Sunday, May 14, 2006

no graven images

Ever wonder why it's fine to say "Muhammad" but (generally speaking) not fine to depict him?

Ever wonder why many Jews (and some Christians who have reappropriated that Jewish practice) substitute "Adonai" for "Yahweh," or write "God" with a hyphen in place of the "o"? (e.g., "G-d")

Actually, I know the answers to the above. So do most of this blog's readers. But here's the real question:

In religion, what privileges the faculties of sight and sound, making visual and auditory renderings of certain religious figures taboo?

What if we were to develop a smell that signified "Jesus" or "God" or "Buddha" or "Muhammad" or "Al Gore"? Or a taste that was somehow the shorthand for a divinity? Or a texture?

What smells would you choose? What tastes? What textures?

(Someone should write a piece on the role of saffron powder in Hinduism, or the role of incense in Buddhism, Catholicism, and other religions.)



Anonymous said...

Uh, yeah, someone like you. Come on, we're waiting.

And in other news: the horror of Britney is gone! Praise G-d!

Anonymous said...

Well, if your really want to know how He smells...

In any case, some people like to say associate the rose of Sharon with Jesus, although roses are traditionally associated with his mother (hence, the word rosary).

Anonymous said...

Well, hearing and sight are the most practical senses, and so might be considered more important than taste, smell, and touch.

For me, it's alsoo interesting to note the general prohibition on image making in some religions. We've got two kinds of approaches to religious iconography: the iconographic, and the aniconic. Iconographic approaches would include ancient Near Eastern religions, including nascent Judaism, Catholicism, and Hinduism. Aniconic approaches in the Near East begin on a continuum with abstract representations of deities by use of their symbols, progressing through a different stream of nascent Judaism, and carry through into Protestantism and Islam. The latter group is much more ear-oriented than the former, which makes fuller use not only of the sense of sight, but also of taste, smell, and touch. I'll be writing an illustrated post on this sooner or later.

Anonymous said...

Oops--please pardon that extra "o."

Maven said...

Hmmm, I'm surprised no one posted this:

Here is a nugget regarding the idea behind "no graven image":

Isn't it splitting a theological hair to think it blaspheming if one were to write GOD vs G-d?

Where is the line between respect for the incorporeal God versus viewing the actual word God as an "image"?

In the same vein, there are those (Christians) out there, who put the word of God (in printed form) above all else, even above practicing the ideas contained therein (i.e. abortion doctor muderers), thus worshipping the literal word before or above worshipping the aspects of God that the word represents.

And as an aside, I do believe that sandalwood powder and turmeric have more value in Hindu rites than saffron. I can get back to you from my m-i-l regarding this particular practice.

Anonymous said...

Would it be unfair to associate Catholicism with the sound of hushed tones and the scent of Vaseline?

Oh, and the number one smell evoked by the word "Buddhism," is of course, "unwashed monk."