Chapter 4: The Transformative Power of Idols
I am talking about these findings of Rudolf’s because idol worship is a similar experiment but on a more profound dimension. If we can transmit disease or death to a person there is no reason why we cannot establish or re-establish a relationship with those who are dead. And there is no reason why we should not take a jump by means of an idol into that which is all-pervading and unmanifest.
The whole basis of idol worship is the relationship between your mind and the cosmic mind. What is needed is just a bridge between the two, and that bridge can be made. The idol is an attempt to create that bridge. Only something which is manifest, like the form of an idol, can become the bridge - because it is not possible for you to establish a direct link with the formless.
No matter how much one may talk about the formless and the unmanifest, it is mere talk and does not convey anything to you. Whatever experiences your mind has are all experiences of form and shape; you have no experience of the formless, and words cannot create any resonance in you about that which you have never experienced. You will go on talking about the formless and continue living with form. So if you want to establish a relationship with the formless, you will have to create something which on one side has a form and on the other is formless. That is the secret of the idol.
Let me explain this another way. From our side we need a bridge which has a tangible form, but which also has a formless part: at our end it is manifest, and at the farther end, as it approaches the divine, it becomes unmanifest. If the idol remains just an idol, it cannot act as a bridge; if it is absolutely formless, then too it cannot become a bridge. The idol has to serve two purposes: it has to be visible on our side, and dissolve into the formless on the other.
If I tell you that the term “idol worship” is wrong, you will be surprised; but actually it is absolutely wrong. It is wrong because for someone who knows how to worship, the idol does not remain just an idol. A person who only sees the idol does not know what worship is or how to worship. We are using two words: one is idol, and the other is worship. These two concepts cannot be experienced by the same person simultaneously. The word idol is for those who have never worshipped, and the word worship belongs to those who have never seen an idol.
Put differently, we can say that worship is the art of making the idol disappear. It is the art of slowly dropping the manifest and entering into the unmanifest. The manifest form gradually dissolves into the unmanifest, and as the worship deepens only the unmanifest remains. So “idol worship” is self-contradictory. Hence someone who is worshipping will be puzzled as to where the idol is; and someone who has never worshipped will wonder what a stone idol can do. These two types of people have two different types of experiences - and between them there is no common ground.