As I was watching a documentary on the stained glass of the medieval cathedrals, it dawned on me that there is a very distinct difference between worship spaces. These spaces match the belief system that built the structure.
The medieval cathedrals were built to showcase The Light. They are huge vaulted spaces complete with magnificent windows of colored glass. In many cases, the orientation of the building is such that certain windows are lit during certain times during the day. In the earliest churches, the windows were just patterns of colored glass. As glass making developed and became more sophisticated, it became an art form in and of itself. Snapshots of biblical scenes and personages were included. The illumination provided by the sun, as it streamed through the windows, added to the mystical ambiance as well as the education of the masses.
Everyone is welcome in a cathedral. There is no separation between the sexes or between the ordained and the laity. When you enter a most cathedrals, you step out of the physical world and into a small space or vestibule. When you step into the nave it is a grand experience of sacred space and beautiful light.
The Temples of Amarna, built by Akhenaten, also followed this pattern of moving from the small and dark into the expansive and light. There was a large open courtyard with innumerable altars that worshipped the Aten in the open air.
On the other hand, the Temple of Solomon began in the women’s court, which moved to the men’s court, which then moved into the sacrificial space and finally into the Holy of Holies. As you pass through each gateway, the space becomes smaller and darker and the number of people allowed access becomes less and less. Only those who are deemed most worthy are given access to the secret or mystical teachings and allowed into the deepest parts of the Temple.
The Temples at Karnak also followed the system of mystery that only the initiated or ordained were allowed to enter into the small dark Holy of Holies.
These two very opposite worship sites are a further indication of which spiritual path, the Way of Grace or the Way of Passion/Kundalini, that a particular group was/is following. Those who follow the Way of Grace consider everyone and everything an expression of God. Everything is sacred in its own way. Grace is equivalent to The Light, which is celebrated in the open meadows and courtyards or vast spaces of the cathedral.
The Way of Passion is a graduated path that requires adherents to slough off the ego. This creates a hierarchy of achievement, which means that one must pass tests in order to be allowed to the next level. All is kept secret until the adherent is ready for the next stage of development. Thus, the mysteries were born in the caves and deep forest groves or the dark inner spaces of the Holy of Holies.