Friday, July 20, 2007

The Yoga of the heart in relation to a Vision of Reality.

It is on account of this interior, psycho-somatic point, that orthodox Hindus put a red spot above the bridge of the nose, between the two eye brows. This painted “bindu” (meaning point, or drop) locates on the surface of the brow the exact place where the so-called “Heavenly Heart” is situated within. The art student in a western art school learns that the vanishing point is situated on an imaginary line which indicates his eye-level, and is in a position directly corresponding to the point between the two eyes. The eyes are attracted along the lines of an avenue towards an apparent infinity in space, but in fact we are attracted because we seek that point of infinity that we shall never reach outside, for it lies in an inner space.

Everybody can see that as far as perspective is concerned the traditional icon seems hopelessly awry. Some suppose that this is because the icon painter knew nothing about the rules of perspective; others say that he did but did not use these rules. It is interesting to note that in the eastern tradition of miniature painting, which we find in Islamic art, but later also in Hindu art, there is a similar point of view, which evokes an interior landscape, rather than a representation of how we see outer reality with our physical eyes. This inner landscape seems to touch a reality that is familiar to the heart, rather than an outer world that we look at in a rational and objective way. The lines in an icon do not tend towards a point within the icon, giving the appearance of depth in the picture, but rather tend towards the heavenly heart within the observer, thus giving the person who is looking at the image a sense of an inner space, which gives form to feeling. When we look at a picture whose perspective gives the appearance of space in the picture itself our eyes are led involuntarily outwards, and into the picture. But those who gaze on the icon, are led in the opposite direction; they are led back to concentrate upon an inner vision, or heart, that lies behind our physical organs of sight.

This inner vision tends to look for the unity that binds things together, rather than the space that divides objects in our outer phenomenal world. This unifying element is a kind of light. So in the same way that we observe a difference in the treatment of perspective in the representation of nature found in the art of the Renaissance, and an earlier art of the icon, we also find a different approach to the way that light is used. An image that represents outer space, tries to create a sense of light, which is virtual, evoked by the use of colour, to create a kind of atmosphere within the image itself. But the icon composes the image in such a way that it radiates light outwards, as though the person looking at the image, is somehow involved in the light that emanates from the image. This is very noticeable in the use of gold in the image, or of the reflecting surfaces of mosaic pieces, which were so arranged that they reflected the light back to the observer. The image now has the quality of a mirror. It seems to reveal the viewer, rather than what is viewed. Sometimes in a temple we find that in place of an image there is just a mirror in the Holy of Holies. The mirror reminds the worshipper than in looking outwards, vision should return, and look back into the heart of the seer.

Between the heavenly heart, and the lower fleshly heart, there is a sort of connection. This is the ancient heaven-and-earth relationship—and conflict too ! According to the Chinese treatise “The Secret of the Golden Flower”, the heavenly heart houses the Primal Spirit which loves stillness, but the fleshly hear is dependent on the outside world. The Fleshly heart is the feeling core—through it we make aesthetic judgements. The heavenly heart, in whose centre the worshipper fully understands the icon, vision is no longer sensual, but has now become a spiritual form of visioning.

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