ETERNAL AND NON-ETERNAL ART
WHY DO WE CREATE?
Inok Vsevolod (Filipiev)
"GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âªand Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
1. Types of art and hatred of culture
2. The two forms of Christian culture
3. The light of the golden age of Christian creativity.
4. Serving Beauty
1. Types of art and hatred of culture
From a spiritual point of view, art cannot be neutral; it always contains within itself some kind of spirituality. Any work of art must be divinely inspired, uninspired, or born of Man.
Divinely inspired art is based on the godly gift of creativity given to Man. While still in paradise, the Lord entrusted to Man the naming of the animals, and thus, to a certain degree, called Man to be a co-creator. After the Fall and the Redemption , the salvation of humanity is called by the holy fathers a cooperative creation of God and Man (in Greek - synergy) "God saves Man, but not without man,"; that is, man must strive for the salvation of his own soul. Divinely inspired art is always saturated with repentance and filled with hope. It is calm, quiet, peaceful, bright, wise, and veracious.
Divinely inspired art is the fruit of a conscious or unconscious openness of a person to evil spirits. The defining characteristics of such art are theomachy and worship of various idols, starting with Satan and ending in human flesh and material abundance. Demonically inspired art is many-faceted - it can be embittered and obsequious, bittersweet and brutal, cold and inflammatory. Bright forms of art speak for themselves. It is clear that the icons of the most holy Andrew Rublev are related to divinely inspired art, and the recent anti-Christian exhibit of artists in the Moscow museum of Sakharov - these are things which are related to and born of demonical inspirations.
The situation with art born of men is more complicated. In it, generally speaking, there is a mix of marble and dirt. Let's take as an example the art of the modern American cult classic director David Lynch. His films say to the thoughtful viewer that the world lies in evil and is ruled by Satan, and that Man, refusing God's support, is cast into a demonic labyrinth, out of which he cannot escape. However, despite this, Lynch does not by any means advocate Satanism. The director's sympathies lie with his unfortunate characters, who are tricked and killed by evil spirits. After a viewing of one of Lynch's movies one has much to think about. But the director does not know, and thus does not show, a true escape from the tragedy of the world. "Light" doors and rooms, to which he sometimes brings his characters and viewers, are seen by Orthodox eyes as all but excelling in diabolical traps. In Lynch's films there is no Light and no hope, but there are warnings, and whether or not one will get something out of them or not is left up to the viewer. Such is an example of human-born art. The confused state of this kind of art leads some Orthodox to the rejection of culture as such.
In the Orthodox midst, even from the days of the apologist Tatiana in the 2nd century AD, there has been smoldering, and periodically flaring up, a certain hatred of culture. Undoubtedly, the Orthodox travel difficult paths in this world, but it is sad when narrowness and limitations are perceived as a sign of keeping the faith; even more sad is when the proud spiritual eunuchs throw blame on all that is creative in Orthodoxy.
For as it was already said, the ability to create - this is God's gift to Man, this one of those biblical talents, which must be used for the greater glory of God, and not buried in the ground. The blessed fruit of divinely inspired art is Christian culture in all its many forms: the spoken word, sounds, paints, stone, etc.
2. The two forms of Christian culture
Christian culture can be conditionally divided into art that is in the temple, and that which is without.
Liturgical songs (the text, music, performing art), iconography, and architecture are classified, in this case, as the art of the temple. For this type of art, there are clear canonical forms, examples, and texts from the earliest times. Through the keeping of the canons of temple art the transmission of church tradition from generation to generation is realized.
The non-temple area of Orthodox culture has wider borders. The creative works of Orthodox writers, poets, composers, musicians, artists, sculptors, architects, and in our time, photographers, cinematographers and even web designers can all be attributed to non temple art. The defining characteristic of non-temple art is its missionary direction. In actuality, the works of art of this kind appear to a non-church-going person as a connecting bridge with religion and enables his or her coming into the Church, and God.
But the issue of man's salvation consists of entering the Church and serving, of course, above any blessed art. The creative "talent", issuing forth from God, and returns to him, in a manner of speaking, increased many-fold, bringing with it many to the foot of God's throne.
But then where does the distinction lie between art outside the temple and worldly, secular art, if they coincide in many external facets? For example, Christian art outside the temple and worldly non-Christian art use the same artistic mediums, like: sculpture and portrait, mosaic and watercolor, poems and narrative, poetry and song, film and photographs. The key distinction lies in the fact that one type of art is Christian, and the other one - isn't. This distinction is directly related to the question of the life and death of art, for as Christian art - is living art and non-Christian art is potentially dead.
In the Orthodox midst there is an opinion that non-temple art has only conditional value in comparison to temple art, and that only liturgically sacred forms of art belong to eternity, in that time when works of art, not externally held to strict canon, server but temporary and secondary goals.
If this was really the case, then among the Orthodox servers of creative works one would find not a few devotees of non-temple creativity; most creative people prefer temple art, for doesn't one want to devote one's talent to something that would shine not only as wise and kind, but as eternal.
Now, if we turn our attention to the history of church art, we will see that temple works of art were frequently created outside of the temple, originally. The first church poets wrote poems which, in addition to being deeply personal and lyrical, were later assimilated by the Church into liturgical texts. The first Christian artists and sculptors created portraits (thus did the holy Apostle Luke engrave the likeness of the Mother of God), and then on the already-established foundation of their artistic creativity there arose the canonical iconographical tradition, and so on and so forth. In other words, the process of turning non-temple art into liturgical- sacral church life has always had its place.
But even non-temple art has intransient meaning on its own, and, is acceptable, by its consubstantiation with the art of the temple. Both of these creative streams (temple and non-temple Christian art) are united in a single course of Christian culture and are, in a general sense, one part of the Orthodox Tradition.
Further, we will cite the opinions of the Orthodox saints on how Christian culture, including its non-temple form, is timeless and belongs to God in eternity.
3. The light of the golden age of Christian creativity.
The confessor Ignatius (Brianchaninov) wrote to one Fr. Superior Anthony about spiritual and poetic art which is, however, not used in church services: "I am grateful to you because you wanted to acquaint me with your poems, with your wonderful talentGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª all of God's gifts to Man are worthy of respect. The gift of the word undoubtedly belongs among the greatest gifts. Man draws closer to God with it, having His WordGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª glancing at Man's written word, clear becomes the reason for the strict edict of the Lord, by which is stated and proclaimed that men should give accounts with every triumphant word. The Godly goal of words with writers, and with all teachers - it is the instruction and salvation of men. And what a fearful reply will be given by those who have turned this means of edification and salvation into a means of corruption and destruction!" (All quotes of the holy Ignatius in this article are taken from a letter dated August 11, 1864. They are quoted from the typescript "The Letters of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov", No. 100 from the archive of the Holy Trinity monastery press, Jordanville, USA.)
Having pointed out the goal of a Christian - a servant of elegant literature - the confessor Ignatius further calls for an effort towards the accomplishment of this goal - to the instruction and salvation of men through the mediation of available talent. He says: "Take upon yourselves the yoke of this goal, like one who must, in his time, account for a talent of his to the Bestower of said talent."
In the very same letter the confessor Ignatius turns his attention to the golden age of Christian literature (4th century AD). That was a glorious time, when Christianity accepted, as it were, the summons of history, turned onto cultural creativity and triumphed over pagan culture, all the while using the best forms and accepted ideas of ancient art. The confessor Ignatius brings up this example: "St. Gregory the Theologian wrote poems with a lofty, deep, and pious goal" to avail the Christian youth of reading and examples of poetry, to make it unnecessary for them to study poets saturated with voluptuousness and blasphemy."
Not less appeasing to those, who work on simpler Christian art, are the words of the righteous St. John of Kronstadt: "Worldly authors only deal with earthly subjects in their thoughts and words - the interests of the authors and the readers will both end with their earthly lives: it will not cross over to the other side; but the interests f spiritual authors and their words shall cross over with them and their readers and listeners, beyond the boundaries of earthly life, and shall be their treasures even beyond the grave." (All quotes of St. John of Kronstadt in this article are taken from the anthology "Christian Philosophy", Jordanville, 1972, p. 69). Therefore everything that is devoted to that which is light and eternal, is illuminated for all eternity; and that which is devoted to the transient hustle-and-bustle of life, will completely perish, even if it has great success for the present time.
The righteous St. John of Kronstadt cautions: "Worldly writers do not exalt your thoughts and hearts above this earthly sphere, but twirl them around only in the realm of that which is transient and can decay; and here do they end - and your fame is fleeting. Understand that there is the infinite realm of the invisible world, light-carrying, holy, sinless, righteous, permanent, and eternalGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª Remember Mary in the Bible, choosing the good part, that one which will never be taken away (Luke, 10:42)". It is this very good part that every artist is called to choose - the spiritual writer, poet, composer, artists, architect, and so on and so forth.
4. Serving Beauty
The choosing of Christian art as the "good part" is the first on the road to this creativity. Furthermore, to achieve positive results in art, from the person are required the efforts of repentance, prayer, self-completion and ascetic feats. The confessor Ignatius relates: "Take upon yourself the work necessary to achieve this goal. Do it constantly and calmly, alienating yourself from any rash emotion, and repenting in prayerGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª draw upon this as a reservoir of inspiration your writings."
And so, the strength to create Christian art can and must be found in prayer. After a time, the creativity itself will gradually begin to emerge as a unique form of prayer, clad in words, sounds or paints.
It is exactly in this way that the best representatives of ascetic art went about it. For example, the keeper of the Iverian Myrrh-Streaming icon of Montreal, Joseph Munos, killed in 1997, as one such man. Brother Joseph talked about his gifts as a painter and iconographer: "I had a talent and I decided to serve the Church with this talentGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª" (All quotes of Brother Joseph in this article are taken from the book, "The Myrrh-Streaming icon of Montreal and Brother Joseph", Montreal - Moscow, 2003). Joseph expressed his understanding of his role as a Christian artist, based on personal experience, with the following example: ">From my earliest days, I understood that music lends charm and fascination to things, displaying their inner essence. An artist, seeing the realities of the world, is supposed to be able to reach the essence (the kernel) of the secrets of this reality. An artist creates visible forms of that which is inaccessible to mere mortals. Externally, what is visible to the naked eye is but a small part of a thing's deep content. [GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª] An iconographer plays a big role in the modern world. He can transfer the spiritual onto a physical object, the board. It is as if he opens up the skyGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª he keeps us in contact with the invisible world."
And so, the great task of the Christian artist - it is to spread the light of Christianity throughout all regions of earthly existence. The center of attention of an artist-Christian should be the one, single true Beauty, Which by the definition of the holy fathers, is God. Yet another representative of the "golden age" of Christian literature, the confessor Gregory of Nyssa, theologized about God as Beauty. An artist more subtly and delicately feels and, living, comprehends the rays of This Beauty; and he is then called to be It's propagator of to the whole world. Godly, blessed beauty- the uncreated energy of Godliness - pierces the dark shroud of universal suffering and brings comfort to all who do not reject it.
When it has finally rejected the godly beauty of Orthodox Christianity, humanity will only be able to rot spiritually, losing its moral values and ideals. Only Orthodox Christianity is capable of changing human nature, of comforting Man's soul, enlightening his body, feeding his consciousness. And an important role in Christianity's sacred mission is devoted to culture and its supporters.
Let's sum up the points we have discussed:
1. Culture can be divided into the following categories: divinely inspired, demonically inspired and that culture born of man;
2. Divinely inspired or religious culture is made up of temple and non-temple art, which do not substantially differ from one another and serve the same purpose;
3. The highest goal of religious creative work, or, speaking more broadly, any creativity in general as a gift of God, is the serving of Christ and His bright works on earth and in eternity.