Saturday, March 29, 2014

The El Greco mural

Sometimes I post articles that address superstitions that unintentionally get carried over into Meher Baba lore. My hope is always to help people see that these are not in Baba's teaching, but can seem to be. In this post I have the opportunity to address a possible misunderstanding based on superstition and at the same time talk about another of the paintings in the Meher Pilgrim Center in India. See my last post for the first in this short series of posts on those paintings by Lyn and Phyllis Ott.

Here I wish to discuss a painting that, unusual for the murals which were generally close collaborations between Lyn and Phyllis, was painted entirely by Lyn alone. It is good to understand that the year these paintings were done, 1975, Lyn was at the very tail end of his career, as his eyesight was quickly failing. To paint without help was nearly impossible. The final paintings ever done by Lyn alone were done the year following the murals, in 1976, and all of them are printed in his only published book, In Quest of the Face of God.

So keep in mind this limitation of eyesight when looking at this painting. The painting below that I'm going to discuss is titled Fiery Free Life. Yet one woud be hard pressed to find any direct symbolism of the enigmatic phase of Baba's work that Baba gave this name to in 1952.

Click to enlarge. Photo by Ken Neunzig
For that reason I refer to it here as the El Greco mural. For the saddled figure and servant to the right are based on a famous painting of St. Martin of Tours and a boy by the 16th century painter El Greco. One can see that St. Martin is painted as Baba. The image in the mural is actually reversed from the original. This was probably done in order to have the knight face Baba in the painting's composition. There is of course a second mysterious horse, representing the white horse avatar.

The next thing to notice in the painting is the city of gold on the left, an image that I believe was inspired by a dream by Lyn shortly before he heard of Meher Baba. In the dream he reached the peak of a snowy mountain and beheld in the distance a city of gold, and noticed little church steeples in it.

Finally, there is only one more element in the sparse composition worth noting, and that is the (at first) strange appearing disk above the city that could give a person the impression of a flying disk or flying saucer.

This was almost certainly unintentional, and there are a number of reasons that I say this. To begin, Lyn never mentioned this as a deliberate piece of the design, and it was precisely the kind of thing that he would have discussed with me, as secret symbols were a conscious part of the paintings he and I enjoyed and would sit about and try to think of. The second reason I do not believe it to be an intentional three dimensional object is that Lyn had no personal interest in the topic of flying saucers, beyond the ordinary guest banter that was always light hearted and humorous. And finally, Lyn was too knowledgeable about the history of religious art to believe that adding a flying saucer had ever in history been a part of any real religious or mystical tradition – in spite of the content of sensational novels and psuedodocumentaries such as Chariots of the Gods.

The following video describes and explains away this common misconception that continues to be spread in our own time.

If the unpainted disk had any deliberate intention it was compositional and if it had meaning it was meaning known only to Lyn, like the squares that appeared in his paintings in the last years of his career. If he had an explanation for these, he did not share it with me.

However, it is fun to notice that this is there, and wonder about it.

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