Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Spiritual Significance of Art

 The Divine Sophia and the World

“Art is the creation of organs through which the gods are able to speak to humanity.” Rudolf Steiner, 1861 – 1925

The Black Madonna is an art form, taking shape in Icons, paintings, stained glass windows, statues and mosaics. In a wonderful book Spirit and Art, Pictures of the Transformation of Consciousness, Author Van James shows a tapestry of how the visual arts have been a window on the relationship between the Divine and Humanity since our inception. The word Icon comes from the Greek word "eikon" which means "image." In Eastern Christian traditions, Icons  are seen as a window, a portal into the spiritual world. The Sacrament of Confession in these traditions is done kneeling before an Icon in the presence of a priest. When parishioners receive Communion, they kiss and venerate the Icon before receiving the bread and wine.

Our Lady Chapel at the Shrine of Czestochowa, Poland

When I visited the shrine in Czestochowa Poland on All Saints Day in 2008, it was the first time I truly experienced what the quote from Steiner about the nature and purpose of art meant. Our Lady of Czestochowa is one of the most recognized Black Madonna's in the world. When I sat in the small chapel before the Icon Altar, I truly felt like I was looking at a threshold into the Cosmos. From my vantage point, I could barely make out the image behind the golden Riza, or cover over the Image. The devotional atmosphere felt like I had entered into a tunnel in between the worlds, almost like a palpable velvet in the air. My deepest questions revolved around whether it was the devotion that created this threshold image, or the image was actually the threshold between the worlds.

“Thus behind Matter, within matter, the creative Spirit is concealed.” Wassily Kandinsky,  1866 - 1944

I am trained as a scientist. For me, delving into the the mysteries of nature, of space and of the workings of the body only deepened my faith. Creativity, sleep, emotions all have explanations that can be partially presented with only material facts, the spark behind them is Spirit, the Divine.

I stumbled on an incredible video the other day. It shows the vastness of the Universe.

Another graphic video, shows how our little "corner" of the Universe is in constant motion, in a spiral.

And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name  Isaiah 45:3

What these videos illustrate, but do not name is vast, they in essence show the miracle of love that exists in the universe.

What keeps all of creation going? What enables the stars, planets and galaxies to coexist and not either crash or disintegrate? Science has been grappling with this since the invention of modern telescopes. With the Hubble space telescope we have been able to peer into the depths of space as never before, only broadening the mystery and beauty of creation in the imaginations as well as tangible experience of Humanity. It is fitting that a woman astronomer, Vera Rubin, was the first to articulate the material science behind this phenomena. She called it "Dark Matter" This substance and it's sister "Dark Energy" make up most of the universe. It's defining quality is that it holds everything together in this ever expanding embrace, allowing creativity, birth, death and the cycles of time to exist. Dark Matter allows creation to be in balance, in community, to express the Divine Justice that permeates the entire universe.

I would call Dark Matter the scientific description for the Divine Sophia. In order for the Logos, the creative Word of God to unfold creation, he had to first create a container for his expression. It was the Sophia. The Sophia is a being that was the first of all creation by the Logos. The Logos is the powerful word, the inspiration and catalyst for creation. But a context, a matrix for creation needed to be created in order for it to be manifest. Therefore, the Logos created the Sophia, Wisdom, to be the container and matrix for the creative impulse of the Logos. Sophia is also known as the Divine Feminine Wisdom of God.

The Sophia is articulated in the cornerstone of the Wisdom Scriptures of the Bible: Proverbs. We are told about this being, this Divine Wisdom of God in Proverbs 8: 27 – 30:

When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:  When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

To contemplate our place in the Universe, within the heart of creation, we have been given Imagination by the Creator. This Imagination is our personal portal into the Cosmos, where the Divine can express itself through the Arts. 

One of the most magnificent works of music is the Ode to Joy by Beethoven. This music has inspired generations of people, often in the darkest hours of their struggle. This is a clip from a movie about Beethoven, and the scene is one of the cosmic joy he experienced, his inspiration for this music, which came out of suffering but healed not only himself but countless souls afterwards.

The arts, music, painting, sculpture, dance, they can not be explained by reducing the process to simple synapses of the brain. Love, courage, loyalty, devotion, these are not experiences that can be reduced to neurochemical transmissions. What is the spark, what is the beginning?

For those of us who have a belief that has been transformed into living knowledge, we see the Divine everywhere, the handiwork of creation is the ultimate art. Is it any wonder that the Madonna's that dot the landscape are Black? From the Blackness of the Cosmos lies the hidden treasures of Darkness. The message from the Divine through Art that there is a cosmic order, a cosmic love permeating all of creation. As we contemplate what the Gods are saying to us through the portal of Art, it is my hope that you see messages of love, hope, encouragement and triumph everywhere, but particularly in the Black Madonna. Love, hope and endurance are the main messages that these Dark Images convey. They tell us of the treasures, the hidden riches that are ours if only we can reach out to them.

These topics and more will be explored in the book, The Black Madonna, Journey of the Human Heart by Stephanie Georgieff. Stay tuned for more excerpts from the book and publication information.

Blessing on your Journey!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Black Madonna Journey of the Human Heart

Our Lady of Czestochowa, Poland

Please enjoy an excerpt from the soon to be published The Black Madonna Journey of the Human Heart by Stephanie Georgieff

The Phenomena of the Black Madonna

When I first heard of focused study of The Black Madonna, it was part of a masters program in culture and spirituality at Holy Names College. Before this, I really was unfamiliar with what “The Black Madonna” was either in culture or art. My orientation towards the Madonna was mainly through the pink cherubic Madonna’s tenderly caressing the Christ child on Christmas cards. As a protestant raised in an ecumenical household that recognized Eastern Orthodox traditions, I had a full spectrum exposure to images of Mary, but the Orthodox Icons were stiff and inhuman in my estimation. The color of the Mary’s was not in my consciousness, if pressed, I assumed that the original Mary was a Palestinian Jewess, who most likely had brown skin, dark eyes and hair.

One of my classmates in the masters program was doing her thesis on the subject of The Black Madonna, from a racial cultural perspective. We had the author China Galland speak to our class for one of the modules. Her book Longing for Darkness (2) was a biographical sketch of her encounters with the Black Madonna in the Americas, Europe and Asia. She brought slides of numerous Black Madonna’s from all over the world, as well as small cards for us to reflect upon. I chose the Virgin of Montserrat , and dutifully followed the directions for the class exercise to “hear what the image was telling me.” Aside from inviting me to get a snack, the only thing I could decipher from the black image before me, was “I am what I am, stop making me into something I am not.”

Part of my program required a response paper to each module presented. We were to read a list of books and go on to our own research to supplement the assigned texts. What I found in my research at that time was there is very little definitive scholarship of the Black Madonna’s. Much of what is written or discussed I felt was a projection of needs: A need to paganize Christianity, an need to assert feminist principles, a need for the goddess, a need to justify nationalism as a direct blessing from the divine. What is known objectively about the phenomenon of the Black Madonna’s is that they are statues, paintings, and stained glass windows purposefully colored Black or very dark brown. The bulk of these works of art appeared in areas where the only external racial expression was white at the time. The images rarely have an artist associated with them, and are often attributed to the handiwork of St Luke the Apostle. With no documented artist associated with their origins, the exact dates of creation are unknown. Many of the stories of their genesis are associated with their discoveries. Scholars do agree that the majority   of the works of art date from the 5th  and 6th centuries up to the 14th century. Most of the images have legends and history associated with them that date between the 11th and 13th centuries. They are scattered through out Europe, with a great number of them in France. Another common theme is that many Black Madonna’s are found in churches along the pilgrim route Camino de Santiago de Compostela. There are a few in Russia, with the most famous image in Czestochowa, Poland. The original Black Madonna of the Americas is The Virgin of Guadalupe, in Mexico. This Virgin is considered to be “Black” because of her mestizo appearance.

Many theories abound as to why the Black Madonna’s are “Black.” One theory indicates that these dark images are blackened through age and candle smoke. Another theory states that the images are remnants of Goddess worship of the conquered local populations. So, what was the reason there are so many Black Madonna’s placed in a historically Caucasian geography during the early centuries of Christianity up to the age of the Crusades?

The Spiritual Significance of Art

Anthroposophists look at art from a deeper perspective.

Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian painter who lived from 1866 - 1944, states in an essay on The Problem of Form; “Thus behind Matter, within matter, the creative Spirit is concealed.” 

Austrian philosopher and founder of the Anthroposophical Movement Rudolf Steiner, 1861 – 1925, in the lecture cycle The Influence of Spiritual Beings on Man, states that “Art is the creation of organs through which the gods are able to speak to humanity.” 

I interpret from these statements and the works of these two authors, that Art is a medium where the Spiritual World, the Divine speaks to humanity. The reader is invited to keep these basic tenants of art as we delve deeper into the mysteries surrounding The Black Madonna.

You can hear a reading by Stephanie at http://hosts.blogtalkradio.com/blackstefka/2014/09/15/the-heart-of-the-black-madonna and make sure to "like" The Heart of the Black Madonna on Facebook where Stephanie posts beautiful and inspirational pictures of the Black Madonna https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Heart-of-the-Black-Madonna/452078264864169