Art and Intuition

Scientists studying the human brain and the illusive concept of the “mind” have yet to grasp the powerful connection that each human being has with the Implicate Order, the “one” mind. They sometimes use the term soul when they should be using Emerson’s term the “over-soul.” In any case they do recognize that what they call the unconscious has qualities that the conscious mind does not have. What we call intuition in the context of Simple Reality is indeed an “inner wisdom.”

The connection to inner wisdom is common to all people, of course, and although this connection is affirmed more readily in the worldview of many Eastern religions it has yet to become a common aspect of the Western narrative, secular or religious.

In the history of painting, however, we can see this inner connection, this Oneness shining through. In 17th century Holland we see the effect that context can have on a people’s story and sense of identity. The Dutch after an 80-year-long struggle fighting for their independence from the Spanish achieved victory and freedom.

“Soon an individual character emerged, based on a new view of the world and marked by the citizen’s national pride about the independence they had won for themselves and their unprecedented prosperity.”[i]  Simple Reality teaches us that a persons’ worldview determines their identity.

We can also see the principle of impermanence, another key principle in
P-A, reflected in Holland. “The sermon on the transience of all earthly things was hardly to be evaded in Calvanistic Holland.”[ii]

Finally comes at least an unconscious sense of the false self as the source of human suffering in the concept of vanitas which provided the metaphorical subject of many Dutch painters. “In the face of the eternal values of God they [the earthly things] must be counted worthless and ‘vain.’”[iii]

Nevertheless, in the detailed genre paintings of Dutch painters we can find symbols of people pursuing power, pleasure and the accumulation of “transient” material wealth.

Holland emerged in the 17th century as a bastion of democracy and of a prosperous and growing middle class. After gaining political freedom from Spanish rule, the energy of the Dutch turned to commerce. The resulting prosperity was a relative paradigm shift that was reflected in the drawing and painting of Dutch artists.

Seventeenth century French and Italian paintings were of historical, religious or mythological subjects and were commissioned by wealthy church officials or the nobility. These paintings reflected the identity of the patrons who saw themselves in the idyllic, idealized, romantic or heroic scenes. Artists had no choice but to cater to the illusions of P-B and the false selves of those who could afford to perpetuate the old myths.

But something different was going on with Dutch painters at this same time. The Dutch peasant labored close to nature and intuited the Oneness of a different Reality, however unconsciously. “The sober interpretation of the subject and poetic transfiguration enter into a tense liaison as nature and the work of man become blurred in the vibration of the damp air into an inseparable unity.”[iv]

The newly emerging Dutch entrepreneur who could afford small paintings also appreciated nature unadorned. They saw beauty in their native landscape without idealization. “In the 1620s Esaias van de Velde (1587-1630) was the first to apply the new concept of landscape painting; seemingly trivial and modest views of the Dutch countryside such as one might encounter at any time in the course of a stroll.”[v]  Take a look online at Esaias van de Velde’s The Cattle Ferry (1622) as an example.

The same shift had begun somewhat earlier in neighboring Flanders with the Bruegel family. Winter Hunters in the Snow, the genre painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525- 1569) became “one of the 12 best loved paintings in the Western World.”[vi]  The ephemeral peak experiences are the feelings that occur when we as humans begin to experience the good, the true and the beautiful within ourselves; and they are transformational. Our heart quickens as we glimpse our true identity.

Art and Intuition

[i]     Toman, Rolf [ed.]. Baroque Architecture, Sculpture, Painting. China: H. F. Ullmann. 2007, page 430.

[ii]     Ibid., page 431.

[iii]    Ibid.

[iv]    Ibid., page 452.

[v]     Ibid., page 450.

[vi]    Johnson, Paul. Art: A New History. London:  Weidenfeld & Nicholson. 2003, pages 304-305.


Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.

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