Thursday, February 09, 2006

On the Wisdom of Banning Images (very topical)

"He sat at the edge, carving, shaping, sculpting, but he realised the marble was not turning out to be ample and motherly. It was taking on the shape of a young woman. The hair he had intended to resemble the style of the ancient donii [goddesses] he had given away - a ridged form covering the face as well as the back - was suggestive of braids, tight braids all over the head, except for the face. The face was blank. No face was ever carved on a donii: who could bear to look on the face of the Mother? Who could know it? She was all women, and none.
(...)
"If I could draw her to me, overcome her resistance and capture her spirit?
"Capture her spirit?
"(...)Why did they engrave the image of an animal on a weapon, or on the Sacred Walls? To approach the Mother-Spirit of it, to overcome her resistance and capture the essence.
"Don't be ridiculous, Jondalar. You can't capture Ayla's spirit that way. It wouldn't be right, no one puts a face on a donii. Humans were never pictured - a likeness might capture a spirit's essence. But to whom would it be captive?
"No one should hold another person's spirit captive. Give the donii to her! She'd have the spirit back then, wouldn't she? If you just kept it for a little while, then gave it to her... afterwards.
"If you put her face on it, would it turn her into a donii? You almost think she is one, with her healing, and her magic way with animals. If she's a donii, she might decide to capture your spirit. Would that be so bad?
"You want a piece to stay with you, Jondalar. The piece of the spirit that always stays in the hands of the maker [my italics!]. " (Valley of the Horses, pp. 540-2).
In the light of the recent global crisis, there seems a certain wisdom to the Islamic ban on images after all, especially of the sacred, as a way of honoring the sacred, by respecting its spirit and allowing it to remain sacred, by not trying to 'capture its spirit'. Much as Christian art started off western art by supposedly 'glorifying the spirit', it has also ended up all too often just with parodies, spoofs and silly caricatures and send-ups, that don't even seem very funny ;-P

4 Comments:

Blogger Aidan Aristos said...

Glad to see that you are enjoying the book, and that it is proving to be topical. I've got the first book, if you change your mind, and the fourth one, and am reading the third one in the segue - "The Mammoth Hunters" - at the moment.

10:00 pm  
Blogger Ken said...

Hmmm. I seem to remember something in the Christian faith about not making graven images or worshiping them. (Thinks of all the Crusifixes, Crosses, Virgin Mary statues and of course those of the saints.)

10:53 pm  
Blogger asgif666 said...

Actually, Ken, that comes more from Judaism, and Islam; of the 'peoples of the book', what with the idea of the 'incarnation' ("God became man"), Christianity has a choice of two paths it can go down (and did!): the more 'humanist' path, expressing and emphasizing the 'humanity' of Jesus, his mother, saints etc, in innumerable images, statues and icons, as in Catholicism and Orthodoxy; and the more 'scriptural' path generally followed by Protestantism, which prefers to do things 'by the book'. Scottish tradition would seem divided between the Catholic (followers of Mary, Queen of Scots!), from the strong alliance between Scotland and France at the time, and its own very severe forms of image-banning Protestantism (dour Scots Presbyterianism?), to which I presume you found yourself more exposed?...

I have no idea which path the hidden 'third stream' of Christianity, i.e. gnosticism, followed, but, if they resembled William Blake at all, which I suspect they may have(!), they probably drew and painted as exuberantly as they wrote, amounting to a sort of 'humanistic Protestantism'? My hypothesis, only ;-))

7:18 am  
Blogger Medusa161 said...

"I am all that has been, that is, and all that will be. No mortal has yet been able to lift the veil which covers me" - an inscription from Neith's temple at Sais: Plutarch

12:36 am  

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