There is a rich and profound relationship between art and Simple Reality. Artists during the creative process are often in touch with the Implicate Order, with the deepest currents of human evolution. They can, in short, be the prophets of what needs to be “seen” if humanity is to attain awareness of the nature of reality itself and to avoid the self-destruction that is inevitable in the failure to wake up.
The artists themselves are often unaware of the most profound revelations of their art because those works are created in the less than profound context of the outmoded worldview that drove human behavior in the past and does so today. It is in our best interest then to revisit representative expressions of the old human narrative from the vantage point of the emerging new human narrative and harvest the profound insights that can further enrich our self-understanding. Indeed, our failure to do so puts the very future of humanity at risk.
The beauty inherent in art can support the insight (Buddha’s Right View) that is a pre-requisite in being able to avoid reaction and respond to life which is the very definition of being able to stay in the NOW. David Piper aptly describes how art can assist in that process.
“What great paintings and sculpture have in common with any form of great art is their ability to create a fresh order from the flux of life. The pleasure we are given from looking at them is primarily that of having our view clarified, distilled, detached from the distractions that condition our everyday way of seeing. We are able to share a perception of the world different from our own, and more penetrating.”[i]
In my own artistic expression, I have done a series of paintings that begin with the placement of a black dot of varying sizes, one black dot per painting. What is my “feeling” about the presence of that black dot? In my art the black dot is the “field,” a highly concentrated source of energy, out of which all possibilities emerge. It is the nothingness or emptiness or the genesis that was the “Big Bang.” As long as I am present with that black dot, i.e. as long as I “feel” it then I am THAT energy. Then no matter what I go on to paint or create it will be perfect. So it is with all people who live in the present moment.
The human identity created by P-B and often expressed in the world’s religions is very much at odds with the more profound identity found in P-A and often expressed in works of the world’s greatest artists. Albert Elsen, in his book Purposes in Art, reveals that he also understood this. “In persuading their audience that the only true freedom was that of the spirit’s release from earthly bonds, artists and priests did not inspire people to seek greater earthly freedom or encourage a sense of personal worthiness.”[ii] This enslavement within a religious context teaching original sin and unworthiness encouraged an identity that obscured the profound truth of human power and perfection as well as the existence of divine [intuitive] wisdom within each individual.
The transcendent shift to P-A involves an intuitive “feeling” that all of Creation is perfect including each individual human being. We are at home in the world of P-A and nothing characterizes this world better than its beauty. Notice again in the words of Albert Elsen how that paragon of architectural beauty, the Parthenon, epitomized that shift to an understanding of both perfection and beauty.
The Parthenon expresses “a visual analogy of the Greek idea of the world as ultimately knowable, static, and symmetrical. A little over a century before, Greek temple sculpture had expressed the demonic and the common apprehension if not fear of the unknown. The Parthenon [expresses] a people’s confidence in themselves.”[iii]
As we move forward in confidence to create a new narrative, a more sustainable context, and a new identity, we can count on the beauty inherent in art to support our deepest aspirations and to act as a mirror of reality as it really is.
[i] Piper, David. The Illustrated History of Art. Octopus Publishing Group, London, 1986, p. 5.
[ii] Elsen, Albert E. Purposes of Art. New York: Holt, 1981, p. 60.
[iii] Ibid., p. 65.