The Artist’s Journey, #15
Here in our fifteenth week of this serialization of The Artist’s Journey, we’re finally getting into my favorite part—the airy-fairy part. I can make no scientific claim to anything put forward in “Book Six The Artist and the Unconscious.” It’s all personal and idiosyncratic, just stuff that I believe is true (though I can’t prove it) from my own experience. From this point to the end of the book, that’s what’s coming. To catch up on any prior posts, click these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14.
69. INDEX OF SKILLS, CONTINUED
The artist learns how to help others and how to be helped. She learns how to steal and how to give away.
She studies the marketplace and comes to understand it (as much as it can be understood.)
She acquires perspective on herself and her work and the place of her work within the field of her contemporaries and of those who have gone before.
She studies the work of the masters who have preceded her. She learns to appreciate them and to respect the gifts they have bequeathed to her.
She acquires humility and she gains self-belief.
She learns to self-motivate.
And to self-evaluate.
She has become a professional.
Now when someone asks her what she does, she answers without hesitation, “I’m an artist.”
70. THE ARTIST LEARNS TO COMMIT FOR A LIFETIME
It’s easy for Bob Dylan or Neil Young to say, “I’m never going back to work in the bean fields.”
What about you and me?
Can we say it and mean it?
71. “BUT WHERE’S THE MADNESS, ROSE?”
Now we come to the mystical level. The right brain. The Dionysian.
What are the stages of the artist’s journey on this plane?
B O O K S I X
T H E A R T I S T A N D T H E U N C O N S C I O U S
72. THE BLANK PAGE
We hear (and we know, ourselves) of the terror that writers experience when confronting the blank page.
Rather than face this, they will delay, dilate, demur, procrastinate, rationalize, cop out, self-justify, self-exonerate, not to mention become drunks and drug addicts, cheat on their spouses, lose themselves on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and in general destroy not only their bodies and minds but their souls as well.
What’s so scary about an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of uncoated bond?
73. ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNCONSCIOUS
What’s scary is that, in order to write (or paint or compose or shoot film), we have two choices:
- We can work from our ego-minds, in which case we will burst blood vessels and suffer cerebral hernias, straining only to produce tedious, mediocre, derivative crap.
- We can shift our platform of effort from our conscious mind to our unconscious.
Can you guess which one we’re most terrified of?
74. THE MISNOMER OF THE UNCONSCIOUS
The Unconscious (to use the term as Freud originally defined it) is unconscious only to us.
We are unconscious of its contents.
But the Unconscious mind is not unconscious to itself or of itself.
The Unconscious is wide awake.
It knows exactly what it’s doing.
(And it’s pretty pissed off at being called “the Unconscious.”
75. THE SUPERCONSCIOUS
Instead let’s call it the Superconscious. That’s what it is.
The superconscious is that part of our psyche that knows where we put our keys when our conscious mind is certain we’ve lost them.
It’s that part of our brain that divines, in .0001 second, that that very attractive, bewitching, charismatic new person we just met is big-time trouble.
It’s that part of our mind that wakes us at precisely the minute we set our mental alarm clocks to.
It’s that part of our consciousness, if we’re a wildebeest, that guides us infallibly from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara, or, if we’re a Monarch butterfly (with a brain the size of the head of a pin), three thousand miles from eastern North America to the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico, even though not a single butterfly in the migration has made the trip before.
The superconscious is that part of our psyche that dreams, that intuits. According to Jung, it’s that part that lies adjacent to and is linked with the “Divine Ground.”
The superconscious is the part of our mind that speaks in our true voice, knows our true subject, and makes decisions from our true point of view.
The superconscious is the part of our psyche that enabled Einstein to conceive the Special Theory of Relativity and Steph Curry to hit nineteen three-pointers in a row with an opponent’s hand in his face on every shot.
Tolstoy didn’t write War and Peace. His superconscious did.
Picasso didn’t paint Guernica. His superconscious did.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn’t create South Park, their superconsciouses did.
I’ve got a superconscious, and so do you.
Our problem, you and I, is that we don’t know how to access it or, if we do, we’re too terrified to take the chance.
The artist’s journey is about linking the conscious mind to the superconscious. It’s about learning to shuttle back and forth between the two.