The Conscious Heart: On the Act of Creation and the Compassionate Teachings of Art

Mary Anderson, PhD



This essay elucidates the ontological, dialogical and revelatory nature of the creative process within human life, the work of art, and the act of prayer.  It plumbs the interrelations of aesthetics and ethics in the event of dialogue and the meanings inherent in the making and perceiving of works of art. Art’s compassionate teachings illumine the heart of our individual and collective humanity:  “We are interstitial beings – conscious and not, awake yet asleep – whose form and words bear meaning in a shareable world, across a divide that marks us, ethically and aesthetically, for life. Not made by hands, yet moored in time and flesh, we are sentient, conscient, images in the making, continually negotiating this division within us, which is the bane and balm of a truly human life.  Art and prayer – thought of here in their broadest sense as forms of dialogue – reveal and represent this ambivalent core, the very ‘heart’ and horizon of our being and becoming human.”


Mary Anderson, a graduate of Harvard (MTS ’02, PhD ’11) and the School of Visual Arts (MFA ’88), is an interdisciplinary scholar and artist, currently an associate at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University and an academic program candidate at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

Harvard Divinity Bulletin (Winter/Spring, 2015). Vol 43, No 1-2, pp. 21-31.

Link to Online Publication (fulltext is available online)

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