Bliss ~ Making the Invisible Visible (working title)
bridging the wisdom of our past with the science, healing and peace of our future
A film by Mairéid Sullivan and Ben Kettlewell
The film is about the empowerment we can feel when 'accessing' ancient sacred images.
This project has a simple and powerful metaphor for the enduring search for peace and harmony for humanity. Finding treasures of ancient art and sculpture, “hidden in plain sight”, provides a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the power and importance of public museums and art galleries while revealing precious archival mysteries.
The idea for the film is based on a repeating inspirational experience of finding exquisite sculptures and paintings within the basement of museums and galleries around the world, including three very important experiences, in Dublin, Los Angeles and Canberra.
Practitioners and teachers in various cultures traditionally used statuary and painted images to convey the essence of peace and harmony through meditation and prayer, reflecting their interpretations of “the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.” Beethoven
Many magnificent examples of these images are now stored and displayed in galleries and museums around the world. Our interest in 'modelling' reflective experience as a teaching tool, as seen in the 'body language' of ancient sculpture, statuary, and art, form the heart of this ancient imagery and what it means to us today is what will be explored in this production.
The 'epiphany' on this theme - "Bliss: making the invisible visible, or, peace in the unconscious” - occurred when I returned to Ireland from Australia, via South East Asia, during my early twenties. I had studied meditation in Thailand for a year, while teaching English to members of the Royal family and living in one of their Royal compounds, where I was exposed to the magnificent ancient art of the region.
When I arrived back in Ireland, I had the opportunity of finding an ancient petrified peat sculpture in the National Museum in Dublin and I was astonished to see that the meditation expression was exactly the same as its Asian counterparts, which I had previously experienced. I discovered then that from ancient times, people taught meditation techniques, within their communities and beyond, as a means of creating, experiencing and promoting peace and harmony.
Again in Los Angeles, some time later when visiting the Norton Simon Museum, in Pasadena, to see their extensive Impressionists art collection, I was drawn to the basement of the museum and discovered a huge collection of Asian art and sculpture, pre-dating the Christian era. I was again struck by the power of the statues to "speak" to me of peace and harmony - to provide immersion in the 'vibration' of the teaching of peace and harmony just as they had been originally designed to represent.
We have since become adept at exploring and 'reading' the exquisite variety of manifestation of feeling and thought expressed in the 'body language' of ancient sculpture and painting traditions. We continue to seek out these statues and paintings in each museum we have visited, including museums in the U.S.A., Europe, Asia, and Australia. Curiously, we’ve noticed that many of these ancient collections are displayed in the basement of museums.
This led me to revisit some of the images that played such an important part in my own upbringing in Ireland. When life became 'hard' in Ireland, long ago, it is a miracle that affection, laughter, music and dance survived at all. Not only has this expression of joy survived, it is thriving! It is a testament to irrepressible enthusiasm that joy expresses itself involuntarily in bursts of music, song and dance, and through the visual arts. The wellspring of wisdom still flows from our ageless heritage.
To illustrate, I wish to share a personal memory: In Ireland, at the bottom of a hill below our old family farm, there is a sacred place known as Lady's Well, which is almost hidden from view, just past the local graveyard near Kealkil Village, east of Bantry, Co Cork.
Long years have gone into shaping the kneeling stones and steps that surround this very old and beautiful grotto, which likely was a sacred site even in pre Christian times, dedicated to ‘archetypal’ Mother. I remember all of my brothers and sisters playing together on the grassy hillside beside the grotto. I loved picking bluebells and daisies while my mother stopped to pray, first at the grave of her parents and then at Lady’s Well, on the way home from Church in Kealkil every Sunday.
Large and small statues of Mary have been placed there by several generations of families from the surrounding area. Intricate arrangements of perpetual lights from oil lamps, candles, flowers, medals, tiny-framed holy pictures, and rosary beads, surround many of the statues. Most of the statues are housed in arched blue or white boxes, set into the hillside on three levels over a pool of holy spring water. There is an iron kneeling rail at the front of the pool, and the sparkling creek flows right next to it. A large tree trunk, growing across the grotto, holds rosary beads, medals and miniature statues of Mary, Jesus and the saints.
The 15th of August is the feast of the Assumption, when Mary was believed to have been assumed, body and soul into heaven. Every year, the grotto is repainted, decorated with flowers and illuminated by candlelight for the large crowds of locals who gather to keep a three-day vigil of prayer. Many come at night, for "more, undistracted prayer", says my mother. There is a great sense of quiet in this place. The joy of prayerful thought comes easily. The general public beyond the area does not know this well-hidden, blessed place, but it is always open to anyone who wants to visit.
On my most recent visit there, as I lifted my eyes from this beautiful grotto to look out over the lush green fields before me, I felt the calmness that comes from a sense of 'super-conscious' familiarity. Nothing else mattered. I felt very happy to be there at Lady's Well, where my mother demonstrated the art of stillness and grace.
The proposed production - "Bliss: making the invisible visible, or peace in the unconscious” - is also a metaphor for today. We continue to live a creative life and the lessons of peace, harmony and health can be revealed again, from 'ancient memory’, just out of reach of conscious mind, compelling and precious.
Inspired individuals in ancient communities created sculptures and images for people to emulate and to protect. Today, digital film and recording technologies, combined with story telling, can use those same precious images with new analysis to interpret and reach a wider audience within communities to again connect our unconscious and inner selves to universal teaching of peace and harmony.