The Heart of the Black Madonna

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.

Blessings on your Journey!

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