I want to wrap up the images I’ve been putting together since the 2015 Winter semester at Eastern Michigan University and summarize how things are going. It’s important for me to explain where each image and their respective series fits into the bigger picture for my upcoming thesis show, coming up soon this December.
It’s been difficult for me to narrow things down and focus on what it is exactly I’m trying to accomplish. I think of photography as a tool for both personal expression and monetary gain through artistic discipline and professional services. Bridging these two and finding the connections between them is something I haven’t stopped thinking about since I first got into successful photographers such as Jerry Uelsmann, Greggory Crewdson, and David LaChappel who seem to bridge this distance quite well. I’ve posted about their work before in some of my earlier posts, but suffice it to say they’ve each had a pivotal role in my style and conceptual thought process.
In terms of Philosophical content, the work I’m creating is aimed to introduce the mind of the viewer to a hypothesis of living wholly beyond the pale of materialistic theology, philosophy, or science. I’ve been working with the following professors during this last year of this project: Chris Hyndman, Chris Reilly, Christine Ridgway, Morgan Barrie, Dr. Brendan Fey, and Amy Sacksteader. Each of these people has helped steer me in the right direction in their own way. The last 20 posts have been used as thought exercises to get closer to something more concrete, which is indeed final artworks hung on a wall and displayed as a video.
This illustration probably summarizes best how one focal point (the dot) can go in so many different directions. Moving from left to right, this illustration defines our very nature of defining the absolute. In essence, the more we try and nail down a specific definition of the muddier and more complicated things become.
Unable to understand the Absolute, the man gathers its incomprehensibility mentally to a focal point — the dot.” —Manly P. Hall, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy: An Introduction to Practical Ideas. Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society, 1947. p.2
I used the three basic symbols of the dot, the line, and the circle to represent ideas, actions, and generations. I found this concept of the dot, believe it or not, to be rather fascinating. Besides basic ideas, I thought of the dot as being synonymous with opinions, identities, and paradigms. If this is the case then the dot is something we cannot navigate our lives without. Many of the Greco-Roman Mystery religions, which flourished from antiquity into the 1st century before being absorbed by “modern” day religions like Judaism and Christianity, understood this and took the concepts of initiation quite seriously… only disclosing the qualities (i.e. the dot) of their philosophies to those candidates who were of sound mind to understand, lest the information becomes perverted and misused. Upon my readings related to this field, I began to understand in a very loose way just how many of those minds who were initiated into these mysteries, such as Pythagoras, Buddha, Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great, and perhaps even Jesus Christ have influenced the modern-day civilized thought process we take for granted and have since convoluted.
“The moment either an individual or a nation ceases to struggle against external obstacles, internal dissensions arise. As soon as the Christian Church stopped fighting the pagans, it began fighting itself. As rapidly as nations reach the point when they are strong enough to maintain an isolated individualism, they are destroyed by civil war. It is sad, but nevertheless true, that to the present time conquest has been the only force strong enough to surmount national prejudices and cement them into national alliances. There is undoubtedly a certain relationship between this fact and the well-known adage that the devil finds mischief for idle hands to do.” —Manly P. Hall, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy: An Introduction to Practical Ideals. Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society, 1947. p.177
In this age, the word philosophy has little meaning unless accompanied by some other qualifying term. The body of philosophy has been broken up into numerous isms more or less antagonistic, which have become so concerned with the effort to disprove each other’s fallacies that the sublimer issues of divine order and human destiny have suffered deplorable neglect. The ideal function of philosophy is to serve as the stabilizing influence in human thought. By virtue of its intrinsic nature, it should prevent man from ever establishing unreasonable codes of life. Philosophers themselves, however, have frustrated the ends of philosophy by exceeding in their woolgathering those untrained minds whom they are supposed to lead in the straight and narrow path of rational thinking. —Manly P. Hall, Secret Teachings of All Ages (Readers Edition) p. 15
Bringing this “dot” to live happened when I photographed a luminescent hockey ball halfway submerged in water. As I explained in Convergence of Multiple Threads “The glowing ball represents the philosophical notion of moving away from self or towards the Absolute (above). For me, this series loosely represents perhaps a soul, trapped in between our world and the reality of what’s beyond this.
I’m interested in this subject of root causes and the symbolism that’s been absorbed into a western ideology because of them. For me, personally, that would be the concept of heaven and hell. It never made sense to me that an all-powerful god with unconditional love for his people would set up conditions for those who can enter his kingdom. The argument for morality aside, this kind of fear-based sermonizing does more damage than good and has certainly has kept me up at night.
To keep things simple I started with the concept of duality. From the metaphysical viewpoint, duality refers to the physical separateness of related yet opposite phenomena or modes of being. Our entire world exists in these polarities and the concept of duality seemed a good place to start. In this ongoing image series I equivocated deep space and deep sea to represent heaven and hell, lightness and darkness, etc; a concept we’re all too familiar with. This was the first project of mine relating to this symbolism and is something I’ll continue to build onto with more images of fish and space needed to move forward. By bringing two oppositional views in the same field of vision I’m demonstrating the interplay between the two.
The Trinity Concept (Part 1)
In the middle of duality, it seems the past and future exist on either side with ourselves and the material bodies we inhabit trapped, in time, between the two. I explained my reasons for illustrating the trinity in more detail in my post about the flame and Convergence from Multiple Threads. In short, this concept seems to be one of the most fundamental aspects of all philosophy and I found it mentioned all over the place from practically every religio-philosophical belief structure.
As I’ve been slowly uncovering, all worship began with sun worship, and it makes sense that the idea of fire worship, or pyrolatry, would be a fundamental aspect to focus on. Pyrolatry has been been an important part of human culture since the Lower Paleolithic periods, or about 1500 BC. Fire worship is most often associated with one of the worlds oldest religions—Zoroastrianism—because it may just be the most connected world religions responsible for “messianism, heaven and hell, and free will [that] influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Islam.” —Hinnel, J (1997), The Penguin Dictionary of Religion, Penguin Books UK
As The Flame explains in more detail about the Egyptian connection to pyrolatry, there is an esoteric significance to the colors of the flames that draws us back to the Trinity. “In simplest terms, blue signifies life and re-birth, gold represents everlasting life, and red signifies death and destruction. In the sense of the Trinity, …we have the dot representing blue, the line as gold, and the circle as red. Life, light, and heat.”
Fire is aesthetically beautiful AND destructive. I can see why so many of us find fire mesmerizing. I do, and that’s why I went further and created what’s a work in progress of this ancient sun worship and the ascension of the burning bridge of consciousness. This video was a 3rd revision of something I’m still working on…
“Below I took this concept further and introduced the aspect of the line, or bridge between life and heat that has been portrayed over and over again with the figure of Christ in the most particular sense. What I’m communicating in these images and video is that this is all a metaphor —a metaphor that the Gnostics and Mystics were very much aware of. The ladder is symbolic of esoteric knowledge; rising above the material world and transcending into the absolute.”
The Trinity Concept (Part 2)
My intention with the images below was to loosely translate trinity hierarchy (again—like the principle of dualism) with the diagram found on page 48 of Manly P. Hall’s Lectures in Ancient Philosophy.
“For this work, I’m loosely translating trinity to tie more into the material and spiritual connotation of SPACE, with the addition of our reality, caught in between these two worlds. The deep material circular abyss is circular and represents death and rebirth; Earth is shown in two parts (because it’s intertwined) as the trees and the temple. The trees are in the season of Fall because…the fall of man, the cycle of life, etc, and the temple is shown because it’s (a) manmade, (b) reaching towards our spiritual nature, and (c) constantly being reworked. The sky is symbolic of the spiritual world.” – My post on A Collection of Images Representing a Higher Meaning.
The Microcosm and Macrocosm (Part 1)
After I referenced duality through the submerged dot and the principles of the trinity through fire and hierarchy within an image I began investigating the microcosm and macrocosm.
Here are my two most successful images and their video counterparts. The red rose below is a still image composited of 10 images (focus stacked) and the latter is a video of geo crystals (also made from several photographs put together). The finals of these each have their own counterparts of video movements and still images because the transition of focus is important to me, as is seeing it all at once.
In a way I’m trying to express through visual language the saying “The closer one looks at something, the more everything else falls out of focus.” There is no specific series for these macrocosmic/microcosmic images just yet, as I’m looking forward to using this technique on more vegetation now that the weather is turning around this Spring.
The concept of macrocosm/microcosm itself is extremely important in philosophy, as I mention in more detail in my Convergence from Multiple Threads post.
This Hermetic phrase “As above, so below” comes from the beginning of The Emerald Tablet and embraces the entire system of traditional and modern magic which was inscribed upon the tablet in cryptic wording by Hermes Trismegistus. The significance of this phrase is that it is believed to hold the key to all mysteries. All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula. “‘That which is above is the same as that which is below’…Macrocosmos is the same as Microcosmos.
This idea, then, has also transplanted itself into other experimentation I’ve been playing with, namely, ways to see things from close and far simultaneously, as best illustrated from my Little Planets series below which are studio-lit macro shots of marbles. *Note, just like the previous rose and geo crystals, these images have their counterpart video versions which rotate. This project is coming to a close soon. Some of the footage can be seen in the video materials I’m preparing at the moment.
The Microcosm and Macrocosm (Part 2)
Just as my previously shown image series of Little Planets suggest a close/distant relationship to the real/unreal or (in the case of natural flowers) a sense of other-worldliness or pattern taking place, I thought of another way to encompass two things at once.
This series is more appropriately called Enclosed Spaces Exposed (now included with Little Planets). One part of this series is natural landscape/architecture and the other aspect is patterns found in landscape/architecture. These two examples can be seen below.
The Microcosm and Macrocosm (Part 3)
As a brief conclusion to this concept, I want to include two examples of images I’m happy to have created by accident one afternoon…evening… I really can’t remember. The principle is the same, but with the concept of both the duality and the microcosm/macrocosm at play. This will be a series that will continue to evolve, if only for the satisfaction in finding beauty turning the world upside-down. You can view four more similar images in my series A Variety of Figments.
Symbolism as THE goal for my work is meaningless, as each viewer will automatically identify whatever symbol he/she wants to anyways. This took me a while to figure out. As I’m hoping to get across with this lengthy post, it’s the principles of philosophy particularly expressed through the fields of photography & video aesthetics (of beauty) I want to hone in on in particular.
That being said, my original insight into discovering roots and the symbols embellished within mystery religions is still something I find fascinating. Starting with ancient illustrating relating to the cosmos of the universe I began to re-illustrate these drawings using photographic elements from images I’ve taken over the last several years.
To demonstrate more or less symbolism in my works I’ve also begun to incorporate overlays and direct symbolic references.
I hope in reading this your understanding of my work these last 20 posts will make more sense going forward.