• Bret Bernhoft
    Perhaps a majority of the world's population would argue that certain physical spaces are sacred. But what about digital spaces (also known as "consensual hallucinations")? Can the same experiences of transcendence (of specialness) from within the physical world be observed/felt inside the digital or virtual as well?

    I am reading a number of books right now that imply digital spaces can certainly be sacred, and can be relied on for similar qualities as sacred meat spaces. It's rather interesting to me that (apparently) a growing number of people (Users of technology) visit certain digital spaces (as found uniquely within their own lives) because they view them as being sacred.

    What are your thoughts? Can digital spaces be sacred?

    1. Can digital spaces be sacred? (7 votes)
  • Agent Smith
    Cyberspace can't be sacred. The internet has been/is/will be used to initiate/perpetuate/aggravate crime; in fact it'a become a safe haven for many criminals (the dark web). Just sayin'.
  • Hermeticus
    Sacred stems from the latin word "sacer". It essentially means "Belonging to god". You make something belong to god by the act of consecration - you devote the something entirely to god.

    In that sense all places of worship are sacred by definition. Their entire purpose is the devotion to god. In fact, there is an opposite to the sacred - the profound, stemming from profanum which roughly translates to "outside the temple".

    The question then is, can a digital space be dedicated to god? I think yes. However, I think it actually needs to be the purpose of that space in order to be considered sacred. It's not enough to watch a video on Youtube, have a mildly enlightening experience and then consider the site to be sacred. It's very purpose must be to be a sort of "virtual temple".
  • ssu
    Surely some church or religion will attempt this. Still I think that the vast majority of organized religions will hold on to their old "sacred" things and view digital space as a new form of media, as a tool to connect with people.

    (The Pope blesses sport cars, so I guess digital spaces can get blessings too, but that they would be really sacred? Hmm...)
  • sime
    As the pollution of the supposedly sacred Ganges river demonstrates, the sacred lies in the realm of ideas and relates to the physical realm only to the extent that the recognition of those ideas is physically contingent.
  • 180 Proof
    Nothing is sacred (nothing is profane). Map =/= territory.

  • Ennui Elucidator
    the sacred lies in the realm of ideassime

    Would you please elaborate a bit on this? I can't tell if you are saying something tautological (eg "sacred" is a non-physical attribute or "sacred" is a category created by/imposed by minds) or something deeper than that.

    "That is a sacred tree."
    "That is a sacred house."
    "That is sacred ground."
    "That is a sacred act."
    "That is a sacred book."
    "That is a sacred vow."

    Each of these sentences strikes me as meaningful and well formed. The variety illustrates the end of your sentence "ideas is physically contingent"., but the quoted part of your sentence is what I am trying to better understand.

    This quote is for a bit of context for a more general question: are we using "sacred" as in "sacred vs. profane" (that is, the largest bucket) or something more limited such that using words like "consecrated" and "holy" are unrelated to the topic?

    Although there are similarities between the terms sacred and holy, which are also sometimes used interchangeably, there are subtle differences. Holiness is generally the term used in relation to persons and relationship, whereas sacredness is used in relation to objects, places, or happenings.
    — Wiki on Sacred
  • Bitter Crank
    What works against cyber space, or particular web sites, being sacred are:

    a) they are too new (at the present time)
    b) they are not sufficiently static--that is, they can too easily be changed, erased, moved, etc.
    c) they are ruled by technology's values

    Web sites just haven't been around long enough. Sacred status takes time and emotional investment to accumulate spiritual weight. Just guessing, but Jesus' tomb probably wasn't sacred space upon the alleged events 3 days after his crucifixion. Locations associated with Jesus probably became 'sacred' by the action of the religion founded upon Jesus. That took centuries, not years. (I'm making assumptions here -- where is The Philosophy Forum's time machine?)

    An aside: the compilers of the New Testament did not live in the Roman province of Judea; like as not, they had never been there. 99.9% of the New Testament readers (in the first couple of centuries after it was finished) hadn't been there. Places like Bethlehem and Golgotha became sacred to most people at a distance, over time. But those place were still real, and the people on site took care of them, and in time they were memorialized with large worship buildings.

    What happened to Bethlehem can't happen to Tumblr or YouTube.

    What you see when you sign on to Tumblr or YouTube is likely to be altogether different than what I see, or anyone else sees. So, what part of these sites would be sacred? The pictures of Egyptology or the gay porn? The zillions of cat and dog videos or the videos of railroad switching yards? The discussions of atomic fusion? WWII films? Right wing political ranting? Leftwing political nattering?

    Even Bible or other religious text sites are not sacred, in my opinion. Religious texts can be sacred, but when served up digitally, by the verse, along with advertisements, I don't think they have the same emotional value--as web sites.

    Cyber space locations might become sacred at some point in the future, provided a given site remain the same for a long time (a couple of centuries maybe). Provided that people invest emotionally in the site. Provided it shifts from being "a technological artifact" to a "spiritual artifact".
  • fdrake
    I know dictionaries are shit for philosophy, but I don't see a better way to broach this. Definition of sacred.

    devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated.
    entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things; holy.
    pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to secular or profane):
    sacred music;
    sacred books.
    reverently dedicated to some person, purpose, or object:
    a morning hour sacred to study.
    regarded with reverence:the sacred memory of a dead hero.
    secured against violation, infringement, etc., as by reverence or sense of right:
    sacred oaths; sacred rights.
    — Dictionary.com, Sacred

    Someone dies, their profile is left on social media. Facebook has a category for this:

    Memorialised accounts

    Memorialised accounts are a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away. Memorialised accounts have the following key features:

    The word Remembering will be shown next to the person's name on their profile.

    Depending on the privacy settings of the account, friends can share memories on the memorialised timeline.

    Content the person shared (e.g. photos, posts) stays on Facebook and is visible on Facebook to the audience it was shared with.

    Memorialised profiles don't appear in public spaces such as in suggestions for People you may know, ads or birthday reminders.

    No one can log in to a memorialised account.

    Memorialised accounts that don't have a legacy contact can't be changed.

    Pages with a sole admin whose account was memorialised will be removed from Facebook if we receive a valid memorialisation request.

    They're digital spaces of remembrance. If you think they are not sacred in the secular senses underlined in the definition, I invite you to go on one and start badmouthing the object of worship.
  • Bitter Crank
    I'm not enthusiastic about people declaring this or that actual, material location as "sacred" let alone web sites. So the intersection where George Floyd died has been declared "sacred space". Nonsense to me. It's just the seedy intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street. George wasn't/isn't a saint. What happened is unfortunate, one more misfortune among thousands that happen everyday.

    Martin Luther King's motel in Memphis or the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C., aren't sacred--in my mind, at least.

    Stonehenge, the Wailing Wall, the Kaaba, the Golden Temple, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and so on are all sacred spaces by virtue of time and emotional investment. Stonehenge is becoming "re-enchanted" I suppose, but not so enchanted that the English wouldn't like to put a road through it (really stupid, even if nobody thinks it is sacred),
  • Daniel
    Anything can be sacred given enough people believe it so.
  • Wayfarer
    To come to a correct understanding of Buddhism: A case study on spiritualizing technology, religious authority, and the boundaries of orthodoxy and identity in a Buddhist Web forum

    This study examines the Buddhist message forum, E-sangha, to analyze how this forum’s founder and moderators ‘spiritualized the Internet’ (Campbell, 2005a, 2005b) using contemporary narratives of the global Buddhist community, and in doing so, provided these actors with the authority to determine the boundaries of Buddhist orthodoxy and identity and validate their control of the medium through social and technical means. Through a structural and textual analysis of E-sangha’s Web space, this study demonstrates how Web producers and forum moderators use religious community narratives to frame Web environments as sacred community spaces (spaces made suitable for religious activities), which inherently allows those in control of the site the authority to set the boundaries of religious orthodoxy and identity and hence, who can take part in the community.

    More here

    Note: e-Sangha, the subject of the thesis, went offline not longer after it was published due to a major hacking incident, with many of the members migrating to dharmawheel.net.
  • Agent Smith
    Nothing is sacred (nothing is profane). Map =/= territory.180 Proof


    Sacred cows make the tastiest burgers. — Some dude

  • Tom Storm
    We've been declaring people and places sacred for most of human history I don't think we are about to stop this practice. Sacred digital space? If it can be done, it will.
  • Agent Smith
    @The Opposite Why isn't there an opposite, the Light web (sacred), for the Dark web (profane)? Curious!
  • The Opposite
    if you're looking for the Light web, look no further than TPF!
  • Bret Bernhoft
    I tend to think that it has already been done, and (as you say) will continue to be done. That is, making certain digital spaces sacred with (as other commenters have pointed out) enough human energy and attention.
  • hypericin
    Suppose Jesus returned to earth for a few months and kept a blog of his slumming vacation. The Christians who knew of this momentous event took possession of the holy servers, adorned them with crucifi, candles, incense and other bric-a-brac, reproduced them endlessly, recited blog posts every Sunday. Would this not be a sacred digital space?
  • Bret Bernhoft

    Certainly it would, to some.
  • Agent Smith
    Kudos OP for such a profound question. If "digital space" can be sanctified/consecrated/made sacred, does it mean God/the divine/the holy is/are digitizable (0/1)?

    What does that mean? Black & White thinking (fallacious/not, you be the judge), no middle ground to become a source of nuance/subtlety aka confusion (good, bad, only two choices to give you a sneak peek of what the world would be like).

    Is God digital i.e. is God a computer?
  • hypericin
    Certainly it would, to some.Bret Bernhoft
    Is any, to all?
  • Bret Bernhoft

    That's an excellent question, and I'd assume not. But I could be mistaken.
  • hypericinAccepted Answer
    That's an excellent question, and I'd assume not. But I could be mistaken.Bret Bernhoft

    I would also assume not. Therefore, the requirement that something be sacred must be that some, not all, people regard it so. Therefore, my example answers your op in the affirmative.

    The alternative perspective is that of the true believer, whereby some intrinsic property of a space makes it sacred.
  • Bret Bernhoft

    Thank you for the clarity of your language choices. That might sound odd, but what I mean to say is that you nicely summarize and expand on the original question with your answer(s).

    With that expressed, I'm curious what the threshold is for "enough people" to perceive something/somewhere as sacred, for it to then become so? I imagine there isn't a formula or algorithm that can address this wonder in its entirety.

    This conversation is quite fascinating. Good times.
  • hypericin
    With that expressed, I'm curious what the threshold is for "enough people" to perceive something/somewhere as sacred, for it to then become so?Bret Bernhoft

    If there is a threshold I imagine it would vary among individuals and cultures. There is no formula. This touches upon a tension in philosophy, between the real and the imaginary, that some day I will create a post on.

    The imaginary may manifest in the world, it's just that it's ultimate substrate is mental. The sacred, nations, money are examples. You don't expect imaginary things to have rigid regularities that can be expressed in an equation. When you ask "what is..." of an imaginary thing, the question is definitional, psychological, and/or sociological. As opposed to asking of a physical thing. This boundary gets blurred constantly, both in philosophy and in reality. After all, nothing seems more real than national borders, money can literally move mountains, and yet every point of contact we have with a pebble is mediated by imaginary, virtual qualities.

    Just saying thoughts.
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