in: Advice, Character, Sunday Firesides

• Last updated: March 8, 2024

Sunday Firesides: Protect the Sanctum Sanctorum of Selfhood

The innermost room in the ancient Israelites’ temple was called the Holy of Holies — the sanctum sanctorum. It was here, it was thought, that heaven intersected with earth. Only the High Priest was allowed through the curtain that marked off this sanctuary, and it was said that when he left it, his face would be aglow.

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard believed that every individual should have his own sanctum sanctorum, an innermost sanctuary within his mind/heart/spirit that offered haven to his “private personality” and barred entry to all interlopers.

In nearly every area of our lives, we live for, with, and by the dictates of others. We are motivated by the gaze of a literal or imagined audience. We behave to avoid shame and win affirmation. We absorb opinions from every corner of the cultural landscape. We are influenced by peers long after adolescence. 

There is nothing necessarily bad about this social setup, and it can be the source of much good.

But there must be an area of the self where the porousness of your personality ends. A dwelling place for those immovable convictions, sacred principles, and creative visions you wish to keep unsullied from all that is stupid, degrading, and profane. 

There must be a place in the soul that’s just for you and not based on the frameworks of others, a sanctuary where you beat a retreat while uttering your chosen incantations.

Get out of here with the idea of turning humans into brands and lives into content. 

Get out of here with your cynical sneers.

Get out of here with your efforts to call evil good, and good evil.

There must be a place within the innermost self where you can draw the curtain closed behind you and convene with one of the holiest things on earth: unadulterated individuality. 

Related Posts