The Role of Images in Religion
CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL 1975
I must apologise in advance for one aspect of these two lectures: their predestined inadequacy. I say ‘predestined’ because once I chose my subject - the use of Images in Religion - it was certain that I could deal with so vast a subject in two short lectures only grossly inadequately. It is a subject which could be approached in many different ways: approached by philosophers, poets, psychologists, anthroplogists, theologians, liturgists, and the historians of ideas; and each could write a book on it. So whatever I say is bound to be inadequate. I shall raise many topics, and leave them half explored; throw out many outrageous remarks, and leave them to annoy you without apology: act as a gadfly in many areas of our common Christian concern, and take a train back to Guildford before any of you have a Chance to tell me how much I have left out of account; and for this I ask your forgiveness in advance. My only defence is to plead that sometimes irritating little hints can start processes of thought which are not wholly unprofitable. If only one thing I let drop proves to be a creative hint of that kind, my journey will have been immensely worthwhile, and I hope your charity will forgive me the rest.
First, may I ask you to look for a moment at the role played by images in our lives at its most basic. There is a sense in which to be a man at all - or anyway to be a conscious man - is to be aware of images. Consciousness is consciousness of something: a shape, a colour, a noise, a woman, a flower, a cloud, and so on; and since these things (pace Bishop Berkeley) exist independently ofour awareness of them - that is to say, outside ourselves - what exists inside our heads is a series of images of them. These images are the raw material of human knowledge; sense data. As we grow up, howeyer, we lose our ability to perceive things in this way as pure images unadulterated by other associations, for as we learn to speak, so we learn to attach a word - i.e. a verbal image - to each primary perceived image. Indeed, this is the whole business of learning to speak, and once we can talk our whole thought processes become verbalised. We think, not in primary images, but in words; or, rather, we think in an inextricable mixture of the two. Words trigger off our mental images, and our mental images trigger off words. Left behind in our Vanished innocence, is the extraordinary freshness of primary perceived images unattached to words: a freshness of which there are traces, even if they are no more than traces, in children’s paintings. In place of this freshness, we put a vast stock of more or less conventional images, each of which is triggered off by a word. Close your eyes, and when I say ‘tree’, the word will conjure up in you a more or less conventional and imprecise arboreal image: a sort of prototype image of a tree. If I then go on to fire more words at you, I can manipulate your mental images and make them a little more precise than they were when I said ‘tree’. fir tree, oak tree, blossoming cherry; dead tree, and so on.
Verbalism so completely takes charge of our images that if we suddenly experience something for which we have not a word, we are deeply disturbed, and we cannot rest until we have coined a word for it. We are more accustomed in our own day and age to this kind of thing happening in science than in any other department of human thought, science being perhaps the liveliest area of human endeavour presently. Words like gravity, the other, bacteria, quasar,alpha particle, black hole, and so one have come to the rescue of adventurous scientists, again and again in the not-too-distant past, some to stay, for a bit anyway, and some - like the ether - to be supereeded fairly quickly. Once we haye a word for whateyer it is we experience or observe, we can appropriate the phenomenon in question into the corpus of human knowledge, naming it, putting it into its right place, and cataloguing it. The phenemenon becomes ‘ours”, under our control, manageable, when we have a word for it. In other ages, the search for words has gone on in other areas of human inquiry than that of the sciences, and the relevance of all this to patristic theology will escape none ofyou. Similarly, it was no coincidence that the Jews of the Old Testament put such vast importance upon knowing the name of God; it made him ‘theirs’. Nor is it coincidental that today so many hymns concern themselves with the name of Jesus - “name him, brothers, name him”, “at the name ofJesus”, and so on; they make him ours. When I had a parish in the anonymity and depersonalising desert of London’s bed-sit land, I soon learnt the enormous importance of being able to name the people who came to my church. Jack, Mary, Bill, how lovely to see you! At once they had an identity; were people again; were no longer lost in London but truly found. But I mention all this only in passing for want of time to explore its depth and relevance to many of our problems as well as to humanity in being human; and there I must leave it.
For what I want to do is to try to go behind our verbal images to yet another realm of human knowledge, the realm of non-verbal images in the arts generally with special reference to the plastic arts and to music. Perhaps ‘behind’ is the wrong word. I use it because I think that it would be at least possible to contend that man was an accomplished artist before he was a linguist: before he had invented langages as we know them or could speak very well or very extensively. Something very like artistic activity is quite highly developed in many animals who come no nearer to speaking than to emitting a small number of noise-signals: one noise for danger, another for welcome, a third as a proposal of marriage, and so on. In comparison with such rudimentary communication by noise-signals, the highly developed courtship rituals, dances, and displays of many animals and birds, and the similar rituals associated with teritorial defence and mimed threat to invaders, are sophisticated and complex: and these rituals may well have been the ancestors of man’s artistic activities. But even if men were not artists before they invented language, art is at least as old as speech. Man has been an artist of a most remarkable - indeed, in some ways of a unique kind ever since he descended from the Darwinian treetops and became a man rather than an anthropoid ape. Since then, the paths trodden by man down the ages haw been marked by a glittering trail of artefacts. Wherever he has been, whatever level of development he happens to have reached, no matter what the colour of his skin has been, man has been an artist. He has painted the walls of caves, made pots and decorated them, carved stones, moulded bits of clay, danced round camp fires, sang songs, recited poems and ballads, blown down hollow reeds and pipes, scraped primitive stringed instruments or plucked them, built tombs and temples, terraces and triumphal arches - and so I could go on - and on - and on. Moreover, he is still at it. The arts may not ï¬‚ourish in the lives of machine-tool operators in Sheffield or Pittsburg or in those of assembly-plant workers in Ford’s at Dagenham or Detroit as they need to in the lives of primitive people - and still do in the lives of those primitives who we have not, in our superior way, killed off - but they are still very widely practised. Moreover, I believe that even if most of us don’t recognise the fact, they are still just as essential to our true human fulfilment as they have always been.
This is a statement which needs justifying. The arts ‘essential’? Surely not! Desirable maybe - even admirable - but not essential. The essential things for human fulfilment are economic and perhaps military but not artistic. Individually and corporately, our first duty must be to earn our living, make enough money to pay our food bills and those of our families, buy houses to live in and clothes, coal, oil, and electricity to keep us warm; then perhaps we should pay our taxes, part of which should go to the armed forces which are there to protect us in our home comforts. Then and only then, after these real essentials have been ensured may we legitimately turn to the arts as cultural delights in which we may indulge. This is as true of each of us individually as it is of Manchester Corporation or Birmingham Council. There would be just as violent a row if either of these worthy bodies decided to spend a hundred thousand pounds on a Picasso while putting up the rates or cutting down on social welfare as there would be if one of our children decided to tell us, the hard-headed father, that they were going to be an artist and to hell with earning a living. But once we have made our pile then it is entirely admirable to support the arts. It gains us, as it gains Manchester Corporation, a reputation for culture, and this confers upon us a certain social cachet, lifting us out of the ranks of the philistines and putting us on something of a pedestal to be admired for our superior taste. We can even expect an obituary in The Times when we die. I don’t think that this is too much of a caricature of today’s attitude to the arts; but though in one way it is very complimentary to them, holding them up for admiration as being somehow better things in which to indulge than - say - football or all-in wrestling or pornographic films - skin-flicks is, I believe, the technical term - in fact it devalues them. For it relegates them to the status of optional extras for those with the time, the money, and the taste for such things, and classes them as strictly inessential in the real business of living.
Now, I think that this is not only to misunderstand the arts but demonstrably to do so. For it is a good principle of evolutionary theory that no species of animal develops and then indulges a vastly time-consuming activity if that activity does not play some sort of part in the survival or the betterment of the species. No one can deny that since man parted company with the other great apes, he has indulged in billions upon billions of man-hours spent in artistic activity of one kind or another. In fact, as I have already said, his passage down the brutal paths of history has been marked by a glittering trail of artefacts. Economics and war have both absorbed him, but not more than artistic creation. What role then have the arts played in ensuring man’s survival as a species for his betterment? He can’t have poured out his spirit and his time so lavishly in artistic creation just for the fun of it; for, apart form anything else, artistic creation is often agony and not fun at all. So, I repeat, what haye the arts done for him? I must, once again and not for the last time I fear, be dogmatic for lack of time to be discursive. They haye provided him with a whole series of non-verbal languages of endless variety and resource. The artists of the world are perpetually saying things to their contemporaries: things about the Universe, about themselves, about their societies, and about the powers amongst which they find themselves leading their lives.
Herbert Read has put this better than I can put it : “Art must be recognised,” he wrote in 1937, “as the most certain mode of expression which mankind has achieyed. As such it has been propagated from the very dawn of civilisation. In every age, man has made things for his use, and followed thousands of occupations made necessary by his struggle for happiness. He has created languages and symbols, and built up an impressive fund of learning; his resource and invention have hever been exhausted. And yet all the time, in every phase of civilisation, he has felt that what we call the scientific attitude is inadequate. The mind he has developed from his deliberate cunning can only cope with objective facts; beyond these objective facts is a whole aspect of the world which is accessible only to instinct and intuition. The development of these obscurer modes of apprehension has been the purpose of art; and we are nowhere near an understanding of mankind and of the history of mankind until we admit the significance and indeed the superiority for such knowledge” he went on to say, “because whilst nothing has proved so impermanent and provisional as that which we are pleased to call scientific fact and the philosophy built on the universal and eternal… Art is a mode of knowledge” he ended this passage, “and the world of art is a system of knowledge as valuable to man and indeed, more valuable -than the world of philosophy or the world of science” End of quotes.
I used to be a little embarrassed by Herbert Read’s devaluation of science in comparison with the arts and I still think that perhaps comparisons between the two are odious - in the old phrase. The two fields of human endeavour and creativity - and science at its highest is a creative activity not at all unlike one of the arts - are better when they are not set over against each other as rivals. I can’t help thinking. But the older I grow the less embarassed I find myself by Read’s exceedingly high evaluation of the arts and their place in the totality of man’s search for truth and meaning. As languages, they are - I believe - incomparably more profund, if much less precise, than verbal language except, of course, where that language is used as poetry. In defence of the profundity of the arts as languages, look for a moment at music. Everyone reacts differently to different pieces of music, but for the moment that does not concern me; for unless you happen to be deaf to the language of music - wholly incapable of appreciating it at all - you will know what I mean when I say that there are times when listening to certain pieces of music one is convinced at the deepest level of one’s being that one is hearing something of immense profundity, significance, and value; of truth indeed. It has often been said that perhaps the late Beethoven quartets - opus 127, 130,132, and 135 -I can’t remember them all off hand - are amongst the most profound musical works the world knows. Some people will object to that as a statement of the unprovable, which it most certainly is. But that does not worry me at all, and I happen to think this more movingly profound than most other musical works I know - though I would put Bach’s Matthew Passion, some of Monteverdi, and Byrd’s Five-part Mass high up the list of their rivals. But once again, it wouldn’t worry me at all if each of you named other works as your particular candidates for the crown of musical profundity. The point I’m making is that to those with ears to hear and understand the language of music, there can be no reasonable doubt that it is a non-verbal languge which conveys ideas of great depth and value to the listener: ideas which cannot be articulated in verbal language but only musically, but which are none the worse for that. Painting is another such non-verbal language, and so are all the other arts. They are languages composed of nonvverbal images which have come to us, if not from the pre-linguistic past of our race, certainly from a time when they were treated as being on a par with, and complementary to, the everyday language of words.
What sort of ideas is the artist concerned with, and what is his method of converting and communicating them in these non-verbal languages which we call the arts? The answer to the first question - namely, what sort of ideas is the artists concerned with - is simple. He is concerned with the ideas by which men of his own society explain their own existence, value, and destiny to themselves. Artists at their greatest are saying something about the Universe as they envisage it, about themselves, and about the powers which govern their lives and deaths as they are understood by their parent societies. In other words, the artists are the spokesmen of their societies, forging languages in which the deepest ideas of their contemporaries are named: are giyen images, and are thus made known to everyone. Sculptors are painters and architects in Pharaonic Egypt, for instance, articulated the self-understanding of Pharaonic society in terms of the Egyptian pantheon of gods - Ra, Ammon, Isis, Osiris, Sechmet, and the others; and of the semi-divine Pharaohs themselves through whose symbolic office the blessings of the gods upon the eternal civilisation of the Nile Valley flowed - or didn’t flow as the ease may be.
Go to Luxor, Thebes, Abydos, Saccara, Komombo, or wherever and soak yourself in the ethos of ancient Egypt as it has been embodied and expressed in the artefacts of its sculptors, painters, and architects; and their works will still speak to you of the mystique of that long-dead civilisation: still hit you in the gut and enfold you in its ideas and beliefs. Their art is, of course, a dead language; it cannot speak to us as it spoke to the ancient Egyptians. But it is not a dead language in the sense that the Minoan script known as Linear B was dead before Michael Ventris decyphered it, or in the sense that Linear A - the other Minoan script - is still dead: that is to say, wholly unintelligible. Despite the passage of the centuries and the death of Pharaonic Egypt, its art still speaks to us. The arts and their languages don’t die as verbal languages die. When their parent society changes its beliefs, all its self-understanding, it ceases to use the old art-form which was designed to be the language of its old beliefs and self- understanding. Pharaonic art makes way for Ptolomaic, and eventually Ptolemaic is replaced by Hellenistic art as that part of the world changes and its old beliefs die. it is easy to think of other examples of the same thing. Aztec art was killed stone dead by the Spanish conquistadors as they killed Aztec society, and was slowly shaped by vestiges of the old Aztec beliefs and art-forms which refused to lie down and admit that they were dead; and I could mention many other examples of the same process, but I will not bother you with any more. The point I’m making is that each school of art is a language - a non-verbal language - forged in the crucible of the artistic imagination of its parent society to embody and express that society’s particular beliefs. Art is not neutral. Egyptian art is Egyptian art because it speaks the language of the beliefs and ethos of Egypt. Classical Greek art is Greek because it is irradiated by Greek religious humanism: by the idea that man was the measure of all things including the gods. The Greeks believed that men and gods had the same earth mother: that man was made in the image of the gods, but also that the gods were made in the image of man. Gods and men were thus closely related, set as equals certainly, but not in a relationship of servitude on man’s part either. Greek man stood to pray; he didn’t prostrate himself; and this divine humanism is expressed right through all the Greek arts, in their grace, their clarity, and their courage. The Acropolis at Athens or at Delphi are as unlike the Egyptian temples at Luxor and Karnak as Greek humanism is unlike Egyptian Pharaoh worship. And of course if you compare either or both of these art-forms - Greek and Egyptian - with the sculpture of the Congo in precolonial days, embodying as it does in its splendidly vivid and at times terrifying imagery the animism of the Congolese tribes, then the differences are even greater.
I’m sorry to labour this point, but I must give one more illustration of the way in which any particular art form is a specific language and not a neutral tool: not a maid of all work like verbal languages which can be made to express whatever you wish to make and express. For it is important to be clear about this if we are to understand how images and religion - especially the Christian religion - may and may not be expected to interact: may and may not be used together. The illustration I want to give concerns the birth of new belief - or, rather, the birth of a society inspired by a new belief and self-understanding and therefore productive of a new kind of ethos. If I am right that the arts are the languages of the beliefs and self - understanding of various societies, when a new society believing new things about itself arises it will not have a ready-made artistic form in which to express itself: will not have a pre-packaged art-language lying to hand with which to embody its new ideas. Instead it will have to forge one; and this is indeed what happens when a new society is born, as has been shown again and again down the ages. Look, for instance, at the birth of the Christian society. At first, anyway, it was so much an offshoot of Judaism that it could and did inherit one splendid and ready-made art form: Jewish religious literature and poetry; but it inherited no plastic art. Instead, it inherited the Jewish taboo on graven images and representations of all sorts which was itself an expression of Jewish transcendentalism: of the belief that God could have no image. So for the first three hundred years, apart from a few conventional signs like ictheus, the fish, Christian society existed without a plastic language. It had better things to do at the time, surviving the early persecutions, than to start painting pictures on the walls of the catacombs even if, as I say, it had approved of such things, which it didn’t. But this lack of a specifically Christian plastic art did not long survive the mass migration of the Greek world into the Church in the centuries which succeeded Constantine. But since the artists did not have an art form designed to express the self-understanding of Christian society - to speak a Christian language, in fact - they had to create one; and this over the years, they did. The way they did it was the same as that in which artists in such circumstances always do what they have to do. They took the various styles which lay to hand - the hellenistic style, the Roman narrative style, and an expressionistic style which probably had its origin in Syria and which ï¬‚ourished in Alexandria and elsewhere in the Roman world, producing among other things thousands of magnificent portraits of the dead in beeswax on the lids of coffins - and these varied styles they used as the raw materials, so to speak, with which to fumble and feel their experimental way through to the eventual creation of a truly Christian language.
Their first attempts were pathetic. There is a sarcophagus in the Vatican dating from the middle of the fourth century with a bas-relief which purports to represent Christ ï¬‚anked by St Peter and St Paul; but in fact the figures look more like Nero with a hangover ï¬‚anked by two bogus old Greek philosophers in marble nightgowns. The art-form, being the langugage of Roman decadence and the fag-end of Hellestic society, expresses the ideas and ethos of that society even though the work may be entitled Christ with Peter and Paul; the title does not make it a Christian work, just as the titles of some of the more nauseating ecclesiastic bric-a-brac to be found (alas) in our churches do not make them Christian either - awful little statues of gentle Jesus and the dicky birds, or pretty Mary among the bunny rabbits which speak the language of debased and sentimentalised humanism, not that of Christianity. But to return to the early church, by Justinian’s time the fumbling, experimental attempt to forge a Christian language out of the available art-forms by transforming them into something new had triumphantly succeeded; and the something new was Byzantine art. Most of you will know, if only in reproduction, the great churches dating from this time in Rayenna or the later St Mark’s in Venice which is a more or less faithful copy of Justinianâ€˜s great Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople; and some of you will know other Byzantine works - Torcello Cathedral near Venice, the Cathedral at Cefalu in Sicily, the church at Daphne near Eleusis just outside Athens, the monasteries of Hosios Loukas nor far from Delphi and the Nea Moni on the island of Chios, the Karye Djami in Istanbul splendidly restored by the Americans from Dumbarton Oaks, the ruins at Mistra, and many other things. They vary in date from the sixth to th fifteenth century, but they all speak recognizably the same language; and it is the language of Christian theology.
At this point, you might well ask what it is that chacterises Christian theology over against any other kind of theology, and I would answer, Christ: that is to say, the specifically Christian belief that the trascendent God became a visible and material man at a particular moment of time: that the word was made ï¬‚esh; or as the author of Colossians put it, that in the man Jesus “the fullness of deity dwelt bodily”. Thus, for Christian belief, the point at which the truth was revealed was the point at which the transcendent met the material; and in Christian belief this continues to be the point at which the truth is still revealed. Redeemed man became a temple of the Holy Spirit, an image of God, yet another meeting point between God and matter; and so I could go on - the church itself, bread and wine, holy scripture, the water of baptism, and some would say icons (and perhaps relics?) are all points at which the invisible truth of God is revealed through material phenemon to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. I shall return to this in another context later; meanwhile the point I want to make is that Christianity is neither transcendentalist nor immanentist, but hovers between the two; and so does Byzantine art which is neither abstract nor representational. The figures of its mosaics and icons and frescos are both natural and supernatural, both men and more than men: prophetic men, marytred men, apostolic men, saintly men wandering through a landscape which is not subject to the mundane dictates of perspective: the landscape of the new Jerusalem against a sky of gold leaf.
I could go on for hours about Byzantine art, but I hope that I’ve said enough to make my point, both as regards the nature of art as being the language ofa particular society’s deepest beliefs about its own nature and destiny, and as regards Byzantine art as being supremely the language of Christian theology. Some of you may think it to be stiff and formal - over-theological - and in one way I think I would agree with you. But it must always be remembered that Byzantine society for which it spoke was itself stiff, formal, and enormously theological. It was the society of the ecumenical councils and the great heresies, and theological argument and debate was its passion in a way which it is difficult for us to imagine. Some ofyou will probably know the story of Gregory of Nazianzus who wrote to his mother in the late fourth century and complained what a bore it was to go shopping in Constantinople in those days because, if you wanted to buy a loaf - and now I’m quoting “the baker, instead of telling you the price, will argue that the Father is greater than the Son. The money-changer will talk about the begotten and the unbegoten, instead of giving you your money, and if you want a bath, the bath-keeper assures you that the Son surely proceeds from nothing.”
That this super-heated theological atmosphere did not change as the centuries rolled by is proved by the most cursory glance at Byzantine history. At one point. incidentally, the imperial transport system virtually broke down because so many bishops were being taken free of charge from point to point by public conveyance to split minute theological hairs in endless debates that there was no room for anyone else to travel. So if Byzantine art is excessively theological, it is only doing its job of faithfully embodying and expressing the ethos and beliefs of its parent society. The language of Christian humanism - and I mean Christian humanism, not plain humanism - that is to say, the language of the humanity of Christ, the language of those of us who believe that whatever we do to the least of our fellow human beings we do to Christ, that language was to be forged out of Byzantine formalism at a later date by the artists of the early renaissance in Italy and those of the Gothic West.
Iâ€˜m afraid I have sorely tried your patience by that over-long excursion on the birth and nature of Christian art; but I hope that you may see the relevance of what I have tried to say before I finish my second lecture. Meanwhile, may I assure you that you don’t know how lucky you are that I haven’t gone on ten times longer - something I should have loved to have done. But there I must leave it, and move on to the mechanics of the non-verbal language which we call the arts. How do they work? How do they convey what they convey to those who look at them, listen to them, read them, or what-have-you? The answer is that they do so by evocation rather than by precise description. Words are hints, said Wittgenstein, and there’s no doubt that the words used by poets are more ‘hinty’ and less precise - less easily pinned down and checked-up-on - than the words used by the compiler of a timetable or a catalogue or a scientific treatise. The language of music even more abstract, even more dependent upon hinting - upon evolving in the mind - an apprehension of what the composer is trying to say than is the language of poetry. You can’t describe in verbal language what Beethoven is saying in his late quartets, can’t write it down, define it, point the finger of analytical accurately at it, and say “Look: That’s it. There you are!” The impossibility of doing any such thing is the dilemma of the concert-programme-blurb writers, who are condemned for ever to write near nonsense; just as, I might add, are lecturers on the arts who are forced to use verbal language to illuminate (or to obfuscate) a subject or series of subjects which should speak for themselves in their own way.
To give you one illustration only of the immense difference between the way in which a poet uses a word and the way in which it is used in everyday speech, look once again at the word, “tree”. In verbal langugage, I can be precise and accurate and specific. I can say “look at that tree: the brown thing made up of a wooden trunk and branches producing a crop of green leaves over there against a blue sky. It is an oak tree and soon it will produce acorns. Shall I describe its botanical place? Or its chemical composition? Or its potential commercial value? If you want me to do so, I can oblige you.” But the approach ofan artist to a tree is very different. “Come away, come way, death, and let me in sad cypress be laid,” cried Shakespeare; but who has ever heard of a sad cypress? A miserable vegetable? Literally, such a thing is a nonsense. Evocatively, it is an image of great power. And much the same thing might be said of a tree painted by - say - Cezanne which no more abides by the standards of literal truth than does Shakespeares’s sad cypress. Compare Cezanne’s tree with a coloured photograph of the same object, and they will look very different. The photograph records the actual appearance of the tree in the physical landscape of Provence in all its random detail. Cezanne creates a landscape, of which the tree is an ordered part, to be an image through which the underling harmony of created things is revealed to those with eyes to see it in his picture. He told his friend Emile Bernard in a letter that his aim in painting was to reveal the truth - and again I quote “of the spectacle which Pater Omnipotens Aeterne Deus spreads put before our eyes” - end of quotes: That is to say, the truth of the order created by the creator of all order. It is a measure of Cezanne’s success - of his genius - that his pictures do evoke in the minds of those with eyes to see it a vision of the ravishing underlying harmony of things.
My time is running out, and I must begin to think of stopping. But, in conclusion, I want to ask you to look even if all too brieï¬‚y at one other aspect of the artistic experience which is of great importance to any understanding of the total role played by the arts in human affairs: of men in our own time, we tend to regard the arts as things which, so to speak wash over us, enriching us in the process. We listen to music watch the ballet, look at pictures, read poetry, and book seats well in advance for the theatre. But for centuries people indulged in the arts actively, not passively as motionless and silent spectators; instead, they participated in them. An attempt to revive this participatory role has recently been made by those who talk of theatrical ‘happenings’ or of pop events , in which the audience is drawn into the action on the stage or rostrum or what-have-you. But usually these contemporary happenings, rather self-conscious and trendy, have been only pale shadows of the originals which they are copying - or trying to re-create in comparison with a modern theatrical happening, a performance in a theatre in Athens in the days of Pericles would have involved the audience in a manner and to a depth which we cannot begin to emulate. Similarly, and perhaps even more so, in such places as Africa, the Solomon Islands, central America, and the countries of Asia, historically the arts have not been things to admire, watch, listen to, look at, or study in Museums and galleries. They have always been things you did: things in which you took part; and even the things you used while taking part in them were also strictly functional and participatory. In a recent BBC documentary on the religious dance rituals of some contemporary primitives, the point was made that the sculptured masks and other objects which were used by the participants in their rites - masks, incidentally, for which collectors in the West would willingly pay large sums of money - were chucked away in a cave as useless once the ritual for which they were made was over. Outside the context of the action and the function for which they were intended, they became mere objects - not things to be admired in the isolation and sterility of a museum, a gallery, or a collector’s home.
I have left myself time enough only to mention without furthr discussion or elaboration the object of all these rituals in which the arts and religion have merged into a synthesis - a single rite. Whether they have taken place in Africa, Asia, central America, or wherever, it has always been the same: namely to make it possible for those participating in them to be filled - taken over- by spirits of one kind or another which are not their own. It seems certain that, whether human art had its origin in animal ritual behaviour or not, it has been associated with human religious rituals from the earliest times. The individual artefacts - masks, totem poles, dance rituals, musical accompaniments, and so on - were used as aids to the beguiling or trapping of the various spirits being involved.
NB The final page is missing, but I still think that it is more than worthwhile to include the Lecture as an example of the creative and imaginative qualities of Tony’s work. Diana Bridge 2016