The Symbol Is The Symbolized

22.VI.49 (click Integral Realist)
The discipline of fidelity to the non-mental in poetry—mastery of all tendency to substitute, elaborate, concoct, continue with the mind—deepening the non-mental ‘sensation’, state or image, the usual starting point of a poem, vertically into the trans-mental—‘pure poetry’; psychic and intellectual concentration, and the formal resources of the mind, entirely serving this possibility and subsumed in its working out. Then each poem must become an extremely conscious ‘samadhi’, an exploration, with the fullest means available, of the true Moment. And this discipline is for an immediate and congenial means of beginning to ‘go beyond the mind”—of attaining and establishing a purely transmental vision and speech. 

—Lewis L. Thompson (click for image) 

"Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art. Modern art has taken a wrong turn in abandoning the search for the meaning of existence in order to affirm the value of the individual for its own sake. What purports to be art begins to look like an eccentric occupation for suspect characters who maintain that any personalised action is of intrinsic value simply as a display of self-will. But in artistic creation the personality does not assert itself, it serves another, higher and communal idea. The artist is always a servant, and is perpetually trying to pay for the gift that has been given to him as if by a miracle. Modern man, however, does not want to make any sacrifice, even though true affirmation of self can only be expressed in sacrifice. We are gradually forgetting about this, and at the same time, inevitably, losing all sense of our human calling. 

When I speak of the aspiration towards the beautiful, of the ideal as the ultimate aim of art, which grows from a yearning for that ideal, I am not for a moment suggesting that art should shun the 'dirt' of the world. On the contrary! The artistic image is always a metonym, where one thing is substituted for another, the smaller for the greater. To tell of what is living, the artist uses something dead; to speak of the infinite, he shows the finite. Substitution . . . the infinite cannot be made into matter, but it is possible to create an illusion of the infinite: the image". 

"I see it as my duty to stimulate reflection on what is essentially human and eternal in each individual soul, and which all too often a person will pass by, even though his fate lies in his hands. He is too busy chasing after phantoms. In the end everything can be reduced to the one simple statement which is all a person can count upon in his existence: the capacity to love. That element can grow within the soul to become the supreme factor which determines the meaning of a person's life. My function is to make whoever sees my films aware of his need to love and to give his love, and [to make him] aware that beauty is summoning him." 

—Andrey Tarkovsky (Filmmaker)
Sculpting In Time

"This whole dynamic [of the koan of existence-time] is neither a revelation, nor an invention, nor a discovery; rather, it is what Dogen calls "the opening and illumining" (kamei) of a salvific activity as a painted picture. Thus reality is picture and picture is reality."

"When you endeavor in this way [you will realize that] life and death, their comings and goings, are all painted pictures/painting pictures; supreme enlightenment is indeed a painted picture/painting a picture. All the dharma world and the empty sky—there is nothing whatsoever that is not painting a picture / a painted picture."

"Dogen employed the metaphor "A painting of a cake (gabyo) does not satisfy hunger" to express the fact that life and death, coming and going are all a painted picture (gato). Painting a picture, the painter, and a painted picture all constituted a single reality; religion and art ultimately converged in the holistic view that mirrored the self and the world.* From this, Dogen drew a striking conclusion—entirely different from the traditional interpretation—that the painted cake alone could satisfy hunger, or to put it differently, unless we ate the painted cake, we could never satisfy our hunger. . . life and art, truth and the imagination are never bifurcated but constitute a total reality in which the spring is realized as a painted picture via the plum blossoms and the painter’s striving. The painted picture “allows the plum blossoms to exert the spring” and thereby the spring “enters the [plum] tree."

* The painted cake of thusness is not a metonym. Since it is reality, it has the power "to bring us into line with our experience of totality". This power 1) erases any demarcation between reality and illusion; 2) has multiple meanings (multidimensional); 3) interfuses the symbol and the symbolized so that "likeness" is "thusness"; 4) expresses emptiness since it is the substance of realization; 5) expresses transformative concepts in the soteriological milieu to avoid dualistic notions of bifurcation; 6) triggers religio-philosophical imagination; 7) interprets the transcendental/static in terms of the realizational/dynamic; 8) expresses analogy as identity; 9) expresses discontinuous continuity (multidirectional)."
—Hee-Jin Kim
Dogen: On Meditation And Thinking

Every new participant in a culture both enters into an existing context and simultaneously changes that context. Each new speaker of its language both learns and alters it. The reciprocity of this transformation has no respect to time. This reciprocity works backward as well as forward. Each person whose horizon is affected by the Renaissance affects the horizon of the Renaissance as well."

—James Carse
Finite and Infinite Games

“The discipline of fidelity to the non-mental in poetry–mastery of all tendency to substitute, elaborate, concoct, continue with the mind – deepening of the non-mental ‘sensation’, state or image, the usual starting-point of a poem, vertically into the trans-mental–‘pure poetry’; psychic and intellectual concentration and the formal resources of the mind, serve this possibility and is subsumed in its working out.  Then each poem must become an extremely conscious ‘samadhi’, an exploration, with the fullest means available, of the true Moment.  And this discipline is for an immediate and congenial means of beginning to “go beyond the mind”–of attaining and establishing a purely transmental vision and speech.”

 “Art is immortal (perennially effective and true) only so far as it is a mode of spiritual effort.  Then alone can it purify away all fashion, surface, false success and keep close to the symbols, the possibilities, native to man as an integral, as a spiritual being.” 

—Lewis Thompson
Integral Realist, The Journals of Lewis Thompson, Volume 2: 1945-1949

"Beneath the creation of any piece of art, two interrelated instincts are at work. One is the instinct for expression, to convey a view of life (which in turn arises from the basic attempt to find meaning, to 'contemplate' the world). It is from this attempt to find meaning, to contemplate life that art and literature came into being in the first place. The second is the desire for pleasure, to experience 'beauty'. This may seem, superficially, to be at variance with the instinct for self-expression, but in fact the active expression of a view of life results in fulfillment and pleasure, which is heightened to the degree one partakes of and expresses truth. This 'contemplation' entails, of course, an act of selection in terms of a particular work of art, taking a particular scene of human life as it unfolds before one and empathizing, knowing, understanding, feeling it as a part of one's own experience. 

It is from this contemplation and expression that the extreme pleasure afforded by art derives, a pleasure that results from the pursuit of, and experiencing of reality. Thus 'artistic' in this context may mean more or less the same as 'religious'; when an artist produces a work, his awareness expands in every direction and is amplified, assimilating the vast and profound truth of life in a way impossible in ordinary, everyday activity. The act of artistic expression thus becomes a statement of the universal, and as such is an act of worship in the deepest sense. It is characteristic of art that the contemplation of life that is its prime objective also carries with it the elevation and joy of a profound religious experience, the joy that arises with the growth of truth in the mind of the artist.

Seen in this light, when a work of art is an expression of truth, the distinction between didactic art and 'art for art's sake' becomes blurred or disappears altogether; in the same way, art 'for the sake of the self' and art 'for the sake of an ideal' fuse together and become art expressing the universal."

—Yasuichi Awakawa
Brushmarks of Infinity, Translated by John Bester  Pgs. 30-31

"Whenever the motives of artists are profound, when they are at their work as a result of deep consideration, when they believe in the importance of what they are doing, their work creates a stir in the world."

—Chang Yen-Yuan
Source Unknown

"The polarity of light and subtle energy needed to create a universe is also needed to create sacred art that resonates in harmony with the universe. I will define sacred art as art derived from an entranced state of consciousness wherein the unconscious merges with the conscious through the imaginal.

When this direct imaginative awareness occurs, the visual system of the brain resonates to the fluid vital force and linear light in diverse degrees and angles, yielding what Heinrich Kluver called 'form constants'. The dominant patterns of archetypes are herein revealed as visual abstract patterns of extreme luminosity. More than being merely decorative, sacred art uses vital force and consciousness, as a cosmic energy transducer and a transmitter of information. Such art can heal the illusory split between matter and archetypes incurred by our sense perception and our emotional and mental conditioning.

Nothing less than the awakening of the imaginal will redeem the desacralization of our world. No posture, political program, or forceful means can do so. It means nothing less than turning the world inside-out, whereby our creativity is awakened from true inspiration. The imaginal is that faculty that can apprehend the archetypal realm as forms and images, the faculty that elevates our perception to direct gnosis. Imagination here is not fantasy, but a state of supernal vision.

Imaginal forms are epiphanies, theophanies. Accordingly, the higher function of the imaginal as ephinany is the state wherein all myths and patterns of initiation take place. It is therefore through the refined and rarefied soul that guidance from the archetypal realm comes and from which the sacred emerges into life. Those who awaken this imaginal faculty are prophets, not as predictors of future events, but as oracles, speakers for the invisible archetypal powers.

When the artist goes deep enough within to bring forth the work that originates from the Light of Cosmic Intelligence, he or she draws forth archetypal presences through tone, color and design, leading us to pure Platonic beauty.

The awareness that the whole is in each part, as in the holographic model, enables us to find the timeless in time, to experience infinity in the finite. The imaginal body is the interior vehicle that can be released from the tyranny of exclusive empiricism and logic. By enhancing our visionary and intuitive capacity, we can become aware of the archetypal powers and let them inspire our creativity in order to transform the wasteland of the Earth."

—Rowena Pattee-Kryder
Sacred Ground to Sacred Space

"We've cut off the functions of the right brain so much in the waking state, that not only are we not being psychic, we are not feeling good physically. Since the right brain is associated with the parasympathetic sensory chain, prior to what the senses are getting as information out there at the moment, to consider it a hallucinatory, dreaming, artistic mind is to relegate it to a secondary position relative to the left-brained, problem solving, mind. There is a natural urge to revise the world by rehallucinating it, acting upon it directly, changing it, becoming different ourselves. It leads us into the higher functioning aspects of the brain and aspects of the right brain that are, for the most part, now kept in a latent state during waking consciousness.

We are heart beings. It is what we want to celebrate with each other. So we develop forms that express that understanding. If we fail to recognize our true position at the heart, we lean on technique and knowledge to manipulate appearances outside the heart. You see this in much of the art that basically expresses an orientation to the conceptual mind.

Art should inspire us beyond our fear. It is a way of concretely communicating that one is lived. It is a way of consorting with the ancestors in animistic spirit worship. Art is not a matter or copying elemental things. That is just a tradition of art. Art is the presumption of the life-sign in everything. It is a response to the life-sign. The making of something that ultimately is regarded to be something of aesthetic interest in a response to the life-sign.

True art should not have anything to do with the discursive mind. It is a different kind of inspiration, not seated in the body or the apparent personality. It is a motion to which one must submit oneself so that the body is made to endure physical and emotional pain in the spontaneous and psyshic process of being overwhelmed, of being radiant. It should be a sacred incantation of involvement with Transcendental Consciousness, the creative resource of Being.

True art has a purpose for others, not merely for the artist. The purpose of art is to enliven, heal and positively transform the participants in a process of self-understanding. That means that for an artist to be effective he must submit to the process of self-understanding. The need for the personal discipline of self-understanding is as important as technical understanding in order to serve the higher purpose of art."                    

"When the culture and politics of human beings is in a harmonious condition, when it involves sacred association, then the true artist appears.

The great tradition of art is healing, resonating the being, serving our equanimity, raising our sympathies, enhancing our existence.

The true artist is a sacred performer who must do the magic that causes others to participate in manifest reality in the sacred sense, or the sense of love, in the sense of self-transcendence, of ecstasy."

"Paintings are sacred diagrams. They should awaken the centers of the body and cause people to have mystical experiences."

—Adi Da Samraj
From early talks

"Because the ideology of history favors the collective values of competition, patriotism and the work ethic, values that keep the individual in bondage to external goals, the individual must be extremely vigilant in order to preserve his humanity.

"With the crushing triumph of late eighteenth century technology, the techniques by which inner meaning could be developed, namely alchemy and a vital harmonic Pythogorean tradition of mystical mathematics, disappeared. Thereafter, Western artists were to be deprived of an internal technology. There is the spectacle of Picasso on the one hand, improving on the external logic of Western art, or a Pollock on the other, flirting with the inner realm yet lacking the discipline and the knowledge to master it.

"What separates the art of most modern Western visionaries from the kind of integral achievement that characterizes the archaic, however, is an intense inner discipline, the development of an internal technology. From the archaic point of view, internal technology, discipline of the psychic energies, precedes and underlies the fabrication of any artifact.

"(What the historical position actually favors is human endeavor for its own sake. The ideology of modern history, which is progress at all costs, is directly opposed to tradition, which is rooted in the cosmic sense of being, from which progress is seen as an egotistical illusion. Modern history argues that tradition precludes 'direct' experience and is therefore a deterrent to progress. This view is not altogether correct, since archaic traditions emphasized the necessity of direct experience or revelation to confirm their teachings).

"In really creative art is revealed that which ultimately will emerge through the evolutionary process as consciousness. Such art is born of the magical sacrifice of Avatars, or Seed-men, on all planes, which is a 'release of power' a cry of birth, a poem of initiation.

"To reach this level the artist must become a 'work of art of the spirit'. Having undergone a profound transformation of consciousness the artist incorporates, literally embodies an aspect of the the spirit. In this way he helps consolidate the necessary forms for releasing power.

"Tradition is the transmission of an inner quality of being rather than an external expression of it."

—Jose Arguelles
The Transformative Vision

"The deepest duty confronting artists today is to bring forth symbolical utterances emanating this really human spirituality. This can only be accomplished if artists themselves are tuned to their own spiritual centers, only if they become incarnations of God within. These artists, like the alchemists of old, must be willing to work 'unceasingly' and honestly toward the mastery of the material of their own lives."

—Dane Rudhyar

"According to Hindu folk psychology, he who possesses the creative faculty in all its fullness is in touch with the realm of 'divine forms' and 'affect images' (bhavana, rupa) of the unconscious or unmanifest mind (avidya, maya). He is also said to be of practiced vocational excellence. Moreover this special type of artist, the creative artist-yogi, often is believed to be under the influence of the mother goddess Sarasvati.

"Artistic tradition teaches that it is only through his self-discipline and contemplative searchings that the Hindu painter can at last reach a stage where, as subject, he merges with an inner object or emotional state he would like to render in concrete form. He may then experience what is considered psychic wholeness, the transcendence of all opposites and life contradictions, 'balance'. The artist is believed to experience the mystical penetration of an artistic reality which exists independent of him alone."

"A symbol is 'alive', moving from inside to outside, and called up from the depths during the artistic process. A symbol is something which is always transitive in the sense that it points to referents beyond our daily conscious lives. A sign, however, is something already known to consciousness; a mere sign is 'dead' as is a red 'stop' sign that has a fixed meaning and fails to stir one deeply, affectively. Investigation shows that the word, symbol, in English comes from ballistics and means something which is thrown out. Because in India the word for symbol refers more specifically to this psychologically dynamic and transitive quality, we find with reference to a symbolic work of art that Hindu painters inquire "Does this transcend itself? Does it awaken us to archetypal energies of the spirit, or is it only an imitation of nature? Does it evoke affect and content from the unconscious?" If it does not, then it is not truly art imbued with the universal creative force of maya. All true art is thought to be essentially symbolic since it draws on the deepest springs of the world of maya rupa. Most important, symbols brought up and thrown out point beyond the immediate material world of signs and are believed to evoke what is known as rasa.

"Rasa is the spirit, sentiment, essential effect or 'taste' of a work of art. Because for Hindu artists beauty is something of an ideal and abstract quality, it is felt to exist in potentia. As we have pointed out before, it is the duty of the creative artist to realize or re-create this potentiality in himself, to aspire to attain and become it by opening his consciousness to the maya rupa. Theoretically the artist never paints anything which is external to himself. The identification of the subject with the inner object is the goal of the artist: to worship the god one must become the god."

—Renaldo Maduro
Artistic Creativity and Aging in India
International Journal on Aging and Human Development   Vol 5, No. 4, 1974

"In the middle of our century, the purely abstract picture without any regular order of forms and colors has become the most frequent expression in painting.

"The deeper the dissolution of 'reality', the more the picture loses its symbolic content. The reason for this lies in the nature of the symbol and its function. The symbol is an object of the known world hinting at something unknown; it is the known expressing the life and sense of the inexpressible. But in merely abstract paintings, the world of the known has completely vanished. Nothing is left to form a bridge to the unknown."

—Carl Jung
Man and His Symbols

"By comparison with the painted presence of Western art, Tantrism evokes another presence that is beyond painting. The sign, any sign, has the property of drawing us on and on. A perpetual toward, which is never a here. What writing says is beyond what is written; what Tantric painting presents does not lie within it.

"When the poem ends, poetry begins; presence is not the painted sign we see, but what these signs invoke. They are pointers or indications that tell us what we are searching for lies farther on. The pilgrimage by way of the canvas or body tattooed with signs leads to an image that, as it vanishes, opens doors to us: beyond its presence or its reverse. Art has no existence of its own; it is a path, a freedom. Tantric painting really shows us nothing: to tread it, is a pilgrimage that becomes a detachment."

—Octavio Paz

Portrait of Lewis Thompson © 2003, acrylic on paper, 21.5” x 30”.

Portrait of Lewis Thompson © 2003, acrylic on paper, 21.5” x 30”.