Welcome to Burning Man’s Temple… A Spiritual Place

Early morning photo of the Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Outlined by early morning sunlight, the 2014 Temple of Grace (designed by David Best) adds an element of tranquility and spirituality to Burning Man.

Black Rock City does an annual census that is chock-full of interesting information, including the spiritual beliefs of Burners. I was going to write about the overall census results today, but decided to wait for the final 2014 data. That means this will be my last post for the season on Burning Man.

Census form being filled out at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Burning Man takes its annual census seriously. Here a Burner fills out his form while his friend checks out the entertainment at the Center Camp Cafe.

It seems appropriate that I conclude with the Temple. I consider it to be Burning Man’s most unique structure. And yes, this includes the Man. The Temple is a spiritual place. Thousands of Burners leave messages to friends and loved ones who have passed on, including pets. They also leave messages of thanks and love to people who are still very much with us. By Saturday, it is challenging to find a reachable space that hasn’t been written on. When the Temple burns on Sunday evening, all of these messages are sent skyward, with a prayer, if you will.

Burning of 2102 Temple of Juno designed by David Best. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

While Peggy and I left before the burning of the 2014 Temple, we were able to stay for the burning of 2012 Temple, which was also built by David Best.

This does not mean that Burners are religious. In fact, only 7% of Burners define themselves as belonging to a particular religion according to the 2013 Census. Half of all Burners consider themselves spiritual, however. And most of these folks, including me, think of the Temple as sacred space. The thousands of messages of grief and deeply felt love make it impossible to think otherwise.

Messages written on the walls of the Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

So many messages are written on the walls of the Temple that no space is left, as this photo illustrates. I was amused by the upper left message that stated, “Goodbye to who I thought I was. Yes!” Warning: Going to Burning Man may impact your concept of reality.

A memorial to Robin Williams at the 2014 Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.  Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

There was also a memorial to Robin Williams. “Thank you Robin for the laughs.”

View of Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I like this photo because of the perspective it provides on how intricately the walls of the Temple were carved.

Center piece at Temple of Grace, Burning Man 2014.

This view of the Temple’s centerpiece also demonstrates the intricate carving as well as the open feeling of the Temple. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Top of Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.

Peggy caught this early morning photo of the Temples top. The specks you see up in the sky, BTW, are skydivers. Hundreds of jumps are made during the week. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Gateway to Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One of the main gateways into the Temple of Grace.

Gateway pillar at Temple of Grace, Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I liked the contrast with this gateway pillar and the morning sky.

Photo of early morning clouds taken from Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Looking over the wall that surrounds the Temple of Grace, I took this photograph of clouds caught at dawn.

A view of the 2014 Burning Man Temple of Grace at night. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A view of the Temple of Grace at night.

A view of the Temple's centerpiece at night. (Photo by Don Green.)

The Temple’s centerpiece at night. (Photo by Don Green.)

Temple of Grace at night during Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A final view of the Temple of Grace.

NEXT BLOGS: I am beginning a new series on North America’s fabulous Northwest. I will start with a week-long sea kayak trip Peggy and I took this summer off the coast of northern Vancouver Island looking for Orcas. I will then move inland for a look at Washington’s beautiful Mt. Rainier National Park where Peggy and I hiked with our son Tony in August. I will finish up with a road trip down the Oregon coast, which I am on right now. It may even include portions of Washington and California’s Coast. Who knows where I might end up. I don’t.

21 thoughts on “Welcome to Burning Man’s Temple… A Spiritual Place

  1. Amazing journey Curt. Great photos and am pleased you pointed out that the messages left were spiritually inspired but not necessarily religious, although some of them were. Sometimes it is assumed that spirituality is always religious in the sense of a ‘belonging to a church’.

      • That is very true, at least for me. I’m not religious. I’m 58 years old, went to Burning Man for the first time this year, and being in the Temple of Grace was the first time in my life that I felt any spiritual connection to a community. It was a life-changing experience.

      • I think the ‘spiritual connection’ is a common feeling for the people at the Temple. Certainly there is a sense of respect. Burning Man has a way of impacting people’s lives. –Curt

  2. My concept of reality is already seriously impacted 🙂
    Maybe one day we’ll get to BM and have it impacted even more.
    Thanks for this post on the sacred temple, and for all your BM posts. I just have to convince Don he’ll survive the dust 🙂

    • Hi Alison. I think you have a great concept of reality.:) While I just wear a handkerchief when the dust is bad, many people wear much more serious dust protection, including gas masks. I am sure there is something that Don could find that would provide adequate protection. Much of the day is dust free, although there are never any guarantees. Glad you enjoyed the series. Next blog I head up into your neck of the woods. –Curt

    • Thanks AC. Months go into the project, although David Best has it down to a science. BTW, he is now in the process of building a temple for Norther Ireland that will also be burned. -Curt

  3. Beautiful temple! The photos are especially gorgeous, matching the spiritual aspect you wrote about. Then, you are making sure we will read you again: the themes of your future posts are wonderfully mouth-watering.

  4. The temple’s tracery reminded me of a folding fan I had as a child. It was, I’m sure, imitation ivory, but it was beautifully carved,with patterns I remember as being very much the same as some you’ve shown us here.

    I like the night shots best, I think. Very, very nice.

    • Thanks Linda. Glad you enjoyed the post. Can you imagine the work that must go into creating the Temple?

      As for your youth, maybe it was real. Back when we were kids, back before the impact on elephants was realized, ivory would have been much more abundant.

      My first wife and I bought a beautifully carved tusk in Liberia. It went with her; I got the VW Van. 🙂 Good thing, I didn’t have to feel the guilt and the van served me for several years of happy wandering. –Curt

  5. Spectacular. What an opportunity for people to “pray” for the things and people that matter to them. I found following this series eye opening, a journey of discovery. The feast was in your words and splendid photos- thanks to you Peggy as well.

    • And thank you, Timi. I am really glad you enjoyed the series. Blogging about Burning Man is our way of thanking the event for providing so many unique experiences. And it is always fun to share tales of our wandering. –Curt

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