Writings that have guided or inspired me, or simply resonate with how I work & think
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
The question arises: is there another way of receiving impressions, which can feed the psyche rather than merely produce movement of an automatic kind? That is to say, can man open himself to impressions in such a way that his thought and feeling receive a constant renewal from the world in which he lives?
Christopher Fremantle, On Attention
“It is not difficult to make things, what is difficult is to reach the state in which we can make them.”
"...the function of art is to give a glimpse of the unifying wholeness of life, even in a single isolated part. Art's articulation of the boundless within boundaries simulates the experience of unity consciousness in which the infinite becomes perceptible even on the surface of material existence. Thus, the function of art is to give a glimpse, however brief and artificial, of the goal of life and thereby spur us on to evolution."
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
The vulgar herd stroll through the rooms and pronounce the pictures 'nice' or 'splendid'. Those who could speak have said nothing, those who could hear have heard nothing. This condition of art is called 'art for art's sake'. This neglect of inner meanings, which is the life of colours, this vain squandering of artistic power is called 'art of art's sake'.
Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art
The human heart is as a frail craft on which we wish to reach the stars.
Once, Chuang Tzu tells us, there was a master craftsman who made such beautiful things out of wood that the King himself demanded to know the secret of his art.
‘Your Highness’ said the carpenter, ‘there is no secret, but there is something. This is how I begin: when I am about to make a table, I first collect my energies and bring my mind to absolute quietness. I become oblivious of any reward to be gained or any fame to be acquired. When I am free from the influences of all such outer considerations, I can listen to the inner voice which tells me clearly what I have to do.
‘When my skill is thus concentrated, I take up my axe. I make sure that it is perfectly sharp, that it fits my hand and swings with my arm. Then I enter the forest. I look for the right tree: the tree that is waiting to become my table. And when I find it I ask: “What have I for you, and what have you for me?”
‘Then I cut down the tree and set to work.
‘I remember how many masters taught me to bring my skill and my thought into relation with the natural qualities of the wood.’
The King said, ‘When the table is finished, it has a magical effect on me; I cannot treat it as I would any other table. What is the nature of this magic?’
‘Your Majesty’ said the carpenter, ‘what you call magic comes only from what I have already told you.’
Retold by D. M. Dooling in A Way of Working
“…Pure colours…have in themselves, independently of the objects they serve to express, a significant action on the feelings of those who look at them.”
One of the tasks of the spiritual in art is to prove again and again that vision is possible: that this world, thick and convincing, is neither the only world nor the highest, and that our ordinary awareness is neither the only awareness nor the highest of which we are capable. Traditionally, this task falls under a stringent rule: the vision cannot be random and entirely subjective, but must be capable of touching a common chord in many men and women.
Roger Lipsey, An Art of our Own
Most manifestations of art today lack good common sense, lack relation with a higher reality and lack spiritual purpose.
What can there be of value without a search into oneself, linked to essential knowledge?
Isn’t the ultimate desire of human beings to perceive an order of laws that surpasses us yet is also within us, and to participate in that order?
Isn’t the role of the artist to reflect on and to reflect back something of this greater order, for the sake of stimulating the viewer to reconstruct the original idea?
Isn’t this quest the purpose, conscious or unconscious, of all artistic effort?
To try to grasp the soul, that which animates each thing at its source!
Finally, what seems most important in the process of painting is the quality of feeling that the artist conveys by doing what he does, no matter what subject he chooses; and then, the care he takes and the quality of attention he communicates, which may arouse the same quality in the viewer.
When that quality of energy is there, it can be felt ---- it is palpable, visible in the canvas. It has an action; one is touched, and one can glimpse the reality behind appearances.
The act of painting can be understood as a work of contemplation, of meditation, through which the artist can rediscover and remember what is laid down in his deepest nature, his primal consciousness ---- and by that very means summon the same in response from the viewer.
One must be willing to stand alone, which is difficult.
Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting through Spiritual Materialism
“I realised that American painters, using Picasso as a role model, believe artists must constantly change and amaze. I decided that that kind of innovation was not a primary virtue at all. It may have been for Picasso, but it wasn’t for a number of painters that I most admire in the history of art. The key was to stay with something and keep making it better, cleaner, more resonant, more intense.”
Mistakes are one of the fruits of folly
Make one, one soon begins to worry.
Mistakes can be caused by fallacies
Mistakes can be caused by lack of clarity,
Mistakes are made by those of tender ages
Mistakes were made by all the sages,
Mistakes were made throughout the ages
And mistakes were written onto the pages.
So don't make the biggest mistake of all
And that's to make no mistakes at all.
So make some mistakes with your lover
Because if you don't, she'll soon find another.
Patrick of Portobello
What is needed is an attention free enough to follow movements of increasing complexity, disciplined enough not to be caught by fleeting interest.
Distraction is but one obstacle to observation. Others; boredom, ambition, envy, impatience -- all conspire to lead me into despair.
“Nowadays there is nothing done which conveys the feeling of praise, we have no time for praise. And yet, without this feeling of inner wealth that can afford to praise we are injuring ourselves and each other…. there have never been so many architects, sculptors and painters as now and there has never been less to show for it. What we really suffer from is spiritual malnutrition.”
“The art collected here is not modern in the sense that it has the vain ambition of expressing the latest of the shifting fashions of a mass civilization which long ago lost its anchorage in a firm scale of values, inspired by a generally accepted faith…it is….a museum for the art which reflects the inner problems of our generation and is created in the hope of meeting some of its basic needs.
….André Malraux has said that modern times have not produced a single work of art comparable to the highest achievements of Occidental art in the past. Is he not right?.…If we demand of art that it should be the expression of a mature and balanced mastery of relationship of man and his civilisation to life, then modern art, to be sure, does not reach levels that were already achieved in a distant past in our Western civilisation. No ---- then it is not progress.
However that may be, there are two qualities which are shared in common by modern art and the scientific sphere. One is the courage of an unprejudiced search for the basic elements of experience. The other one is perseverance in the fight for mastery for those elements.
The need for the courage of search establishes a decisive difference between modern art and art of the past, living in and expressing a world of faith. Agnostic search, based on a re-evaluation of all values, is a quality of modern art that is an essential expression of the spiritual situation of our generation. But this quality, in itself, must prevent modern art from achieving the kind of perfection which we meet in the Cathedral of Chartres or in the paintings of Giotto.
From a speech at the Museum of Modern Art in New York 1953 by
No man can be happy who is forced to earn a living otherwise than by the means for which he is naturally fitted and to which therefore he can literally devote himself with enthusiasm.
Ancient tradition holds that the cerebral mind is not the instrument for apprehending higher knowledge and the realities of the cosmos, nor can the kingdom of Heaven be known by the senses. Another faculty, only the embryo of which exists in us, has to be developed. This is the highest aim a man can have: to develop that faculty and become the recipient and guardian of that higher knowledge. Such an aim demands the participation of the whole of himself. At the same time, knowledge of the higher world can and does reach the ordinary level of humanity, but it appears among us in partly hidden forms, in the guise of something readily acceptable, where only seekers will look for a higher meaning. Thus an intermediary level exists; it is not the inconceivable Divine Realm, neither is it at the level of our animal nature. It is the world of traditions, ceremonies, rituals, symbolic myths and allegories; symbolic architecture and pictorial images, symbolic numbers, sometimes expressed in forms, or music, or colours.
Richard Temple, Icons and the mystical origins of Christianity
Someone once asked a great sheikh what Sufism was.
“The feeling of joy when sudden disappointment comes.”
"If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?"
The artist is not paid for his labour but for his vision.
James McNeill Whistler
I believe that there is in life, and in the human psyche, a certain quality, an inviolate eternal innocence, and this quality I call the Fool. It is a continuous wisdom and compassion that heals with fun and magic...
The Fool is purity of consciousness. This purity is a cosmic folly that is utterly detached from what most of the world thinks worth doing; it is detached from the deadening edifice of clever ambitions, of power, and of the incredible vanity of knowledge, that has already dulled the capacity for poetry of life in contemporary society.*
The secret of life is to share the creative madness of God – if we have never experienced this madness we can be said never to have lived*.
Art is a form of transcendental magic which is created out of that awakened sense, and returns to it.
The Fool is not interested in success or failure, or the vanity and burden of external knowledge. He is interested in life, in the mystery of consciousness and the transformation of consciousness which comes about through direct perception.
In other words the Fool is interested in love and its manifestation * in that harmony and wholeness which we call beauty. He is therefore in a state of creative vulnerability and is easily destroyed by the world.
Society must be based on our sense of wonder, the one experience which justifies our being alive.
Cecil Collins on The Fool
The modern world, with its strange, new and probably transient belief in ‘progress’, tends to give much credit to ‘originality’ even to the point of doubting whether anything else is quite sincere. It wants a new contribution to thought, and in its grotesque individualism supposes that every man who truly expresses his relation to the world, will say something different from what anyone else would say. But there must be some great and fundamental truths in comparison with which the peculiar reactions of individual souls are an irrelevance and an impertinence, and of which a man should seek to be no more than an undistorting medium.
Archbishop William Temple
Races of slaves will become masters of the world.
Leaders will be by nature violent.
Leaders instead of protecting their subjects will despoil them.
The only union between the sexes will be that of pleasure.
The earth will only be appreciated for its mineral wealth.
Life will become uniform at the heart of a universal promiscuity.
He who hands out most money will dominate men.
Every man will imagine himself to be the equal of a spiritual authority.
Folk will fear death and the thought of poverty will appal them.
Women will become no more than sexual playthings.
The age of Kali-Yuga (which we are now in), or Dark Age, described in the Vishnu Purana, written several thousand years ago
Genuine knowledge… has little if anything to do with 'profane' knowledge. The studies which go to make up the latter cannot be looked upon even as an indirect path of approach to the 'Sacred Sciences'; on the contrary, at times they even constitute an obstacle by reason of the often incurable deformation which is the commonest consequence of a certain kind of education.
Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think…and think…while you are alive.
What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death.
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
Do you think
Ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
Just because the body is rotten ----
That is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
You will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life you will have the
face of satisfied desire.
So plunge into the Truth, find out who the Teacher is. Believe in the Great
Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for, it is the intensity
of the longing for the Guest that does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see the slave of that intensity.
If you act through fear you are lost. Fear and love cannot exist together. In this country there is no love. There is devotion, reverence, but no love. Devotion to your guru, to your gods, to your ideals, is self-worship. It is self-worship because you have created your guru, your ideals, your gods; you have created them, thought has created them, your grandfather has, and you accept this because it satisfies you, gives you comfort. So what you are devoted to is yourself. Swallow that pill and live with it! So we are saying that, as love cannot exist with fear, and we live in fear, the other thing is not. And when you have the other thing you have all life, and then, do what you will, it will be right action. But fear can never bring about right action, as desire or conflict can never bring about right action. So when you understand fear, the root of fear, go down to the very depths of fear, then the pressure on the brain doesn’t exist. Therefore, the brain again becomes fresh, innocent, not something jaded, moulded, shaped, made ugly, as it is now.
So please, if you have not understood this now, spend an hour with yourself, quietly, to find out. You may cry, you may sigh, you may shed tears, but find out how to live without a shadow of fear. Then you will know what love is.
Krishnamurti, talking in Bombay 1978, taken from ‘On Fear’
Esotericism is not a particular meaning hidden in a text, but a state of fusion between the vital state of the reader and the vital state of the author: this in the sense of a spiritual, spatial, synthetic vision which disappears at precisely the moment thought becomes concrete.
The esoteric teaching is strictly evocation, and can be nothing other than that. Initiation does not reside in any text whatsoever, but in the cultivation of intelligence-of-the-heart. Then there is no longer anything occult or secret, because the intention of the enlightened, the prophets, and the “messengers from above” is never to conceal --- quite the contrary.
R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Esotericism & Symbol