Archive for surrender
The artist on Break
A tattered glove
lays in wait
for the fiery hand of
This is how I feel today. Some days are for working. Some days are for patiently waiting.
Love came and emptied me of self,
every vein and every pore,
made into a container to be filled by the Beloved.
Of me, only a name is left,
the rest is You my Friend, my Beloved.
-Abil-Kheir (967 – 1049)
I am in the process of updating my art website and I wrote this about a couple pieces I did on the Binding of Isaac. I thought you might enjoy it:
The Binding of Isaac is a story that I have wrestled with for many years. When I first came to it, was overwhelming in its injustice. But now I understand that this is a story, not of God’s cruelty, but of God’s infinite love and kindness toward humanity. It is also a story of the power of surrender.
The Binding of Isaac is about being in an impossible situation, something that is so terrible that we think we cannot face it. This is a common human experience. It is not a question of the justice or injustice of a situation, it is a question of how we face a situation we cannot change or escape. Can we trust the Divine forces in our lives or do we fight and struggle? I have been in this situation over and over again with my health, how do you accept the unacceptable? But I have accepted it and learned to surrender as Abraham did and just as Abraham was shown such compassion and kindness, so have I. The Divine desires us to be creative luminous beings and if we won’t listen to this desire, the we will be forced to listen but in the kindest possible way that we can listen to. The act of surrender is the act of hearing God.
The first piece is Abraham’s Annunciation when he is told by God of his task. The second piece is the Binding of Isaac. There are two more pieces in this series to be completed, the moment Abraham puts the knife to Isaac’s neck and the unbinding of Isaac. These pieces are in progress and will be posted.
Spiritual meaning of material used: These pieces are on sheep skin parchment representing the ram that Abraham sacrificed. The 22k gold leaf represents the spiritual perfection achieved by Abraham in his of of surrender. The pigments are handmade, for the most part from stones and plants representing the mountain Abraham climbed for his sacrifice. I also used bone black a pigment made from charred bones to represent the ram.
Image #1: Abraham’s Annunciation
The writing pouring into Abraham’s head is the Hebrew text from the Bible.
Image #2: The Binding of Isaac
The Hebrew lettering around his wrists is the text from the Bible, translation on edge of the box.18″x14″.
Peace flows into me
As the tide to the pool by the shore;
It is mine forevermore,
It ebbs not back like the sea.
I am the pool of blue
That worships the vivid sky;
My hopes were heaven-high,
They are all fulfilled in you.
I am the pool of gold
When sunset burns and dies, —
You are my deepening skies,
Give me your stars to hold.
My theme for this year is creating peace. In my last post, I wrote about my belief that we can release some of the pressure building up in the wider world by addressing that chaos and pressure in our own little garden. By changing our interior selves we powerfully effect those around us for the good. With this in mind, I have been ferreting out all the sources of pressure and turmoil in my own life. To my surprise, I find they are all internal. It’s not the breaking of a glass in the kitchen that brings turmoil, it’s my response. The more I resist a situation, the more upset is created.
I recently became aware of just how much I resist everything. My greatest resistance turns out to be to my own feelings. I resist feeling angry, sad, or experiencing uncomfortable memories; I even resist feelings of love and connection which are too intense. When I am resisting, I have to throw myself into doing something, anything so I won’t have time to feel. This unconscious need to do, causes more turmoil than anything else in my life. I end up forcing things to happen in ways are destructive instead of allow things to unfold in their own time. And because art cannot be forced (it must be allow to unfold), this behavior also kills the creative impulse and the artist’s connection to the divine flow. It clogs the divine well and gums up its receiving vessel.
Since Thanksgiving, I have worked tirelessly to not resist my feelings. As a result, I experienced about a month of intense, overpowering anxiety- an anxiety so strong I almost felt I wouldn’t make it through. It woke me at night and stalked me during the day. But I stuck with it. When anxiety bubbled up, I would stop and be still, embracing the fear as long as I could hold it. Then I’d take a break and enter back in. Eventually, I passed through this intense cloud. It was breathing that got me through, huffing and panting, almost like I was in a month long labor.
Amazingly, this has experience has shifted my whole being. I know real quiet and peace for the first time in my life. My connection to my family is deeper because I can tolerate and hold more feelings of love. Now when something comes up, whether it’s anger, anxiety or pleasure, I’m there to I feel it instead of running away. For the first time ever, I have a physical sense of being here on this planet and a consciousness of my “vesselhood” and the value that that holds. I’m tossing out the clutter from my vessel left, right and center. I am an open jar waiting for Divine creativity to fill me.
In closing, here is a picture of my newest sculpture of St. Francis and a link an old post containing his writing on what is perfect joy. I’m going to put together a video of him, but this week it’s so cold I just have to stay in bed with a heating blanket! Peace- Sybil
This video is really an audio recording of Caroline Myss speaking about gratitude and waiting. The pictures are nothing special, but the audio! It’s one of the most empowering things I have listened to in a long time:
Gitanjali # 37
I thought that my voyage had come to its end at the last limit of my power–that the path before me was closed, that provisions were exhausted and the time come to take shelter in a silent obscurity.
But I find that thy will knows no end in me. And when old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders.
Over the past 6 months or so my hands have almost completely contracted into fists. I have limited movement in my two index fingers and a bit more in my thumbs and that’s it. I get along just fine, but from time to time I feel the loss of my ability to play the piano. Today I was a concert and I felt the twinge, just a seductive hint of self-pity. When I came home this video was in my email via Triumph of the Spirit.
I mean, do you think God is trying to tell me something? The joy and life in this woman is astounding for anyone, not just a person with disabilities. She embraces what she has, her gift, with gusto and joy. I loved playing the piano, truly, but I never had a gift for it. I am no musician, more like an amateur crafter filling a Saturday afternoon. I believe this video was sent to me to show me how to let go of suffering over my hands and embrace my gift. Each of us has a gift, perhaps not the one we would choose or perhaps we dislike the way it is given. But, wow, look what is possible if we embrace it.
“Come to the edge.”
“We can’t. We’re afraid.”
“Come to the edge.”
“We can’t. We will fall!”
“Come to the edge.”
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.
– Guillaume Apollinaire
To what shore would you cross, O my heart? there is no traveler
before you, there is no road:
Where is the movement, where is the rest, on that shore?
There is no water; no boat, no boatman, is there;
There is not so much as a rope to tow the boat, nor a man to draw
No earth, no sky, no time, no thing, is there: no shore, no ford!
There, there is neither body nor mind: and where is the place
that shall still the thirst of the soul? You shall find naught
in that emptiness.
Be strong, and enter into your own body: for there your foothold
is firm. Consider it well, O my heart! go not elsewhere,
Kabîr says: “Put all imaginations away, and stand fast in that
which you are.”
Songs of Kabir Vol. II: XX
It has been quite a while since I have written here. The spiritual changes that took place during my trip to St. Thomas have sent a tidal wave through my life and art work. Perhaps I should say, instead, that the act of making art in St. Thomas, my complete surrender to my process without control has transformed my life dramatically. It seems to be my path that everything that happens in my life is dramatic and I am beginning to make peace with that and enjoy it.
I will take me several posts to explain why my life has peeled apart like an onion, but let me start at the beginning with dreaming of death. (Don’t worry, my health is better than it has been in years.)
Shortly after my return I had 3 dreams:
1) I was in a large stone church. It was just at dawn and cool and damp inside. In front of me was a heavy stone door. I was told that if I opened the door I would die. I can still here the grinding of stone door against stone floor. I turned away without opening the door and entered into a large room with an open hole in the roof (like the Palladium in Rome). I was told I could go that way too (through the hole) and I hid. When I awoke I was scared.
2) A couple weeks later, I dreamed I was racing up, up into the sky, faster and faster. The stars became more and more intense and beautiful. Finally the beauty and speed was so overwhelming I became tearful. Then an opening in the shape of a door appeared in the sky. It was an intense white light against the dark, bejeweled sky. I said to myself, “Ah, I know what that is, but not yet…” Then I slowed down and returned to earth. This time I awoke feeling great with no fear.
3) A man whose face I couldn’t see handed me a pocket watch. I looked the face and it was so beautiful, it seemed to encompass the whole sky I had seen in my other dream. I began to get choked up. He said, “You can stay or go, it’s your choice, but I think you should stay and enjoy yourself.” So, I did.
From these dreams, I understand that it is my choice to be here and, more importantly, that I have accomplished everything I need to in this life. The keys words are everything “I need” to accomplish. There maybe more for me to do here, but these tasks will come through guidance, not will.
When I allowed my art to lead me completely on St. Thomas, I opened my body to the Divine in a way I never had before. I emptied myself of the need to control. This created vacuum which filled me with Self. Although I have had direct experience of Divine love, most of my connection to God has existed outside of my physical body. Now my connection is integrated into my body and my life. I don’t need anything, I am simply waiting and listening for direction.
It is surprising how effective waiting and listening can be. Our culture tells us to go out and push make things happen, “be a go getter”, etc. I am astounded how much more effective listening without an agenda can be.
In one short month, the Universe aligned such that my family & I are moving to Florida, we received an offer on our house and secured a new home down south. In my next post I’ll talk more about the ease and grace we have felt during this process and how it was that my life began to peal apart like an onion in the first place. Now that I truly understand surrender and am learning trust. I’ll also have so new pictures of artwork to post.
3 things I’m grateful for today: My garden, the hot day, some time to myself.
The dark night has at last ended
I have now seen You.
Inside the depth of my heart.
I do not know what magic abides
Around me is the desert,
Yet I am not parched with thirst.
Today I received more instruction on detachment and following Divine will. I had planned to go on a day trip with family and friends. It was a one time deal, and something that had been planned for several months. I couldn’t because of the cold. I felt really devastated about it. I was overwhelmed with sadness.
My experience of the Divine is one of infinite kindness & I have been amply prepared to deal with grief. So I cried and cried. I embraced my sadness because I will not allow grief to stop up my well. I cried it out, I emptied myself and was still. In stillness I found the Divine again.
You might ask how this is kind? There is nothing my heart desires so strongly as closeness and service to the One. I know that the Divine is giving me my instruction in the kindest possible way that I am able to hear. In my early work, none of my figures had ears. I could not hear and my lessons were severe only because I wasn’t listening. Hence 11 shocks to my heart! Now all the figures in my art have ears. I do listen and my lessons have become easier. I am learning to trust, today was a lesson in detaching from my own will and trusting the Divine.
Early work without ears
Recent work with ears
Say not in grief that she is no more
but say in thankfulness that she was
A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp
because the dawn has come.
Today I am grateful for:
1) My friend Miriam
2) A good dinner
3) My dogs
I leave next week for St. Thomas. I thought I would be staying with a friend, but someone just offered us a free apartment. The power of waiting is amazing! In the passed, I would have pushed to get this all set up months ago. We would have paid more than was wise for a much shorter time. My body really can’t tolerate the cold as it once did, so knew that I something would happen to help me and I waited. Really it can together at the very last moment. Part of me still can’t believe my good fortune! I am extremely grateful!
What I love about St. Thomas is the intensity of the light. It fills you like glass is filled with water. You become infused with the sun. When mystics speak of seeing the light of God, they are not speaking of the light of the sun. And yet, in St. Thomas it becomes clearer that the two lights are one and it is only our eyes and minds which divide them.
I have not felt the desire to paint for quite a while. I have focused on drawing, etching & sculpture. Color is nothing more than reflected light and perhaps knowing the intensity of light I shall soon encounter, I begin to feel the colors of my painting again. Its a bit like seeing something out of the corner of your eye. You sense it’s there but you can’t understand it fully. I won’t think of what I will paint; that I will let flow through me when the time arrives. But it seems clear that I will be painting.
Yes, I know, this is nothing but thy love, O beloved of
my heart- this golden light that dances upon the leaves, these
idle clouds sailing across the sky, this passing breeze leaving its
coolness upon my forehead.
This morning light has flooded my eyes- this is thy
message to my heart. Thy face is bent above, they eyes look
doen on my eyes, and my heart has touched thy feet.
-Tagore (Gitanjali #59)
Ancient clay vessel
I am the one You created from dust,
A handful of dust moving at Your wish.
You planted this seed,
This growth is obeying that command.
I haven’t posted for a few days, but not for health reasons. I’m recovering well. The reason is, I’m holding my life open, trying to remain empty. A major cycle in my life has ended and this creates a vacuum. What I am doing now is stepping aside to let that space be filled by God and not by my own habits or ideas about what I should be doing.
This is very different for me. I’m used to charging forward with plan and making it happen. If there is one thing the last few years have taught me, my plan is nothing more than a worthless scrap of paper. I’ve been like a wild horse that has been broken. I am ready to serve so I am quietly waiting for the Divine to fill my vacuum. Holding that space open is drawing most of my energy right now. Operations are easy. This is more of a task!
If people find themselves in this way in pure nothingness, is it not better for them to do something to drive away the darkness and the abandonment? Should such people not somehow pray, read, listen to a sermon, or carry out other works that are virtuous so as to help themselves? No! Understand this truly that remaining quite still and for as long at a time as possible is the best thing you can do.
I guess again, I am seeking to be a vessel, but this time by surrendering in my life and not just during the process of creating art.
Thanks everyone who has though of me and kept me their prayers. It’s beautiful to remember how connected everyone on earth is and how we can help each other without ever leaving our homes.
Detail of one of my paintings
Tomorrow, January 9th, I’m going in for minor heart surgery. I will be discharged on January 10th. I know the Divine is involved here because on January 10th last year I went into the hospital with a serious heart issue. I will be leaving the hospital the very same day I entered it 1 year ago. No person could plan that.
This year has been an intense transformational journey for me. Last year I had an episode of ventricular tachycardia. It was very dramatic. I went into the hospital with a heart rate of 223 beats per minute. They called code blue, 10 people descended on me, just like ER.
Well, I have to tell you that it was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. In that moment, the first moment in my entire life, I surrendered completely to God. I had not one instant of fear. Every person treated me with beauty and I was carried through to safety. I believe my absolute calm and trust dramatically impacted this situation were I was mere seconds from death.
I spent 9 days in the cardiac ICU while they tested me in every way possible. In the end, they fitted me with an implanted cardiac defibrillator. When I left the hospital everything returned to normal except that the Divine hadn’t finished teaching me yet.
In March I got the stomach flu. The usual thing, I threw up for about 24 hours. When I got up the next day, I was walking down the stairs and I heard a pop. The only other time I had ever heard that sound was when I experienced a flash of Divine light. I realized my defibrillator had gone off. It continued to fire 11 more times in the next 5 minutes. If you don’t know what that means, I’m sure you’ve seen on TV doctor drama doctors administering a shock to a person with paddles. Well this is the same thing only delivered directly to your heart. It is excruciatingly painful.
The ambulance shuttled me off to the hospital where I found that my cardiologist had set my device too low. My heart rate was completely normal, fast because of the flu but normal. The machine went off because the programming was wrong.
I was completely traumatized by this. I jumped at every noise. I had nightmares of it going off again. I was afraid to walk down the stairs. Sometimes, I was so consumed with fear, I was literally afraid to move. I know it sounds terrible, but it turned out to be one of the most important experiences of my entire life. It is no mistake that I heard the same sound as in my vision.
Dealing with this has changed my relationship to fear. I never knew that most of my decisions were made out of fear. That fear regulated everything I did. This experience has liberated me from fear. I learned how to be with fear and still act, how sitting with fear instead of resisting it transforms it.
I learned to deal with my fear so well that when, I was faced with another truly fearful situation, I was ok. In September, I found out that part of my device had been recalled for delivering inappropriate shock (one woman had, I believe 58 shocks, in 1 hour) I did freak out for a day, but then I handled it. I took my time gathered all the appropriate information and 3 ½ months later I am acting. Not out of fear, but out of the knowledge that I am making the best decision for myself and my family.
People often think of fear in the context of what it stops us from doing, perhaps flying to an exotic local, changing or job, etc. But my experience is that we are so deeply unconscious of our fears that we actually think we like doing what we have always done. See Jan on this. I don’t do half of what I used to. It’s not because I’m sick. It’s because I won’t waste my energy on doing things just to please other people when they rob me of my life force. I never realized how terrified I was of disappointing someone or making them angry.
I could never have started this blog before because I would have fear what people would say. Why do we hold back and resist change? We only get our mirrors dusty so they can’t properly reflect the One.
This cycle is done. On the 10th I will leave the hospital and I’ll be on to bigger and better things. I hope it is more art, but that’s not up to me, that is in the hands of the One.
I send you blessings. Thank you for reading.
It is so unreasonable cold here! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!
A month or so ago, I posted about pushing and pushing to get a piece submitted to a juried show. That day everything went wrong. See here. I asked the question then, “was it courage (to succeed in the face of difficulty) or hubris (to force my own will)?”
Well the verdict is in. It was hubris. I didn’t get accepted to the show. This happens, it’s not necessarily a reflection on my work. Different jurors have different tastes and visions for shows. What is a reflection on my work is the terrible quality of the photographs. I looked back at them and they are horrendous. When you jury a show you get so many entries; the first thing you do is throw out the poor quality images. It’s like having a mistake on your resume. Major faux pas!
I was pushing so much, I didn’t even notice the pictures were terrible. I knew they weren’t perfect, but that is a huge understatement. That means I wasn’t present. I wasn’t listening. I left my body for my mind. Abandoned reality for my idea of what I wanted and I forced my will. Essentially I wasted two days which I could have spent connected with my family: one day to make the slides in duress & the next to recover.
Lesson: Pushing is bad, surrender is sweet. Pushing dams up the flow of the Divine, the One, into this world.
You are in love with me,
I shall make you perplexed.
Do not build much, for I intend to have you in ruins.
If you build two hundred houses in a manner that the bees do;
I shall make you as homeless as a fly.
If you are the mount Qaf in stability.
I shall make you whirl like a millstone.
I spend a lot of time with kids. It’s wonderful and difficult at the same time. Children are brutally honest. As I’ve mentioned before, I have scleroderma. This condition has caused my hands & face to contract. It has also caused my jaw to come out of alignment so that my teeth do not meet up properly. In short, I look strange. This doesn’t usually bother me because I don’t think about it. That fact that my hands don’t open doesn’t really affect my life much except for a few things I’ve had to give up: piano, knitting & a few miscellaneous activities. Sometimes when I see a picture of myself from long ago I’m sad,
Anyway my point is, I am who am I regardless of my what I look like. There are some people who are perfectly gorgeous in everyway and are miserable. But that’s not me, I’m deformed but happy. But when I get around kids and they ask me why I look funny it does upset me because it’s a shock. I don’t remember I’m strange because I never think about it. I think this is God’s way of tempering me like a sword, throwing me into the fire to make me stronger.
To truly reflect the Divine in this world, we must learn to be present in every moment. We must be totally in the physical world without controlling it. It’s amazing how much I want to control the world. I want my face back, I want my hands. But I know that is just me controlling the flow of Divinity in this word. I won’t be a dam, I wish to be an open well, a channel between the ocean & the land. Clearing this channel takes letting go of everything I think I am.
Thank you hands that contract so I may expand
Thank you jaw that hangs open so I must speak
Thank you feet that ache so I must stay still
Thank you heart that weathers the storm so I may be washed clean
Thank You again and again
The greatest spiritual crisis facing humanity today is rectifying our relationship to the Earth. Sadly, our culture has taught us that physicality and spirituality are incompatible. Thomas Berry, an amazing contemporary theologian, describes our collective state like this:
The earth process has been generally ignored by the religious-spiritual currents of the West. Our alienation goes so deep that it is beyond our conscious mode of awareness. While there are tributes to the earth in the scriptures and in Christian liturgy, there is a tendency to see the earth as a seductive reality, which brought about alienation from God in the agricultural peoples of the Near East. Earth worship was the ultimate idolatry, the cause of the Fall, and thereby the cause of sacrificial redemption by divine personality. Thus, too, the Christian sense of being crucified to the world and living only for the savior. This personal savior orientation has led to an interpersonal devotionalism that quite easily dispenses with earth except as a convenient support for life.
My interest in spirituality and mysticism lies primarily in the via negativa. I’m here to tell you that the via negativa and physicality, the Earth, are compatible. In fact they are integral to one another.
The mystic who embraces the via negativa tells us that God is unknowable, greater than anything our mind can conceive. We must therefor remove our mind from the equation, releasing all our ‘ideas’ of God and surrender our need to control. We must surrender any limits that our small minds might place on the unlimited Divine. We must not even will to will ‘God’s’ will.
Because this path often requires a withdrawal in silence, it is falsely thought of as an escape from the world. It is not an escape from material reality; rather, it is a complete surrender into it. God and material reality, our Earth, are inseparable. Naturalist John Muir, though not a practitioner of the via negativa can still help us begin to understand the fundamental link between Earth and God.
These blessed mountains are so compactly filled with God’s beauty,
no petty personal hope or experience has room to be . . . . the whole
body seems to feel beauty when exposed to it as it feels the campfire
or sunshine, entering not by the eyes alone, but equally through all
one’s flesh like radiant heat, making a passionate ecstatic pleasure
glow not explainable. One’s body then seems homogeneous
throughout, sound as a crystal.
– John Muir
The Franciscan mystic Bonaventure (13th century) described all of creation as a vestige, a footprint, of God. Plotinus (3rd century CE) tells us that God emanates form, creation, without ceasing. Eckhart (14th century) describes God as self-generating, creating without cease. He believes that there was a sort of womb of God which he calls “the Abyss of God” which “… remains forever unique, uniform, and self-generating.” The practitioner of the via negativa seeks entrance to this womb, but it is with the understanding that they will not stay there in the place of no thing, they cannot. This womb is a place of constant birthing, of constant creation. By returning to this place, the mystic is “decreated” (see Tauler) and created at once. There is nothing that is created that is not the Divine. Sufi mystic Sheikh Nur Al Jerrahi (Lex Hixon) of blessed memory, puts this beautifully:
The heart is the spring at the center of a clearing within the uncharted forest of creation. Here, what is human, irradiated by Divine Love, transforms into what is Divine. There is nothing other than perfect humanity-which is simply the conscious realization that God alone exits. (p.372)
God alone exists, thus Earth, rain, illness, grass, everything is God. Eckhart also confirms this view: “Ego, the word ‘I’ is proper to no one but God alone in his uniqueness.”
If God alone exists, that means that everything that is is God, Being. Thus we do a deep disservice to ourselves and to God by denying our relationship to the Earth. As Thomas Berry says,” Not to recognize the spirituality of the earth is to indicate a radical lack of spiritual perception in ourselves.” Berry goes on the say that:
We need to understand that the earth acts in all that acts upon the earth. The earth is acting in us whenever we act. In and through the earth spiritual energy is present. This spiritual energy emerges in the total complex of earth functions. Each form of life is integrated with every other life form.
Our very spiritual nature is dependant on our embrace of the Earth. By denying it, we deny ourselves and the Divine. Hildegard of Bingen tells us that creation is linked to viriditas, a term which Matthew Fox translates roughly as greening power. Hildegard says that “the word is all verdant greening, all creativity.” Hildegard understands that God is fundamentally creative and the material and the Divine are fused because of the act of creation.
There is no creation that does not have a radiance. Be it greenness or seed, blossom or beauty, it could not be creation without it.
As an artist, the act of creation is especially present for me. But it is there in every moment of every life, not just the artist’s, if we allow it. Humanity has but to step out of the way and let the unceasing creativity of the Divine flow though us. Stepping out of the way means letting go of control. Period. We cannot say ‘I’ll let God direct my life” while still draining and destroying the Earth, because God is the Earth. God is alone, there is nothing which is not God. While we fight for control of our planet, we dam up the joyous flow of Light and Creativity into the world. For us to become “all verdant and greening” we need do nothing but accept what is, our physicality and deep spiritual connection to the Earth. I leave you with the words of biologist Elisabet Sahtouris who has worked to heal the divide between science and religion:
Our human task now is to wake up and recognize ourselves as parts or aspects of God-as-Nature and behave accordingly. All are One, all harm harms each of us, all blessings bless each of us.
[Speaking to a congregation] I urged them to occasionally see themselves as the creative edge of God (a phrase I learned from a dear friend) — as God looking out through their eyes, acting through their hands, walking on their feet, and to observe how that changed things for them…
Note: Over the next few weeks I will be adding a page to this site entitled Earth, with more views and resources on this line of thinking.
Making art is a physical act with physical outcomes. The crux of the problem is how to join the physical and spiritual worlds. How do we bring the sacred into physical form and why?
I am deeply influenced by the ideas of early alchemists who sought to purify matter. Most people have heard of how alchemists looked for the philosopher’s stone, an elixir, which would transform base impure metals such as lead into gold. They described their quest as perfecting or healing matter. Gold, the purest metal, a symbol of the Divine on earth was not the true goal of an alchemist. Alchemists believed in the sacred principle “as above, so below” as written in the Emerald Tablet. As the alchemist purified matter externally, they believed they were making corresponding internal changes to the own souls. Their true goal was spiritual perfection & union with God.
The same principle is at work when an artist creates. Artwork manifests the spiritual changes occurring within the artist as they create. All creativity is ignited from the same flame, tapped from the same eternal well. By creating, artists contact & connect with their source and that fundamentally changes them. Why do you think so many artists turn to drink and flirt with madness? This connection with our source is awesome and can be overpowering and painful. Artists don’t need pain and suffering to create, but most of us are so closed off from our Divine source that when we access it, the pain of our separation crashes down on us in a crushing blow. It’s not the pain an artist needs to create, it’s the pain that comes with the act of creation.
However, if an artist or mystic continues to seek God eventually they become tempered like a sword in the fire and can bear more closeness with less pain. When the artist learns to allow the fecund stream of Divine creativity to flow through them with out expectation or control, the artwork which is created resonates with God. This artwork becomes a pivoting point from this world to the next. But the goal is not to escape the physical and return to God, it is to join the two worlds as one. Art can provide a powerful experience of the Divine in a way few other things can.
GK Chesterton, mourning our state as fallen creatures, ego-lovers…explained: ”We have forgotten who we and what we are.” And art, he said, ”makes us remember that we have forgotten.” This is painful. It is also our best means apart from direct contact with God, of rediscovering that interior integrity. All great art, being spiritual, both grieves over and celebrates “what we are.” It needs no religious iconography for this…(p. 9)
She goes on to say that this is why “so many people unconsciously fear and resist art.” It is not the fear of art, it is the fear of God.
I think it is clear from what I have said, that artists have a responsibility for the physical nature of what they create. Elsewhere, I’ve discussed the artist’s responsibility to the Light, to choose to be a vessel for light and good in this world. But this is slightly different. Artists also have a responsibility to the material world. As the alchemists did with metals, the artist purifies matter in the act of creation. Our responsibility is nothing less than to be active participants in healing the earth. My next post will clarify this in further.
I brought my work today to show a spiritual master whom I deeply admire. I was hoping he would react with praise. (Of course!) I’ve known this man for quite a long time and believed as he looked at the pieces, that he liked them. But that is not what he said. He said, “I don’t know if these pieces are good or bad. What I can tell is that something is processing through you and is captured in this piece.” He went on to tell me that it is important not to be attached to other people’s opinions of my artwork.
From this, I understood that I am a vessel which captures Creative energy, processing it as I bring it into physicality. My art is not me, it is something that pours through me. If I could truly comprehend this it wouldn’t matter what anyone said to me about my artwork, good or bad. I would understand that my work is only in process. The effect and “success” of my work is not up to me, because the artwork is not me. I must leave my work in the same Divine hands from which passed it to me in the first place.
How freeing is that!