Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Art Spotlight: 'Numinosity'

The word “numinous” describes a sense of sacredness and wonder, a feeling that you are in the presence of the divine. Many people experience this in church.  Indeed, many temples and cathedrals were specifically built to help inspire this feeling of otherworldly awe.  Stained glass windows, elaborate sacred artwork, flickering candlelight and pungent incense can help transport us to that reverent state.
            Many people experience this in the natural world, as well.  The majesty of towering mountains, sculpted canyons, primeval forests and multi-hued sunsets can fill us with a sense of peace, joy, awe and often, humility. 
            I recall one night on a camping trip far from the city lights.  As I stepped out of my car and looked up, my breath was literally swept away by the most densely star-studded sky I’d ever seen.  This glimpse of the vastness of our universe both humbled and exalted me.  It made me acutely aware of how minuscule I am compared to the Whole of Existence, but it also filled me with a profound sense of awe and wonder at the immensity and beauty of it all, and reminded me that I am a integral part of it.
            This piece celebrates that numinous experience, which for me speaks of connection, reverence and harmony with the Universe.
            At the center is the symbol for Aum, said to represent the first vibration of creation that made the Universe manifest.  Male and female figures radiate from it, joined by entwining roots.  Each figure has two pairs of arms.  One pair performs the Namaste mudra, a gesture of reverence and greeting.  The other pair of arms reach up to become leafy branches that connect and embrace.  A snaking spiral represents kundalini– the energy of consciousness that resides in all of us.  A halo or nimbus glows around each figure’s head, indicating divine nature.  
            Lotus flowers bloom between the figures, each with an open eye at the center – an icon of spiritual awareness. 
            The figures embrace four symbols; a sun, moon and star (which represent the celestial heavens beyond Earth), the Keys to Heaven (A Christian symbol representing access to Heaven) and an alchemical sign that combines the Four Elements of the Universe; earth, water, fire and air.
            Four more symbols are surrounded by swirling flames. 
At top is the Flower of Life, a visual expression of the connections life weaves through all sentient beings.   
Next (moving clockwise) is a West African adinkra symbol called “ASASE YE DURU”, representing providence and the divinity of Mother Earth.  
Below is a nautilus shell spiral, representing the Golden Ratio – also known as the Divine Proportion.  This mathematical constant underlies many forms in nature, art, music – even our brainwaves. It is a sort of formula for balanced, harmonious and beautiful forms.   
On the left is another adinkra symbol called “NYAME DUA”, or “tree of god”, which represents god’s presence and protection.

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