Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogger reflects on artists' religious visions

On a blog about Christianity, Angelo Lopez comments about a passage in Thomas Moore’s column "The Romance of Religion" in the Fall 2000 issue of Spirituality and Health. Thomas Moore wrote:
"In my view, the best theologians are not necessarily the professionals, but poets and artists who reflect on God and religion. For me, D.H. Lawrence and Anne Sexton are the best, but Oscar Wilde is in the running. In his essay written from prison, 'De Profundis', he defines what to me is an important dimension of religion - the romantic style.

He sees in Christ all the essentials and accessories of the romantic temperament: Jesus made children the ideal of what people should try to become. He felt that life was fluid and full of change. To be impractical was a great thing. Morally, he was full of sympathy for human frailty. He didn't treat people as things or stereotypes. He valued the individual. He appreciated imperfection and could be close to the sinner. He was not a tedious reformer and could see the beauty in suffering."
Lopez responds to Moore's observations by saying, "When I think of what I like about Jesus, this more than anything encapsulates it. I am an artist who presents my art at a gallery in Saratoga, California, and I work in a library to pay the rent. What I find, in myself and in other artists, is that the act of creating is almost like a spiritual act. I'm not always the greatest when it comes to communicating my ideas and thoughts, but in my art I could communicate those feelings in a way both accessible and with humor." Lopez then mentions Goya when talking about a painter expressing opinions passionately through art.

At the end of his column, Moore talks about the differences between sentimentality and a romantic approach:
"I imagine that the most direct route to God is the romantic road, where ego-centered consciousness and ambition and interpretation are far less esteemed than atmosphere and sensation. A valuable kind of knowledge can come to us through the senses and through the intuitions stimulated by the accidental and nonessential.

What I'm describing is not sentimentality, which is a danger for religion in a historical period where fact and machinery are so prized. Sentimentality is a way of avoiding life by creating sugarplum fairylands. The romantic doesn't escape this life but rather enters into it with body and soul. The romantic allows life to take possession and create an individual personality that may or may not conform to the ideals or requirements of the society. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for his nonconformity and saw his suffering as an aspect of his romanticism.

We have plenty of moral and dogmatic religion around us, and we have more than we need of sentimental piety. But I think we have yet to discover the enlivening romanticism that wakes the heart and calms aggressive impulses. Call me a romantic, but I long for religion that will take me out of this cold, mechanical world and show me the way toward spiritual delights and sensual realizations."

Free registration at Spirituality and Health allows access to Moore’s archived columns. They're listed and linked in the sidebar at Barque: Thomas Moore's Work.

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