An altar does not belong to any one religion or practice. It is a place to which one comes to honor the sacred and to deepen one's experience of the sacred. Its purpose is to act as a window to the Divine – to help open the channel of communication to the world of Spirit by virtue of the purity of its intention and the use to which it is put.
Altars can carry representations of whatever is perceived as holy or sacred which they can include, but all that is really needed is a space containing a shelf, table, or other surface that is clear of everything else, and a candle which can be lit during the time that one sits before it. This candle is a symbol of the light of God which is always present that we seek to invoke as we come to pray, meditate, or attune. The candle is also a direct descendant of that light, for one light – the light of the physical – is not separate from the other. The flame of the physical candle partakes of the flame of the Eternal.
Since the purpose of an altar is holy, its purpose is diminished if the space in which it resides is used for other activities as well, or if things that do not carry a sacred vibration are placed on it or near it. In relation to spiritual communication, communion, or attunement, vibration is singularly important since the experiences that come from the realm of Spirit are often subtle and can be covered over or missed entirely if there are other distracting energies present or if the altar is not kept in a pure state.
Some thought needs to be given to this, since in many homes space is limited, and it may not seem possible at first to find a unique corner in which to create a sanctified and private space. In such instances in which a literal space cannot be carved out, it may be possible, depending on the purity of one's own intention, to create a covered altar – one that is screened from view during the ordinary activities of the day but that is taken out or opened up when one wants to sit in front of it. The privacy and deliberateness of such an action can accompany the prayer of a heart that truly seeks an experience of the sacred, and the relationship with the altar can be preserved by such an intention.
Our relationship with the altar we create is the single most powerful feature which gives to it its ability to act as a conduit for energies of light and holiness, and which makes of it the center of a holy space. This relationship is built out of several things:
- - the regularity of a sitting practice which displays our commitment to reach out to the divine Source;
- our heart's involvement with what we are doing as we sit before it;
- the sense of importance that we give to our altar-time and our willingness and capacity to be present when we sit.
Since the feelings and longings of the heart carry a vibration of their own, these feelings, when activated by prayer or in the silence of meditative communion, give to the altar-space an aura which remains during the time between sittings and which is of benefit to the rest of our living space.
The presence of a physical altar in the place where we live supports every aspect of spiritual life and practice and makes for an easier transition into the realm of the sacred and holy. It creates a bridge to that realm which can operate in two directions, for we can not only cross over it into the realm of the holy, but the energy from spiritual realms can also infuse our everyday life and activities. As a window to the Divine, our sacred altar-space carries an energy of invitation that remains present as a light and beacon that we can return to over and over again, knowing that with each return, the light becomes stronger and the path of return made easier.
This is the second article in the series: Beginning a Spiritual Practice. For the first article see “Beginning a Spiritual Practice" in the Light Omega Reader . For other writings by Julie Redstone on leading a sacred life see the Light Omega website.