Advent season’s culmination is nearly upon us, Santa Claus has Paraded in the service of retail, and I’ve spent weeks in a massive push to curate the extensive PowerPoint imagery which now accompanies my Cayce Christmas talk.
Gave the talk in Toronto to a group who found it quite electrifying. If you’re missing a sacred take on the season and would like to book it, just let me know. Check the description under that button up on the top right where it says Public Speaking.
So R. has recently spent time trawling the internet for spiritual imagery, and exposing herself day after day to the highs and lows of the byte superhighway.
The highs are centuries of reproduced sacred art depicting classic Christmas subjects – subjects covered in quite a bit more metaphysical detail, and quite a bit more moving human detail, by the Christmas discourses of Edgar Cayce’s Source. In hunting for imagery to reflect those stories, I’ve travelled miles of alternately glorious, wonky, dogmatic, innocent, clumsy or sentimental or simply unutterably tender & beautiful, images by artists inspired to explore iconic faith content. My research has been moving; a journey of sorts to Bethlehem and back.
Many of those images now accompany my talk, so anyone attending will get to travel the Christmas art arc with me. The preRaphaelites for instance – what dreamy intellectuals they were! Composition and settings startlingly outside the box; emotions uniformly solemn.
On the other hand mediaeval artists left us their own inspiringly awkward versions of the same two prevailing habits.
Yet in fact try to find a natural, happy, light-hearted, Holy Family and their relatives and friends, and you have two choices: 1. the twentieth century or twenty-first;
2. Giotto. In Giotto, of course, it’s most often the animals that look happy. His people are gentle and for once actually move like real people, which is also nice, but Giotto started out as a shepherd boy. Discovered by Cimabue & brought to apprentice in C’s urban workshop, Giotto’s original affectionate kinship with domesticated beasts shows. Camels, donkey, cows invariably sport sweet grins of well-being. God Alive In Creation isn’t just a subject they know about; they’re livin’ it.
Otherwise the modern Christian Right has nurtured painters whose imagery is often really really lovely. Illustrative in style; but not afraid of emotion and humanity, full of energy and joy and pulse and light. There’s Spirit there. When the sheer intensity of these painters’ soul or heart overcomes any sensed obligation to fundamentalist dogma, they get it.
…Then there’s the rest of the internet. Try to google Young Girl In New Testament, or Biblical Man and Child, and you get photos from church rallies mindlessly interspersed with empty or increasingly weird Facebook posts of middle class White People, followed by drunks, weirdos, tattoo art demons, and unappealing women or men in regrettable states of undress doing things (usually in public) that you realize are precisely why humanity had to attract a Christ anyway. The sheer volume of these images became fascinating to me for how deeply, subtly, discouraging they were. Steady, nagging, ugly, banal. Downers.
Eventually, of course, I was forced to notice that such records of homo sapiens mayhem are also probably why I’m doing this talk – whatever I may have thought the reason was.
Because when you finally hit on the right search engine phrase, and “Journey to Bethlehem” or “Flight to Egypt” or “Nativity” or “Annunciation”, or, I learned eventually, “paintings of Renaissance/Victorian girl” (this often yields more tender, lovely, and convincing images to use for Mary than deliberate Mary searches do); and your eyes fall on those visual offerings; the contrast in how you feel is stark. Pure relief.
So you can trawl the net, ingesting infotainment liberally sprinkled with time-waster trash; or you can surf sacred topics. And if you do both, simply sit back and watch what happens inside you. The results are amazing.
As for my talk it’s now good to go and runs 200 slides through a couple hours of Cayce storytelling. An exciting tour of gorgeousness through many painters’ hands; another tour of another sort of gorgeousness through the words of the supreme trance channeller.
And yes – I couldn’t resist including the occasional work of stone relief carver, manuscript illuminator, tapestry embroiderer, or mosaic tiler, too. Such goodies!
So if you had to miss my talk in Toronto, no worries. Invite friends in for egg nog, then invite me. I’ll come deliver it again for you. Have done this more than once. It’s fun – and sets an entirely new tone for the Season of Joy, launched so iffily otherwise by the annual cultural stampede for Stuff.
Digital toaster, or divine newborn? Hm. You decide.