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The Will of the Human Spirit

The Will of the Human Spirit
Ignorance & Stupidity

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Face of Jesus revealed / The Gospel of Judas

Hans Zimmer - chevaliers de sangreal

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Being creative by nature, artists constantly explore various methods for creative expression. While growing up, I always sketched three dimensional drawings in an effort to bring to life some form of creative expression. Artists almost always have a rebellious instinct and go out of their way to defy convention and tradition, often in constant search for the truth in a battle to struggle free from the remote controlled mainstream. Among my first religious works was a preparation for a painting of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. However, for me this had to be different. It is probably one of the most dominant recorded interpretations in art throughout history. Scholars and artists had tried to captivate and depict the crucifixion of the Son of God ever since that momentous event, perhaps hoping to capture or understand something about the character of Jesus himself. In their efforts of self expression, artists instinctively strive to evoke human emotion in their audience as never done before, perhaps subconsciously hoping that they will find what they struggled to discover in themselves. However, it always infuriated me how so-called art critics would analyze an artists work. Such overbearing, self-deluded arrogant academics know nothing of art or psychology. I rarely ever looked at paintings, unless they were hanging in a museum, and religious depictions were too common to take any real notice of. Perhaps it was my creative instinct telling me that such works of art were personal to the artist and as such to be treated with respect and dignity, although from another point of view they were fascinating depictions of moments captured in time.

The vision I had of how my finished painting of the crucifixion of Jesus would look may have been the result of the personal trauma in my own life. Mourners were gathered at the foot of the cross, as the centurion who supervised the events mercifully restrained his men from removing them, especially since one of them had already broken the legs of the two thieves crucified on each side of Jesus. This centurions leniency was not out of compassion, but out of honouring Jewish tradition and a certain amount of sadistic contempt. However, compassion was not lost. After the calm had settled and the sky had become unusually overcast amid the eery silence, filled only by the sounds of wailing and sobbing, the centurion observed all around him looking for an empathetic response to the darkening skies. He looked into the eyes of the bereaved and saw something different from what he had witnessed throughout all his military experiences. He saw grown men sobbing uncontrollably. He saw some of his men struggling to contain their own emotions, trying to maintain their masculinity. As the centurion surveyed all around him, he observed that all eyes were fixated on the face of the man on the cross, who regained his last moment of strength to raise his head to the sky, as he cried, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”

For the viewer, all that we could witness were the lower part of the bloodied legs, bound tightly to the bark by a blood soaked rope and the huge nail buried deep into the heels of the feet, securing them to the ledge supporting the rest of the body upon the unshaven thick timber. The glistening splinters on the skin could barely be seen among the odd patch of visible flesh, otherwise covered by the crimson blood. It spilled over the ledge, dripping onto the large pegs below hammered firmly into the ground, securing the timber to it, surrounded by a pool of blood that saturated into the earth. We could see the tormented expressions on the faces of those gathered as they looked up, some with arms outstretched, begging to be taken too. Their tear drenched eyes were painfully red and cheeks stinging with tears from bloodshot pain filled red eyes, just as one of the few figures still standing was a Roman soldier, who had cast his helmet to the ground, almost hoping that the support of his spear held in one hand would prevent his knees from buckling, as they trembled with weakness as the quaking earth and gathering wind swept through him. The centurions glare began to follow the same trajectory as the mourners, staring upwards, as his eyes held the unbearable pain of guilt in a man so accustomed to killing, subconsciously asking himself, "What have I done today?" The expressions on the faces of those gathered invite us into the scene, hopelessly begging to follow their captivated gaze. We want to see what they see. But we cannot. The reflection of the face of the man on the cross might have been captured in the eyes of one of those witnesses, had they not been so filled with tears.

However, unfortunately I didn't get to complete that painting in 1979, due to being distracted by another image I had seen in an encyclopedia collection. It was the Shroud of Turin.

Debate had already gathered about the authenticity of the shroud. While reading about the image, the author commented on how it seemed that the shroud had waited almost 2000 years for man to discover photography. This was my inspiration to sketch the face on the shroud. Saddened by the death of John Lennon, I had just completed a sketch of him, which I still have today. The only other portrait I had done was for a couple, who wanted a drawing of their nephew. I could see they were visibly moved by the result. Being meticulous, I spent considerable time on portrait drawings. The face of Jesus Christ was no exception. When it was completed, I discovered that the further stood away from it, the closer it drew us in. Sadly, in 1984, my mother passed away suddenly from Cancer. I was unaware she had Cancer, to the extent that I had already purchased a ticket for a ship to England, but for some unknown reason kept delaying it. Just weeks before, I had written a message on the reverse of the Shroud of Turin sketch. I placed it on my mother as she lay peacefully in her coffin.

Shortly afterwards, scientists were to conduct what was described as a thorough examination of the Shroud, hailed as finally revealing its authenticity. Carbon dating was relatively new in 1988, but was seen as revolutionary in terms of its accuracy. After delicately cutting a small piece from the Shroud, it was subjected to the carbon dating process. As the world waited in eager anticipation, a press conference was called, adding tension to the long awaited announcement. The results revealed that the garment alleged to have captured the actual image of Jesus Christ dated back to the middle ages era, and as a consequence, the Shroud was declared a clever hoax. However, rather than being dismayed, I was convinced that something was wrong. These suspicions were confirmed later, when science was embarrassingly shown to be incompetent. Among all the factors that a scientific mind should have considered the most crucial prior to conducting such a huge defining experiment, was the one most neglected, "common sense". The sample cut from the Shroud was taken from one of the most contaminated parts of the cloth, the corner, where it was held by many hands over the centuries while on display to the public.

Did Jesus command Judas to betray him? If he did, what would be the significance? The latter could raise far reaching questions and the consequences could potentially rock Christianity. Many who do not understand or cannot comprehend the role of Judas in the Bible simply dismiss it, or choose to dismiss the Bible altogether and create their own rationality to form a pattern that they can accept, which for them is the safer option. The fate of Jesus was already written and would have occurred with or without Judas. It could be reasonably argued that it is difficult to imagine that Jesus would not have been recognizable by the authorities when they came for him. Likewise, Jesus knew the destiny of Judas from the moment they first met. The debate could rage on, and in doing so, we miss the point and the significance of the `betrayal' of Christ. He gave us a clue earlier on, when he said, "If the world hates you, remember that the world hated me first". The message provides great comfort and reassurance for those in despair and alone. However, for many it is difficult to detach ourselves from the resulting speculation and conspiracy theories, so ultimately our own individual conclusions are a matter of `Faith' and our own personal relationship with God, which like it or not, we each do have a relationship with him, including the atheist. There is also the matter of separating the huge distinctions between our disputes with `God' and our disputes with `Religion'. For some, it is all dangerously too confusing, so we choose neither. We have formed unreasonable expectations if we choose to find all the answers within our view of the world today, which is corruptible. A priest, rabbi, imam or scientist cannot provide the answers either, since we are all corruptible. If we choose one and dismiss all others, it makes us contemptible and very lonely indeed, with arrogance as our only companion. For many, it is a matter of knowing what the `question' is and while our focus has been distracted, it is this dilemma that has escaped us most. As Christ himself said, "The Spirit is willing, but the Flesh is weak". Revealingly, these were among his last words before confronting his fate. How much more telling is it that among his dying words were, "Father, forgive `them' for `they' know not what `they' do". In this statement, Christ was revealing to us the seed that had been implanted and carried through each generation in each of us right up until today when we wake up in the mornings and look at our own reflection in the mirror, yet still fail to acknowledge who or what we truly are.