Of Mutual Things: Observations in Three Parts
Dr Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain,
University of Edinburgh
Art and Spiritual Understanding
Final presentation from Christine De Luca,
poet and practitioner
The Art & Spirituality Project
The Art and Spirituality (ASU) project is a cross discipline programme funded by the Templeton Religion Trust exploring the nature of ‘spiritual realities’; more particularly how the arts contribute to a sense of spiritual awareness and understanding.
‘ASU begins with Aesthetic Cognitivism (AC), a theory about the value of the arts that approaches them not simply (or not even) as sources of delight, amusement, pleasure, or emotional catharsis, but, instead, as sources of understanding. As Nelson Goodman put it in Ways of Worldmaking (1978),
“the arts must be taken no less seriously than the sciences as modes of discovery, creation, and enlargement of knowledge in the broad sense of advancement of the understanding.”’*
In the spirit of the overall programme of the New College ASU project brought together artists (from visual art, poetry and musical composition) with philosophers, theologians and social scientists.
While some aspects of the New College project were designed to explore the nature and extent of the contribution of the arts to spiritual understanding by employing empirical qualitative research methods in the context of the annual Sacred Arts Festival – now an annual fixture in the festival calendar in Edinburgh – other strands of the project have explored these ideas through the direct study or practice of making art; in other words, primarily through the creation or ‘production’ of new artistic works rather than merely through the process of ‘consumption’. These explorations have resulted in the creation of new artwork and musical composition. These pieces have been created as much as process than as product, addressing the question of how did the experience of creating these artworks expand the artists’ spiritual awareness? As a valuable by-product, these new works of art could, albeit second hand, have a similar impact on those who might later ‘consume’ them.
Brigid Collins and Christine De Luca were unaware when they started their collaboration that they would find such spiritual nourishment, insight and sense-making in their endeavour. The resulting work seemed to fit well with the broader exploration of the ASU theme.
*Art Seeking Understanding – Templeton Trust call for proposals
Further information on the findings of this research may be found at
Art and the Sacred: A Study of Spiritual Experiences:
A podcast with Christine De Luca