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 11. Part 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.