By Moji Agha, Tucson,
INTRODUCTION: The Last
Supper! Yes, THE Last Supper (shaam-e aakhar, in Persian) is the title of
a fine work of art I purchased in Tehran and brought with me 2 years ago, on my
way back to the U.S. from a trip I took to Iran, due to the passing away of my
mother. It is a small hand-made Persian rug depicting in exquisite detail, the
piece of art is the work of a most likely observant Moslem from the "Holy City"
of Qom, in central Iran.
for me, in one amazingly "simple" object, the fascinating relationships that
exist among art, spirituality, and peace: Ambiguous relationships at best, given
that even the basic definitions, let alone the lived experiences, of such
abstract concepts are open to infinitely diverse interpretations, in our very
human attempts at "giving" them meaning and discerning their visible or hidden
rug-painting has gifted me with a way to explore the integrated essences
of art, spirituality, and peace, which I will try to briefly outline here.
Put simply, the
Last Supper rug is an integrated art product capturing a spiritual situation
about the active desire for profound peace, both internal and external.
I will come
back to this inter-related distinction between inner and outer peace later.
Will I be as
successful as this unknown skilled artist, at weaving and communicating in this
very brief essay how the essences of art, spirituality, and peace are
interwoven? I hope so. I too will do my best.
SCIENCE: If we agree
that art's essential significance is that it is a reflection or a presentation
(or re-presentation), alas, a deep meditation (consciously or not) on the
awesome desire and ability of consciousness to be conscious of its own
consciousness, then we could perhaps also agree that art is the "science"
of the "subjective," the inner world manifested, in inevitably faithful
subjective exactness, in the outer.
any further, let me emphasize that here I am referring to GENUINE art and
science the kind not contaminated by the corrupting often destructive influences
of ego, power, and money, because such servile "art" or "science" is not worthy
even of the name.
Now, if science
is an objective accurate description of the WHAT IS of the external
world, art would be a subjective accurate description of the what
is of the inner world-- a text presented to and reflected in the mirror of
the communicable consciousness via the vessel of the individual consciousness.
THE QUESTION OF
VALUE: Now, given
such definitions, if we are to faithfully examine the complex relationships
among art, spirituality, and peace, we need to ask the following crucial
subjective nature of art "free" it from objective scrutiny, the essential value,
of science, hence abandoning art in the meaningless wasteland of rampant
In other words:
Is there an essential "transcendent" value to art, as exists in science? And if
so, how is one to discern and understand such an integrating
(and later on the careful discernment, and eventually the proper understanding
of the significance-to-life-and-existence) of this essential
consensually-arrived-at BASIC VALUE inherent to art, is the portal or the
opening through which we may be able to arrive at a possible coherent
understanding of art, as it relates to lived spirituality and eventually to
peace, in our awesome and inter-connected yet humble and increasingly fragile
DIVERSITY, COMMUNICATION, AND
science is the evolving key that humans have cobbled painfully together to help
them understand the basic laws, the hidden mysteries, and the infinite diversity
in the sensorial world, of natural and biological forms, art is our
suffering-purified key to experience, to hopefully understand the true
significance of the diversity of experienced consciousness.
In other words,
art is the mirror of the infinite subjective diversity of consciousness, which
reflects (thus making accessible to objective human reality) the infinite
possibilities of communicable inner meanings: The meanings that evolve as
consciousness itself evolves, toward its own infinite manifestations in the
cycle of evolution, in our experienced and inevitably shared world.
In still other
words, art is the awesome clearing through which we can come in actual and
amazing contact, and miraculous communication with, the infinitely diverse
manifestations of inner consciousness, so that meaning and cross-consciousness
communication can be born and evolve toward maturity and experienced (and
hopefully appreciated) wholeness.
such, diversity is that essential value that only art can birth into
manifestation: An infinite and lived diversity which is not reducible to unity,
and in fact is as "sacred" as the unity from whose abstract inner womb it is
born, manifesting the amazing outer diversity, which then inevitably keeps
evolving, and in so doing joins the miraculous evolutionary dance of being in
ART: Such birth and
evolution is also the key to understand the spirituality of art. Why?
infiniteness of the diversity of artistic manifestation is the portal to
transcendence, the essence of spirituality.
Seek not water, seek thirst.
Why? Because we
are the "separated prisoners" of our consciousness, we seek transcendence,
seeking, we experience a maddening paradox. The same paradox that we experience
as we make genuine contact with any genuine work of art--such as our Last Supper
We know that
this work of art is a product of consciousness (of a fellow human artist), but
we somehow also experience that such art is too a gate to some hard-to-grasp
transcendent reality, a spiritual reality: A reality that is not out there or in
here, but rather maddeningly and paradoxically is in between--and not in between
this and that or here and there, but rather in between "I and I."
PEACE IS THE
GOAL: Why are we born with this insatiable desire to
transcend our limitations? Why are we not happy in our small jail of relative
"I" comfort, even if we have achieved seeming self-actualization?
Rumi says the
reason is our inevitable desire, our never-ending seeking for real peace, for
union with the I beyond I, who is also the limited I but also is not that
The place that Solomon made to
called the Far Mosque, is not built
and water and stone, but of
intention and wisdom
and mystical conversation and
compassionate action. [Emphasis
Every part of it is intelligence and
to every other. The carpet bows to
The door knocker and the door swing
like musicians. This heart sanctuary
exist, but it can't be described.
(Rumi, via Coleman
Because we HAVE
This trying is
the thirst that we are born with, the sweet jail which constantly compels us to
try, via mystical conversation and compassionate action, to unify I with I, by
our baby-step attempts at understanding the significance, for example, of the
awesome fact (thanks to the Human Genome Project) that 99.9% of all human genes
are IDENTICAL, yet they owe their very existence to the remaining .1% that gives
rise to the amazing diversity that we see in our phenomenal world.
We owe our very
existence to this sacred inter-dependent life-giving dance between our 99.9% and
our .1%, the miraculous dance between unity and diversity, the amazing dance
that gives rise to art, to science, to consciousness, to meaning, to
communication, to transcendence, the loving dance that makes I aware of I.
Do we realize,
however, that (thanks to our advanced "civilization") we live presently on an
Earth in which the rate of the loss of species or sub-species of
micro-organisms, plants, and animals is estimated to be a horrifying ONE PER
consuming our stupid LAST supper at our ego-isolated table of suicidal
We indeed do
NEED, in these increasingly dark selfish days, to try to do our best possible
dance, on this magic carpet, drunken with the precious humble wine of sober
relatedness, to hopefully transcend from the globally-warming depths of our
thirsty-making limitation jail, toward the liberating hope for a wider wiser
vista: We humans, through the miracle vessel of our amazing consciousness, have
given birth to, and have desperately needed, such mega-institutions as science,
art, meaning, and communication.
WHY? WHY? In
order to survive and perhaps prosper, and perhaps to move toward achieving our
awesome true "beyond I" potentials.
process, we have noticed, co-created, and helped to liberate the majestic and
scared diversity that we experience in our profoundly and mysteriously
interwoven inner and outer worlds.
basic safety, the gift of external peace, is a needed pre-requisite, if we
humans are to be able to safeguard, survive, live in, prosper, and actualize the
potentials that we and our worlds are endowed and interwoven with.
history has witnessed that we humans are not content, solely with the
satisfaction of our biological survival needs, and even with the
consumption-poisoned satiation of our self-destructive prosperity wants.
transcendentally greedy. We desire something more. We desire and we desire.
In fact, we
have no choice but to desire to desperately seek "beyond I" transcendence.
Because, it is
in trying to satisfy this fundamental thirst, this basic quest in our human
reality, that we encounter our primal desire for inner peace, in addition to
outer safety. This is why Rumi asks us to seek thirst, and not
The what, the
how, the temptations, the yearnings, and the passionate struggles to achieve
this elusive inner peace, at the depth of our true experience, constitutes the
stuff of consciousness, history, and culture.
Whether or not
we have religious faith in the epic of the Last Supper (as depicted,
inter-faithfully, in our Persian rug-painting of a devote Moslem artist), it is
clear that throughout history the medium of art has afforded us, at least
symbolically, the opportunity not only to recognize that outer and inner peace
are clear requisites for one another, but also to appreciate that any experience
of transcendence, of any limitation, physical, temporal, or spiritual, thus any
genuine evolution, is possible only in the paradoxically diverse yet unified
bosom of true peace.
Alas, art is
our mysterious portal to this enchanted land of immortal peace, in which the
bread that we break at supper to feed our diverse bodies and consciousnesses, is
the same bread that unifies our thankful beings.
ultimate value, its final sacrificial role, to teach us to be thankful?
faculty in cross-cultural psychology and conflict resolution, Mojtaba
Aghamohammadi (Moji Agha) is a peace and human rights activist, and a bilingual
poet and writer. (www.interfaithful.org)