Jun 02, 1998 12:28 PM
by Thoa Thi-Kim Tran
I've been discussing off and on for the last few months with Eiichi Tosaki,
who is doing research on Mondrian. I am reposting my last couple posts on
theos-talk with the hope that someone could add some more interpretation to
Mondrian's idea of rhythm. Thanks.
Congratulations on your conversion to Ph.D! I'm sorry it took me so long
to get back to you. I had a mental block at the thought of having to
figure out where my sources are, and using quotations. It's easier to dig
through my mental file than to dig through the library. Also, it's much
more fun to go off on a tangent in my mind rather than follow by the book.
I'm going to back far away from Hegel. Both you and I seemed to have
gotten caught up in the Hegel virus and away from the main topic of
Mondrian's idea of rhythm. I'm going to focus mostly on Mondrian and
theosophical sources. To continue our discussion this time with sources...
To understand Mondrian's rhythm, I'm going to first briefly discuss the
theosophical idea of duality, which can be found in the Stanzas of the
Secret Doctrine I. Stanza I and II describes the unmanifestation and
potential of all things. The Eternal Parent lies asleep, containing within
the origin of all things. "The last vibration of the seventh eternity
thrills through infinitude", and an awakening occurs.1 Separation takes
place, Mother-Father, Subjectivity-Objectivity, Chaos-Order. From the
stress of being pulled apart against their mutual desire for each other,
the Son is born. It can be said that the Son is the psychic projection of
the tension of the Cosmic Mind. When the internal tension is great, it
results in outside projection. This separation is only illusory, and this
outside projection is still the Mother-Father duality. The "outsideness"
is illusory. Hence the frequent referral to the process as the "dreaming."
>From a book that I find useful in interpreting the Stanzas, several
conclusions make sense to me. In Stanza III, 4, "the three (triangle) fall
into the four (quaternary)..." The triangle is the Mother, Father, and
their relationship. The fourth is the Son, the mayavic construct, the
illusion of external reality. Note that throughout the Stanzas, the
emphasis on duality (the relationship) is important. It is through
relationship or to be more precise, interrelatedness, that manifestation
occurs. This link is the cause of all external manifestation, of the maya
of externality and separation. Thus our whole external and internal
experience is the result of the "radiant essence becom(ing) seven inside,
seven outside." The "seven inside" (our inner environment) and the "seven
outside" (our outside environment) is the interplay of the "three" and the
"four." This will help you to understand Mondrian's idea of duality and
relationship, and their relation to universality.2
According to the Random House College Dictionary, revised 1980, rhythm is
the "movement or procedure with uniform or patterned recurrence of a beat,
accent, or the like." This is natural rhythm, rhythm familiar to our
mayavic world. This suggests symmetry, which suggests separation. In some
cases, this also suggests time. Separation and time are illusions.
To Mondrian, rhythm should be an internal rhythm and not the natural
repetition that we are familiar with. "Individuality typically manifests
the law of repetition, which is nature's rhythm, as law characterized by
symmetry. Symmetry or regularity emphasizes the separateness of things and
therefore has no place in the plastic expression of the universal as
universal." Naturalistic art emphasizes this rhythm. To counteract this,
Mondrian composed his paintings in ways that would ultimately destroy
naturalistic rhythm. He changed this symmetry to equilibrium, by using the
relationship of duality. He wants to express "relationships that change
each opposite into the other." How do opposites change into each other?
Because they are known through each other. Just as everything is created
through a duality, nothing exists without its opposite. Mondrian expressed
this in his paintings through opposition of "position and size," and other
pure opposites. "(I)t is no longer a sequence but is plastic unity. Thus
it renders more strongly the cosmic rhythm that flows through all things."
This is the unity of opposites and of interrelatedness. Pure opposites
cancel each other out. Thus, the expiring of natural form, and the birth
of the spirit. This is the destruction of the mayavic manifestation, the
cancelling of opposites into the Universal.3
I could add more about rhythm, but that would be outside the bounds of
sticking with Mondrian's writing. This is a very interesting topic, and we
could have many more offshoots, as you have already discovered based on my
past talks regarding laya centers and planes.
P.S. The reason why you were not able to find the Mondrian quotations in
my last post was that it came from another book. Mondrian: Natural
Reality and Abstract Reality. Translated by Martin S. James.
1 The Secret Doctrine I, p.62, Stanza III. Helena Blavatsky, verbatim
with the original edition, 1888. Theosophical University Press.
2 Man, the Measure of All Things, p. 119. Sri Krishna Prem and Sri
Madhava Ashish. Theosophical Publishing House. SBN: 8356-0006-8
3 The New Art-The New Life, The Collected Writings of Piet Mondrian. The
New Plastic in Painting (1917), p.40. Da Capo Press, NY. ISBN
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