Tag Archives: Idol

The Idol

“… The visitor to an ethnological museum at first considers statues with an interest that is incontestable as it is external, to which is suddenly opposed an idol where his gaze freezes in order to read the divine impression that the idolatrous artist had consigned in it: “He stood there, suddenly, without knowing how, before a primitive wooden figure, which, frightful and crude as it was, made such a forceful impression on him that he succumbed, body and soul, to the magic of that rough idol – for it was one.” This emotion has nothing “aesthetic” about it but incites – even more, physically constrains — on to adoration, certainly not of the image but of the very Eindruck that it exerts, and which is exerted as that very visibility: “a monstrous, dreadful desire suddenly took hold of him, to throw himself to the ground, to fall on his knees and to prostrate himself, in order to venerate with his body the dreadful image that had been taken from the deserts of Africa.” 239 (End Note)

“The idol never deserves to be denounced as illusory since, by definition, it is seen – eidolon, that which is seen (eido, video). It even consists only in the fact that it can be seen, that one cannot but see it. And see it so visibly that the very fact of seeing it suffices to know it – eidolon, that which is known by the fact that one has seen it (oida)”

“The idol fascinates and captivates the gaze precisely because everything in it must expose itself to the gaze, attract, fill, and hold it…. For the fabricated thing becomes an idol, that of a god, only from the moment when the gaze has decided to fall on it, has made of it the privileged fixed point of its own consideration; and that the fabricated thing exhausts the gaze presupposes that this thing is itself exhausted in the gazeable”

The gaze alone makes the idol, as the ultimate function of the gazeable… Instead of the gaze floating along unstable waves of “the sea, the sea perpetually renewed,” it must present itself in a mirror, a gaze as mortally immobile as coagulated blood: “The sun drowned in its blood which coagulates”

“When the gaze freezes, its aim settles… But that which renders a gaze idolatrous could not, at least at first, arise from an ethical choice: it reveals a sort of essential fatigue”

“Consequently, the genuineness and the limits of the idol can be defined: in the idol, the divine actually comes into the visibility for which human gazes watch; but this advent is measured by what the scope of particular human eyes can support, by what each aim can require of visibility in order to admit itself fulfilled.”

“For this reason, no one, not even a modern of the age of distress, remains sheltered from an idol, be he idolatrous or not: in order for the idol to reach him it is sufficient that he recognize, fixed upon the face of a statute, the splendid brilliance of the first visible where, one day, his gaze was frozen in its scope”

“Art no more produces the idol than the idol produces the gaze.”

Passages regarding the idol (pages 9-15) from Jean-Luc Marion’s provocative book, “God without Being.”