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How Art Forms Come From Spirit

Through the impulse from the spiritual realms the arts unfold as diverse manifestations in the material world.

dancing figure in circle in dark square

On the Arts & Spirit page, I pictured how each archetypal art impulse weaves into the next on a cosmic scale. When the arts manifest as physical forms the spiritual impulse continues in them as they come into expression. This means they also offer a pathway of return, to harmony between the physical and spiritual in our souls. The arts are that important.

It’s difficult to envisage and describe the metaphysical in the language of the physical. When embarking on my study of the arts, to come to grips with the spiritual in them I found it necessary to look closely at traditions that attempted to map the ineffable. And there are many that deal with cosmic realities, whether as families of gods and goddesses or levels of divine influence.

Seven heavens were known to St Paul, a scholarly Pharisee. Medieval biblical scholars spoke of nine spiritual hierarchies or ‘choirs’ from the Seraphim to the Angels closest to humanity. Kabbalah consists of a complex esoteric system picturing the Tree of Life as spiritual generation, a series of emanations from the highest sepiroth, Kether, holding all the potentials, which eventually manifest in Malkuth, ‘kingdom’. Ancient Hindu doctrine also spoke of ‘worlds’, an idea built upon by Theosophy and Anthroposophy which often picture the worlds imaginatively as an expanding series of rings.

The common dualistic map of a monotheistic ‘God away up there’ and us down here with nothing in between proved to be the least satisfying in relation to the arts. More fruitful has been the idea of an enfolding of non-physical spheres of influence that give rise to all that exists in space and time and are therefore, most significantly, aspects of our consciousness. Our individuality is involved, and this has a major impact on how people choose and make art. The archetypal idea of ‘art’ diversifies in our consciousness when we engage through the heart, mind and expression in the body.

Here is the ‘map’ I produced to introduce the creative laws of the cosmos at work in our experience of the arts. Art forms come from spirit in diverse ways. This became my basis for deeper and very enjoyable explorations of each art form in Prodigal Daughters [i] that would culminate in a vision of the profound value of the arts now for the future of the world.

Dance is both the primary art impulse and the art most embedded in the physical body – the first and the last. Plato writes in Timaeus [ii] of the celestial lights in the heavens, created out of fire and ‘circling as in a dance’. The cosmos itself has its source in the ‘fire’ of the divine creative mind that wills the dance into being. Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance, is seen by the Hindus as a hidden impulse that precedes creation, destroying the old and preparing the way for Brahma to bring the world into existence. In an earthly parallel, dance emerges from the unconscious as an impulse in the swirling etheric before it is expressed physically.

The art of the word finds its source in the spiritual world called higher devachan. Devachan is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘dwelling of the gods’ and this world’s higher plane is where ideas are living beings. It’s the realm of Logos, the Greek term for the power that orders the universe. Logos is the first principle of generation, of divine mind and the speaking/action that brings about an ordered and harmonious creation. In the Latin translation of the Gospel of St John, Logos is verbum, ‘word’, so in English we have: ‘In the beginning was the Word’. The equivalence points to a significant truth. When our thoughts and speech are expressions of our higher mind we are connecting with Logos. The art of the word may not reach this full potential, yet it is possible for words to resonate with spiritual power. Good poetic language comes closest at present because through the images conveyed by words it allows us to intuitively enter this higher reality.

Music is a means by which we can connect directly with the harmonies of the spiritual cosmos, for when we hear music it resounds within our soul via the nervous system, what the Greeks called ‘the lyre of Apollo’, and we respond. This means music connects us with the Logos, although through feeling, that is, through our astral nature. If the music we hear is harmonious to us, if it sings with something of the higher worlds, it evokes a response that uplifts our consciousness. We are inspired and participate in the source of music that is known as devachan. This is the gift of the sensitive musician or singer who first ‘hears’ that music from within their soul.

The visual arts involving colour come from the spiritual realm called the desire or astral world. Colour belongs to this astral plane and colour is the true foundation of visual art. If artists are aware of this through their imagination, the colours they use will enable the spiritual essence of the colours to be revealed. Colours influence our emotions and feelings because those emotions and feelings come from our own astral or desire nature. Today colour is unpopular in interior design - to be neutral rather than to feel? The addition of lines with their movement and flow (and all the visual arts include lines in some way, even as edges) connects to the etheric.

Sculpture draws its life from the etheric realm, the non-physical double of the physical. The etheric is ever in flow hence sculpture’s inherent feeling of movement. Sculptures, abstract or representational, can be filled with flowing etheric energy. We relate to these through our etheric and so we are enlivened. But sculpture can also be shut down by dead mechanistic impulses of both the artist or viewer.

Architecture is not merely materialistic and utilitarian. As a house for spirit its underlying purpose is to make us aware of our personal physical ‘house’, the body and its relationship with our spiritual self, which in turn is a mirror of the geometry of the spiritual cosmos. Knowledge of sacred geometry in the macrocosm and its echo here on earth will assist this relationship.

Drama as a distinct art originated with the ancient Greeks, emerging from what they called the underworld, the subterranean level where Hades, Dionysus, Hecate and other chthonic gods dwelt. In us it is connected with our will and the unconscious, the place where hidden aspects of ourselves dwell. Drama, once always associated with healing temples, can be a potent force for transformation when our shadow side is brought into the light of consciousness.

Yes, the arts story is magnificent and awesome. There's so much more to it. And it will continue to evolve.

[i] See more in Prodigal Daughters – a New Vision of Spirituality and the Inner Histories of the Arts, chapter 2, pp 46-49 [ii] Plato’s explanation of the creation of the universe in Timaeus involved astronomy and astrological ideas and used rich poetic imagery; it had widespread influence in art, religion, philosophy and pre-modern science.


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