sometimes you have to burn the temple down

sometimes you have to
burn the temple down
because the god kept there
is too big for doors
and has no way out

if we have holiness left
we cannot hold it here
inside walls
what’s arcane
wants to be shouted

strip the priests
because what’s sacred
needs freeing
back to divine wildness
and is fed more through awe
than any worship

so loose it–
and scatter the ashes

About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
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72 Responses to sometimes you have to burn the temple down

  1. Trent Lewin says:

    Holy words Susan.
    Scatter the ashes, indeed. That is a fitting goal, unfortunately. But there you have it. Let’s burn the temple down all right.

  2. George Ellington says:

    So well written, Susan. Before
    human society settled down into agrarian communities and the wealth of trade allowed for construction to flourish, the gods of old were constrained by nothing more than their natural habitat: a hill, a glen, a river, a mountain. I have stood in temples and shrines and mosques and churches and basilicas, and I have wondered at the intent that inspired their construction. I cannot help but ponder how the effort to glorify deities has been upheld by an equally passionate effort to constrain them. And domesticate them.

    • Thank you, George. What a beautiful insight you have shared with me–I want the untamed god, the god who runs through the woods. I think you might have inspired something else here.

  3. claudia says:

    back to divine wildness…
    to first love…to awe that brings us on our knees and makes us wildly thankful…yes!!
    if we have holiness left
    we cannot hold it here
    inside walls…love this susan

  4. unfetteredbs says:

    bare bones amazing Susan. A good read for my early morning

  5. ruleofstupid says:

    I’m with you! I’ve got some petrol a
    nd matches and I’m wearing an jet-black onesy! Let’s do it!
    Joking aside, I really am with you – away from idolatry, away from slavery and back to reverence. Great writing. πŸ™‚

  6. This struck a chord even for me a
    dyed in the wool atheist. Or perhaps it was because I am?

    • Duncan–thanks!
      It probably struck that chord because of the atheism, which in my most humble opinion takes more commitment and faith (yes, faith) to maintain than any organized system of worship–and yes, that is what needs to be broken down–that organization, in order to free us to connect with what I call divine and perhaps you would call the wonder/power of the universe, in all its diversity?

      • What ticks me off is that the organised religions – all of the except the Buddhists- believe they have a monopoly on sprituality. So most days I come across something so wonderful it stops me in my tracks. Could be anything. The LHC? I think that’s wonderful. A bird landing on a telephone wire in a high wind, and making it work first time, and not falling off? That’s pretty wonderful
        I just don’t need a god to explain all this. It’s the universe, which is a truly strange place and deserves a bit more attention and respect.
        Gods distract people, they prescribe and proscribe activities. Except they don’t. gods don’t speak to us, they speak via self appointed men and women with axes to grind. I find it vaguely sickening.
        Interestingly my father in law was a man of the cloth. we had a few dingdongs, but at no point did he tell me I was going to burn in hell.
        That’s the other thing. Religions are all about ‘Life may be crap now, but when you’re dead it’ll all be fine and dandy.’
        Hey god? What about making it all fine and dandy now? Is that too much to ask for? You are omnipotent, aren’t you? Sort it out, man.
        Jam tomorrow? Why not today AND tomorrow?
        Right, I’ll climb off my hobbyhorse now

  7. annotating60 says:

    You have developed such an anger
    streak of late. Are you next going after the White Whale?>KB

    • Hmmm.
      If the whale represents what is comfortable, what is easy, what is taken for granted by us in this world, then I am all for sharpening my harpoon πŸ˜‰

      I do hope I am done being angry and am on to something else. Not sure exactly what to call it.

  8. mobius faith says:

    This has such strong writing.
    Wonderful work. I really love this. I love the fact of taking spirituality/faith out of the strictures of the “temple” to a space where it can actually flow freely be of benefit and appreciated. It changes our perception of the world around us.

    • Terry–that is exactly what inspired me about that phrase from Trent–yes, our temples need burning, to free the god inside all the ritual, so we can then meet that god freely, with a daily familiarity.

  9. Green Speck says:

    Scatter the ashes — brilliant !!!

  10. brian miller says:

    would it be too preachy to give you an amen…you had me up front with burning down the temple to let god loose….heck yeah….we try to keep him in safe places which is far from where he is needed most….great write…

  11. I can’t help but be reminded of a quote I read a while back on succunbing :

    “β€œPoetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” ~ Leonard Cohen”

    Funny about that “tearing down the temple walls thing”–as mike said better and more humorously than I could–wasn’t that what the Big J-Man was trying to do to begin with?
    All these meme-y temple, stone, dust-mote-in-god’s-eye things you-all have been bouncing around along with the whole Newtown thing have been bouncing around on my stove big-time with something I’ve had cooking on the back burner for a while and I think I now know how it ends…thank you–

    To the Thumpers on the Right, I say I am an Atheist.
    To Those on the Other End, I say I am a Buddhist.
    Neither one is true. Neither one is false, entirely.
    It’s easier than trying to explain.

    I just hope I burn well…

    • Johnny–I LOVE that quote–definitely applies here, and I also like those lines. I think, THINK I am done with the angry poetry about this, but I might not be, yet. And yes, JC was trying to burn the temples down, or at least turning over tables in the temple. Same thing–getting faith out where it belongs, in the world, not just packed in a room for an hour or two a week.

  12. Free and release what is holy out into the world. So true and so loving

  13. Susan says:

    I’m all for a good hot fire,
    and am moved by your bonfire of words. But I am not sure the old need to be destroyed by flame when the power of truth can leave them behind bereft and–OR–have them stripping themselves down for the transformation.
    They who burn end up needing burning as well and the circle of violence continues.

  14. vivinfrance says:

    Churches and temples, beautiful though so many are, do not have the monopoly of the presence of God. The natural world seems to me to be the right habitat of our divinities.

  15. I believe we all have the God-light within us and we have free choice of whether we choose to open ourselves up to let our light shine and the light of love work both ways. I also believe we don’t need a church at all to be close to God. We carry it within us wherever we are. As Jesus did in the desert, He didn’t need to go to church on Sunday to speak to his Father..he did it wherever he was at the time.
    Powerful poem, Susan, packs a punch with the right message too πŸ™‚

  16. ihatepoetry says:

    Excellent – absolutely perfect! Happy Xmas! Mosk

  17. Wonderful ‘loose it and scatter the ashes’ ~ fab πŸ™‚

  18. janehewey says:

    here here! “loose it and scatter the ashes”
    the most amazing flowers bloom with the help of ash.
    inspiring write, susan.

  19. Mary says:

    Strong writing. Sometimes I do wonder if we have any holiness left! Sigh.

  20. You are correct, holiness is not to be corralled within four walls.

  21. tigerbrite says:

    I have read all through the comments here and someone said the only true people were buddists. Sorry but I have attended a buddist temple very close to where I live and they are the most intense people to convert you to their ways that I have ever expereinced. It is done in a way that makes you believe them to be superior to you spiritually in every way. I believe people who now wish to become buddist are subjected to intense indoctrination which I have experienced in reality.

    • I do not think there is any one true faith that can claim with complete smugness they have the key to God/the universe/everything. Interesting that the a-theistic buddhists are guilty of this,as well. I think it has little to do with the divine and everything to do with what is in us a very human issue.

  22. ayala says:

    Beautiful write, Susan.

  23. Heather Sawaya says:

    So powerful. This has to be one of my favorites of all time, from any poet, ever. Love it.

  24. Kelvin S.M. says:

    …a sensible write Susan… for some reasons i can feel a pagan like adoration in this more than a sacramental one… still, i enjoyed it… smiles…

  25. nelle says:

    Right for the music in my head, whooosh! Yes, we do tend to confine things that require free range.

  26. Scatter the ashes, indeed…I always felt that God or anything divine lives outside stone walls and ceilings… “…the god kept there
    is too big for doors
    and has no way out” beautifuly said.

  27. Sabio Lantz says:

    May “Awe” and “Freedom” be our practice instead of religion!
    I agree

  28. Indeed! My God does not require the trappings many of us think necessary. He is far too awesome ( a word I use rarely and only in reference to God) to be constrained by the limits of dogma and rite.

  29. Great title and intro stanza!

  30. Scatter the ashes..Hell yeahhhh..that was revolutionary Susan!!!! love the feeling i got reading you..totally agreed πŸ™‚

  31. hypercryptical says:

    Oh I do so agree! Let’s burn them down and scatter the ashes.

    Goodness is often not contained in temples – worryingly just the opposite.

    Let us be in awe of our world and of each other and free of the stifles of organised religion. Let us battle no more in the name of God.

    Anna :o]

  32. Bart Wolffe says:

    Yes, it has to be a fire, not a fireplace for yesterday’s ashes!

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