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Surprised by Art #7: (Secular) Revelation

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

This week Luc and Kirk delve into the religious concept of revelation. Does revelation refer solely to the divine? How can revelation be brought down to earth? How is it relevant to our day-to-day lives? In painting, revelation is a very popular concept. The same is true in literature and poetry. What do you think? Does revelation have to be divine? Can we attain secular revelation? And what would that mean?

Special thanks to our voice recorders

Kelly Bowers & Sean Doherty.


Below is the painting chosen by Luc Travers. We recommend that you take a moment and look at the painting for yourself.

Give it a title. Doesn't matter if you are correct. Just think, what is the first word that comes to mind first?

Then, give a literal description of everything in the painting.

In the show, we have various audience members doing exactly this, and if you listen to them this can help give you ideas on how to accomplish this investigation.

Lastly, interpretation. You can do your best on your own or listen to Luc and Kirk's exploration.


The Geographer by Johannes Vermeer


The Poem: An excerpt from "The Prelude" by William Wordsworth.

In the final book of his epic poem The Prelude, Wordsworth writes about an experience he had on Mount Snowden, the highest peak in Wales. He is going on an early morning climb to the top of the mountain, in order to see the sunrise. During the pre-dawn walk, Wordsworth gets a sense of Nature speaking to him. With forehead bent

Earthward, as if in opposition set

Against an enemy, I panted up

With eager pace, and no less eager thoughts.

Thus might we wear perhaps an hour away,

Ascending at loose distance each from each,

And I, as chanced, the foremost of the band—

When at my feet the ground appeared to brighten,

And with a step or two seemed brighter still;

Nor had I time to ask the cause of this,

For instantly a light upon the turf

Fell like a flash! I looked about, and lo,

The moon stood naked in the heavens at height

Immense above my head, and on the shore

I found myself of a huge sea of mist,

Which meek and silent rested at my feet.

A hundred hills their dusky backs upheaved

All over this still ocean; and beyond,

Far, far beyond, the vapours shot themselves

In headlands, tongues, and promontory shapes,

Into the sea—the real sea, that seemed

To dwindle and give up its majesty,

Usurped upon as far as sight could reach.

Meanwhile, the moon looked down upon this show

In single glory, and we stood, the mist

Touching our very feet. And from the shore

At distance not the third part of a mile

Was a blue chasm, a fracture in the vapour,

A deep and gloomy breathing-place through which

Mounted the roar of waters, torrents, streams

Innumerable, roaring with one voice!

The universal spectacle throughout

Was shaped for admiration and delight,

Grand in itself alone, but in that breach

Through which the homeless voice of waters rose,

That dark deep thoroughfare, had nature lodged

The Soul, the imagination of the whole.

Some photos of Mount Snowden:



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