Luis Geraldes Book
I am convinced of the need to communicate to an audience the importance of viewing painting in a manner that assumes balance between the universe that is accessible to sight and the universe that is concealed from sight and is accessible through esoteric power of spirit. The visible universe is primarily the domain of science. The tremendous achievements in science has broadened our understanding of the physical world, providing us with both insight and sight into the minutest micro particles that are the building blocks of physical reality, and the macro structures of the universe and its countless constellations .
The invisible universe is the locus of the spiritual. The notion of spirituality refers to the intangible, that is, the reality that has to do with spirit, soul, and sacred things from another time and another place. Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘spirit’ as:
The animating or vital principle, that which gives life to the physical organism in contrast to its material elements, the breath of life.
The spiritual in art allows the viewer access to what cannot be seen with the eye, the reality that one enters through the senses. Spiritual vision requires the viewer to become a parallel thinker so as to employ imagination and thought to gain insight into the universe that we can see, and sensory knowledge to access the universe that we cannot see.
The diagrams outlined above are attempts by traditional religious mystics to represent the cosmos and the five elements and to apply them to their everyday lives. They are typical of the countless efforts by peoples throughout time linking the physical universe with the spiritual.
Physical and Spiritual Connected
In the introduction to Stephen Hawking’s A Brief history of Time, Carl Sagan wrote:
“We go about our daily lives understanding almost nothing of the world. We give little thought to the machinery that generates the sunlight that makes life possible, to the gravity that glues us to an earth that would other wise send us spinning off into space, or to the atoms of which we are made and on whose stability we fundamentally depend (1988: xiii).”
Sagan refers to sunlight, gravity and atoms to draw attention not only to the fact that we take for granted some of the very basic elements of life without which we could not continue to exist, but also to emphasise that alongside our physical/visible world there is an invisible reality, that is equally important to our existence and is inseparable from it. There is no shortage of thinkers who have drawn attention to the two levels of being which they equate with physical and spiritual, and who simultaneously insist on the importance of the cohabitation of the two.
Freud, for example, equated the two modes of being with psychological processes that he labeled as “primary” and “secondary”. The primary process he associated with the ID, that is, with instincts, the body, emotions and the unconscious. The secondary process he associated with the ego, the conscious and rational mind. Freud believed that the secondary process was of higher importance and superior, adding, “where ID was, there ego shall be”. One may argue with Freud’s ranking of the two senses, however, the fact remains that he insists on their being connected.
A different line of argument that arrives at a similar conclusion is drawn from science. Leonard Shlain explains:
The general theory of relativity describes the force of gravity and the large structure of the universe, that is the structure on scales from only a few miles to as large as million million million million miles, the size of the universe. Quantum Mechanics, on the other hand, deals with phenomena on extremely small scales, such as a millionth of a millionth of an inch (Shlain, 1991:34).
Shlain’s contrasts the macro and micro perspectives of the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics respectively. This is yet another way of drawing attention to the two parallel modes of existence that are interdependent yet inseparable.
I labour the point not so much to affirm the reality of the invisible/spiritual world, but primarily to emphasise the importance in art of thinking in parallel terms, that is, of making oneself open and receptive to the spiritual. Stephen Hawking (1988) observes, “ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable”, and have striven for knowledge in order to establish connections between what is known and unknown. He adds, “[Our] goal is nothing less than complete description of the universe we live in”. My point thus far has been to highlight the principal that the physical and spiritual should be considered side by side. If this principle applies to science, it is all the more true in art.
To be continued………….