The Life of the Spirit Through Art
There is no creative person who has not been touched by the Creative Spirit, "known or unknown," as Carl Jung would say. Imaginative revelation comes from an endless source of life, of being, whether recognized or not. Even to speak of "imaginative revelation" is to be in touch with artistic sensitivity. An artist of any sort "imagines" what is revealed. She or he gives the revelation form through color, sound, line, consistency, and all the characteristics of art. It is not only an expression, then, of the artist's own response, but it is a way of "infecting others," as Tolstoy would say. He meant, of course, that others may "catch" what the artist has, thinks, feels, and experiences.
Jesus says all the way through the book of John that he can do and say nothing which has not been given him by his Father. If Jesus had used a human art form, what kind of art would he have created? Instead, God has given us many sensitive people before and since the time of Jesus who have been "inspired," that is, "breathed into" by the Holy as was Jesus..
The breath of the Holy has sent all revelation, for ruach, breath, also means "spirit," and the Spirit described is known as the ruach ha kodesh, literally "the breath of the Holy." For revelation to exist, there must be two. Both a sender and receiver are necessary. Until the gift is received there is no revelation. This is why "writers" (the painters) of icons precede all painting and continue in it with what I call Receptive Prayer, or meditative, wordless prayer which receives what God is giving.
Artists are influenced, sensitized, and strengthened by that which will touch them in the core of their being and then, felt so stronglyi that it must be expressed. Receiving revelation, understanding deeply, experiencing beauty or deeper reality, is what the Hindu calls darshan, that is seeing with God's eyes or seeing that of God in a person, being, or thing. As we walk the spiritual path, all of us, in every religion, are asked to learn such seeing.
To translate that experience becomes the artist's call. It is, as Michelangelo's biographer said: "the agony and the ecstasy," for all art is not the reality of which it speaks, but only a reference, a pointer to it, compelling others to go where the artist has gone in consciousness.
The disciplines that are necessary may well be some of the spiritual disciplines: focus and attention as well as sacrifice of many other desirable activities, relationships, or even needs. And over and over, the artist must practice so that the human body can respond with nerve and muscle almost automatically, to translate the concept, the beauty, the uniqueness of what has been received, so that another may receive it too.
Artists all know passionate longing. It is eros. It is not sexual longing or lust, but the desire of one soul to intimately touch another soul. If the artist is aware of where the creative sight and instinct have come from, it is a longing to share the living Spirit of God.
When we truly "receive" such art, we may very well be healed, especially in Spirit, in emotion, in outlook or attitude. We, too, can be inspired, invigorated, given clarity, and fruitful love. It is fruitful love of which Jesus spoke when saying: "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you, that you should go forth and bring fruit, fruit that shall remain forever."
Art can teach us to live in the Eternal Now. Some time ago I realized, as I was singing, that all music can exist only in the micro-seconds of Now. One who performs can never lose concentration on what is happening or desired to happen. With the passing of every moment, from the inception of one tone as it begins, lives, and passes away there is the pulse of life which never stops. That pulse is the invigoration of rests between phrases. The pulse raises and lowers each phrase. Music is movement, and its Now is always new and very, very real.
The same must be true as a focused painter moves the brush and the sculptor moves the chisel. But, I would guess, that it may not be as true as in music, for in these arts, one may stop for an objective assessment, a change of mind, etc. before other strokes. It will then be what it is forever.
But in the original performing of music (not recorded), the artist and the listener are in a unique relationship, a relationship which shares each unique "now." I sensed it once, and often since then, as "a circulation of the Holy Spirit" which was giving through me to the audience and then given to me by them.
Is it any wonder that an artist instinctively understands what Eckhart and Tillich and Evelyn Underhill meant when they spoke of the Eternal Now? Eternity is now. And now exists within eternity.
In this sense, the awareness of the Presence of God is the Eternal Now.
Art is a pointer to Reality. The eros, the creative longing of its creator, is to complel others to go where the artist has gone in consciousness. Thus, the wonder is shared and multiplied.