Iconoclasm

Closely related to the ban on (mis)using the Name is the taboo against Image-making. Obviously, there is a great diversity in the understanding of this commandment among the People of the Book. Rather than doing the obvious and going to Muslim sources, however, I propose to quote the Christian mystic Eckhart — as interpreted by a contemporary, secular Jewish poet, Stanley Kunitz. You’ll see why in a second:

The Image-Maker

A wind passed over my mind,
insidious and cold.
It is a thought, I thought,
but it was only its shadow.
Words came,
or the breath of my sisters,
with a black rustle of wings.
They came with a summons
that followed a blessing.
I could not believe
I too would be punished.
Perhaps it is time to go,
to slip alone, as at a birth,
out of this glowing house
where all my children danced.
Seductive Night! I have stood
at my casement the longest hour,
watching the acid wafer
of the moon slowly dissolving
in a scud of cloud, and heard
the farthest hidden stars
calling my name.
I listen, but I avert my ears
from Meister Eckhart’s warning:
All things must be forsaken.
God scorns
to show Himself among images.

(Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected, Norton, 1995. 122.)

“I avert my ears”: I love that!

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