I’ve been watching a UCLA course on Indian history on Youtube and I came to a discussion of Hindu Darhsan that was intriguing.
Darshan is a Hindu concept of gazing at a god where the god also gazes back at you. It is a communion of sorts. For example, you might go on a pilgrimage to a temple or other special place in order to experience Darshan. But it can also be accomplished more simply with a postcard of a particular deity. The idea behind this is the postcard or place is not simply a representation, it is an incarnation of the god.
This brought to mind idolatry. I’ve never been satisfied with the standard monotheistic critique of paganism. The standard line of criticism is that the stupid pagans think that their statues are gods (recall the story of Abraham demolishing statues). But the HIndu idea of Darshan suggests a more subtle view: that a statue of a god is not the god itself nor is it merely a representation or reminder but a real presence of the god.
And that phrase, “real presence”, is certainly familiar to Catholics. Catholicism teaches that the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ. How this is so when it’s obviously merely bread and wine is part of the schism with Protestantism who regard it as merely symbolic. But we see this also in the nature of any church building (why do we go to church to pray?) which borrows from the presence of God in the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple. And then there are the relics of the Saints.
One might even stretch the idea to include Christ himself as the real living, breathing presence of God.