The purpose of idolatry and its limitations

We are all idol-worshippers.  We worship actors, sportsmen, thinkers and – when we are feeling proud – even ourselves!   Our subconscious desire is to mold ourselves in the image of our idols.   The Hindu practice of idolatry directs this urge to spiritual goals by clothing the Divine in various forms.   The modern rational mind forgets the original psychological motive behind image worship and dismisses it all as an abomination.  On the other hand, there are those who narrowly fix themselves in adoration of their  chosen image forgetting that this is only a preparatory step in the spiritual path.   This post explores the various pros and cons of idolatry(aka image worship).

For monogamy may be the best for the body, but the soul that loves God in men dwells here always as the boundless and ecstatic polygamist; yet all the time  –  that is the secret –  it is in love with only One Being.

Sri Aurobindo, The Hour of God: Bhakti

Rationale behind idol worship

A very cogent defense of this practice of worshipping external images comes from the British Orientalist Arthur Avalon(John Woodroffe) who discussed this topic in detail in his book Shakti and Shakta.   As he points out, “the mind cannot seize the pure Spirit any more than a pair of tongs can seize the air” [1].  This is why the mind requires some external form to contemplate upon.  The path of Tantra distinguishes three classes of Divine seekers in ascending order  of evolution:  Pashu (animalistic), Vira(heroic), Divya (divinized).  The first and second type of seekers require some external form to concentrate on while the third kind is the one who has gone beyond the need for images.  Tantra in fact offers three kinds of external forms as aids in contemplation: Yantra (geometric diagrams), abstract symbols and, lastly, anthropomorphic images.  [2]

In the following passage, Sri Aurobindo elucidates on the rationale behind external worship.

In ordinary religion this adoration wears the form of external worship and that again develops a most external form of ceremonial worship. This element is ordinarily necessary because the mass of men live in their physical minds, cannot realise anything except by the force of a physical symbol and cannot feel that they are living anything except by the force of a physical action. We might apply here the Tantric gradation of sadhana(spiritual practice), which makes the way of the pasu, the herd, the animal or physical being, the lowest stage of its discipline, and say that the purely or predominantly ceremonial adoration is the first step of this lowest part of the way. It is evident that even real religion, — and Yoga is something more than religion, — only begins when this quite outward worship corresponds to something really felt within the mind, some genuine submission, awe or spiritual aspiration, to whichit becomes an aid, an outward expression and also a sort of periodical or constant reminder helping to draw back the mind to it from the preoccupations of ordinary life.  But so long as it is only an idea of the Godhead to which one renders reverence or homage, we have not yet got to the beginning of Yoga.  The aim of Yoga being union, its beginning must always be a seeking after the Divine, a longing after some kind of touch, closeness or possession. When this comes on us, the adoration becomes always primarily an inner worship; we begin to make ourselves a temple of the Divine, our thoughts and feelings a constant prayer of aspiration and seeking, our whole life an external service and worship.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga – II: The Way of Devotion

Similarly, in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the first stage of concentration which is espoused is Savitarka Samadhi, wherein the mind is guided into concentration on some gross object (i.e. an external image of the Divine).   (see Taming the Monkey Mind).  Vedanta recognized that the mental substance is transformed into an image of the object it sees (see Epistemology of Perception).  That is why concentration on external forms has a positive effect for it temporarily focusses the mental and emotional being on some ideal conception of the Divine instead of dissipating them on phenomenal pursuits.

Sri Aurobindo further points out that the personal and impersonal aspects of God are complementary.  The forms by which we conceptualize the Divine are suited to our personality and gradually alter as our consciousness expands and attains Divine union.  Those who are intellectually inclined tend to belittle idol worship in favour of a God who is seen as  Formless but they forget that this Formless God is also another form of the Divine bearing some qualities such as vastness, delight or puissance.

Ordinarily, man is limited in all these parts of his being and he can grasp at first only so much of the divine truth as has some large correspondence to his own nature and its past development and associations. Therefore God meets us first in different limited affirmations of his divine qualities and nature: he presents himself to the seeker as an absolute of the things he can understand and to which his will and heart can respond; he discloses some name and aspect of his Godhead.  This is what is called in Yoga the ista-devata, the name and form elected by our nature for its worship. In order that the human being may embrace this Godhead with every part of himself, it is represented with a form that answers to its aspects and qualities and which becomes the living body of God to the adorer. These are those forms of Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Kali, Durga, Christ, Buddha, which the mind of man seizes on for adoration. Even the monotheist who worships a formless Godhead, yet gives to him some form of quality, some mental form or form of Nature by which he envisages and approaches him. But to be able to see a living form, a mental body, as it were, of the Divine gives to the approach a greater closeness and sweetness.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga – II: The Mystery of Love

Arthur Avalon examines two other questions in his book Shakti and Shakta.  The first is a response to the retort “If objects can be worshipped, why not worship (say) shoes?“.  His response is as follows…

Question:  “Why not then worship my boot?”

There is no reason, according to Shakta teaching, why even his boot should not be worshipped by one who regards it and all else as a manifestation of the One who is in every object which constitutes the Many. Thus this Monistic belief is affirmed in the worship by some Shaktas of that which to the gross and ordinary mind is merely an object of lust. To such minds, this is a revolting and obscene worship. To those for whom such object of worship is obscene, such worship is and must be obscene. But what of the mind which is so purified that it sees the Divine presence in that which, to the mass of men, is an incitement to and object of lust? A man who, without desire, can truly so worship must be a very high Sadhaka (aspirant) indeed. The Shakta Tantra affirms the Greek saying that to the pure all things are pure(Omnia munda mundis). In this belief and with, as the Jñanarnava Tantra says, the object of teaching men that this is so, we find the ritual use of substances ordinarily accounted impure. The real objection to the general adoption or even knowledge of such rites lies, from the Monistic standpoint, in the fact that the vast bulk of humanity are either of impure or weak mind, and that the worship of an object which is capable of exciting lust will produce it, not to mention the hypocrites who, under cover of such a worship, would seek to gratify their desires. [2]

The other issue that Arthur Avalon dwells on is the practice of installing power into the idol (Prana-Pratistha).  The basis for this practice is that if the invoker (sage or priest) has acquired some spiritual power due to austerities, then he or she is capable of animating and filling the idol with a Presence or Force of the Divine.

The worshipper must see Divinity before him. This he invokes into the image by what is called the welcoming (Avahana) and Life-giving (Pranapratishtha) ceremonies, just as, at the conclusion of the worship, he bids the Deity depart (Visarjana). Uncomprehending minds have asked: “How can God be made to come and go?“.  The answer is that He does not. What come and go are the modifications, or vrittis, of and in the mind of the Sadhaka or worshipper. To invoke the Deity means, then, a direction not to the Deity, but by the worshipper to himself to understand that the Deity is there. Deity which is omnipresent is in the Image as elsewhere, whatever the Sadhaka(aspirant) may do or not do. The Sadhaka (aspirant) informs his own mind with the notion that the Deity is present. He is then conscious of the presence of and meditates on Divinity and its attributes, and if he be undistracted, his mind and its thought are thereby divinely shaped. [3]

The justification behind Prana-Pratistha has also been noted by the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Mirra Alfassa:

…All this (idol worship) is based on the old idea that whatever the image – which we disdainfully call an ‘idol’ – whatever the external form of the deity may be, the presence of the thing represented is always there. And there is always someone – whether priest or initiate, sadhu or sannyasi – someone who has the power and (usually this is the priest’s work) who draws the Force and the Presence down into it. And it’s true, it’s quite real – the Force and the Presence are THERE; and this (not the form in wood or stone or metal) is what is worshipped: this Presence. [6]

The Mother, Mother’s Agenda: April 29, 1961

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

(those unaware of the context of the above phrase can see wikipedia)

Ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti

The Divine is One but the sages call it by many names (Rig Veda 1:164:46)

Sri Aurobindo was once asked by one of his disciples, “Do these Gods really exist or are the images just inventions of the human mind?“.    (I faintly recall Swami Vivekananda asking Ramakrishna Paramahansa this same question and was told to discover the answer on his own.  I can’t find the relevant text right now).   The answer is that Gods do exist as Cosmic Powers representing the Supreme in the same manner as cabinet ministers fulfill certain responsibilities on behalf of the leader of the country.  The Gods have their own original forms native to their own plane of consciousness (see Cosmology for more) which are distinct from the forms that humans have given them.  Here is the exchange between Sri Aurobindo and his disciples on this topic.

Sri Aurobindo (turning to a disciple) : You asked yesterday about the forms of the Gods and whether they have fixed forms on their own plane. I was thinking it over and I am inclined to believe that they have fixed forms.

Disciple : It is said that each God has his nitya-rupa –  “eternal form”.                               ,

Sri Aurobindo : I think so. One cannot see that unless one passes entirely out of the human consciousness. They have forms by which they define themselves from other Gods and also through which they express what they are.  It seems there are three elements that enter in this question.  One, the form we see may be the reflection of the true or nitya form – which may not be entire and which may not be the same for all the planes. It may vary according to the plane on which it is reflected.  Secondly, the mind or consciousness of the Bhakta  – the devotee, may contribute something to it.  Thirdly, it may be a mixture of the two.

Disciple : Have the forms of the Gods any resemblance to the human form ?

Sri Aurobindo : Not necessarily. But those who approach the plane of the Gods through the impersonal attitude without stopping at Sachchidananda-consciousness arrive, when they have passed beyond the mental conscious­ness, to a plane where they see the Gods in forms which resemble the human form. That is, perhaps, the reason why in the Veda we find the name purusa given to the Gods.  [4]

The Mother (Mirra Alfassa), born French and therefore having no subconscious exposure to the images of Hindu Gods since childhood,  mentions how she  was able to confirm the existence of a being named Ganesh (Elephant God).

And one day when the subject of prosperity or wealth came up, I thought (they always say that Ganesh is the god of money, of fortune, of the world’s wealth), I thought, ‘Isn’t this whole story of the god with an elephant trunk merely a lot of human imagination?’  Thereupon, we meditated. And who should I see walk in and park himself in front of me but a living being, absolutely alive and luminous, with a trunk that long … and smiling! So then, in my meditation, I said, ‘Ah! So it’s true that you exist!’ – ‘Of course I exist!

The Mother, Mother’s Agenda: July 6, 1958

Limitations of idolatry

The worship of external forms should be regarded as a preparatory step to a more intense spiritual practice.   What begins as adoration of an external image can bifurcate into two distinct paths – one higher and other lower.  Either it can turn into the higher path of consecration, surrender and the path of Yoga or it can degrade into  the lower path of sentimentalism coupled with the ambition to impose a certain form of God onto others.  One must beware  of any exclusionary and sectarian tendencies where one form of the Divine is regarded as the ONLY correct one, and all other forms of the Divine are discarded as false.  That is why Sri Aurobindo insists on self-purification as an important step in Yoga.

Image worship truly ends only after a spiritual experience  for then one knows for certain that God is within as well as without. All external support can then be discarded.  Ramakrishna Paramahansa describes his own experience of ending image worship thus:

After God-realization one gives up formal worship. I have given up that kind of worship. I used to worship in the Kali Temple. It was suddenly revealed to me that everything is made of pure Spirit – the koshakushi, the altar and the door-frame – everything made of Spirit; men, birds and beasts all made of Spirit. So I began to shower flowers all around like a crazy man. I began to worship anything and everything I saw.

“One day when I was offering bel-leaves on the head of Shiva, it was revealed to me that the vast universe itself, Virat, is Shiva. Then I stopped worshipping the image of Shiva. And when I was picking flowers, it was suddenly revealed to me that every flowering plant is like a bouquet.” [5]

Further reading

In Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, the chapter on the Yoga of Divine Love contains further discussion on the conception, motivations and pitfalls related to the path of Devotion.

References

  1. Arthur Avalon.  Shakti and Shakta, Hindu ritual http://www.sacred-texts.com/tantra/sas/sas21.htm (accessed on 2nd Jan 2010)
  2. Arthur Avalon.  Shakti and Shakta.  Shakta Sadhana http://www.sacred-texts.com/tantra/sas/sas26.htm accessed on 2nd Jan 2010)
  3. Arthur Avalon.  Shakti and Shakta.  The psychology of the Hindu religious ritual http://www.sacred-texts.com/tantra/sas/sas23.htm (accessed on 2nd Jan 2010)
  4. A.B. Purani.  Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo.
  5. The Gospel of Ramakrishna http://www.kathamrita.org/kathamrita3/k3sec08.htm (accessed on 2nd Jan 2010)

15 thoughts on “The purpose of idolatry and its limitations

  1. Sandeep Post author

    This was the conversation Ramana Maharshi had with someone on idol worship.

    “D.: Has God a form?
    M.: Who says so?
    D.: Well, if God has no form is it proper to worship idols?
    M.: Leave God alone because He is unknown. What about you? Have you a form?
    D.: Yes. I am this and so and so.
    M.: So then, you are a man with limbs, about three and a half cubits high, with beard, etc. Is it so?
    D.: Certainly.
    M.: Then do you find yourself so in deep sleep?
    D.: After waking I perceive that I was asleep. Therefore by inference I remained thus in deep sleep also.
    M.: If you are the body why do they bury the corpse after death? The body must refuse to be buried.
    D.: No, I am the subtle jiva (soul) within the gross body.
    M.: So you see that you are really formless; but you are at present identifying yourself with the body. So long as you are formful why should you not worship the formless God as being formful?”

    (From Talks with Ramana Maharshi, p 112)

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Does dying in holy cities like Varanasi bring salvation? | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  3. Sandeep Post author

    Sri Aurobindo, who had lived in England as a student from the age of seven to twenty-one, was skeptical of image-worship until he had a spiritual experience. In his words:

    “With my Europeanized mind I had no faith in image-worship and I hardly believed in the presence of God. I went to Kernali where there are several temples. There is one of Kali and when I looked at the image I saw the living presence there. For the first time, I believed in the presence of God.” (A.B. Purani, Evening Talks)

    Reply
  4. Sandeep Post author

    This anecdote illustrates how Swami Vivekananda brought home the truth behind idol-worship to a skeptical Indian Maharaja (king):

    (Dewan here means chief officer)

    “The Maharaja then said that he had no faith, in ” idol-worship” and asked the Swami whether for this he was to fare ill in the life hereafter. The Swami said that every man should follow his religious ideal according to his own faith. The Swami’s admirers were perplexed at this answer but he had not finished. He had a portrait of the Maharaja that was hanging on a wall brought down to him and, holding it before all, asked the Dewan to spit upon it. Everybody was horrified and, of course, the Dewan did not move. The Swami repeated his demand a number of times and asked all who were present if anyone was prepared to do as he asked. As none responded, the Swami addressed the Maharaja : ” See, Your Highness, that though it is a mere picture, it makes them see you in it and evokes in them the same feeling of respect as your person does. Thus it is with images. Men do not worship the stone, or the metal as such; they worship an image because it brings to their minds their Ishta (a particular form of the Divinity chosen by a person). Everyone worships the same God according to his understanding and his representation of Him.”

    (S.N.Dhar, Comprehensive biography of Vivekananda, VIvekananda Prakashan Kendra 1975, vol.1, p 306)

    Reply
  5. Sandeep Post author

    Swami Vivekananda gave a talk on “Formal Worship” in the San Francisco area on April 10, 1900

    It is a curious phenomenon that there never was a religion started in this world with more antagonism . . . [to the worship of forms] than Mohammedanism. . . . The Mohammedans can have neither painting, nor sculpture, nor music. . . . That would lead to formalism. The priest never faces his audience. If he did, that would make a distinction. This way there is none. And yet it was not two centuries after the Prophet’s death before saint worship [developed]. Here is the toe of the saint! There is the skin of the saint! So it goes. Formal worship is one of the stages we have to pass through.

    Therefore, instead of crusading against it, let us take the best in worship and study its underlying principles.

    Of course, the lowest form of worship is what is known as [tree and stone worship]. Every crude, uncultured man will take up anything and add to it some idea [of his own]; and that will help him. He may worship a bit of bone, or stone — anything. In all these crude states of worship man has never worshipped a stone as stone, a tree as tree. You know that from common sense. Scholars sometimes say that men worshipped stones and trees. That is all nonsense. Tree worship is one of the stages through which the human race passed. Never, really, was there ever worship of anything but the spirit by man. He is spirit [and] can feel nothing but spirit. Divine mind could never make such a gross mistake as [to worship spirit as matter]. In this case, man conceived the stone as spirit or the tree as spirit. He [imagined] that some part of that Being resides in [the stone] or the tree, that [the stone or] the tree has a soul.

    Tree worship and serpent worship always go together. There is the tree of knowledge. There must always be the tree, and the tree is somehow connected with the serpent. These are the oldest [forms of worship]. Even there you find that some particular tree or some particular stone is worshipped, not all the [trees or] stones in the world.

    A higher state in [formal worship is that of] images [of ancestors and God]. People make images of men who have died and imaginary images of God. Then they worship those images.

    Still higher is the worship of saints, of good men and women who have passed on. Men worship their relics. [They feel that] the presence of the saints is somehow in the relics, and that they will help them. [They believe that] if they touch the saint’s bone, they will be healed — not that the bone itself heals, but that the saint who resides there does. . . .

    These are all low states of worship and yet worship. We all have to pass through them. It is only from an intellectual standpoint that they are not good enough. In our hearts we cannot get rid of them. [If] you take from a man all the saints and images and do not allow him to go into a temple, [he will still] imagine all the gods. He has to. A man of eighty told me he could not conceive God except as an old man with a long beard sitting on a cloud. What does that show? His education is not complete. There has not been any spiritual education, and he is unable to conceive anything except in human terms.

    There is still a higher order of formal worship — the world of symbolism. The forms are still there, but they are neither trees, nor [stones], nor images, nor relics of saints. They are symbols. There are all sorts [of symbols] all over the world. The circle is a great symbol of eternity. . . . There is the square; the well-known symbol of the cross; and two figures like S and Z crossing each other.

    […]

    These are the stages through which we pass. These are the first lessons. Gradually, the mind begins to think of something higher than the senses, the body, the enjoyments of this world.

    How does [man] do it? First he becomes a thinker. When you think upon a problem, there is no sense enjoyment there, but [the] exquisite delight of thought. . . . It is that that makes the man. . . . Take one great idea! It deepens. Concentration comes. You no longer feel your body. Your senses have stopped. You are above all physical senses. All that was manifesting itself through the senses is concentrated upon that one idea. That moment you are higher than the animal. You get the revelation none can take from you — a direct perception of something higher than the body. . . . Therein is the gold of mind, not upon the plane of the senses.

    Thus, working through the plane of the senses, you get more and more entry into the other regions, and then this world falls away from you. You get one glimpse of that spirit, and then your senses and your sense-enjoyments, your dinging to the flesh, will all melt away from you. Glimpse after glimpse will come from the realm of spirit. You will have finished Yoga, and spirit will stand revealed as spirit. Then you will begin the worship of God as spirit…

    (Vedanta and the West, Nov.-Dec. 1955)

    from http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_6/lectures_and_discourses/formal_worship.htm

    Reply
  6. Sandeep Post author

    In the above article, the Mother states: “And there is always someone – whether priest or initiate, sadhu or sannyasi – someone who has the power and (usually this is the priest’s work) who draws the Force and the Presence down into it. And it’s true, it’s quite real – the Force and the Presence are THERE; and this (not the form in wood or stone or metal) is what is worshipped: this Presence.”

    The Neoplatonic sage Plotinus asserted the same in his commentaries. The following text is from the Enneads 4.3.11:

    I think, therefore, that those ancient sages, who sought to secure the presence of divine beings by the erection of shrines and statues, showed insight into the nature of the All; they perceived that, though this Soul is everywhere tractable, its presence will be secured all the more readily when an appropriate receptacle is elaborated, a place especially capable of receiving some portion or phase of it, something reproducing it, or representing it, and serving like a mirror to catch an image of it.

    It belongs to the nature of the All to make its entire content reproduce, most felicitously, the Reason-Principles in which it participates; every particular thing is the image within matter of a Reason-Principle which itself images a pre-material Reason-Principle: thus every particular entity is linked to that Divine Being in whose likeness it is made, the divine principle which the soul contemplated and contained in the act of each creation. Such mediation and representation there must have been since it was equally impossible for the created to be without share in the Supreme, and for the Supreme to descend into the created.

    From http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/plotenn/enn297.htm

    Reply
  7. Sandeep Post author

    This recent news item is proof that idolatry works and the Hindu Gods exist ! 🙂

    Deathbed theory dreamt by an Indian maths genius is finally proved correct – almost 100 years after he died

    The renowned Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan wrote a deathbed letter in 1920 to Hardy, which described several new functions that behaved differently from known theta functions, or modular forms, and yet closely mimicked them.

    Ramanujan, a devout Hindu, thought these patterns were revealed to him by the goddess Namagiri.

    Emory University mathematician Ken Ono has proved Ramanujan was right: ‘We found the formula explaining one of the visions that he believed came from his goddess.’ The formula could explain the behaviour of black holes.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2255021/Deathbed-dream-puzzles-renowned-Indian-mathematician-Srinivasa-finally-solved–100-years-died.html

    Reply
  8. mike

    Yes, sandeep l saw that yesterday or today in the UK version of the Daily Mail.
    lt appears he got a lot of his maths solutions in dreams. l was surprised he only lived until he was 32:

    “Srinivasa Aiyangar Ramanujan Gets Inspiration and Insight Into Mathematical Problems through Dreams
    Srinivasa Aiyangar Ramanujan was one of India’s greatest mathematical geniuses. He made substantial contributions to the analytical theory of numbers and worked on elliptic functions, continued fractions, and infinite series. In 1914, he was invited in to Cambridge University by the English mathematician GH Hardy who recognized his unconventional genius. He worked there for five years producing startling results and proved over 3,000 theorems in his lifetime.

    According to Ramanujan, inspiration and insight for his work many times came to him in his dreams. A Hindu goddess, Sri Namagiri Lakshmi of Namakkal, Srinivasa Ramanujan’s family deity, would appear and present mathematical formulae which he would verify after waking. Such dreams often repeated themselves and the connection with the dream world as a source for his work was constant throughout his life.

    Ramanujan describes one of his dreams of mathematical discovery:

    “While asleep I had an unusual experience. There was a red screen formed by flowing blood as it were. I was observing it. Suddenly a hand began to write on the screen. I became all attention. That hand wrote a number of results in elliptic integrals. They stuck to my mind. As soon as I woke up, I committed them to writing.”

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      “While asleep I had an unusual experience. There was a red screen formed by flowing blood as it were. I was observing it. Suddenly a hand began to write on the screen. I became all attention. That hand wrote a number of results in elliptic integrals. They stuck to my mind. As soon as I woke up, I committed them to writing.

      Ah! I hadn’t read this description yet. It sounds very peculiar – how he got these equations.

      It is mathematical folklore that outstanding mathematicians usually die young

      Reply
  9. mike

    “It is mathematical folklore that outstanding mathematicians usually die young”

    All those theorems must be overloading their brains.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      > All those theorems must be overloading their brains.

      Probably something to do with the occult nature of genius souls. These people work so single-mindedly towards some specific goal that they become unbalanced and run out of steam early in life. That’s life in the fast lane!

      Reply
  10. mike

    “Ah! I hadn’t read this description yet. It sounds very peculiar – how he got these equations.”

    Yes, lt sounds a bit like that ‘etheric writing’ that SA used to get – only in the waking state.
    lt certainly looks like some was writing it all out for him – probably the Goddess.
    lt also has a weird similarity to some some alien abduction cases – sorry l’m going out on a ledge here lol. They find themselves on a craft in front of a big screen and get shown all sorts of things about the future.

    Reply
  11. mike

    “Probably something to do with the occult nature of genius souls. These people work so single-mindedly towards some specific goal that they become unbalanced and run out of steam early in life. That’s life in the fast lane!”

    Yes, he was obsessed and strangely he died of malnutrition – l’m assuming he was still at cambridge when he died.

    Reply
  12. 01

    Oh, so mother was french, I was wondering why such nice name, Mirra. Looks a bit like myrrh in polish.

    Yeah, I prefer the formless, lol. So off to article about absolute I go, but I was curious about this one, since idolatry is so popular in magick. I agree that even with the ‘formless’ when we try to understand it we already give it form! Due to our mind’s limitations what people call the formless isn’t really formless, just our best shot. I liked anecdote about deep sleep. I do remember that in deep sleep I didn’t had body/form, only consciousness. So if I already perceive myself as formless (at least aspect of myself) then why not worship the absolute, lol?

    So, in ceremonial magick and hermetic theurgy idolatry is popular. In magick you’d identify with a deity to gain its powers. You’d dress like a deity, call yourself its name during a ritual, etc. In a coven/group leader would represent the deity and rest of group would worship him/her as a deity. Later they’d party at a bar or something, lol.

    In chaos magick they tried all kinds of silly rituals with deities that don’t exist like cartoons and rituals worked and they were able to achieve their desires in the waking state.

    I agree that we all in a sense worship actors, movie characters, etc, even just general concepts and forces. That’s why what you watch is important IMO or you could unconsciously worship what you shouldn’t. When I was using a lot of herbs (due to their medical propeties) at some point I got annoyed and started to wonder if I’m herb worshipper or what! Herbs this, herbs that.

    Well, I did had a darshan when this one only time I called deity with a mantra, but I wouldn’t say that made me a believer. I had a lot of experiences that looked like just forces and I wouldn’t say these are less convincing! Experiences that looked like forces and not deities with bodies helped me to believe at some point.

    Good article!

    Reply

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