The silent eye : a study of the relationship which exists between the spiritual, art, imagination and the contemplative gaze in the context of religious education
A strong emphasis has always been placed on the cognitive, conceptual and rational aspects of Religious Education, while in general there has been a lack of recognition of the value of the non-rational aspects of spirituality; and of imagery and art in relation to Religious Education. In this study it is shown that a close relationship exists between seeing, imagery, insight and spirituality. It is argued that although definitions of the words spirit, spiritual and spirituality are often vague and imprecise, those that are successful often reveal something of the spiritual by using linguistic imagery, metaphor and symbol, in a highly visual or iconographic way. The evidence of religious experience indicates the importance of vision and insight and of the significance of the arts as a way of accessing the spiritual. Seventeen dimensions of spirituality are identified and become unifying themes throughout the thesis. It is argued that a powerful relationship exists between art and the spiritual. Through its many layers of meaning, complex range of non-direct, symbolic and metaphorical forms, art helps the spiritual to reveal itself. Through art, ideal spiritual values like truth, beauty and unity can be made visible. Above all, art is silent, inspiring contemplation and reflection. Just as the eye sees the outer-world, the inner-eye of the gaze can glimpse the spiritual. Gazing is an unhurried way of meaningfully seeing, which is free from the constraints imposed by logic, place, time, intentions and purpose. There is a certain sense of stillness, beyondness, at-oneness, mystery and transcendence about the gaze. Art is for the gaze, as the visible world is for sight. Imagination, with its ability to transform images, thoughts, feelings and perceptions, rational and non-rational, plays a vital role in linking spiritual, gaze and art and imagery, and in finding meaning. Later chapters offer a theoretical framework and teaching strategy using artistic imagery for classroom Religious Education, in relation to spiritual awareness; together with a set of worked examples.