The Ladder of Divine Ascent

I like this painting very much. It’s on an Egyptian monastery. One of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world.

It’s a depiction of an Orthodox writing of the same name, which is, in turn, a writing on the Orthodox concept of  “theosis”. Deification. Making one’s self like God.

This isn’t a concept that’s prevalent in much of Western Christianity but it’s still apparently taught in Orthodoxy.

The image is people going up a ladder towards  Jesus while little demons pull some of them off the ladder. It’s a classic depiction of mysticism. The ladder is the mystical quest, to know God. The demons are the things that distract you or pull you away from this quest. Doubt, fear, etc.

This is a specifically Christian depiction of mysticism but the idea can apply (with adaptation) to all religions.

Incidentally, there’s another version of this painting, also from an ancient Egyptian monastery. Here.  Also, here is the Wikipedia entry on St. John Climactus’ treatise on which these paintings are based upon.

~ by R.M. McGrath on 12/27/2011.

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