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IMAGE
PROHIBITION

 

 

BIBLICAL PROHIBITION OF IMAGE AND SCOPIC COLONIALISM 

 

L. Poenaru

 

 

The increasingly excessive Internet usage practices (see the statistics below) imply, in addition to access to education, culture, and entertainment, simultaneous exposure to scopic bombardment via images. The scopic bombardment of cybercapitalism is a powerful force shaping individuals' values and aspirations in contemporary society. The emphasis on images of wealth and material success is supported by economic, technological, and psychological structures that promote and reinforce these representations. 

The topic of the prohibition of images in the Judeo-Christian tradition, articulated with modern concepts such as scopic colonialism, offers an interesting perspective on how images influence our perceptions, cognitions, cultures, and spirituality. This analysis explores the theological reasons for the prohibition of images, the modern implications of visual colonialism, and how the imagination (increasingly paralyzed by this context) can serve as a bridge to spirituality. 

This is not a religious sermon. Everyone is free to choose their infinity, their (spiritual) images, their beliefs, and their path. Nevertheless, in scopic capitalism, we must consider the biblical prohibition of images as it seems to represent a sacred antidote to the infinite scopic flux, which generates increasingly invasive suffering within populations. In any case, the articulation between the sacred prohibition of images and the digital scopic tsunami—and particularly its psychopathological and political effects—raises many questions about scopic practices in the contemporary digital context. 

In 2024, the global average screen time on the Internet is about 6 hours and 37 minutes per day (as of January 2023). This figure includes the use of various internet-connected devices such as smartphones, computers, and tablets. This raises questions about exposure to economic codes injected or associated with viewed content and, with these codes, relationships to the iconic world and its consequences. 

Key statistics:

  • Generation Z (1996-2010): about 7 hours and 18 minutes per day. 

  • Millennials (1981-1995): about 6 hours and 42 minutes per day. 

  • Generation X (1965-1980): about 6 hours per day. 

  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964): about 2 hours and 54 minutes per day. 

  • On average, people spend about 44% of their waking hours looking at a screen. 

  • Professionals recommend less than 2 hours of screen time a day. 

 

In 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted "the effects of the infodemic and online misinformation on health." 

'Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are essential for the rapid and large-scale spread of information,' explains the systematic review. The repercussions of misinformation on social media include negative effects such as 'intensification of the misinterpretation of scientific knowledge, polarization of opinion, escalation of fear and panic, or less frequent access to health services.' https://www.who.int/europe/fr/news/item/01-09-2022-infodemics-and-misinformation-negatively-affect-people-s-health-behaviours--new-who-review-finds  

The infodemic is a relatively new term that combines the words "information" and "epidemic" to describe the overabundance of information, often of dubious or false quality, that spreads rapidly and uncontrollably, especially online and via social media. This phenomenon can be particularly problematic in times of crisis, such as during pandemics, natural disasters, or political crises, where accurate and reliable information is crucial. 

Unfortunately, the WHO focuses only on the effects of the infodemic on health and does not consider the uncontrollable effects of the invasion of images (the scopic nature of the infodemic) on health. We are no longer in the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the crisis continues, by all means. The sheer volume of information available is so massive that people struggle to discern what is relevant or reliable. 

The compulsive search for information is linked to anxiety but also to the deliberately addictive nature of digital logics. This can lead to confusion, chaos, and decision paralysis. For a complete response to the infodemic, it is essential to recognize and address the impact of images equivalently to that of texts. The infodemic includes the dissemination of false (disinformation) or bad (misinformation) information, whether intentional or unintentional. This can include rumors, conspiracy theories, and unverified information. This can generate, in addition to anxiety, fear, and confusion, an increase in social polarization, distrust of authorities and experts, and potentially dangerous behaviors. Epidemiological curves in public health, especially mental health, seem to confirm the existence of a perpetual crisis fueled by media, information, and images. 

The Ten Commandments, originating from the Judeo-Christian tradition, address the question of the image and the prohibition of images primarily in the second commandment. They represent moral and religious laws given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai and are presented in two main passages of the Old Testament: Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:4-21. 

Exodus 20:4-6 (Louis Segond): "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." 

The commandment thus prohibits the creation and worship of carved images or representations of things in heaven, on earth, or in the waters below the earth. This precept aims to prevent idolatry, that is, the worship of gods other than Yahweh (the Lord). The reasons for this prohibition are related to divine jealousy and the exclusive fidelity demanded by God. The question of God's jealousy, as mentioned in the biblical passage, has sparked many discussions among exegetes and theologians over the centuries. The prohibition aims to maintain the purity of monotheistic worship in Israel, in contrast to the polytheistic practices of neighboring nations that worshiped idols. 

Jewish and Christian exegetes often interpret God's "jealousy" as a manifestation of his zeal for the Covenant (Zetterholm, 2003). God has established an exclusive relationship with Israel, and this exclusivity demands fidelity and loyalty. God's jealousy can be seen as his ardent desire to preserve this privileged relationship, similar to the exclusive commitment between two partners in a marriage. In this sense, divine jealousy is not perceived as a flaw but as a virtue of fidelity and intense love. God's jealousy is also interpreted in terms of justice. God, as a just judge, does not tolerate spiritual infidelity, as it has harmful consequences not only for the individual but also for the community. Thus, divine jealousy can be seen as protecting the moral and spiritual order established by God. 

As for Yahweh (the Lord), he is, according to Judaism, the only God, creator, and sovereign of the universe. The Shema, a central prayer in Judaism, proclaims the oneness of God: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4). This affirmation underscores the importance of absolute monotheism in the Jewish tradition. Yahweh is both immanent, directly intervening in human history (for example, by liberating the Israelites from slavery in Egypt), and transcendent, existing beyond human comprehension. This duality is essential for understanding the nature of God in Judaism. In Christianity, Yahweh is continuously recognized as the God of the Old Testament. However, the understanding of Yahweh is transformed by the revelation of Jesus Christ. For Christians, Jesus is considered the incarnate manifestation of God, adding a Trinitarian dimension to the understanding of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Philosophers of religion, such as Thomas Aquinas (1948/1485), have sought to rationally prove the existence of Yahweh through cosmological and ontological arguments. They also explore the essence of God, describing Yahweh as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and perfectly good. Theodicy is a branch of theology that addresses the question of evil. Theologians seek to reconcile the existence of Yahweh with the presence of evil in the world. Answers include notions of free will, moral growth, and divine mystery. 

The link between the eternal divine and infinity is multidimensional and spans theology, philosophy, mysticism, and even mathematics. God is perceived as eternal in transcending time and as infinite in transcending all limitations. This dual nature underscores the absolute transcendence and perfection of God, offering a basis for profound contemplation on the nature of divine existence and our relationship with the divine. These reflections invite an appreciation of the grandeur and mystery of God, stimulating faith, thought, and spiritual experience to draw closer to him. 

Scopic colonialism refers to the domination and invasion of the human mind by images, often imposed by dominant cultures or forces that invade and control the imagination and perception of individuals in dominated cultures. Anti-iconism, as stipulated in the Ten Commandments, rests on the prohibition of images to prevent idolatry and maintain the purity of divine worship. It aims to ensure that worship is directed exclusively to God without material mediation. With scopic colonialism and anti-iconism, we are in parallel or opposing universes, referring on one side to alienation and on the other to the divine and the infinite. 

The scopic colonialism of cybercapitalism can manifest its forces through mass advertising and media (propagation of ideals of beauty, lifestyle, and specific values), historical and narrative images (representation of events and people in a way that favors the colonizers' worldview), modern visual technologies (influence of digital platforms and social networks on the perception of reality). 

Just as anti-iconism seeks to protect the purity of worship and spiritual autonomy by avoiding idolatrous images, a theological-philosophical critique of scopic colonialism could aim to preserve the mental and cultural autonomy of individuals and societies. This includes resisting imposed images that can manipulate, alienate, and encroach on one's imagination, autonomy, and access to the infinite. Idolatry in the modern context can be seen as the unconscious worship of certain images, ideals, and values (essentially material) propagated by the media. 

Anti-iconism could be reinterpreted to denounce this contemporary idolatry that diverts individuals' attention and energy towards fabricated and often inaccessible ideals. Scopic colonialism, in the logic we follow, distances us from spirituality in several ways. With 21st-century epidemiology, we have proof of this distortion and its effects. By invading individuals' minds with dominant and often materialistic images, it diverts attention from spiritual concerns, introspective practices, and the development of one's own subjectivity and individuality. 

To delve deeper into the modus operandi of scopic colonialism, we know now that it floods individuals with visual representations that glorify consumption, material success, and ideals of physical beauty. This overabundance of images creates a culture of superficiality where spiritual values are often relegated to the background. The quest for deep meaning, inner connection, and transcendence can be drowned in an ocean of ephemeral images and visual distractions. The images imposed in this context can become objects of modern idolatry, where veneration and aspiration are directed towards cultural icons, celebrities, and consumer products. This form of idolatry diverts attention from worship and spiritual connection with deeper realities, such as the divine, nature, or the inner essence of being. 

Moreover, the invasion of dominant images can create, as we have emphasized repeatedly, a sense of alienation and disconnection among individuals, especially when they feel unable to reach the ideals presented. This alienation can lead to an inner void, where individuals seek to fill this void through superficial means rather than through spiritual practices and introspective reflections. The images imposed by scopic colonialism can manipulate individuals' values and beliefs, distancing them from their spiritual traditions and religious practices. By imposing norms and narratives that favor the interests of economic elites or dominant cultures, these images can erode the spiritual and cultural foundations of dominated societies. The saturation of the visual environment by images can reduce the inner space necessary for meditation, prayer, and contemplation. Spiritual practices often require a withdrawal from the material world and immersion in a calm and reflective inner space. Scopic colonialism, by creating a constant flow of visual stimuli, can hinder this immersion and introspection. 

In his famous work "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right," Marx describes religion as the "opium of the people." For Marx, religion plays a consolatory role for the oppressed by offering them an illusion of happiness and diverting their attention from their material sufferings and social oppression. He writes: 

"Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." 

This quote illustrates how Marx views religion as a form of alienation that distances workers from their true condition and the necessity to change the material reality. With the advent of capitalism, Marx observes a shift from this religious alienation to economic alienation. In "Capital," he develops the concept of the "fetishism of commodities." He explains that in a capitalist society, social relationships are mediated by objects, commodities, which seem to have a life of their own and relationships independent of human producers. 

"A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis reveals that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties." 

Marx compares this fetishism of commodities to religious idolatry, where material objects are invested with a value and power foreign to them. He proposes that true liberation comes from recognizing and transforming the material conditions of human existence. For him, abolishing capitalism would eliminate alienation and redirect human aspiration towards more authentic connections with nature, the inner essence of being, and genuine human relationships, free from the alienating mediation of commodities and cultural icons. 

However, from a spiritual perspective, one can argue that religion offers more than just an illusory consolation. It provides an ethical framework, a sense of community, and a sense of transcendence that can significantly enrich human life. Religion can inspire moral actions and social movements for justice. Many religious traditions have inspired movements for civil rights, the abolition of slavery, and other just social causes. Spirituality and religion can lead to personal fulfillment and inner growth. They can provide a sense of inner peace, resilience in the face of modern adversity, and a connection with a deeper reality that transcends the material conditions of existence. Thus, investing belief capacities in religion can be seen not as an escape but as a source of strength and renewal. 

Marx's spiritual critique can also point to the reduction of all dimensions of human experience to purely economic and material terms. Human reality is multidimensional, encompassing not only economics and politics but also culture, art, love, spirituality, and the quest for meaning. Religion can play a vital role in this quest for meaning that cannot be fully explained by materialist terms. From a theological perspective, one can argue that the struggle for social and economic justice must be rooted in a spiritual vision that recognizes the transcendent dignity of every human being. Religious figures like Martin Luther King Jr. used their faith to motivate and justify their struggle for civil rights, showing how religion can be a powerful driver of social change. 

The consequences of scopic colonialism can be seen as a confirmation of the wisdom or necessity of the biblical prohibition against creating images, as expressed in the Ten Commandments. The negative consequences of scopic colonialism seem to reinforce the wisdom of the biblical prohibition against the creation and worship of images. By avoiding images, societies can: 

  • Prevent idolatry (by focusing on spiritual values and relationships rather than material representations). 

  • Protect mental and cultural autonomy (by resisting manipulations and external influences that seek to homogenize and dominate). 

  • Foster a direct spiritual connection (by encouraging introspective practices and meditation on the divine without visual intermediaries). 

  • Maintain cultural and spiritual diversity (by avoiding the imposition of visual norms that can suppress local and authentic expressions). 

 

Cybercapitalist societies have seen an increase in alternative spiritual practices, such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness. These practices are often integrated into daily routines to compensate for the stress and alienation associated with a technological, consumerist lifestyle colonized by images. A study (Lauche et al., 2023) published in Frontiers in Psychology shows a significant increase in the practice of meditation and yoga in the West, especially among young professionals and people seeking to balance their personal and professional lives. 

"An estimated 21 million American adults reported practicing yoga in the last 12 months in 2012, and 9.8 million used some form of meditation during the same time (Cramer et al., 2016a). Prevalence rates in other (Western) countries are similar (Xue et al., 2007; Cramer, 2015). A large number of people practice yoga or meditation specifically for their mental health and well-being (e.g., to reduce depression, anxiety, and stress; Cramer et al., 2016b). Clinical evidence suggests that the use of yoga might be beneficial for a variety of mental health conditions, including depression. Systematic reviews have revealed preliminary evidence for the efficacy and safety of yoga for major depressive disorders (Cramer et al., 2017), as well as for individuals with depressive symptoms but without a formal diagnosis of a depressive disorder (Cramer et al., 2013a). Further reviews have shown that yoga can be effective and safe for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (Cramer et al., 2018). Yoga commonly includes physical activity and mental exercises, such as relaxation and meditation, although some yoga schools exclusively rely on the physical activity part (Feuerstein, 1998; De Michelis, 2008). Physical activity (Irandoust et al., 2019; Heissel et al., 2023), relaxation (Jia et al., 2020) and also meditation in itself (Jain et al., 2015) can be beneficial for depression" (Lauche et al., 2023). 

Applications like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer have gained enormous popularity, making spiritual practices accessible via digital platforms. Statistics show that millions of people download and use these applications regularly, indicating a growing demand for digital tools facilitating spiritual practice. Online platforms allow the formation of virtual spiritual communities where individuals can share their experiences and find support. Groups on Facebook, Reddit, and other social networks dedicated to spirituality and well-being show strong participation and interaction, offering spaces for spiritual exploration and personal growth. Meditation applications like Calm and Headspace also illustrate this return to spirituality in the digital context: 

  • Calm: In 2023, Calm generated approximately $300 million in revenue with around 4.5 million subscribers. 

 

The link between spirituality and mental health is increasingly recognized, with mental health professionals integrating spiritual practices into their treatments (Pargament, 2011). Scientific research (Koenig, King & Carson, 2012; Bonelli & Koenig, 2013; Park & Slattery, 2013) shows that spirituality can have positive effects on mental health, particularly in reducing anxiety and depression. For example, a review of religious and spiritual interventions indicated that these practices can improve recovery for patients suffering from anxiety and depression. Studies have also shown that psychoeducational groups focused on spirituality can help better understand and manage emotional and spiritual issues, contributing to overall well-being. 

Claiming that images and the abundance of images constitute a sin may seem bold, generating resistance among populations who repress the consequences of scopic colonialism (for fear of social exclusion and near-absolute adherence to its dictates). A thorough analysis depends on the religious, cultural, and interpretive context. As previously suggested, some modern interpretations of religious teachings may see the abundance of images, especially those promoting materialistic and superficial values, as an obstacle to spirituality. This does not necessarily mean that the existence of images is a sin in itself, but that their abusive use and role in society can lead to behaviors considered sinful (idolatry, materialism, superficiality). 

In the context of scopic colonialism, the imposition of images by dominant cultures can be seen as a form of cultural violence. In other words: a collective-corporate sin transmitted to millions of individuals? This can lead to the marginalization of local spiritual and cultural practices, which could be interpreted as a sinful act in terms of respect and human dignity. Some cultures and religious traditions have developed forms of resistance to this overabundance of images by valuing anti-iconism (absence of images) or creating representations that authentically reflect their values and beliefs. This resistance can be seen as an affirmation of spirituality against the destructive influences of imposed images. 

In certain religious traditions, the creation and worship of images are explicitly forbidden to prevent idolatry. In a modern context, the abundance of images can be criticized for its role in manipulation, superficiality, and alienation, which can be seen as an obstacle to spirituality. However, it is important to distinguish between images as objects and the consequences of their use and proliferation. It is not necessarily the existence of images that constitutes a sin, but rather their capacity to divert individuals from the spiritual quest, manipulate the masses, and homogenize cultures in an oppressive manner. Ethical and spiritual critique must therefore focus on the use and impact of images rather than their intrinsic existence. 

While images can help spiritual practitioners focus their minds and enter a meditative state, serving as educational tools to transmit religious stories and teachings, there is a significant risk that they become objects of worship in themselves rather than means to reach a deeper spiritual understanding. In the absence of images, individuals are encouraged to cultivate their imagination and introspection to explore spiritual realities. This can lead to a more personal and inner understanding of spirituality. Without imposed images, spiritual experiences can become more varied and rich, as they are not limited by specific material representations. Each individual can develop a unique connection with the divine based on their own imagination and experiences. 

The personal and subjective imagination plays a central role in accessing spirituality by allowing individuals to transcend the limits of the material world and connect to deeper spiritual realities. The imagination allows creating mental images that can serve as a focal point for meditation and prayer. These inner images are not physical representations but mental constructions that help visualize abstract spiritual concepts. The imagination can be used to create spiritual scenarios where the individual sees themselves interacting with divine entities, visiting sacred places, or experiencing spiritual events. The imagination is rich in symbols and archetypes that resonate deeply with the collective unconscious. These symbols can help understand and integrate spiritual truths. 

Imaginative processes allow transforming life experiences into spiritual symbols, offering a way to understand and transcend personal challenges. It allows accessing deep parts of the unconscious, where spiritual truths and intuitions can emerge. Also, imagination allows making inner journeys, exploring mental and emotional landscapes that reflect aspects of spiritual reality while being the basis of artistic creativity.  

The imagination is therefore a powerful tool for accessing spirituality as it allows exploring, visualizing, and giving meaning to concepts that exceed the limits of immediate sensory experience. It offers unique possibilities, which are not tainted by the oppressive and addictive nature of scopophilic capitalism. By creating original and subjective mental images, using symbols, exploring inner worlds, expressing artistically, and transcending material limits, the imagination opens pathways to deep and enriching spiritual realities. It plays a crucial role in mediating between the material world and spiritual dimensions, facilitating a personal and meaningful connection with the divine. In contrast, in the context of cybercapitalism, innovation and creativity are stifled, and the imagination is limited by the expectations of social conformity conveyed by images of material success (possessions, accumulations, vacations, etc.). 

Regarding the transgenerational consequences related to infidelity to the second commandment of the Ten Commandments, we could question how the actions of one generation influencing the fate of subsequent generations are anchored in several religious and cultural traditions. This has been extensively explored by the concept of “transgenerational,” particularly in its relation to trauma. 

As mentioned earlier, in the passages of Exodus and Deuteronomy, God declares punishing the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate him but showing mercy to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. 

Exodus 20:5 (Louis Segond): "You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me." 

Divine justice considers that divine punishment across generations is a form of justice. The transgression of divine commandments by one generation results in consequences for the descendants, highlighting the severity of idolatry and infidelity. From the perspective of collective responsibility, the interpretation implies that the community is collectively responsible for maintaining fidelity to God. The actions of individuals influence the spiritual and moral well-being of the entire community. The mention of consequences over several generations serves as a severe warning against infidelity. It aims to encourage the faithful to strictly adhere to the commandments to avoid long-lasting negative repercussions. 

Generational consequences are not limited to abstract divine punishment; they have tangible social and psychological repercussions. Idolatrous behaviors and practices can be transmitted from generation to generation, influencing the beliefs and actions of descendants. The persistence of these practices, as we observe in the context of cybercapitalism (and its psychopathological effects), can perpetuate a break with authentic spirituality and compromise the relationship with the divine. Descendants can carry a burden of guilt and shame (see class and economic neurosis; De Gaulejac, 2016; Poenaru, 2023) related to their ancestors' transgressions. This emotional burden can affect their mental health and spiritual development. The conflicts and divisions caused by infidelity to the commandments can create dysfunctional family dynamics. These tensions can persist across generations, affecting family cohesion and harmony. 

According to de Gaulejac, class neurosis is not just a personal psychological condition but a collective experience shaped by socio-economic factors. It is rooted in the disparity between one's aspirations and the realities imposed by their class position. Individuals internalize the conflicts and contradictions inherent in their social class. This internalization can manifest as feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and a constant sense of striving or frustration, reflecting the broader socio-economic struggles. The societal values and expectations tied to class status influence how individuals perceive themselves and their place in society, often leading to a fractured or conflicted self-identity. The pursuit of higher social status can lead to significant stress and psychological conflict, particularly when individuals feel torn between their current class identity and the one they aspire to. De Gaulejac also explores how class neurosis can be transmitted across generations. The psychological impact of class status and the associated struggles can affect family dynamics and the upbringing of subsequent generations, perpetuating a cycle of class-related neurosis and sufferings.

 

The broader cultural and societal context plays a critical role in shaping class neurosis. Societal norms, values, and ideologies (many of them currently vectored by scopic colonialism) around success, worth, and class mobility contribute to the psychological pressures individuals face. 

Scopic colonialism then affects identity and self-worth by promoting a particular way of seeing that often devalues subjective, indigenous or local perspectives. This devaluation mirrors how societal norms in class neurosis devalue individuals based on their socio-economic status. Both result in a fractured self-identity and a constant struggle to reconcile one’s self-perception with imposed external values. The psychological pressures and conflicts arising from both class neurosis and scopic colonialism are significant. These pressures result in deep psychological and emotional turmoil. 

Similarly, economic neurosis (Poenaru, 2023) involves the internalization of dominant economic values, such as consumerism, competition, and material success. These values, often propagated by capitalist societies, create psychological conflicts and stress. Economic neurosis affects how individuals perceive their worth based on their economic success and material possessions which are never sufficient in the face of a culture and ideology of constant and increasing accumulation.  

Modern research in psychology and epigenetics provides additional insights into generational consequences. Traumatic experiences and behaviors can influence gene expression and be transmitted to subsequent generations. This suggests that the consequences of ancestors' actions can have a biological basis. Unresolved traumas can be transmitted through generations, affecting descendants' mental and emotional health. This transmission can perpetuate cycles of suffering and dysfunctional behavior which are currently confirmed by epidemiological data which, admittedly, are multifactorial in terms of causality, but cannot be dissociated from the relationship to the sacred and to spirituality. 

The preceding arguments demonstrate the necessity of prohibiting images, as they are vectored by scopic colonialism, for reasons related to public health and the democracy of societies (currently parasitized by deepfakes, etc.). However, it is interesting to note that several other cultures and religious traditions have prohibitions or strong reservations against the use of images similar to the second commandment of the Bible. Islam has a well-known prohibition against creating images of sentient beings, particularly depictions of Allah (God) and the Prophet Muhammad (Grabar, 1973; Khan, 1981). This aniconism is rooted in the desire to prevent idolatry and ensure that worship is directed solely towards Allah. The Quran does not explicitly prohibit images, but Hadith literature (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad) strongly discourages the creation of images of living beings. Sikhism (McLeod, 2005; Cole & Sambhi, 1997), while not strictly prohibiting images, emphasizes the worship of one formless God (Waheguru). Sikh teachings discourage the use of idols or images in worship, focusing instead on the inner devotion and the recitation of God's name (Naam Simran). 

While many branches of Christianity, such as Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, use religious images (icons) extensively, some Protestant denominations, particularly those influenced by the Reformation, have rejected the use of religious images (Eire, 1986). The Reformation brought about iconoclastic movements that destroyed religious images, emphasizing the second commandment's prohibition against idolatry. In early Buddhism (Huntington, 1990), there was a strong aniconic phase where the Buddha was not depicted in human form but rather through symbols like the Bodhi tree, footprints, or an empty throne. This was partly to avoid idolatry and focus on the teachings (Dharma) rather than the person of the Buddha. However, later traditions, especially Mahayana Buddhism, began to create images of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas as aids in devotion and meditation. Hinduism is known for its rich iconography and use of images in worship. On the other hand, certain schools within Hinduism, like the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj (Sen, 1997), reject idol worship and focus on the worship of a formless God. These movements emerged as reformist responses to what they saw as excessive idolatry within Hindu practice. 

Jainism (Jain, 2011) has a complex relationship with images. While images of the Tirthankaras (spiritual teachers) are commonly used in worship, there is also a strong emphasis on the formless nature of the soul (Jiva) and ultimate reality (Paramatman). Some Jain sects, like the Digambara tradition, prefer to use symbolic representations rather than anthropomorphic images. Zoroastrianism (Boyce, 1979), the ancient pre-Islamic religion of Persia, traditionally avoided the use of images in worship, focusing instead on the worship of Ahura Mazda through fire temples and sacred fire. This aniconism was intended to prevent the practice of idol worship and maintain the purity of the worship of the one God. 

These examples illustrate that the prohibition of images to prevent idolatry and maintain the purity of worship is a theme that recurs in various religious traditions around the world. Each tradition has its own specific reasons and historical contexts for these prohibitions, but they share a common concern about the potential for images to distract from or distort the focus of spiritual devotion. 

Captivity within the global logic of accumulation, production, and consumption, just like the accumulation, production, and consumption of images, must, therefore, be part of a reflection on the harmful effects of image creation as suggested by sacred scriptures. Would we not be, as suggested earlier, healthier, less neurotic, less stressed, less oppressed, and less ill if we did not adhere to scopic colonialism and respected the Second Commandment of the Bible? 

 

References 

 

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Boyce, M. (1979). Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Routledge. 

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