Books as Sacred Beings
Keywords:books, religious experience, souls, resurrection, theophany
Research on the ritualization of sacred texts highlights the common cross-cultural analogy between books and people or other beings. In this essay, I argue that this analogy stems from a reader’s experience of using books and the effects that books seem to exert on readers. Three different effects can arise from ordinary book use: an out-of-body experience, an experience of transcendence through the resurrection of ideas, and a transformative encounter that encourages religious description as a theophany. These three effects correspond to the ritualization of books in the semantic, expressive, and iconic dimensions. This correspondence raises questions about the influence of literacy on religious experience. It also opens the possibility that ordinary book use may provide a new avenue for analyzing religious experience.
Cain, Sian. 2016. “Rare edition of JK Rowling’s Beedle the Bard sells for £368,750.” The Guardian. 13 December. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/dec/13/beedle-the-bard-jk-rowling-auction
Cantwell, Cathy. 2012 . “Seeing, Touching, Holding, and Swallowing Tibetan Buddhist Texts.” Postscripts 8(1–2): 137–160. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.32531
Emba, Christine. 2017. “Millennials are turning to Harry Potter for meaning. That’s a mistake.” Washington Post. 24 July. http://wapo.st/2gY5LQr?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.b53a7b06034a
Flood, Alison. 2008. “Rowling’s Beedle the Bard revives Harry Potter midnight magic.” The Guardian. 3 December. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/dec/03/harry-potter-beedle
Ganz, David. 2012 . “Touching Books, Touching Art: Tactile Dimensions of Sacred Books in the Medieval West.” Postscripts 8.1–2: 81–114. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.32702
Gierzynski, Anthony. 2013. Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Graham, William A. 1987. Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kurtzweil, Ray. 2005. The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. London: Duckworth.
Kinnard, Jacob N. 1999. Imaging Wisdom: Seeing and Knowing in the Art of Indian Buddhism. Surrey: Curzon.
Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. 2003. Metaphors We Live By. Revised ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1108/eoi.2008.27.3.307.2
Meyer, Birgit and Dick Houtman. 2012. “Introduction: Material Religion—How Things Matter.” In Things: Religion and the Question of Materiality, edited by D. Houtman and B. Meyer, 1–23. New York: Fordham University Press. https://doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823239450.003.0001
Moerman, D. Max. 2010. “The Death of the Dharma: Buddhist Sutra Burials in Early Medieval Japan.” In The Death of Sacred Texts: Ritual Disposal and Renovation of Texts in World Religions, edited by K. Myrvold, 71–90. London: Ashgate. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315615318
Myrvold, Kristina. 2010. “Making the Scripture a Person: Reinventing Death Rituals of Guru Granth Sahib in Sikhism.” In The Death of Sacred Texts: Ritual Disposal and Renovation of Texts in World Religions, edited by K. Myrvold, 125–146. London: Ashgate. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315615318
Parmenter, Dorina Miller. 2006 . “The Iconic Book: The Image of the Bible in Early Christian Rituals.” Postscripts 2(2–3): 160–189. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.v2i2.160
———. 2012 . “How the Bible Feels: The Christian Bible as Effective and Affective Object.” Postscripts 8(1–2): 27–38. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.32589
Plate, Brent S. 2010 . “Looking at Words: the Iconicity of the Page.” Postscripts 6(1–3): 67–82.
———. 2015. A History of Religion in 5½ Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to its Senses. Boston: Beacon.
Plate, Brent S. 2012 . “What the Book Arts Can Teach Us About Sacred Texts: The Aesthetic Dimension of Scripture.” Postscripts 8(1–2): 5–26. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.32516
———. 2017. Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World. Second Edition. New York: Columbia University Press.
Schleicher, Marianne. 2010. “Accounts of a Dying Scroll: On Jewish Handling of Sacred Texts in Need of Restoration or Disposal.” In The Death of Sacred Texts: Ritual Disposal and Renovation of Texts in World Religions, edited by K. Myrvold, 11–30. London: Ashgate. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315615318
Scholastic. 2018. “Harry Potter Wizarding World.” https://www.scholastic.com/kids/books/harry-potter/
Svensson, Jonas. Forthcoming 2019. “Ritualising Muslim Iconic Texts.” In The Oxford Handbook of Ritual and Theology, edited by S. Balentine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wilkens, Katharina. 2012 . “Infusions and Fumigations: Literacy Ideologies and Therapeutic Aspects of the Qur’an.” Postscripts 8.1-2: 115–136. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.32508
Wolfson, Elliot R. 2004. “Iconicity of the Text: Reification of Torah and the Idolatrous Impulse of Zoharic Kabbalah.” Jewish Studies Quarterly 11: 215–242. https://doi.org/10.1628/0944570043028437
Yoo, Yohan. 2012 . “Neo-Confucian Sensory Readings of Scriptures: The Reading Methods of Chu Hsi and Yi Hwang.” Postscripts 8(1–2): 161–172. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.32267
Watts, James. 2006 . “The Three Dimensions of Scriptures.” Postscripts 2(2–3): 135–159.
———. 2012 . “Scripture’s Indexical Touch.” Postscripts 8(1–2): 173–184.
———. 2019. How and Why Books Matter: Essays on the Social Function of Iconic Texts. Sheffield: Equinox.
How to Cite
© Equinox Publishing Ltd.
For information regarding our Open Access policy, click here.