This is an archived copy of a post written by Conflict Of Justice (conflictofjustice.com). Used with permission: Conflict Of Justice may not agree with any alterations made.
This is an archived copy. See Original Article Here
I swear, if I hear one more ‘scholar’ scoff about “kitsch Mormon fairytale castles” I am going to scream!
Latter-day Saints who live in Washington D.C. or San Diego know what I’m talking about:
Surrender Dorothy! Har har har!
What do they know? The temple is not a stage piece. Perhaps that is what makes them nervous , like it’s an alien spaceship landing in the middle of the city. Perhaps this nervousness is why the Anti-Mormon ‘Book of Mormon musical‘ canvases its stage curtain with an enormous Salt Lake temple painting. The audience gawks at the whimsical edifice conquering their city and doesn’t know whether to laugh or to cry as they anticipate the feast of mockery they are about to engorge.
Everything is a stage set to them because that’s all they have known.
Financial Vs. Spiritual Motive
The temple’s very sensibility of design is different from what we have grown up in. The modern cosmopolitan city focuses on economic commerce while the temple focuses on the spiritual fitness and righteous unity of the society. Financial economy is necessarily excluded from the temple’s program–often anathema to it–and that is what leads to this rift with the modern city.
To see where our future secular city is headed, take a look at the industrial cities in China–soaring concrete structures of repetitive living units, high speed rails to workplaces, and an ever-present smog overhead. The basis of design is a carefully calculated formula of what will earn money for the owner. The magnificent feats of design applauded in architecture magazines either promote “sustainable design” (helpful for securing financial success in the long run), spark innovative imagination, or seek societal stability–in any case, the design program is ultimately about monetary gain. Whatever helps the stock market. Human-centered design is present to the extent that humans need to be kept happy to be productive–they provide the basic necessities that keep units of production and consumption happy, like hamster wheels and nature photos in animal cages.
I suppose not everything is about money. If the Modernist movement turned the building into a machine, Postmodernism turned it into a play thing. But really how much of your environment is designed for monetary gain or frivolous fun? Is your house designed to maximize your efficiency eating, sleeping, and socializing so that you can be better at your occupation? If not, what is the basis of design for your house?
Well, the temple is not all about humanistic design either. The church does not build cozy log cabins on serene lakesides that would optimally satisfy human needs. Religious function focuses entirely on spiritual fitness and seeking the will of God. Worship is not about making money, frivolous pleasures, nor humanistic fulfillment. Secular architecture treats human needs as another checkbox on the list of programs for the environment to fulfill, while the temple is all about enabling and training humans to become total masters of themselves and the environment. The temple is about sacrificing to the Lord and receiving this endowment in return.
This spiritual agenda has found architecture to be a convenient artistic medium due to its human importance: architecture is the most material of all the arts, engaging each of the physical senses. The ancient temple’s great innovation was that it used the most immediate physical arts to investigate and teach immaterial and scientific truths. The ancients found that moral and physical truths are connected, and they explored the holiness of the physical to develop faith in the spiritual. Physical design helps develop faith and thus facilitates worship. Their method of exploring and teaching this was what we call symbolism. Symbolism takes us from the physical to the spiritual.
Then John Ruskin came along and ruined it all.
The Great Apostasy: Secularizing The Environment – Oh, secularized design was already a thing before John Ruskin. It just wasn’t a solid movement yet. The stifling of design during the Dark Ages had opened up during the Enlightenment to secular design. Author Henry Wotton had glorified this liberal new age of free architectural design–yet he still valued religious intent:
“How happy is he born and taught That serveth not another’s will; Whose armor is his honest thought, And simple truth his only skill!… Who God doth late and early pray More of His grace than gifts to lend… This man is freed from servile bands Of hope to rise or fear to fall; Lord of himself though not of lands; And having nothing yet hath all.
(Character of a Happy Life, Henry Wotton)
Gotthold Lessing observed that the confusion over religious design reflected the confusion over religious precepts and the schism between churches. Great theologians squabbled over details of God’s palace but missed the big picture. The “beauty, order, and well-being” of the ancient temple of God were gone,” he admitted. The plans for the palace of God “had been written in words and signs that were almost as good as lost today. Consequently, each connoisseur interpreted these words and signs as he liked. Each imagined an ideal new building based on his old plans.” Indeed, Joseph Smith’s prayer in the sacred grove inquiring which of the sects to join could just as well have been a prayer about which design style was the true temple of God. The answer would have likewise been: none of them, for they were all corrupt and their hearts were far from God.
Separating Structure & Aesthetic – The great Johann Goethe investigated this problem and did his best to revert back to the true spiritual design. He focused on aesthetics, what the building was saying, rather than just trying to build the tallest structure possible. He lectured a Jesuit priest about where focus should be: ancient temples combined structure and aesthetic, which he calls the column and wall:
“If your ears were not deaf to the truth, these stones would have preached a sermon to you”
(Goethe) “You say: The column is the first essential ingredient of a building, and the most beautiful. What noble elegance of form, what pure grandeur… it is their nature to be free and detached. Alas for the unfortunates who try to join the slender shape of them to heavy walls. Yet it seems to me, dear abbe, that the frequent repetition of this impropriety of building columns into walls, so that the moderns have even stuffed the inter-columnia of ancient temples with masonry, might have aroused in your mind some reflections. If your ears were not deaf to the truth, these stones would have preached a sermon to you…
Our houses have not their origin in four columns placed in four corners. They are built out of four walls on four sides, which take the place of columns, indeed exclude all columns, and where these are used to patch up, they are an encumbrance and a superfluity. This is true of our palaces and churches…
Thus your buildings exhibit mere surface, which, the broader it Is extended— the higher it is raised to the sky — the more unendurable must become the monotony which oppresses the soul. But Genius came to our aid, and said to Erwin von Stelnbach: Diversify the huge wall, which you are to raise heavenward, so that it may soar like a lofty, far-spreading tree of God, which with a thousand branches, millions of twigs, and leaves like the sand of the sea, proclaims everywhere the glory of God, Its Master.” (On German Architecture, Johann Goethe, in Goethe’s Literary Essys, H. Milford 1921)
As the confusion grew and each person preached his own idea, focus gradually turned away from religious design. In the 1840’s, Karl Botticher argued in the opposite of Goethe’s integration of structure and aesthetic–Greek temple design methods used a very simple “structural or constructional function (its core-form) that was dressed in a sophisticated artistic veil (its art-form) articulating its purpose.” The aesthetic form was separate from the structure, he argued, and the outside appearance of a building should be simply dressing. “The most sophisticated use of the dressing motif took place in classic Greece, where–in line with his polychrome conception of the Greek temple–paint became the newest and ‘subtlest, most bodiless coating,’ not only dressing the temple’s appearance, but also ‘masking’ the materiality of stone, thereby letting it become pure form.” (Otto Wagner) Suddenly, you could build a house however you want and then just throw on a paint job to make it look good.
Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig likewise argued for separation of structure and aesthetic for being “much freer in the choice of their structural elements.” This inevitably turned the building secular. The new non-religious styles were cheaper, more comfortable, and more pleasurable. How could the trend not go in that direction?
John Ruskin decried the “corrupt moral nature” of the old lofty architecture of the Renaissance. He said the old religious style upheld an oppressive social system and inappropriately mixed art and science, aided political despots, and prevented higher learning. He chiefly resented the edifice’s involvement with art and science–“a scientific mindset and the desire to expose the invisible.” The very heart of religious architecture thus came under attack, and eventually Ruskin’s secularism won. Spirituality was removed from mainstream architecture.
To cope with this takeover, mainstream Christianity convinced itself that physical temples are not necessary to connect to God, and that all physical temples are idolatry. And now finally, we have ended up with feel-good church services in strip malls and Youtube livestreams.
Design Language Of The Temple
When the temple comes up, some of the most respected critics sound like high schoolers who watched a History Channel documentary once. They sound like tourists who rode a bus around Rome and now fancy themselves experts on ancient culture. They speak in reverent tones of Stone Age artifacts and exotic Eastern art, yet when a truly unique sensibility comes along in today’s architecture, they scoff and get offended that it doesn’t follow their modern prescriptions. If the builders of Stonehenge were to transport to our time and construct a building, would the scholars and critics scoff at how unsophisticated and kitsch it is?
Duck House Symbolism – One complaint I’ve heard is that our temple symbolism is too on-the-nose. A statue blowing a trumpet from a steeple? Not exactly subtle! Post-Modernists term this kind of symbolism “a duck house”–a form that literally represents something else. Our wall paintings of gardens and astronomical scenes would be right at home in ancient temples, explicit symbolism for what the building is trying to convey, but now-a-days people like buildings to be more subtle. People like to be manipulated by art, clever illusions. We enjoy Neo-Impressionist art that forms scenes out of colorful dots and quick painstrokes that somehow evoke an emotion. People do not like the walls of a building to flat-out say what the building’s agenda is.
Perhaps that’s because we are incessantly surrounded by television commercials and product placement. Advertising follows me everywhere I go, and if the walls of my house were to become billboards for some agenda I think I would go crazy. But that is essentially what the walls of the temple are: billboards. There is no attempt to mask the message. The temple does not try to manipulate or fool people into anything. We get plain and precious truths in a very straightforward way. We light up our temples at night like McDonalds lights up their golden arches, but unlike monetary-minded corporations the goal is not to facilitate financial exchanges for profit. The agenda is truth and empowerment, and our billboards therefore are comforting and enlightening. Probably the best thing about Utah is driving at night and seeing multiple glowing temples across the skyline.
by Patrick Gillespi, creative commons license
Planetarium Symbolism – The more aesthetic becomes a painted coating disconnected from the structure, the more design language disconnects from the structure, and the less experiential the symbolism becomes. This is the very reason separation of structure and aesthetic brought about the secularization of architecture: the disconnect of structure and symbolism is the separation of church and architecture. The “duck house” tells an artificial message inappropriate for a spiritual program, and perhaps this is why critics are so disappointed by the temple. But I think it is incorrect to call the temple’s overt symbolism a duck house. It is more like a planetarium, where images of the starry sky are projected onto a concave ceiling. In a planetarium, scaled diagrams of the heavens are investigated and mapped. The creation and garden imagery on temple walls are part of this simulation experience. We are taken through a simulation of moral existence through history, and find a reference point for our place in this existence. We do not disconnect this symbolism from structure to play-act some fanciful game. We simulate the moral universe to learn about it. The modern building treats aesthetics as a billboard that uses experience and emotional association to subtly push an agenda. With the temple, the agenda is still part of the building’s very function and structure.
Furthermore, we do not just sit back in a chair and watch this planetarium symbolism. We take part. The best analogy I can think of is a flight simulator. We surround ourselves in a whole context of eternity and learn about how to pilot life’s experience. It’s a bit like a pilot in training, practicing maneuvers and strategies for future challenges, determining how to seek and avoid future outcomes. It is an experiential training.
The visual and audial simulation is certainly not as physically immersive as with a planetarium or flight simulator, with grand projections on the ceilings and computer programs taking us through a full physical experience–and there is certainly a good reason for that. We never put reality on pause and immerse ourselves into a simulation as if we were watching a film in a theater. We are always cognizant of reality, never pretending. The typical planetarium retains its beautiful dome-shaped ceiling throughout the experience, and likewise the structural significance of the temple building does not get lost.
Observatory – National Geographic documentaries frequently talk about solar alignments and visual connections with ancient temples. They give very simplistic reasons. The people knew when it was time to plant their crops. Well, we today certainly do not need solar alignments in buildings to tell us when to plant and harvest crops. So are solar alignments no longer needed? Yes, of course they are. The “father of architecture” Vitrivius said temples should have an east-west alignment, unless they are next to a river or major road in which case they should face the river or road. Many of our temples follow this logic. The Nauvoo temple both faces a major river and has an east-west alignment. But we don’t do this just because Vitrivius said to. The theological symbolism is clear: Jesus will come from the east and sweep the earth all the way to the west, like the sun rising, like the twin solar boats in Facsimile 2, like the visions of Joseph Smith, Lehi, and others who saw Jehovah rise “as the noonday sun.”
Solar alignments in ancient temples are a lot more complex than this, and I believe there is more to it with our temples as well. Certain star constellations and planets face certain elements of the structure and program, speaking to what those parts of the temple are about. The temple is an observatory for how our existence and moral paths relate to astronomy, much like how the Lord in The Book of Abraham showed Abraham the astronomy of the universe to explain his spiritual existence and his covenant with God. Vitrivius said the arrangement and motion of the heavens is a basis for all human activity and invention. “God invented and gave us sight to the end that we might behold the courses of intelligence in the heaven, and apply them to the courses of our own intelligence which are akin to them,” said Plato.
Historical Connections – One thing about the temple that makes a lot of people wary is the appropriation of ancient content in new contexts. They say it was all just ripped off the Free-Masons and a bunch of pageantry. This is kinda similar to the argument critics make about content from the Bible found in the Book of Mormon. They say it was plagiarized and ripped out of context. Indeed, some of the Isaiah passages Nephi appears to apply to his situation even though they probably had to do with older Israelite political concerns. And then in 3 Nephi, Old Testament content is cited by Jesus himself as prophecy for the immediate concerns of the Nephites and future events. “Likening scripture unto us” seems to mean appropriating old scripture into a new, similar context. We appropriate old content to present and future concerns. I believe our temple architecture does this as well.
Post-modernism likes to include old styles and take them out of context as well, but they do it as a gimmick. The AT&T building in New York City is the perfect example of this. The great arched entrance and Greek-style roofline is applied to a modern metal skyscraper and rendered quite playfully. There is no functional need to this ancient iconography, and that is the big difference with how the temple appropriates ancient symbols. The temple relates it back to historical times, making it a cycle of human history, keeping it integrated to the structure’s function. The baptismal font is probably different than what they had in very ancient times, though maybe it is not all that different. Compare it to the St. Bartholomew Liege baptismal font from 1107 AD. We believe even Adam was baptized, and the font is a great physical connection to that continual human history.
Modern Integration – We are the restoration of the ancient church, the same church that traces all the way back to Adam and Eve, and it would therefore make sense for our temple to trace all the way back to Adam’s altar. But it would also make sense for us to adapt this ancient sensibility to modern times and modern imagery.
The neoclassical windows of the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples are not what Solomon and Nephi built. Is this done as an attempt to fit in? I mean, does the temple look less like a spaceship to the general public when it is built in a contemporary style? I don’t think that is really what it is about, because then we would make temples that totally blend in as nice church buildings. It is because every work of architecture has a responsibility to speak to the local context of the land, both built and natural. Otherwise, you get a building that excludes itself from society. The garrish, shocking works of Frank Gehry, for example, are amazing feats of design but the problem is they stand out too much. Gehry took great pains to adapt local imagery into his forms and establish visual connections, respectful to surrounding buildings, yet many people see his gleaming metal structures as prideful buildings that only care about themselves. Temples are a part of the overall community and they have a duty to speak to the community’s design language. They have a duty to celebrate the community’s history and unique characteristics. Otherwise, our temples just become like the typical ugly Neo-Constructionism that gets copied and pasted throughout every city on the globe. We would contribute to the problem of tribalization.
Goethe’s plea to celebrate the diversity of God’s creation comes to mind. How excited are we to open up the church news and see the unique style of a new temple announced for Asia, Africa, or South America? How unspeakably touching is it to get a new temple in your own city, walk in there for the first time, and see thoughtful design detailing that speaks to the local cultural heritage? We must never forget, the plan of Satan is to turn everyone into clone copies, and that is what modern styles of architecture do as they turn buildings into warehouses. We celebrate uniqueness and diversity, and facilitate personal excellence however the person may come.
Archetypical Connection – This functional use of ancient imagery connects us to archetypes going all the back to Adam and Eve. We are not imitating the past but building on individual inspiration to address our immediate concerns. This is a critical distinction that speaks to the very basis of our testimonies of truth. Mainstream culture’s basis for truth is memetic imitation while ours is the seed of truth that gets planted in the heart, and this manifests in our buildings. Joseph Smith described faith as a seed that has been propagated going all the way back to Adam:
“Adam thus being made acquainted with God, communicated the knowledge which he had unto his posterity; and it was through this means that the thought was first suggested to their minds that there was a God. Which laid the foundation for the exercise of their faith, through which they could obtain a knowledge of his character and also of his glory…
From this we can see that the whole human family, in the early age of their existence, in all their different branches, had this knowledge disseminated among them; so that the existence of God became an object of faith, in the early age of the world. And the evidences which these men had of the existence of a God, was the testimony of their fathers in the first instance…. this class may see by what means it was that God became an object of faith among men after the fall; and what it was that stirred up the faith of multitudes to feel after him; to search after a knowledge of his character, perfections and attributes, until they became extensively acquainted with him; and not only commune with him, and behold his glory, but be partakers of his power, and stand in his presence… the whole faith of the world, from that time down to the present, is in a certain degree, dependent on the knowledge first communicated to them by their common progenitor; and it has been handed down to the day and generation in which we live, as we shall show from the face of the sacred records.” (Joseph Smith, Lectures On Faith)
Most of us have not physically seen God as the prophets have, and we rely on their testimony to spark the beginning of ours. In a similar way, the holy temple builds upon those who have physically stood in the presence of God to provide a spark of the holiness of how it is to be in God’s presence. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit dwells at the temple as a chain of holy places tracing all the way back to Adam, like the beacons of Minas Tirith being lit one at a time. Classic truth is imprinted through the years in archetypal symbolism, and it is up to us to search for and teach this symbolism to release that embedded information.
Vitrivius defined symbolism: “Both in general and especially in architecture are these two things found: that which signifies and that which is signified. That which is signified is the thing proposed about which we speak; that which signifies is the demonstration unfolded in a system of precepts.” Sometimes moral truth can be communicated better in stone than it can in a book. Architecture is the most material of the arts–except for food, which can be consumed into the body, which speaks to the weekly role of the sacrament. Spiritual communication is imbued into the physical composition. Critics act like we are creating a fantasy princess castle where we can pretend our fantasy is real. This is similar to the Anti-Mormon argument that the Book of Mormon witnesses only saw the gold plates in their mind. Is the entire thing just a stage set where we can pretend that imaginations about God are real?
No, there is embedded truth and a very real presence of God. The temple is a testimony spoken with syllables of stone. The temple’s ordinances are experiences that build faith and change us on a spiritual level, while mainstream secular art is mimetic repetition that is all about propagating ideology. The temple persuades us to decide to commune with God and improve, while mainstream secular architecture frames a narrative that controls us. The temple is architecture that produces architects of eternal creation.
The angel Moroni is not just some pop icon the church put up there. The 15th century Hypnerotomachia Poliphili illustrated an Egyptian pyramid topped with a steeple and statue of an angel. Such a statue was also to be found atop Roman temples, attracting lightning strikes which were probably considered manifestations of Zeus. Before this, the steeple-top statue presumably traces back to the holy temple. It imbues profound and complex symbolism involving the Abrahamic covenant and the ancient prophecy of the gospel spreading to the four quarters of the earth.
Response To Modern Context – Holy architecture does not only integrate modern context, but also responds to the architectural apostasy and lack of religious context. I think one of the most overlooked buildings in the church is the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City. Why did the church build a towering skyscraper right next to the church’s crown jewel–the Salt Lake temple? This gave permission for the rest of the city to exceed the temple’s height and avoid the temple’s aesthetic, and now today we have a disjointed downtown where the temple is a forgotten little antique forsaken by the modern city, like the old man’s house in the Disney cartoon Up. European cities have always gone to great pains with building codes to require new structures to be shorter than local cathedrals, respect views of the cathedrals, and orient new design with the cathedral at the top of the hierarchy. Why didn’t the church do this?
The Church Office Building is the closest the church has done to secular design. Its minimalism only very slightly integrates holy symbolism. I believe this is intentional. The twin stone front murals showing maps of the earth are obviously a reference to the New York City United Nations building which had been built 20 years prior. The lobby’s massive mural of Christ’s commision to the apostles to preach the gospel to every creature doubles down on the internationalist agenda. Critics have noticed that the exterior form is “visually reminiscent of the former World Trade Center in New York City,” (Wikipedia) which was being built at the same time as the Church Office Building. This skyscraper speaks to the church’s role in international significance, and its references to the U.N. and W.T.O. speaks to spiritual architecture’s rightful role in determining the built environment–spiritual program is more important than civil or economic concerns.
Types Of Design Language
These are the typical types of architectural design language:
- Environmental Symbolism – Take something from the natural or built environment and add human meaning. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater House took a waterfall in a forest and spoke to the peril of falling and refuge of cliffs. The primal feeling of safety balances the present challenges of movement, with a central spire balancing between horizontal elements. The temple takes a mountain and applies spiritual significance of the Holy Mountain.
- Literal Comparison – The Egyptian temple’s hypostyle hall literally mimicked reeds in the water, so that proceeding through the temple felt like a small animal swimming along the nile through the rushes. The angel Moroni takes the literal form of an angel with profound experiential meaning.
- Spacial Continuation – The burial chambers in the Egtian Pyramid of Kufuk have air shafts that point directly to Sirius, Orion’s Belt, Ursa Minor, and Alpha Draconis. The temple steeple directs upward to heaven to suggest our approach to divinity. The arrow upward is a very primal symbol pointing to heaven, “holiness to the Lord.” Arrow pointing downward is an endowment of holiness from the Lord. The baptismal font in the temple is located below ground level to suggest its terrestrial function. The rooms of the temple are often arranged in a direct line, or from ground to upper level, to enhance the meaning of the continuation of functions.
- Repetition – The stacked repeating roofs of the Bugghist pagoda symbolized the three layers of the material world with the spiritual realm atop. Likewise, the complicated paths in the Latter-day Saint plan of salvation diagram is sorted out through repetition of elements. The two sides of the Salt Lake Temple have been compared to the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. Each side has three spires with three levels, speaking to the three members of presidency and godhood.
- Landscape – The Mesa Verde dwellings hug tightly against cliffs, with holy kivas symbolizing the sun and earth coming together. The temple’s interaction with the earth and surrounding landscape establishes symbolism that spreads to the surroundings.
- Spatial Closure – The Islamic Taj Mahal has a minaret at each of the four columns which unify the design composition as a rectangular whole while opening views from afar. In the temple, there are likewise implied closures, windows, and veils that establish unified spaces and provide connections. The repetitive windows are punched through stone walls so that burning amber light pours out in the nighttime.
- Spacial Association -The top oculus of the Pantheon in Rome is designed so that the anniversary of Julius Caesar’s death is marked by the olulus’s light shining through the front entrance. Spaces in the temple are carefully arranged according to the roles involved in its functions, with natural cycles in mind.
- Sacred Proportions – Proportions relate multiple elements into a unified whole, and reconcile circular arrangement with rectilinear. It is well known that the circle represents the heavens and the square represents the earth, and the combining of the circle and square–so often seen in temple detailing–represents the two coming together. But the symbolism is deeper than that. The easiest way for us to navigate and arrange space is with a rectilinear grid. That’s why maps have longitudes and latitudes. The problem is natural arrangement and movement does not tend to be rectilinear–celestial bodies move in circular orbits, human circulation tends to be circular, the human body moves circularly, topography is circular, etc. The challenge of temple design is to reconcile our rectilinear understanding of space with the circular reality of the universe. Rather than cover up this contradiction (because we don’t believe in getting rid of contradictions), we celebrate how the square and circle come together, and it gives us hope that we as imperfect humans may through the atonement of Jesus Christ attain remission of our sins.
Resolving Today’s Horrible Architecture
At least modern architecture used to produce cool looking stuff, but now there is getting to be less and less reason for the corporations to stray from the horrible modernist box. The Google headquarters, Apple campus, San Francisco federal building, and banking skyscrapers may look pretty cool, but how satisfying are they to experience? How profound are they really? Today’s architecture is primarily a CAD template that has been engineered to be the most cost-efficient multiple level building that can be constructed with wood structure and still fit code. It ends up looking the same everywhere you go–maybe a little differently decorated on the outside if you are lucky. But throwing some decorations on is not enough to provide true diversity.
I am so tired of seeing the same thing everywhere I go!
When I was young, the family used to drive through dead and desolate Nevada every summer to visit relatives, and now that is how I feel driving through a typical American city. Being stuck in traffic in the city is like how it was being stuck in a construction zone in Nevada in the summer. So boring! When the program boils down to economic profit and short-sighted ignorance of spiritual needs, spiritual reality, hermeneutics, and eternal progression, this is the crap you end up with.
While the temple facilitates prayer, the secular building facilitates compliance to the dominant narrative. While the temple facilitates sacrifice, the secular building facilitates taxation. While the temple facilitates creation, the secular building facilitates economic production and consumption. While the temple creates eternal relationships, the secular building facilitates selfish pleasures. While the temple integrates divine sacrifice to change the creature, the secular building pushes us to revere the social contract.
“If your ears were not deaf to the truth, these stones would have preached a sermon to you. ” The experts don’t really like the kind of symbolism we engage, and it is one reason they don’t really care for our temples. They dismiss it as kitch, the same way theologians dismiss The Book of Mormon without ever reading it. They cannot conceive of religious architecture as anything more than pretend princess castles or Catholic relics. If they have to address spirituality, they prefer to do it on the terms of the modernist box design, and they cardon sacred things away like the warehouse scene at the end of Indiana Jones. We wind up with relics rather than faith.
The more we treat architecture like boxes the more we treat people like machines. This reflects what is basically wrong with the entire public discourse of today–big tech censorship, poor education, poor healthcare, fracturing government, etc. Economic and political concern must not rise above what is necessary for spiritual long-term health, and unfortunately it seems the problem is getting worse. Symbolism is an ancient art that they are trying to eradicate, and in order to stop it we must understand and produce more sacred symbolism.