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Thursday 18 December 2014


The artist stands by his painting pondering it when a woman comes to stand beside him.

'I never understand your paintings. To me the colours and forms do not seem aesthetically pleasing.'

The artist considers this and says, 'Perhaps it is because what you find aesthetically pleasing is merely what corresponds to the world of nature and I try to convey not nature itself but my soul's experience of nature.'

'Is that why you paint roses green?'

'When I see a red rose, and I look within my soul, its imprint is green and this to me is the essential nature of the rose - its counterpart, or hidden spirit. This one might say is the truth of the rose, what is hidden from physical eyes - the green seen only by the eyes of my soul! For me this truth is more beautiful than the red you see with outer eyes, and which is only it's outer material counterpart.'

The woman looks at the painting and closes her eyes. She opens them excitedly. 'I see what you mean! But for me it is a different experience.'

'How so?'

'Well, the moment you painted that rose green on the canvas, it acquired a material substance which is seen by me as green with my eyes. Your soul's spiritual experience when made physical is a physical experience for me until I look inside myself and find the red rose again!'

'I hadn't thought of that, but I suppose you are right! When you look at the green rose, inside you, you now have a red counterpart which corresponds to what I have made physically perceptive! How odd!'

'You have added something to creation, turned spirit into matter through your soul.'

'And you have turned the matter I have created into spirit in yours! The cycle returns, the rose is red but this time it is red in your soul!'

'I have learnt something now...!' says the woman, 'I have learnt that I must pay more attention to everything I see and note its counterpart for its truth!'

'And I have learnt that whatever I create, no matter what it is will always bring the spirit down into matter and by doing so take the spirit truth out of it!' he says dejectedly.

'Unless you show both!' she offers.

'How do you mean?' the artist asks, almost breathless.

'When you look at a yellow bale of hay, do you not notice how its shadow is always purple?'

'Yes! Indeed! You mean one can show both counterparts together and in this way the experience in the soul of the viewer will always be complete, no matter whether they are seeing it physically or spiritually?'

'When I look at your green rose now,' the woman says to him, 'I see the red hovering all around it...is this not the spiritual shadow? I see the activity of both physical and spiritual!'

The painter smiles widely, so widely it fills the world with warmth.

The woman has never seen this young man, who looks so old in his eyes and so tormented, smile this way before, and she walks away from him smiling too because the world has changed for her now. The world will never be the same and her soul will also never be the same. For she has realised what it means to free the soul so that it can find its wings!

The artist now contemplates his painting in a new light. He realises that in expressing the spirit of the red which is green, he has created a physical green, whose spirit is red!

'So that is what old man Goethe was trying to say!' he says to himself, almost with a chuckle. 'I have been trying to understand it all my life and now I do! If I only show one side of existence, be it spiritual or physical, it will never speak the whole truth and it will, therefore, never be beautiful! I must show both and not merely that! I must show how they interact - how they converse. To perceive this one needs a higher faculty than the faculty of imagination, which knows only the image of the opposite. One must be able to observe the conversation of opposites that goes beyond words, a form of seeing which is a hearing! A hearing that does not need ears to perceive it - and yet, and yet! Which has been inspired by words, just as red in the eyes, inspires green in the soul, and green, red!

'My conversation with that woman has reconciled the opposites in my soul and I have come to something higher! This must be what happens when the gods converse with their creations, they learn something and rise higher! The creator learns from His creation and His creation becomes creative, in turn a creator who again learns from His creation! And the cycle continues...

'But how to express this mystery without using words! Using only colours, shadows, light and lines? How to show the weaving movement of inner and outer, darkness and light, image and after image, colour and counterpart, spirit and matter, matter and soul, soul and spirit? After all, to show what inspiration is, I must first be inspired by God! I must enter into His soul, just as the red rose has entered into mine!'

Thinking such deep thoughts Van Gogh leaves his paintings behind and with a frown and fitful purpose goes out into the starlit night, in search of inspiration...

...And he finds it by listening with his eyes.

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