Tag Archives: Yahweh

Iconoclasm and the word

Before the tourist flow will start, Carla, Man and Narrator visit the Begijnhof in Amsterdam. They are looking at the Sacred Heart statue in the middle of the lawn.
Begijnhof Amsterdam[1]
Begijnhof - Heilighartbeeld[2]
“This Begijnhof – founded before 1346 AC in the Middle Ages – is the only inner court that exist in the Amsterdam within the Singel. Originally the Begijnhof was entirely surrounded by water with the Nieuwezijdsvoorburgwal, Spui and Begijnensloot; the only access was a bridge over the Begijnensloot at Begijnensteeg. The Begijnhof was not a retirement provision founded by private individuals; it was a sort of nunnery – with patron saint St. Ursula – where beguines lived with more freedom. They had made a vow of chastity and they had felt obliged to daily visit Holy Mass and to perform prayers during fixed moment every day, but they were allowed to leave the inner court at any time to get married.

After the Alteration in 1578 AC – wherein the Catholic administration in Amsterdam was replaced by a Calvinist administration – the Begijnhof was the only Roman Catholic institution that was allowed to continue its existence because the houses were private property of the beguines. The chapel, however, was closed to be allocated in 1607 AC to the English Presbyterian church in Amsterdam. Since that time, the chapel is named the English Reformed Church [3].

In September 1898, Piet Mondrian – an iconoclast in modern art – was commissioned to make four wooden relief panels for the pulpit in the English Reformed [4]. It is interesting to see the development in the work of Piet Mondrian; starting with these panels in the pulpit, via the painting of the tree in gray/blue, to abstract paintings with coloured surfaces, to – like Gerrit Rietveld – determine the painting with white, perhaps because he was one of the few who wished to create paintings by undistorted light. After his iconoclasm Piet Mondrian had kept to the strict rules of abstract paintings according Neoplasticism [5] and he only used horizontal and vertical lines to divide the surface of the painting; lines that enclose and lines that exclude, although in the last paintings both lines no longer enclose and exclusion. Piet Mondrian never used diagonal lines like Theo van Doesburg [6].
Preekstoel - Engelse Kerk - Mondriaan[7]
Boom Mondriaan[8]
Schilderij vlakken Mondriaan[9]
Schilderij Grijs Wit Mondriaan[10]

Via this contemporary iconoclasm by “De Stijl” movement, it may be good to continue with your introduction of iconoclasm of more than 2500 years ago”, says Narrator.

Carla, Man and Narrator sit against the wall around the lawn in the Begijnhof.

“Thanks you for this fascinating introduction to the Begijnhof and its history. Before I will start with the iconoclasm of 2500 years ago in the early Jewish history, I would like to bring to mind Moses’ effort to get the One – Yahweh – recognised as the only God without a picture by the Jewish people. After Moses had receive the Ten Commandments from the One (written with the finger of Yahweh) – including the first two commandments: “I am the eternal God and Thou shalt have no other gods before me” – and returned again to his people, he saw the chosen people worshiping a golden calf: the chosen people had completely forgotten Yahweh. Furiously Moses threw the tables of the Ten Commandments in pieces. Hereafter he had to climb the mountain again to receive new tables of the covenant from the One. These tables were carried in the ark of the covenant; probably the ark was destroyed in the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem [11]. Since that time, the tables of the covenant including the first books of the Tanakh [12] are carried as Torah [13] by a Jewish community on a roll – made of parchment from the skin of a kosher animal – wherever they go. The text of the Torah is overwritten and copied by hand on parchment for every Jewish community wherever they live. Because of these roles the covenant with the One is no longer physically bound to the original tables in an ark of the covenant.
Around 600 BC the first temple in Jerusalem – built around 1000 BC under the reign of King Solomon – had been destroyed and a large part of the chosen people had been taken to Babylon in three groups between 597 and 582 BC. A small group of the people had remained and they lived as shepherds among the ruins of Jerusalem [15]. A generation later, the part of the chosen people in Babylon could return to Jerusalem, and many of them returned. With the group that had stayed behind in Babylon, a close relationship remained that almost two thousand years later is still in place, because after the chosen people spread all over the earth, the descendants of this group staying behind in Babylon were still consulted on the interpretation of religious matters. After the return of the exiles the rebuilding of the new smaller – second – Temple started in Jerusalem; this second temple had been finished in 515 BC. At that time, there was a high degree of literacy among the chosen people in Palestine; this is shown in correspondence between Jewish soldiers and their officers from that period [16].

In 445 BC Jerusalem – with the second new temple – is still a city of half-ruined walls where people lived among the weeds and the rubble. In that year Nehemia – the deputy governor of the Persian king – decided to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem; walls that enclose and walls that exclude. During the construction, the weapons were ever ready to repel sudden attacks of opponents; trowel in one hand, sword in the other hand.

After the building of the walls had finished, all the chosen people gathered one month later – in the seventh month of the year – near the restored Watergate. The chosen people asked Ezra – the high priest and scribe – to get the Torah including the law of Moses. Before the gathered crowd in Jerusalem, Ezra opened the Torah and everyone stood up. The native language of many of the attendees was Aramaic; during the reading of the Hebrew text of the law of Moses, the Levites [17] – the tribe of my ancestors [18] – gave explanation in order that the people understood the text. The next day Ezra, the Levites and Elders assembled to study the Law. They read that in the seventh month of the year, the chosen people had to build tabernacles. Hereafter the chosen people gathered foliage from the environment to build huts [19]. A month later, the chosen people entered a new covenant with the One; a covenant that connects and a covenant that excludes. Herewith the chosen people promised to read these laws regularly and they committed themselves to maintain the covenant including e.g. the commandment to refrain from marriages with outsiders .

This call of the chosen people to read the laws was a revolution in the ancient Near East, where usually the people were called by rulers to hear the power, the sacred majesty and the words of the local king, and to worship the king and his images.

The worship of the chosen people was centred around scrolls with words; it was a worship without a king, and it was a covenant within the whole community of the chosen people with the One. Through this public reading, the old habit of loudly reciting the Torah at fixed times was restored and today this practice is still carried out by the chosen people [20].

This iconoclasm of more than 2500 years ago is very similar to the iconoclasm of 1566 AC during the Reformation in the western part of the Netherlands. In 1566 AC on Walcheren in the dunes of Dishoek the first so-called “hedge sermon” [21 ] took place in the open air. From that moment, and the next few years many sermons had been held in the open air held by Protestants since overt religious practice outside the Catholic Church had been banned. Partly because of these sermons and the reading of the Bible itself – the Holy book given to chosen people by the One – created a mutual bond between believers. They would have experienced this as a worship without a king and as renewed covenant between the One and the whole community whereby they surely had read the book of Nehemiah about the covenant between the One and the chosen people 2000 years before. And still in Reformed families in the western part of the Netherland a next passage from the Bible is read at every meal; this usage is derived from the Reformation in the western part of the Netherlands, but it is also a result of the renewed covenant that the chosen people entered with the One more than 2,500 years ago”, says Man.

“With this explanation of the iconoclasm from the Jewish history in relation to the iconoclasm in the Golden Age of Holland, you fulfil the role of the Levites again; the same role that your ancestors had fulfilled 2500 years ago. Obviously at that time this covenant had been a revolution as far as a commitment to the One concerned, but I have my reservations about the walls that enclose and the walls that exclude. A revolution that wishes to separate the elect from outsiders and/or dissenters is of all time. According to Bakunin [22], many revolutionaries become worse than the former ruler after a short time. How did this revolution of 2500 years ago via a renewed covenant with the One continue?”, asks Carla.

“Nature flows where is cannot flow anymore. This also applies to my role as a Levite [23]; this certainly applies to the development and the continuation of the renewal of the covenant with the One. Less than a month later, a document of this covenant had been prepared containing a large number of provisions , including the names of the elect, marrying within their own circle, and exclusion of populations in the vicinity [24]. In the western part of the Netherlands, the Reformation had followed a similar path . In London in 1550 AC the first Reformed church service had been held; in Emden in northern Germany a first Synod had been held; then in Dordrecht during the Eighty Years’ War– whereby several key persons could not be present – the two Synods of 1574 and 1578 AC had been held, and in Middelburg in 1581 and in The Hague in 1586 AC two other Synods had followed. These Synods had aimed at mutual agreement within the Reformed churches, but also to ward off foreign elements; also here walls that enclose and walls that exclude. During the pillarisation after the time of Napoleon, faith groups married in their own circles and lived in their own circles. During the school struggles in the 19th century there has been fought hard for freedom of education within their circles with an equal financial footing by the Government; this freedom of education – and equality in public financial contribution of private schools with public education – is enshrined in the Constitution of the Netherlands [25].

Due to my life course, I could never feel at home at religious walls that enclose and exclude; I have always sought and found the interconnectedness – with hope and consolation [26] – of the many ways of religion”, says Man.

“Not intentionally, but intuitively I have asked you to visit this Begijnhof as a way of interconnectedness within the separation in history between Catholic Beguines and the English Presbyterian church in the Protestant area of Amsterdam”, says Narrator.

“Shall we visit both churches?”, says Man.

“That is good”, say Carla and Narrator.


[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof_(Amsterdam)
[2] Sacred Heart statue made by Johannes Petrus Maas in 1920 AC in the middle of the lawn in the Begijnhof in Amsterdam. Due to the pillarisation in the Nederland at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century these statues were allowed within their own circle. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heilig_Hartbeeld_(Amsterdam)
[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Reformed_Church,_Amsterdam
[4] Source for the description of the Begijnhof in Amsterdam: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof_(Amsterdam) en http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begijnhof,_Amsterdam
[5] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nieuwe_Beelding
[6] Zie ook: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theo_van_Doesburg
[7] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engelse_Hervormde_Kerk_(Amsterdam)
[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piet_Mondrian
[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piet_Mondrian
[10] Source image: http://www.dekunsten.net/01+.html (fair use)
[11] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence, Part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 104 – 106 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ark_of_the_Covenant
[12] The Bible of the Jews. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanakh
[13] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torah
[14] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thora
[15] Source: Potok, Chaim, Omzwervingen, ‘s-Gravenhage: BZZTôH 1999, p. 175 – 182
[16] Source: Schama, Simon, De geschiedenis van de Joden – Deel 1: De woorden vinden 1000 v.C. – 1492. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, 2013, p. 81, 82
[17] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levite
[18] The original name of Man Leben is Levi Hermann. See: Drift, Carla, Man Leben – One life. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 127 – 129
[19] See: Nehemia 7,72-8,18 from the Tanakh
[20] Source: Schama, Simon, De geschiedenis van de Joden – Deel 1: De woorden vinden 1000 v.C. – 1492. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, 2013, p. 59, 60
[21] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagenpreek
[22] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Bakunin
[23] See also: Drift, Carla, Man Leben – One life. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 127 – 128
[24] See: Nehemia 9 – 13 from the Tanakh
[25] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_struggle_(Netherlands)
[26] Last words in de film “Offret – The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky


Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Church

In the previous post you and I have met the role of the house as “object in the middle”. The role of the home has changed over the years from the environment where we live to a habitation. This habitation in the form of a house is seen by our ancestors as a safe haven and as a reference point from where the world is experienced. Recently, people started to identify with their home: they give shape to the house and the house expresses who they are. Our society demands of us more and more that we have a nationality and a permanent home and residence. Without these assets, people are not treated as full citizens.

Now you and I are looking into the role of the house of God as “object in the middle”.  The first sacred places, we have already seen. We have encountered sacred stones on our Odyssey. We remember the stone circles as places for ceremonies which we no longer know.


We also know the golden calf as an image of a (demi-) god [2]. We have read in the Old Testament about Yahweh who is present between the tips of angel wings above the lost Ark of the Covenant,.

Probably the hunter-gatherers have already given shelter to Gods. We have read about rituals performed by the hunter-gatherers to unite the hunters with their prey as redemption for killing of the prey, and to maintain the unique bond between prey and hunter for both their survival. The rituals may be performed at specific times and places. These sites may be seen as a precursor to the house of God. The many caves with paintings of hunting scenes are a next step towards a house of God. Probably, these paintings also had a religious background.

Many nomadic peoples have travelled around with their herds. They may also have known fixed holy sites. And probably they have seen sacred sites of established residents. Have they identified themselves with the gods of the established residents and the hunter-gatherers? Probably not, but maybe they have adopted some elements of the faith of other people. As nomads, they will have carried their sacred objects on the travels with their herds. In their tents special places are reserved for shrines. One example is the Ark of the Covenant that the Jews carried around on the travels and place in a tent during stages. Even in the temple in Jerusalem, the ark is placed with poles on both sides as a reminder and a preparation for a new travel.

The form of Islamic mosques reminds you and me of temporary stays – large tents and outposts to indicate the entrance point – in a desert. These mosques are transferred in imposing houses of Allah with courts and outbuildings around. An example is the Suleyman Mosque in Istanbul.


Farmers with fixed fields are moving into permanent habitations. Also the gods receive their private habitations. The recognition of the house of Gods does not happen overnight. When we visit the oldest stave church at Urnes in Norway, the guide explains that the woodwork of the church is decorated with dragon motifs on the outside to keep the many evil spirits outside. This is necessary in the long dark winters. The Vikings have to leave their swords outside next to the door. Inside the church has only a few small lights from above. In that light a wooden crucifix is seen from which redemption and access to the afterlife may come. The priests at that time do try to change the image of Valhalla – the hall where the honorary fallen soldiers during battle continue eating, drinking and fighting to the end of time – into a longing for deliverance from sin and a Christian view of the afterlife. The blue paint color – lapis lazuli – on the wooden crucifix from around the 12th century AD comes from Afghanistan according to the guide.

During the explanation of the guide I think of Jalāl al-Dīn – also known as Rumi, who is born around the same time in Vaksh in Balkh Province in Afghanistan. Probably Rumi transcends the “object in the middle” in his contact with Allah: “My thoughts are in the heart of Allah, the heart of Allah will be sick without the thoughts of me [4]”. Later on our Odyssey more about this.

When we leave this church, you say: “Those light openings under the roof remind me of a saying by Oscar Wild:” We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars “.


“Do you remember the first rays of the sun at 6 o’clock in the morning on the first day of spring? [6]” I ask.

“Whenever I visit a church.” You answer.

The next message continues on churches as “object in the middle”.

[1] Source of image: Marieke Grijpink

[2] See the previous post “Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – part 1” on 5th of May 2011

[3] Source image: http://www.islamleer.nl/islaam/biografie/geleerdenoverigen/758-kanuni-sultan-suleyman-i

[4] See: Nicholson, Reynold A., The Mathnawi of Jalálu’ddin Rúmí, Book II. Cambridge: Biddles Ltd, 2001 p. 281

[5] Source image: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/norway/urnes-stave-church

[6] See the last post on “Two” on 25th of April 2011

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – part 2

At our first stage [1] we have met ancient stones in the landscape. These stones have for our ancestors a special importance as landmarks for interpretation of the knowable and the unknowable. The Catholic Church has tried to incorporate the role of these stones into the Christian faith by placing field crosses at these places.

In the previous post you and I have reported on the “object in the middle” as a metaphor for mutual trust and a symbol that the metaphor of the object surpasses and transgresses into the tangible reality that the “object in the middle” originally depicted. In this message we continue this exploration.

People visiting each other, exchange gifts in order to express and maintain mutual trust. In special circumstances, special gifts are given to commemorate and perpetuate the mutual relationship. Examples of these special circumstances are important changes in life such as birth, baptism, birthday, marriage, death of parents. Often these gifts are jewelry that – when wearing the jewels – symbolise the mutual bond and the special status of the wearer of jewels. Occasionally these jewels are buried with the owner in the grave after her or his death, so the owner may also show with the jewelry in the afterlife the confidence and status in the previous life.


In the graves of Neanderthals jewelry is never found [3]. Perhaps they did not use “objects in the middle” to demonstrate and consolidate mutual trust. Maybe they did not need interpretation in their lives, since they were fully confident? Didn’t they have known any interpretations or didn’t they make any image of these interpretations? We do not know.

Over time, people make images of “objects in the middle” in order to symbolise the original trust that the object depicts. For groups of people, these symbols become important to express the nameable and unnameable feelings within the group. The symbols receive their own dynamics in the form of flags and pictures with accompanying music and with rhythm in time. The Catholic Church shows many images of God and the saints. Group identity and national feelings are reinforced by flags and emblems.


In addition, these symbols raise distrust to outsiders. This distrust often takes shape as outright hatred: the outsiders are determined to completely extinguish the strange symbols – and everything that these represent – so all traces are erased. Many wars have begun in this way with their own dynamics: the flags, music, sound of boots and women placing flowers in the barrels of the guns do the rest. The group pressure to destroy the outsiders is so strong that outliers, who do not want to engage in violence, are threatened with expulsion or even execution.

In some cultures the unnameable and the higher is so overwhelming that it cannot be displayed. In the Islamic culture depictions of Allah are not allowed; also images of beings with a soul are not desirable. Yahweh in the Jewish faith cannot be displayed. In the Protestant churches no images of God are present. Do these ways of religion have surpassed the value of symbols and images? And have they overcome the aversion to strange symbols and images, because they have transgressed the value of symbols? Probably not, golden calves [5] are still revered and contested.

[1] See the post “One-Pantheism” in this weblog.

[2] Source image: http://www.rmo.nl/actueel/tentoonstellingen/archeologie-van-nederland/midden-nederland – Olst, Goud van de Goden.

[3] Arsuaga, Juan Luis, Het halssieraad van de Neanderthaler – Op zoek naar de eerste denkers. Amsterdam: Wereldbibiotheek: 1999

[4] Source image: http://home.scarlet.be/~hlvb/het%20land%20van%20beveren/heiligen/heiligen%20in%20Groot-Beveren.htm

[5] See previous post: “Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – part 1”

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – part 1

On our last stage “Two”, first the sky and the earth are separated, and then everything has fallen apart into innumerable small parts. Afterwards a first order is arisen. Meaning and purpose given to this order, starts a first creative process.

People give interpretation to their environment, so they may increase their chances of survival by increasing their grip on touchable matters and circumstances. Furthermore, this interpretation takes shape in stories and myths which anchor knowledge and skills – from other times and circumstances – within the known world of people. Religion and rituals bring the unknowable and elusive within the scope of people; by performing recognisable acts we try to influence the unknown and elusive in our environment.

Within the Trito-myth and the cattle cycle you and I have seen the explanation of the originating of the world for people in Proto-Indo-European time. The cattle cycle gives a ritual as basis for trust between gods, priests, people and categories of people. In the previous post we have observed the role of “persons in the middle”- in this case priests and kings – acting as a bridge between the world of people and the world of the gods (or the complete oneness). Now you and I will have a glimpse into the “objects in the middle” that represent the gods (or the complete oneness) in the human world.

Cattle are a metaphor for mutual trust in the world of our ancestors. In our society money has taken over this role of cattle. In earlier societies, also objects – as replacement of living beings – serve their role of metaphor for mutual trust. Special shells, jewelry and precious artifacts are examples thereof.

Some items have risen above the role of metaphor for mutual trust. These objects are turned from metaphor into the physical reality itself. The banner [1] of a Roman legion is the identity (or entity) of the entire legion. If the banner is lost, the legion ceases to exist. The three legions led by Varus, have lost their banners in the Teutoburg Forest; they are never replaced [2].


Images of gods are worshiped by people as real gods. In the Old Testament, Moses has done everything to have recognised Yahweh – without image – as the only God of the Jewish people. After receiving the tables of the Ten Commandments from Yahweh (including the first two commandments: “I am Eternal your God, and thou shalt have no other gods before me”), on his return he notices that the people are worshipping a golden calf. The Jewish people are completely forgotten Yahweh and they see the golden calf as the “object in the middle” that has completely taken the place of God in the shape of mutual trust and eternal life.


Furiously Moses throws the tables of the Ten Commandments in pieces. He needs to return to the mountain again for receiving new tables of the covenant from Yahweh. These new tables including the Ten Commandments are carried with the people in the Ark of the Convenant. Later the ark is placed in the sacred space of the Temple in Jerusalem. Since that time, Yahweh is considered to be present above the ark in the void between the tips of the wings of two angels [5].


During the existence of the ark, Yahweh is deemed to exist in the void between the wings of the two angels. The Ark of the the Convenant was probably destroyed at the one of the devastation of the Temple in Jerusalem. After the destruction of the ark the image of Yahweh is gone. Is Yahweh now present everywhere?

[1] See also: Goldsworthy, Adrian, In the Name of Rome – The Men who won the Roman Empire. London: Phoenix, 2004

[2] See also: Wells, Peter S. The Battle that stopped Rome. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004

[3] Source image: http://www.legionxxiv.org/signum/

[4] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouden_kalf_(Hebreeuwse_Bijbel)

[5] Source: Oude Testament; boeken Exodus 25:22 en Numeri 7:89

[6] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ark_van_het_Verbond