Re: THEOS-L digest 1305
Nov 02, 1997 06:49 PM
Thank you for your very interesting quick reply to Mondrian's rhythm. I
myself reread my contributed mail again and found several English
mistakes (my first language is Japanese) and difficulties to understand
my question, but you generously skimmed my points and, more than that,
gave me a delightful possibility to trace back to ancient concept of
Thoa Tran wrote:
> Did Mondrian form his theory of rhythm during the time of his early
> abstract art, or during the time of his geometric compositions of later
Actually there is no obvious documentation written by him about rhythm
before 1917. But the earlier version of the long essay titled "The New
Plastic in Painting" was originally intended to publish in the magazine
of Theosophy society in Holland in 1914 but was rejected. And in his
postmortem publication of his sketchbooks 1912-1914 there is no direct
reference of rhythm. So we can say that he developed his idea of rhythm
rudimentally between 1914-1917, when his painting was in transition from
natural referential abstract painting to non-natural referential
> You can find what Mondrian is referring to (no-time, non-repetition) in
> ideas older than the Secret Doctrine, in Hinduism and Buddhism. In fact,
> it's pretty basic Yoga. As far as I can see, there are no direct
> references to rhythm indexed in the major works by Blavatsky that we have.
Yes, there is no indexed reference of rhythm in the major works by
Blavatsky, but in her book "Studies in Occultism" (Sphere Books Limited,
1974, ISBN 0 7221 1701 9) there are several parts concerned rhythm
mentioned: "the rhythm of nervous vibrations" (p. 42), "it [the flame]
will dance and sing in rhythm with sounds." But those do not relate to
the main concept of rhythm in Mondrian.
> However, the idea of rhythm expressed by Mondrian in your quote is not
> rhythm as we generally know it, but rhythm in terms of finding the
> stillness of equilibrium to liberate ourselves from Maya. When the Secret
> Doctrine discusses about Pralaya, Laya centers, cycles, and illusion, there
> are plenty of ideas from which to build such a theory. In the Stanzas of
> the Secret Doctrine, you can see references to time and space being
> illusion, and how we evolve to free ourselves from Maya. From that, you
> can see where Alice Bailey got her ideas about rhythm. For example, in
> Yogic and Buddhic meditation, the purpose is to still the vibrations of the
> senses, the emotions, and the lower mind. By doing that, you can find the
> Laya center, and slip through to experience the higher nature.
This is precious information dedicating the understanding of Mondrian's
rhythm. In the grocery attached to "The Secret Doctrine Commentary" Maya
and Pralaya mean (but no item of "Laya centers" so if you explain the
term it will be appreciated):
Maya (Sans.) Illusion; the cosmic power which renders phenomenal
existence and the perceptions thereof possible. In Hindu philosophy that
alone which is changeless and eternal is called reality: all that which
is subject to change through decay and differentiation, and which has,
therefore, a beginning and an end, is regarded as MAYA -- illusion.
Pralaya (Sans.) Dissolution, the opposite of Manvantara, one being the
period of rest and the other of full activity (death and life) of a
or of the whole universe.
Those terms are pretty important to genealogical trace of Mondrian's
unusual concept of rhythm and reality, and so far, within my small
knowledge, no art historian has referred to this.
> Mondrian was trying to express that in terms of art. I think that is what
> he meant by "point of perfect balance and of equilibrium." Having rhythm
> in a "no-time and non-repetition basis" is holding the stillness. Thus, he
> was creating symbols of Laya centers in his art and was quite Yogic in his
> approach to art, whether he knew it or not.
Mondrian's theory of rhythm is enigmatic, quite difficult to understand.
Especially realization of rhythm in stillness, while rhythm, in normal
sense, directly associates with movement. Now I feel I get a clue to
follow Mondrian's argument. Thank you.
> Here are some references you might want to look at:
> An Art of Our Own (The Spiritual in Twentieth Century Art)
> by Roger Lipsey, Shambhala Publications, Inc., ISBN 0-87773-496-8 (pbk.)
I will see in the university library catalogue.
> The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting, 1890-1985
> by Maurice Tuchmann, Abbeville Press Publishers, ISBN 0-7892-0056-2
I already got one copy of this (IQ(J there is no extended arguments of
> We'll be very interested in reading the final paper if you're willing to
> publish it. Have a great one.
I will. I will do my best. Thank you for your encouragement.
My former mail to this site had several grammatical and terminological
mistakes so I will cite the corrected version:
I am writing Ph. D thesis about Piet Mondrian (Dutch painter 1872-1944),
especially about his theory of rhythm at Melbourne University.
He is famous for a theosophist painter and was very much influenced by
theosophist writings, for example, Mme Bravatsky, J. Krishnamurti, M. H.
J. Schoenmaekers (Dutch philosopher and theosophist).
I am tracing Mondrian(IU(Js theory of rhythm. It is quite unusual one. He
contested that rhythm should occur on no-time and no-repetition basis
and it should be attained by the equilibrated point of two extreme
So far the phrase I have encounter among theosophist writings concerning
rhythm is Alice A. Bailey(IU(Js in her book A Treatise on Cosmic Fire (Lucis
Publishing Company, New York, 1925, p. 158): (IR(JRhythm, or the attainment
of the point of perfect balance and of equilibrium.(IS(J
This concept is quite similar to Mondrian(IU(Js, but Mondrian wrote about
his theory of art and rhythm from 1917. So he obviously did not read
Bailey(IU(Js book. Then there is a question from where he got the idea of
If the theory of rhythm is quite common among theosophist, where can we
find the similar phrases in Mme Bravatsky(IU(Js or J. Krishnamurti(IU(Js
writings (or any theosophical writing before 1917)?
If someone knows this resources about rhythm, please let me know. I am
living Melbourne City (originally from Osaka Japan), so I can go to the
library of Melbourne Theosophy Society and reference the resources.
Thank you for your attention.
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