Introduction: Multimedia Resources

At different periods of history and in various cultures spirituality, religion, and worship have varied widely. People who were trying to be spiritual have had very different ideas of what meditation could be and what subjects would guide them to be more at peace with and more connected to the divine. Please take a moment to surf through some of the images and sounds that have been used in spiritual practice. Some of these were religious and some are not, but all of them were attempts to guide either the artist or the audience to a deeper level of integration with the "divine."

Take a look at Salvador Dali's Crucifixion. Does this joining of classical style and "modern" cubism say something about the artist's view of spiritual/devotional life? What do you read into his use of a classically styled and executed worshipper and a non-realistic floating Jesus on a cross of cubes?

What can you deduce about the spirituality of these very different depictions of spirit life in these images of angels, saints, and the deities?

How were these images similar to and different from the angels, spirits, or demons in current popular understanding?

Buddha in Vajrasana from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia demonstrates yet another kind of religious devotional practice and spirituality. This thangka is a catalogue of saints, but it is also a meditation device--a visual focus during meditation. Another form of visual focus is the mandala a circular painting used to focus the thoughts in parts of Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

In Christian practice, a cross or crucifix is used as a focus for contemplation, and in Catholic spirituality, images of God and the saints are also used during worship. Russian Orthodox Christianity has a tradition of a particular style of painted image--the icon--which serves as a focus during both public and private prayer.

Modern iconography includes many diverse approaches to spirituality including sexual minority saints. These icons were painted by Br. Robert Lentz, a Roman Catholic Franciscan friar, stationed at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Music has always been associated with spiritual practices. These pieces of music are associated with a variety of understandings of spirituality.

Note that these pieces of religious music are often for group participation, but sometimes they are specifically composed for a solo artist.

Check out "The Three Hermits" a short story by Leo Tolstoy. This is one of my favorite of Tolstoy's stories. I particularly enjoy the comparison and contrast of the good and wise bishop and the unusual hermits.

In all of these pieces of art and music what can you determine about relation to other persons and to the divine? I suggest you also think about the relationship between the group and the individual. Is some worship for the individual alone and some kinds of worship for the wider community?

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