Friday, August 9, 2013
Religious art and the fraction of divinity
It is true that the two worlds intersect in the material, and that the material on this level, which is an exquisite expression of the utmost beauty that can be appreciated from the molecular or biochemical level all the way up through its expression in organic life and its interactions, is an expression of a much higher principle that is even more glorious.
Science and religion alike marvel at the complexity and extraordinary beauty and perfection of the interaction expressed by the material world. The fact that they argue about its origin is unimportant; the recognition of its extraordinary quality and nature is universal. Even ordinary people unable to appreciate scientific principles will, if they have any sensitivity at all, be staggered by the beauty of the world around them.
No one really suspects that all of this is the expression of a much more complex and even more beautiful level of reality — Ibn Arabi called it The Reality, to distinguish it from the reality we believe is real — which represents the energy and Will of the Absolute. Swedenborg described it as Heaven with its angelic kingdom; and this is as good a word as we are going to get for it. The point is that all mystics have, to one extent or another, recognized this Truth. This kind of thing is talked about ad infinitum in religious literature; but there is no point in talking. The only real point is in receiving the inflow of the Lord's divine blessing, thus preparing ourselves to be touched by this higher level.
The expression of this higher level within the material on our own level could not be perceived without the arising of consciousness. Consciousness is what causes the appreciation and understanding of levels to exist. Man occupies a unique piece of territory in this exchange, because he is here specifically to receive the impressions of the expression of divinity. As I explained in the last post, generally speaking, we receive only the lowest level of those impressions, but it is possible to change that through inner work.
Religious art in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and other disciplines always attempts to express the relationship between the higher and the lower by organizing impressions so that this ineffable and inexpressible beauty, this perfection of The Reality, can in some way be captured and at least pointed at, indicated, if not fully conveyed. And indeed, the most magnificent stained-glass window or Buddhist Thangka can only begin to hint at the kind of impression we take in a far perception is deepened enough. These, after all, are objects; and the impression we are meant to take in, a true expression of the divine, is infused with a higher energy and is an experience that it is utterly impossible to communicate in art. All art can do is imitate the experience and provide an indication, or roadmap, of the direction in which perception out to be going.
One of the wonderful features of Hieronymus Bosch's painting the Garden of Earthly Delights is that it so carefully and lovingly depicts the interaction of these two levels. The results that are obtained are, in the end, distressing; yet in our attraction to the right-hand side of the painting, we should never forget that the glory and beauty of the left hand side and the center panel are, in fact, the Truth. The right-hand side of the panel represents where we are now, in a fallen state; and remember, in its own way, no matter how perversely, even this fallen state still expresses all the same beauty and wonder.
The unfolding of the divine within Being ought to be the sacred duty of every individual; but this is not given with ease. God expects work to be done; and the work is in turning our face towards Him, through choice.
May your soul be filled with light.