“The great lessons from the true mystics, from the Zen monks, is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s back yard, and that travel may be a flight from confronting the sacred. To be looking everywhere for miracles is a sure sign of ignorance that everything is miraculous.”
— Abraham H. Maslow, “Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences”
Hillman describes aisthesis as “a breathing in or taking in of the world, the gasp, the ‘aha,’ the ‘uh’ of the breath in wonder, shock, amazement, an aesthetic response to the image (eidolon) presented. . . . Images arrest. They stop us, bring us to a standstill . . . the flow of time is invaded by the timeless.” [The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World] While all of our senses may be involved in beholding an image, Hillman follows the ancients in insisting that the heart is the organ that perceives and feels the aesthetic impact of an encounter with an image — first the heart, then the mind. He further states: “psyche is image,” and to propose that we ourselves are images among images.
The issue is not simply one of needing to save the world, but also of needing to solve the problem of the loss of soul throughout the modern world.
— Michael Meade
“Art’s task is to save the soul of mankind. Anything less is a dithering while Rome burns, because if the artists — who are self selected to journey into the Other — cannot find the way, then the Way cannot be found.”
— Terence McKenn
Our task as artists is to see and communicate the daily miracle we are woven into. Nothing is outside this miracle. Nothing can be outside it, including us. Spiritual and aesthetic blindness is the modern sickness. Artists are the more or less effective healers and shamans who are healing themselves as they heal the world.
That idea was never mentioned in art school, but it has become increasingly apparent to me over the years. There’s a cumulative effect of making art. You develop a way of seeing that can’t fail to see how everything is connected, that life is a kind of spiritual dance.
Correcting our culture’s blindnesses this way amounts to soul retrieval. We live in a culture that has lost its soul. I started out as a fledgling artist sixty years ago. At that point being a real artist was an unknown mythical country. My training concentrated on talent, knowledge of art, knowledge of techniques, trends and their heroes.
I never heard the question “why are you doing this?” My answer would no doubt have been “because I think I can.” I wasn’t thinking any further than that. The focus was always on how to do it, but we were young and unconsciously competitive. We were worried we might not have the requisite talent, whatever that is. We quickly identified those of us who had talent and those who had none. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack.
It took me several years to realize that play and creative fun are always essential to the process for me, regardless the form. Yes, design and composition are important but when inspirational energies are present, the technical aspects often just fall into place mysteriously. Technical knowledge is a backup in case instinct fails to show up.
An artist’s vision is both external and internal. Penetrating the miracle even just a little changes you because you spend so much time meditating on it. Romancing the miracle as a life’s work can’t help but grow your soul and elevate you to the role of healer.