One Voice From the Visionary Tribe

As much as I love to paint, something is always pushing down from above. Some force greater than myself, and so I must listen to that which is greater than I, like it or not, so I find myself working on several new books along side my life at the easel, and everything else that orbits around one's daily existence. What follows is based on an excerpt, an elaborated version of one of the 22 chapters found between the covers of my forthcoming book: EYES OF THE SOUL, Exploring Inspiration in Art. In actuality, the title of this essay will be the same as the book I am currently writing, but the following essay is explicitly created for The Society of the Imagination and all for all who discover the many stunning artists who are presented on-line here.
While science, following the unresting and inconstant stream of the four-fold forms of reason and consequent, with each end attained sees farther, and can never reach a final goal nor attain full satisfaction, any more than by running we can reach the place where the clouds touch the horizon; art, on the contrary, is everywhere at its goal. For it plucks the objects of its contemplation out of the stream of the world's course, and has it isolated before it. And this particular thong, which in that stream was a small perishing part, becomes to art the representative of the whole, an equivalent of the endless multitude in space and time. It therefore pauses at this particular thing; the course of time stops; the relations vanish for it; only the essential, the Idea, is its object. We may, therefore, accurately define it as the way of viewing things independent of the principle of sufficient reason, in opposition to the way of viewing them which proceeds in accordance with that principle, and which method of experience is of science. This last method of considering things may be compared to a line infinitely extended in a horizontal direction, and the former to a vertical line, which cuts it at any point. The method of viewing things which proceeds in accordance with the principle of sufficient reason is the rational method, and it alone is valid and of use in practical life and in science. The method, which looks away from the content of this principle, is the method of genius, which is only valid and of use in art.
"The first is the method of Aristotle; the second is, on the whole, that of Plato. The first is like the mighty storm, that rushes along without beginning and without aim, bending, agitating, and carrying away everything before it; the second is like the silent sunbeam, that pierces through the storm quite unaffected by it. The first is like the innumerable showering drops of the waterfall, which, constantly changing, never rest for an instant; the second is like the rainbow, quietly resting on this raging torrent. Only through the pure contemplation described above, which ends in the object, can Ideas be comprehended; and the nature of "genius" consists in the pre-eminent capacity for such contemplation." 1

          In the art world today something has gone terribly wrong, just as the world is becoming increasingly more vulgar and violent. In looking for a truly inspirational art of the spirit, the general public would likely discover that the mainstream art scene is, more often than not, void of such work and that artists employed by Spirit - seem to be in hiding, or maybe exiled and in any event; they have become outsiders. Indeed, the general American public, in particular, appear to be totally UNAWARE OF AN ART THAT CAN UPLIFT THEM TO HEIGHTS OF GLORY, INSPIRATION and AWARENESS. However, such an art is not out of our reach, nor does it sit on a pedestal high above our heads, nor our understanding and feelings. The spiritually oriented artists or artistic mystics are trying to come home to the Creative Mansion that houses all of us. In this new book that I am writing, I am digging deeper into the inner life, experience, expression and contributions of the ARTISTIC MYSTIC and just as importantly, our response to an integral art and the cosmological mechanics, service and surrender involved for both the artist and responder alike.

           Although no validation of the mystical, or the grand mystery of life is really needed at all, at least I no longer need proof of the existence of the mysterious forces at work in my own life, and if you are already on this website and reading this, it is likely that you too are no longer asking for proof of the great ONE. However, I will not stand by and let the art world deny, ignore and under-expose an art of the Spirit that is very much alive in a Visionary Tribe and that this vulgar world is in such great need of. The world needs the inspiration that a higher and more integral art offers. This tribe, this lineage that has always been and always will be, is becoming re-membered now all over the world, just beneath the surface of the business of art, that dense and thick dark forest called the world of contemporary art.

This visionary tribe goes back to the very fist markings found in the caves of Altmira. The artist began as a shamanic-vessel, expressing and guiding their family formed in Spirit through Artistic Outward Expression. Today, this tribe is a worldwide family phenomenon. It is time to "bust" the "business of art", the scams and fast financial fads, to stop the multitude from being deprived of an art that has been virtually hidden from us, from our view and from a valuable and transforming experience that it affords within our essential nature. The nature of art is, as Plotinus said, a service in seeking and expressing Beauty, Truth and Goodness.

           By my mid-teen age years, the paintings I did guided my way, where to go next, what to do and seek out. I confronted the terrible darkness and deepest layers of mind through dream states and astral journeys that happened of their own accord and without my desire or will. I spent my teenage years to early twenties exploring and moving through the darkest regions of archetypal consciousness. At this tender age I also became compelled to seek contact with other artists, with scientists, sociologists, psychologists, people from all the various wisdom traditions, atheists, communists, mystics and spiritual teachers of a kindred spirit from around the globe. As the decades passed, I continued that search and eventually others began to seek contact with me. You do indeed receive what you ask for and need. The answers came as I continued to paint the questions. The essence of what was learned would merge with the new questions and answers. As my friend Ken Wilber would say, about an increasing awareness;

"everything transcends but includes all that has come before."

           This dream of life, for me, is growing thinner and thinner, and through an art combined with a continuing transpersonal practice, the same effects would occur for anyone devoted to their own chosen practice with a discipline that intentionally leads to awakening. From the guidance of voices ands visions I have experienced, I also added on to my agenda, the essential forming of creative community. For nearly ten years, the form of that has been in the annual summer seminars I organize around the world, and will one day culminate in VILLA VISIONARIA. The lack of a transpersonal belief system precludes the sense of community that we all yearn for because ego-bound people have difficulty forming a vital, sustainable community, and thi! s can, indeed, include "artistic mystics." This kind of creative community is notably absent in our spiritually starved society. Neither God, nor country - nor humanity, has the power to touch us to the core, even the visionary must RESPOND to the "call," for all that remains is that most underrated entity of all, the individual soul and the freedom of responsibility - and the responsibility of freedom.
The resulting research on this new book will be a kind of epistemology of art in which both the external and internal experiences of self-introspection and other creative mystics are investigated and hopefully expressed in a poetic, and I emphasize poetic, rather than pedantic or academic structure. I believe it is extremely unlikely that a satisfactory and conclusive summary on ìthe artist as mystic will be reached by the human mind in its present state of development. After all, the subject itself denotes an investigation of incredibly mysterious forces at work, forces that are "timeless" in nature and subtle energies that are ultimately ineffable. Given that challenge, nonetheless, I believe new ground can be established, offering information, affirmations and insights. Inspiration is in itself, a mostly indefinable mystery but we can begin to become familiar with it and open up to it, even welcome it into the core of our daily lives, letting it fuse with our every action.
           My first book, Drinking Lightning - Art, Creativity and Transformation, built the foundation for EYES OF THE SOUL and the hope of this next book is that it presents an imprimatura for an art of the soul; souls connected to God through an integral art. It is natural to feel curious and elated about the universe in which we find ourselves and the effort to satisfy our curiosity and desire to merge our spirit with the great ONE, even if it is never wholly successful, it is also never void of satisfaction. So we are comforted, even inspired, by those artists who have fashioned their lives after this.  If the book I am currently writing, ARTISTIC MYSTICS, succeeds in communicating to its readers some part of the satisfaction in which the world of art, inspiration and the mystery of life has given to its author and compiler, then it will not have been done in vain. Surely, if we remember that our eyes are for seeing, not just for looking, and keep to the task of seeking the unseen, veils are lifted and clarity arrives.
So, what is an Artistic Mystic?
mys-tic (mis-tik)adj,1. Of hidden or symbolic meaning, especially in religion, mystic ceremonies. 2. Inspiring a sense of mystery and awe, mystic n. a person who seeks to obtain union with God by spiritual contemplation and self-surrender. 2
           Even the world's most rare and enlightened beings were not born into a life totally unaffected by the world around them. Heredity and environment, two factors that the scientists of the body and mind say that largely determine our characters, are beyond our control. Certainly, we come into life as creatures unconscious of the culture that supports us, and we lack, at least most all of us, in childhood, an objective standpoint and skill, which would enable us to evaluate it. There are many tools that can enable us all to overcome the effects sustained in childhood experiences of the culture and environment in which we incarnated into. It is simply the pursuit of Beauty, Truth and Goodness as first cited by Plotinus. For me, these three factors of life derived from the insights of Plotinus, are individual pursuits that are inevitably intertwined with community and culture. In fact, I do not think an individual can pursue any singled-out and isolated path of these Three Great Goals of Life without at least stumbling upon "something" of the others. I have cited many examples of the oneness of Beauty, Truth and Goodness in my previous books, but here we concentrate on Beauty, and art as an integral spiritual practice to attain an enlightened awareness and a deeper connection to God, or the One without a second.
So, what good does it do to be an artistic-mystic?
Ordinary vision is nothing more than the encounter of the eye with the illusion of matter that strikes it. To live and dwell only in the state of ordinary vision is like walking around with snow on our heads, our imaginations frozen, our intuition and soul on ice. To the creative ecstatic, an artistic mystic that has awakened to the Reality of the Spiritual Imagination behind the Illusion of Matter, the great Theater of the Visible is not only arranged in the basin of Space - but is married to Light and Love, the daughter of the Eternal, the son of the Infinite.
           In contrast to this perspective in which art is a marriage, a virtual fusion of matter and spirit, much of what we have all seen in exhibitions at modern museums, organized by their curators, boards, patrons and business associates is colored by artistic-political agendas. From what I have read on contemporary art by the íauthoritiesí and historians, either intentionally, or simply out of pure ignorance, seems to miss the point - the real mission of art. For arts noble mission is to serve and inspire illumination in self and others through an integrating and inherent living force that suspends the mind, causing the ego to temporarily lose its grip on its limited identification. I am speaking of an art that leaves us momentarily breathless, and carries us to the depths of our soul, or uplifts our spirits to lofty states in which we are dignified as human beings.
In today's art world, trusting one's own response to what one sees is wise. Here-in lies the challenge to expose a transparent naked art of lies, fads, fashions and finance. After all, if a painting is naked, that is, unadorned with spirit, then it is easy to define "bad art" as simply: vacant of feeling. I refuse to take a defensive position, my intention is to reveal the Truth and allow Beauty to be exposed and do her work on her own. In this time in which we live, it seems Beauty has been locked in the closet and we must help set her free for all to see. The shell game is over, and no matter how many times the modern art world repeats the game and reshuffles the show we win, because we can see that the same pea is just hiding under a different shell.

In this new book I will address the aesthetic and perennial questions regarding the artist enveloped in a mystical life. I will continue to ask the questions. What sort of knowledge do we have of the external world? How far can the claims of self-experience reveal true worlds unlike we normally suppose ourselves to inhabit? If the knowledge yielded by sensual experience seems dubious, what other kinds of knowledge do we have? Is the result of a mystical art, a real knowledge? Can integral art be a parallel- expression to integral philosophy, or religion, or physics and ask similar questions through a counterpart - visual language? Is art useful, and if so, in what ways?
When I meet a creative worker I sometimes ask, as I constantly ask myself: What is your intention in art? Where does your inspiration come from? What has influenced your work? And how do you go about creating something? In addition, ancient-future questions like; who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? does my work affect responders and myself? . . .run like wheels through the highway of words and images that provide a map and destination for the Visionary Tribe. I begin fully aware that our sense organs, eyes, ears or noses, is not that which actually knows, as that is consciousness, the witness state behind the mind, that part of us that is always awake but not thinking, that part of us that is a neutral observer, never sleeps, and reports back to us what was seen even while we were dreaming; the Witness State. On the other side, and equally important, is the fact that our waking state depends on the sense organs, which are the channels through which knowledge of physical objects and therefore art is conveyed to consciousness. In the pursuit of philosophy and art, in searching to become stationed in illumination, it is wise to exercise an especially liberated intelligence in which the human mind is set free and the spirit can soar to touch the feet of Beauty, Truth and Goodness. 

Untrammeled by limitations of the temporal and the particular, art recognizes no laws save those that govern its own reasoning, or created reality. This disinterested activity in which the quest of the freely functioning mind explores, is a tremendous Good, it opens the doors of inspiration, and is among the greatest experiences a human being can gain and enjoy. Art is a noble skill, an offspring of the material mind of mortal man, inspired by a cosmic loom that carries the fabric on which the self, the small "i" weaves the patterns of personal character with the Supreme Self, the capital "I" and holds enduring values and spiritual expression. The Visionary Tribe serves as humanities eyes of the soul. In so far as the evolving being becomes permeated by Truth, Beauty, and Goodness as the value-realization of an illumined - consciousness, and this applies to each and every one of us, such a resultant being can become a force of indestructible love. If a soul does not seek eternal values and love, then mortal existence is without meaning and life itself becomes an inescapable and tragic illusion. The authentic artistic mystic works for Love and in service to the One without a second, to Illumination, to Illuminating the Mystery. A famous aphorism from the philosopher Herbert Spencer is a definition of Deity that is wonderful:
"God is infinite intelligence, infinitely diversified through infinite time and infinite space, manifesting through an infinitude of ever-evolving individualities."
           It appears, on the surface at least, that the art movements over the last ninety years have "almost" demystified and deconstructed art and the creative process altogether. The post modern era is devoid of any artistic standards. The role of art has not been truly defined in our time, and so many artists and students of art rarely gather anymore to examine and discuss their "calling," nor do they even see themselves as "being called." So many of them are just not interested in a creative work of the spirit. Not all, but most art schools systematically indoctrinate aspiring young artists into the deconstructionist absurdity promoted by the museums and art-market machineís "wheel of fortune." For most, the creative outcome of artists and the experience of responders is a dizzying ride, with frequently shifting gears and no sense of direction or noble intention. The destructive and disorienting effects of shallow ëshock-valueí productions leave the masses lost in a wilderness of contemporary art that just feels negative, depressing, vacant and valueless. Indeed, I cannot count the number of times I had walked out of a contemporary gallery or museum and had felt drained, tired, disoriented, disappointed and sad, instead of uplifted, energized and inspired.

           Visionary-artists restore a spiritual dignity and purpose to the practice of making art. The art world today is a visual dumping ground full of images of despair, fear, mechanized madness, decadence, nonsense and noise. The art of our time seems to be self-mutilating, often angry without reason, and only widens the gap and distrust between creative workers and responders. The eye of the artist has turned to the exterior, to the mundane and moneymaking market place, aimless, and thus we have art that moves further and further away from our true nature, our spirit. As a result, we have an overload of art that is based on superficial concepts, museums literally buying Manzonniís canned-shit at $90,000 to $150,000 a pop, or simply mere decoration instead of inspiration. It is an art that ends up commenting on itself, or simply exhibits a vacancy of feeling, or, just feelings like shit. We have a new generation of artists that are simply "money snorters" and repeating artistic acts already performed by the Dadaists 90 years ago, by Joseph Beuys and the like, more than 50 years ago but at least in their time some of them had something to say and did so in a creative way. Art has become empty of spirit whereupon the creative mystic is driven to restore its soul and uplift it from its wretched and stinking apathy, its aimless anarchy, and its utter lack of human feeling.

           Creativity, inspiration and mystical experiences are seemingly a mystery because there is something paradoxical about it, something that makes it difficult to see how it is even possible. How it happens is indeed puzzling, but that it happens at all is deeply mysterious. To define creativity psychologically, as "the production of new ideas," is of some help but falls gravely short. For how can novelty possibly be explained? Either what preceded it was similar, in which case there is no real novelty. Or there was nothing that preceded it, in which case one cannot possibly understand how the novelty could have ever arisen. A psychological explanation of creativity, inspiration, "integral art" and especially a mystical art - may be unachievable if we are speaking of merely the mechanisms of the physical brain, contemplation or the characteristics of personality. It is not even clear that there can possibly be anything to explain, and yet, all of us have that "sneaky suspicion," undeniably, that there is. However, explanations must come from a variety of sources; the sciences, arts and philosophies, the theologians and cosmologists, and of course, the artists themselves, in order to begin to generate a truly integral and unified theory. For now, the paradox persists.

           Human creativeness is a wonderfully big, mysterious and challenging question, and in the realm of the mystic, a grand question to address. Someone who claims that creativity can be scientifically understood must therefore show in just what sense it is unpredictable, and why this unpredictability does not anchor it firmly in the depths of mystery. Many related problems concern just how inspired a novelty has to be, to count it as creative. There is novelty (and unpredictability) in randomness: so is chaos as such creative? There is novelty in madness too; what is the distinction between creativity and madness? What about the recognition of novelty, and why is this realization sometimes long delayed? And what of social acceptance: is this relevant to creativity, and if so does it follow that psychology alone (helped by neither the sociologists, nor the history of ideas) can explain it? These queries inevitably have a philosophical atmosphere about them, for they concern not merely the "facts" about creativity but the very concept itself. There are many intriguing questions about creativity and inspiration--but many orbiting problems arise, at least in part, because of conceptual difficulties in saying what creativity is, what counts as creative and what sources of inspiration exist. Such fact-based questions cannot be completely answered while the conceptual paradox is raging. However, by domesticating creativity and an artistís mystical experience we can begin to tame the paradox.

           Popular beliefs about human creativity are implicitly influenced by the paradoxical nature of the concept, and are highly pessimistic about scienceís ability to explain it. Indeed, "pessimistic" is perhaps the wrong word here. For many people revel in the supposed inaccessibility of creativity to science. A widespread view--I would call romantic--assumes that creativity, being humanity's crowning glory, is not to be sullied by the reductionist tentacles of scientific explanation. Its unintelligibility is its splendor. Certainly, I may fall into this romantic category at times, but welcome all manners of investigation and the challenging of my views, if not my direct experiences and the views of many others. The "romantic" view is believed by many to be literally true, but is also rarely, if ever, critically examined.

Tracing electronic signatures of brain activity to discover inspiration does not explain its origination, no more than if we looked at a painting and focused only on the signature of the artist, while ignoring the whole picture. That may be over simplifying, but in general, researchers on creativity seem to focus on the product, or tail-end of the creative process, when in fact, understanding its birth would be more revealing. Certainly, if there is one lesson to be learned from the most world-shaking events of the last one hundred years, it is that new scientific knowledge discovered by one or two people can quickly become the concern of everybody on the planet. Revelations from artists, writers and philosophers can also give us a profound shift in awareness. Discoveries and events have occurred that have totally changed our perception of reality and have helped build the world we live in today, for better or for worse. It appears that we are in the middle of yet another such transformation in our collective awareness. This time, the subject is not the shape of the earth, nor the decoding of DNA, or the discovery stem cells, or of a new planet, a new bomb, anti-matter, or the energy at the heart of atoms, but what might be called the most awesome puzzle and mystery of all - the source of human creative power. Because this emergent field of knowledge is intimately related to our ideas about our own limits and abilities, the changes in our personal lives and in our entire society could become breakthrough experiences on a planetary level.

           There have been great leaps in understanding the creative process that have been made by philosophers, artists, scientists, researchers and scholars, and I have referred to and cited many of them in my first two books. The best steps forward, over the last thirty years have been in the study of creative ìpatternsî observed and documented by such researchers as Carl Rogers, Frank Barron, Willis Harmon, Howard Rheingold and Silvano Arietti to mention only a few. Investigators from many different fields--neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers, computer scientists, educators, and physicists--are putting together a new picture of human capabilities, motivations, and inhibitions rega! rding the human condition within the universe. The outline of this picture is still hazy; grand unifying theories are lacking, and experimental findings in many areas are fragmentary. But the fragments are beginning to fit together and it is my sincere wish that this next book would offer a raw matrix for a "general unified theory" about art as a mystical and empirical path of spirituality. This theory will rest on the assumption that art, creativity and spirituality are ONE. There may be many artists and/or writers on this subject that will have another view entirely, and surely some will be equally viable and valuable.

           It is my opinion, and in this I believe most would agree; that the knowledge contributed by scientists, artists and writers, therapists and yogis, shamans and historians, and the greatest creative minds in history will more likely benefit the majority of ordinary people who are not full-time scientists, mystics or inspired artists. The ultimate beneficiaries will be executives, politicians, accountants, homemakers and schoolchildren. When the secrets of creativity and inspiration unfold, that were formerly reserved for geniuses, the masterpiece of our collective endeavors will not be a painting, musical composition or scientific theorem, but a new way of life. John Gowan, a giant in the field of creativity research, wrote an article in 1977 about the implications of such collective-creative potentials, the following is an excerpt from his article.
           "About 9,000 years ago, prehistoric man was suddenly catapulted into history as the result of an astonishing social discovery. Previous to this, small bands of nomadic tribes had roamed . . . Looking for game and gathering fruits and vegetables wild. Then someone found out that if one domesticated animals and plants, one could have a ready supply of food always at hand . . .

Thus was agriculture and civilization born . . . Fortunately we are on the brink of another momentous discovery, which will have even greater impact on cultural and personal escalation.

           Heretofore we have harvested creativity wild. We have used as creative only those persons who stubbornly remained so despite all efforts of the family, religion, education, and politics to grind it out of them. In the prosecution of this campaign, men and women have been punished, flogged, silenced, imprisoned, tortured, ostracized, and killed . . .

           If we learn to domesticate creativity--that is, to enhance rather than deny it in our culture--we can increase the number of creative persons in our midst by about four fold. That would put the number and percent of such individuals over the "critical mass" point. When this level is reached in our culture, as it was in Periclean Athens . . . And our own Federalist period, there is an escalation of creativity resulting and civilization makes a great leap forward. We can have a golden age of this type such as the world has never seen, and I am convinced that it will occur early in the twenty-first century. But we must make preparations now, and the society we save will be our own.
" 3       
           If we could accept, for the moment, that Gowan's statements are true, then consider what your life and the condition of the world could be like. The capacity for achieving fundamental insights would not only be in the province of the genius, but at the very least, would be a partially learned skill. Profound experiences of inspiration formally reserved for artists, scientists, philosophers and religious mystics would be a meaningful part of anyone's life. The power of deep intuition would not only be accessible as a source of guidance for individuals but also for whole societies, and could even become a planetary condition. Each individual would become much more than they thought they could be, by simply stopping to believe otherwise. If we can learn to cultivate creative capability and increase our cultural creativity by fourfold, tenfold, a hundredfold or a thousand fold, it would indisputably solve many of our most pressing problems. However, if the dual-nature of the human mind is not also guided by a spiritual power and wisdom in this achievement, then such a breakthrough can equally lead to destructive as well as constructive ends, as the conflicts and genocides of this past century alone, demonstrate to us, and continue as you read these words.

           Creative power is often generated and received in the strangest ways. Breakthrough discoveries that in the long term have proved to have great social value were often originally motivated by personal interest or even the ferment of war, and history indicates that some of the most beneficial creations of the past were seen by contemporaries as evil, degenerate or socially destructive. There seems to be only one certain consistency here and that is the greater the novelty, originality, and depth of the creative breakthrough--be it an idea, a work of art, or a scientific discovery--the more likely it is to be seen at first as false, evil, against God, foolish or simply something to be ignored.
We have an unexplainable ability to see images, to experience things as there and not there, all at once. This is the essence of the image, the symbol. In art, for me, it is the sense of what is not there that is more telling than what is. Art is a more universal mode of language than is speech that exists in a multitude of mutually unintelligible forms. This is easily confirmed when you travel to foreign countries or watch a foreign film. The language of art also has to be acquired, but the language of art is not affected by the accidents of history that mark off different modes of human speech. The language of art is universal. The power of music in particular to merge different individualities, even nations in a common surrender, loyalty and inspiration, a power utilized in religion and in warfare alike, testifies to the relative universality of the language of art. The differences between English, Portuguese, Hindi, German or Arabic speech create barriers that are submerged when art speaks. A painting by Da Vinci, Delville or Dali will evoke tremendous feeling or response in anyone from anywhere and from any time. The word is ruled by time, space and place - the image is timeless and everywhere all at once. It is truly an integral and mystical language of the soul.

Creative mystics passively wait for inspirationís unpredictable reappearance. We also know that without it we are cut off from the source of our true nourishment, and everything we make feels empty. Art is noble and will not associate itself with the commonplace, and when it does turn its eyes upon the common, the ordinary; it sees the sacred in or behind it. It is the desire to express these intimate sensations and mysterious events, which motivate the creative mystics to share the uncommon, even the mystical, alongside the beauty of the ordinary. In all cases, the artistic mystics embody an essential feeling that serves as testimonies of a universal language of color, space, light and form, of SACRED IMAGES. Like in the secret doctrines of the ancients, much of this artwork is concerned with the mysteries of life. This is the work of the Visionary Tribe, which is preserved in Spirit among a small band of initiated minds since the beginning of the world. And like the Great Arcanum of old, these works of art, through symbol, subtle aesthetic energies, allegory or abstraction, also offer keys that unlock a treasure house of artistic, philosophic, scientific and religious truths. The true artistic mystic integrates his or her art within a spiritual practice that casts aside the fallacies of dogma and tenet, expresses Goodness, Beauty and Truth and is never satisfied with anything substitute or counterfeit.

           The Old Testament story of the golden calf and the subsequent prohibition against graven images not only fostered the iconoclastic debate and its place in the unfolding of history, and subsequently, art history, but also, inversely, inspired a backlash of revelation through the spark of individuation, a communion through art, self and Godhead. Yet art, the visual image, the sign, the symbol, once and always the purest language of God, was taken back by Moses, replaced and entrusted only to the priests who in turn interpreted the laws, messages, secrets and prophecies by means of the word, and kept the symbolic-image-knowledge secret on the deeper levels. But the truth remains; the limitation set in motion through history, swung back like a pendulum, and eventually catalyzed the revealed sight of what lies beyond the enclosure of our language-bound perception and resulted in the gift of a "radical" art and its prophetic moments of insight that unfolds the essential art of the Invisible behind the Visible. Artists took up the palette to swing the pendulum back to its sacred role, a role of redemption. For century's artists have, unconsciously, been on the path of redeeming the image. This redemption, then, is at the heart of the mission of the visionary tribe, of their core intention, and each in their own way, not only of redeeming the image but using the power we have always and already have, through artistic "unconcealment," realigning the soul of humanity; inspiring us all to turn toward the highest.

           Coming back to Sinai and the Golden Calf, the "graven image," the mysteries of creativity are directly linked to creation itself, this Old Testament story is behind the fate of the image, and confined and sealed spiritual interpretation to the medium of the word. Furthermore, the gradual descent of the visual image into the bonds of language and history parallels the journey of the soul as it descends into the depths of matter from its origins in pure Spirit, then rises upward once again, returning toward eventual union with the primordial light. Such a model of development (expanded on in my next book) is more illuminating to the true progression, digression, regression and transgression of art than the endless classification of contrasting styles and categories that we call art history. The separation from the light was inevitable. Mediation and alienation, the primal split of the fall, are divinely inspired, and as the pendulum of consciousness swings back and even more forward, it has also ignited the beginning of creative individualized thought, expression and redemption through a sacred art, the work of artistic mystics.

           When intuition meets expression it can sometimes open the gates to Spirit, and yet another experience comes, creating a lightning-like illumination, which can allow for a breakthrough in the insight of a creative worker engaged in any field of endeavor. Part of what this next book is meant to convey is a fuller explanation of why those people who have these "breakthrough" experiences are so excited and consider a study of the state so valuable. In art it may be expressed in a spectral range of styles from what I have called a Devotional Abstraction to a Precision Mysticism. The various organized religions and the belief systems they propagate are always based on the words and acts of people who have experienced ecstatic, or illumined states, and whom hundreds of millions of people take very seriously. People believe the most fantastic stories of beings walking on water, turning rivers into blood, levitating above the ground, appearing to different people in different places at the same time, talking with and seeing God, angels and the spirits of prophets, healing the incurable and even raising the dead. Yet society as a whole tends to look askance at such experiences when it happens to one of their own, even if on a level of only hearing a voice, music or having a rare vision or visitation. Such claims are ignored, dismissed or considered a sign of mental illness. After all, people making such claims do not have any Mystical-Union Card identifying themselves and their experiences as valid, but neither has anyone else who came before them.

           Some people who have had mystical experiences can sound partially crazy; they may go into trancelike reveries, jump up frantically to record dreams, have so-called "hallucinations," see visions, and hear music, or voices. No one chooses to be an artistic mystic of their own volition, and that they serve these forces is indeed a rather strange, wonderful and often difficult position. In their case, it is a "job" they never applied for; they were "called." In their childlike surrender they may be blessed by the grace of one or more religious founders, prophets, or the "unknown" and they may be given visions that bathe the artistic eyes in what Ken Wilber has described in his Foreword to my first book, as a "beauty to painful to pronounce." 4  And so the creative mystics struggle to reify what they have seen, felt and what has mixed with their blood. This is not to say that the artistic mystics are potential founders of religions, great seers, or prophets, not at all, but that they are sometimes imprinted upon, when in an open state, or have experienced the same sources of revelatory and inspiring forces on some level. It is a source available to all, even "autistic" mystics.
In exploring the subject, in both the realm of imagination, and in the more subtle states involving outward visions, voices, visitations, and ecstatic reverie, it is clear that in the highest states of mystical ecstasy every object springs to life and the whole of nature becomes alive. One incredible living and feeling Ocean of Being connects the creative mystic with every object in the universe. In my tiny opinion, mystical ecstasy is not exactly an altered state of consciousness, and yet it is certainly not ordinary either. It is not normal human consciousness in a state of rapture, or intense absorption in the contemplation of one object, or of quietude in which the mind reflects only a serene and silent state of awareness. It is, in no way, akin to the mental conditions produced by LSD, Ayahuasca, nitrous oxide, crack cocaine, psychoactive drugs or entheogens of any kind, hypnosis or biofeedback or any other íinducedí method or chemical reagent.

There is no class of books that has been preserved with such love and care and regarded with such veneration as the gospels of every faith. They are considered sacred because what they deal with has been extremely rare and the subject they discuss is unfamiliar to the discursive intellect. The teachings contained in the various scriptures took time to spread, for the seeds had to take root in the soil of the human mind. This is the reason why scriptural teaching has persisted and will continue to persist as long as the need exists in t! he subconscious depths of the human psyche. It is only in the genuine mystical experience that Revelation can occur. The images, ideas, and the language used in revelatory states are inspired. They emanate from a higher dimension of consciousness, manifested only in an extremely limited number of cases through the course of history. This fact has been known for the past thousands of years. That is the reason why the gospels of a faith are held to be sacrosanct. The creative mystics, the artists, touch upon these lights of truth, goodness and beauty and bring down subsets of revelatory experience; a shadowy reflection, esthetic glimpses into the divine.

Artistic Mysticism,is a direction involving the cultivation of consciousness of the Presence of God, and is altogether praiseworthy, but when such practices or experiences lead to social isolation or culminate in religious fanaticism, intellectual arrogance and exclusiveness, they are all but reprehensible. Ecstatics must guard against such failings. Due to the overwhelming nature of mystical ecstasy, the creative mystic may shrink from the mundane world and shroud him or herself into a cloiste red existence, or in a polarized fashion, cushioning him/herself in a kind of armor in the surrounding comforts of fame, pomp, glitter and glory, with a selected circle of appointed and obsessive admirers. I think it is also important, therefore, for the creative mystic to keep an eye out on this tendency toward isolation in either form.

When we speak of painters, sculptors or writers, that is, non-performing artists, it is obvious that their work requires a somewhat cloistered existence already, so an effort must be made to add contact with the world at large to cultivate and maintain balance. My personal resolution has been in the form of "seminars," but better defined as CREATIVE COMMUNITY. It is somehow unnatural, somehow inhuman, to allow prayer, meditation, or simply artistic engagement to create a kind of "spiritual-isolation;" When prayer or meditation becomes an aesthetic elixir that fuels isolation, when it consists almost exclusively of a beautiful and blissful contemplation of paradisiacal divinity, it loses much of its socializing influence, its integral-loving essence (to embrace, receive and give), and tends to isolate the practitioner. There is a certain danger and loss of human integration and balance with overly private praying, meditating and creating which is balanced in the company of others, depending on the "company," of course, but that is also a choice and selection. It is important now for artists everywhere to move toward creative integration and contribution, to bring their visionary qualities and potency into the mainstream. And it is equally important, that the community at large engages, interacts and embraces the offerings of the art! istic mystic. The world desperately needs this infusion and integral relationship. All of the "isolating factors" of the visionary-type of creative worker are not falling entirely in his, or her own court, much of this separation is due to the visionary being pushed to the outside by their own cultural and artistic community as well. The genuinely creative-opportunities made available by the community and political forces to "visionary types" are rare, and when they are available; they are almost always already locked-in toward the conventional, acceptable and the appropriate artists representing their own community-based belief system. So such integration must be a dual-effort.

Altogether, too frequently that which the overwrought creative mystic evaluates as divine inspiration is, at least in the beginnings, simply the uprisings of his own deep mind. There is a marked difference between Imagination, Pure Imagination, Spiritual Imagination and Revelation. The contact of the mortal mind with its indwelling spirit, while often cultivated through a devoted meditation, seems to me, and in my little experience, more frequently facilitated by wholehearted and loving serv! ice to others, by unselfish giving to all creatures in need, to using the power of a united creative force and by no less, a total acceptance of when one is "called." What I mean by called is a hit of spirit-filled lightning that draws you to something, in this case, to art like a dog to a bone, not unlike the calling of a devout Christian to the priesthood. You have no choice and you must creatively express and give back what was given. If you can find no way to meet this artistic calling you die, first inwardly, and then totally. But there must always be some way, or the "call" would never have been made, and you never would have picked up the phone.

When I think of the rare times I was blessed with an ecstatic vision of great significance, it always came after a long period of giving and always at a time when my frozen sense of self and personal identity were suspended, or temporarily forgotten. This sometimes happened while I was naked, painting in my studio all alone in the sacred space I had connected to, or during or after some financial or life-threatening crisis, or major passage in my life. This also occurred in very simple situations as well, but always when self-forgetfulness was strong, like walking in a garden or forest in India, or again naked to the world and wandering with a band of sadhus.  I say this because of the discovery, I made long ago, that revealed a difference between what I would call a "religious ecstasy" and what was "ecstatic inspiration," the latter being a deeper and more genuine spiritual experience. I also saw that we should not regard every vivid psycho-logic presentiment and every intense emotional experience as a divine revelation, or spiritual communication. Genuine spiritual ecstasies are usually associated with great outward calmness and nearly perfect emotional control and balance. True prophetic vision is a superpsychologic presentiment.  Such visitations are not the same as a vision from religious fervor, pseudo-chemical hallucinations, or hyper-sensorial ecstasies from entheogens, although all of that may hold the promise of quasi-revelations and transformative "states" derived from a temporary experience. But it is simply not the same, it is not as fine, or likely to affect the ëstagesí of consciousness as purely as the natural evolution of the soul.

Present day articles, documents and most new age books on the subject of so-called altered states of consciousness only confuse the issue of mystical ecstasy. What state of mind are they actually trying to represent? If it is mystical experience, most of them fall deplorably short of the actual position. Mystical vision has nothing to do with sorcery, magical happenings, weird adventures in the realm of the paranormal, bizarre visionary experiences, electrifying psychedelic panoramas or fant! asies of any kind. In the genuinely illuminative state there is no clouding of the intellect, no riot of colors, no encounters with weird or bizarre scenes, but only an indescribable state of glory, happiness and love, coupled with the direct experience of an All Pervading Extended Consciousness, Divine Love or an Almighty Omnipresent Cosmic Being and Truth, and this may also include a profound and clean vision, auditory phenomena or other esthetic events perfectly aligned to the particular experience. The only sources that I have found to be truly reliable about this state are the worldís religious scriptures, the past and some contemporary writings of certain philosophers and mystics, and the great works of certain genuine visionary artists, scientists, musicians and poets.

Since "illuminated" consciousness, and not "altered" consciousness, is the goal of human spiritual evolution, it is of the utmost importance to make a distinction between the works of mystics and the fanciful, highly colored or sensational narratives of those who mistakenly believe that they have the experience. The distinction is necessary to educate readers and responders from mistaking one for the other. It is also very necessary to protect the image of the true mystical vision from distortion by the ambitious, or the dabbler, or the uninformed. It does not matter if the wrong portrayal is from a capable writer or that their book has sold in the millions, it will die its own death if not based on the genuine experience. Nature has her own methods for sifting true from false. In the course of time the human mind itself rejects what is not true, or is of lasting value to itself.

The mystical experience is unique, and of which most mystics have described through the overwhelming impact it had on their lives. The Cloud of Unknowing, a well known classic of spiritual life, compares it to a beam of ghostly light, piercing the cloud of unknowing that interposes between human and God. Augustine, quoted by Eckhart, likens it to being struck by lightning, when one hears inwardly the affirmation, "Truth," to put a seal of authenticity on the experience. St. Paul fell in a swoon on the road to Damascus and Moses experienced it as a fire in a bush that did not burn. Mohammed saw himself carried on a winged horse, called Buraq, to the near Presence of God, and the experience had an overwhelming effect on his whole life. In one instant of Grace, Buddha realized that he was enlightened, that he was awake. A long period of life spent before that in austerity and religious practices brought forth no result comparable to this flash of illumination, this awakening from the sleep of appearances.
According to the papyri found in Egypt, Jesus is reported to have said:

"Let him not who seeks cease until he finds, and when he finds he shall be astonished. Astonished he shall reach the Kingdom, and having reached the Kingdom he shall rest.

One of the Upanishads compares Brahman to an upraised thunderbolt ruling all the elements of creation. The Sufi, Bullah Shah sings,

"To ascend the gallows is the Pathway that leads to the love of the Lord. If you desire to have His vision, be ever prepared to wager your life for His sight.

The Bhagawad-Gita graphically describes the impact of the vision in these lines:

"If the splendor of a thousand suns were to blaze together, in the sky, that might resemble the glory of that Mahatman. There, Pandava (Arjuna) beheld the whole universe, divided into manifold parts, standing as one in the body of the Deity of Deities. Then he, Arjuna, overwhelmed with astonishment, his hair standing on end, bowed down his head to the Shining One, and with joined palms spoke."

How can we explain the amazing psychological transformation that brings unity to the multiplicity of the universe, shows the One in All and All in One, or, in other words, the whole universe contained in the One Almighty Source of All? So far as I know, no rational explanation has been provided for this vision covering all the facets of such experiences. It has to be remembered that in mystical ecstasy the intellect remains active. There is no blunting of the rational faculty. This is repeat! edly mentioned in the Upanishads. Reason has to be satisfied that the experience is not a delusion. This means that the vision is real. But, then, how can we account for it? Other questions arise. Why has mystical vision such a powerful impact on the mind of the beholder that he often becomes intoxicated with the love of God, prefers solitude to even the most joyous company, renounces the ordinary pleasures of life to revel in a delight before which all the pleasures of the earth seem stale to him? What is there in this experience that it often overcomes earthly desires and ambitions and transmutes an individual into a passionate lover of God and prepared to face the severest trials and tribulations, agonizing torture and even death cheerfully for the sake of the beloved?

In every case of illumination, mere visionary experience is not sufficient. Certain objective signs to confirm it must attend illumination. Our difficulty in explaining the nature of mystical experience stems mainly from the fact that we are not able to visualize a state of consciousness ësuperiorí or, rather, hidden, from our own. It is like a child trying to imagine the mind of an adult, more emphatically, like an ant trying to imagine the state of mind of a musical or mathematical genius and since ants most probably do not "imagine" anything at all, this is obviously difficult. While all sentient beings are equal, consciousness is not. We can understand the position better if we suppose that consciousness has an infinite series of gradations from the most strong to the most dilute. This we can illustrate by treating our consciousness as a faint glimmer shed by a spark of fire and comparing it with the blinding glare on the gigantic surface of the sun. The human eye cannot even bear the sight of this splendor. It would be struck blind even when millions of miles away. Our consciousness is an extremely dilute form of this splendor.

The state of mystical ecstasy is a momentary state of focused consciousness without effort. That dilute form becomes one-pointed and ONE-connected and super-concentrated. It has an overwhelming impact on the mind. The visionary, for the first time, perceives the all-surpassing Splendor of Cosmic Intelligence. This is also the reason why intellect and conventional science are both lost in the labyrinth of matter, for they look at the universe, as it were, through a filtering glass. The veil before our eyes is the creation of the senses. They act and exercise only within a particular range. Areas beyond that range are completely shut out from us. For instance, we cannot perceive electromagnetic waves with any of our senses, but only through instruments and devices designed for that purpose. Even our instruments, at this stage, cannot predict an earthquake, though some forms of life can sense, in advance, the coming shockwaves.
A moth can smell its mate from even as far off as seven miles, and a shark can smell blood two miles away. A bloodhound can detect the scent of an absconding criminal for scores of miles among thousands of other scents left by animals or human beings that walk over the same path. Bees find their way by polarized light imperceptible to human beings, and whales locate their prey with sonar-echo thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean. What worlds are hidden from us we cannot even imagine? For all we know, our sensory equipment might be one set peculiar to the earth out of millions operative on other planets and other planes of creation in the universe.

Whereas this new book will go much deeper into all of this, to sum up briefly here, mystical experience represents, in my view, the activity of a luminous form of energy, which bathes everything in its luster and contains within it, a wisdom that transcends all thought and contemplation. I believe that by a slow process of evolution this illuminated state of mind, in course of time, could potentially become the natural stage of every man and woman on earth. The current confusion about the real nature of mystical experience rests on the fact that there is no awarenes! s about the biological factors responsible for this extraordinary state of cognition. As soon as it is confirmed by experiment that a transformation does occur in the brain as also in the machinery which fuels the activity of thought, the speculations and controversies, circling round the subject at present, will cease; giving a new direction to the scientific investigation of the phenomenon.

The human mind may perform in response to the practice of an art, meditation, or to so-called inspiration when it is either sensitive to the uprisings of the subconscious or to the stimulus, or "calling" of the superconscious. In either case, the creative mystic must come to know the difference between upheavals stemming from deep mind, a tap of divine madness, a drug induced hallucination, a strike of inspirational lightning, or a rare God-given moment of divine ecstasy. In any of these cases it can appear to the individual that such augmentations of consciousness are more or less foreign. This is an important point for anyone who undergoes such experiences, for at this stage one can easily become either self-deluded or experience a degree of self-actualization. I have learned the hard way to tell the difference between an unrestrained mystical enthusiasm, rampant religious ecstasy, and even bouts of madness and see that they are not the credentials of a divinely inspired experience. I am still learning.

How do we test the difference? How do we bring a litmus-eye to the strange religious experiences of mysticism, ecstasy, visions and inspiration? Well, besides an old and simple question I ask in every situation; " . . .does it have any love in it?" (If not, probably best to stay away from it, run the other way). The final test is to examine how "integrating" the experience was and is. Did the vision or experience contribute to a better state of health, physically, emotionally or mentally? Did your love and appreciation for beauty, truth, and goodness become enhanced? Were your social, moral and spiritual values enhanced?  Was your spiritual insight, your God-consciousness expanded? Is your heart and compassion more present in your day-to-day living while carrying out your commonplace duties and routine mortal existence? Did your egocentric behavior and view of the life become transformed to a more world-centric one? Did you become, not only more tolerant but inclusive, not only more accepting but more compassionate, more theocentric? Did this experience have an effect on your personal growth over a long period of time, running perhaps for years? Did the state experienced affect your stage of consciousness and not merely altering, temporarily, your usual state of awareness?

Creative mystics tend to be less product-oriented than other artistic types but that does not mean they are less prolific or even successful on a financial level. Their ideas and objects fountain forth from the spring of a laborless-labor; an ease in making, where there is no effort, like side effects rather than as a culmination of a creative process of the will.  Creative mystics live the relationship between their personal heart and the flowing giant river of creativity. Like the healer and shamanic types, the creative mystics tap into the power of creation through the spiritual action of their contemplative practice and the ethical employment of their talents. They live free and creative lives, whether struggling, or financially successful, they are "free." Finally, they are free from even the fear of death because they have seen and felt and known the light of the eternal, even if but for a moment. If death is still a built-in fear, than likely the vision or ecstasy they believe they had was not genuine, but rather just an uprising from deep personal mind.

The fearless artistic mystic lives moment to moment in a present that they flow with and enhance. Every moment they experience is a part of their creative relationship to life and death, and this may express itself as art, French onion soup, a Tantric act of love, or a story told to a child. From any of their actions great art may arise, but they will not be interested in labeling it this, or that. They will remember small details, exact quotes from a conversation held years before, s! ensual observations of a new born baby bird, the blasting light of a visitation from another realm, or washing dishes while the sun bathed their face, rather than identifying themselves with a grand culmination of an artistic product, painting, play or museum devoted to themselves.
Their art is born from another realm that co-exists with all the arts, all that is happening now, hence, they can be multi-skilled and easily flow between a number of creative roles and activities at the same time. They make wonderful interdisciplinary artists, organizers, leaders and integrators, administrators and performers, dancers and designers, painters, philosophers, publishers and poets, sculptors and sky jumpers, architects and archivists, writers and teachers, researchers, choreographers and concert pianists ñ and could also be someone in business, or working as a plumber, a "carpenter" a homemaker, or simply a wandering yogi.

The ecstatic artist exclaims, indeed, we may all exclaim: I am the Absolute, the smile and the sorrow, the lion and the sparrow. We may each say: I am the stenching homeless man you pretend not to see and the prisoner you executed, the beautiful child who laughs and the old woman who died next door. We are gazing out of every face; we are carved out of the same ONE light. The ecstatic experience can be a blissful intoxication of sorts, but a crystal clear meteoric mad-flash of timeless loving light. It is not manic or a form of pathology of any kind. From it you walk away and remember that before this journey you knew everything. That you spoke of yourself to yourself. Time nor space, birth or death was not a condition. There was nothing else to experience. Just a hint of memory comes, a slight feeling if you will, that timeless eternity and ceaseless bliss seemed boring, or at least, lacked awesome creativity. You recall; that is you vaguely remember, creating an illusion, a play of consciousness, to limit the spectrum of your perception. Now whether as a painter or a plumber, you look out at the world of forms from the ecstatic eyes of formlessness. You see forever and afterwards you appear to yourself again as disjointed, as separate from everything else: as a river, a horse, as a mountain, or as your own cousin, friend or father. Yet, there is also this inner drive, this push toward self-discovery that returns you to remembrance. You awake and realize that you are on a great pilgrimage that leads back to where you started, to who and what you always were and are right now, will always be and are always becoming.

© Philip Rubinov Jacobson                                                                  
Dallas, Texas 5/28/05

1.Schopenhauer, ìThe World of Will and Idea, THIRD BOOK, The World as Idea - Second Aspectî, p.38-39, The Great Books Foundation, © 1966, Chicago, Illinois.
2. Oxford American Dictionary, Eugene Ehrlich, Stuart Berg Flexner, Gorton Carruth, Joyce M. Hawkins, New York/Oxford, © Oxford University Press, 1980. p. 440
3. Gowan, John C., ìSome Thoughts on the Development of Creativity,î The Journal of Creative Behavior, vol. 11, no. 2, (1977).
4. Wilber, Ken, from his FOREWORD to DRINKING LIGHTNING ñ Art, Creativity and Transformation, by Philip Rubinov Jacobson, © 2000, Shambhala Publications, 1st edition, p.8