At Berkeley in the Transformative Arts & Consciousness MA program (2000-2002) I had two years to focus on art making. I decided to start a meditative, contemplative study of sacred texts, the gospels, and cross-cultural traditions focusing on the sacred deities of various religions and making sacred art.
My studies led me to the Christian mysteries, and the question, “How can we know the Christ?” This is the question that for thousands of years souls have been longing to answer. We can read, study, meditate, and send up prayers and these ways of being have proven effective. We may have read every book written by all kinds of masters and Saints, but how does that help us? But how can I, now, in my time, know the Christ? This is a turning of the soul.
I began, in deep conversation with people, asking them if they had had a Christ experience. I was amazed how many people were willing to share deep personal stories of how Jesus Christ and Mary who came to them and what happened during these experiences. I remembered over the years, how many friends of mine had extraordinary experiences with different beings and how this changed their lives, eventually this led to the Deities, Dialogues & Dreams exhibition in 2002. But I am getting ahead of the story.
So, I decided the only way I could get to know the Christ is to start a conversation with Him. How to do that? As an artist, it was to make art with him. Rudolf Steiner suggests, that the artist when making art, hold himself or herself back inwardly. That if we can overcome our sympathy and antipathy, and what we think we know and stay in a neutral empty inner space. This emptying creates a sacred space or chalice, and Truth of the thing we are contemplating can arise.
So, if I create an inner chalice, empty of my projections, with a friendly curiosity as Goethe mentions, waiting, waiting, for the Christ to arise--will this work? I used the technique of asking a question in the evening before sleep and noting in my dream journal the next morning. The experiences I had over that two-year period of intensive study and art making changed my life.
This group is an invitation to work together as a group while doing this practice at home making an art piece. There is no good or bad art in this practice, it’s’ not about making something that looks good. It’s about an invitation from your soul to this Being of the Christ to enter into a conversation of the heart.
From the book, “We experienced Christ.” Christmas 1973, two (anthroposophical) theologians advertised in a Swedish newspaper for people to write in with their personal experiences of Christ. What they received is delicately put in this lovely book with a butter yellow cover.
Edith-Marie Gjers began to paint regularly only in 1969. Since then she developed an increasingly rich production of paintings inspired by Christianity. … “It is Jesus with whom I study painting.” Art has taken on a meaning for her; through it she is able and willing to spread the message about the living risen Christ.
It was 25 of June 1969—midsummer morning. (Note: St. Johns Tide Week) I awoke early and felt an odd urge to paint. I got up, looked for the brush, paints, etc. I had not used them for years. I painted on anything handy. I felt an unheard of longing to express what had germinated for such a long time inside me. As I settled down I understood: what I wanted to do was not paintings for painting’s sake. No, what I longed for more and more was the urge to proclaim a message. People should gain through my painting. Then it was Jesus appeared in my paintings. That irritated me and I wiped Him out. When I did this the pictures were no good, and I became ever more restless.
As Edith-Marie Gjers tells in the interview, this restlessness was connected with her own doubts. “What did I get into? Am I worthy?”
I began to pray; “O, Lord, help me to paint You as You are so that people can see You!”
One day in 1971 the following happened. (Note 2 years later)
“I stood and painted. It was midnight. I could not go to bed and leave the painting before I had become conscious of what the painting meant. At that, Jesus came and extends His arms. I hurried to paint Him, as long as He was there. That is how it happened that I promised to obey and not wipe Him out again when He wanted to be in the picture. It made me so happy that I could continue to paint. Now my art had meaning. Jesus led me into the garden. That was so wonderful. I wanted to stay there, experience the scent of this splendidly fresh morning. There He stood, full of life. The women who had searched for Him extended their hands and called; “He is alive! He Lives! The birds jubilated, the flowers opened their blossoms, and everything breathed life. “
Artwork: Brigitta Gallaher
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