Sanja Särman

ICONOCEAN: ICONIC RETURN TO THE SOURCE AND THE THEOLOGY OF THE IMAGE IN THE ANTHROPOCENE

According to some ancient sources, iconoclastic politics in the Byzantine empire began when Leo III interpreted natural catastrophes as signs of divine wrath caused by the idolatry of images. By defending the orthodoxy of icons, the iconophile party triumphed against the imperial heresy. In short, an icon is not an idol. In his studies of Dionysus, the (self-described) Areopagite Jean-Luc Marion carefully distinguishes the two: to Dionysian thought, an idol is any conceptualisation of the divine. We do not worship the icon, but through it; we worship what we can conceive of God, which is nothing. Today, we witness catastrophes (flooding, wildfires, the devastation of wildlife) unleashed by a consumerist culture fixated on arguably idolatrous images of material success (advertisement, marketing, pornography). Nothing can be lost by entertaining the thesis that nature is one way in which God appears, a thesis which we may for convenience call panentheistic. The panentheistic thesis invites us to rethink the icon within the neo-Platonic framework upon which Dionysus drew. How can we model a ‘secular’ icon that meets the needs of the day?

Sanja Särman
© Johan Arnborg

Sanja Särman is a philosopher and artist. Her main research interests are Spinoza’s soteriology and, more generally, different theories of human perfection. She earned her PhD in philosophy in 2020. Her most recent philosophy publication is ‘Spinoza’s Infinite Shortcut to the Contingent Appearance of Things’ (Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 2021).Her prose and poetry have also appeared in various venues, most recently ‘Emerald Eyes’ (The Cosmic Bulletin II, 2021), an allegory of heavenly ascent with Stymphalian birds and sailor kitsch elements. Some of her visual art may be viewed at www.sanjasarman.com.