Curators: Kristena West, Tristy Taylor & Mary McCulloch
The Veils of Illusion, a Meditative Journey to the Sophia Kristena West
The seven vices are considered to be the veils of illusion that occlude us from Sophia, holy wisdom, the Beloved of every human heart. These seven vices today are considered to be behavioral patterns adopted by us as coping mechanisms. Eventually, these behaviors can become addictions which cause us pain, limit our growth, and are considered obstacles to the spiritual path.
The seven virtues which are called the "contrary virtues", are the virtues to cultivate instead to the vices. So, instead of cultivating anger, we cultivate kindness, instead of laziness we cultivate perseverance, and so on, until we purify our desire or astral body to the point of becoming a vessel worthy of Sophia. To become one with the Sophia is the evolutionary goal of humanity-as she represents a spiritually evolved humanity.For this installation, I was in a long room, with all the lights off except one pin light. There were seven colored veils hung in a row (in front of the Sophia) so that you had to walk through the veils-of illusion- lifting one veil after the other until the last seventh veil is lifted to reveal the Divine Sophia. All seven veils are completely transparent, yet when hung one in front of each other, and standing at the back you cannot see the Sophia. The emotions that we choose to cultivate are also transparent, we cannot grasp them, but we engage with them our life long. To lift the veils of destructive desires, we must cultivate the qualities of virtue. Only then, the Sophia will emerge from the veils of illusion.
|Lust (excessive sexual appetites)||Chastity (purity)|
|Gluttony (over-indulgence)||Temperance (self-restraint)|
|Greed (avarice)||Charity (giving)|
|Sloth (laziness/idleness)||Diligence (zeal/integrity/Labor)|
|Wrath (anger)||Forgiveness (composure)|
|Envy (jealousy)||Kindness (admiration)|
|Pride (vanity)||Humility (humbleness)|
Kristena West: Sophia Holy Wisdom
In 1990, I was at the end of an emotionally dark relationship, and I began to have a series of nightmares. One night I woke up from another nightmare, with my heart pounding while trying to calm my fears. I was lying in bed looking through the darkened room at the moonlit curtains. Slowly in front of my bed a half circle of mist gathered, forming a foggy group of people who spoke directly to my mind and said:
"You are at a Nexus point. There is no judgment in this, but you must know that you are standing at a crossroads." I understand that I can continue in this darkling relationship, or what? Then I see two distinct picture images flash in front of my eyes. I see a daylight scene of my boyfriends blue pick truck in front of an unrecognized house on a hill, with palm trees on the right. The other image is more confusing. I see a darkened space like a gallery with veils of fabric hung from the ceiling. The fabric is transparent with gold medallions on it. There are layers of fabric hung from the ceiling, one in front of the other, with something in front, which I cannot see. I know that it is a figure of a female, a goddess. I understand that if I leave this relationship that the second image is a possible future.
The next day however I discount the circle of people, the information received and the images. I had to run an errand for my boyfriend who was at a new job site and as I followed the directions to the site, and turned the corner to go up the hill, my breath catches as I see his pick up truck in front of the house and palm trees exactly like the scene from the previous night! Seeing this scene from the first image, was the validation necessary for me to pay attention and believe what had taken place. It takes a year to leave that relationship, but it is the beginning of my healing journey.
I am about to graduate and am offering a show of individuals work, honoring their conversations with deities and dreams. I wondered what new piece I might create. A nudge from the spirit world brought back this memory, and I committed to bringing into form the possibility shown me twelve years ago. The question was, who is the female figure behind the veils?
For some years, I have been researching cross cultural religions and esoteric wisdom traditions on mystic women (and men) who have attained god realization. As I read stories within the esoteric and eastern orthodox Christian traditions, I found repeated reference to The Sophia. I realized that the Sophia has many names within different cultures; Quan Yin, Tara, the Bride of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Schekinah of the Cabala, the Black Madonna, Divine Wisdom, the alchemic divine wedding of the Conjunctio, and the Beloved to name a few. I would create a Sophia behind the veils of desire. But how would she look?
The context of working with deity outlined in this exhibit is to quiet ones ego and will, and allow the space for the deity to reveal itself. So over the course of some months, I saw in pictures when waking from sleep; the head, with colors red, blue and gold spears. The meaning was; red for the beginning stages of discipleship working on the desire body, the blue for the stage of devotion to higher communion, and gold for the attainment of the Purified Soul, or Astral body. Then behind the head I saw in holy script that may have been Islamic, Greek or spirit script in flaming golden light flowing wisdom emanating from her head. The golden aura is a symbol of this. Then I saw the pose as a standing straight figure with arms straight out at the sides, with white hands. I saw myself holding the white hands over fire allowing the fire to smoke the hands. This represents Holy Sacrifice. Her figure is red as it is represented in Eastern Orthodoxy.
On the day of installation, I was up on the second story covering a 20x40" skylight with a tarp to make the long room dark below. The seven virtues and vices that one has to overcome to see Sophia I had made seven veils with the words of the Virtues into transparent veils hanging from the ceiling and the Vices text on the floor before each hanging veil.
When we walked back to the very end of the room, where one entered this installation and turned off all the lights but the one spot on the Sophia figure the past of 12 years previously and the NOW merged. I had created what I had seen in an "imagination" twelve years in the past. It was complete. One had to look at the text of Vices at feet, gaze into the transparent veil reading the Virtue to overcome the Vice, and take hold of the viel and move forward.Although all colored veils were transparent, hanging one in front of the other, you couldn't see the Sophia until you were at the very last veil.
"There are three Sophias. One through whom we are gifted with understanding, reason and knowledge of what is to be done, through whom we practice art, pursue science and know God; another who is seen in creation; and a third who appeared in our Redeemer which unbelievers call foolishness." (Theologian Theodore, fifth century)