The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch,
the Prado, Madrid
The central panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights is perhaps one of the most essential pieces of work ever done on the absolute personhood of the Divine. In order to understand this concept properly, one has to integrate many of the vital things that Emanuel Swedenborg said on the subject with Gurdjieff's teachings on individuality and idiocy; the themes and subjects are intimately linked and in fact inseparable, although they may not appear to be so at first glance.
Hieronymus Bosch managed to integrate an entire teaching in the Garden of Earthly Delights; he did so visually, which actually gives us access to an intuitive, instantly accessible whole, if one understands the impression it makes.
In order to explain this, we will need to begin, however, with the left hand side of the painting, where the divine influence — the inflow, which is the proper word for it — enters the material world.
The fountain of Divine Influence, which appears to be reaching the earth, and can be interpreted on an individual level as the Divine Inflow entering every single human being — after all, the painting has its personal and intimate level — is actually, at its cosmological level, the point of contact between the comprehensive, transcendental, and incomprehensible totality of Divine Consciousness and Intelligence and the material world. This painting, you see, operates not just on an individual level, but on a cosmological level as well, thus exactly reflecting Gurdjieff's teaching that man is an exact microcosmic reflection of the macrocosmos. One could say that in describing the inner life of man, this painting also describes the inner life of the cosmos — for they are intimately connected with one another, and the totality of process within each individual is, in its microcosmic nature, identical to the totality of process within the cosmos itself.
So this divine fountain represents the embodiment of the Divine Consciousness into the material. This has a comprehensible set of consequences, because even though the iterations of the divine are nearly infinite, their various manifested aspects are comprehensible — unlike the Divine itself.
In this painting, everything we see after the fountain touches the material are the total consequences of materiality, taken at the cosmological level. That is to say, all of the decay of the Divine Influence into what appeared to be "corrupted" influences — all of the sensuality, the intimacy, the glorious manifestation of creation (the central panel), and the apparent horrors and destruction of the right-hand panel, are all inevitable consequences of the contact of the divine with its creation, the material world. This particular aspect of the painting is also mirrored by Meister Eckhart in the sense of his teaching that all of creation has to be transcended in order to have contact with God — creation is, itself, not enough, even though it is everything to us.
When Bosch painted this painting, one of the things he wanted to convey to us is the essential personhood of God, that is, God is a person in exactly the same sense of a human being as a person. Swedenborg said this in many different ways in his writings; and we have the central panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights expressing the personhood of God in its totality, divided into its myriad and uncountable individual manifestations.
All of creation is a thought in the mind of God; and the thought is personal, that is, it embodies individual fractions of consciousness and Being, all of which taken together are reflections — you could call them facets of a diamond — of the Divine Consciousness, which is a single and individual consciousness.
It may sound paradoxical, but the idea of something individual — undivided — has two aspects: the totality is individual and undivided, but its fractal nature causes it to be composed of individual and undivided parts—that is to say, individuality is not individual.
I'm sorry to have to put it that way. I understand it's confusing, but one needs to understand it in the same way that although every facet of a diamond is its own complete facet with its own rays of light being reflected and its own spectrum (thus, individual) the diamond itself is composed of all these facets.
One cannot understand consciousness, transcendental or otherwise, without understanding its personal nature — that is, the expression of Being that takes place as a unique and, Gurdjieff would say, "idiotic" manner.
Idiotic does not, in any sense, mean stupid or limited; it means particular and individual, that is, expressed within the limits (location and circumstances) of its arising.
There is actually a great deal said about this in Gurdjieff's magnum opus, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, but one has to digest the book as a whole and then absorb all the material between the lines in order to understand this.
More on this subject in the next post, publishing on May 30.