Friday, September 12, 2014

5 1/2 Objects

Just finished an interesting book- A History of Religion in 5½ Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to Its Senses by S. Brent Plate. It is a look at five "material" objects that can, in some ways, mirror the growth of religion in humans. The five are:

  • stones
  • incense
  • drums
  • crosses
  • bread
From the description on the publisher, Beacon Press's website:
We learn why incense is used by Hindus at a celebration of the goddess Durga in Banaras, by Muslims at a wedding ceremony in West Africa, and by Roman Catholics at a Mass in upstate New York. Crosses are key not only to Christianity but to many Native American traditions; in the symbolic mythology of Peru’s Misminay community, cruciform imagery stands for the general outlay of the cosmos. And stones, in the form of cairns, grave markers, and monuments, are connected with places of memory across the world.

A History of Religion in 5 1/2 Objects is a celebration of the materiality of religious life. Plate moves our understanding of religion away from the current obsessions with God, fundamentalism, and science—and toward the rich depths of this world, this body, these things. Religion, it turns out, has as much to do with our bodies as our beliefs. Maybe even more.
I found it an intriguing and more than interesting read. The author is a professor of religious studies but has aimed at ways religion is also expressed in material ways. It is not a far-fetched premise. These five material objects have had many religious uses, but, at heart they are ways we make our faith real, tangible, touchable, and present in and around us. It is not a popularizing of the history of religion, but it is readable.

For me the chapters on drums and bread were the most intriguing but I discovered how rich in material- and sensuousness- religion truly is.

Oh, yes, the 1/2 object is the one that fulfills and ties these together- the soul.

No comments: