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In the philosophy of The New Gnosis, sensory qualities such as light and darkness, colour and form are recognised as the outer expression of inner soul qualities. Soul qualities themselves are not simply sentimental ‘feelings’ which certain ‘romantic’ artists then symbolised through their depictions of nature. Soul qualities are innate sensual qualities intrinsic to awareness itself – for example its sensed light, spatiality or mood colour. The Romantic and Symbolic artists did not simply use sensory objects, scenes and landscapes to symbolically ‘represent’ ideas or feelings in their own soul. Instead they used their own light, darkness and mood-colours of soul to sense and resonate with the soul qualities of nature itself. Natural landscapes did not serve simply as a screen on which to project dreamlike, subjective qualities of the human soul into nature – as if the human soul were something apart from that of nature itself. Instead both natural and dream landscapes were felt as landscapes of soul – revealing both the natural soul of man and the divine soul of nature. Nature and man were felt to have a common source in the soul world. But only in the light of the artist’s soul-sensitivity to nature can its sensory qualities of light and colour come to light as expressions of a divine spiritual light and its divine soul-colours. In Böcklin’s Sacred Wood the artist brings this light to radiant luminescence whilst at the same time hinting at its darkly hidden source in the world of soul. The human figures have filed forth from the darkness of the wood and its ‘symbolic’ door – a gateway between the sense world and the world of soul. Yet though they bow in reverence to the flame as the smoking ‘symbol’ of a spiritual fire and light, in the gaze-light of the artist the figures themselves are bathed in its glowing, golden-olive luminescence - for like the water beneath them they are but one reflection of its en-lightening radiance.


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