108- 2010 Futile Sacrifices

I finally found the courage to post this. I have never shown this to the public. It may be offensive to some people for different reasons. But, I feel the time is right to post it. Its an acrylic on Hardboard panel 24" x  32"

I posted this on my  Painting Demo Blog , not just my painting site  because it explains the whole process that was needed to make this painting . Its not a step by step of how the paint was applied to the panel but it does get into the planning and research side of it. It took hundreds of hours to plan it and perhaps less then 40 hrs to apply the paint.

This painting has a long history attached to it. But, the story line behind the subject material goes back thousands of years.   I researched the subject material for this work, off and on for more then 20 years, with far too many days and hours invested into it, then I want to disclose. I started the painting in 2010 after all the research, and didn't finish it until 2017.  It is based on Isaiah 1:11-13  'Bring no more futile sacrifices'. Since the beginning of time man has been offering up sacrifices to their gods. They would bring animals to their temples and sacrifice them in ceremonial ritual, in hope these burnt offering would appease their angry gods. They believed in a concept of a god that was separate from them, and this separation theology caused them to believe in what has been called substitutionary atonement. A living being was sacrificed as a substitute for the tribe so they could feel in right standing, at-one-ment,  again with their distant and angry deity.  This idea carried over from ancient temple worship to modern day Christianity where the Jesus character became the symbolic human sacrifice, that would end all this futile sacrifices once and for all. Progressive Christianity have rejected this idea,of any need for atonement at all, and along with it, the old view of a vindictive and angry tribal god, out there somewhere, that needs to be appeased.  They have realized a new way to view what the Divine is. Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven within us. The divinity and realm of heaven is found within our hearts, not at some remote location. The loving intelligence that is at the matrix of all being is found within. Modern Spirituality has come a long way and there has been a rethinking, and appreciating the deep underlying truth in the old myths. Myths in this sense is not necessarily false, but rather their symbolism brings out even greater truth, that have always been there, but not easily realized. Parables tell stories that bring out great truth but we don't believe the characters are actual persons who lived in real life, myth is similar except they are more like embellished storied that are based on oral stories, passed on through multiple generations and then written down decades or centuries later. They bring out great truths like parables, and are not meant to be always seen an historical literal fact. This painting is all about symbolism and myth and the power of myth to change lives.  I won't get into all that, here.

(detail section of the temple)

 In this painting  I have installed the Jewish holy temple which stood on the temple mount in Jerusalem, before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE.. The vantage point is looking westward from the slope of the mount of olives, where some historians believe the Crucifixion of Jesus took place 2000 years ago. More info here This is the setting of the painting, based on myth and reasoning of others,  that I have researched. It is on a day  when the animals were sacrificed and burnt offering were made. The sun is setting in the west over the temple and the smoke of the sacrifices are bellowing upward. I have Jesus on the cross at the same time the animals were sacrificed just before sunset. The eastern twin gates (Golden Gate) have been sealed up, off and on since the 9th century and has remained that way since 1541.click here Golden Gate In this painting I have them open. A causeway was said to have been there, according to one source, that led from the eastern gates to the mount of olives,it is believed to have intersected an old road that went to Bethany. This is where Romans crucified criminals and enemies of the empire, at a busy crossroad, so all would see.  At the moment of Jesus's death there was a myth that the temple curtain ripped in two pieces and exposed the  Holy of Holies  .That is why I have a white light shinning at the temple door opening, with imagination you could say its in the shape of a divine presence  Shekhinah leaving the temple.There is so much more symbolism but, I can't get into it all, here. It would take many pages to explain.I have a huge stack of research paper to back up my reasoning for this setting. Much of it is controversy, including this painting, concerning details of location, timing of events,  and whether it all happen as we have been told. I will not judge the truth of it all. This painting cannot be based on fact but it is more of a synthesis of myth. The bottom line, is the fact that nobody really knows exactly what happened so long ago. The painting is based on myth passed on to our generation. I turned it all into a painting that tells a different story then all other crucifixion paintings have done. Its totally different then any other painting I have done. Its a dark subject about a dark age that not everybody will appreciate, but its a story that needs to be brought out. 

I will add here also, other thoughts on design for this painting. You will notice the rays of the sun radiating outward from the sun center and upward  I fanned the original gesso brush strokes like that to create brush marks so the final paint coats would follow in those grooves. The sun setting directly over the temple is not uncommon in temple design and position, what adds to this painting is that it is seen precisely directly over the temple at the location of where the cross is placed, at the western mid slop of the mount of olives.It was at sunset that Jesus died on the cross. The temple is at the 1/3 horizontal and  1/3  vertical crossing point and the cross is intentionally tilted toward the temple slightly. The temple and sun are meant to be the main vocal point. The Moslem dome of the rock temple sits at the Jewish temple site today. The olive gardens were common at this location. If you look close there are figures in the garden looking toward the cross. The cross is dark because it is in shadow and I didn't want this image on the cross to be the main point of interest.

The idea that the Jesus character was looking toward the temple adds to the whole mythology because Christianity later made the crucifixion symbolic of him being the final sacrifice to supposedly end all ritual sacrifice.  However, this sacrifice, with symbols of wine (blood) and bread (body) are re-enacted continually over and over again in Christian ritual, to this day. It still proclaims a separation between us and God and it is only through belief in this blood sacrifice of Jesus that we can have access to the divine. It is just a remake of the old temple sacrificial system rebranded to be more socially acceptable. People still need a priest and an institution to have access to the holy presence in this system of belief. The unity message of Jesus was completely misunderstood. Its hard to see the small figures on the walkway through the eastern gates  but they all have a lamb following behind them. The whole sacrificial system of atonement was barbaric by modern human standards. The sheep going to the slaughter is a little side detail that is not easily seen on the digital small image you are looking at  on your screen. The smoke is the burnt offering being offered in the fire in front of the holy of hollies. I mentioned before the large curtain that separated people from the supposed seat and presence of God was ripped asunder the same moment Jesus died,according to the legend. The white light where the dark curtain is split in the center of the temple is symbolic of the spirit departing the earthly temple of stone (hardened hearts) and the beginning of it residing in the open spiritual hearts of the people. Or, put it this way, its symbolic in the sense that with the ripping of the veil of separation we now all have access to divinity. It resides in our spiritual heart, the true holy of holies. Jesus was the one who pointed to the new way, the new life and the new truth with his message of the kingdom of heaven found within. It was his message of individual access to the oneness of the divine Spirit, for all, that got him killed by the religion of separation theology. His message of the kingdom of heaven within all, did not fit well with both the Jewish and Roman system of ideology. For the past 2000 years it still did not fit with the ingrained idea of a separate god and the need for an institutional religion of belief and ritual, to regulate our access to the divine. The deeper story of Jesus is not  about blood sacrifice, although we can respect its symbolic effect, but, it is more about his message, the good news, that removes the veil of separation between us and the divine. His whole message in summary and the message in this painting, is the proclamation that we all have access to the divine presence, now, through the holy of holies found within our spiritual heart, it is not found in temples of stone or through tablets of clay. The message is loud and clear  'Bring no more futile sacrifices' on stone alters (with hearts clenched), for the kingdom of heaven is found within, in a open and pure spiritual heart, beyond the the veil of separation woven by a false sense of  an egoic self  and beyond  body and blood. This illusion of a separate egoic self is the root cause of all our perceptions of separation from others, nature and the divine presence. But, you will have to do your own research on all that. The wisdom teachings for thousands of years have been saying this, and now we have the internet full of information on this subject.

“God is born in the Heart and the Heart is born in God,” as the great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart

 Luke 17: 20-21   (the kingdom of heaven/God  is found within you )

I have my views on spirituality which can be found here. My other Blog