fish for souls: bait, hook and stinker

Graven images. Idols and idolatry. It was in part, the spiritual spark that contributed to a series of incidents that were intrinsic to an underlying conflict of the Thirty Years’ War.  Calvinist fundamentalists, a form of Christian Brotherhood, stormed churches and religious shrines with an Old Testament Biblical zeal, desecrated and smashed images and statues of saints throughout the Netherlands, justified, by a not unmistaken belief that the statues were nothing more than idol worship with little spiritual import. The ambiguity, was that art for art’s sake did not exist, and Catholic forms of art has to be imbued with a spiritual or sacred aspect to justify their existence, so the icons came to be revered as idols, as fetish objects, which was balderdash to the Protestants, as was the related practice, or custom of selling indulgences and the whole market of trade in religious goods and services within the cult of saints, and in particular saints associated with certain places as a form of territorial jurisdiction and as a form of colonialism and imperialism…

—Amazing details, like this boatload of characters in a 17th C. painting by Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne, come alive in the digitally zoomable versions. (via—Read More:

(see link at end)…This fantastic oil painting by the Dutch artist Adriaen van de Venne was produced in 1614. Van de Venne was inspired by the story from Matthew 4:19 in which Jesus passes two fishermen, Simon (called Peter) and Andrew, at work and tells them ‘Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ In the painting Protestant clergymen compete with Catholic priests to haul souls from the river – their respective congregations fill the opposing banks, clearly depicting the competing sides in the European Reformation. ‘Fishing for Souls’ is on display in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Read More:

—In this painting van de Venne represented the moral superiority claimed by Dutch leaders. The painting visualizes Christ’s words to his disciples, “I will make you fishers of men,” as a contemporary contest for souls between two Reformed boats at left and two Catholic vessels at right. The orderly Dutch Protestants are more successful, catching people with the Bible and with the Christian virtues Hope, Faith, and Charity inscribed in the net. The near-capsizing Catholic monks use incense and music for lures. On the left bank, Dutch leaders are neatly aligned, opposite the less numerous Flemish dignitaries on the other side. Although the Southern Netherlandish camp is painted respectfully, their background is literally constituted by a withered tree and a Pope borne by adulatory monks—Read More:


(see link at end)…The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), fought mainly in Germany, centred on the struggle of the German states against Austria for political and religious autonomy. (While Germany was officially part of the Holy Roman Empire, it actually consisted of a patchwork of hundreds of tiny, semi-independent states.) Austria was aided by Spain, while the German states were aided chiefly by Denmark, Sweden, and France. Over seven million people were killed in the Thirty Years’ War, making it Europe’s bloodiest conflict prior to World War I.

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The war initially erupted in Bohemia (part of the Austrian Empire), when enraged Protestants (a strong minority group in that region) burst into the king’s palace and hurled several officials through a window (an event referred to as the Defenestration of Prague). War subsequently raged in Bohemia (for the first few years of the war), then Germany. Austria was ultimately defeated, and the treaty that ended the war (the Peace of Westphalia) granted religious and political autonomy to the German states. (In Bohemia, however, the Protestant rebellion was quelled, and Austrian control of the region remained firm.)8,9 Read More:


(see link at end)…Nevertheless, idolatry in both its persistent explicit and implicit manifestations would appear to betray a fundamental human need to symbolize the divine or supernatural in visible and embodied form. To the degree that the subliminal processes of idolatry are to be seen additionally as part of a reflective device by which the human projects herself into the transcendent and as one of the gods, the ethical question arises whether this act is not the ultimate of arrogant hubris on the part of mankind. Certainly, the argument derived from the first two of the Ten Commandments holds little persuasive logic for a pagan perspective. Pagans adhere to a multiplicity in their godhead. And to the degree that earth or nature is both sacred and `mother’ of all, the pagan pantheistic take on reality allows no ultimate distinction between the divine and tangible reality. In other words, there is no separation between God, Goddess or the gods as a transcendent other, on the one hand, and humanity and the world, on the other. Idols are not inherently false but are part of – as well as expressive of – the divine totality. The naturalness of idolatry is expressed by Spinoza when he claims simply that the likeness or image of the object likewise gives rise to the same responses of joy or sadness as may be forthcoming directly from the object itself. In the pagan sense, each idol is a hologram reflective of the whole in the same manner as each jewel in Indra’s infinite net mirrors every other jewel in that net’s unending nexi. The reflection of nature includes any and all reflections of humanity, and to whatever degree the act of worship is a human natural, self-worship and worship of the tangible as this-worldly and not necessarily as something otherworldly or a priori transcendental is inevitable. Whatever else hubris may be, anything that is natural and inevitable cannot be hubristic. If anything, in fact, exercising the choice not to worship or honor the sacred could be the only instance of human hubris. Read More:

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