All three religions have an eschatological myth involving the end of all things. In each there is a prophesy of terrible war, mass death and the return of one who puts a stop to it. There is to be division between the righteous, who will exist in a sort of paradise, and the wicked and unbelievers who will suffer a variety of hideous tortures, for evermore. Therefore I have begun to sketch out the structure, dividing the panel into two long verticals, paradise to the left and gehenna to the right.
Of the three faiths, the Jewish view that the world will continue and prosper, with them at the helm, is the most benign. The book of Revelations is the most extreme. Its all very fascinating.
The painting is becoming, as do all of these ceiling paintings, a research document made in oil paint. I seem to take a long time assembling the fragments, each a separate idea, into a comprehensive overview of its subject. Then these finally become arranged into a satisfactory arrangement.
It is from this point that the painting will really get going. I need an overview, and that can only be obtained when the design is complete.
Even the design is not set in stone, but from now on other factors start to become important, to do with texture, aesthetics, and visual techniques. My inclination is always to break the prosaic norm into structures and panels, even to single points. I am paying brush service (that is an artist’s lip service) to a universe of events invisible and unknown that fills that scene. I use the passage of elementary particles at the speed of light as a cable on which to hang the scenery of everyday life. I use shadow to suggest a change of plane, of dimension, in a world of facets and reflection. Everyone’s time is different.
I have been discussing, with my friend Avon, who knows a lot about a mystical branch of Judaism the possibility of making a short video where he tells us a little of what he knows about the way this mystical sect might symbolize the divine being. He describes it as Hermetic philosophy which emerged from Egypt, they were enslaved there in the time of Moses. Hermes is the Roman name for Mercury, so here we seem to have a connection between Greek, roman, Egyptian and Jewish thought.
For anyone with an interest in these subjects I will publish both of Avon’s replies to by communication with him, setting up the interview, because they contain a lot of insight into his point of view, and illumination of an obscure and esoteric world.
email from Avon, opening out the subject somewhat:
I am happy to go along with whatever approach is useful and helpful. It is probably a good idea to have an informal talk soon to discuss where this can and needs to go.
For myself, life is one big project and process of discovery into which I try to integrate smaller projects.
A question that has always been central in my mind and has recently come into sharp focus is: What has gone wrong in the modern world and what ideas and actions are needed for rectification or the best possible outcome? What can people do? Obvious symptoms of the malaise include social inequality, the damage being done by humanity to its natural environment, and geopolitical conflict.
My thinking is that it can be understood at a fundamental level in terms of the struggles and dialectical processes involved in the evolution of human social structures: that we are around a point where cooperation and respect for the natural environment must supersede competition and exploitation — if we are to continue and prosper as a civilization.
These are of course not new ideas in themselves but what some people have already said or are saying. The more I study and learn about the work of others who have tried to understand the problems of humanity and the world and worked out potential solutions, the more I realize that the world does not work in the way one is led to believe, and that powerful forces seem to work is clandestine ways to oppose any change in direction towards a better way of being.
For example, the studies documented in a book called “The Limits of Growth” in the early 1970s concluded that humanity would be in trouble by the mid 21st century unless appropriate measures were taken. Little known follow-up studies have shown the worrying predictions of the original study to be surprisingly accurate. A similar theme presents itself in more recent times as concern about the environment and global warming as if these problems had only become known in the 1990s.
An irrefutable truth that should be confronted (by the economists, politicians and industrialists) and discussed more in the mainstream media is that the consumption of fossil fuels for energy and plastics is fundamental to modern societal infrastructure and is also a common denominator to the various harms being inflicted on the earth by human civilization. That is a key problem we must solve on a practical level to stop the march towards inevitable self-destruction. Perhaps we should entertain a variation of the journalist’s favourite question (cui bono?): “Who’s power would be diminished?”
But what does any of this have to do with a conversation that is supposed to be relevant to the painting you are working on? There is a line of thinking in the alternative and truth communities that the dominant power of the church and priesthood (basically the elite) gradually reinvested itself into what became, over the course of the centuries between the time of Galileo and the 20th century, the scientific priesthood and its “religion” of scientism.
One can assume that Jesus was deeply concerned with what people needed to do to bring about a better world and way of being. Only later under the Roman empire did a selection of his teachings become institutionalized into the church and its dogma which would inflict evils upon humanity (the Crusades, the Inquisition, persecution of the Cathars and suppression of early scientists) which was surely the opposite of what Christ was about.
Similarly, from being primarily a method of enquiry into natural phenomena, science seems to have been taken up as a powerful means of dominating nature, suppressing dissent, and inflicting all manners of evil upon the world (atom bomb, hi-tech weaponry, dominance of oil and pharmaceutical industries etc.) to the point now where artificial intelligence and transhumanism are becoming or may soon become central features of our reality. Just as monotheism was in the beginning a tool for good which later became institutionalized and corrupted into a formidable power of evil, so it seems to be with science. Nevertheless, religion and science still have their proper and good use. Religion seems to be about bringing people together (synthesis) whereas science excels in the opposite: taking things apart (analysis).
This pattern/process of long duration and multiple iterations does not seem to find any particularly satisfying explanation within the framework of the inductive and deductive logic used in the sciences. The religious explanation that it is evil or the work of the devil seems too simplistic to be an effective countermeasure for the modern mind. The scientific explanation of nihilism or human nature is no more helpful. A method of thinking that might lead to a deeper understanding is that of the Hegelian dialectic which, I have recently realized, is similar to the use of the binary and the ternary in hermetic thinking (the tarot) which we can probably trace back at least to Pythagoras who studied the metaphysical properties of numbers.
Let me know a few days in advance when you would like to conduct the first talk. I can do informal talks without preparation. As I have not done much public speaking, I would need some idea of questions or issues before a formal or public discussion. Any day other than Monday or Friday is good but I can still do those if necessary with advance notice.
Best regards, Avon.