Evocations of Absence
Synchronicity becomes a familiar experience to practioners of Magick, as a psychic Qabalah forming pockets of energy to express the fusion of the cosmos that Thelemites experience under the formula of LAShTAL - the 93 Current. This is reflected in the world around us as the Nuclear Age. The atom has been split: a veil has been torn. It is inevitable that such a release of power reverberates in Man's consciousness as the Mysteries, which can be discovered only by those individuals capable not merely of creative self-expression, but also of the Will to Dare the undertaking of Self-exploration.
Examples of destructiveness and ignorance that prevail in the world at the present time are myriad, the roots of such behaviour and outlook stretching back through the centuries. It is obvious from these that the knowledge that man wields at present has, as its foundation, gross spiritual alienation and a defiant self-satisfaction. Such appears to augur the wilful destruction of not on the Earth itself, but also of Man's worthiness to exist as a conscious entity capable of experiencing the ecstacy of the gift of life.
The splitting of the atom resulted in Earth's aura being broken: it also resulted in Man's mind being broken. Dark spaces have been hinted at, caught and expressed by many artists. The adventure of Self-discovery has become one of forging into non-human territory, subjective experiences of the mind released from hundreds of years of denial and desuetude. The Psychedelic Age and the Woman's Movement are both examples of this. The former was a sunburst of experimentation, giving a taste of the personalities of the New Aeon; the latter seemed at first a futile reiteration of old concepts under the guise of desperation and revenge. The one has faded into the past, suffocated by the general lack of direction and self-discipline; the other seems at present to be hauling itself out of the general morass of shrewiness and political barrage to realise that the problem lies not simply between man and woman, but between conscious and subconscious mind, between animus and anima. The split, the misunderstanding, maltreatment and degradation is in Mankind and our non-comprehension and misuse of the Psyche. The Woman's Movement is not yet the 'Woman Girt with Sword' standing before the Heirophant, to use a Thelemic concept; but the spiritual implications of this New Age are finally disturbing motivations of what seemed, a few years ago, just another nail in the coffin of Man's ineptitude.
Magickal Art is the tool of some artists working today within the influence of the torn veil of consciousness. It is the result of a disciplined and directed Will, exploring the alien and therefore nightmarish aspects of mind illumined by events set in motion within the last fifty years. Hence the importance of recognising sychronicity on both a personal and a cosmic scale.
The best of non-magickal art holds tremendous symbolic content; but this is not always recognised or intended by the artist, because he is not choosing consciously to explore his psyche beyond the boundaries of the ego. The occult artist has one or more methods of spiritual self-discipline: this is of paramount importance, and is the fundamental willed act that sets him or her apart from other artists, not only in their creative fields but also in their daily lives. This spiritual discipline is the eye of the needle which connects the artist's consciousness to sanity - allowing him to span out and into contact with the hugh void of humanity's subconscious upon which he has at a particular time chosen to focus. By this chosen method - varying according to need or desire - a change is effected in the continuity of consciousness and an image is pulled out, to be explored as a means of travelling through all layers of the resultant experience. The sub-conscious of the artist absorbs the chosen vehicle - which acts like a pebble disturbing a pool - and resonances eventually bubble towards the surface. This fusion of unfamiliar psychic content with the conscious mind bombards the ego of the artist into nebulous states of unreality, that are related neither to conformity - social or personal - nor to insanity. The great insecurity lies in the artist never knowing beforehand what alien territories he will uncover; this is why his magickal disciplines are of the highest importance, since they provide him with strength and stability.
These states, amorphous they appear to concrete expression, are reservoirs of nuances that can fire the creation of new realities from atavistic habits. They are a spotlight on the DNA code - they clothe the primal impulse - and force the mind to accept that which it cannot consciously believe, by creating that which in human terms has never been. The astral compartments of the mental train are frozen in the suddenness of Art. This is why it is possible that the alien quality of much magickal art has as its core the nuclear explosions of the 1940's, images intimating nonhuman levels of intelligence. The danger most good artists face is not the inability to penetrate the Mysteries, but their lack of a tempered Will to return either in part of totally unscathed. Call to mind any of the great artists and with their names also their tragedies. Yet if these risks are not taken, artists become mere panderer's to fashion, trivia being the result.
magickal or spiritual self-discipline aids not only the artist but also the admirer of the created work, because true appreciation requires more than just a passing glance. This is why artbooks are so precious, because they enable you to sit undisturbed at your chosen image. Artistic appreciation involves the use of three dimensions. But when the mind is trained not to wander, then appreciation becomes magickal and the painting becomes a doorway to the fourth dimension. It is here that art and magick fuse. This can be done either in solitude or as part of a group, where one image becomes the focal point for the whole.
Eastern spiritual disciplines have always used artistic expression as a key to ecstacy. Tibetan mandalas, Indian sculptures and African masks are some examples. It is the West that has forgotten this state, due to at least 2,000 years of inadequate and incomplete spiritual teaching. For too long has there been a gulf between religious or comtemplative art on the one hand, and formal art - or Art for Art's sake - on the other.
It does not matter whether the images are those of the Abstract Expressionists or purely figurative: they can be used magickally if they open a path to the worlds of Beyond and Otherness. The work needs the viewer: the object and the subject are interdependent. Time is needed to unlock the subconscious. The result can be mania of the senses and deliverence from the Ego.
The last fact is the essence of the shaman's importance in the life of his community: through him, the debris of his people's subconscious can be made positive. The point of the artist in our society has always been the illusory, forging ahead for some new ideal. Although it has taken over 600 years for this concept to fizzle out, this end was inevitable from the outset. Modern art has nowhere to go, as is evidenced by the work in New Bond Street art galleries and such places. If art in our society is to survive, then the artist must again become the shaman, or as the very first painters who drew on the caves of Alta Meira, who projected their communities' desires and so enabled them to be activated and reabsorbed as living experiences.
Art is not an historical unfolding, and should never have been seen as such. That is not to say there have not been creative benefits in the West, in that individual expression has reached marvellous heights or revelation and beauty. But if the spiritual pulse is lost, then the trancendency is also lost, and we are left with the empty rattlings of modern man's ego, imprisoned in all of its paranoias. If there is a melding of the spiritual purpose and the individual artistic expression, then the artist will be once more the unfolder of society's dreams, in order that they will be forfilled some day. If mankind remembers the necessity of consciousness expansion, then the artist will regain his place as th battery through which the subconscious can vibrate to everyone.
The 20th Century has been one of most incredible changes for the world, and Art has mirrored these changes by the myriad of movements and schools of expression. But only one of these has really captured the excitement of exploring the subconscious and using the symbols there found. This caught on in a temporary sense, but has long been out of fashion. To such an extent this is so, that the later works of artists such as Max Ernst or Juan Mire are viewed askance by art critics, and are seen as outmoded patterns long since replaced by so-called innovatory movements such as minimalism, constructivism, pop-art. In fact the Surrealists were the only 20th Century artists who adopted or tried to formulate a method of creative madness, and use it to penetrate the veneer of sanity that cushions Man and simultaneously blinds him.
Ritual or any other spiritual method is not a quick process of inspiration. The practitioner churns up the primal mud, and then must wait for the patterns to settle. When this happens, the practitioner's perceptions, and indeed all aspects of his very life, change. Thus each work is not limited to a specific moment but becomes part of a map of initiation. Each artist forges a personal Myth, a magickal record in supra-personal format, available either to inspire or disturb others who show an interest in his work. The interest of all magickal art, however, is not simply how it focuses the artist's life, but how it also reflects the experiences that souls must undergo as they progress through initiation. Therefore the magick of the art is also a lamp and an inspiration on the dark and often melancholy path of spiritual aspiration.
This is a New Aeon: all of the great spiritual traditions agree that this is a time of change. Art too is change - rearranging manifestation. If mankind misses this chance to evolve spiritually then human consciousness will become defunct. If Art does not reflect Man's spiritual striving, and indeed be used as a tool towards enlightenment, then it too will become increasingly pointless. Art should be an expression of Will honed to perfect strength and knowledge; change should be in "conformity with Will".
Some artists, most of the great ones, use this Will unconsciously, and in their statements come very close to the magickal viewpoint: as examples take Dali, Max Ernst or Victor Brauner. But the magickal artist discovers an ancient tradition through Time. Within this there are formulae in which he can protect himself, and then project into the deepest vaults of existence and sound out of the depths. Derangement of the senses can be achieved without burning out the husk (like Rimbaud), remaining permanently unbalanced (like Artaud), or causing the physical vehicle to cease (as did Van Gogh).
Reprinted from: Starfire : A Magazine of the New Aeon, Volume 1, Number 1, April 1986.
|© Copyright 1999 e.v. by Alistair Campbell|