Sheridan, Clare – The Creation of our Lady of Brede
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
My Crowded Sanctuary – Clare Sheridan
But a tree is life. It lives even if it is dead, and that, too, is symbolical. Wood is not cold, like stone, or hard, like marble.
From out a tree, from out that sacred emblem of the Cross, I would bring forth the Mother and Her little Son, the soul of Love translated into maternal form through my heart's sorrow.
Could I? Was it in my power to convey in plastic form that which was beyond expression in words? Before the chisel received the first mallet blow, I knelt, and with my forehead pressed against the trunk invoked the Divine inspiration.
I had learnt from the Irish poet James Stephens, who acquired it from the mystic ,AE, the value of spiritual contact before undertaking any kind of work. I have never known it fail. Something occurs-a kind of attunement, spiritual, physical, and intellectual.
In the calm that ensues, inspiration penetrates more easily………………………
To me the three words for Deity have three different vibrations.
These three words continually recur in the Christian vocabulary; God, Lord, and Divine Spirit. To me God is cloudy and heavy; Lord is dark and solid; Divine Spirit is crystal clear and glows with light.
I addressed myself, therefore, to the Divine Spirit. I conceived that through the Divine agency an artist in the astral world would be told off to help me. My desire for this help, and the nature of my work, would, I felt sure, draw the right artist. I asked for a really good one; I think I asked that he might be great-some artist who had specialized in work for the Church, an artist who knew the technique of carving (as opposed to the technique of modelling).
Ensued months of intensive work. Sometimes for five hours on a step-ladder I would chisel and chip. Every morning I began with invocation, and every evening I downed tools with a prayer of thanks.
It is interesting to note that nothing ever once went wrong. Not a cut too deep or a cut too long; never did I have to battle with essentials, never was obliged to retrieve a mistake.
The Virgin's face seemed to evolve expression without any insistence from me. The Holy Babe (with only the setting of His tragic eyes like Dick's) fulfilled all my intuitional visioning. The hands-those all-important, all-decisive hands-assumed their exacting shapeliness without any undue struggle. The help I asked for was vouchsafed. I felt myself to be the instrument of a mightier hand, and all the while I worked with exultant joy-the kind of soul-stirring that is evoked by cathedral music: a strange, hallucinating experience………………
My statue has a Gothic feeling. At a distance the natural oak gives the illusion of stone. It has the same golden touch as the Caen stone which is the background. The wood is carved as one carves stone. It is chiselled in the same way that stone is chiselled, I was not conscious of this at the time, I am only aware of it now when I look at it with detachment, as if it were not my work.
Sometimes I find myself surveying it with interest and surprise.
There are technical details which I find myself studying with interest, as if it were the work of another.
Shane Leslie, who was at the unveiling, wrote of it to Shirley Eshelby: 'The figure is really awesome in its beauty, and resembles one of the Gothic figures at Chartres'.
Chartres ! The church I love best in the world after Assisi, Sweet thought that I may have had the help of an artist of medieval France, one for whom Chartres in the making was an inspiration. Chartres is indeed the casket wherein is stored the exquisite fragrance of mystic Christianity. If Shane is right-and through his Catholicism, his mysticism, and erudition, he is well fitted to be a judge-if Shane is right, a fraction of that same fragrance is incorporated in the symbolic figure of Our Lady of Brede.