Georgia O’Keeffe offers a compelling insight: “Artists and religionists are never far apart, they go to the sources of revelation for what they choose to experience and what they report is the degree of their experiences. Intellect wishes to arrange — intuition wishes to accept.”
“… intuition wishes to accept.” Whether we are considering the spiritual life or what we apprehend through art, our openness to what we might experience is the key to what we might accept. As O’Keeffe seems to suggest, we are not the source of revelation in either sphere of consciousness. We are the recipients of revelation in both realms. I think her second notable insight is to perceive the intrinsic connection between the two sources of what she calls revelation.
Medieval Christian mystics and writers had a similar insight about our experience of Creation, and our encounter with the Bible. They sometimes referred to the former as the Book of Nature and the latter as the Book of Scripture. The two ‘books’ have the same author, as well as overlapping content, even if differing in their redemptive significance. In ‘reading’ both, we are the recipients of beauty, goodness, and truth. By accepting what we apprehend through each source, our intuition is more broadly formed and informed.
Intuition is something of a cousin to prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. Like these natural virtues, first described by the ancient Greeks, intuition is a capacity or strength that we are born with. And like the four Greek virtues, intuition is not something we simply have, but an aspect of our consciousness that can be developed through exercise and practice.
Prayers, meditations and reflections, and even sermons are often ‘reports’ of spiritual growth, just as O’Keeffe’s beautiful paintings are communications of her own artistic experience. Parallel to the way that many of the Psalms attest to the beauty of God’s graceful handiwork, O’Keeffe’s paintings often display a spiritually lyrical quality. As she says, “artists and religionists are never far apart” – an appreciation that more and more Christian teachers and writers are reclaiming from earlier visionaries in our tradition.
The beauty of holiness. And the holiness of beauty. Reflecting on these parallel experiences can help us be open to and appreciate Georgia O’Keefe’s insight about intuition.