The Power of Art
The artist is a shaman. The artist's role, especially in the West, has always been to alter the state of consciousness of the viewer, and to force the big Other, the capital "O" Other, the collective superego, to face its own shadow -- as well as to face the super-consciousness, the One that is beyond the Other, that it denies.
The collective superego denies that there is any power greater than itself. That is why powerful nations, identifying with the big Other, can appropriate the right to invade smaller countries or otherwise determine the destiny of our planet. But this hubris, whether played out on the scene of international politics or within a family system or even within a single individual mind, can never be successful.
The power of karma will eventually restore justice and balance to the world. One of the most potent instruments of that power is the artist. The artist reveals the higher Truth to an arrogant establishment that claims hegemony over the world. And it is that revelation that then moves the conscience of the world toward reconciliation of the great powers with the greatest Power of all. This archetypal battle of vision between the artist and the political establishment has created much of the tension that has formed the trajectory of history. In this context, even religions can be considered as works of art. Religions begin as visions of Truth, and become refuges within which the arts can flourish. But the religious establishments soon become battlegrounds themselves, being appropriated in time by the big Other, and the artist is soon cast out once again into exile.
This ongoing epic battle between Art and the Other has had very high stakes, and as the Other has more and more succeeded in marginalizing the artist, in pushing the artist's Truth out of mainstream consciousness, the stakes have risen ever higher. Truth must be blotted out in order for the Other's hegemony to be complete. Society thus in the end becomes the manifest embodiment of the Death Drive, evil incarnate, the anti-Christ, because that is all that is left. This historical moment is known as the Eclipse of God, the final stage of Kali Yuga. We are in it now.
But because the authentic artist represents what is still alive and capable of feeling in the culture, when the culture kills the artist, in order not to see the Truth that such art is expressing, then the culture kills itself. And in the trajectory of modern art in the West, from its beginnings in the lucid sublime madness of Vincent Van Gogh, to what we can call its formal ending with the titanic black-on-black canvases of Mark Rothko -- (which is not to say that there are not still artists producing fine art) -- that trajectory has come to its completion and its exhaustion. What we are witnessing in the realm of art is the refusal of culture to be the witness to the higher Truth -- and refusing to recognize art that expresses Truth that is too shattering for it to bear. The establishment has turned to commercial art, propaganda for its sensualist diversion from conscience, to support its corrupted vision of reality. And there are artists who have been willing to sell out, to serve Mammon rather than Truth, and are offering the Other what it demands.
The tension of that demand, the jouissance of the big Other, versus the power of the desire for Truth in the artist and the collective conscience, and the reverberating clash between these two forces, is causing, like blinded, enraged Samson at the pillars of the palace, the suicidal annihilation of the false culture in which we have all been accomplices. We are finally being forced to face the fact that through the refusal of standing up for the Truth and allowing the complete ideological effacement of the Higher Real, our right to exist has been terminated. A new culture must now be born. The world must be purified and Truth restored.
In order for the collapsing political establishment to maintain its control over the apparatus of the media and of the society as a whole it has needed to dumb down the entire culture and remove our capacity even to appreciate what art is trying to say. And that struggle between the consciousness of people wanting to awaken to higher Truth, and the system's refusal to allow the visionary artist a space in which Truth can be revealed, has forced art -- and anger -- onto the streets. Because art and discourse cannot express the Truth in words and images, the fury of repressed consciousness comes out as dumb rage and mimetic violence, riots and marches, and ultimately as acts of terrorism. In suppressing art and Truth, the establishment has tolled the death knell of our global civilization.
But that in itself is producing now the possibility of renaissance. A new culture is being born. There are movements occurring in art, philosophy, and spiritual practice that are bringing Truth once more to consciousness. This is mostly occurring below the radar of the mass media, in marginalized institutions and places of refuge, mangers of the type in which Christ was born, in which a new culture can emerge now.
But we all know how marginalized and ridiculed an institution like this is. We are bringing the power of Love and Light into the physical plane, into a world that has become cynical about the reality of these twin principles of divine action. We know that our effect will be subtle and small at first, but soon there will be a massive conversion to the vision of Truth that we are living -- if we are truly living it, and not merely spewing more empty words. We gain our victory not through force but through surrender to the love of the Absolute.
The power structure wants to control this physical world and employ its resources for the support of the profane, malignant ego of the ruling elite, rather than to recognize that This -- the world of which we are all part, of which we are made -- is in itself the manifestation of God, is in itself the greatest work of art by the Supreme Intelligence, created, sustained by Love and Beauty and Joy. All of that goodness is being drained out of this world. It is primarily the artist in the West who has been fighting the battle to hold on to the consciousness of what is being lost in the corruption of value by money and the machinations of the international financial institutions.
The loss of our goodness, and the struggle to regain our power of purity of Spirit, is what the artist attempts to do but what without the proper instruments to achieve it. The artist can represent it, but the artist who is not trained as a Yogi, as a meditator, must struggle with the underside of their own unconscious, and the unleashed demons of introjected superegoic attack. It is well known that refusal to fall into line with the adapted egoic ideology means facing the lurking danger of madness. So many of the greatest artists since the Renaissance have fallen into psychosis -- not only the painters (like Van Gogh), but the dramatic artists (think of Antonin Artaud), the poets and novelists (too many to name, but including James Joyce, Sylvia Plath, and Yukio Mishima), and the philosophers (like Nietzsche) who have pushed the envelope of consciousness to express realities that cannot be put into ordinary language.
If you push beyond the limits of normality without having access to a sense of identity that transcends the ego, you will easily fall into the void, the pit of madness, in which you can no longer communicate the Truth to a world in darkness, but instead, you yourself get swallowed up by that darkness. And this is the tragic story of the most courageous of our artists. They are great spiritual warriors with a tremendous message for us if we'll take seriously the imperative they set before us, and we realize that all of us are artists and we must make our lives a work of high art.
This does not have to be in the form of producing paintings or music or novels or poems, but in every action and every moment that is lived mindfully and with the realization that you are the embodiment of wise, divine love. In God-consciousness, you spontaneously bring forth the truth of art, the power of Spirit, into this world. This presence has a magical, miraculous, and transformative effect on everyone you encounter, and even on the big Other -- whose existence is itself a collective delusion. Once we refuse to buy into that delusion, its power falls. And in its place, the power of God -- that had been eclipsed by our belief in money and in all of the other fictions of power and prestige that the society has attempted to hypnotize us all into worshipping -- will emerge again as the Almighty Power behind all the others. When the facade of the false Other falls away, what shall remain is the eternal Presence of God. This is the promise of every authentic religion.
The artist has been fighting this age-old battle of revelation and redemption vs. temptation and fall, in the field of representation, as well as in the Real. The artist's ego has been the enemy that all too often has succumbed to the Other in return for recognition. It is too common a story to need elaboration, in which the more successful the artist is, the more he or she is tempted to sell out: their paintings go up in value, they start to make money, and then they get seduced by fame and fortune and begin to betray their own conscience in order to hold on to the limelight.
Life is a battle that goes on in the soul of every artist (and that means all of us who are awakened, who walk a spiritual path of increasing consciousness). So in a way, the most fortunate artists are the ones who never sell any paintings, like Van Gogh. They will never be tempted to become imitations of themselves. Now Van Gogh's works sell for $50 million a canvas. But they didn't sell for anything at all, while he was alive, because the big Other was not interested in the Truth that he revealed. It was only after he was dead that his blood-bought testimonies to Truth could be safely shown in museums, and we could all appreciate what he knew and revealed about the Real.
And Van Gogh did set in motion a total revolution in the idiom of art itself, in which it was now free to express Truth that could not previously be put into representational form. Now artists were liberated to depict not only the sensible phenomenal world, but the inner world as well. Now they could express their deeper imperience -- not simply their experience of the world -- but they could make portraits of the soul. The soul could now be re-discovered within the world, and be expressed by consciousness as wheat fields and crows and suns and electric lights and stars that you will otherwise only see if you're on LSD or magic mushrooms, or an advanced yogi. But there he was, imperiencing this without the help of any substances at all because this is our reality. And the only reason anyone ever needed LSD or any of those shamanic substances is because there is an internal censor that blocks our capacity to sense the world as it really is. If we are free of ego, we don't need any drugs. They would just bring you down.
Our consciousness in itself is a blissful symphony of joyous sensations that embody the majesty of God's Presence. That's all that Nature is -- and we are That -- but we have forgotten it by having our minds indoctrinated by the lower kind of logic (the fallen Logos) that denies the truth of our Supreme Being. But great artists open up a glimpse again into that higher dimension of reality. And if we'll go through the portal that they offer, we can restore our world to its original and perfect beauty, and our souls can attain Liberation.
And so I hope that you take seriously the struggle of our artists and recognize that each painting is a truth that is earned with blood. The soul's blood, shed in the struggle to achieve freedom from the oppressive Other that has colonized our consciousness, becomes Art. The struggle of the artist is that of the human spirit. All of our minds are impressed by an internalized Other that demands that we remain small, petty, narcissistic, and enmeshed in a life that is not worthy of our Spirit. Unless we defeat that saboteur, and throw off our enchainment to the arrogance of the ego and its greed and its anger and its anxieties and its desire for power over others, and all of the other pathologies that every ego knows all too well, the human spirit will itself be defeated. Our destiny now hangs in the balance.
The great artist reveals to us the stakes and the true nature of this struggle, and by making his or her entire life depend on gaining freedom from that oppression, the disease that afflicts nearly every human being, and is the cause of the sicknesses and the suffering of the world, the artist opens for us a portal to the spiritual power we each possess in our Heart.
To understand the struggles of great artists can be liberating in itself, if you will take in the true significance of the visions that they are offering us as a divine gift, that they paid for with their lives. The work of the great artist is like the crucifixion of Christ: it can redeem us if we will surrender fully to its message, and gain the inspiration to carry our own cross to Calvary and to carry through our purification until we also attain our Ascension. The power that animated all the great artists of the past is alive and well, because that power is the One Self in each of us -- that seeks the death of the ego and rebirth as the Holy Spirit. This is how we are together creating the greatest work of art in all of history: the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
Image by ellenm1, courtesy of Creative Commons license.Tweet