Iconographer Lynette Hull, speaking at TEDxCape May in Cape May, New Jersey, offers a unique perspective on our design-obsessed age:
In this brief lecture, Hull explains that by moving from command lines to graphical user interfaces (GUIs) Steve Jobs took “a giant step backwards” toward re-engaging the “noetic aspect” of humanity– that which understands neither by rationality nor intuition, but by direct engagement with the spiritual dimension. By drawing comparisons between icons used in traditional Christian worship (most prominently among eastern Christians) and the icons on computer desktops and smart phones, she hopes to remind this predominantly tech-driven audience that beauty itself is a way of knowing.
In Bread & Water, Wine & Oil, Archimandrite Meletios Webber explains the eastern conception of the nous, built upon by Hull in her lecture:
In the broadest of terms, one might say that Western civilization is dominated by the human mind, and “knowing” generally takes precedence over “being.” In the East, by contrast, experience is valued over thought. Rather than the mind, it is the nous of man–described by St. Makarios as the “eye of the heart” and identified by St. Diadochos as the “innermost aspect of the heart”–that is considered the most important element by which a person communicates with God. …
Icons are art for the heart [nous]. … For the [Orthodox] Church, an icon communicates a spiritual reality directly to the person who views it. This communication does not depend on any particular wisdom or knowledge on the part of the viewer, but rather on his or her degree of spiritual awareness and openness.
Hull makes a similar point when she says that with the advent of GUIs, even infants can use an iPad.
Iconoclasm, or rejection of religious imagery in worship, was condemned as a Christian heresy at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in AD 787. Iconoclasm has seen several periods of revival since, most notably during the Protestant reformations of the sixteenth century.
Via Byzantine, Texas.