Spiritual Sight
June 14, 2006


Scripture teaches us that spiritual sight is a form of comprehension taught to us by the Spirit of God and can only be understood with the help of the Spirit. The concept reminds me of the curious way two persons can take the same journey, drawing profoundly different impressions. Perhaps Elizabeth Barrett Browning defined spiritual sight best:

"All of earth is crammed with heaven,
and every bush aflame with God,
but only those who see take off their shoes."

The artists who responded to “Spiritual Sight” are those who do see, figuratively taking off their shoes at the sight of the holy and capture images of the world aflame with God. Their work may soothe or startle, but either way, it awakens us to the call of the Spirit of God to comprehend eternal truths from the world we inhabit.

The opening image for “Spiritual Sight” is a Celtic sun dial reminding us of the profound spiritual wisdom found in valuing nature and walking with God and all of his creatures of the world.

The light of the sun, an ancient manifestation of God, gives us symbols with which to see spiritual truths and reminds us that our maker is “Light from light, true God from true God.” In works shown here the stamen of a flower resembles the sun itself, without which it could not grow, yet lilies bloom in the dark, sending roots inward where spiritual growth happens; red and gold bands represent the joy of the sun and the redemption of man through baptism as a gift of God while fabric art depicts the waning of the light during a mountain twilight; mist rises from valleys in mountains during times of low light, and shadows in an orchard challenge us to consider our responsibility toward this earthly paradise God has provided. Relics glow golden; a mandala glows with first light; Gethsemane twinkles with filtered light, catching the intense colors of the garden’s flowers; an etching of light invites us to contemplate the possibility that we are part of what we see – sunshine, starlight – and that we are living in a constant and current creation. Creation of the world is envisioned by multiple artists, while another reveals unity as a twinkling light of energy and another responds to C.S. Lewis’ description of the energy of the Creator as bands and "corpuscles" of light and color.

The theme of light reveals the Holy Trinity in magnificent colors of the rainbow, and a sunset is captured for eternity in stained glass. One artist found a cross created by windowpanes and light. Prisms of the rainbow fill Grace Cathedral, and similarly, yet so differently, gold leaf and vermilion “dots of holiness” lead the way to the light at the National Cathedral. The artist so aptly states, “Creativity is where the veil between man and God becomes transparent.”

Nature is another subject used to provide glimpses of spiritual sight. One artist invites us to see all the hidden and revealed aspects of life with an image of pure white Solomon’s seal; another shows us a rose blooming beside a Celtic Cross; another shows us that the Good Friday cross is more than merely wood. An icon shares the burning bush of Moses, and another artist shares the vibrant colors of her garden while an iris arches over a peaceful mountain pass.

Man-made symbols are subjects that reveal spiritual truths as the ichthus carved in stone reveals multiple layers of symbol that may be decoded through spiritual sight. Palms on the doors of a church in Zanibar show us a Christian community that does not give up nor measure its spiritual experiences in earthly terms.

Artists also turned to scripture and the Book of Common Prayer to examine spiritual sight found therein.

More than any other expression revealed by “Spiritual Sight”,
I see the intense joy experienced by artists who revel in the pleasure of being alive and being allowed to see. Take off your shoes and join them as you approach the burning bush that is the presence of God in this world.

Jan Neal, Curator
ECVA Program Director



 top of page

2006 The Episcopal Church and Visual Art