Temenos 4: Into Unknowing

This is the fourth image in the series of Temenos paintings. The introduction to this sequence of work can be found here.

I reached the peak of my knowledge about faith in my early twenties. I knew so much, particularly about God and who God did and didn’t accept, what behaviour he (and God was definitely a he) found acceptable and what would send me on the slippery slope to hell. My belief was strong and firm and I clung to it until my knuckles were white because to leave go would mean risking the wrath of this loving God (and he was only angry at me because he loved me so much). The following 20 years have been a continual unfolding and deepening understanding of my own ignorance. I hadn’t realised how small my world was, and whilst I could laugh and roll my eyes at my naivety I think it’s fair to say that none of us realises just how small our view of the world really is – how can we? The goldfish can only begin to conceive that there may be more to the universe if it’s moved from a fish tank to a lake. I simply believed what those I trusted told me about God, it was only when I began to step out and explore for myself that I realised there was so much more.

These are disconcerting moments when previously held certainties melt away. The fourth image in the Temenos series begins to explore this: the clarity of the ancient icon dissolving, shifting and changing. The elements are still there but the image becomes unclear, even disappearing entirely. At the same time tangled lines of thought and experience, confusing and unsettling begin to resolve into a gentler flow. This is the path of unknowing that leads to sacred space, it is an unweaving of the structures that have held us securely perhaps for most of our lives.

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New places, and encountering different cultures do this to us. We being to understand that not everyone thinks like we do, not everyone experiences the world in the same way as we do and so assumptions that we’ve made about the way the universe is are called into question.

When these moments in our lives arise, when the solid certain ice begins to melt into deep clear water, we face a choice. We can cling in fear to what remains of the solid ground, closing our ears to voices that disturb us by excluding the experiences and lives of those who challenge us. Or, we can realise this moment as a generous gift, a time to leap into the deep.

The leap is fraught with risk and uncertainty for sure. This is a fearful moment when we prise our fingers away from the deeply held certainties we have clung to in the past and there may well be a genuinely sense of grief at what we have lost, but it is the way forward to freedom.

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