I think I just had one of those moments when something fits into place. I want to try and get it into words before the moment passes. I started doing iconography as part of the research I did to take a Methodist Lay Preacher's Unit 19. Initially I wanted to know why the image had become such an anathema to Methodism. (I am not going to bother too much about spelling so please forgive obvious errors).
I suppose what I am thinking of comes under comparative 'religion'. I got such a hostile response when presenting this unit 19, I am not sure how long it took to 'get over it', or indeed if I have ever 'got over it'. It was as though I felt that having been asked to challenge, and going off to find the most challenging 'not to be spoken of' surpressed 'we don't do that', and 'we abhor this' subjects, in a sort of 'hey guys, this is how other people see things', I got torched. I couldn't have picked anything more contentious. I also brought Tracy Emmin into the equation! Actually this was to contrast the Orthodox Icon, with the modern secular icons we create. It was also that the Tracy Emmin retrospective I went to see in Amsterdam, showed a huge tension in her view of the 'establishment' and the hypocracy of Christianity.
The thing I think I was trying to articulate, is that you can't see yourself without someone else's perspective. It was like I was trying to dig deep into the roots of Christianity, to see where and how the 'Tree of Churches' developed. I then wanted to see what this tree looked like from the perspective of someone who places themselves at a distance from the tree, a 'birds eye view'. Our western civilisation has pretty well been formed with christianity as it's trunk, which through the history of rejection by mainstream Judaism, and then appropriation as the Roman religion by Constantine, has 'moulded' the world we live in now.
This is just a bit of background on where I am coming from with the next observations.
Perhaps what I am thinking of in an asthetic sense is the modification of assymetry to create a percieved symmetry. I never actually thought of creating the perfect hairstyle for someone as a refined artform, more as a craft. It was always working on a 3D object to create a perception of balance in both the three dimension of the room and the relationship between the client and myself, and their perception of balance within the two dimension reversed perspective they have of themselves in the mirror. The tactile uniqueness of every 'job' underpinned by the desire to create this moment of recognition in both dimensions. Each person is unique, we are all asymetric, and we each have unique hair. We all have a perception of ourselves we want translated into an 'appearance'. A manifestation of ourselves we wish to convey as our 'presence'.
My waking 'nightmare' was about the reason the builder on site wanted to dry line walls in the lounge of the flat, when all of the walls were out anyway! By making three of the walls 'straight' the ceiling and floor then became a problem, and the carpenter still couldn't put either the coving or the skirting board on to look straight. To me the room looked better before the dry lining. I asked him why he wanted to do this, and that it was not my preference. He went on and did it anyway! I was just thinking about having to pay for something I didn't want and that, had the skirting and coving been fitted so that they were horizontal to each other, and the infill done below the skirting to the floor, and a bit of filling done above the coving, it would have looked much better than two uneven looking 'lines'. To me this was lack of skill, and trying to take a short cut. Bad idea with an old building!
Anyway it has been a lovely orange crimson dawn, and I stayed and watched the bats put themselves to bed.
A long preamble to get to this point, but reading through from 'The Vision Complicates' to the first part of 'The Hollow of Holiness' has dropped a few pennies.
First is the decription of Moses hands once they are inscribed with the Menora. I understand this because to create a hairstyle for someone, you have to have a 'vision' to use as a template. You have to 'hold this vision' thoughout the process. You have to analyse the vision in order to devise a method and strategy to acheive it, and break this down into consecutive stages that follow on seamlessly to an end objective. Working within the perameters of the client's own perception of themselves, and the potential of their hair and bone structure. You have to work with what you have, to create an almost impossible 'vision' of symmetry. The very counterbalance of natural assymetry is the essence of perfection.
Anyway what sparked me off was the paragraph on page 329 about the very rising and falling of Moses' hands creating faith in his people fighting below. The gesture of real human hands, that have been inscribed with the vision of inner space that can't be grasped. The need to search deeply within to find the strength to acheive a fleeting yet continuous succession of perfection that generates an end result. The battle without, inextricably linked with the battle within for a sense of personal freedom.
Avivah says '...these real hands are not the static, iconic image of prayer in Byzantine art for example'.
Hmm.. I am for the first time wanting disagree with Aviva. It isn't about the image itself that 'looks' static two dimensional and linear. It is this very quality that is to be desired. The sacred geometry that underpins the image speaking through it. It is designed to convey a sense of timeless wonder, that the spiritual experience of the saint conveyed, or the pictorial representation of event becomes something the viewer is both viewed by, and views in the same moment. It is designed for accessability to this eternal now that is the gateway to inner space.
It is that some deeply spiritual person has worked with the light human hand that is described, and held this vision and deep need for sacred space within to be filled by the presence of God during the process of creating the icon, in the same way that Moses would have had to 'hold on to the vision' and struggle with it to bring the Golden Menorah into the world.
These sacred objects are not the actual objective reality they seem. It is not envisaged that the viewer 'stands' in the same place as they would view or observe secular art, there is still meaning and substance in the process of the creation of the secular work. It is simply viewed from a different perspective.
In order to enter into the relationship with the holy work one must be able to 'stand' on 'Holy Ground' with God both viewing the viewer as the 'work of his hands' and filling the inner spaces of the viewer to appreciate and engage with the image or object as a representation of something beyond our ability to 'grasp' with the heavy hand of realism.
When something is created for Holy use, the craftsman or 'writer' of truth, is writing their own essential truth into the process. The discipline is to find the empty spaces that are not populated by our own conceptions, but to find that inner room that is the sanctuary God occupies, and work from there to bring the Holy thing into co-genesis. That the process rather than the finished result is the testemony of God's presence in creation.
To give birth to the result the 'writer of truth' has suffered the 'heavy hands' and 'heavy heart'. They have had to allow their hands to be inspired and lifted by God to be tentative and delicate, and heavy with the burden of exemplary craftsmanship. Yet in iconography it is not the writer of the icon that is honoured, it is the subject of their work, that is then an inspiration to others who seek to learn from and honour the prototype of the creative excercise. It is ony referred to as 'by the hand of', if the craftsman is known. It is not their own inspiration or desire such as in secular art that manifests the work, it is the desire to bring the spark of the 'four fires' to a place where others may recognise it.
In the menorah, this Holy object was ony seen once a year by the high priest, This actual representation of co-genesis was not accessable to be worshiped in the every day world. It was enough that it was known, and that it served the purpose of 'covering' of the golden calf desire to worship the static, tangeable, and therfore non-transcendental nature of idolatory.
That God uses the word 'covering' is beautiful. He could so easily have smothered the golden calf. Moses demanded that it was destroyed in the fire and the people eat it. Many died. This was the heavy handed staff approach, yet out of that nightmare came the lightness and beauty and self reflecting living fire of the Menorah.
I am not an authority on Christian Orthodox views on iconography, just an interested and sometimes parcipitating 'observer'. I also see where Judaism rejects the actual image of a person, and a plethora of 'Holy Relics'. I am not an ossiary sort of person myself.
The striking thing is that for many faiths the tangeable evedence of someone's holy old bones does give a high degree of comfort. They speak of eternity through the presence of their place in history and the continuity of our various ways of striving towards a recognisable Spiritual life at the core of our being.
That there has always been a huge tourism industry surrounding relics does make it tacky, and provokes a high degree of cynicism in me. However in the right context all Holy things have a way of speaking that is beyond the confines of language. Besides, being a Jersey resident, I like tourists!
We have lots of Neolithic stuff, I might go and look at it and wonder, and I might reflect on people who still use these sites as a form of Earth worship to mark the equinox and longest and shortest days.
Considering they are over 4000 years old they are still pretty accurate, so I am not sure where the scientists think the planet is going off it's rocker. (Neither am I actually!) Perhaps it's just that we have all gone of our rockers lately and believe too much we read in the papers and hear on the news.
I watched the Kaiser report on RT this morning, Stacy and Max make it great fun to laugh at the predicament we find ourselves in. Silly aren't we. I made this comment that modern banks have been designed around an open atrium, and that this 'hole of light' is actually where our money dissapears into. In truth it is a hole of darkness and dispair, and not even populated. How strange that I was thinking about inner space this morning.
Probably that nightmare about the walls in my flat is also a metaphor for the banks needing to bring their debt ceilings down! and then co-relate the upper margin of actual payable 'debt' to the baseline of productivity. Stop the gaps above the upper debt line, and put a nice strechy silicone bead round the skirting so that the genuinely marginalised, poverty stricken and disadvantaged don't end up being swept under the floorboards. Banks need a social conscience, if this means putting a lot of highly paid people out of work, they might find it more satisfying to do something genuinely supportive of the community, and real economic recovery within smaller communities.
I also found Reb Jeff has posted a wonderful semon on his blog. I am sorry 'christian fundamentalists' give out a very conflicted message too, still where would we be without the extremes of religeous ideology, no one would bother coming up with any new commentaries. Besides, I am not sure that the extreme liberals do anyone any favours either. Still, its interesting to see a bit of debate, however put these extremes together you might end up with fisticuffs. Conversation breaks down past the point of realistic theology in my opinion.
The trouble is there is so much complicated theology to Christianity that by the time you learn what the church want's you to do to 'get salvation' you have lost the plot on why you wanted to find the inner space to seek God anyway.
Don't worry, the key is simply to want to know God. Ask him to make himself real to you, ask Him to help you make space in your heart and life. As God fills up those empty feelings, the old junk you don't need gets pushed out of your life. Just get a modern Bible and read it, God does the rest, and He will bring you the turning points, and moments of recognition you truly need to turn towards Him. Speaking from my own experience, I think if you ask God in the real moments you have with yourself and Him, (praying,tears,laughter,quietness...) He gives all the Hints we need to become 'The Work of His Hands', rather than the product of religeous systemology. This may lead you to a recognised religeous structure, or simply a desire to be at peace with yourself enough to reflect on the beauty of a morning dawn, with a golden crimson sky, watching the bats put themselves to bed. (Before going to work).
That's probably why there are the 'hissy fits' going on with the bankers Stacy Herbert was talking about. Nothing like throwing your toys out of the pram to get your own way. No one likes their establishment taken apart, secular or otherwise.