Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Southern California, this paper explores how non-Indians use and appropriate statues of Hindu deities. In particular, I focus on a particular group of spiritual seekers who see these statues, or murtis, not as manifestations of the divine—that is, not as Hindu gods themselves—but instead as symbols that correspond to Jungian “archetypes.” This spiritual practice of “working with” an archetype is quite different from what one might encounter in a Hindu temple in India, and indeed, the underlying theologies of the practice map better onto American metaphysical religion than they do Hinduism. The article ends with a reflection on appropriation, focusing on the ways in which this spiritual practice promotes a form of universalism in which the very idea of appropriation becomes impossible.

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