Art is the expression of the human aspiration not to make something beautiful but to become something beautiful. And furthermore, art is the conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects our sense of beauty. And when we realize that “truth is beauty and beauty is truth” we begin to appreciate how crucial art is to our awakening.
My definition of art is unconventional but it links art with what it means to be human in the broadest sense.
We will encounter and share ideas with some of the most extraordinary men and women throughout the history of human thought and creativity. They have addressed, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, the answers to the Three Great Questions. Artists as a group are often deeply in touch with their interior experience, their inner wisdom, and hence can make a vivid connection to the implicate order in the present moment. The ability of artists of all types to intuit in a prophetic manner the approaching tides of human history is revealed in this single line of poetry predicting revolutionary change.
From the perspective of Paradigm B (P-B) we might call some artists prophetic in seeing the future or especially sensitive in interpreting the deeper meaning of human events after they have happened. In truth, we all have this connection to the flow of a deeper reality but have repressed it. We all have the resident artist within that seeks expression. To live life and fail to express her most beautiful gifts is one of the great tragedies an individual can experience. That tragedy is the experience of the average human being and much of our energy as individuals is spent distracting ourselves from our existential fear. If we could awaken to the presence of that beauty within us which longs to find expression, and to the beauty of the world in which we live, we would be filled with joy, peace, happiness and compassion for all of Creation. Instead, we find ourselves strangers in a strange land.
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. David Piper is speaking here, whether he knows it or not, of Paradigm A (P-A). The artists chosen for these essays have had profound insights into the nature of Simple Reality. In that way they will assist us in our own discovery of the fundamental insights that will help us distinguish intuition from intellect, feeling from emotion and finally, response from reaction.
Piper, David. The Illustrated History of Art. Octopus Publishing Group, London, 1986, p. 5
Artists during their creative process are often in touch 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 works 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.
I will often use conventional critiques of these creative works to contrast with the deeper meaning that I see in the work. The limitation of that approach, however, is that I am still using the conventional “higher level thinking skills” of Benjamin Boom’s taxonomy—namely analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Mystics know that the very act of thinking is a false-self centered activity and has limited value, if any, in the pursuit of deeper truths. Self-realization is attained in the wordless and thoughtless present moment, not in the mind. The paradox is that thinking and knowledge itself isn’t necessary for Self-realization and yet it helps or seems to. In any case it is a lot of fun and nothing so characterizes the NOW of P-A than joy itself.
The experience of truth and beauty can often deliver us into the “feeling” experience of P-A, therefore art can support our process of transcendence. Art, the expression of beauty and truth, will help us to find our own inner wisdom and strengthen our ability to become self-reliant.