Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Scientific efficacy of the "Burne-Jones Effect"

Soul and Science in the March-April 2007 issue of Spirituality & Health is available online after free registration with the site.

In this column, Thomas Moore talks about his recent visits to medical institutions:
"During the past year, I have visited many medical schools and hospitals, lecturing on the soul and spirit in medicine. I know from years of acquaintance with the medical world that the soul-withering aspects of science contaminate the work of doctors and other medical personnel. So when I lectured at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota recently, I urged the staff to return to their sense of calling and to the images and longings they felt when they first entered medical school.

A surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, picking up on my message, told me how he feels alienated from his patients by an intrusive piece of equipment. His solution is to put a powerful painting on the wall to offset the mechanical hardware. I call this creative response to the intrusiveness of science the "Burne-Jones Effect." Edward Burne-Jones was the pre-Raphaelite painter of dolorous scenes of redheaded women and chivalrous men who seem a bit more soulful than is seemly. My wife, a serious painter and professor of art history, doesn’t see much value in Burne-Jones and his friends, but when I attended an exhibition of his work at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, I thought I might faint — in pre-Raphaelite style — from the sheer intensity of color and form. Burne-Jones once said, "The more discoveries science makes, the more angels I will paint." This is the principle I adopt and recommend to anyone whose soul is being sucked out by the enthronement of fact."
Moore says, "Children and adults need recess, art, spirituality, and a magical, soulful life. At the moment, science is too anxious about verification and absolute certitude to be able to offer such things."

In the February 2007 issue, The Smithsonian magazine offers Doug Stewart's "Incurably Romantic" that shows Britain's Pre-Raphaelites back in favour.