Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Unifying Art - Transcendelia

Nothing is more powerful then the experience of oneness.  Western culture has instilled us with a sense of being separate, fragmented even at times disconnected.  However, when we become united or the sum of the parts we may feel at one.   At times we can find ourselves in this transcendent state of being, in our recreation or other special settings.  This feeling of awe can manifest as we are watching ocean waves reflecting the light of a full moon or the wonder of watching the sun rise, creating a unified feeling by beauty of nature.

Art is a fantastic medium to portray our non dual nature.  Here we can see how we are all interconnected- body, mind and spirit.  Years ago Abraham Maslow stated that the transcendent experience is a healing force.

In the chapter of Eye of the Artist- Ken Wilbur writes in “Sacred Mirrors : Visionary Art of Alex Grey, Inner Traditions 1990 the following writes about the third perspective of contemplation of the spiritual, transcendental and transpersonal world.  Ken calls this the “Eye of contemplation” which discloses a transpersonal, transverbal, trans-egoic world, of luminous soul and spirit.  He calls this realm as transcendelia, where objects perceived by the soul and spirit.

Mr. Wilbur writes of the three overall realms from matter/body to ego/mind to soul/spirit that is referred in various contemplative traditions as the Great Chain of Being.

He describes this in more detail on page 14[1] below;

The secret of all genuinely spiritual works of art is that they issue from nondual or unity consciousness, no matter what “objects” they portray.  A painting does not have to depict crosses and Buddha’s to be spiritual.  This is way for example Zen landscapes are so profoundly sacred in their texture, even if they are just “landscapes.”  The issue from nondual awareness or unity consciousness, which is itself Spirit.  At the height of transcendence, Spirit is also purely immanent of all-pervading, present equally and totally in each and every object, whether of matter, body, mind or soul. The artwork, of no matter what the object, becomes transparent to the Divine, and is a direct expression of Spirit.

The viewer momentarily becomes the art and is for that moment release from the alienation that is ego.  Great spiritual art dissolves the ego into nondual consciousness and is to that extent experienced as an epiphany: a revelation, release or liberation from the tyranny of the separate self-sense.  To the extent that a work can usher one into the nondual, then it is the spiritual or universal, no matter whether it depicts bugs or Buddhas.

A critical theory of art based on the perennial philosophy would demand at least two scales.  On the horizontal scale would be included all the elements on a given level that influence a work of art.   These elements include everything from the artist’s talent and background, socioeconomic facts and psychological factors, to cultural influences.  The vertical scale, according to the perennial philosophy, cuts at right angles to all these earthy facts and deal with the ontological dimension of Being itself.  The vertical would have several components summarized by the question, How high up on the Chain of Being is the work itself situated?

The great artists of the modern era kept alive the quest for the sacred and the search for Spirit, while all about them the cultural world was succumbing to scientific materialism.  For this we are forever in their debt.  The next great movement in Western art is waiting to be born.  It will not be of the body, or the mind but of the soul and spirit.  Thus we await with much anticipation the great artistic symbols “that belongs on the altars of some future spiritual religion.”

Today we need to shift from our paradigm of being divided to one of being united.  Artistic expression provides countless creative acts how that both unify our collective situation and offers invaluable insight.  The need to heal and become whole is paramount.   May artists of all walks celebrate the unification of our great chain of being.   Connecting our body/mind/spirit to new frontiers of oneness and unity will heighten all things to greater collective experiences.

[1] Sacred Mirrors : Visionary Art of Alex Grey, Inner Traditions, 1990

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New Beginnings

Years ago I had the honor to meet John O'Donohue speaking at a church across from American University. I will never forgot how I ask a question to him in a very non ordinary way. I said that dying was easy but I found living was quite difficult. He responded with great kindness and blessed me with with some friendly words.

John O'Donohue wrote before he died "The Blessed Space Between Us" in 2008 these paragraphs below,

To live in the creative life, we always need a critical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where new beginnings might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over.

There is a certain innocence about beginning, with its excitement and promise of something new. But this will emerge only through undertaking some voyage into the unknown. And no one can foretell what the unknown might yield. There are journeys we have brought inner riches and refinement; but to travel through dark valleys of difficulty and suffering. Had we known at the beginnings what the journey would demand of us, we might never set out. Yet the gifts and rewards become vital to who we are..

When the heart is ready for a fresh beginnings, unforeseen things can emerge. And in a sense, this what a beginnings does. It is an opening for surprises. Surrounding the intention and the act of beginning, there always exciting new possibilities...*

Also he wrote in the last paragraph of his poem, New Beginnings

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Further in this book Mr. O'Donohue wrote the shape of the human heart  blends together both a circle and a triangle. He observed the heart space as a triad where the self and its otherness unites into a threefold force-the spirit of friendship. This fellowship becomes greater then the sum of the other two dimensions. May we all benefit from John's wisdom and begin once again with the blessing of a new friendly possibility.

*John O'Donohue- The Blessed Space Between Us, 2008, pg, 2-3