My Mind, My Heart, My Soul
Found 09/2010, Goodwill (183 and Metric)
One of the centerpieces of the alternative spirituality gallery, My Soul (often inaccurately titled “Here Within vs. Here Without”) is majestic and inscrutable. The canvas is over three feet wide, and filled with symbolism that demands immediate interpretation. (Full image at left.)
A strictly literal survey of the image: High overhead, in a segment of the image that suggests clouds or tree branches, a woman in distinctly military garb (“Reality”) has, with sniper rifle, killed the figure labelled “Truth.” “Truth” is shown as a blond woman wearing a less practical golden dress, modern clothing but perhaps alluding to the Greek style of dress for goddesses and women.
Truth’s blood, or perhaps ichor, runs down a strange sort of staircase to the world below, a “Jacob’s Ladder” that connects the strange world of gods and allegories to the earthly world. Her blood is piped and pumped into a fountain, where robed figures consume her fluids. In doing so, these figures are transformed into aums, a Sanskrit symbol suggesting soul, the ultimate truth of the universe, the sun.
What are we to make of this complex image? “Truth” and “Reality” seem like siblings, near-synonyms. And the aum, itself, is a symbol of a universal truth. Reality seems to be the practical, day-to-day world. Truth, ironically, is fragile, subjective, and ultimately vulnerable.
Below, the robed figures line up, gathered in some sort of ritual. This, perhaps, is the world of organized religion, of empty form that impedes true spiritual awakening (represented as the transformation into the aum). We do not know what transpired before the death of truth: the arch, the stairs, the fountain suggest that perhaps Truth had been feeding her cult for quite some time. But through the death of “Truth,” a religion that espouses one path to Heaven, her followers are liberated from their false dogma to float free as symbols of a higher, universal truth.
Both of the piece’s titles: My Mind, My Heart, My Soul and Here Within vs. Here Without suggest an internal multiplicity, though the true title (My Soul) may suggest harmony as well as conflict. Both allude to the challenge of reconciling what we know to be true against what is demonstrably real, and as well, what the rest of the world assumes. None of these is necessarily true in a universal sense, but enlightenment may come from moving past the illusion that any of these contains the fullness of experience.