The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2015

The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2012.

The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2015: light, airy, and beautiful.

I had rolled out of bed at 5:30 and ridden my bike out onto the Playa to take photos of Burning Man’s 2015 Temple of Promise. It was truly beautiful and promised to be even more so at sunrise. There were lots of folks already there when I arrived (even mutant vehicles), but none of the hustle, bustle and noise that normally accompany Burner events. As the sun hit the spire, the people present spontaneously formed a large circle and silently held hands. No one said let’s hold hands; or let’s form a circle. It was unplanned, a response to the beauty of the moment, yes, but more, something transcendent, a reflection of how Burners feel about their temple.

A crowd had gathered at the Temple of Promise when I arrived as the sun climbed over the mountains. A dragon mutant vehicle is outlined by the early morning light.

A crowd had gathered at the Temple of Promise when I arrived as the sun climbed over the mountains. A dragon mutant vehicle, filled with Burners, is outlined by the early morning light.

Burners spontaneously joined hands as the first rays of the sun hit the Temple.

Burners spontaneously joined hands as the first rays of the sun hit the Temple.

And continued to as the Temple was bathed in light.

And continued to hold hands as the Temple was bathed in light.

I use the word ‘their temple’ on purpose. The people responsible for building the temple each year— the architects, master builders, and volunteers who donate thousands of hours— and the people responsible for funding it (somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000), generously contribute their work of art to the people attending Burning Man, as part of the event’s unique gifting society. Every year, the temple is different, a unique creation, and every year I have attended, the temple has been something special, a thing of beauty. Here is a selection of the temples.

The Temples at Burning Man are unique and quite beautiful.

The Fire of Fires Temple at Burning Man 2009

One of the first Temples I saw at Burning Man.

The Temple of Hope at Burning Man 2006

This temple was pyramidal in shape.

The Temple of Whollyness at Burning Man 2013

And this one resembled a sand dune.

The Temple of Flux at Burning Man 2010.

Burning Man's Temple of Juno in 2012

The Temple of Juno at Burning Man 2012. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

The Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.

The Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.

The significance of the Temple goes beyond its beauty, it becomes a refuge, a place to say goodbye to friends and loved ones (including pets) who have passed on, a place to ask for forgiveness and leave messages of forgiveness, and a place to celebrate and say thank you. Literally thousands of messages are left on the temple walls during the week. Photographs, perhaps a dog’s favorite chew toy, even someone’s ashes are left as remembrances.

Morris the Cat was born in 1998 and passed away

Morris the Cat was born in 1998 and passed away on October 5, 2014 at the old age of 16. He was still loved and missed by the people he had considered his family.

Someone has memorialized a number of species that had become extinct.

The Earth Guardians of Burning Man have memorialized a number of species that had become extinct.

A garden of metal trees stood in the Temple's patio and provided more opportunities for people to remember their loved ones.

A garden of metal trees stood in the Temple’s patio and provided more opportunities for people to remember their loved ones.

Photographing the Temple at different times of the day and from different angles only added to its beauty.

The entrance leading into the Temple. (Photo by Don Green.)

I really liked this shot by Don that emphasized the entrance leading into the Temple and the contrasting mountains behind. (Photo by Don Green.)

Another morning shot from a different angle. I also like the drama provided by the clouds.

Another morning shot from a different angle. I also liked the drama provided by the clouds.

Morning sun catching the copper face of the temple provided the rich color here.

Morning sun catching the copper face of the temple provided the rich color here.

Inside the Temple at midday... shadows and light.

Inside the Temple at midday… shadows and light.

The Temple at night from a distance.

The Temple at night from a distance.

The front of the Temple at night.

The front of the Temple at night.

Inside the Temple at night.

Inside the Temple at night.

A black and white rendition of the Temple top for fun.

A black and white rendition of the Temple top for fun.

On Sunday evening the Temple burns. It is a solemn occasion. Tears run down cheeks, people whisper goodbyes, and friends hold each other tight as flames leap into the air, lighting the night and  carrying memories of loved ones into the sky. But it is also a celebration of life, a letting go, and permission to move forward. I had planned to attend the 2015 ceremony along with my friends Tom Lovering and Don Green, but we had the wrong time and the temple burned quickly. Here are two photos from the Temple burn of 2012.

The temple of Juno from 2012 burns, shooting flames high into the sky.

The temple of Juno from 2012 burns, shooting flames high into the sky.

A final shot. Soon the Temple will fall, helping to bring closure to the thousands of people who had left messages.

A final shot. Soon the Temple will fall, helping to bring closure to the thousands of people who had left messages.

 

25 comments on “The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2015

  1. It’s interesting to ponder the similarities and differences among the most well-known temples in the world today: at Burning Man, in Salt Lake City, and in Jerusalem. Well, and there was that Indiana Jones movie. 🙂

    When I saw the hand-holders in their circle around the temple, I couldn’t help but think of one of the last scenes in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” where all the Whos were in a circle around their Christmas tree. Not such a strange association, perhaps, given my favorite Burning Man video.

    • Laughing about the Grinch, and you are right. Interesting fact about Burners, according to the annual census. Only about 30% list themselves as belonging to an established religion while over half consider themselves spiritual. The Temple seems to reflect this. You certainly see a degree of reverence/respect when they visit. As for your video, looks like Burning Man to me. 🙂 –Curt

  2. Beautiful pics, Curt. From watching the documentary that I told you about, this place seemed to be the best thing about it from my limited perspective. It’s sacred, beautiful and amazing the time, craft, and attitude that it takes to create a temporary place of such reverence and beauty.

    • I like your comment GP. It is easy to get lost in the noise and busyness, and the partying at Burning Man, but there is another whole layer to the event, and that is the one I like to stress in my blogs. –Curt

  3. Absolutely exquisite. All of them, but especially the Temple of Promise. What an extraordinary work of art, and of the heart. Your (and Don’s) wonderful photos really captured the beauty of it.
    Alison

  4. The shot by Don that shows the mountains in the background was the one that most reminded me of the Air Force Academy Chapel. I was stationed there for awhile, and I have the image of the sharp peak of the building against the Front Range of the Rockies pressed into my mind.

    Your photos are stunning, and I am blown away by the montage of temples over the years. I think I declared each one of them my favourite at some point. How could I choose? The art is inspired and radically different each time around. I guess this is obvious, but burning the temple is profound to me, and an idea that hits me fresh each time I read one of your Burning Man posts. Making art designed to be impermanent really touches me. Even though that’s the point, I am effected each time. I love the idea that people can also use this event as a personal ceremony to let things go and face the next day fresh.

    • I remember, once long ago, being at a conference at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and having a view that was probably similar to yours, quite impressive.
      The Temple is really a unique creation, Crystal. Walking though and reading what people have written, really brings this home. Or simply watching people sit in the dirt and struggle with what they have to write, makes the same point. And all of this is in addition to the beauty of the various temples and their impermanence. –Curt

  5. No wonder you like going to Burning Man. These temples are amazing. Almost ethereal. And to take pictures at various times of the day would be an awesome experience in and of itself. Thanks, too, for remembering so many details. I have a habit of snapping quickly and moving on, forgetting that I need to write down names, etc. You’ve done it all so well.

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