Scott D. Finch is a professional painter residing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and author of the newly released “A Little World Made Cunningly”, a graphic novel semi-based on the creation mythos of the ancient classical Gnostics. He has also contributed his colorful paintings to a number of publications and art venues, such as The Gnostic. Readers of The Aeon Eye know that the subject of Gnosticism (among others) has been a keen subject of interest of mine which is sort of the focus of this blog. And as a fellow artist and writer, the idea of transforming Gnostic cosmology into a visual medium or at least drawing inspiration from it, holds infinite possibilities. So let’s get to it…
AeonEye: First and foremost, can you tell us what “A Little World Made Cunningly” is about?
Scott: This book is my attempt at cosmos building.
Ancient cosmologies such as the one ascribed to Ptolemy often picture the human being as the smallest, most central point in a system of concentric rings stretching out to fixed stars at the edge of everything. This book zooms in on that small central point to demonstrate that it too is a container for a complete cosmos. The human being is an entirety unto herself.
And what do you feel was the main inspiration behind it?
Scott: While on an early morning walk in January of 2011, I was thinking about the different metaphors that people have used to describe coming into relationship with the divine. Mystics, for example, often describe journeys from the mundane realm to an enchanted one. Saint John of the Cross used the metaphor of scaling a holy mountain sometimes, and at other times he wrote of an escape from the prison cell of the body into the arms of the beloved. His Carmelite sister, Saint Theresa of Avila, wrote about an inward journey to the deepest parts of the Interior Castle.
So, as I walked along daydreaming about this, the image of a woman sitting under a tree appeared in my mind. She was taking leaves from the tree and twisting them to form moebius strips that she wove around herself to form a dress. It wasn’t a carefully designed allegory about qualified dualism or emmanationism, it was just this fully formed image that showed up unannounced. As I imagined it and kept it in my mind, it expanded into a loosely outlined story. Although I had never really made any kind of sequential art before, I immediately felt compelled to see this all the way through.
Could you also explain the title?
Scott: It refers to a well known line from Holy Sonnet V by John Donne. I happened upon the poem as I was finishing the book and discovered that it worked really well as a framing device to bookend the story. I thought that the first section of the poem really spoke to the way that the ego frames all in terms of opposites and builds a very confining house for itself.
I am a little world made cunningly
Of elements, and an angelic sprite;
But black sin hath betray’d to endless night
My world’s both parts, and, O, both parts must die.
The remainder of the poem is quoted to close out the book. It speaks of a revelation that comes from outside of that self created little world with the capacity to transform and elevate consciousness.
You which beyond that heaven which was most high
Have found new spheres, and of new land can write,
Pour new seas in mine eyes, that so I might
Drown my world with my weeping earnestly,
Or wash it if it must be drown’d no more.
But O, it must be burnt ; alas ! the fire
Of lust and envy burnt it heretofore,
And made it fouler ; let their flames retire,
And burn me, O Lord, with a fiery zeal
Of Thee and Thy house, which doth in eating heal.
AeonEye: What would you say was your introduction to the world of Gnosticism?
Scott: I was first introduced to Gnosticism by little hints in Carl Jung’s books, especially in his footnotes. I backtracked to many of those primary sources, and then gradually familiarized myself with the early Christian milieu and all of the mystics, alchemists, and historical freaks I could dig up information about. Then one day the internet was born with gnosis.org somehow already fully formed, begotten not made. That was the real treasure trove.
AeonEye: Is there anything featured in the various and assorted doctrines of all the arch-heretics of the classical world that speaks to you, specifically?
Scott: I never really think about arch-heresy. That seems like an aspect of contemporary anti-establishment rebellion, which is really not the tone that I respond to in the ancient texts. Though they do often turn conventional interpretations of stories on their heads, I think the real reason the so-called gnostics reversed the punchlines of so many old stories was not just to be oppositional. They did so because of a deep need to bring sacred books like Genesis into agreement with their own internal truths.
There is a great deal of variety amongst the texts, but the folks lumped under the title “gnostic” seem to agree that our ordinary, uncritical, drowsy perspective of the world is a cosmic joke. The world that we think we see is just the tiniest, most insubstantial part cast off from a much greater, more gloriously perfect whole.
AeonEye: And how would you define your approach to spirituality in general?
Scott: I make art. That is my antidote to the amnesia I acquire from exposure to the world.
AeonEye: How would you describe your own style as far as painting is concerned? Not that I think your work is derivative of his, but I sort of feel a small yet intimate connection between your work and the work of Rev. Max on his infamous enemies.com website, since you both focus on Gnostic myth and pop-culture memes and cartoon style to express a fairly convoluted yet sublime and imaginative theology and cosmogony that was channeled and transmitted to Secret-Grey Robed Christians (a Philip K Dickian term) 1,800-1,900 years ago. It’s almost like you were chosen to carry the torch. Am I getting warm?
Scott: Anybody who wants to compare the banality of our prepackaged consensus reality with the transcendence of the Pleroma will inevitably address pop-culture kipple. While I certainly I like Rev. Max’s artwork very much, and Philip K. Dick is a font of inspiration, I don’t know how their work relates to my own except in a very general way.
Regarding lineages and the transmission of anointings, I just don’t care about that stuff. I doubt there’s anything really transcendent that one lousy mortal can pass along magically to another. I definitely believe in study and practice far more than some intangible zap. I, personally, just draw and scribble in notebooks. That’s my vehicle of discovery, articulation, and expression.
AeonEye: Can you give any titillating news on upcoming projects that you’re currently working on?
I’m currently working on a second graphic novel. This one is about domestic animals and Western Esotericism. I’ll probably start posting some of that stuff online pretty soon.
For more information on Scott D. Finch, visit his website.