Heavenly Notes #1

Heavenly Notes #1

Chapter 1: Dr. Mohammad Sadegh Mahfouzi

Divinity and Religiosity in Iranian Culture and Art

The need for God-consciousness is embedded in human nature, instilled in our being from the very first moments of our lives. Thus, divinity and religiosity have been inseparable principles throughout human existence.

Before the agricultural era, humans had little to no concept of supernatural powers that could influence their lives for good or evil. After settling down, they began to sense that their destiny was guided by intelligent forces with supernatural and metaphysical powers. This led to the emergence of the idea and concept of superior unknown forces beyond their control, which gave rise to an idealistic and otherworldly world in Neolithic art. This is because mythological art depicted idols made of angels, gods, or demigods, rather than humans.

With the formation of human civilizations and the emergence of governing approaches in society, such as collective control over the community, which originated in Mesopotamia and eventually in Greece, the idea of superior unknown forces was replaced by the idea of the supreme creation of nature: the thoughtful human being. This perspective led to a revolution and transformation in art and thought, with art aiming to connect the unseen world with the earthly world. In this pursuit, arts such as architecture, sculpture, painting, and design, as well as industrial arts – which until then had been more functional than decorative – were employed to convey the murmurs of the artist’s transformed mind and serve as a beacon of guidance for humanity.

The sacred inner space, which in ziggurats represents the point of connection between heaven and earth, is still present in the porches of the coronation halls of Assyrian and Achaemenid palaces. In Sassanid fire temples, this sacred space became an internal throne room that only the fire-attending priests were allowed to enter. (Pope, 13, 1370)

According to Professor Pope, since the time of Zoroaster, beauty has been inextricably linked to light. Light is an inherent part of the spiritual character and is synonymous with reason and goodness, constantly battling darkness, evil, and chaos (ibid). In Iran, natural light – intense, tangible, and creative – has convincingly developed the role that religion has given it and is a representation of divinity. In Iranian art, both light and clarity are considered sacred and desirable, while darkness and obscurity are abhorred. Iranian designs and patterns, regardless of their level of skill, throughout the ages demonstrate a fundamental structure accompanied by a spirituality that is both reasonable and precise.

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