Designing an Image of Everything

By Jonathan Pageau on July 30, 2020
The Cosmic Mountain

The Cosmic Mountain – Image designed by Jonathan Pageau

For many years now I have been studying the traditions of iconology, the sacred visual language which has developed in the Church.  Long before becoming an icon carver, the pattern of my thinking had already been built through meditation on the images of both the Christian East and the medieval West.  Although I am mostly a visual person, I’ve nonetheless spent much time analyzing scripture and other Christian texts which lay out in poetic and literary form that which we portray in icons through visual means.  The relationship between Genesis/Exodus and the Gospels is very precious to me, which is why I place so  much value on writings like St-Ephrem’s Hymns on Paradise or St-Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Moses, or even Western poems like Dante’s Comedy. Liturgical texts are also of great value, especially those around Holy Week, where we find expressed the powerful paradox of the cross.

In my writing and lectures I am always attempting to show the value of sacred space, which in architecture and in aspects of iconography, conveys the pattern, an image of the “unfashioned tabernacle” – what St-Gregory of Nyssa calls the “archetype”[1] of Creation:

“we say that Moses was… ..instructed by a type in the mystery of the tabernacle which encompasses the universe. This tabernacle would be Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God, who in his own nature was not made with hands, yet capable of being made when it became necessary for this tabernacle to be erected among us. Thus, the same tabernacle is in a way both unfashioned and fashioned, uncreated in preexistence but created in having received this material composition.” [2]

The Tabernacle is Christ himself, who revealed himself to us through His incarnation and encapsulated all the patterns within himself.  This of course goes to alleviate some confusion.  Many in the Christian camp have been suspicious about my discussion of “archetypes” and “patterns”, wondering if I am reverting to some kind of pagan neo-platonism or Jungian psychologization. The truth is that there is only ONE archetype and pattern, that is Christ, who is both the origin and culmination of all of Creation. The only Pattern is the Divine Logos. All smaller patterns and logoï have existence only to the extent that they are united to and participate in their origin. Though this might seem intuitively right to a Christian, it will probably appear like pure nonsense to a secular person.  But once one begins to notice how the pattern of reality is a fractal, which means that all instantiations of the parts of reality at all levels of existence are a variation of the one Meta-Pattern which is the pattern of incarnation itself, that is the way which the invisible is joined to the visible, the way that meaning and purpose is patterning the indefinite potential of reality, then the apparent nonsense begins to clear. The pattern is not arbitrary. The pattern of reality is the very manner by which pattern is instantiated in the world. This is the incarnational principle for which the Incarnation of the Logos becomes not only the culmination, but the very template of Reality. This truth of Christ and the Incarnation is described everywhere in Scripture from the moment Logos and Light informed the chaotic waters of Creation in Genesis to the crowning of Creation with the Heavenly Jerusalem in the book of Revelation.

In my continued meditation on these questions, I developed a desire to create an image which would unfold the pattern of which I am speaking in a manner that would help people see the connection between the different levels of reality and how the narrative of Scripture culminates into the Incarnation. There are already examples of the “images of everything” in our iconographic tradition. I have argued that the image of Last Judgement is one of those. I have even argued that the icon of Christ itself enfolds the basic pattern of the Last Judgement within itself. My approach here in this image of the Mountain is to create an image which both contains the ontological structure of reality like we see in the Last Judgement, but also contains a narrative condensation of the story of reality through a scriptural and iconological lens.

All the elements brought together have precedent in the visual tradition of Christian art as well as pulling elements from the textual traditions I mentioned above.

For those interested in a breakdown, I have recorded a video exploring most elements of the image and showing how they relate to the whole while giving examples of precedents in Christian art.

I am offering up this image to the Church. I do not feel like I own it. Iconographers are free to use any or all of this image in their own designs.  I just ask that people do not sell reproductions or use my actual drawing in printed publications.

If you do want to get a detailed print of my drawing, it is nonetheless possible.

To have it on apparel:

I will also be carving a version of this image in the coming year though the gracious support of a patron who I was able to convince in commissioning such an elaborate image.


[1] St-Gregory of Nyssa.  “Life of Moses”, Book II: 174.  Translated by Abraham Malherbe.

[2] Ibid.

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  1. Alexander Lynch on July 30, 2020 at 6:14 pm

    Jonathan, outstanding icon! Would please you link to or post a high resolution version?

  2. Clair Brandenburg on July 31, 2020 at 10:16 am

    This is wonderful!
    It seems that there should be more.
    Adam and Eve instead of being separated placed together on the right, hard shore, lower goat corner), while on the left they are entering the heavenly (church) door, held open by an angel, (again falling and rising).
    At the top of the icon, on a throne in Glory, the Risen Lord, with the circles of the creation ( – Eighth Day) circling, flowing, out from His Throne. The Resurrection shown as the culmination of the entire process.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    In Jesus Christ- Claire Brandenburg

  3. Claire Brandenburg on July 31, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    From Claire Brandenburg- re previous reply:
    More-Christ should be admitting Adam and Eve to the ”Church/ Heavenly door on left.

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