More Than Ecumenism

  1. If he says that art is a gift from above and that he gives her - "his beloved sister" - all that is best and most beautiful in him, and he himself remains stained and sinful, he expresses a call of the Gnostics that wakes the Divine spark that is asleep in the matter.
  2. If he hints that the law of karma encompasses the Law of Moses and the law of virtue of traditional Christianity, he also drives our intuition in the reverse direction - who believes in the resurrection of the flesh shall be resurrected together with Christ in the flesh and therefore is free from the inevitability of the law of karma. It is commonly known that the Orthodox Church has in its calendar a mysterious saint from India - saint Josaphat.
    There has also been a flow in the opposite direction. In the art of Tibetan Buddhism we find an image of Jesus that - like the countless Boddhisatavhs' icons - enjoys great worship in Tibet. The old Tibetan chronicles mention a Wonder-worker from the West named Jesus. Could the two great religions have met still in Jesus Christ's lifetime? Doesn't this very possibility arouse our hopes in some broader, panecumenic sense? I think that this question can be answered only in the words of Julian the Apostate: "This has never happened but is forever true".
  3. When he states that everything is erotic, that the icon of St. Praxede is a Christian version of goddess Cali, that the full synthesis of the spiritual matters with the empirical reality is achieved in a woman and that he wants that realization (in the artistic sense) to be carnal, to be a subtle flesh with all the properties of real flesh - he takes our consciousness to the distant regions of experiences of oriental religions.
    There is a great oriental ecstatic cult called Tantra that is present in all Indian religions. The term "Tantra" derives from the "tan" stem which means to continue, to multiply and in Tantrism implies a continuous development to broaden the limits of our cognition. According to the Buddhist tradition it was initially developed in the 2nd century after Christ by Nagarjuna, the greatest thinker of medieval India, author of the religious and philosophical system of Madhyamica. On the other hand the introduction of Tantrism is attributed to Asanga, the great master of Yogacara. Within several centuries the whole spiritual life of India - from philosophy to poetry to mystics, and finally to iconography - was influenced by that movement and cult. Iconography was totally destroyed, after India was invaded by the Muslim and the Buddhist culture, it survived in its unique, uncontaminated form only in the Vajarayana of Tibetan Buddhism.
    According to Tantric mystics the absolute reality (shunya) is capable of annihilating all dualism. It should be pointed out that woman and the concept of a subtle flesh play the key roles in Tantra. If we juxtapose Nowosielski's series of black acts with the image of goddess Cali with a black face, we shall have an impression that we cross a thin footbridge that links two distant banks. In the Villa dei misteri series we find a kind of a moving reinvention of the religious mystery of woman. Feminine energy plays the key role in Tantric images and only through cooperation with it can a Tantricist achieve any progress in self-realization. The final aim of this realization is to reconcile the two old opposites - the physical and the spiritual element in man.
  4. If he stresses that the only "icon" that Indian art has created is an image of a naked woman and that other icons, including those of God, Buddha and of numerous Bodhisattvahs "have been no good" - there is a kind of synthesis but also some omission in it. The icon of God himself has never been revealed to anyone. Only through Jesus incarnated in man can we access the Person of God the Father. Except for the "icon" of a nude woman Indian art has also had some other icons like the "icon" of Haricara.Tibetan Buddhism has also created many sacred images of the tanka. Some of them are doubtless "icons", especially the images of Buddha and Bodhisattvahs. The Tibetan "icons" are the messages and materializations of enlightened energies. Two schools of painting have survived till this day, others exist in a passive form. The realization of "icons" is compatible with the canon and any changes to the essential artistic elements are unacceptable and distort the flow of the enlightened energies. When the master considers a form to be realized according to the tradition, the "image can come alive", the "tanka's eyes may be opened". The master paints the eye pupils and recites appropriate mantras. After the blessing the master writes the holly syllables on the reverse according to the clusters of power of the forms depicted. The lack of chiaroscuro, the way of painting the background, and the linear dryness exclude the presence of naturalist elements, helping perceive the enlightened energies, and enabling insight into the absolute reality (shunya). Gods without the status of ontological existence are the manifestations of this reality. This universal emptiness (shunya) is not identical with non-existence but it is permanent, substantial, absolute, and as such it is called vajra (diamond).
    Both in the artistic and Tantric realization it is indispensable to be initiated by the master. He can pass on the mystery directly - "from mouth to ear". Thus we have returned to the starting point of our discussion i.e. to the mysteriosophy of the West which at the beginning of our era included gnosis, hermetism and the traditions of ancient mysteries.
Nowosielski's "otherness" is not limited to the otherness of his orthodoxy. What is found in his painting and theology is by far broader that the issues related to the traditions both of Eastern and Western Christianity. The structure of his meditation resembles a garden full of new paths. There is a bright clearing and there are distant, shady and mysterious nooks there. Each of the paths is part of a long individual Road. You can move in any direction here or take one of the four cardinal ones: the Christian, the Gnostic, the Oriental or the Tantric.
I hope the metaphor of a garden with four main paths shows how much Jerzy Nowosielski's statements and intuitions - despite the many consciously introduced contradictions - join into one whole whose dark and bright spheres are tightly interwoven and supplement one another.
Attempts at fathoming Nowosielski's mystery can only be compared to the daring and possessed efforts of Nagarjuna to reveal the paradoxes veiled in the everyday consciousness of man by thoughtless phraseology and indifference to reflection. In the absolute sense there is no artist or picture. There is however a condition, an extreme situation that we have no name for in the human tongue. Maybe the "incarnation" or "Bodhisattvah" is something or somebody that brings that condition a little closer.
It is certain that we are witnesses of a waking new panecumenical consciousness that shall most probably be realized in the third millennium after Christ. Let us however confine ourselves to this intuition. As Nowosielski puts it: "... there are things that we shudder to talk about because we might touch things that are too fiery, and burn our hands".
(Review of a book by Jerzy Nowosielski, “Inność Prawosławia” [The Otherness of the Orthodox Church], "Tygodnik Powszechny" no. 48, 1991)

Władysław Podrazik