As the sequoia tree requires the minerals and clearing left by forest fires in order to grow, pyrotheology prepares the ground for a more fertile faith through self-critical dialogue and creative community events. By theoretically setting fire to the layers of belief we put over reality to protect ourselves from reality, pyrotheology seeks to ignite a sense of greater depth in life beyond the need for wholeness and certainty. Pyrotheology explores how the events testified to in the founding documents of Christianity invite us to fully embrace the reality of our brokenness and unknowing.
Pyrotheology does not seek to draw people into some kind of fractured existence, but rather to draw out the ways in which we already are fractured; a reality that our various cultural, political and religious narratives tend to eclipse. By short-circuiting the various techniques we use to avoid such self-confrontation and encouraging us to joyfully embrace what we unveil about ourselves through the process, the claim is that we will find that death is robbed of its sting and that a life in all its fullness is possible.
In the year 2001, a collective called “ikon” developed a provisional list of coordinates designed to help people access the strange and subterranean universe of transformance art and the contemplative practices aka pyrotheology. These coordinates were put on the original website under the title “A (non)definition of ikon”. They did not represent a set of beliefs or values, and neither were they designed to encapsulate the essence of the events – something that would have proved difficult because of the new, fluid and evolving nature of the project. However they remain useful as a basic reference point and, as such, we have reproduced them here with new descriptions.
Just as an icon is a physical creation that invites us to experience a sacredness in, but not fully contained by, the creation so ikon endeavors to form spaces in which the world that we inhabit is experienced as possessing a profound depth. By creating iconic spaces where the event opens up participants to a love of the world, ikon is committed to practices that evoke a deep celebration of, and commitment to, life.
The word ‘apocalyptic’ refers to the incoming of a singular, unrepeatable event that is inconceivable from our present place. It describes an event that could not have been predicted in advance of its coming and which defies all expectations. At ikon we value the place of the absolute surprise and attempt to form spaces that help to challenge some of our most deeply ingrained beliefs, opening ourselves up to what we might otherwise be unable to imagine.
If heresy brings to mind that which deviates from the accepted and agreed path then ikon is heretical in the sense that it causes us to rethink the well trodden paths of our inhertied traditions. We welcome the fact that our own success will ultimately undermine our heretical stand, for if we become established then we will become the dominant voice. Hence we seek to build self-critique into the very heart of our gatherings so that we continually undermine our own ideas.
The idea of emerging captures the nature of movement that ikon wishes to celebrate. For things to emerge there must be birth, but there must also be death and decay. For if things do not die and decay then they cannot feed the soil out of which the new can emerge. This meanings that ikon seeks to embrace cycle of birth, death and decay, allowing thoughts and practices to come into being, pass away and dissolve into ever new forms.
Finally ikon acknowledges that it constantly falls short of its hopes. Because of this we recognise that it would be inauthentic for us to sit back and declare that we have accomplished what we have set out to do. Instead we remain mindful of the fact that our attempts at forming a community of individuals who touch the depth of existence and celebrate life before death, are precisely that: attempts.