"The Light of the World"

A musing opportunity from the Philosophical Musings series at Wanterfall eBooks

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"The Light of the World"

by Gordon Coates

July 2011


This "philosophical musing" includes no words of mine, as it takes the form of a reproduction of a famous painting inspired by a statement attributed to Jesus of Nazareth. I will give some details about the statement and the painting below, but I will leave the "musing" entirely up to you. The only suggestion I offer is that you try to look at the image without interpreting it verbally... and indeed, as far as possible, without employing your "everyday mind" (where thoughts, emotions and sensations are remembered and rearranged) at all.


"The Light of the World" by William Holman Hunt

"The Light of the World" by William Holman Hunt (1827 – 1910)

This allegorical painting is the work of the English painter William Holman Hunt (2 April 1827 – 7 September 1910). It illustrates a verse from the New Testament, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)

Perhaps the idea of "light", which is so prominent in the imagery, also owes something to an Old Testament reference, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

During his life, the artist drew particular attention to the fact that the door in the painting has no handle, in order to represent "the obstinately shut mind". Various other symbolic elements, such as the overgrown (long unused) nature of the door, and its lack of any window or peep hole, can also be noticed.

I have read that the original of this painting, painted in the early 1850s, now hangs in a side room off the large chapel at Keble College, Oxford, in England. I have also read that it is the property of Manchester Art Gallery, also in England. Any further information would be gratefully received if included in an email to philosophical-musings@wanterfall.com

Towards the end of his life, Hunt (with the assistance of another English painter, Edward Robert Hughes) painted a life-size version for St Paul's Cathedral, London, which I believe can still be seen there.



The above "philosophical musing" may be freely reproduced, remixed and disseminated, in any format and in any quantity, under its Creative Commons License. For more information about the license, see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/au/

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The digital image which is displayed above was provided by Wikimedia Commons, and is now in the public domain (even in Mexico, which has a copyright term of "life of the author plus 100 years") so it may be freely copied and published elsewhere.

As always when I refer to a particular religion or philosophy in this series, I stress that neither this "musing" nor the "Philosophical Musings" series itself is aligned with any particular religion or philosophy. Indeed, I consider all "particular" religions and philosophies to be equally impossible attempts to put into words one single reality which simply has no verbal counterpart, and therefore cannot be adequately expressed in any words, no matter how inspired or beautiful those words may be - though some useful pointers may often be gleaned "between the lines".


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