Nothing is more crucial for the survival of our species than renewing our sense of the sacred. At least that is what a dream told me several years ago, one of those dreams so lucid and so powerful that it woke me up. As I lay sleeping, a voice spoke to me: “There is nothing wrong with the human race today except one thing: We have lost the sense of the sacred.” And I woke up, startled. The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors offers us a unique opportunity for spiritual renewal by contemplation of transformative art. By locating the sacred in us, Alex Grey’s art is an affront to all fear-based and guilt-based ideologies that tell us we do not have what it takes, that salvation or wholeness must always come from the outside. In contrast, Alex, like Hildegard, the visionary mystic from the twelfth century, proposes that our beauty, grace and radiance comes from inside—that we already have “all that is necessary inside us.” Alex’s art invites us to reflect on our inner beauty. Contemplating the art in the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors is certainly not narcissistic navel gazing. It is stirring the “Buddha Nature,” or “Christ within,” the “Shekinah,” “Goddess,” “Imago Dei” or image of God, the “Divine Spark” in all of us. Paintings in the Chapel invite us to meditate on our unseen layers of innerness, the many layers of subtle energetic fields and the anatomical embodiment of our Incarnation (God-made-flesh).
Physically, emotionally, energetically, psychically, and spiritually, we embody many layers and depths of being at once. We are our ancestors and our experiences of glory, we are our enemies and the abused, we are Buddha and Christ, everyman and everywoman, the perpetrator and the victim. It behooves us to pay attention to each station of these Sacred Mirrors. An ancient mystical teaching, summarized as “speculative mysticism”, describes individuals as “mirrors of God”. (The word for “mirror” in Latin is “speculum.”) To the speculative mystic we are each reflections of God. Saint Paul, on one of his better days, put it this way: “And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the glory of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect.” (2 Cor. 3:18) We do indeed reflect the glory or doxa or radiance of the Cosmic Christ and the Buddha Nature and Alex’s art assists us in experiencing this deep truth. But only if our faces are “unveiled,” that is to say only if we work out of our true (or inner) selves and not our outer or superficial, veiled, personas. We need to know ourselves honestly and deeply for this divine image to shine. But St. Paul is challenging us by suggesting that we grow “brighter and brighter” into our divine mirrorhood, into being true images of God. Life’s joys and sorrows, ecstasies and disappointments, all render us more glorious and resplendent reflectors of Divinity. Or does it? A meditative walk through the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors helps us recover our own cosmic and spiritual dimension, providing good medicine and profound healing for our typically fragmented and neurotic postmodern soul. Corporate culture’s ubiquitous distractions, Religion’s alienation from and negativity toward nature, along with the mindset of scientific materialism have effectively destroyed our sense of community and kinship with the cosmos.
In contrast, Russian Orthodox philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev expresses a cosmic sense of transfiguration when he writes: “The central idea of the Eastern fathers was that of theosis, the divinization of all creatures, the transfiguration of the world, the idea of the cosmos, and not the idea of personal salvation…. Only later Christian consciousness began to value the idea of hell more than the idea of the transfiguration and divinization of the world…. The kingdom of God is the transfiguration of the world, universal resurrection, a new heaven and a new earth.” It is this sense of cosmic transfiguration that is regained for us in the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. The Chapel facilitates healing the dissonance between body and soul. Materialism denies the possibility of redemptive spirituality. Augustinian suspicion of physicality alienates the soul from physical nature. Today’s physics teaches us that matter is slow moving light (“frozen light”, according to David Bohm), ending the opposition between energy and matter. Body and matter are not obstacles to spirit, but rather unique incarnations of spiritual light, a message of the Sacred Mirrors. In our bodies, not outside them, fighting them, or in spite of them, we recognize spirit in its multiple and beautiful variations. Truly, this incarnational spirituality honors the holiness of flesh, our flesh and that of all living things. Unembodied light is far more abundant in the universe than embodied light. Privileged to exist as embodied light, we shouldn’t denounce our embodiment, but reverence and utilize it in communion with other light beings in a symphony of divine celebration. Alex Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors helps us see a sense of the sacred in everyday things—our family and love relationships, the processes of birth, aging and dying. Sexuality is not tawdry, but again sacred as it once was in the Song of Songs and as it is in some religions of the world. Grey’s powerful visionary art can re-enchant our existence by reminding us of the infinite Mystery surrounding and abiding within us.
(reprinted from CoSM Journal #One 2004)
Matthew Fox is the founder and president of the University Creation Spirituality (UCS) located in downtown Oakland, California. UCS is unique in its commitment to bring spirit to education and our professions. He is author of 24 books, including the best selling Original Blessing. www.creationspirituality.com.