What’s in an… Image?

Source: Bahaiteachings.org

Icon and Imagery

Icons and imagery are often a cultures way of showing and establishing dominance over another culture or people. In the case of the multiple conquests of Israel, we see repeated demolitions of the temple. In the conquering of the Roman Empire they repeated destroy or flood cities and cultures with their political and religious images… along with destroying that cultures images.

Roman Catholic dominance emphasized the importance of their religious images and icons. Islam is still destroying cultural artifacts or previous religious imagery in a means to subvert or undermine any critique within the culture it’s in.

The Egyptians used their art, hieroglyphics and Pyramids as icons of power, of the afterlife and their own religious beliefs to show dominance over their own people. These icons establish dominance and use imagery and meaning as a way of control.

Presently images shape our understanding and seek to claim their own importance. Perhaps it’s a cross on a building, a flag on a stage or on the front of a government building, a quote or a face on a t-shirt. Every image has history, every icon holds meaning… to some it holds healing to another that same image can be a sign of hate.

Reshaping the Idea of Divine

“There is a different way of approaching the supernatural, one that doesn’t see it as describing a change in the natural realm… the miraculous is testified in the moment when we come to feel that life has infinite significance.
In this way we might begin to appreciate how a real miracle is not something that raises the dead, but something that raises the living to a place where life is not experienced as death.”
P. Rollins (Divine Magician)

As we begin to break down these various elements of imagery and symbols we see this “magic production”, that most religions emphasize, and we can begin to realize the deeply rooted misunderstanding that is modern religion or pseudo-spirituality. If the model begins to emphasize or even demand that we go to a place, follow a list of divinely mandated actions, and (maybe most importantly) go through a mediator to God… then this begins to infect almost every element of how we view, God, faith and spirituality.

The view of a place drastically changes. God is still in the temple, chapel, church or building. That becomes THE place we go to worship, gather, connect with God and our community. And this makes the rest of those things the “other” or not holy. Not filled with divine potential. This begins to shape and form the way we think about who and where God is.

As long as we think about our spirituality and connection as tied to a place, we will primarily understand our interactions as segmented — as tied to a place rather than integrated in who we fully are as human.

This view of God drastically changes. Thinking of God as tied to a place can most often make us think of God as here or there. For the Jewish religion, God is in the temple. For Orthodox Catholicism, God was in the cathedral. For many in modern Christianity, God becomes in the church. We talk about it in ways that begin to make God less in one place, and more in another. This is counter what Jesus taught and exactly what he was rallying so hard against, the religious elite that were controlling people’s access to God. The religious elite that were charging people to come to God, and teaching that God was in a place… rather than God in and through everything.

This view of faith drastically changes.