Rambler's Top100

";... To the celestial: to the celestial: to the Light!"
St. Gregory Palamas

Idea of personal immortality is undoubtedly the basis of whole human culture building. It arose in pristine rites of initiation, it ran all through the world religions, it has initiated development of art, science and techniques; and now days, thanks to the technical achievements, it finally receives an opportunity to be practically applied. TRANSFIGURATION of a local life-form - a MAN - into a global one - HUMANE - occurs before our eyes [In russian original there is an utranslatable pun: MAN means ";century of head"; HUMANE - ";eternity of head"]. Inevitably it is to be followed by a cardinal revolution in social consciousness. Suffice to mention actualization and further replacement of collective criteria of appraisal of activity of a socium by personal ones (tendencies playing increasing role in contemporary art practice). Drawing spectator's attention to the theosis of Maria the author REMINDS again that it's high time to grow up and to ponder over REAL [synonym of contemporary in Russian], over HUMANE [see abow].

An anthropological by its sense problem of reaching mental-and-body integrity is metaphorically represented by the artist in an image of virtual anthropomorphic sculpture (the prototype of it is a real woman whose name is Maria) made of native gold (a permanent attribute of eternity in historic tradition) against blue (universal) background. In exhibition space it is offered to be thoroughly and effectively observed (contemplated) from different, both ";objective" and ";subjective" points of view.

Gor Chahal. Moscow, 2002.


1. Gold in a fairy-tale.

Everything more or less connected with the Certain Kingdom can turn to be golden. The palace is usually golden: ";she lives in a golden palace". The objects, which should be brought from the Certain Kingdom, are almost always golden. It is the pig-golden-bristle, the duck-golden-feathers, the deer of golden horns and golden scut, the horse of golden mane and golden tail (not like Sivka-Burka) etc. In the fairy-tale about the Fire-bird the Fire-bird sits in a golden cage, the horse has a golden bridle, the garden of Elena the Beautiful is surrounded by a golden fence. In the fairy-tale about Phenist-Serene-Falcon the girl, who has come to the other kingdom to her sweet-heart, buys three nights for them for a golden spindle, golden eggs and golden tambour with a needle.

The inhabitant of this Kingdom, the princess, is always characterized by a golden attribute of any kind. She stays in a high tower with golden top. ";Looks and sees, that Vasilisa-princess sails the sea in a silver boat and rows by a golden oar". She has golden wings and she flies in a golden chariot. ";Multitudes of turtle-doves came flying to that place, and in the middle of it there was a golden throne. A little bit later - the sky and the earth were shined - a golden chariot flied by the air, with six fire serpents in harness; and Elena the Beautiful was in the chariot - she looked so perfectly beautiful, that it baffles all description, it couldn't be even imagined". Even in the cases when the princess is represented as a martial girl, she rides a stately horse ";with a golden lance". If her hair is mentioned, it's always golden. So here her name comes from: ";Elena the Golden Plait the Uncovered Beauty". The light shines even from her face: ";And he saw a beauty, shining without sun, standing in loggia: she was shining like a sun even if there were no sun and no moon".

Taking into consideration the fact, that the Certain Kingdom is always a celestial, golden kingdom, we can conclude, that the golden colour of the objects is expression of their solar, flame sense. ";You see, over there, there is a fire resembling sun? - Yes, I do, - he answers. - It's not a fire resembling sun, but her house, all covered with gold, - he says."

This list can be continued. The gold appears so frequently, so brilliantly, in such different forms, that we can even call the Certain Kingdom the Golden. It is such a typical, such an established feature, that the statement: ";everything connected with the Certain Kingdom can be of gold colour" can be also true if we turn it visa versa: ";everything of gold colour reveals its belonging to the other kingdom". The gold colour is a seal of the other kingdom.
(V. Propp)

2. Gold in the Christian tradition.

The first, what should be mentioned speaking of gold, is that it shows to a contemplative eye and a clever mind an image of light, and so it ";means" or symbolizes the light. Dionisius the Areopagite uses the epithets ";of golden nature" and ";of light nature" as synonyms. The beauty of this light is ";simple" and ";uniform"; in its self-identity it doesn't have any division into parts and levels. This very type of beauty St. Basil the Great sees in stars and in the gold.

But the beauty as a simple and uniform is a close analogy to the Beauty and Super-Beauty of the God, as it's described by St. Dionisius the Areopagite: ";In itself and in its consent to itself it is always uniformly beautiful". But the beauty of the light, which doesn't need any proportions of the parts, needs, nevertheless, according to St. Basil's the Great formula, a kind of ";proportion" of itself and the vision; whereas the Beauty of the God is undoubtedly self-sufficient and is correlated only with itself. The light is just a symbol of the divine, but an honored one. ";God is light, and there is no darkness in it" (I John 1, 5). The Byzantine theologians were able to distinguish sensible and ";immaterial" light. According to the well-known doctrine, which was formulated by St. Gregory Palamas at the very end of Byzantine millenium, but which had been prepared by the whole experience of the Greek Christian mysticism since St. Dionisius the Areopagite, an ascetic at the top of praying ecstasy sees, in non-sensible, but absolutely concrete, absolutely non-allegorical sense of the verb ";to see", the shine of energies of the Deity, which is called Thabor light. Three centuries before St. Gregory Palamas St. Symeon the New Theologian describes his feeling of immaterial light (undoubted super-natural source of which he stresses): ";But he comes, whenever he wants, in a shape of a radiant cloud, and, staying immovably, shines above my had with all the fullness of light, forcing the mind and the heart to triumph, to exult".

As the invisible light could be somehow seen, but, of course, not for the senses and, what is the most important, not for sensitive imagination, but only for the mind and the heart (the hesychasts new a mind brought together to the heart); and in this case the visible, sensitive light can be apprehended as an icon of invisible. A Byzantine poet lets himself to speak of the sanctuary lamp put near the doors of the Studit Monastery in the following words: ";At the Holy Door there was a sanctuary lamp blessed by ray of the God, by immaterial light, and the church displays the image of the heaven".

According to the doctrine of St. Dionisius the Areopagite, ";the displayed objects are verily the icons of invisible ones"; the Byzantine theologians have based on this statement the theory of an icon as a reflection, which is distinguished from its prototype by a key difference, but which lets the energies of the prototype be present in this reflection. The symbol itself is a universal phenomenon; but, according to the doctrine of St. Dionisius the Areopagite, what is essential, is the fact, that a multi-stage hierarchy is made from the symbols, and each posterior member is a symbol of the upper one and is signed (symbolized) by the lower one. So, the gold is an icon of the light, and the light is an icon of divine energies. As if we could see how a mirror sends a fallen ray to another mirror. It is what St. Dionisius the Areopagite talks about: ";This mirrors, when piously received the light committed to them, immediately and without an envy pass it to the following ones according to the divine laws".

The image of light itself in its role of spiritual symbol shows two sides, which should be clearly distinguished. On one hand, the light is lucidity, which opens the world for sight and cognition, which makes the being clear and which displays the borders of things. In this very sense the Gospel According to John speaks about the presence of Christ as a light: ";Walk, while there is still a light, so that darkness couldn't come over you, and that walking in the darkness never knows where he goes" (12, 35). On the other hand, the light is a shine, ravishing soul, wondering mind and blinding eyes. In this sense the Book of Exodus speaks about the Divine glory as a flaming lustre: the view of the Divine glory ";as devouring fire" (24, 17). This lustre can be formidable, as a fire, or as a lightning, or as ";glory of light", which blinded Saul (Acts of Apostles 22, 11); it can be, on the contrary, consolatory, rejoicing and warming the heart, like an evening glow, with which one of the oldest church canticles compares the light of Divine glory: ";Peaceful Light of the divine glory" In traditional translation the Greek word ";hylards" is rendered with a word ";peaceful", but it could also mean ";joyful", ";clear", ";merciful". The best way to translate it is the Russian word for ";consoling". It is necessary to stress, that the word ";hylards" in ancient texts was applied to the shine of heavy gold. For a faithful heart the fear of God and the joy of God are not excluding, but, on the contrary, requiring each other displays of love: ";Serve to the God with fear and rejoice at him with trepidation" (Psalter 2, 11).

In the gospel apparition of the Holy Jerusalem of Above both images of light - transparent clarity and heavy shining - are united in such a way, that they are correspondent to substances of glass and gold: ";the city was a pure gold, like a clear glass" (Revelations 21, 18). This symbol of pierced by Divine energies, made divine, and therefore light-bearing substance keeps its significance for the whole Christian tradition, but in religious art of the East and the West it is materialized in different ways: while Byzantine Empire works out mosaics with golden backgrounds, the West creates stained-glass window. In the mosaics even the glass of smalt itself is to reflect and to refract, but not to pass light through; its shine, as shine of gold, is not transparent. On the contrary, the stained-glass window celebrates transparency of glass, its ";availability" to the outer world. It seems that the stained-glass window contains the germ of New European realism. Thus Christian East and Christian West put accents on the two different sides of two-fold image of Apocalypse in their own ways.

Representing the image of the flaming shine of Divine glory, the gold has a special attitude to the bearers of this glory - to angels. Nature of an angel is completely spiritual, ";clever", as it's called on the ascetics language - and because of its ";cleverness" it is fiery, ";flame-looking".

The gold is connected not just with light, but with the sunlight especially. Common concept of symbolism of the gold and symbolism of the Sun is ancient idea of pious king, who brings ";golden age" to his subjects, or, what's the same, ";the Sun age". In the Old Testament the prophet Malachi tells about Kingdom of Heaven approach in the following way: ";the Sun of Righteousness will rise" (4, 2). For a Christian the Sun of Righteousness is one of the names of Christ, of the Heavenly King. But the gold is also an attribute of king's dignity; as a Byzantine exegete explains the sense of gifts brought by the magi, ";the gold was brought to Him as to a King, because we bring the gold to the king as his subjects" (Pheophylact the Bolgarian). The Old Testament image of Solomon, as a king by preference, is all surrounded by golden shine.

Let's mention, for example, description of gold-chasing works in Solomon's Temple (3 Gospel of Kingdom 6, 15; 7, 21; 2 Gospel of Kingdom 3, 4). In the 21st psalm, which is entitled ";About Solomon" it is said: ";And I'll give him from the gold of Arabia" (15). The golden glory also signs the image of the Bride of the sacred Messiah King: ";and the Queen came to Your right hand in ophirian gold; her cloths was embroidered in gold" (Psalms 44, 10, 14). As it is generally known, this verse was unanimously understood in Christian exegetics as a prophecy of the Virgin. Here we come close to the idea that pure gold can symbolize purity of virginity. As virginity for a Byzantine is not only spiritual light, but spiritual shine, or better to say, ";pre-shine". So it's clear that the Virgin can be called ";golden-shining bedchamber of the Word", and also ";all-golden vessel", ";ark gilded by the Spirit" - we could multiple examples endlessly.

Thought creating images tried to make obvious for itself a condition of God's creature before the Fall of Adam in the very beginning, when everything was ";quite well" - and a condition of the same creature as a result of final cosmic consecration and healing ";restoration" (";apocatastasis", about which Maxim the Confessor thought so much). One more thing is very important: every piece of gold treated by human proficiency on its way to shine passes through fire. Hearth, in which noble metal ";is tortured", already in the Old Testament has become a symbol for a ";heath of trial", in which a human soul is tested. ";Foundry is for silver, hearth is for gold, and hearts are tested by the Lord" (Book of Proverbs 17, 3). ";Then the test will start for those selected by Me, like gold is tested by fire" (3 Book of Ezra 16, 74). And for the New Testament as well the gold is connected with idea of sufferers clearing and a terrible test. To the Angel of Laodikeian Church, the languid spirit of which is ";not cold nor hot", it is said: ";I advise you to by gold from Me, which is cleaned by fire, so that to become reach" (Revelations 3, 18). Apostle Peter persuades the Christians to be strong during persecutions, ";so that to make your tested faith become more precious than the perishing though tested by fire gold" (I Peter 1, 7). That's why the precious metal becomes a symbol of world martyrdom. Even in ancient description of martyrdom of St. Polycarp it is said: ";And he was in the focus of fire not like a speaking flesh, but like gold or silver, being burnt in a stove".

Icon-painting represents objects as produced by light, but not as illuminated by a light source. For the icon-painting the light states and creates things, it is their objective reason, which couldn't be understood as an outer precisely by this reason. Indeed, technique and devices of the icon-painting are of such a kind, that the things represented by it couldn't be understood differently then as been produced by light, because it is impossible not to see the light-bearing celestial image as a root of spiritual reality of the represented. Sacrament of light - so we can define the icon-painting, because, according to the word of Apostle Paul, "everything becoming visual is the light" (Ephesians 5, 13).

Everything what is in content of any experience, that means all the being, is the light, and what is not light, is not being, because it is not reality. Darkness is fruitless, and that's why ";deals of darkness" are called ";unavailing" by the apostle. It is pitch darkness, ";besides", that is outside of God position. But the whole being, all the plenty of existence are in God, and what is outside God is infernal darkness, nothing, non-existence. Fruit of the light deals is investigation of God's will, cognition of disparity of dale world and its spiritual image, its idea, its Divine face, and this is exposure made by the light.

Gold has a similar sense in icon. Paint and gold are speculatively treated as belonging to different spheres of being. Byzantine icon-painters with help of the gold have stressed non-temporality, non-spatiality of perception of background of icon and at the same time light-bearing nature of the represented. This depth of light can be reproduced only by the gold, because the paint is unable to express what is invisible for corporeal eyes. The gold is the only source to depict in an icon what is referred directly to the Divine Force, to the appearance of the Lord's charisma. This appearance of graceful light is shown in icon by a golden halo around the saint's head. The halo is not an allegory, but a symbolic expression of concrete reality; it is a necessary content of an icon.

Besides icon background and halos, the gold as streams of assist is put on the vestments of the Savior and on all the other objects, which accentuate expression of the Divine Power. Assist is one of the most persuasive proofs of metaphysical sense of icon-painting. This delicate golden gauze remarkably fulfills ontological constitution of an icon. Assist by its golden stream signs direct expression of the Divine energies. It is the most concrete use of the gold, as a symbol of the Divine forces, as an expression of super-sensual form, which transpierces the visible.

So, the gold is an image of light as truth and glory, and though an expression of the Divine energies. But the light shining in the gold is precisely sunlight - a reflection of the "golden age", where the Sun of Righteousness, Christ, the Great Artist reigns, who creates by the light, "for the glory of His Grace", a picture of the world; all the divine house-building, where the creature is delivered from sin and decay and virginally shines by gold-bearing enlightened glory. The glory if virginity and the golden glory of the Kingdom are similar to each other in the Bride, professed by regal Psalmist. But what is essential. So that to be enlightened with clear lustre, the gold needs to burn in torturing and testing fire and to clean itself in it, as a human heat burning with love does.

3. Text as generator of information.

There are two ways to increase information possessed by an individual or a collective. The first one is receiving it from outside. In this case the information is worked out somewhere away and is passed to the receiver in a constant size. The text will contain the message got by the addressee, and it is available for extracting. The second one is different: the text plays only a mnemonic role (like a handkerchief with a small knot to remember). It needs to remind what the reminding knows without him. It is impossible to extract information from the text in this case, because only a certain part of information is received from outside, which serves as a stimulus provoking increase of information within the consciousness of the receiver. This self-increase of information, making structured the former amorphous consciousness of the receiver, means that the addressee plays much more active role, than that in case of simple transmission of a certain amount of knowledge. In case of receiving an informative stimulus, as a rule, it is a strictly regulated text, which furthers self-organization of receiving personality. Thoughts to rumble of wheels, to measured, rhythmic music, meditative mood stimulated by watching regular ornaments or totally formal geometric drawings, charming influence of word repeats - that are the most simple examples of increasing of inner information under the organizing influence the outer one. (The most precise example of it could be the influence of Jesus prayer in orthodox hesychasm practices. - Note by G.Ch.).

So, in one case the "work" is equal to a graphically fixed text: it has straight borders and relatively stable volume of information, in the other case a graphically or somehow else fixed text is just the most appreciable, but not the main part of the work. It needs to be additionally interpreted, to be included to a certainly less organized context. In the first case the form-building impulse is to assimilate this semiotic system to natural language, in the second it is music. The formal structure of the texts organized upon the model of natural language is a link between the addresser and the addressee. It plays role of a channal, which passes the information. The formal system of the texts organized upon the model of music composition is content of the information: it is passed to the addressee and re-organizes the information, which he already has in his mind, re-encodes his personality.
(J. Lotman)

Translated by Daria Pyrkina