The Invisible Cod And The Visible [mace

Clement) as well as Paul's address to the Athenians when he criticized the Stoics for their inconsistency regarding the images of the gods. Although they scoff at the building of shrines, they continue to act in a traditional manner in other respects:

Moreover, it is a doctrine oFZeno's not to build temples of [he gotk, because a temple not worth much is. also not sacred, and no work of builders or mediajiLcs is worth much. The Stoics* while applauding this as correct, attend Lhc mysteries in temples, yo up Lei I he Acropolis, dn reverence to statues. und place wreaths upon the shrines, though these are works of builders and mechanics,"

In the next century, Plot in us also combined the ideas of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics into a system that had enormous influence on Christian writers of the late fourth and early fifth centuries—particularly Augustine, whose encounter with this system was partly mediated by the works of Plotinus's student Porphyry. Plotinus's view of the divine image bridged that of Plato and Aristotle, incorporating both the value of the particular sensory experience and the assertion of an ideal Form. This allowed him to elaborate the value ol art as a mode of participation in the reality to which it pointed—a Form that existed in a higher reality that lay somewhere outside the individual human mind.

Plotinus agrees with Aristotle that artists begin by examining the natural world. In Plotinus's view, the order and structure they experience in nature, however, leads artists to discover the transcendent world of ideals and finally the experience of pure intellectual beauty, which they attain only through contemplation. Comparing two blocks of stone,one worked and the Other un worked, Plotinus sees in the worked block a Form, introduced by the idea in the mind of the artist. This Form exists outside the stone, and outside the work of art itself. The original idea transcends the material creation, even though its existence is, in fact, revealed in the artist's product. Consequently, works of art are not mere imitation of natural objects (which are imitations themselves—imitations of a higher reality], but draw upon the Form itself and, in fact, perfect what is sometimes lacking in nature. For Plotinus, this is as true for a painting of a bowl of' fruit as a portrait or even an image of a god; 'lThus Phidias wrought the Zeus upon no model among things of sense but by apprehending what form Zeus must take if he chose to become manifest to sight.11""

In other words, according to Plotinus, great artists like Phidias produced works that were superior to nature by incorporating their vision of the ideal and by their ability to portray that vision. The influence of this thesis on Augustine is apparent in the Confessianx, where Augustine wrote tliat artisans who create objects out of their mind have "the power to impose the form which by an inner eye |lhe mind can see within itself,'1 This form derives from the translation of inward vision to externa] (material) objects, using that vision to judge whether 1íil" work was "well done," < )r course, lo: Augustine, the ultimate source or the artisan's vision is above the human mindi it is put there by God.M

t hat th is argument of Hot i n js's is ger manl" to t lie >j\ ue?l ii >ti of ûivi ne images it evident in the example he chooses the image of Zeus. For Plotinus, however inferior images may be to thei: prototypes or models, I h C y an still ser ve a higher re I Liin tua pur pi use. Wh ile statues Or paioti rtgs of the gods could noi pretend to contain or communicate divine rri:tli in themselves, by their very existence they demonstrated that such troili could be comprehended. Inothei words, although the gods were ih>i portrayed in l I m- i : actual being, they were present in ¡\ representational sense. Their images provided a kind of proof of their existence* just as objects in the natural world provided proof of the higher reality of which tIk".' were :i reflection.

Despite this view, Plotinus never stopped bei ig deeply suspicious bnth of the material world and of visual images (including his own por trait). His followers, howevcT, gradually found a place lor images in llieir religious pracl ices .us a way lo help worshipers experience lin; presence of the divine. The conditional rehabilitation ol images drew upon lhe 111 lu I h associated with the mystery cults and with the esoteric blend of magic and religious rituals known theurgy, whose purpose to mediatcnonmatcrial theophanies oí the deity (whut loday we might l .iII 'spiritual encounters")/ Such theophanies were also possible through the mediation of a human being fan ancient "medium"). Porphyry's sludenl lamblichus constructed a whole System o I philosophy and that depended upon images Lind sacrifices. This system no v\oil the enthusiasm of Julian, the emperot who converted from Christianity to polytheism, that it led to a revival of □ ki:id of philosophically based pagan cult." Auguslines fi.Lr.i^hr.L.-.t1 of i dialogue between the gods Asclepius and Hermes Irismestus in his Cilyoj íio\i illustrates the con temporary popularity oí ihi> movement. In (in1 p.isv.i^L' Hermes describes statues ol i lie eternal gods js "endowed with -.mliL-.. fully equipped with sensibility .oil! -prit: -.t.LiiiL'> which perform such great and wonderful works; statues which foreknow the future and foretell l1 by meaos []f the lot . . . which send diseases upon men and liIso cure them, bestowing sadness or joy, according 10 deserls"*

For i hose who subst ribed lo ihi.n practice» images served a mediating function, calling the viewei to recognize that the object had li source, a prototype that must exist in order to be communicated thrijii^li t h L-inferior material form. The image is. actually, the proof of tli^ proto type ,Lii idea derived from Platonic theory and ntr^iL to the I.tier theology of icons, i )l course, .1 nonphilosopher may not have understood Mil- theory or realized that the goal was La move the of ihn mind beyond the image Im Llie prototype. Even so, the average person might have agreed the pleniifol statues and paintings of the various gods


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