Monday, April 11, 2011

Looking dimly through a dark glass

Looking through a dark glass, dimly
It's all to do with perceptions and the amount of light we have. Or the lens we like to view the world in.

The Claude Glass
Claude Lorrain was a landscape artist of the seventeenth century. His works were renown for their tranquility resembling Arcadian scenes and fairy land. In his name a convex hand mirror known as the Claude glass was used to view landscapes. The reflection was prettier than the real view. European aesthetes would set out into the countryside armed both with clear coloured glass filters that tinted their views pink, green, or blue, and with black-tinted Claude glass mirrors, which distorted the landscape, while seemingly to improve it.

The blackness modified the colours to a series of tonal gradations – like a black and white photograph.

Condensed in the smoky-hued mirror, almost any landscape turned into an unspoiled Shangri-la in miniature, a tiny glowing vista that conjured the idyllic pastoral paintings of the seventeenth-century painter Claude Lorrain. (Jessica Jenkins, Encyclopedia of the Exquisite). Nostalgic travellers would carry their Claude glasses and compare any attractive landscape with Claude's sylvan dreamscapes, often referring the painted version to reality.

Claude Lorrain

Claude Lorrain

Still not everyone agreed with this trend, particularly John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) the art critic who blamed the painter Claude for his distortion of reality and calling the Claude glass "one of the most pestilent inventions for falsifying Nature and degrading art which was ever put into an artist's hand."

The Light
When people argue over their beliefs it is usually based on their different world views i.e. the lens with which they view their beliefs. But Jesus' message is universal and his presentation of the gospel is as vision. Jesus claims to be the Light of the world. Light to those who see is its own evidence.

To secure effective vision there must be not only light, but also a healthy visual organ. Blindness may arise from the absence of light, from mere functional derangement of the organ of vision, or from some fatal organic defect in the organ. It is to those whose blindness comes from either of the first two causes that Jesus appeals. He comes as Light, strengthening the visual faculty, dispelling the darkness that envelops the soul, and revealing to it the spiritual realm.

"I am come into this world that they which see not might see" (Jn 9:29). This presentation of Jesus as Light, appealing to the organ of spiritual vision and vindicating empirically His unique Divinity dominates the Fourth Gospel (St John). "It is the pure in heart who see God (Mt 5:8), because the pure heart is the organ of the God-consciousness.

Jesus, the Light of the world, can appeal only to those who have the faculty of sight. "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven' (Mt 16: 17).

Where the faculty of sight is impaired or destroyed, however clearly the light may shine, there is no vision. This obscuration of the spiritual orb is what is called 'judicial blindness'. The phrase implies that there never can be such radical defect of vision without personal guilt in the person so affected. It is the judgement that comes through neglecting the light.

The capacity of spiritual vision is determined by use or disuse or perversity and may be so radically corrupted as to be impervious to the light. St John says that the Light shines in darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not (Mt 6: 22).

Spiritual blindness, therefore, signifies inability to see, or absence of the sense of sight; hence, figuratively, want of discernment, or defective intellectual, moral or spiritual sight.

The Claude Glass

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