Christianity and religious archaism
But a completely different matter is archaic religious culture, which dates back to the Neolithic and was the basis of ancient polytheism. In religious archaism, there is the concept of “fetish” or “teraphim” – a special object into which a certain spirit is literally infused, which uses the object as a kind of host. The object is inextricably linked with the spirit that inhabits it; it is filled with energy from sacrifices and reverence, and over time becomes more and more powerful.
An example here is, say, the Trojan Palladium, the sacred oak of Dodona or the statue of Artemis from the temple at Ephesus. The ancient Greeks believed that all these were literally filled with divine power, and they valued them precisely as such. Pagan gods and demons are not omnipotent or all-pervading; they choose a suitable focus for their efforts on earth, and from that moment, the object by itself becomes divine in its own way.
The Christian One God is a being of a completely different nature. His power is evenly distributed throughout the universe and does not need material carriers. He can manifest his power through any object – or even directly affect reality or the human psyche. At least this is what was taught by the historical founders of Christian churches and the fathers of church councils.
Thus, one gets the feeling that the current zealots in favor of returning the icon to the Church do not think at all in the Christian, but rather in the ancient-pagan paradigm. The icon for them – a concrete, physical icon – has a special mystical power just by itself, as a board with paints. It is as if some separate, benevolent spirit lives in it, or as if you can conjure the Christian God by tying him to a painted piece of wood. In such a pagan paradigm, even the destruction of the icon due to improper keeping becomes a lesser evil than the powerful object – the vessel of a wonderful spirit, outside the place of worship. In essence, if this fetish is destroyed, it will be a kind of sacrifice in itself, like how during the burials of pagan leaders, prized, sacred amulets were broken and thrown into their graves.
Or maybe God himself, from the point of view of these people, should be angry because a particle of his power, bound by a spell inside the board, is being held as if “in captivity” – that the damned communists have locked the divine spirit in the museum, “reducing” its magical power? For the archaic, this approach would be quite normal.
In “grassroots,” “folk” Christianity, such views were widespread for many centuries; this is the so-called phenomenon of “double belief” or “dual faith,” when, formally confessing Christianity, people in fact continue to perceive the world in a completely pagan way. Back in the 19th century, Orthodox preachers complained that peasants often, for example, perceived different icons of the Virgin as separate holy beings, each endowed with a separate will.
It was only in the 19th century that this was perceived by priests as a problem.