The Artist as Healer of the World
I have written previously about the importance of the archetypal figure of the “wounded healer” (see "The Wounded Healer," and "Breaking Spells We Cast on Ourselves,”), a figure who alchemically transforms the energies of her wound into fuel for the fire of realization. Wounded healers access their gifts when they realize that their wound is itself the source of divine creativity, as well as the portal through which the highest, most individualized form of this creativity can manifest. In this article I want to explore another, related archetype, that of the artist. Both artist and healer are able express the deeper archetypal energies operating in their individual psyches, and, thereby, to be both in-formed and transformed by them, ultimately transforming the the collective unconscious of humanity at large.
In alignment with a mythic identity as would-be hero or heroine, the artist (arche)typically has to wrestle with inner "demons," or internalized, personalized reflections of the very same "demons" that are being played out collectively on the world stage. Like all of us, the artist suffers from the spirit of the age. Having permeable boundaries and being by nature highly empathic, sensitive and intuitive, artists are able to introject into themselves and creatively "out-picture," or express what is happening both within themselves and the world in which they live. The artist's inner process, like that of all of us, is a manifestation of the field around them, in which they are inseparably contained and of which they are an expression.
The "daemonic" is an archetypal, transpersonal energy, greater than the merely personal, which nonlocally pervades the entire field and can literally take us over, compelling us to unconsciously act it out so as to give shape and form to itself; it is a reflection of the part of ourselves that is split-off from itself—which is to say separated from our unity with all things. This dissociated part of ourselves develops a seemingly independent life and will of its own, appearing as an alien "other," not under the control of the ego. In coming to terms with the daemonic within himself, the artist is able to translate these energies into something useful, both for himself and the world around him. Encoded in the daemonic is everything we need for our self-realization, as if the daemonic is a compensation of the deeper unified and unifying field, offering us exactly what is required for us to wake up.
Anything we are not in conscious relationship with "possesses" us from behind, affecting us beneath our conscious awareness. If we don't consciously relate with these split-off parts of ourselves, they constellate negatively and become "demonic," in that they manifest, whether it be inwardly or outwardly, in a destructive manner. If in our avoidance of consciously relating with these energies we allow ourselves to become unconsciously possessed by them, we become their unwitting minion, their agent of incarnation into our three-dimensional world, creating destruction in life, whether individually, in our personal lives, or collectively, on the world stage. The artist, on the other hand, by creatively expressing and thereby liberating her experience, is able to extract from the daemonic a blessing which imbues her work with a corresponding numinous power, one which in-fluences (and "in-flows" into) others.
The "daemonic," like any archetypal energy, has both a positive or negative potentiality. Etymologically speaking, the word "daemon" is related to our inner voice and guiding spirit, an "entity" called by various names: genius, jinn (or genie), and guardian angel. Speaking of this animated and animating being, Jung said, "This living spirit is eternally renewed and pursues its goal in manifold and inconceivable ways throughout the history of mankind. Measured against it, the names and forms which men have given it mean very little; they are only the changing leaves and blossoms on the stem of the eternal tree." The daemonic energy that is in-forming events in our world is an archetypal recurrence of an atemporal, eternal pattern which has been irrupting into our world since the beginning of human history.
Jung pointed out, too, that, "the tragedy is that the daemon of the inner voice is at once our greatest danger and an indispensable help. It is tragic, but logical, for it is the nature of things to be so." Paradoxically, encoded in the daemonic is "our greatest danger" as well as "an indispensable help," as the daemonic, being a non-dual power, contains both of these opposites inseparably conjoined. Alchemists express this same idea: their "God" is Hermes-Mercury, who symbolizes the highest divinity as well as the deepest evil combined in one being. This hybrid figure represents the idea that opposites are ultimately not opposed to each other, but rather are intimately and inseparably co-related. The opposites always appear together, conditioning each other, turning into each other, so as to ultimately appear indistinguishable.
Bringing the opposites together is to access and activate symbolic awareness. When we recognize the inseparability and interpenetration of all things, we recognize that our universe is a living oracle, a continually unfolding revelation that, like a dream, speaks to us symbolically. Tapping into this awareness, we can't help but to naturally express our experience symbolically, as we ourselves have become a living, embodied symbol of our realization. Being able to "symbolize" our experience to ourselves—and by extension the outside world—we ourselves step into the role of the creative artist.
The inner voice of the daemon makes itself known to us, which is to say that a living, creative spirit, with both destructive and constructive potentiality, reveals itself to us. This spirit will continue to manifest "demonically" and destructively, however, as long as we lack the courage to engage with it—but the inner voice of the daemon can become our ally if we become aware of what it triggers in ourselves. If we do not become "touched" by the daemon, to quote Jung, "no regeneration or healing can take place...if by self-assertion the ego can save itself from being completely swallowed, then it can assimilate the voice [of the daemon], and we realize that the evil was, after all, only a semblance of evil, but in reality a bringer of healing and illumination. In fact, the inner voice is a 'Lucifer' in the strictest and most unequivocal sense of the word." Lucifer, the morning star, is the "bringer of the light." If we have a strongly enough developed sense of self, we are able to objectify and enter into conscious relationship with the daemon, thereby saving ourselves from being swallowed and possessed by it. Paradoxically, relating to our daemon as a separate, autonomous "other"—an actual living being—is the very way we integrate the daemon into ourselves. We are then able to metabolize and assimilate the daemon so as to receive its blessing in support of our spiritual unfoldment. When consciously embraced and acknowledged, our daemon introduces us to our calling and helps us find our true vocation; hidden in the daemonic is our creative genius. This is why Jung said, "the daemonic is the not yet realized creative."
The word diabolical, etymologically speaking, means that which separates and divides. The antonym and antidote to the diabolic is the symbolic, or that which brings together and unites. As the artist wrestles with his "demons," he is able to "symbolize" his experience in the form of creative art. Symbols bring together conflicting energies to create something new: a symbol partakes of both sides of the conflict at the same time that it transcends and reconciles the underlying polarity. Symbols, which are the language of dreams, are a revelation of the deeper unified and unifying field, simultaneously reflecting and effecting an expansion of consciousness. In wrestling with her demons, an artist is like a sorcerer and magician in that she is able to channel, transmute and express these "demons" in a form which takes away their spell-binding power, while at the same time helps to dis-spell the collective enchantment which pervades the entire field of consciousness.
Artist as Oracle
Art-making is a process in which the artist is continually articulating and refining an ever-evolving form of symbolic language. In being a conduit for the formation of a new language, the artist is participating in the creation of language itself. How language gets created invariably leads us right back to the psyche, which is simultaneously the subject and the object of the new language. The psyche is both source and recipient of the creatively emerging form of language, just as in a dream the psyche might produce a written text for another part of itself to read. In its crafting of a new symbolic language, the psyche is literally building a bridge in order to communicate telepathically with itself. The shaping and re-shaping of ever-new forms of expression is the psyche's continually evolving way of knowing itself and deepening its—and our—realization.
As the newly created language clothes and animates itself in its novel forms, it is as if the "Word" becomes flesh. Interestingly, we make a word by "spell"-ing it. Discovering novel iterations of language is itself a "spell-casting" activity, in that it serves to dis-spell the veil of illusion which seemingly obstructs us from our own experience. In unveiling novel forms of language, the artist conjures up a more coherent state of consciousness within himself as a result of his creative act. Because we are all connected, the artist’s state of integration gets registered instantly in the collective unconscious of each one of us, where it impacts the entire field.
The very act of verbally or nonverbally language-ing our experience, of giving creative shape and form to what is happening both inside and outside of us, is itself the process through which we, as artists, deepen our realization of what we are trying to express. The fact this realization deepens through the act of expressing it is the litmus test which certifies our act of creation to be worthy of the name "art." In creating a new form of communication, the work of art is both an expression of a more expanded consciousness, as well as its initiator—which is to say that the act of artistic creation is simultaneously a means to an end and the end itself, both journey and goal.
To quote Jung, an artist is "a vehicle and moulder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind." The archetypal figure of the artist is a deeper role that each of us is being asked by the universe to consciously incarnate in our personal lives as a way of being of service to both ourselves and the world around us. When I use the term "artist," I am not using it in a traditional, limited way, meaning someone who paints or draws or sculpts; this is too circumscribed and “flat-land” a conception of what an artist is. When I use the term "artist" I mean that we are all creative, multi-dimensional visionary artists (and dreamers) whose canvas is life itself.
As more of us wake up to our true nature as creative beings, we can connect with each other and co-operatively create what I call an "Art-Happening Called Global Awakening" (please see the last chapter in my book, 'The Madness of George W. Bush.' ) In this work of collaborative, visionary, living art, we can put our lucid awareness together and "conspire to co-inspire" to wake ourselves up and activate our collective genius so as to dream a more grace-filled universe into materialization. This is nothing less than an exponential quantum leap in human consciousness. We are being invited by the universe to actively participate in our own evolution.
Jung had great insight into the primary role that the human psyche plays in the creative process (or lack thereof) of humankind, both in individuals and collectively as a species. As he reminds us, "the human psyche is the womb of all the arts." He recognized the significance of the creative artist as an archetypal figure existing within the collective unconscious of humanity. Being an archetypal figure, the artist is a role that exists outside of time while simultaneously continuing to re-present itself in infinitely creative guises in, through, and over time. New ideas, Jung says, are actually timeless: "They arise from that realm of creative psychic life out of which the ephemeral mind of the single human being grows like a plant that blossoms, bears fruit and seed, and then withers and dies." Human beings are the conduits through which the timeless creative process becomes actualized in linear time. The inner, archetypal figure of the artist is the vehicle for the continual unfoldment of our psychological and spiritual self-realization. The creative spirit realizes itself through us, just as we realize ourselves through it.
Jung said, "The unborn work in the psyche of the artist is a force of nature...We would do well, therefore, to think of the creative process as a living thing implanted in the human psyche." This "living thing implanted in the human psyche" is a creative and creating spirit, an inspiring wind that blows where it wills. Speaking of this living spirit, Jung commented that, "it freely chooses the men [and women] who proclaim it and in whom it lives." This is to say that the creative spirit is autonomous and not under the ego's control. To quote Jung, this spirit is like "a hush that follows the storm, a reconciling light in the darkness of man's mind, secretly bringing order into the chaos of his soul." The creative spirit is a holy and whole-making spirit, a living spiritual being that animates, and potentially, depending upon how we relate to it, either destroys or heals us. Speaking of this same sacred spirit, Christ said in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."
A living oracle, the figure of the artist is a mouthpiece for the time in which she lives. Like a psychic scribe, she is able to express and explicate the emerging zeitgeist, the implicit spirit of the age, while giving shape to the deeper, archetypal, time-less, and unconscious process which in-forms all ages.
The artist allows himself to get "dreamed up" by the field to become the "medium" through which the spirit of the age moves and inspires him to creatively express itself. Speaking about this process, Jung said, "At such moments we are no longer individuals, but the race; the voice of all mankind resounds in us." The artist is an open, receptive instrument through which a living creative spirit reveals itself. In this process, the artist becomes an ongoing revelation to himself, while at the same time his art is a revelation of the creative spirit to the world.
The Universe as a Whole System
When our universe is viewed as a whole system composed of multiple dimensions, fractally and "holarchically" (i.e., a hierarchy of holons; a "holon" is both a part of a greater whole and a whole system in and of itself) nested within each other, when something is out of balance in the system, on any level, the greater underlying field self-regulates so as to compensate the one-sidedness in the system. This innate self-balancing mechanism is similar to how dreams are both an expression of and a compensation for our unconsciousness. When seen as a family system, all the seemingly separate parts and members of the whole, unified and unifying system are recognizable as interconnected and holographic reflections of each other.
When there is an unconscious imbalance or disturbance in the field, a co-responding and reflexive compensatory process becomes activated in the underlying unifying field, resulting in an archetypal, healing figure incarnating in human form—whether we call this figure artist, shaman, healer, seer, or poet. The intuitive human beings who become channels for this process are sensitive to the underlying unified field in a way that helps the field to unify.
The inspiration that comes through the artist is like a healing enzyme, a time-release multivitamin, which the underlying unified field organically secretes when needed. Jung says, "An epoch is like an individual; it has its own limitations of conscious outlook, and therefore requires a compensatory adjustment. This is effected by the collective unconscious when a poet or seer lends expression to the unspoken desire of his times and shows the way, by word or deed, to its fulfillment."
Following her inner calling, the creative artist's unique vision "en-livens" her, which can make it hard for her to survive the suffocating, deadening constraints of conventional, mainstream society. To quote Jung, "Here the artist's relative lack of adaptation turns out to his advantage; it enables him to follow his own yearnings far from the beaten path, and to discover what it is that would meet the unconscious needs of his age. Thus, just as the one-sidedness of the individual's conscious attitude is corrected by reactions from the unconscious, so art represents a process of self-regulation in the life of nations and epochs."
The figure of the artist is "not free," however, in the sense that he is subordinate to and in the service of his impulse to create. A genuine artist has the utmost loyalty to the inner voice, which is a real, full-time vocation, not unlike a religious calling. The artist's path is truly spiritual; they have offered their life in service to something beyond and greater than themselves. The artist has an "inner necessity" to create new forms that express what he is experiencing.
Just like a child in a family is a natural-born shaman and intuitively "picks-up" and unwittingly embodies the unresolved energies in the family system by unconsciously acting them out, we, as "members" of the greater human family, are all potential shamans, healers and artists, as we are conduits for internalizing, metabolizing, and channeling the deeper unconscious shadow that is in the collective family system of our species. Jung points out that the daemon, in the form of our inner voice "makes us conscious of the evil from which the whole community is suffering, whether it be the nation or the whole human race. But it presents this evil in an individual form, so that one might at first suppose it to be only an individual characteristic." It is very seductive to personalize, and pathologize, our inner experiences, believing they are just our own problems, without realizing that we might be unwittingly being dreamed up by the underlying field to pick-up, like a would-be shaman, the split-off, unconscious energies that are playing out all around us.
As the artist expands his consciousness through the act of artistic creation, he effects a subtle but very real change at the level of the unconscious itself. This effect potentially has far-reaching consequences, extending throughout space as well as in, over and outside of time, as this change in the collective unconscious impacts the entire all-pervading field of non-dual consciousness. Deepening inner realization through creative acts, the artist is tapping into the source matrix, the zero point energy field, out of which events, both personal and universal, emerge. In finding new forms of expression, the artist sheds the light of consciousness of the underlying unifying field on itself, thereby "lighting up" their very being and the world around them.
A deep inner necessity inspires the artist to look for novel ways of expressing experience. If an artist stops metabolizing and giving shape and form to what is being touched inside of himself, he runs the risk of becoming neurotic, and getting overwhelmed by the unconsciousness that surrounds him. When "called" by the spirit, it is important for the would-be shaman/healer/artist to assent and say "yes" to being called, in which case he is supported by the very powers that sponsored his calling in the first place.
Art-Making Is a Sacred Act
Giving shape and form to the underlying energies which animate our species in a "container" that can hold the experience allows for a shamanic, holy, and whole-making ritual to be made real in time. The act of participating in the creation of art is a magical, ceremonial rite, a sacred liturgy, a higher-dimensional form of communion, a kind of "performance art," that simultaneously transfigures the unconscious energies in both the artist and the surrounding field. Creative expression is the act which liberates us from the compulsion of having to unconsciously re-create these energies (self)-destructively. Alchemically transforming these energies, an artist allows them to reveal their holy origin. The act of art-making partakes of the nature of the divine, in that the entire universe, which is itself a living work of continually-unfolding art, becomes infused with endless-inspiration as we consciously realize our relationship with our ever-evolving and never-expiring, creative spirit.
Art-making is a sacred act. Art attains its greatest numinosity and ability to affect others when the creator of the work of art is being transformed by the act of creating. One can mimic sacred art for a living (many people get paid for this) but this is mere forgery. There is a world of difference between copying, imitating, and aping sacred art, and living our own creative experience. When we live creatively, guided by our daemon, our life itself becomes a living work of art. Continually participating in our own creative process, our unique articulation of our experience then becomes imbued with a psycho-activating energy, which can nonlocally catalyze a process of transformation throughout the entire universe.
We have but one word, the word "Art," to refer to a stick figure on a piece of paper as well as a consciousness-transforming masterpiece. As we shed more light on the artistic, creative process, it becomes important to create a new, richer language so as to differentiate between different levels of artistic accomplishment. For example, it is one thing when a company puts on a play and the actors that perform the various roles play them convincingly but don't really access in themselves the deeper, living experience of transformation that the characters go through, nor understand the deeper meaning of the drama they are enacting. Their play can still affect the audience if done well but it is a different order of artistic creation, with a much deeper transformative impact on the audience's spirit and psyche that occurs, when night after night the actors continually deepen their own inner realization of what they are acting out through the ritual en-act-ment of the ceremonial drama they are incarnating.
When the work of art is performed, as in a play or music, something "passes between" the artist and the audience. A true collaboration, the artist and their audience enter into an intimately engaged symbiotic relationship, connecting with each other in such a way that they both become transformed. Feeding off of and into each other in a way that uplifts and inspires everyone, both the artist and the audience couldn't be creating their experience without the other, as by their mutual co-operation they create something greater than themselves. Their "art-event" deepens the artist's and their audiences' realization of how they can engage with each other. The artist and their audience co-operatively create a new universe in the process.
A living work of art is something which transforms and re-invents the artist in and through the very act of creating it. This inner self-realization of the artist is both catalyzed and re-presented by the work they have created. A living receptacle and repository of the artist's experience of transformation, integration, and transcendence, the artist's realization is expressed in the work of art so as to reciprocally invest and empower the work of art with the ability to transmit a similar transformation to others. A work of art can potentially have this effect on us, to quote Jung, "...when we let a work of art act upon us as it acted upon the artist. To grasp its meaning, we must allow it to shape us as it shaped him." A truly empowered work of art becomes saturated with a numinous energy, as it is a portal through which we can glimpse and have a living experience of a deeper, more transcendental and unified world, one beyond our personal and limited ego. To quote Jung, "The essence of a work of art" is to be found "in its rising above the personal and speaking from the mind and heart of the artist to the mind and heart of mankind." The work of art becomes a living testament to, encoded with, and a carrier of this experience of transformation, as if the work of art unlocks the doorway through which this transformation becomes activated in and transferred to others in an act of living transmission. The artist's creative endeavors are timeless "art-i-facts," which act like transducers of the semantic, symbolic power encoded in the human psyche.
Contagious in its effects, art can "virally" spread via the unconscious of our species in a way which liberates and unleashes a latent, creative energy lying dormant in the unconscious of humanity. An example is the galvanizing influence that music began having in the 1960s—socially, politically, and on consciousness itself. The music of the 60s was both an expression of an expanded consciousness, and the vibration which catalyzed the very expansion of consciousness of which it was an expression.
In creatively translating what is being touched inside of herself into a communicable language, the artist taps into forms, vibrations, and realizations that exist in the formless, atemporal realm—a dimension existing "outside of time"—that are waiting to be discovered, formulated, and brought forth at the right moment "in time." These liberating thought-forms spread rapidly and have such transformative and redeeming power because they exist in latent form in the shared collective unconscious of humanity. The liberating vision of the artist attracts us into itself so as to make itself real in time, changing the world in the process.
Genuine art demands more than passive attention; it invites us into an intimate relationship not only with itself, but with ourselves as well. The purpose of art is not to entertain us, medicate us, and make us feel better, but to liberate us and reveal our intrinsic freedom. Art is a unique manifestation of the divine in which we are invited to participate, a life-changing act in which it manifests through us, and we and our world become transformed in the process.
Creative Commons Image: " A fairy lyre sweeps thru my universe..." by Natashalatrasha on Flickr.Tweet