Consciousness and culture complicate our most basic physical realities, especially the reality of pain.
I've been thinking about the figure of Jesus Christ recently, for few figures of pain and suffering stand so towering in Western culture. We see such a stark difference between the serene bloodletting in Alberto Sotio's 1187 "Christus Triumphans" and the suffering, diseased Christ of Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece. One is a physical god impervious to pain, while the other is brought low by torture and illness.
In this we see the evolution of a religious symbol - or at least one branch of it, for the iconography of Christ is rich with meaningful alterations. The Christian New Testament contains much about the life of Jesus, but the focus increasingly shifted to his birth and death - just as images of his crucifixion shifted from a wide-eyed and painless god-in-flesh to the ultimate torment of god-as-man.
In her book "The Body in Pain," Elaine Scarry takes a deep dive into the meaning of human suffering - and she devotes an entire section to body and voice in the Christian scriptures.
One of her core arguments is this: While the Old Testament presents an immaterial god made manifest to humanity through scenes of wounding, the New Testament presents a material god made manifest through scenes of healing.
Scarry argues that while the Old Testament tells the story of a people's creation, exile and rescue; the New Testament concerns a physical god's creation, exile and rescue.
Therefore, both religious texts are writ in the ink of pain, but do we see in basic Christian theology a blurring of the lines between the immortal immaterial and the mortal material. God takes human form, suffers and dies, while humans gain a shot at physical immortality - for, make no mistake, the theology of Christian resurrection is based in the body.
Far from a mere negative sensory reinforcement to reduce physical harm, pain becomes the method by which we establish the existence, sentience and will of the cosmos itself.