Gnostic Imagery in Art

The nineteenth-century artist and poet William Blake expressed a distrust of the material world in his prolific writing and works of art. Blake, a mystic, created many images that resonate with those found in the ancient world of the Gnostics. Most scholars hesitate to call Blake a Gnostic, yet many of his mythological images suggest parallels in Gnostic cosmological angels, demons, and even the Gnostic Demiurge. Blake's series of line engravings for illustrations in the Book of Job combines images from his own personal mythology along with quotes from the Bible. Job's spiritual awakening, in Blake's view, had a parallel with the spiritual awareness and vision of the poet and artist. In his watercolor renderings for Dante's Divine Comedy, Blake painted Dante attired in a red color throughout the series to represent the carnal world of experience, and he depicted Virgil in blue to convey the world of spirit. These two worlds remain in conflict in Gnostic belief.

The painting of Sophia by artist Alex Grey is part of a series he calls “Sacred Mirrors.” The visionary artist has rendered many ancient mythological and Gnostic ideas into images of the archetypal beings who must struggle toward cosmic understanding and unity. Grey's paintings are as anatomically detailed as could be found in an atlas of human anatomy. His artistic vision is for a humanity that is flawed but that can become perfected. Grey's own personal journey into the world of transcendence through his own spiritual search enabled him to create twenty-one paintings, the Sacred Mirrors, that allow viewers to embark upon a journey into their own divinity. Recognition of an individual's divine nature and journey toward selfknowledge echo ancient Gnostic concepts.

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