One of the most famous paintings by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel is that of the Creation of Adam, depicting the moment God created humankind. It is one of a series of paintings on the ceiling that give life to the story in Genesis. Other famous scenes include Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden and the Deluge (flood).
There are many intriguing theories surrounding Michelangelo’s work, not least that scenes in the Sistine Chapel contain references to the Jewish Kabbalah mystical tradition. Another theory illuminates Michelangelo’s covert insults to the Catholic Church and its popes, hidden within the paintings and another unveils hidden female anatomy parts in the paintings. Critics of these theories say it is the result of people seeing what they want to see and point out that Michelangelo left a vast record of his life in writing, none of which mentions secret messages or hidden meanings.
But what if Michelangelo understood a deeper meaning to the story of creation? Rather than leaving obscure messages in bits of artwork, what if the entire painting was a literal representation of creation, a painting that would on first glance represent the biblical story and on reflection reveal an underlying truth that didn’t require the use of glasses or foreign languages (some authors have pointed to the Hebrew Alphabet being among the hidden meanings of Michelangelo’s work in the ceiling). After all, how many fellow illuminati would have access to a close inspection of the Sistine Chapel to discover some lost truth that Michelangelo painted in minute detail into his artwork?
Michelangelo’s work in the Creation of Adam can be a lot clearer if we view it in terms of Michelangelo’s understanding of creation and the laws of energy. Furthermore, that the message would be in full view is reinforced by even a cursory glance at many of his works – such as the Pieta. This sculpture represents Mary holding Jesus after crucifixion – only that that the Mary holding Jesus is not the Holy Mary but Mary of Magdalene, his wife. After all, the Mary in the sculpture is of the same age as Jesus and therefore hardly his mother.
So Michelangelo had form in using the entire canvas as a means of conveying a message while simultaneously appeasing his paymasters – the pope and the Medici family (two of who’s children became popes and where Michelangelo stayed in his formative years in the Medici palace).
The first thing most people note about God creating Adam in Michelangelo’s painting is that the fingers are not touching. And rightly so – there was no need for a physical contact to be made because Adam was created in a universe where thought alone controlled the outcome. This transfer of energy, this directed and controlled manifestation of a thought, is the very teaching of what many of us are waking up to now – that our thoughts alone control the experiences we have. That our thoughts have a very real and profound effect not just on us, but on the universe and everything within it. Every spiritual teacher in history has preached that control of the mind (and hence our ego) is the very pathway to spiritual enlightenment.
But let’s travel along this road a bit further and view the ‘God’ in Michelangelo’s painting as the source or the first being in the universe. As the first being, he requires a balance to his power. Without that balance, his every thought would be carried out because there is nothing in the universe to oppose him. Thus the creation of man is very necessary act of self preservation because without man, god cannot survive – to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and for god, man is it – we are the free will necessary to balance the power of the original conscious source. A God without an opposing force is only one thought away from self annihilation which must, at some point, inevitably occur. An opposing force, man (or conscious beings), directing energy to his ‘god’ prevents such a thing from happening.
This sense of balance, of an equality between conscious life here in the physical universe as represented by Adam and the original source as represented by God, permeates the entire painting. God is depicted floating in the ether, Adam in on the ground. God faces down, Adam faces up. God is clothed, Adam is naked. God reaches with the (active) right hand, Adam reaches out with the left (receptive) hand – another way of representing balance and also a throwback to the left and right pillars of mystical kabbalah tradition or what might have been viewed as occult literature. God is active, Adam is lazy or another way of viewing this is God is actively trying to create a balance, Adam doesn’t seem to understand it but is receptive to it. God has silver or bright hair, Adam has dark hair.
You would think that if somebody was painting God next to a mere mortal, that God would be infinitely bigger and have a status that would place man as a small insignificant being. But not in Michelangelo’s painting. Instead, we see humankind, as represented by Adam, as pretty much the same size as God – a balancing force to God’s power but one that nonetheless was ‘created’ or derived from that very same source. In the painting, Adam and God are both of the same flesh, the same substance. That is to say that man and god are not created from different materials, but are of the same energy, that their respective soul energy is no different. After so many differences and balancing dualities being painted into the scene, it is striking that both God and Adam are of the same flesh, i.e. substance.
The red cloud that God lies upon reveals another aspect of the hidden power that we all have – it is the shape of the human brain. And where has Michelangelo painted God’s magnificent hand protruding and extending out to create Adam? Right where we historically represent the third eye! In other words the power of creation of all of us extends through our third eye, that fabled spot in our forehead that we can ‘feel’ when we envision something coming to fruition. This is a very real representation of what happens when we make use of our visioning sense – energy transforms in the universe as charged by the very thoughts we think. There is an equal and balancing force to every action in the universe and your thoughts also hold true to that equation – they must have a balancing force and part of that balancing force is the effect they have in the universe.
And where does god reside in the painting? Right within this shape of the human brain. Along with all the other figures that seem to be attempting to stop him – or perhaps these are the negative voices we hear rattling around our own heads all the time given their depiction as rather unhappy that God is creating us at all! They are the ego, the voices we hear when we turn to our own sense of importance. God, as represented in the painting via his position in the ‘brain’, is within us – we only have to consciously understand it to avail at will of the experience. It is interesting that these figures appear within the brain on God’s side of the painting – almost as if they are the our own (and God’s) ego attempting to draw us away from finding our own balance.
Given that God in the image is consciously creating us there is a vast underlying message hidden in plain sight. That by consciously thinking anything, we set in motion an energy that has and does affect the universe as a whole. Consider this, that God thought ‘Adam’ into fruition and Adam went on to affect the entire earth (we can expand this to consider Adam as representing all conscious life which extends throughout the universe). There is a truism in this and this is it – when we consciously consider anything in the universe we are literally considering everything. The energy in the universe is not distinct and separate and compartmentalised from one thing to the next but at its most basic or subatomic level is ever flowing and changing, never static, but flowing from one form to the next. So when we contemplate one thing in a conscious way, we by default affect the universe as a whole. When God ‘created’ Adam, he consciously affected everything in the universe just by contemplating that one thing – Adam.
Perhaps this is what Thich Nhat Hanh meant when he said, “When you touch one thing with deep awareness, you touch everything.”