Posted by: HAT | March 21, 2008

An Idea on the Relationship of Art to Religion

It’s in the “function of . . .” category.

I have been used to thinking that the disadvantage of art as a source of transcendent knowledge, from a religious perspective, is that it doesn’t have the same degree of authoritative claim.  (For instance:  Sacred text claims to emanate directly from the divine; priestly/cultic practices make claims to be commanded by the ultimate, or to have privileged access thereto.)

Romanticists might disagree.  That wouldn’t bother me much.

Anyway, was folding laundry, and had this thought:  an advantage of art, again from a religious perspective, is precisely its flexibility with respect to source — so, the virtue of this particular defect, if it is a defect, in that:  what a person might feel cannot be rethought (if it is, for instance, described in or by sacred text, or if it is symbolized within cultic liturgy) in a religious context CAN be rethought, reconfigured in an artistic context, precisely because that context is not constrained to conform to a particular source or symbolic lexicon.

I think this is important.

So we could probably think about the configuration of “utopia” with a lot more freedom than we could think about the configuration of (for instance) “the kingdom of God.”  [But then, we wouldn’t be inclined to say “this has been promised” or “this will most certainly come to pass.”  Which also seems significant.]

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