Last week I was touring the East Coast with my alt-country side project The Flutterbies. One of our shows was at a church in Dover, Delaware. The chapel was beautiful—stained glass, vaulted ceilings, dark wood pews. And the acoustics in the space were amazing, the natural reverb lush and gorgeous.
Down the center aisle was a Steinway full grand piano, perfectly tuned and balanced. I sat and played an hour before our gig, digging the vibrations, resonant and lovely. During our set, I sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in that ambient sanctuary and I literally felt God. It was one of my most sublime artistic moments.
Since that evening, I’ve been thinking a lot about sacred spaces. Churches, temples, and shrines all seem to have the same effect on me; as soon as I step inside I feel reverent, humble, and inspired.
What is it about these places that moves me this way? What residue lingers in the air after years of prayer and devotion, hallowing a physical space, making it what Celtic Christians used to call a “thin place,” an area where the distance between the secular and sacred starts to dissolve?
What makes a place tangibly holy, and could there even be a scientific explanation for it?
Turns out, there may be.
Some quantum physicists believe we move in a field of subtle energy, much like fish swim in water. This energy sea underlies our universe; it’s so fundamental we can only perceive it indirectly. The implications are intriguing… Imagine a ship on the ocean. It leaves waves behind it as it travels. For as long as the waves churn before they melt away, the surface of the sea becomes a recording of the ship’s presence and motion. Analyzing the wave patterns, we can tell where the ship was, what direction it was moving, and possibly even how massive it is.
The energy sea in which we live is like an ocean, except unlike water, physicists theorize it’s superfluid. This means it’s a medium with no friction, so waves moving within it never melt away. The field of energy in which we live may thus be a permanent recording of universal events. The cosmos may literally have a memory.
So what does this have to do with thin places? Like any activity, religious ritual must make waves in the energy field underlying a sacred sight. Maybe years of repeated reverence cause more and more of the same kind of waves to layer and interweave into a thick tapestry of spiritually-inspired quantum energy. And maybe this energy, when repitition makes it grow sufficiently dense, becomes physically perceivable, if only subtly.
If this is true, I wonder if thin places don’t have to be only religious. What about art, dance, and recording studios? Theatre and concert stages? Some rooms just feel inspiring. That could be because we’re producing and performing alongside the energetic imprint of every artist there before us. Aided by all their muses, not just our own. And leaving our quantum footprint for whoever comes after us.
Do you have a thin place—somewhere you feel timeless, connected to powers greater than yourself?