Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Evolving Role of the Artist

Rupert Spira, twenty first century mystic and teacher of nonduality, sees the “mystic’s job is to explore the nature of reality, but more is required of the artist. He or she has to simultaneously make manifest the ongoing results of this enquiry in form. So the role of the artist is to provide a way that this presence can be approached and experienced through the senses. The artist has to re-present our world of conceptualised objects, separated and extended in space and time, as it really is. He has to reinterpret our model of reality in line with direct experience and to convey this ‘taste of eternity’. We could call this twofold activity contemplation and creativity. Contemplation is the passive aspect; creativity is the dynamic aspect. These are two inseparable aspects of consciousness.”

The fourteenth century German mystic, Meister Eckhart, believed that “God dwells within you - as you,” or “I can only be fully known by becoming God.”  Eckhart wrote prolifically on the subject and was charged but never convicted of heresy for his writings.  His direct identification with the divine can also be seen in the works of Shankara, James, Blake, Rumi and many great saints and sages of the wisdom traditions.  Author Aldous Huxley  believed that most enlightened beings also practice this philosophy. Within the God space in us peace can be found, and here, mystical and aesthetic experiences and transformational events can unfold.

The nineteenth century artist and philosopher, Benedetto Croce, believed this peaceful God space to be the spirit within us from which we draw our inspiration.  He tells us that the externalization of intuition is secondary to its appearance in the consciousness of the artist, and that the expression of intuition is meaningful apart from the projection or form it takes in a work of art.  With art as the embodiment of spirit through intuition, we symbolize feelings, Nature, soul, God.

The role of the artist, then, is to bring the other, or viewer, to that place in consciousness through the form presented – into Nature, soul, feelings, God, where we can be, ourselves, inspired, and feel ourselves a complete microcosm of life’s macrocosm.  In this way, we connect with and become our own aesthetic holon, nesting with all others in unity consciousness.

What do YOU think?

Artwork by Ron Isom  Many thanks.

27 comments:

Mark said...

The poet Robert Graves once said that art can only be defined by the emotional repsonse it evokes in the observer/participant. The English writer and member of he Inklings, Charles Williams based upon his studies of Dante & his Beatrician experience observed there are two paths to the supernal- the paths of affirmation and negation. Art and love are solidly in the path of affirmation, it is in that affirmation of the universal life force which immerses the artist in that exploration of the nature of reality. Art is most tangible doorway for the raising of the sensible to the supersensible, thus anyone who has appreciated any work of art has undergone a mystical experience. With both art and love we are never more truly ourselves than during those experiences.

Mirjana said...

You said it beautifully so it is hard to say anything additionally. I myself often talk about this role of artist convinced that this is the mission of art.
Intuition, contemplation, creation are ways to self transformation. This can be active, when creator influences awakening of consciousness and through that transformation of consciousness with his/her piece of art. Or it is passive in the sense that a receiver of art contemplate about it which opens him/her door to the self transformation too. Both are needed for this process of transformation, giver and receiver. My hope is that more and more creative and sharing givers we shall have so that the number of receivers will also increase. Otherwise this expecting change in global consciousness wouldn't be possible.

Carolyn said...

As a music lover, and to get the main idea down to the very personal level, in order to deal with abstract more objectively:
I am an artist of drawings and paintings; I play the piano; I decorate. I also write. Are you positioned on 'me', as an example of an artist, drawing for 'you', perfoming musically for 'you', et al, giving you my mystical experience? I am not sure on this point from the writings given.

On the other hand, I ['artist'] use these different media to express my inner being; the music I play is what I Iove, am attracted to; likewise for my drawings of home interiors/vignettes, etc.,; also in my decorating as to favorite colors. Likewise on my researches and writings to express my interests.

Artists can only express what we all express; we have different media to use, but our inner being is what we are showing forth. We are all expressing in our dress, our hair, our countenance, our car, homes, music preferences, et al, what we are inside; however, our 5 senses perceive only externals.

We are all facets of the divine, showing forth rays of experiences, loves, antipathies. Those who have developed, through much work, certain artistic skills (demonstrated in this current life) may amplify some media of beauty for the rest of us. That beauty is harmony from within or disharmony from within: harmony is non-jarring in any media; disharmony is very jarring. Certain colors jar, as do certain chords; certain vibrations of people's voices jar or screech. "As within, so without."

'You' are expressing your inward life to 'me' ;your concerns and loves. A tree is known by its fruits; like bringing forth like. So each of us expresses our facet of the totality. This should give us deep appreciation of others for showing us other potentials, other perceptions; all this to broaden who we are individually; to evoke some splendor within.

We are all in it together. Some are more advanced, some are lagging behind. We all have something to give and share and benefit others with, but with some, the giving forth is non beneficial, even harmful, depending on the soul 'emanating' itself.

I am happy to bring out my inner loves expressed in my music, etc., to others. There are those, however, who demonstrate the axiom: 'The gift without the giver is bare." I pick these vibrations up easily; therefore, I have brought physical harm to myself because I ignored the 'intuitive me' to govern my senses and rationalizing; I had received the 'message' from within; I just chose to override it. Much pain resulted.

If you have read Blavatsky's 'Animated Statues', or read 'The Talking Idol", then you will connect with the psychic energies pervading all that we do; sending out as radio stations all that is within.

So when we see, or hear, or read - artists - we are also picking up their 'inner beingness' -- advanced, good, evil, etc. This is where the 'intuition' , the perceiving of spirits, needs to be finely tuned through 'minding the first gut impressions'.

peacepilgrim said...

During my times of painting, it was not only peace I found, there was also deep despair, sadness, pain, anxiety, anger, insecurity, happiness, contemplation and.......It was an investigation of my self and not a single moment felt wasted. The process of painting meant to me to go deeper into my own inner world, the process of self investigation and reflection became more important, interesting and fulfilling to me than the paintings.

When I dive into the pictures of other artists, it feels like sharing whatever the vibration and expression of the painting is. Often I felt peace in the pictures of the late work of the artists, Mondrian for example. His late pictures felt so much brighter and pulsating.

David said...

The sacred artist is an interesting subject, Molly.

Once Wilber talked about different types of enlightenment, and I think the idea came from Tibetan Buddhism, but I haven't been able to find anything about it. I think one was the sacred artist, though, and another the guru, another the pandit. Probably the householder was another.

In a sense, with many orientations, there are two works: the timeless side and the work on the time side, whether it be as an artist, guru, etc. A lot of people mix two or more of these types and sometimes with good results, but sometimes I wonder whether people are better focusing on what they're best at. Of course some people are great at more than one thing, and there have been some great things to come of Ken Wilber's art, for example.

I've often wondered whether one's orientation to God and such would differ slightly depending on which type you were. It would seem that there would be some differences.

Molly Brogan said...

I found a dialogue between artist Alex Grey and Ken Wilber that may speak to the sacred artist:

http://www.alexgrey.com/essay/kenwilber.html

I enjoyed (and thought relevant to the post) the following points:

A spiritual art must transform the artist and the viewer. In order for art to be transformative, it has to undo you.

Most artists agree, their dissatisfaction drives them toward something deeper and better, and keeps them making art. Even a "happy" artist like Matisse agreed with this. I think Krishnamurti called it creative discontent.

Transcendental Art expresses something that you are not yet but that you can become..

As Emerson said, "It all begins when the soul would have its way with you." Certain artists become channels of the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times. They are the chosen who the World Soul reaches down and grabs by the butt. The best they could do was have a sense of grace while being the puppet of the Zeitgeist. Some artists, like Pollock, wind up sedating themselves for the ride. A metal bar will bend until it cracks and pops apart. Artists are positioned at the crack of the Zeitgeist. When a force beyond the individual grabs you, you are not choiced. The onset of social psychopathology or transformative growth is signalled by the artists.

The full article also gives several references to the Wilber work that may speak to the subject of sacred artist.

Gillian said...

This is a very interesting essay, thank you for posting the link as well. What do I think? Personally, I agree that the true artist is a shaman,a connection, a priest or alchemist. Great art in any medium, functions as tool to develop the spirit or consciousness both in society and individuals.

Kathy said...

I found this interesting too! Thanks for sharing Molly. I can imagine being in a room with them in a total spirit of playfullness discussion.

The journey of creation.
This is the creative process.
I value each and every person who passes through.
People have the power. Always have - always will.
Without an audience, the artist would exist without a reflection.

Shashank said...

"To paint a tree green is not true painting for the reason that however well one imitates her, nature is still the essential thing; nature is still more beautiful, more vital; it needs no copy. A real painter never imitates. He uses an object as a recipient or focus of the sun, or to observe a color reflex in that object’s surroundings, or to catch, above it, an interweaving of light and darkness. In other words, the thing painted is merely an inducement. For example, we never paint a flower standing in front of a window; we paint the light which, shining in at the window, is seen through the flower. We paint the sun’s colored light; catch the sun.”

“The task of art is to take hold of the shining, the radiance, the manifestation, of that which as spirit weaves and lives throughout the world. All genuine art seeks the spirit. Even when art wishes to represent the ugly, the disagreeable, it is concerned, not with the sensory-disagreeable as such, but with the spiritual which proclaims its nature in the midst of unpleasantness.”

Rudolf Steiner

Arts and Their mission chapter6

Bruce said...

"All our senses, sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell have been channeled or dispersed towards personal defense and aggression, used as tools to maintain the person. Through artistic appreciation the qualities of sensitivity and receptivity are awakened. Energy is sustained and the sense organs find their organic multi-dimensionality. In real listening the ear does not grasp the sound but remains totally relaxed and receptive to sound, silence and rhythm. It becomes a creative tool for the transmission of sound to the whole body. The senses no longer function fractionally but the body is one whole sense organ. Without this welcoming openness, global feeling and sensitivity, the question “Who am I?” remains intellectual. If it is ever to become a living question it must be transposed on every level of our being. The openness in the living question is the doorway to the living answer." - Jean Klein

Lee said...

Does an artist have a role?
In my experience those who produce art in it's myriad forms do so
without conscious thought as to the role they play, and in fact
produce their art simply because they feel they must. All artists in
my experience feel the need to say something, to show something of
themselves to their audience.
So I think it is more a matter of their personal need than any role.

Francis said...

love this idea, Molly! For me, it also implies that we are all artists, for, as conscious beings, we all have this dynamic aspect, creativity. It strikes me that its expression and unfolding is necessary for us all (as is the freeing of our contemplative aspect). In a healthy consciousness this can take all sorts of forms, creating and maintaining a cherishing family atmosphere, the gift of catalyzing friendship, cooking, taking joy in repairing something well, growing something, etc. The creative urge will out. In many cases, due to pain and injury or structural societal dysfunctionality, its expression can become negative, hurtful, pathological ... narcissism, exploitation, cruelty. Creative paths may become blocked and twisted. But, freed and cleaned, they can then become channels of healing ...

Vam said...

" ... we are all artists ..." This is indeed what I understand too ... i.e. anybody with the sense of choice, something to do or express. How well or poorly we do whatever speaks of how good or bad an artist we are !

Molly Brogan said...

In that we spontaneously create our experience, I think we are all artists of life. Whether or not we are objectifying our creation to share as a communion with other, we all do symbolize, laying the foundation for our experience to unfold. And, as you say, even if we are not cognizant of the the dynamic, our artistic medium - thoughts and feelings as symbols - if destructive, will reflect that in our actions and experience. I like what you say about healing Francis, and think that when we realize health and healing as the same dynamic, our experience as it unfolds is all good (non dual). In other words, faith that a crisis in healing (which can present symptoms that we have been taught represent illness ) will have the outcome of health, or even life through death, becomes acceptance of the more encompassing view of health. Much like the inseparable aspects of consciousness, contemplation and creativity - our healing is an inseparable part of our health.

Lee said...

Molly yes you are correct, we all have roles that we are conscious of and some that we are not. But then in light of this, the role of an artists is merely to produce art. Would an Atheist artist agree that her role is: 'to bring the other, or viewer, to that place in consciousness through the form presented – into Nature, soul, feelings, God, where we can be, ourselves, inspired, and feel ourselves a complete microcosm of life’s macrocosm. In this way, we connect with and become our own aesthetic holon, nesting with all others in unity consciousness.'? If such an artist says yes this is indeed my role then yes, that is indeed her role. However as I have said in my experience the need that an artist feels is to communicate something to their audience, mostly (it seems) the artist is conveying something about themselves, or their views on a a given subject. Sometimes though the artists simply wants to tell a story. The role of an artist then must be as varied as there are artists out there, and ultimately this role is whatever the artists says it is, surly? We all know that a piece of art may mean different things to different people, and really only the artist can ever say for sure what her intent was. Lets take a water colour of a bowl of rotting fruit. We can look at it and perhaps decide that the artist is commentating on the rotten core of humanity, but then she may just have been struck by the odd beauty of a bowl of rotting fruit and wished to record it.

Molly Brogan said...

I see intention and definition as secondary, part of the endless abstraction and analyzation in that we do or do not engage our minds. As such, it is valuable and meaningful. I contend, like Croce, that inspiration and communion associated with art is beyond mind. The role of the artist, also, is secondary. But I think it is evolving, just as humanity is evolving. The artist and his art bringing us to and inspiring us to the beautiful is evolving to include bringing us into the unity of that God space, or pure consciousness, that allows our inspirations.

Francis said...

"Sometimes though the artists simply wants to tell a story." Lee

In the end, Lee, it's all always about telling stories, isn't it? It's just that we all use different languages and words, either literally or the languages of music, dance, film, the words of paint or stone or mixtures of all of these. In the end, it's the beauty that communicates, the expression of the truth of the message, "this, too, is what it is to be human; to live, to feel, to suffer, to love, to be in our world." Some feel a need to use God-talk to express it, some don't. In the end, I don't think it really matters; I can be amazed and moved by the beauty of Michelangelo's Pieta or Handel's Messiah without sharing the faith of the artists - even when that faith was, for them, a central part of their inspiration of creating the works.

Lee said...

That's quite a mouthful to digest right there Molly. I think all things evolve, art and artists must evolve as humanity does, art mirroring humanity as it does. I would like to hear more on why you think any human endeavor is beyond mind, let alone art. All that we do and think takes place in the mind, perhaps your use of the word implies something other than what I think of as mind? I dare say that some art is capable of bringing us into the unity of God(heh despite that no such disunity exists) but not all surely? Banksy's work for example, what have you to say on it?

Molly Brogan said...

I spend a good deal of time, or no time, beyond mind, and do not see mind as all encompassing. My mind does not need to always be presenting form, thought and feeling to my awareness, but runs more in the background to be tapped when needed. For me, it is needed less and less. I know that I am stressed when it those thoughts and feelings are streaming like a video on a computer, using up the broadband. There are times, especially in group settings, when mind is essential to shared experience. Yet even in groups, a mind that is silent allows you to better experience the subtlety of what is happening around you. How often do we not hear what is being said to us because our own thoughts are too loud? If you can move beyond identification, ego, attachment and the other thought/feeling forms we construct to create our self image, and move into a silent state without thoughts and feelings, there is only awareness. Awareness does not require an object, or us to be "aware of." This is difficult to grasp if this state has not been experienced, as we tend to think in dualistic terms, cause and effect etc. A silent mind gives us a non dual state, where we are not separate from other, or God. Because the universe is holographic in nature, and so, we are holographic in nature, once we have experience this state it is a part of who we are, like adding a program that runs in the background and can always be accessed to the computer. We are that, and everything else that we are, including dualistic, thinking, feeling, mindful, individual etc. Each state includes (not excludes) the others. We see the individual states as our "analyzation" allows us to contemplate our experience. Contemplating our experience is an important part of integrating all systems of self, aligning all aspects for more efficient access and greater inclusion of higher states. What is art? Art is all around us if we are open to the experience that shatters our forms and opens us to possibility. Our own "analyzation" determines, for us, what leads us there.

Tomas said...

It was great to read your post. I liked the article. Thank you. Yet it's hard to say any more. While painting I just enjoy the painting and flow on the wings of gratitude for the ability to see and hear the light. While viewing the finished picture I cease to be the artist and don't know what the artists should do or not. I think we all (it;s no matter our professions) should ride the sunbeam and rejoice at such possibility on each step of our being.

Mardi said...

I am a visual artist and yes, I create because I have to do it. I create sometimes from a thought that comes to me that I want to express in visual form. Other times the image comes to mind and as I create it the image expands and takes on new form and thoughts come to me as I create. And then later I look at my work and other new thoughts come to me. And when I display them, the thoughts of all sorts of other people become attached to the work and invest it with new meanings. All of this is part of the artwork. I do not see beauty as something inherent in an object, idea, event, location, but something that the human mind brings to it. It is a way of seeing, not something that is seen. In visual art, Rembrant created incredible beauty from the worn old weathered faces of human beings. Cage and other 20th century musicians created music that to the ears of their contemporaries often sounded discordant, "ugly". Artists see something even in the "ugly" that attracts them, something they love. And when they create art from love of that "ugly", thing they teach the rest of us to love also. And from that love we discover a different level of beauty. Artists may not intend to do anything more than create from their inner vision, passion, need. But they are speaking something of our shared humanity. But there are many different ways of being human and every vision of every artist is not going to speak to the soul of every person. So you just write off the things that don't speak to you as "not on your wavelength". But sometimes a work you have written off begins to come back to you again and again in moments of quiet non- thinking and then that work begins to transform you until one day you think of it with love and you have been changed.

Molly Brogan said...

shock value shatters forms. Does it speak to our deepest humanity? That might be individual. Art speaks to the individual, and this does not mean that it cannot bring us to the state where unity with humanity can be realized. The one does not obliterate the many, it includes us all, whether we individually realize it or not. It is not an either/or proposition, unless we make it so.

Lee said...

Hah yes I would say absolutely right, and indeed would question that there ever was a universal standard of beauty.

Molly Brogan said...

There might not be an agreed standard for beauty, but don't you think that every person recognizes what is beautiful for them or in themselves? Beauty is, who can deny that?

Molly Brogan said...

Our mind imposes limitations on our experience. If we are continually trying to understand consciousness with our mental processes, we will continue to struggle. When we can be open to experiencing the creative process beyond mind, we are open to the experience of the infinite. As you say, Alan, this is available to everyone who can see beyond limitation. Francis Lucille may explain it better than I can, in his Audio answer 007, How Can We Stand As Universal Consciousness:
http://www.francislucille.com/excerpt.html
Interestingly enough, this audio file was waiting for me this morning in one of my groups. And this has been a noticeable process for me in my life: I have a transformational experience that includes greater states of consciousness, and then information about it begins to stream to me from all different sources, some very unlikely! Like a validation. Now this may be a twofold process, because while much of this information is new to me, some of it I have seen before, but now understand better, in light of my better understanding. This may be why I can explain myself over and over to you RP, yet you do not see my explanation and repeat your questions. A natural human state in light of our developmental stages. Not that one is better than the other, indeed, the "value" of each is something we each personally assign (or not.) This is where being open to others viewpoints is important, as they can lead us to new insights.
This from the Dali Lama was also waiting for me this morning, "By studying others’ viewpoints, it is possible for us to discover new and refreshing perspectives on the world – including our own life."
In terms of the artistic process being a communicative process as well as creative process, I ran across an article by the artist Alex Grey that includes a dialogue with Ken Wilber on the role of the artist:
http://www.alexgrey.com/essay/kenwilber.html
I enjoyed (and thought relevant to the post) the following points: A spiritual art must transform the artist and the viewer. In order for art to be transformative, it has to undo you.
Most artists agree, their dissatisfaction drives them toward something deeper and better, and keeps them making art. Even a "happy" artist like Matisse agreed with this. I think Krishnamurti called it creative discontent.
Transcendental Art expresses something that you are not yet but that you can become.. As Emerson said, "It all begins when the soul would have its way with you." Certain artists become channels of the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times. They are the chosen who the World Soul reaches down and grabs by the butt. The best they could do was have a sense of grace while being the puppet of the Zeitgeist.
Some artists, like Pollock, wind up sedating themselves for the ride. A metal bar will bend until it cracks and pops apart. Artists are positioned at the crack of the Zeitgeist. When a force beyond the individual grabs you, you are not choiced. The onset of social psychopathology or transformative growth is signalled by the artists.
The full article also gives several references to the Wilber work that may speak to the subject of "sacred artist" (we all have this available to us also.)

Mardi said...

may I return, concurrently, for a moment, for those interested, to the ideas of the "role" of the artist, the question of the "ugly", and what artists may or may not do for a person's soul, or the soul of a community, society or our shared humanity. Whether or not artists have a "role" as such, we do have an influence, whether intentional or unintentional, we play a part in the construction of our humanity. Art speaks to us, speaks for us, offers us words, music, images that express those things within us we often cannot even name or express ourselves. Goya speaks to us of the demons of our soul and shows us what they do; Picasso shows us the horror of war in his painting of the bombing of Guernica; Munch shows us our deepest grief and despair. Yet artists do more than this. They externalize our interior states, they make visible, audible, perceptible and concrete that which lies unrealized within us. And in doing so they create talismans for us to hold in the extremities of our own lives. These works of art express our rage for us and we hold to that art and in some way that art holds our rage, confines it while expressing it. Works of art are like sacred vessels that both exemplify and contain our deepest emotions of anger, disgust, hope, hopelessness, joy, repulsion, ecstasy, transcendance. Through many dark days from my teens onward, I held onto Edward Munch's "the scream" like a life-line holding me together, keeping me above the darkness within. For some it is a particular piece of music, or a novel, or a poem that holds them together when they're falling apart. It's not because the art is pretty, not because it gives hope, but specifically because it expresses the depths of our hopelessness, it grasps our soul with a truth that is more real than anything else in our life. Art isn't about being pretty or sweet or attractive. It's about being human and expressing the full range of our entire humanity in ways that lay hold of our spirit, demand our attention, take our breath away. I can see the "piss Jesus" piece as a powerful talisman connecting in a profoundly visceral way with the deep hurt and anger of those who have been alienated, disenfranchised, dehumanized, by the church in the name of God. Art has the capacity to give voice to our multifarious inner states and experiences, to increase our joy and delight, to hold our grief and rage, to reflect back to us the kaleidoscopic variety of our humanity.

Leo said...

We see beautiful birds in nature.

We see beautiful flowers in nature.

Song birds vie with each other for the most beautiful morning tune.

the Life Force has an instinct for Beauty.

the Artist strives for Beauty.

In this regards every pretty girl with a makeup kit is something of an artist... trying to make herself a thing of beauty. Musicians, writers, and poets... they also try to produce the beautiful.

Is this Spiritual? Many spiritualists would say that much of this Pursuit of Beauty is blatant materialism and sensuality. Of course, many of these Spiritualists are purely Intellectual... that is, they believe in purely Intellectual Beauty... the beauty of Numbers and Abstractions.