The Artist’s Journey, #21

We’re down now to the next-to-last installment of The Artist’s Journey. It’s getting heavy, I know. Stick with me.

To catch up on any missed chapters, click here:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9. Part 10.Part 11Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16.Part 17. Part 18. Part 19. Part 20.

P.S. Happy Fourth of July!

99. THE FALL OF MAN

The following is from Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy:

In the Hebrew-Christian tradition the Fall is subsequent to creation and is due exclusively to the egocentric use of a free will, which ought to have remained centred in the divine Ground and not in the separate selfhood. The myth of Genesis … to be adequate to our experience … would have to be modified … it would have to make clear that creation, the incomprehensible passage from the unmanifested One into the manifest multiplicity of nature, from eternity into time, is not merely the prelude and necessary condition of the Fall; to some extent it is the Fall.

That the passage from the unity of spiritual to the manifoldness of temporal being is an essential part of the Fall is clearly stated in the Buddhist and Hindu renderings of the Perennial Philosophy. Pain and evil are inseparable from human existence in a world of time; and, for human beings, there is an intensification of this inevitable pain and evil when the desire is turned towards the self and the many, rather than toward the divine Ground.

And this from Beyond Psyche: Symbol and Transcendence in C.G. Jung by Mark R. Gundry:

… I find two fundamental movements that pull conscious awareness beyond its normal horizon. The first movement begins with the suspension of directed thinking and the consequent activation of the symbol-producing function. The symbol mysteriously arises through the play of dreaming and active imagination, mediates unconscious depth to our awareness, and infuses life with differentiated affect. This process creates an opportunity to recognize that a whole range of psychic activity is at work apart from the ego’s normal functioning. Such recognition pulls us beyond our usual horizon of awareness. We know ourselves not simply as the “I” of intentional acts, but as a psyche whose reality extends far beyond the “I.”

This is some deep shit, isn’t it? I confess I don’t understand half of it.

100. THE FALL OF MAN, PART TWO

Here’s my shot at grasping the stuff from the preceding chapter, from the point of view of the artist:

Garden of Eden. The serpent tempts Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. They do.

Holy shit! Suddenly the primeval pair realize they are individuals, human beings, separate from nature. They are not like the eagle or the lion, who are always and at all times in perfect union with their essence, the Divine Ground, i.e. the all-inclusive consciousness they possessed before they bit into that fruit.

[Trivia note: nowhere does Genesis say it was an apple.]

This is the Fall.

God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden. He banishes them from union with the Divine Ground.

If indeed you and I are descended from this First Couple, then our human state of mind, the intuitive sense that we all share of being fallen from Paradise, is the natural result of their, Adam and Eve’s, original crime.

Since that day we’ve all been trying to get back to Eden.

The mystic does it by altering his consciousness, through meditation, prayer, asceticism, renunciation of the senses, the ingestion of mind-altering substances.

The lover does it by seeking sublime union with another.

The mother does it in her way, the warrior in his, the philosopher in a third manner. Even the suicide bomber treads this same path.

What about the artist?

What about you and me?

We trek this same highway. We too are seeking to get back to the Garden, to reconnect to the Divine Ground. How do we do it?

Through our work.

Or, more accurately, through the act by which we pursue our work.

When Bob Dylan writes a song, when Twyla Tharp choreographs a dance, when Parker and Stone write a new episode of South Park, they shift their consciousness out of N for Normal and into S for Superconscious, that is:

… the suspension of directed thinking and the consequent activation of the symbol-producing function. The symbol mysteriously arises through the play of dreaming and active imagination, [producing] a whole range of psychic activity … apart from the ego’s normal functioning. Such recognition [enables us to] know ourselves not simply as the “I” of intentional acts, but as a psyche whose reality extends far beyond the “I.”

This is the Times Square to Grand Central shuttle we spoke of earlier. The artist toggles her platform of effort between the conscious and the unconscious, between the rational mind and the Divine Ground.

(This is also the rush of working as an artist. This is what makes the process addictive.)

101. PAIN AND THE ARTIST

It’s a commonplace that artists work to free themselves from pain. The irritation of the grain of sand compels the oyster to produce a pearl.

But what is the real pain beneath any personal anguish that you or I may have suffered?

It is the pain of being mortal and being aware of our mortality, of being an isolated individual in a world seemingly devoid of meaning. In other words, the pain of getting kicked out of the Garden.

Pain and evil are inseparable from human existence in a world of time; and, for human beings, there is an intensification of this inevitable pain and evil when the desire is turned towards the self and the many, rather than toward the divine Ground.

To access the Divine Ground—in other words, to write, to compose, to shoot film—plugs us in, for this hour at least, to the garden we were expelled from. For a few moments we get to breathe again that Edenic air, to experience that primal fragrance.

And better than that, we get to point our brothers and sisters toward it.

A great song.

An unforgettable image.

A sublime story.

We need it.

It stops the pain.

102. ART IS WORK

“And unto Adam He said, Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I have commanded you, saying Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth for thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.”

The artist’s role, whether she understands it or not, is to point the way back to the Garden, to that state of consciousness that the human race enjoyed before the Fall. In other words, to direct contact with, and experience of, the Divine Ground.

But note the Almighty’s curse, as He kicked the Mom and Dad of our race out of paradise.

The way back, if indeed it is through art, comes via a ticket paid for in sweat.

Art is work.

 

THE WAR OF ART

Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.

The-War-of-Art

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

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TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

20 Comments

  1. Elise V Allan on July 4, 2018 at 6:32 am

    The timing of this is extraordinary for me; I’m preparing for a retrospective exhibition which will include a series of paintings I made in the eighties playing with themes related to the Garden of Eden and returning to the garden. This has been a time for a lot of reflection, and reading your words here has been brilliant. Yes, someone can beautifully put into words the way it is for me too. Many thanks.

  2. Angela Beeching on July 4, 2018 at 6:45 am

    Just want to say, I’m crying as I read, this is so so beautiful, so alive with truth.
    THANK YOU< THANK YOU!

  3. John Fay on July 4, 2018 at 6:45 am

    In celebration of Independence, and with deep gratitude for Steve’s spirit of sharing, here are my favorite of
    Steve’s many great contributions to Art:
    Best non-fiction: The Authentic Swing
    Best fiction: Killing Rommel
    Best gift from his library: Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing
    Best quote: ” Put your ass where your heart wants to be ”
    So whether you’re floating or slogging through the quagmire of creation, you’re always in good company.
    Happy Trails, Brethren!

  4. Carolyn McBride on July 4, 2018 at 7:06 am

    It takes time, focus and dedication to achieve great things.
    Work too.
    Thank you, Steve

  5. Johanne Kieffer on July 4, 2018 at 7:14 am

    Thank you Steve! Just what I needed to ‘hear’. I’m finalizing my memoir which was heart wrenching to write, re-read and relive one page at a time. I’m hoping to self publish (I’m a greenhorn at this) before the end of 2018, very scary. Publishing will be the second wave of pain and courage to put it out there…it’s hard to tell the truth. Your words confirm everything I’ve been feeling, experiencing and know I still have to do the last necessary fire walk…transformation and liberation can be bittersweet. I can’t wait to read your new book cover to cover! =)

  6. BarbaraNH on July 4, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Always an inspiration, always a strengthening. Thank you, Steve. And, all the insightful comments you generate from others. P.S.Here’s a thought: Maybe eating the fruit is claiming the result of our work by the small I.

  7. Jay Cadmus on July 4, 2018 at 8:02 am

    A prophet and gatherer of truth. Expressing thoughts others wish they had shared. The artist using words to paint the needed picture. There is only one Steven Pressfield!

  8. Tom Asacker on July 4, 2018 at 8:25 am

    I love your work Steven, but I can not go along with this:

    “Even the suicide bomber treads this same path.”

    The artist is trying to get back to the garden, to the truth of existence, which is our curious, compassion and creative nature. Heaven on Earth. In a word… love!

  9. Jeff Korhan on July 4, 2018 at 10:38 am

    Or, more accurately, through the act by which we pursue our work.

    That’s an important distinction.

  10. Lyn on July 4, 2018 at 10:57 am

    As always, you said it so wonderfully — that we’re searching for our way home — back to Eden, back to serenity and perfection where pain, disease, lies and death don’t exist. The mystic, the lover, the mother, the philosopher and even the suicide bomber, all searching for their way back to Eden. And the artists points the way! So true!! Your posts are so full of truth. I love them! This book of yours is going to be fantastic.

    Just one thing — I don’t think God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, although the Bible says that. Blaming God seems a bit too much like the ego’s perspective and version of a tale — believing that Adam and Eve were “kicked out.” Doesn’t it make more sense that they simply reaped what they sowed? Adam and Eve had free will and by virtue of biting into the fruit, they made their choice to leave. After all, they were warned that if they bit the fruit, they would surely see death. And death they did surely see. Not because God created death, not that death existed in Eden not because God didn’t want them in Eden anymore. God creates only life, not death. His creation was “very good.” Adam and Eve couldn’t wish for “knowledge” of duality and still remain on Divine Ground. By their very wish to experience duality, they entered the dual universe. They opened the door to the dual-natured, flawed universe and hence the Fall. God never created evil and therefore the “knowledge of good and evil” that the tree symbolized was a falsehood. Enter lie number one — the existence of both good and evil. Good was the only truth. Evil was the lie. The existence of duality was born. Satan is a liar and the Father of it. Satan is also a murderer and Adam and Eve now enter a finite universe where death is “real.” The universe of matter, energy, space and time — all of which are limiting and restricting. Unlike the infinite, this physical universe has beginnings and endings. Spiritual existence, Divine Ground is eternal — no beginning or ending. God just “is” — forever.

    If we want to find our way back to Divine Ground, we must admit our cause, that decision which separated us from Divine Ground. Let’s face it. We decided to go exploring and got ourselves stuck in a trap of suffering, pain, disease and death. OY! There’s something to be said for admitting, “I did it,” or “I went along with it.” For after all, in doing so, you move out of being a victim and take a different stance, a stance that takes responsibility for your plight. Because if you got yourself into a mess, you can get yourself out of it, and especially with God’s help. With a little help from above, you can even start to remember who you were created to be — an infinite spiritual being made in the image and likeness of the Divine. Not a poor helpless mortal body scrounging for scraps in a dying world. None of us actually have that heritage, not from the Divine. From fallen Adam and Eve? Yes, it comes from them. They were selling one-way tickets. But we bought them. That’s on us. We’ve stepped into another universe and have been searching a long time for the exit door. What a Rubiks cube this universe turned out to be, right?

    But we’re on the journey home. And the artist points the way! Awesome — simply awesome. So true. Love the truth. I treasure those whiffs of Edenic air. Please… just keep pointing!!

  11. Erik Dolson on July 4, 2018 at 11:31 am

    What are we, after the names, the judgements? Steven? Callie? Apple? God? We’ve takenour existence and broken it into word bits, replaced What Is with our labels, mistaking wave for water, eating menu instead of meal. Unsatified?

  12. Kim Roberts on July 4, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    This is some deep shit, isn’t it? I confess I don’t understand half of it.

    hilarious. love your work. Just preordered your book.

  13. Ken Robertson on July 4, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Excellent Steve, that’s why recording a new original song is such joy! Back to work…

  14. Jerry Ellis on July 4, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    Profound and beautifully written, hitting the Golden Iron Stake head on, resonating with me and my new Spiritual Thriller in ways I’ll keep in the Divine Ground–till the novel is released in 2019. Thank you.

  15. Rafael Pombo on July 4, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    I usually end up writing too much, so in my first comment on this blog after reading Writing Wednesdays for so long, I’ll simply say this: no author has spoken so beautifully and equally about the concrete and the mystical sides of being an artist as you, Mr. Pressfield.

    And I guess this is because you understand fully well that they’re just the two sides of the same coin. The Garden of Eden is not a distant place—it’s inside each of us and is revealed by seemingly banal acts of creation. A sentence. A brushstroke. A note. The Divine is so close, and yet Resistance make us believe it’s so far way and prevents us from taking the first step, which sometimes is enough to get there.

    Thank you.

  16. Curtis on July 4, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    Great stuff. Keep it up.
    Huxley and Jung were my fly to New York reads. I considered both mental push ups. Great exercise. I found a lot less intellectual meandering and a short circuit for my ego when I went with Jesus and his straight forward but wild metaphysical promise. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” I tend to be more in tune with a forward look. Besides, I’ve had all of the talking snake I want.

    • Candace C on July 11, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      Yes, Curtis, I found myself thinking along the same lines. The forgiveness of sin. Acceptance of that forgiveness can put you smack dab in the middle of “Divine Ground”. Then it’s a whole new ball game whose goal is still staying in “the zone” but the rules are a bit different.

  17. sandra on July 4, 2018 at 10:33 pm

    “But note the Almighty’s curse…if indeed it is through art, comes via a ticket paid for in sweat.”
    Those words struck a chord.
    Thank you, Mr. Pressfield.

  18. Julie Murphy on July 5, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    I like visual of doing a 180 from N-ormal to S-subconscious. I’ll also check out Beyond Psyche. Thanks, Steve.

    • Anonymous on July 5, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      Oops…S-uperconscious

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