The Antinomies of religious custom

The stupidest customs are also the most brilliant

Thesis

In India, they bring the divine into the the murti by paining its eyes. Thereafter, God is “in” the statue, or present “at” the place of the statue, or concretized “as” the statue, or “looks out from” the statue. Once this investment has occurred, once God is present in/at/as the statue, they say that:

  • the statue becomes an ontological that links the looker to God; or
  • that the belief creates an intentionality in the believer that inspires or focus or bhakti; or
  • that the the belief induces an experience of real presence in/at/as the statue; or
  • that the belief induces awakens the experience of an omnipresence that it always there but which we ignore (for surely an all-pervading X is at every place, including one’s own body); or
  • that the belief acts as a placebo for other beneficial or desired effects.

Conclusion of Thesis

The marriage of God and concrete form is very helpful and a great idea.

Antithesis

In Muslim countries, images of God are prohibited. Not only that, images of sentient beings generally are illegal. Placing importance on this or that local volume of space devalues the rest of space. All of space is permeated by God. Affirming divinity at one place in space denies it in all others:

  • All of space is equally sacred, so we should not exaggerate one (small) volume to the detriment of all the rest, in which God is present. So depicting God materially reduces mystical unity with God.
  • God is the source of all being, include feces and rotting carcasses. God is also the source of the life-force that animates life, which is important because we love ourselves primarily by being pro-survival. So living matter is doubly blessed—once by creation, and again by addition of life-force. Being enraptured by an image of a living thing again reduces appreciation for its omnipresent cause. Depicting living things subtracts from our mystical unity with God.
  • People are easily seduced by images. We salivate at photographs and get sexually aroused by flickering pixels. Images usurp our finite store of attention and decrease the amount attached to God. Depicting living things distracts from mystical unity with God.

Conclusion of Antithesis

Reducing God-attention to small spaces prevents our sensus divinitatis from intuiting the real God, which is omnipresent and space-transcendent. The prohibition on depicting living forms is very helpful to expansive mystical awareness and a great idea.

Final Conclusion

All thinking about religious propriety is determined inside a context of basic metaphysical prejudices. The context determines everything—it makes good things bad, bad things good, and allows anything to work as a effective placebo.