Sunday, September 15, 2013

Introduction to Visio Divina

Visio Divina

 (Godly Gazing)
(Spiritual Seeing)

Introduction to Visio Divina

Grace and Peace to you!

      This is a new Spiritual Discipline ( a tool to encourage deeper intimacy and relationship with Christ),  that is offered to you in hopes of helping you see and perceive, learn and listen to what God would say to you through Images: paintings, Icons, sculpture, or any other visual expression – including the Natural Creation around you.

“The beauty of… images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow

delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God.”

- St. John Damascene

      You may be familiar with another spiritual practice called Lectio Divina, (Divine or Spiritual Reading), a process to build your relationship and intimacy with Christ, from the written word of Holy Scripture.  Visio Divina is similar, but is on a Visual basis.

      Contemporary believers can be encouraged in their prayer life and relationship with Christ by considering God based artworks that attempt to express the mystery of Faith, and the love, faithfulness, and character of God.  The Old Testament is filled with images…  places, practices and art that is meant to trigger opportunities to tell and retell the story of the love and faithfulness of God.

Seeing and Perceiving

“In a way, nobody sees a flower really, it is so small, we haven’t time
 -- and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”
- Georgia O’Keeffe

      One of the main aspects to Visio Divina, is learning to really “See”, to perceive,…to see the Images of the Hand of God everywhere around us.

True art is knowing how to see
                                        - Leonardo da Vinci                                                     

Eyes that look are common; eyes that see are rare.
                -  J. Oswald Sanders

      Images – images made by artists – are not usually made willy-nilly, and are usually made with a fair amount of consideration, and also, they take a fair amount of time.  Real Art – (that which is not meant to be consumed and then thrown away, such as decorator art and advertising images ) will have more to see and perceive upon repeated viewings, it’s even possible to “see” new things after tens of viewings.

          Visio Divina is about learning to listen to what God would say to you through the image, again and again.  We in the 21st century are accustomed to using images; we’ll use the image, and then 10 seconds later, discard it.  If a magazine ad gets as much as ten seconds of our attention, it is hailed as a success, but they are trying to arrest our attention, and sell us something.    This is about listening to an image, listening to what God would communicate to us, through images that are constructed with care and consideration, and letting God arrest our attention.  This doesn’t usually happen quickly – it takes time.   to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”  This is about giving God the time to show us something, and in the midst, we are making a friend.  

       “ One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
       that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
       to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. “     Psalm 27:4

   Visio Divina is meant to nourish our visual souls.  We have such a rich historical library of religious paintings, Icons, sculptures, as well as many contemporary works - both Biblically and secularly based, that can be used by God to show us His ways.   The importance is in selecting the right image --- let the Holy Spirit help guide your decision in this.  Many of the fine illustrated books of the Life of Christ are a good place to start - you may already have at least one of these popular books in your library.

A Note about Icons

In some circles, Icons come down to us with negative connotations.  But we need have no fear or disdain for them, and can even find much to learn through them.  While some practices surrounding Icons may leave a bad taste in the mouth of a Protestant, if you find yourself attracted to an Icon’s story, or it’s subject, feel free to listen to it.  Traditionally,  Icons are considered as “Windows into Heaven”.  If you come to think of them in this way, you may have more success finding ways to appreciate them.  And for beginners, 19th century Russian Icons may be a good place to start.  As far as Images, really as far as Art is concerned, you’ll be hard pressed to find more sacred care taken to produce these exquisite works of Art, and this makes them well worth considering, and trying to get beyond our religious predisposition against them.  And from our Catholic and Orthodox Christian family members, we have much that we can learn from them, without necessarily completely agreeing with them on this subject.

"through the contemplation of icons, inserted in the whole of liturgical and ecclesial life, the Christian community is called to grow in its experience of God, becoming more and more a living  icon of communion of life among the three divine Persons."   
-  Pope John Paul II

As a visual Artist, and also a Pastor to Artists, the visual side of life is sort of my specialty.    I have been learning from God how to employ my entire being in the pursuit of intimacy with Him;  the Five Senses, the two sides of my brain, my Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength.  A Bible Study often uses only one side of the brain, Visio Divina is specifically designed to compliment a study experience of Holy Scripture by exercising a different side of the brain, as well as different ways of thinking, doing, experiencing, perceiving, and ultimately, listening to His Spirit in our lives.

© Paul Kiler – Art as Servant 2000                                                                  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Welcome - 

 - Visio Divina - 

Godly Gazing 

Spiritual Seeing

Visio Divina is an artistic partner to Lectio Divina; both meant to help us Listen to God's communication with us through silence, solitude, stillness, and meditation.

Neither Visio or Lectio Divina are meant to supplant using Holy Scripture to learn about God, know his will for our lives, or understand His character, they are all partners.

Lectio Divina was developed in the 4th Century to aid in meditation upon the Scriptures.

Visio Divina is patterned after Lectio Divina, but the source of what to meditate with, or on, is an object or an image, while keeping any possible scripture reference in mind.

I thought that I had coined the phrase "Visio Divina", and developed the concept.  I had many other people thinking the same with me.  But it seems that a few other people were doing so simultaneously.  Funny how that works.

The Arts have richly endured and enlightened the Chrisian faith for millenia. Even while John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli tried to militantly eradicate all art from the Protestant Church, it was Martin Luther who said he wished he could paint the entire Sanctuary with images to aid the people in their understanding.   I call it the 500 Year War of Iconoclastic Terrorism against the Arts.

     When I was making Crosses during Easter Week, in about 1994, my Presbyterian Missionary and Pastor's Wife Grandmother came to see me and was rather horrified to see me making these Images.  With more than a bit of gritted teeth indignation, she spurted out:  "Well You Know, Dr. Strong Never Allowed ANY Cross in HIS Church!".  Dr. Strong was a well loved Presbyterian Pastor here in Los Angeles.  And so here was my own Grandmother throwing in my face the same 500 years war of Iconoclastic Terrorism against my Art. She Loved me Yes, but she surely didn't like me making Art that was even remotely Christian/symbolical in theme.

It's long been time to move out of this artistically destructive path into an age of using images for profit and spiritual growth in the lives of Christians all around the world.  

Karen Kuchan has a book with Visio Divina as the Title, and the subtitle is about Healing.  Yes of course, Healing and Recovery are integral with being a healthy person, but I feel that using Visio Divina as a tool of Spiritual Growth is broader.

The way of Visio Divina in my mind goes to the core of trying to get to know God and His Character, to understand how we are so immensely loved by God, to help us to understand and internalize that we are so very special and valued by God, and it also helps us to understand passages of scripture that have been ruminated upon by centuries of Artists, who have really "gotten" the story, and they have used their Art to help us "see" the story with new eyes.

Visio Divina isn't about getting sidetracked into any new age or eastern philosophy.  I staunchly avoid these influences from outside of Christianity.
I don't feel that I need to leave Christianity and study ANY other religion or philosophy to find God speaking to me through a piece of Art or even a leaf I hold in my hand.

That's what it's all about, learning to hear God's voice, through all means we can find: Scripture, Prayer, Our Pastor's Messages, Songs we sing, from those saints around us in our lives, from the Holy Spirit, and through Artworks, Images, objects, and even nature itself.  Those are the seven In-Carnations, if you will, a bouquet of flowers of learning to hear God's voice in our lives.

Paul Kiler is a Spiritual Director, and has developed a Visio Divina curriculum useful to teach how to meditate upon an image in a safe Christian, Biblically oriented context. No hocus-pocus, no wierd practices, no smoke and mirrors.

It's part of my life's mission to help the Protestant Church return to a positive relationship with Images.

This Visio Divina curriculum teaches how to mediatate with an accessible or literal image showing a scene, people, activities, etc, that are immediately recognizable.  There is also a customization for abstracted types of images, those more open for interpretation, using the works of major Christian abstract artists as the teaching images. And a third style is for meditating upon images of the face of Christ.

I'm available to teach or lead these meditational sessions to any Christian group.   You can reach me through website messaging on one of my other websites, either, or

And you can see my artworks at

Please feel free to contact me to learn more about the curriculum, and if there is a fit between me and your group, and your goals with Visio Divina.