Twenty-first Century Icons
About Fire at Heaven’s Gate
Fire at Heaven’s Gate depicts the expulsion from Eden as the inevitable outcome whenever humankind chooses personal desire over the common good.
Fire at Heaven’s Gate has two inspirations:
1. The Jewish Kabbala’s teaching about the balance of power and compassion: “When power overcomes compassion (the ability to perceive and value ‘the other’), evil enters the world.”
2. Oregon Governor Tom McCall’s biography by Brent Walth, Fire at Heaven’s Gate.
Tom McCall’s maternal grandfather, Thomas William Lawson, left his grandson a legacy of moral warning: in 1899 Lawson created the biggest swindle yet known on Wall Street. He brilliantly manipulated the stock market in a Ponzi scheme that gained him immense personal wealth at the price of his own mental health, and the lives of hundreds of his investors who committed suicide. Governor Tom Mc Call’s historic land use bill saved Oregon from the greed of developers, and as the bill was about to be overturned when he was dying of cancer, he used his last gasps of energy to successfully preserve it. Genesis 3:24 “…and at the East of Eden YWHW placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”
The upper panel:
The central shape of intertwining vines echoes the Jewish Kabbalah with a reference to similar concepts in Islam. The roots of the vine spring from the trilateral roots of the Hebrew and Arabic words for compassion- RHM.
On either side of the tree roots are the cherubim, boteh leaves inscribed with Hebrew letters for yesh (“being,” the tangible divine presence) and ayin (“nothingness,” the cosmic divine presence that is beyond understanding). The boteh on either side of the sunflower are inscribed with names for the divine presence in Arabic with meanings parallel to the Hebrew names, Jalal and Jamal.
In the middle of the vine is the heart, the center of intelligence. When it functions as it is meant to, emptied of ego, it’s energy becomes connected to all that is, and then returns to earth to do the work of tikkun olam, repair of the world. That work is described in Micah 6:8: Act with justice. Love with compassion. Walk humbly with your God.
Below the heart are two Hebrew letters:
In the emerald green circle is the letter vav, representing Tifîeret, harmony and beauty. Tifîeret maintains the balance between power and compassion.
In the purple circle is yod, representing Shekinah. Shekinah contains all aspects of Divinity and sustains the world. The union of Shekinah and Tif’eret give birth to the human soul.
The lower panel:
The kalishnikov, found in the hands of the paramilitary in every country, earth’s most prevalent automatic rifle, is so indestructible as to be almost immortal.