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Sacred and Profane

The Ambiguity Of The Sacred

The sacred was not in any simpleminded way reducible to "the good." Mourning rituals pointed the way to another dimension of the sacred, connected with "[any] misfortune, anything that is ominous, and anything that motivates feelings of disquiet or fear" (p. 392). The domain of the sacred also included "evil and impure powers, bringers of disorder, causes of death and sickness, instigators of sacrilege" (p. 412). Just as the sacred and the profane could be defined only in terms of one another, so the pure and the impure constituted two inextricably linked modalities of sacredness. After all, both holy and polluting things need to be kept separate from the profane realm of everyday reality.

In some cases, Durkheim suggested that the same object could easily pass from one state to another. The impurely sacred, according to Durkheim, was necessary in order to represent inevitable negative facets of social reality. "[The] two poles of religious life correspond to the two opposite states through which all social life passes. There is the same contrast between the lucky and the unlucky sacred as between the states of collective euphoria and dysphoria" (p. 417).

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Revaluation of values: to Sarin Gas - History And Global Production Of SarinSacred and Profane - Durkheim's Definition Of Religion, Sacred Versus Holy; Profane Versus Secular, Totems, Society, And The Sacred