Originally posted by ChronicLeaky
What's your favourite historical or fictitious holy war, and why?
The one I’m currently fighting.
“Who is the enemy?
“What is idolatry?”
Any attempt to turn the ultimately ineffable into a ‘graven image.’
“What d’you mean by a graven image?”
Any attempt to fashion the ineffable into a descriptive image or idea or definition that one then insists is adequate and accurate (even if incomplete), and
must be believed or adhered to, in order for one to have obtained the truth, or to be saved, etc.—whether this image is graven in stone, on the pages of a book, or in the mind.
In a sense, idolatry involves, not simply fashioning an image—we all do that, and I have no objections per se to iconography—but insisting upon (i) its adequacy and correctness as an expression the truth (“graving” ), and (ii) that it exclusively represents the truth, rejection of which represents rebellion (“bowing down” ). The fashioning, the graving and the bowing-down can all occur within one’s own mind.
In other words, it is an attempt to substitute the sign (signifier + signified) for the referent—in this case, the referent being the totality, which is ineffable because it exceeds the capabilities of our “conceptual grammar,” both because (a) the totality as such has no proper analogy or comparative or metaphor, in terms of which we can think/speak; and (b) there is no reason to assume that there are not aspects of the totality that simply transcend our conceptual capacities.
In shorthand: the opposite of idolatry is the mystery, which can be recognized but not “dogmatized.”
When one reaches the end of our conceptual grammar, one faces the mystery which is ineffable. Even this language I’m using here is necessarily faulty. Confronted by the ineffable, one can:
(1) remain silent;
(2) attempt to use language in paradoxical and poetical ways intended, not to map the ineffable, but to elicit an openness to the simple experience of it.
All religious language for me (and music and art), whether theistic (Christian, say) or monistic (Taoism, say) should properly be thought of as metaphorical, as aesthetic-responsive or allusive-elicitive, whether it appears to be propositional in form or not—
“Wait a minute! Isn’t everything you’re saying here ‘propositional?’”
Yep. On the other hand, none of these propositions are intended to be “believed”—they are not “maps of the territory;” they are merely intended as “maps pointing to the territory.” In fact, they are not even that—they are the best I can do on a written page to attempt to point, to indicate with a nod of my head... I am quite aware that they are inadequate. If you get hooked on my words, it is like staring at a finger pointing to the moon, rather than turning to gaze at the moon itself...
As I said above, even these statements, though in propositional form, should be thought of as merely allusive. One who reads them may look “within the mirror-moon behind the mind”—or not.
“Well, do any religionists accept these notions of yours about mystery and idolatry?”
Oh, yes! Here are a few—
“The Tao that can be spoken of is not the real Tao;
“the name that can be named is not the ultimate name.” (The Tao Te Ching
“Every definition of God leads to heresy; definition is spiritual idolatry. Even attributing mind and will to God, even attributing divinity itself, and the name ‘God’—these, too, are definitions. Were it not for the subtle awareness that all these are just sparkling flashes of that which transcends definition—these, too, would engender heresy. ...
“The greatest impediment to the human spirit results from the fact that the conception of God is fixed in a particular form, due to childish habit and imagination. This is a spark of the defect of idolatry, of which we must always be aware. ...
“The infinite transcends every particular content of faith.” (Rav Abraham Isaac, quoted in Daniel Matt The Essential Kabbalah
“One day you may say, ‘I found God, I know him, he is so and so, he is there and there, he is in me, in creation, in the eucharist ...’ That is a day of disaster for you because you will have found your God, your own projection, so pitiful and small. These gods - these idols - in turn keep us pitiful and small. We would fight for them ... They can be terrible ... Mystery does not require defenders. Idols do. Mystery makes us humble.” (Anthony DeMello, SJ; Some of Father DeMello’s views and writings were condemned by the church posthumously)
“So, how do you fight against idolaters?”
I don’t. I struggle against idolatry, in myself as much as anyone else. That may be my principal jihad
“Do you have any strategic and tactical advice for those who'd like to help?”
Whenever you identify an idol, turn away. In western theological terms, this might involve what is called practicing an apophatic theology. If you’re into Zen, you might practice the meditation of “clear mind,” or use koans, such as this one:
Behind the makings of the mind,
before all images, thoughts or words,
can you find anything real
that is not just another concept defined,
another making of the mind...?
“That’s very confusing; in fact all of this is...”
Good! Confusion over concepts might lead you to refrain from idolizing them, and to wander into clear-mind, and an experiential recognition of the ineffable real...
“Can’t you just tell us what you mean by the ‘ineffable real’?”
Are you kidding...?