The Visual Representation of Religious Experience


More evidence? Thank you!
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Backwater--the edges of time...
Many, if not most, belief systems have a rich tradition of visual representations of faith, reglious tradition and history, spirituality, and mystical experience. From graceful Islamic calligraphy to Russian Orthodox icons to sensual Hindu sculpture to magickal pagan formulas, we've found ways to present our beliefs and experiences as art, beautiful in itself, yet capable of wordlessly expressing the deepest understanding of the Divine.

I'd like to see, and discuss, our favorite representations of faith, religious tradition and mystical experience, as an informative, and entertaining, exercise in beauty and holiness.

OK, I'll go first :) :


Salvador Dali, The Sacrament of the Last Supper

To me, this blows DaVinci's Last Supper out of the water.

Dali stated that this was an "arithmetic and philosophical cosmogony based on the paranoiac sublimity of the number twelve...the pentagon contains microcosmic man: Christ"

Do I understand that? Heck, no, but I understand the vision Dali recorded on this canvas....
Thanks, Sacredstar--

Dali has also taken the Crucifixtion as a subject:


Crucifixion (Hypercubus)


Christ of St. John of the Cross

Athough both are powerful represntations of the Crucifixion, I'm particularly struck my the second work, with the Crucifix suspended above a landscape similar to the landcape in the background of his Last supper, with the Christ's face turned downward toward John and the world that He came to redeeem.--
Dear BluejayWay

Thank you for sharing.

The artist I admire, his art is superb but in this case in my view the subject matter is a negative affirmation for the world. With the purpose from the church of Rome to keep the masses in fear and affirming suffering, pain, persecution and sin.

"When all the crucifix's are removed from earth so will all the pain and suffering be removed from earth."

I once explained this negative affirmation and quote to some Greek's and they immediately went around their home and removed all pictures, icons etc. They understood this powerful message perfectly.

Jesus would like to be remembered in dignity fully dressed, smiling in joy, happy and surrounded by the children that he loves.

May his wish be realised so that the world can live in joy and the celebration of his life, and not his demise. And in so doing live in joy and celebration of life themselves.

Love beyond measure

A good point, Sacredstar. In order to emphasize the promise of the resurrection, the Protestant traditon shows only the empty cross. I would agree that Jesus' suffering on the cross, while quite real, can be dwelt on to the extreme--as in that recent Mel Gibson movie--

As a Spaniard, Dali can be expected to have been a product of his culture, and at core a Catholic, no matter how lapsed. (As Martin Shhen once said, "I'm a Catholic who doesn't believe in God, but I do believe that Mary was His mother.")
Dear Bluejayway

I agree

(As Martin Shhen once said, "I'm a Catholic who doesn't believe in God, but I do believe that Mary was His mother.")

Love it!

Big smiles and hugs

Dear Bluejayway,

Wow, thank you for posting these. I usually have a hard time relating to Dali's work, but those are all great.

Enjoying your other posts as well.


hey bluejay. Mark Rothko's work has always touched something spiritual in me, though i'm not sure why.

there's something almost mandala-like about his paintings.
Lunamoth, thank you for your kind words.

ISFP, very interesting! I admit, even though I do appreciate the various paths of modern art, that I had never looked for spirituality in the Abstract tradition. I did a little digging, and found this article, "Spirituality in Abstract Art":

As the century wore on, some artists abandoned the search for iconography and turned to more radical abstraction. Viewing the exhibit, I found it especially fascinating to ponder some of the purer abstract works -- such as the rich, dark, imageless canvases of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko -- in relation to the apophatic tradition in Christian mysticism. Masters of that tradition, sometimes called the via negativa, choose words like nothingness, darkness and obscurity to symbolize God, the wholly other Absolute who is unknowable by means of the intellect but approachable through love.

Newman’s and Rothkos somber, borderless canvases suggest deep silence and infinite void, yet somehow, too, evoke a sense of presence and mystery. Newman, an American who died in 1970, made no attempt to hide his spiritual interests. In 1943 he wrote, "The painter is concerned . . . with the presentation into the world mystery. His imagination is therefore attempting to dig into metaphysical secrets. To that extent, his art is concerned with the sublime. It is a religious art which through symbols will catch the basic truth of life."

The Word II