Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Leonardo da Vinci's experience in the belly of the whale
First, to address the belly of the whale...
As Joseph Campbell explains:
The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale.
The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown and would appear to have died. This popular motif gives emphasis to the lesson that the passage of the threshold is a form of self-annihilation. Instead of passing outward, beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes inward, to be born again...[a] life-centering, life-renewing act.
Leonardo da Vinci took on the world by asking questions about everything he experienced. This said, he may have appeared continually passing across this threshold, from outside to inside and back again. Perhaps this is why he did not finish his work at times. He was constantly in passage, neither outward, beyond the confines of the visible world, nor inward, engaging in so-called self-annihilation.
Therefore, da Vinci might be said to be an explorer rather than a seeker. His observations rapid, nearly brisk. His wellspring of questions allowing him transitions from one subject to another seemingly effortless. For example, drawings of his studies of birds in flight might occur in the morning while his theory of water may have been thought through late at night under a yellow-flamed kerosene lamp.