“My people see land ownership as being totally different to the English. We lived on the land as people of the land. To us it was a natural way of being, being part of all that there is. You didn’t see anything as different from you. If you’re alive, you connect to everything else that’s alive. You can never feel lonely in that situation. All around you are family members from the ground up; the trees around you, the clouds, birds flying by, the animals and reptiles. That’s the beauty of oneness, it doesn’t push anyone out, but it brings everybody in. It stretches from horizon to horizon where the clouds are your ceiling at daytime and the stars at night. But that ‘oneness’ has been shrunk down to the ‘mineness’ of this little box, ‘my house’, ‘my car’. So small in comparison. You’re part of the oneness and you can feel that. You feel good when you’re in that space.”
~ Bob Randall (Aboriginal elder)
…Anyone who looks at the animals in the Paleolithic cave paintings in southern France with a receptive awareness can see that the physical and spirit world are infused together. Those early artists were imaging not just physical animals but spirit beings, shamanic, magical. This is part of their mystery and intensity. And this knowing continued for thousands of years, whether experienced in relation with the powerful beings that for the Native Americans are present in all natural things, invisible but everywhere, or expressed through veneration of the kami, the sacred spirits that exist in nature, mountains, rivers, earthquakes, thunder, animals, and people, which until recently belonged to an elemental Japanese consciousness…
— Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee (Where The Horses Sing)
Having been an artist for so long I’m aware of the lack of playful joy in our culture. Creativity can’t produce anything worth the name of art without a mix of free and joyful play combined with spiritual insight. It’s one of the only places in our culture where you can shed your sense of isolation and separateness and experience wholeness and unity with existence. Outside of that paradigm you may be subject to society’s punitive dislocations and neuroses but at least you still have the land of epiphanies that live in your art.
Being an artist is more than showing your talent to the world, although survival as a creative person in America means proving yourself on a survival level. You are led to focus on proving you’re worth the money. Inside the artist though, something else is going on.
Penetrating the veil of appearances is not a paltry thing. It goes beyond talent and imagination to an inspired appreciation of the unity of all things. Even if you access that vision in sporadic glimpses, you will change at a basic level. A seed will have been planted and you will begin to step away from the common culture.
We humans live on many different levels, and some are downright primitive and unreconstructed. I don’t mean to suggest that creativity makes you an avatar of virtue but I do think the arts offer an opportunity to experience living on a fundamentally different level. Beyond social commentary and cultural critique there exists a larger vision of a magical theater of manifestation that we are all unconsciously participating in.
“What’s going on here” is the question an artist is obliged to ask, going from surface appearances on to ever deeper levels of reality. It’s a process of discovering relationships, which are never ending.
Our beliefs are rooted in an unquestioned sense of separateness of all things. It’s the sickness that plagues us. It’s the raging fever of our time. Reverting to the ancient sense of the sacredness of all things looks impossible. Something new has to happen, some shock to the system that could awaken our dormant relatedness to the earth we live and breathe on.
Is that what we are seeing now, or is it just an unredeemed collapse of our civilization? One thing I know, we can’t go on as before. An awareness of “what’s going on here” has to be reawakened in all its wonder and mystery.