Tag: christianity

Artist and Mystic Experience

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Artist and Mystic Experience

Now these are precisely the points of view which the teacher of religion also is constantly seeking to induce. He too calls people from their pursuits and practical ambitions to enjoy the communions of the spirit. He also summons men to leave off for a moment their doing that they may devote themselves to seeing. He also is persuaded of the inadequacy of mere thinking, claiming the possibility of a more nearly immediate experience of reality.

If this is anything like the truth, it is a strange thing that the professional schools for priests and prophets abundantly supply instruction that is intellectual and moral while very meagerly offering any tutelage of the imagination or any instruction in the discipline and development of the emotional career or in the technique whereby the minister of religion may become a proficient master in these areas. This will one day be changed so that every trained leader of religion will be more aware of the universal hunger for beauty and more capable of utilizing this almost unlimited asset for the religious ends of his task.

We are accustomed to thinking that the world of religion is willing to recognize this kinship with the world of the arts more readily than is the critic of the arts. The contrary is true. One is more likely to find the language of religion in the writings of the art world than to discover an equal intelligence amongst religious writers concerning the critique of the arts. When Bernard Bosanquet says that “the mind of man has its own necessity, which weaves its great patterns on the face of the whole world. And in these patterns–the pattern of life itself–the fullest feeling finds embodiment,” he is discussing the impulse and the necessity of the artist toward the same experience as the mystic.

Artist and Mystic Experience

William Temple in discussing some of the noblest works of art, writes: “In the presence of such transcendent Beauty, we realize the hope of mysticism. In a single impression we receive what absolutely satisfies us, and in that perfect satisfaction we ourselves are lost. Duration vanishes; the Now these are precisely the points of view which the teacher of religion also is constantly seeking to induce. He too calls people from their pursuits and practical ambitions to enjoy the communions of the spirit. He also summons men to leave off for a moment their doing that they may devote themselves to seeing. He also is persuaded of the inadequacy of mere thinking, claiming the possibility of a more nearly immediate experience of reality.

If this is anything like the truth, it is a strange thing that the professional schools for priests and prophets abundantly supply instruction that is intellectual and moral while very meagerly offering any tutelage of the imagination or any instruction in the discipline and development of the emotional career or in the technique whereby the minister of religion may become a proficient master in these areas. This will one day be changed so that every trained leader of religion will be more aware of the universal hunger for beauty and more capable of utilizing this almost unlimited asset for the religious ends of his task.

We are accustomed to thinking that the world of religion is willing to recognize this kinship with the world of the arts more readily than is the critic of the arts. The contrary is true. One is more likely to find the language of religion in the writings of the art world than to discover an equal intelligence amongst religious writers concerning the critique of the arts. When Bernard Bosanquet says that “the mind of man has its own necessity, which weaves its great patterns on the face of the whole world. And in these patterns–the pattern of life itself–the fullest feeling finds embodiment,” he is discussing the impulse and the necessity of the artist toward the same experience as the mystic.

William Temple in discussing some of the noblest works of art, writes: “In the presence of such transcendent Beauty, we realize the hope of mysticism. In a single impression we receive what absolutely satisfies us, and in that perfect satisfaction we ourselves are lost. Duration vanishes; the’moment eternal’ is come. The great drama proceeds; the music surges through us; we are not conscious of our own existence. We hear and see; and when all is done, we consider and bow the head.”S * He is writing as an art critic but in the language of religion. Again in discussing one of the lectures of Mr. Arthur Balfour, he writes: “The past and the future vanish; space itself is forgotten: whether or not mysticism is, as Mr. Balfour fears, the only possible philosophy of art, it is beyond question that the aesthetic experience is a purely mystical experience; that is to say, it is the direct and immediate apprehension of an absolutely satisfying object.”

I have somewhere read in a writing of Archdeacon Freemantle, the following: “Art becomes a binding link between men and draws them together toward God. It forms a society which must properly be called a Church. Its yearning toward the ideal is worship, a prayer. The sharing in artistic impressions is a genuine form of worship. It is destined to occupy no mean place in the full redemption of human life.”

The religious feelings relate to life as a whole. They are the response of man to the presently realized existence of divinity. They reach out to grasp the Universal and the Absolute. The feeling for beauty is usually not universal. But it is a feeling for being, for that which has existence. Every work of art says, Notice this fact, this bit of life: be a lover of life as you see it here. Religion says, Be a lover of Life as a Whole, God’s Life, love God. There is a profound identity of attitude between these two.

Religion is not merely thinking and feeling, it is also right doing. The moral issues of religion are ever the concern of healthy human life. We will have nothing to do with a religion which is ineffective in the practical world or weak in its increasing enthusiasm for a thoroughgoing application of its ideals to every phase of life, industrial and political as well as personal. These are the vast problems of the hour. We shall have no future religion at all if they are not manfully and courageously handled.

It is too commonly assumed that at this point the arts must part company with religion. Many have felt that to be interested in Beauty while the world is suffering from inhumanity is an ignoble thing. Unfortunately, both the conduct of artists in general and many critics of the arts have tended to foster such a view. Mr. Merton Stark Yewdale sets forth a correct note on the expressive desire of the aesthetic experience and then completely spoils the picture by separating that experience from practical life.

“We have a sensation of an enhanced power, a compelling desire to rid ourselves of a certain state of tension, eagerness to reciprocate the force which the artist exerts toward us.”So far so good. Then something extremely bad: “As our faculties are again assembled we see once more that life is the great delusion and Art the supreme counter-agent to existence.”

How could anyone write that who had ever read Emerson’s “Compensation”? There are in fact no real barriers between the world of Art Life and the world of Common Life. The artist marks off a bit of the world and harmonizes it and sees that it is good or beautiful. Religion rises to see that all creation is good. It will admit no barriers. It would glorify all life.

The very nature of artistry is activity. Works of art are described as creations. Whatever may be said about the appreciation of Beauty, art is the production of Beauty. Artistry is expression, release, liberation, outgoing effort, authorship, origination. Its results are not called thoughts of art or feelings of art but works of art.

And the artist not only creates new forms of material beauty but also new persons. The very essence of the thing that happens to people when they are impressed by beauty, either of nature or of art, is increased vitality. They are literally remade, increased in strength of body and strength of mind.

Still a third practical effect of the artist’s work is the result in the world of the enhanced power developed in the aesthetic experience. This is the point least clearly intimated by writers on the subject, and denied by many. It is the point of disagreement with Mr. Yewdale. Even Professor Hocking in his profound discussion of art and religion in the volume, “Human Nature and Its Remaking,” does not sufficiently get away from his suggestion that the world of art is an arena in which man may make his conquests more easily than in the world of fact.

“Art is the region which man has created for himself, wherein he can find scope for unexpressed powers, and yet win an absolute success, in testimony of his own reality… It has but feeble contact with the more pressing problems of the ‘common man.’ It fits no one for dealing with the as yet unharmonized aspects of experience. Its tendency would be to seclude itself, build for itself high garden walls, and in the midst of a world small enough to be perfectly controlled, forget the ugly, the squalid, the disordered, the just causes for warfare and rebellion.”

There are undoubtedly many facts which bear out this view. And with the facts coincides the oft-repeated description of the experience of beauty as being a feeling of power coupled with the paradoxical feeling of repose, a sense of great energy but of no demand to exercise it. The aesthetic moment is by everyone described as the moment of perfect satisfaction.

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The Sensational Character of Art

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The Sensational Character of Art

The first force of a work of art is its appeal to the senses. This is direct and immediate. It is the physical effect, almost utterly unescapable whenever there is presented to anyone a vigorous composition in color or in tone or a strong rhythm of song or of motion.

Religion which has disdained the arts as sensuous has not, therefore, escaped sensationalism. It has developed the sensational preacher. He is the man who preaches for a sensuous effect. He has greater success usually in getting people to come to hear what he has to say than in having something worth while to say when they get there. This is not always true but it is so very commonly. Our most thoughtful ministers, those under whose preaching the more serious-minded people desire to sit, are little given to sensational preaching.

Their form is good form but it is not nowadays florid, overly dramatic, or eccentric form. They touch upon timely themes of the day, not as advertising captions but for real discussion. Your true and proper sensationalist develops rhetoric, gesture, perhaps even hair cuts, newspaper themes, and peculiar exercises calculated to rouse interest and produce a momentary enjoyment or excitement.

Sensationalism is necessary for religion, but not this kind. I would rather that my boys should be appealed to by the noble sensationalism of excellent paintings, brilliant music, and noble ritual than by the sensationalism of an evangelist crawling about on all fours like a bear show.

The Sensational Character of Art

However much we may desire to spiritualize our religion, we are not disembodied spirits, we are compact together of flesh and spirit– “Nor soul helps flesh more now, than flesh helps soul.”

Our view of human nature and of the bodily life is very different from that of the Reformation theology. Our new utilization of the fine arts is to be based upon the new psychology and upon the new theology rather than upon Calvinism.

The impulses of the flesh may develop downward. But also every human instinct may become the root of a possible spiritual virtue. If our task is still partly to mortify the flesh, it is also to understand it and use it for good. If spirtual experience is an incorporeal thing, its beginning is usually something born in the mystery of the bodily being. We do not have the same reasons for fearing the arts that the Puritan had, as he did not have our reasons for using them.

Sensationalism has always been deep and constant in human life and in religion and always will be during the life of earth. The Hebrew prophets not only used abundant imagery in speech but actual physical objects and eccentricities of conduct to capture attention and press home their message. It seems questionable whether Jesus performed his works of healing for this purpose, but hardly questionable that his approach to the city on the Day of Palms was a form of sensational appeal. It may be said of it, as it may be said of other sensational conduct, that it was done for effect. Precisely so, for that is the way to be effective.

Our modern church has rather too little than too much of appeal to the senses. It is not sufficiently interesting or sufficiently thrilling. I do not at all object to the sensational methods of the orator or of the evangelist in their proper place. But the sensational preacher should not be the pastor and teacher of a normal church, large or small. That form of appeal to the senses is in the long run neither so effective nor so beneficial as quieter forms–music, decoration, architecture, and liturgy. The oratorical type may be more thrilling at the moment but less lasting than the rhythms set going by the finer arts.

The older religions all make more effective use of the noble and more commendable forms of appeal to the senses. One would not expect to get the following testimony from a modern free churchman, but here it is: “The Japanese know how to produce effects, they have a sure instinct as to the moods in which a person should stand before a temple or shrine. Hence they study the approaches to their sacred spots almost as much as they do the elaboration of the spots themselves. The Shintoists have their torii or more likely lines of torii before each shrine; the Buddhists love to place their houses of worship and meditation in the midst of great trees or on the tops of hills which they approach by moss-covered staircases of stone…

When one has removed his shoes and penetrated to’ the inner shrine and stands on the soft matted floor before the image of the Great Buddha, the subtle power of idolatry when wedded to high art becomes apparent in an unmistakable way. The sense of solemnity, of quietness, of peace is in the very air, and there comes to one a new sympathy toward those who know only this way of consolation.” These beautiful and skillful arrangements are planned for their direct and immediate effect upon the senses and they are effective.

Nor would one naturally expect the testimony written by one of the most distinguished New England clergymen of the nineteenth century, a leader and representative of the best thought of his day. Dr. Theodore Munger describes the cathedrals and cathedral services of the English Church. And then he adds: “Here lies the secret of public worship; we do not worship because we feel like it, but that we may feel.

The feeling may have died out under the pressure of the world, but coming together from mere habit, and starting on the level of mere custom, we soon feel the stirring of the wings of devotion, and begin to rise heavenward on the pinnacles of song and prayer. This is well understood in England, and underlies the much criticised ‘Cathedral system.’ Here is a mighty fact tremendously asserted; it forces a sort of inevitable reverence, not the highest and purest indeed, but something worth having. It becomes the conservator of the faith, and in the only way in which it can be conserved, through the reverent sentiment and poetry of our nature… The main value of the established church is its lofty and unshaken assertion of the worth of worship–keeping alive reverence, which is the mother of morality, and furnishing a public environment for the common faith.

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The Garden of Eden in Art Scene

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The Garden of Eden in Art Scene

The Garden of Eden is described in the Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden (Gen. 2:8). This garden forms part of the Genesis creation narrative and theodicy of the Abrahamic religions, often being used to explain the origin of sin and mankind’s wrongdoings. The Archangel Uriel, with his flaming sword, is said to be guarding the Gate to the Garden of Eden.’

The Genesis creation narrative relates the geographical location of both Eden and the garden to four rivers (Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, Euphrates), and three regions (Havilah, Assyria, and Kush). There are hypotheses that place Eden at the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates (northern Mesopotamia), in Iraq (Mesopotamia), Africa, and the Persian Gulf. For many medieval writers, the image of the Garden of Eden also creates a location for human love and sexuality, often associated with the classic and medieval trope of the locus amoenus.

The Garden of Eden in Art Scene

The Garden of Eden in Art Scene

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Religion Art: Jacob’s Ladder

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Religion Art: Jacob's Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder is a ladder to heaven, described in the Book of Genesis, that the biblical patriarch Jacob envisions during his flight from his brother Esau.

The description of Jacob’s ladder appears in the Book of Genesis (28:11–19): Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to the place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.

And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it [or “beside him”] and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves.

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.” And he was afraid, and said, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Afterwards, Jacob names the place, “Bethel” (literally, “House of God”).

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Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

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Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

The physical appearance of artists’ shops of the Renaissance was no different from that of many other crafts. The word “artist” as a generic term was almost never used: a painter was called a painter, a sculptor a sculptor, and so on. They were seen as members of a particular occupation, not, as in our day, as people with a vision and a calling. They had no special title which implied that, either by vocation or inspiration, they were different from any other group of craftsmen.

Often located together in the same area of town, the shops of Renaissance artists were usually small rooms opened to the street by the raising of heavy wooden shutters. Several illustrations from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries depict craftsmen at work in these humble, semi-public shops. A number of similar structures still survive on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, although these are now filled with the stores of some of the world’s most exclusive jewelers. In Italian cities one can still get an impression of what these artists’ shops, or botteghe, were like by looking at the small shops of carpenters or gilders, which are usually open to the street and filled with the same kind of hurlyburly that characterized their Renaissance forerunners.

The production of art was, first and foremost, a cooperative venture. Within the shop there was an organization and working procedure developed through long experience to allow maximum efficiency. At the head of the organization was the master, who obtained the commissions and oversaw all the shop’s activities. It was his reputation and his ability to attract work that kept the shop going. Some work was done for the market without commission, but probably not enough to keep the shop in business full time.

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Religion Art: Dante and Virgil Encounter Lucifer in Hell

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Religion Art: Dante and Virgil Encounter Lucifer in Hell

christian art, christianity, christie’s images, collections, dante and virgil encounter lucifer in hell, english art, Giclee Prints, henry john stock, Symbolism

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Religious Art: The Holy Trinity and Byzantium’s Earliest Art

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Religious Art: The Holy Trinity and Byzantium's Earliest Art

St. Sophia, an amazing architectural feat in Istanbul was built in 365 and is now a museum housing Byzantine art. Nearby is St Irene, one of Byzantium’s earliest churches built over the pagan temple of Aphrodite. Between St Sophia and the Blue Mosque is the ancient Hippodrome, built 203, an ancient racecourse overlooking the Sea of Marmara.

Close by the Museum of Mosaics shelters a part of the floor of Constantine’s Palace, built of beautiful mosaics. On the promontry formed by the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn is the site of Constantine’s sacred palace, the now famous Topkapi, with Turkish, Chinese and Japanese porcelains. The library holds priceless Arabic and Greek manuscripts; there are the magnificent gold and silver threaded robes of the sultan and the jewels in the Treasury defy all description.

Close to Topkapi are the Museum of Archeology and Museum of Oriental Antiquities. Descend into Yerebatan Sarayi, the Sunken Palace Cistern, ancient vaults upheld by 336 columns. The Suleymaniye and Kaariye Mosques must be seen. Close to the Erdine Gate, are remnants of Blackernae Palace. Accross the Galata Bridge, the white marble Baroque palace of Dolmabahce stands. Istanbul’s skyline is shaped by over 400 mosques. The biggest and best are grouped in the old city of Eminonu. The Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmet, built in the 17th century is the only mosque in Turkey with six minarets.

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God Appearing to St. Mary Magdalena and St. Catherine of Siena, circa 1508 (Giclee Print)

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God Appearing to St. Mary Magdalena and St. Catherine of Siena, circa 1508

bible figures, christianity, fine art, fra bartolommeo, Giclee Prints, god appearing to st. mary magdalena, italian art, Renaissance Art, The Bible

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Virgin and Child with St. Catherine and Mary Magdalene, circa 1500 (Giclee Print)

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Virgin and Child with St. Catherine and Mary Magdalene, circa 1500

bible figures, christianity, giovanni bellini, italian art, Renaissance Art, The Bible, virgin and child with catherine and mary magdalena

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Gaul Statue and Antique Civilisation Under the Roman Rule

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Gaul Statue and Antique Civilisation Under the Roman Rule

Gaul, as a whole, began to participate in antique civilisation under the Roman rule. A highly centralised administration united the provinces which extended from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, from the ocean to the Alps, imposing a common existence and a common culture upon them.

When one travels along a Roman road it is very easy to understand how the dwellers in these regions were sensible of a distant solidarity. Their roads, even when disused, are not obliterated; they still indicate the ancient route across fields. Stretching in purposeful rigidity from point to point, regardless of mountains and valleys, they bore the legions to the frontier, and carried the will of Rome into the interior.

Every halting-place along them was the nucleus of a future city of France. At the cross-roads we shall find the active centres of Roman art. A network of more natural and less geometrical highways, corresponding to the local geology, was related to this vast system of main roads. And yet the extremities, from Arles to Cologne, from Lyons to Saintes, felt that they were members of one body. Thus the solid causeways, built for eternity, were the channels of human intercourse during the Middle Ages; they transported pilgrims and merchants to sanctuaries and fairs respectively. From Burgundy to Provence, from Tours to Roncevaux, they maintained uninterrupted communication, even when these provinces were no longer united by Roman centralisation.

The conquerors brought their Latin habits with them; buildings akin to those of Italy rose in the cities where they established themselves; an official art, easily imposed on a country innocent of architecture, and immune from all local influence, manifested its identity at Narbonne, Bordeaux, and Reims: it was an urban and utilitarian art, created for the enjoyment of great cities. After the decay of Marseilles, Narbonne and Fréjus rose to importance, and close at hand, Orange and Nîmes, whose ancient monuments are among the finest in the world.

Arles, the Rome of Gaul, began her glorious existence as a capital, a city of luxury, art, and pleasure. But this municipal clvilisation soon outgrew Provence. Municipalities raised triumphal arches dedicated to emperors; Trèves, Reims, Besançon, Langres and Saintes have preserved these proud structures. Towns of second and third rate importance had their amphitheatres; the more wealthy among them boasted thermae. Temples were no doubt numerous; they disappeared to furnish columns for the new basilicas of youthful Christianity.

Around the great cities rose the rich villas of the Gallic aristocracy, and beyond these a vague population, the Pagani, long recalcitrant to Latinism and subsequently to Christianity. Roman culture had penetrated only into the towns; but monkish hosts ploughed the fallows of the countryside; after the municipal art of the Gallo- Romans came the rural art of the Romanesque epoch.

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