Art, Path XIV

"To our distant ancestors who worked in the silence of the caves some two hundred centuries ago in elated honor of genius never surpassed."  It is significant, I think, that we begin to speak of centuries, as if welcoming these women and men at the boundary of the recent past.  The fact that some of them could execute such paintings, engravings, and carvings is impressive enough in itself; but more impressive is the fact that the undoubted majority who could not, evidently could appreciate, even support, those who could.  I can think of no more significant single advance in the whole course of  human evolution; and I can think of no more convincing demonstration of the final, decisive emergence of the utterly distinctive human brain."
                                                     --Melvin Konner, The Tangled Wing

"Artemis," photo by Robert Avalon, c1976

Mindful Luminosity

Art originated in shamanism, when man first made imagination into images.  All art is process.  All process is about morphology or process magic, translation from one state or another with or without some specific goal.  Process morphs are metaphors.  Art describes without explaining.  Art imitates life.  In pathworking life imitates Art.  Processes connect disconnected forms.  What is lost in form (crystalized) can be found in process.

Metaphor is about experience, how we know what we know.  We experience the environment through flowing exchanges of information, matter, and energy.  Through metaphor we can relate what we know to what we don't know.  Metaphor links us with an ocean of interrelated ideas about body-mind-self-universe.

All epistomological metaphors are couched in the language of the senses.  They are drawn from the bottomless reservoir of the sensorium.  On the Path of Return, the path "Art" superseeds "The Universe."  Pathworking is process magic.  Each successive path doesn't transcend the prior path; it enfolds or includes it.  In the same way, the universe imparts its creative process to us.

We, in turn, impart our creative process to the things we create.  Thus, we engage in an internal  dialogue with persons, places, and things through our intuitive constructions.  Our creations reveal the nature of our minds directly and so the universe indirectly.  This is the great current of influences (Middle Pillar) that changes our lives in accord with the holistic changes of the universe.  It relates with us symbolically, metaphorically through what we might call reflectaphors or metaphorms, universally recurrent dynamic images.  Our idiosyncratic expression of these universal forms is art--a means of communicating thoughts and experiences in a mostly personal way.

A metaphorm is an object, image, concept, or process that we compare to something else.  Metaphorms imply relationships between things that we cannnot explicitly compare nor literally equate.  Every object, image, concept or process is a metaphorm.  It matters little whether a metaphorm is literally true or not.  What is important is that it binds our lives to the vast unconsumable life of the universe, giving us a taste of immortality.

All things are intrinsically metaphorms, whether we use them metaphorically or not.  Likeness of form is only one of the likenesses between different forms of matter, energy, or information.  What is lost in form can be found in process.  Regardless of the context in which a thing or process exists, our minds can connect it to something else.  Intuition involves both discovering new connections and innovating new solutions.  This is a synergetic process.  In imagery, figure and ground are given together and complement and sustain one another.

Metaphorming encompasses all forms of metaphor including analogy, allegory, allusion, symbolism, and figures of speech.  Moreover, it can involve all of our physical senses in a synesthesia, implicating every mode of thinking, feeling, creating an identification.  Even visual images can be derived from non-visual sources.  Metaphorms are ways of implying likeness between things, such as the macrocosm and microcosm.

In metaphorming, we transcend the constraints of logic relating from one object to another a new meaning, pattern, or set of associations.  The symbolic language of metaphorms is multidimensional, operating simultaneously on many planes of associations, nuances, and meanings.  Metaphorms invoke the idea of forming, connecting, shaping some thing (or information) in our mind's eyes and hands.

Our brain imposes its dynamics on everything we make--from concepts about the universe to techniques used to test or represent these concepts, from chaos to order.  Process morphs connect us with everything we create and are influenced by.  Metaphorming is a principal means of exploring the world, relating information from one discipline to another, connecting potentially all sources and forms of information.  Metaphorms are expressions of nature's unity.

Science also uses metaphorms.  Physicists are metaphorming when tthey create words or images for describing novel relationships.  If there is no existing word or expression to convey a concept or hypothesis, they simply invent one.  They also use creative visualization.  Visual metaphorms, in particular, inspire hypotheses, and vice versa.

Visual thinking is essential to communicate scientific theory.  Visual models are great aids.  There is a domain of thinking where distinctions between conceptions in art or science become meaningless.  Visual thinking is a criterion for selection between alternatives that resist reduction to logic and are best referred to as aesthetics.

We pursue this path to various degrees of enlightenment.  Thus, art can be considered a state of mindful luminosity.  This luminosity is like the soft, reflective light of the Moon, to which this path corresponds. Metaphors flow between the complementary worlds in which material substance intermingles in the transmutable mind where everything imaginable seems possible.

Both scientists and artists take two facts or experiences that seem separated, and find a likeness in them, and create a unity by showing the likeness.  All science is the search for unity in hidden likenesses.  Thus, it ventures beyond logic, in flights of fancy.  These days, physics, once the bastion of rationality, has become very metaphysical.

All the various  theories and models are actually an ever-changing whole.  It hardly matters if a hypothesis or theory proves valid.  What matters is that it directs us, constructively challenging our previous notions, approaches, or canons.  This alone makes it productive.  But it must be aesthetic, as all great theories are.

The brain loves to make theories about itself and its processes.  This is echoed in the models we form for the physical universe.  There are no definitive models for nature is in constant flux as is the depth of our penetration of the secrets of the universe.  The body of scientific knowledge is transient.  Each theory evolves from an angle of analysis, a way of perceiving what it is "like."  The best are able to model many aspects of the world, and predict or explain the behavior of phenomenoa, providing symbolic models that lead to insight.  Metaphorms (Path 25) mediate between the brain (Malkuth) and the universe (Kether), between the somatic and the cosmic.

We can produce an infinite number of virtual structures.  Imaginary structures are called "mental architecture" by cognitive scientists and "thought forms" by philosophers and poets.  Virtual (nonphysical and symbolic) processes are not affected by time-space-form contraints.  The virtual world is one of reflectionism, and this sounds very close to the characteristic descriptors of the Astral Plane.  This art is the way matter becomes mind.  Our worldview seems to need a mirror, if only to serve as a reminder, or metaphorm.  Reflectionism helps us conceptualize how one world may also consist of many worlds.  As reality is both and more.

"Reaching for the Light," c1976

Art and the Artist

Art embodies the rhythmic flux of the psyche either through a performance or a "product."  The artist combines technical craftsmanship with the constraints of the artform.  Thus, the creation is not merely the production of free will, but also reflects the discipline imposed by training and materials.  As such, art is the result of a unique combination of consciousness, or cognitive abilities, and subconscious drives or inspiration.  The motivating force behind the process of art is the unconscious animation of an archetype.  The archetype (or metaphorm) seeks manifestation in some "form," and manipulates the artist into producing this form.

According to Jung, "Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.  The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him.  As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is 'man' in a higher sense--he is 'collective man'--one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic life of mankind."

This is the sentiment that makes all process work art--whether it is process therapy, process magic, or the classic modes of expression.

Aleister Crowley made an appropriate choice changing the name of Tarot Trump XIV from "Temperance" to "Art."  While both titles may be considered as accurate, Temperance indicates a condition of moderation, or blending of opposites; this is one aspect of "Art."  The artistic process combines inner and outer life.  It makes what is inside, outside; we turn ourselves inside out.  It is Self-recursive.  It is a reconciliation of opposites in a transcendental, paradoxical symbol whose purpose is unficiation.

The content expressed by the symbol is as-yet-unknown, or pre-cogntive.  Otherwise, it would be a cognitive realization, rather than symbolic.  The artist receives the inspiration through intuition and feeling, is motivated by the drive of the archetype, (metaphorm, or reflectaphor), and executes the process through sensory and motor functions.

As the contents of the unconscious become more clearly defined, there is a transitional phase from the awe and dread of the Prototaxic Mode, to the relatively benign nature of Syntaxic experience.  Art is an expression of the parataxic mode, which mediates between these extremes.

In a cursory examination of the history of art (from a metaphysical viewpoint), we might associate primitive art with the Prototaxic Mode; Imressionism (from Chagall onwards) with the Parataxic Mode; abstract and geometrical art with the Syntaxic Mode.  These classifications aren't literal or absolute, obviously, but suggestive.

In the parataxic mode, there is a progressive replacement of dread with creativity in the service of archetypal patterns.  If the artist has talent, his works also take on collective, as well as personal value, and reflect the transformative process in society.  It frequently happens that artists are "ahead of their time," in that their work receives no wide recognition in their own lifetimes.  Great art has an ageless quality.

Images, symbols, and ritual enactment ("mythodologies") provide a means of crystallizing ideas which still remain below the threshold of consciousness.  Ideally, they fulfill their function when either the artist or observer is later able to consciously integrate the "meaning" which they embody, at least to some extent.  This is precisely the function of the pictorial Tarot Keys.  We gain a greater cognitive awareness of the archetypal processes they encode, as time goes on.

The distinction between decorative and symbolic art lies in the fact that symbols portray a higher level of abstraction, whereas decorative art is a "just-so" story.  It has no inherent meaning, and is merely ornamental.  Visionary art gives man the ability to create his own reality, even if it is only in images, and this has great transforming power on the psyche.  We can only imagine the virtual habitats that will be created by cyber-artists in the near future.

Jung distinguished between  two types of artistic creation.  He termed one of these psychological and the other visionary.  The psychological mode draws its inspiration from the lessons of life, or human experience (life drawing).  The visionary mode, on the other hand, contains something of the Divine, and its subject matter is definitely out-of-the-ordinary.

One distinction between the two lies in the degree of psychological activity or passivity of the participant.  In the first mode, the artist "thinks up" and develops the form pretty much on his own; but in the visonary mode his own will defers to an apparently foreign inspiration.  There may be an element of passivity in both modes, but in a visionary experience it is more pronounced.  Visionary art is also generally considered more profound (unless it is sentimental art).

Great art is perceived by what the visionary artist Michaelangelo termed "the eye of the soul."  It may be considered the Parataxic counterpart of the primitive's trance, or the mystic's ecstasy.  The evocative power of art is embodied in the rhythm which is the underlying matrix of an art piece.  The power of art is intimately connected with perception.  The "symbolic value" attributed to any given work depends upon how we look at it.  Thus, the art critic has developed tastes different from the "common man."  Nevertheless, the greatest art stands the test of time, and has great appeal for the masses and connoisseur alike.

The pleasure of a psychological work is largely aesthetic in nature, whereas the symbolic work strikes a deeper chord.  Visionary experience carries even more impact than human passion.  Its psychic reality may include or unite physical and metaphysical qualities.  It is more effective when it conveys a transparent variation on the archetypal theme.  For example, note the persistent revival of classical style and mythological themes among the great masters in painting and sculpture.  Art serves a therapeutic function for society.  It may even predict the future, as when the Cubist movement and later abstract art preceeded a cultural fragmentation of unprecedented magnitude.

"Art" can be considered a process, not a product (though it results in artifacts).  Even the performing arts, which were previously exempt, may now be preserved through recordings and film.  John Gowan has classified the arts in a scale of increasing order from performing arts, to visual arts, to compositions in mathematics and music (which are Syntaxic in nature), and finally verbal creativity.

This does not imply that one form is better or "more advanced" than another.  But it is an aid in determining nuances of the creative process.  It is difficult to maintain much objectivity about one's creative effort when the physical body is intimately involved, as in dance.

Dance is closer to a trance state, where the body responds to training automatically, than to one of concentration.  The muscle memory does the work, making the dance fluid.  In thje visionary mode, on the other hand, there is a temporary withdrawl from the sense organs and the constraints of the physical world.  Beethoven said, "music is the mediator between the spiritual and sensual life."

"Art" is the cumulation of five procedures of the Parataxic Mode which includes archetype, dream, myth, ritual, and finally art.  Archetype and Dream are impressed directions of action; Myth is neutral, but Ritual and Art are expressed.  The move is from pictorial to enactive and pictorial--i.e. interactive.   The numinous aspect transmutes or morphs from worrisome, to paranormal, to religious, to magical, to creative.

The parataxic mode exemplifies non-verbal creativity.  It represents the development of an enhanced relationship with the subconscious.  It is a transcendence over man's animalistic, instinctual nature to a flowering humanity with individual, unique qualities.  It means we become artists of our own evolutionary process.

"Frater and Soror Mystica," photo by Robert Avalon, c1976

CONSILIENCE: The Melding of Hod & Netzach

"The love of complexity without reductionism makes art; the love of complexity with reductionism makes science." (Wilson, 1998)
The emergent philosophy of Consilience, put forward by proponent Edward O. Wilson, echoes Buckminster Fuller's philosophy that we become generalists rather than increasingly rarified specialists.  Consilience would imply the unification of knowledge, in the sense of melding the sciences (Hod) and the humanities (Netzach).

Wilson opens his thesis with the premise of the Ionian Enchantment, which means a belief in the unity of the sciences--a conviction far deeper than a mere working proposition, that the world is orderly and can be explained by a small number of natural laws.  This root metaphor goes back to Thales of Miletus in Ionia in the sixth century B.C.  It has been a guiding metamyth for scientific thought ever since.

Consilience is more than the concept of linking the sciences and humanities.  It is literally a linking across disciplines to create a common groundwork of explanation through linkage of facts and fact-based theories.  This sounds very much like metaphorms.

Conceptual unity is the foundation of natural sciences.  Hybrid domains are making interdisciplinary research more productive.  The Philosophy of Science reveals the vital role of intellectual synthesis and shows us the continuous thread of thought that has spanned centuries.  Through philosophy we gaze into the unknown future and give it form through our visions, intuitions and conjecture.

The relationship between science and the humanities is important for a balanced perspective and human welfare.  The unity of learning was an ideal handed down to us through the Renaissance and Enlightenment, but this ethos has been abandoned in favor of specialization and a plethora of "special-ists."

Enlightenment thinks thought we could know everything; now postmodern deconstructionists tell us we can know nothing but a construct of the mind.  They have rejected objective truth for radical relativism; "-isms" and "-ists" and metatheories help us break down and analyze cultural and psychological root metaphors.  These root metaphors govern thinker's minds when designing theories and experiments.  The phenomenon of experimenter bias in parapsychology, in particular, is well documented.

If philosophical positions confuse us and close doors, they should be questioned.  Our temperaments condition whether our original thinking tries to create order from disorder, or creatively disrupt the existing order.  Wilson is a staunch defender of science and defends it zealously:

"I mean no disrespect when I say that prescientific people, regardless of their innate genius, could never guess tha nature of physical reality beyond the tiny sphere attainable by unaided common sense.  Nothing else ever worked, no exercise from myth, revelation, art, trance, or any other conceivable means; and notwithstanding the emotional satisfaction it gives, mysticism, the strongest prescientific probe into the unknown, has yielded zero.  No shaman's spell or fast upon a sacred mountain can summon the electromagnetic spectrum.  Prophets of the great religions were kept unaware of its existence, not because of a secretive god but because they lacked the hard-won knowledge of physics."
Well, Synergetic Qabala would beg to differ about visionary knowledge of the structure of reality.  And, of course, mysticism has yielded "zero," cosmic zero.  The scientific method demands certain experimental protocols.  Diagnostic proceedures require repeatability, elegance and economy, mensuration or a means of reducing ambiguity, heuristics or theoretical interpretations, and consilience, consistency with other findings.

Qabala can qualify with its descriptors of discret states of consciousness, elegance of symbolic encoding, spiritual science, and coherency with all traditions.  It requires not only dissection and analysis, but synthesis and integration, with philosophical reflection about significance and value.  The unification of these methods is what this path Art is all about.  Networks of cause and affect across adjacent levels of organization is what the Tree of Life is all about.  Meditative qabala is contemplation of the hidden design and forces of the networks of causation.

"The love of complexity without reductionism makes art; the love of complexity with reductionism makes science."
Just because scientists have not been perceived as artists, and mystics not as scientific doesn't make it so:
"Scientific research is an art form in this sense:  It does not matter how you make a discovery,  only that your claim is true and convincingly validated.  The ideal scientist thinks like a poet and works like a bookkeeper, and I suppose that if gifted with a full quiver, he also writes like a journalist.  As a painter stands before bare canvas or a novelist recycles past emotion with eyes closed, he searches his imagination for subjects as much as for conclusions, for questions as much as answers...This level of creativity in science, as in art, depends as much on self-image as on talent." (Wilson)
And mysticism can be a spiritual science.  Saints tell us that the core spirituality of all religions is the same for everyone, everywhere, in all times.  Sacred literature attests to this in the perennial philosophy and elsewhere.  Mystical ascent is possible and leads to the groundstate of Unification or God-Realization (Kether) by way of Self-Realization (Tiphareth).  Anyone who bothers to repeat the experiment can see the results for themselves.

In science and mysticism, proofs don't just appear.  They range along a spectrum of credibility from interesting, to suggestive, to persuasive, then compelling, and finally obvious.  As in mathematics, conclusions can follow completely from any premise, which may or may not have anything to do with the real world.

Predictive synthesis is the main form of validation of theories, but is very difficult.  One way is to use reductionism across all levels of organization and all domains of learning.  Qabala is ideally suited to both this sort of reductionism to manageable assimilation of data and predictive synthesis.  This synthesis is what Art is all about, and the synergetic creativity of its focus, Tiphareth.  What is foremost is the love of complexity.  The domain of that synergetic complexity, the nexus of the Tree is Tiphareth.


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Date Created: 9/20/99   Last Updated: 8/3/02