Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 496
Rice brings a number of strong religious themes to this novel as a result of her research into ancient Hebrew and Babylonian cultures as well as modern Hasidic society. The most obvious theme is that of ritualistic sacrifice. The Servant of the Bones is created through a tremendous, if somewhat unwilling, act of self-sacrifice so that his people could be freed, and that spirit of service to God may have prevented Azriel from becoming the evil spirit his creators had intended. Rachel Belkin is touted as a sacrifice by the Temple of the Mind, but that assessment may not have been far from the truth, since her death seems to have triggered Azriel's reemergence from the Bones. Finally, Gregory Belkin sacrifices his own brother for the furtherance of the Temple of the Mind, and Azriel sacrifices a chance to enter Heaven in order to stop Belkin.
Beneath the plot lies a deep probing into the question of faith. Azriel refers to Marduk as a god, and indeed Marduk calls himself a god, and yet this god is powerless to help Azriel. Azriel does not particularly believe in Marduk in the same way that he believes in Yahweh, the god of lesser gods, and yet Yahweh has never shown himself to Azriel. "Why don't you go tell all this to Yahweh Himself if you are a god?" Azriel taunts Marduk. Marduk replies, "What? Talk to your god? No one can look at the face of your god and live. What do you want to happen to me?" Clearly, then, Marduk is a lesser god than Yahweh. He claims that he is not the last sacrificial victim of the statue, and yet there is the implication that Marduk is a made thing, a spirit such as Azriel himself becomes, and that in the creation of Azriel, Marduk is destroyed. This claim is reinforced by Zurvan's teaching of one God. If there is one God, then Azriel exists by His will. Thus, the entirety of Azriel's existence is a test of faith.
The Temple of the Mind provides the reader with a look at the consequences of unfounded faith. Born out of the cults and televangelism that have become commonplace in American culture, the Temple of the Mind resembles the Church of Scientology with a sinister twist. Bent on converting ninety percent of the world's population to his "religion," Gregory Belkin lives for the faith of his people, for the power and self-fulfillment that it gives him, but he seeks that adoration because of a lack of faith in himself. Having abandoned his family and his Hasidic roots, Belkin seeks to redefine himself and redirect history to make certain that he is immortalized. He sees in Azriel a divine confirmation of his destiny and clings to him as proof of the supernatural in order to bolster his own faith. He intends to use Azriel to do the same for his followers, thus swelling their faith in him even further.
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