter, "The Timeless Present in the Mythology of the Aivilik Eskimos" in Eskimos of the Canadian Arctic, edited by Victor F. Valentine and Frank G. Vallee (Toronto, 1968), pp. 3942; Richard T. Hughes and C. Leonard Allen, Illusions of Innocence: Protestant Primitivism in America, 16301875 (Chicago, 1988); Randall A. Lake, "Between Myth and History: Enacting Time in Native American Protest Rhetoric," Quarterly Journal of Speech 77, no. 2 (1991): 123151; Mark M. Smith, Mastered by the Clock: Time, Slavery, and Freedom in the American South (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1997); Stanley Walens, "The Weight of My Name Is a Mountain of Blankets: Potlatch Ceremonies," in Celebration: Studies in Festivity and Ritual, edited by Victor Turner (Washington, D.C., 1982), pp. 178189.

Oceania and Australia: Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines (New York, 1987); Frederick H. Damon, "Time and Values," in From Muyuw to the Trobriands: Transformations along the Northern Side of Kula Ring (Tucson, Ariz., 1990), pp. 1653; Hans Peter Duerr, Dreamtime, translated by Felicitas D. Goodman (Oxford, 1985); Barbara Glowczewski, Du rêve à la loi chez les aborigines (Paris, 1991); Lynne Hume, Ancestral Power: The Dreaming, Consciousness, and Aboriginal Australians (Carlton South, Victoria, Australia, 2002); Karen Sinclair, Maori Times, Maori Places (Lanham, Md., 2003); Marilyn Strathern, "Artefacts of History: Events and the Interpretation of Images," in Culture and History in the Pacific, edited by Jukka Siikala (Helsinki, 1990), pp. 2544; Tony Swain and Garry Trompf, The Religions of Oceania (London, 1995).

For social-theoretical contributions, see Barbara Adam, Time and Social Theory (Philadelphia, 1990); Sylviane Agacinski, Time Passing: Modernity and Nostalgia, translated by Jody Gladding (New York, 2003); Éric Alliez, Capital Times: Tales from the Conquest of Time, translated by Georges Van Den Abbeele (Minneapolis, Minn., 1996); James A. Beckford, "Doing Time: Space, Time, Religious Diversity, and the Sacred in Prisons," International Review of Sociology 11, no. 2 (2001): 371382; Lawrence W. Fagg, The Becoming of Time: Integrating Physical and Religious Time (Durham, N.C., 2003); Richard K. Fenn, Time Exposure: The Personal Experience of Time in Secular Societies (Oxford, 2001); Krzysztof Pomian, L'ordre du temps (Paris, 1984); Barry Schwartz, Queueing and Waiting: Studies in the Social Organization of Access and Delay (Chicago, 1975).

For philosophical works cited, see Paul Churchland, The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul (Cambridge, Mass., 1995); Jacques Derrida, Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money, translated by Peggy Kamuf (Chicago, 1992); Gary Eberle, Sacred Time and the Search for Meaning (Boston, 2003); Jacob Needleman, Time and the Soul (San Francisco, Calif., 2003).

For more on the solenodon, see Alfred L. Roca and others, "Mesozoic Origin for West Indian Insectivores," Nature 429 (June 10, 2004): 649651.

Hillel Schwartz (2005)