Friday, April 11, 2014

The Lion Lamb mural

This is the third in a series of posts on the murals that are in the Pilgrim Center in Meherabad, India by Lyn and Phyllis Ott.

I call this one the Lion Lamb mural. Its real title though is "Peaceable Kingdom."

Click to enlarge. Photo by Ken Neunzig.
It was inspired by a common misquotation of a line from the Bible, from Isaiah in the Old Testament.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)
Now I bet some will guess, like I did, that there is a clear translation of what that passage means somewhere. But the fact is there is no actual agreement on what the words refer to. However, among the many wonderful attempts I combed, I found this one the most endearing.
Wolves will live with lambs. Leopards will lie down with goats. Calves, young lions, and year-old lambs will be together, and little children will lead them. (GOD'S WORD® Translation)
But we get the idea whatever it is, and the image is as a matter of fact classic and real Christian tradition, in spite of what the Bible does or doesn't say.

Now let's take a look at the painting up close, cause this is that kind of painting. It was painted up close, and so that's where we find all the fun. The painting is meant to depict Baba sitting atop Seclusion Hill, with Meherazad far below in the background, based on a famous photo of Baba there. Dad did the mountain and put in Baba's figure, and then my mother and I (I under her direction) filled it in with the details from the decided theme.

Lookie here (above). It doesn't get more adorable than this. The little children are by my mother entirely. The lamb is drawn by me and painted by her. Don't miss Mom's other little shepherd waving at us from the bottom of the hill in the background.

Click to enlarge. Drawing the lamb. 1975
Photo by Phyllis Ott
As all who know me know, it has always been a point of pride that I was allowed to help in these paintings when I was so young, and no description I give of their painting goes without some mention of it. Luckily I have some photos. What is nice here in this black and white of me drawing, if you click and enlarge it, is you can see my father's charcoaled-in figures where the distant shepherd and goats would be. The larger children were a more spontaneous afterthought by my mother.

Now for the lion. Grrrrr.

Happily, I got to paint every stroke of the lion. But I must say its paws and nearly human features show I could have used a bit more adult supervision. It was a real lion at our local zoo, Serpent City, who posed for this lion, never realizing his inevitable immortality.

The picture below shows a bit of the evolution of this lion's face, and also shows Dad's original majestic drawing of Baba. I think at this state the integration of the whole painting seemed more promising than it turned out. If you look carefully you'll see a bird that never made it into the final image.

Now you know more than you ever needed to know about Peaceable Kingdom, another of these charming paintings and, seen up close, one of the most charming.

Let us hope that the world will one day be so peaceable, and that truly one day the lion and the lamb come to lie down together in Baba's garden.


The "lion and the lamb shall lay down together" (though not an exact Bible passage often given as an abbreviation for one) is often cited as a prophecy of a literal utopia that will come to earth, a golden age, referred to in Christianity as "The Millennium." This is also referred to as "paradise restored" since things were this way between man and beast in the Garden of Eden. It is taken in Christianity that ancient Jewish prophesies referred to this still-yet-to-come time, and that Jesus' return would play a large part in it.

However the lion and the lamb have other complex meanings within Christianity. In Revelations in the Bible we hear in one passage mention of both a lion and a lamb, but here the symbolism is entirely different. Both represent Jesus in different aspects of his role in Old Testament prophesy.
Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. (Revelation 5:5-8)
It is this lion that we see represented in Christian children's fiction, The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis.

Although really speaking the lion in Lewis' fantasy allegory turns out to play both roles from Revelations, the lion and the lamb, as Aslan the lion is also slaughtered as the lamb in the story on the table that cracks.

However, one can also see in Lewis allusions to the peaceable kingdom reference of lion and lamb. For as all familiar with his stories know, animals speak to people and one another and are lead by the spiritual children Lucy, Edmond, Susan, and Peter, the "daughters of Eve and the sons of Adam." This is all golden age symbolism.

In Hinduism it is the Tiger that plays the significant role in religious symbolism. And this will be discussed when we come to the Pilgrim Center mural titled, "Repose in the Garden."

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