Arthur Brown: USA

Excelsa gnostica

I call this painting Excelsa Gnostica. It primarily figures a "Spark" returning to the Gnostic Godhead, the Pleroma. Yet, this painting may transcend this specific religion to express many other mystical systems of thought, as will be shown later.

To deeply understand the subject, I'll briefly review the Gnostic beliefs.

Gnostics believed the ultimate reality, The Father, was ruptured by the desire of a virgin called Sophia to know him. Sparks of the father fell in this earthly physical world and became imprisoned in us. The ultimate goal of a Gnostic is to liberate the spark within to be able to reunite with the father.

Other systems of thought, that of Mister Eckhart for example, can be also represented by this painting. Mister Eckhart differentiated between the soul, and the "Apex" of the soul, which he surprisingly also called the "Spark"! He also differentiated between the personal god, and the Godhead, the ultimate impersonal reality.

To describe the image, the female figure flying is the spark, the yellow circle at the upper right corner is the Pleroma. The image is differentiated into layers around the Pleroma, from the most holy to the unholy.

The Pleroma is totally devoid of any differentiation, I drew nothing inside of it, and I should have not drawn it ever, for even this simple circle can give the impression of a timely and placely being, which is definitely not the case of the Pleroma, since an "undifferentiated unity" would essentially transcend both place and time.

The first two layers represent spiritual realities or realms, that's why I drew no figures in them.

The outer two layers represent the physical space. Though Gnostics had an unwelcoming attitude towards the physical world, I stressed the beauty of the physical world, and its sublimity by incorporating certain elements as the moon, stars and a shooting star. If Gnostics were less influenced by the world rejecting attitude that was quite abundant in their nihilistic thoughts, they would have reshaped their philosophy to embrace the physical world instead of rejecting it, a really enlightened Gnostic mystic would have said something like, "A spark need not leave this world to reunite with the Pleroma, since by the sacredness of this very spark that world is transformed into the Pleroma. The sparks are one with the Pleroma here, all enlightenment is but having this unifying vision. The sparks didn't leave the world and regain union with the one, they did a better job, they took the whole world to the one, so the world and the one fused in oneness. But still the sparks remain deluded by their thinking they are still imprisoned!"

Here, This position becomes extremely close to that of the Advaita Vedanta, According to which, the atman does not "Become" the Brahman, instead, the atman just "Experiences" being the Brahman.

The spark lifts an arm in longing to the Pleroma, as a finger tries to reach to the higher level, it dissolves. Since no form can reach that level, in a deep sacrifice, the spark abandons its shape, to reunite with its source. Mystics didn't only think of the soul being unable to reach Godhead with a shape but some were bold enough to speculate the opposite! Even God can't approach the formless spark with his shape, he must take off his form, only the Godhead can dwell there. This is exactly what Eckhart expressed by those deeply wise words of his:

"There is a force in the soul; and not only a force, but something more, a being; and not only a being, but something more; it is so pure and high and noble in itself that no creature can come there, and God alone can dwelt there. Yea, verily, and even God cannot come there with a form; He can only come with His simple divine nature."

The idea of the spark losing its form to reunite with the Godhead can throw a light on the nature of the afterlife as thought of by mystics. The common idea of George being George in heaven and John being John seems to be far from the mystical vision. Since all forms and shapes keeping George as George and John as John are left behind, so the pure essence of John, which is the pure essence of George, only passes to the Godhead, where there is no form and no differentiation to keep George different that John.

Arthur Brown


[The One is Seeking the One Philosophy Pathways Issue 72]