Culture, Crisis & Creativity

by Dane Rudhyar

5. Form and Creativity

There are essentially two ways of defining what is implied in the concept of "form." Form, we may say, results from the manner which a number of elements are interrelated. These elements may be dots, lines, surfaces, masses, entities of whatever type and size. The particular way in which a number of such elements are arranged produces a form. Such a group can be called a whole within which many interdependent parts are linked. This whole may exist geometrically in space; it has an organic character if a living entity is considered. One can also refer to a group existing in time, as a definite sequence of interrelated elements or units constituting a whole unfolding its potentialities; for instance, a melody in music, or a seed developing into a plant according to a definite schedule of transformations. One can also speak of the form of a theory or system of concepts within which a number of ideas are interrelated.

While the form of a whole is the result of the particular organization of its parts, this whole is not alone in space. It exists in the midst of a multitude of other wholes which, by exerting upon it various kinds of pressure, contribute most basically to the determination of its externally perceptible form.

Thus the form of any compound entity—any whole having component parts—should be considered the result of two kinds of arrangements: an internal scheme of interconnections between the components of the whole, and the sum total of the interactions between this whole and other surrounding wholes or various forces operating in the environment. We have therefore to distinguish between internal and external factors when we consider any form, or the process of formation giving rise to forms; this at any level whatsoever, whether it be atomic, organic, psychological, conceptual, or cosmic.

If we take the simple case of a unicellular organism living in the sea, we see that it consists essentially of a small amount of sea-water separated from the ocean by a flimsy membrane, usually with two openings: one through which some kind of foodstuff is ingested, and one through which waste products are excreted. Any biological or biosocial organism (for instance, well-defined cities) can likewise be said to depend upon the existence of three factors: some sort of membrane, physical or conceptual, separating the organism from its environment; some kind of opening (precisely located, or extending over a relatively porous membrane) through which what is needed by the organism for survival and expansion is absorbed; and another type of opening through which what the organism cannot assimilate, or must reject as toxic waste-product of its activity, is excreted.

Within the boundaries of the organism, organs and cells are constantly active. This is an internal activity and it follows a definite plan and schedule. The organism is also active within its environment; it must get food—whether biological nutriments or emotional-mental "food" for its psychic well-being and development—and in order to do so it must enter into relationship with other entities and adjust to or control forces operative within that environment. And there is a social-cultural, psychomental environment as well as a biological one.

These relationships with external entities can be peaceful and constructive, or they can demand strenuous effort, aggressiveness, and violent fights for survival or for the achievement of what the organism wants in terms of a relatively individualized consciousness and ego-satisfaction. Such external relationships condition, and in many ways even determine, the form of the organism and its psychomental character just as much as the internal relationships linking all its internal parts define its generic functional rhythms and shape, and—especially in a human being or a society of human beings—its psyche and its particular psychomental responses to life.

Boundaries: Closed or Open

Boundaries, separating the inner from the outer field of activity, can be of many kinds. They may be very concrete and solid, porous, or transparent. They may be those of conceptually or legally defined systems, or they can be defined by differences in electromagnetic polarization or even in emotional group-responses and behavior. What is most important, they can be seen to serve two theoretically opposite functions. Boundaries isolate the inner from the outer; but they also relate the inner and the outer. At the circumference of a circle, the space within the circle is in contact with the surrounding space. Through the skin of an organism, exchanges between the interior of this organism and the universe at large—and perhaps most specifically some other organism—take place.

At the skin, and through certain differentiated areas of response, a man feels cold or heat, loves a woman, shakes hands with friends or is wounded by enemies.

A more or less well-defined zone in which contact and communication can be established surrounds any organism; it exists also at one level or another wherever socially, politically, or conceptually organized systems of activity operate. When the boundaries of the form consist, for instance, of a fortified wall, there may be a moat extending for some distance outside of the wall, and a drawbridge for incoming and outgoing traffic. We are now aware of the existence of an aura around living organisms; but, at the conceptual level, a well organized theory sharply and logically defining a particular interpretation of data of human experience is always surrounded by the possibility of the intrusion of conflicting and inadmissible facts which, if presented to the builder of the theory, are often given a rather doubtful and tendentious interpretation, or rejected a priori because they are inimical to his conceptual approach.

The potentially dual character of the boundaries of a form is a most important factor in the development of consciousness. Any system of life-activity or thought-feeling can be characterized by the nature of its boundaries and by what takes place at these boundaries. We often refer to an "open" or a "closed" society; but the ego of an individual can also be surrounded by fortified walls which close upon and rigidly isolate its psychic contents and make difficult, if not impossible, communication with other persons and the flow of love—a spiritual "commerce," an interchange of feelings, sensations and values. Yet a humans ego need not act as a medieval fortification; it can have open boundaries through which all kinds of interchange take place.

Closed ego-boundaries produce deep-seated, even if masked, loneliness, and a sense of separativeness and alienation from the environment. On the other hand, too open and inadequately defined boundaries may lead to an invasion to the field of consciousness by unassimilable influences, and in some cases to psychic possession. This often happens when the organism, the individual consciousness or the conceptual system, does not have a well established center, or lacks cohesion and consistency; thus, when the interior field has not stabilized its own functional rhythm and defined any central purpose. If this is the case, insecurity is felt and the organic response may be the erection of fortified walls which seem necessary to insure independence and acceptance on one's own terms—unclear or irrational as these may be—by the environment.

A strong individual has either a powerful center (will) directing and radiating the energy building up within the inner field of his personality (in which case fortified boundaries are not necessary) or he has built impressive and menacing ego-walls and an aggressive ego-will able to launch violent predatory attacks of limited scope upon his environment. Real security, however, does not depend mainly on strong and rigidly defined boundaries. It depends on the character and quality of the consciousness which pervades the form; and as consciousness develops in terms of relatedness, what is at stake is the character and quality of the relationships operating within the field of activity limited by the boundaries of the organic, psychological, social, or even conceptual form. Problems nevertheless may arise when relationships of this kind and the form they spontaneously take are at variance with the character of the relationships normally acceptable to the environment.

In a strictly biological environment such as our planet's biosphere, teeming with lives and filled with dangers, the organic order of relationship described in the preceding chapter is normally the more sound and effective, in terms of adaptation to outer circumstances and of biological survival. This is why the family pattern of organization has so far proven indispensable, at least as a foundation for interpersonal relationship, sociocultural interactions, the development of group-consciousness and the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation. But a human is not only a biological system, a body. He is also and, at least ultimately, even more a mind. He is an organized form of consciousness, rooted in biology, yet able metabiologically to develop "mind seed" and even the seed of his own archetypal immortality, relative as immortality may be. Such a development implies a shifting from organic order to companionate order; thus, from the exclusiveness characterizing all family and tribal patterns of relationship to the inclusiveness of an open society of open minds— minds that are centered in self, yet interpenetrate and unite in love.

This gradual, yet discontinuous and periodic shifting of the gears of human consciousness, which control the reactions and operations of the engine of personality, is what is described in this book as the process of civilization. Radically altered relationships demand and sooner or later produce new forms of organization, whether it be in the lives of individuals, in the social, political, and cultural fields, or in modes of thinking and conceptual systems such as logic and mathematics. The process of change often is extremely painful at the personal level, revolutionary and cruel in politics, and confusing in the fields of religion and philosophy. We are now in a period of accelerated, indeed critical, change of gears. The road is rough, filled with obstacles and ups and downs, and mankind, the driver, is inexperienced, confused, and hesitant; the grinding noise is often appalling. We call it a "world war."

The League of Nations, the United Nations, UNESCO, and also the big international corporations are new forms of sociopolitical relationships. The concepts of "companionate marriage," unlegalized childbearing associations and group-marriage—revealing a basic change in the collective consciousness of woman—and those at the root of non-Euclidian geometry and Einstein's Theory of Relativity are parallel developments. Probably none of these have reached an even relatively final stage. They are compromises between the compulsions of the biosphere and the rhythms operating at the cosmic or archetypal level of the mind.

Carl Jung—and before him philosophers and religious leaders—has validly stressed the need for "integration." Nevertheless the ultimate problem confronting us is not merely that of integration vs. loose aggregation; it presents itself to man as he realizes that for him several levels of integration are possible. Today we should be clearly aware of what two of these levels imply in terms of personal, interpersonal, and intergroup organization; but others are conceivable and, what is more, we have also to deal with sublevels existing between the two fundamental ones, "life" and "mind." Each of these sublevels constitutes important and presumably necessary intermediary stages. The worm does not at once become a butterfly; and the driver changing gears has first to go into neutral.

In actual living the process of transition is far more complex than these symbolic illustrations suggest, because for man the transition from the biological to the mind realm does not mean a total relinquishment of the values directly or indirectly referring to life and its urges, as long as the human being operates as a physical organism. What is involved is a shift in weight and polarization. Psychologically speaking, the Yang of consciousness never totally overwhelms Yin. What changes is the relative strength of the two pulls within the total person: on one hand, the individual's attachment to life experienced in a body as a separate field of organized activities and drives; and on the other hand, the individual's eagerness or determination to operate as a "free" center of consciousness in a mind-form detached from all that living as a biological organism psychically as well as physically implies.

The Metaphysics of Form

What has just been stated should be expanded, I believe, to cover every conceivable mode and form of existence, cosmic as well as human. Existence implies a dualism of forces or pulls, opposite yet complementary. To say it does not is the greatest illusion, the supreme Maya; yet human beings at times, in periods of crisis, may need such an illusion—the belief that absolute Unity can be reached in some sublime form of individualized consciousness and being. Hindu philosophers have spoken of manvantaras and pralayas—long cosmic periods of Manifestation, and equally long (but can "length" mean anything in a timeless state!) periods of Non-Manifestation. Yet this cosmic or divine in-and-out-breathing is inconceivable, unless in the assumed periods of total Non-Manifestation the principle or the "seed" of Manifestation exists within the Absolute. Thus it is said that "before" the beginning of a universe God "desired" to create, to reveal Himself to Himself. Yet such a desire could not occur if the idea of duality had not remained within the One; thus it could not be an absolute One. The desire for the Many may "sleep" within the One; yet this simply means that the One and the Many—Non-Manifestation and Manifestation —represent essentially inseparable polarities. The human consciousness separates them in its attempts to overcome the pull of the Many (i.e. the pull of material biological existence) and to center itself resolutely, yet most often blindly, around a One—the "I" or Self. Every system of Manifestation begins in a One; but there can be no absolute One.

With reference to space, we can say that ideally Space can be conceived as infinite multidimensional extension or as the mathematical point without dimension and extension. But both concepts are futile abstractions as soon as we think of actual existence. Space can never reach either one of these two extremes, for this would deny the possibility of existence and of a mind thinking the concepts. Existence presupposes duality and relatedness between existents; and these existents— whether they be atoms, galaxies, or human beings —have form, because any field of relationship has form. To speak of "formless" existence is as absurd as to speak of "timeless" processes.

Yet Hindu philosophers and modern esotericists speak of rupa and arupa realms, words translated as form and no-form. Such terms refer only to what a person, whose consciousness is totally controlled by biophysical experiences and operates within a mind subservient to the life-and-death patterns of existence in the biosphere, aspires to become. For primitive men, wind was formless. Pneuma (breath) implied "spirit," and the world around them was filled with unseen presences they spoke of as spirits or angels. Anything that was felt, yet unperceived by the senses, could only be considered formless. Yet the clairvoyant's inner eye seems to perceive entities with eerie and evanescent forms, forms of light or darkness, forms that may instantaneously change their apparent shapes, disappear and reappear. When a clairvoyant sees such forms, the clairaudient hears unspoken words, or a "clairthinker" receives new ideas formed and ready for expression, what is seen, heard, intuited is the manifestation of a relationship between the human person and a realm of existence transcending concrete biophysical living. To call that realm arupa or formless is needlessly confusing. Since the advent of the Theosophical Movement a century ago, many people speak of "thought forms." Clairvoyants claim to see such thought forms; but what they describe is an interpretation—in terms referring directly or indirectly to the realm of their physical experience—of formative processes operating in the field of mind-activity.

When the Sufi mystic describes his experience of an exalted state of consciousness in terms of intoxication, wine, and the thralldom of total love, he is using symbols or metaphors to interpret what to him is ineffable. Likewise, the wings of angels in Christian paintings, or of devas in Persian-Hindu miniatures, are interpretative symbols making use of man's experiences of birds, whose field of existence is this mysterious, seemingly formless air, pneuma. They are forms that express the fundamental relationship between the normal level of human consciousness and a transcendent field of existence. If the clairvoyant's relationship to such a field is less dependent upon human experiences at the biological level, he or she may perceive the angels as elongated forms of light, or nature-spirits as pulsating currents of energy. Yet because the seer is somehow aware that consciousness inheres within these indescribable forms, he or she can hardly avoid sensing soul-revealing "eyes" and perhaps facial features, simply because this is the way a human being perceives consciousness in an exteriorized state. Some feature in the transcendental form must express consciousness; and because transcendent consciousness is not an individualized kind of consciousness but (we are told by the most believable Occultists) is the consciousness of a large group (or spiritual Hierarchy), we find that the "eyes" of representations of spiritual beings, or even of the great "Masters" of whom Theosophy speaks, all have a similar super-individual quality. They are like deep pools of light and love—gates through which our consciousness is called upon to enter a superhuman realm of activity as well as of being.(1)

The function of these forms is to convey to still biologically compelled human beings the possibility of becoming more-than-human. They are transhuman forms; and by this term I do not refer to something "beyond" the human as much as to what, operating "through" a human form, draws sensitive individuals toward a higher state of consciousness and a supersensual type of relationships in which the exclusiveness of the tribal and strictly personal level is replaced by the inclusiveness of pure and unwavering compassion.

Personal Expression and Space-Differentiation

At this point in our discussion of the various meanings and implications of form it is essential for us to distinguish between expressive forms and what we might call geometric, or (more significantly) cosmometric or cosmogenetic forms.

Expressive forms imply the existence of a "formative agent" existing prior to the process of formation. By means of such a process this agent seeks either to "express" itself or to achieve a self-conditioned or precisely self-determined purpose. On the other hand, cosmogenetic forms can be considered inherent as potentialities not only in Space itself—they occur spontaneously (and in a sense automatically) as the, result of an impersonal process of differentiation—that is, of the parceling of Space according to the structuring power of cyclic Time. These two approaches to creativity are opposite, yet also complementary. It is essential that they should be clearly understood.

When a painter, facing what to him is the blank space of a canvas, projects upon a space he considers empty forms which he either sees in his imagination, or feels to be characteristic means to convey to other people a strong emotion or belief, the forms he paints are "expressive." He, their creator, fills them with whatever space is conveniently available or fits his creative purpose. He creates art-forms which, in their concrete physicality, are exterior to him.

This concept of exteriority is capital in the arts of our Western culture. It reflects the metaphysical belief in a God exterior to the universe He has created. This God creates the universe and Man with only a portion of His infinite being, and after the creation He remains "separate." This concept of God and His creation may have found its first formulation in India's Bhagavad Gita, whose original unwritten form is undoubtedly far more ancient than obvious biased Western archaeologists with their Christian and European background would want to acknowledge. It characterizes what is called "theism," the conceptual and emotional foundation of the recent great religions born in the Near East.(2)

It is also the foundation of the individualistic and the Romantic-Expressionistic approach to artistic creation—whether in literature, music or the plastic arts. As the artist creates he (or she) projects some of his personal being and psychic energy into the art-form; yet he remains separate. The potentiality of many more creative acts remains within him. Likewise man's Soul is believed to be exterior to the physical organism—or even, for Spiritualists and students of Oriental philosophies, exterior to the total "personality" conceived merely as a temporary vesture of this Soul seeking experiences or working out past "karma" in the more or less dreary field of existence we call the Earth.

Such an interpretation of the nature of the creative process obviously is based on the experience of the procreative act at the biological-sexual level. The male projects his semen and some of his psychic energy into the receptive female womb which, in every menstrual cycle, is revirginized; a child is born, and the father remains separate and capable of many more fecundative acts. In the theistic concept God is the Father of the cosmos; and at a superphysical level, He is also the Father of male-female Man made in His image and likeness (Genesis I). The creative artist likewise is thought of essentially as a male power fecundating, at one level, his material for creation—a material extended through empty space—and at another level, the virgin field of his culture, his public. He is, according to the Romantic interpretation, a microcosmic God, who creates in order to "release the torment of his plenitude" (cf. Nietzsche in The Origin of the Tragedy). He not only desires to create; he is inwardly compelled to project some aspect of his being into artistic forms. These, therefore, for onlookers or hearers vividly experiencing them, are potentially revelatory manifestations of the artist's inner being. If this artist is truly a Representative Man, the revelation should also throw much light upon the inner being of a spectator, hearer, or reader who is thus able to experience by proxy a release of psychic contents which, though within him, he had perhaps not as yet the courage to face and deal with in his personal life.

The other basic approach to creativity is founded upon the realization (or intellectual belief) that Space is fullness of potential being. It can be thought of as an "Ocean of infinite potentiality." Ancient philosophers have spoken of it as "the One Life"; but the word Life, even if capitalized, seems confusing, for while it is a cosmic extension and metaphysical generalization of what we experience within the Earth's biosphere as living processes, it should not be thought to have the same characteristics as what we know as life at our physical-material level. Other more recent philosophies, such as American New Thought, speak of the Divine (or Cosmic) Mind; but there also the term Mind is confusing, for it tends to give modern human beings an unrealistic feeling of the value and power of the human mind at its present stage of development.

A concrete illustration should clarify the abstract concepts. Consider a fecundated ovum in a female womb. It constitutes one cell. It occupies space. This cellular space represents Space in a bounded and finite condition. A dynamic fullness of potential life is within that limited space, and at once a process of cellular differentiation takes place. The one original cell divides itself (mitosis), multiplying itself through generation after generation of cells, thus by geometric progression. After a relatively few generations, billions of cells will have been formed, each potentially fulfilling a special function in the fast developing organism.

How did the fecundated ovum—the finite space filled with life-potential—originate? Was it "created" by some entity external to that space?

It should be quite evident, though the idea undoubtedly would upset many people, that the man and woman whom we call father and mother had very little to do, as individual persons, in producing the fecundated ovum. Human beings have no control over their sperm and ova. They copulate under somewhat personalized circumstances and may either allow biological processes in them to operate naturally or deviate and altogether block these processes; but this has little to do with the particular contents of sperm and ovum. These contents are determined by the totally impersonal processes of life as these operate unconsciously and to a large extent compulsively in human organisms. What "creates" is life in its generically human mode. Thus one normally speaks of the procreation of babies, not of their creation.

Religious believers will say that God created the Soul of this particular baby out of nothing and for, to us, incredible reasons. Students of Hindu philosophies or Theosophy claim that it is a reincarnating individual Soul that determines the character and destiny of the body within which it is born in order to further its long term development and/or achieve some particular aim.

This is the individualistic and "Romantic" theory, produced by a metaphysical philosophy and psychology personalizing most processes of existence. It presumably was in order to counteract, or at least complement and polarize, such a personalistic approach to existence that Gautama, the Buddha, presented his nonpersonalistic anatma doctrine. He denied the reality of a permanent Soul-individuality and spoke instead of the cyclic reappearance of karmic residua (skandhas), thus substituting for a creative God the cyclic emergence of finite compound wholes, out of the infinite Ocean of potentiality, space. He stated that these emergences occur according to a metacosmic and absolutely impersonal principle of Harmony; and that once emerged, the existential wholes unfold their innate potential according to universally valid laws of cosmic differentiation and functional specialization.

These laws operate according to Number and Proportional Form. They are not conceived or imagined by a personal or individualized Creator-God. They operate spontaneously because they are inherent in Space; and their operation follows a rhythmic sequence, a cosmic schedule, also inherent in Time whose nature is cyclic. Such a philosophy is associated in the West with the name of Pythagoras and was basic in at least one aspect of Greek culture.

This metaphysical approach does not imply that there is no God. God is Number One; the fecundated ovum of the cosmos is symbolically referred to in some systems as the Cosmic Egg, Hiranyagarbha. The Divine Presence inheres in every microcosm, just as the genetic code formed in the fecundated ovum—cell number 1— inheres in every one of the trillions of cells of a human body; but each cell can only realize—or "reify" and concretize—one of the myriad of aspects of this immensely vast, yet finite, genetic code or Word (Logos). However, neither the cosmic-divine Number One (Ishvara, or the Logos of the Greek-Christian Gnostics) nor the human microcosm, the individual person, is exterior to the form defining his existence; and this is an essential point, though it does not constitute the entire picture.

The Cosmic Egg differentiates into a multitude of forms through a long process operating at level after level of complexity. The original cosmic Space vibrates into an immense number of large or small eddies (or whirlpools of energy) each having its own keynote, each an overtone (or one should rather say an "undertone") of the one cosmic Fundamental. At one level, such eddies are galaxies; at another, planets and their life-kingdoms (each an "organ" in the entire planetary organism); on still another, human persons. Every microcosmic egg or seed unfolds its inborn potentialities in a specific generic form; and as mankind reaches the evolutionary stage at which psychomental individualization is possible, each fully individualized person becomes as it were an entire species, thus truly a microcosm. But this can happen only when the individual is able to metabiologize his or her consciousness and free himself of biological compulsions, though he remains conditioned by genetic patterns and needs as long as this "liberated" consciousness operates in a body.

If this cosmic picture is well understood it should be clear that every entity in the universe essentially is the space it occupies. It is a particular space, a specialized and functional differentiation of the original cosmic Space—that is, of the Number One state of the universe being considered. However, in individualized human beings a new possibility emerges: the possibility to be consciously and actively related to a greater Whole of which this individual is a functional part—the possibility to be attuned to the rhythms and the consciousness of that greater Whole, and thus to become consciously and responsibly a participant in the greater space and the greater life of that Whole.

The Two Approaches in the Arts

How this cosmic picture affects the creative process in the arts may not be apparent at first. Nevertheless if this world-view were a potent factor at the deepest level of the artist's consciousness, it would profoundly alter his approach to the work he performs and to all creative processes. Even when the metaphysical foundation of the picture is not clearly perceived, something of its impersonality may be a most significant feature in the creative attitude. During certain periods of the culture's development, when it has stabilized its specific character and revealed it as a particular style, the artist (whether in the plastic arts, in music, or in literature) operates simply as the agent of the collective whole which the culture constitutes at the psychomental level. The style comes first; then the artist. The style is the substratum and the basically conditioning element in the creative act. A work of art is a particular personalized eddy in the vast impersonal current of the collective life, having taken form as a cultural style—whether or not the creative artist is conscious of and accepts this fact.

At another level we find the artist—particularly in the case of the sculptor confronting a block of marble or a trunk of wood—asking the material he is ready to use for an inspiration. The sculptor tries to "feel" the potentiality of forms hidden within the stone or the wood; and in an analogical manner the composer of music may seek in the character of the instrument he is using an inspiration for his melodies or chords. In a sense therefore the material, which is a particular form of space, comes first, revealing its inmost potential of form-production through the agency of the composer.

The two approaches to creativity which I have just outlined undoubtedly can, and often do coexist within the creative process. Yet each approach represents a very basic attitude toward life which has endless repercussions, personal and social.

On the one hand, an artist acting as a strict individualist considers space and the material he deals with as a "blank sheet" upon which he forcefully projects his vision or his emotional tensions or aspirations; and even if he accepts the fact that in order to find a response from a public he has to conform to certain collectively defined conditions and traditions, he does so reluctantly and as uncompromisingly as possible, for to him, only one thing really matters: that he express his own personal vision, character, and purpose by any means available, and with an absolute minimum of subjection to the nature of these means.

On the other hand, when, instinctively or deliberately, he adopts the cosmogenetic or collectivistic attitude toward creativity, the artist (or any producer of forms) sees himself and acts as a guide to a creative process occurring at a certain place and at a particular time, because Space itself (the whole cosmos) there and then is pregnant of as yet unrevealed but needed forms. In a sense he pictures himself as a midwife rather than an impregnator. Yet he also is both. He is the husband who not only has cared for the pregnant woman he fecundated as an agent of life and of the need for survival of the human species, but also who assists in the child's delivery. He is also the mother as she cooperates consciously and willingly with the birth process operating in her.

At the personal level, the love-making that created the child has characteristics caused by the man's and woman's individual temperaments and bodily natures; yet, if the two partners and cocreators live in a society whose culture has a fundamentally impersonal and biological character, they would be deeply aware that the procreative process has operated through them, rather than from them. The basic form of the creation was determined by the vast impersonal life-force operating through them in a human mode. The child is not "theirs"; it is life's child—and at a socio-cultural level, it is the child of the community and the family considered as long-lasting evolving social organisms. The child succeeds those who came before him and gave him a biological human form and cultural determinants, which in turn he has to pass on to a new generation of children of whom he will be the predecessor.

If we now consider the cyclic development of culture, we should readily see that there are periods of history during which the artist is like a peasant tilling his ancestral land in order to produce a crop needed for the sustenance of his people. The peasant selects the seeds he sows—the creative artist selects some particular sacred motive —after which they merely guide, yet also participate in the growth of the biological or cultural forms. The peasant lives in nature, attuning his acts to the rhythms of the seasons and of the internal processes of vegetable unfoldment from seed to seed. He lets natural forces operate, rather than controlling them. He lets life be the prime mover, though he evokes life's magical power of growth and self-multiplication, focusing this power upon a "sacred place" where the release is needed for the fulfillment of human needs; and he intuitively, subconsciously knows that the life-process follows cosmic principles and harmonic-organic proportions. He knows because he is a totally involved participant in these rites of life and vegetation, existing from time immemorial.(3)

Likewise the artist who sees himself as a servant of a religious, spiritual, or social-political purpose, consecrates himself or herself to the magical operation of giving a concrete form to forces with which he has become identified.

Life-processes were operating long before man cultivated the soil and boys and girls united in passionate loving. Likewise two-dimensional space existed long before painters drew forms on the walls of caves and temples. Three-dimensional space existed before architects envisioned the emergence, out of the plains or hills on which they and their people lived, of buildings needed for the life of their community; and time existed, scanned by the motions of planets and stars, before musicians gave a particular sense of direction, substance and meaning to its rhythmic flow by the melodies and thematic developments they created. Interpersonal and socio-cultural relationships are likewise manifestations of a four-dimensional reality whose essential characteristic is interpenetration. All human societies and all cultures are eddies in the moving tide of this four-dimensional space as it comes in contact with this rigid, yet expectant, form of three-dimensional space we call the Earth.

However, the forms which human beings call into being by the power of their imagination and will in answer to collective socio-cultural needs (even if they glory in the illusion of their being the sole self-determined authors) have only a limited span of existence. Human needs change, cultures that were intensely vital and aggressively expanding tend to become static and their long-unquestioned paradigms obsolete. A new creative impulse may be imminent; yet because sociocultural institutions, organized religions and nations stubbornly resist change, a new type of creative person has to be called upon to act. The forms they produce and which concretize their special relationship to their collectivity—and, in a deeper sense, to Space and Time—have the characteristic features required if life is to be liberated from the meaningless and growth-frustrating perpetuation of what no longer fills its need.

Most human beings call such a liberation death or destruction, and dread all manifestations of its coming, because their consciousness is still hypnotized by a powerful internal feeling of the irreplaceable value of the condition of life-in-form. But this condition refers only to physical forms and the related patterns of ego-consciousness or to the limiting and normally exclusivistic forms of a particular style of art, of life and the related patterns of ego-consciousness. What human beings need is not a stoic and philosophical acceptance of body-disintegration and death, and (at another but related level) of cultural institutions, religious dogmas, and inherited class privileges. What is needed is the rapid yet wholesome development and expansion of a consciousness enabling them to envision, feel, and become committed in advance to an as-yet-unknown future, simply because they realize that this future is needed and (however delayed it may be) inevitable. It is needed because the once revered and indeed valid forms have proved empty and stifling. This future has to be understood as a new gesture of life, a new pulsation of the cosmos, a yearning of the eternal Virgin for new forms of existence—or as "God's will."

The only factors that could be called evil are inertia, delays produced by fear and hesitation, and the inability of human beings to accept the unfamiliar while clinging individually and collectively to ghostly memories.(4)

Civilization, the Death-Rebirth Process

As already stated, shifting gears from one level of consciousness and activity to the next and more inclusive one, constitutes the process of civilization; and this process almost inevitably has two aspects. We call them destructive and constructive; they should rather be called, in order to avoid emotional connotations, autumnal and adventive. Under clear and lucent autumnal skies (at least in relatively high Northern latitudes) the soil is covered by both decaying leaves and seeds. Leaves and seed are products of a gradually ebbing tide of vegetation; but leaves are oriented toward inevitable decay (the humus that will be indispensable for future growth), while seeds are oriented toward the sacrificial rite of germination, which implies the rebirth of life-forms. Civilization is, at first, both leaf-decay and seed-rebirth. It is for human beings to choose the current to which they are inwardly, yet most often unconsciously, drawn.

As the symbolical fall ends, civilization operates in its "adventive" mode. It turns over and redirects the expectant nuclei of the seeds. It becomes the magical instrumentality for the new creative Word to sound through. In the cycle of vegetation the winter solstice is the Advent, for it is then that the cyclically renewed Sun begins to reassess its life-producing potency as it starts on its northward journey (in declination)(5) . In the cycle of a culture-whole the Advent refers to the coming of some powerful personage (or personages) who usually, some centuries later, becomes quasi-deified as the Father (or Fathers) of the by-then relatively stabilized political and religious-cultural organism of society. For instance, in our European Western Society, we might mention Pope Gregory the Great and St. Benedict around 600 A.D. and after them Charlemagne whose death marked the establishment of basic fields of racial-cultural tensions, later to become modern nations in ceaseless conflicts. At the higher spiritual-planetary level, the great adventive individuals are called Avatars. What these beings envision may take decades and centuries to be understood and rightly evaluated; but, while they live, they are focal points for the release of cosmic-spiritual forces into the biosphere and the noosphere of this Earth. Today we may call these forces, symbolically at least, "galactic," for they refer to the greater cosmic Whole within which not only the Earth but the whole solar system lives, moves and has its being.

In the arts, we find men whose work of destiny is to help the disintegration of their culture by criticizing, ridiculing, or violently attacking the validity of the fundamental concepts and images of that culture. We call them iconoclasts and muckrakers. They destroy the glamour surrounding big names or great works haloed with cultural reverence and often idolatry. The forms they produce—be they books of criticism, musical works stressing all that "the School" forbade, paintings introducing combinations of colors and exotic shapes of primitive cultures to shock the viewers' sense of reality (Picasso), or the even more incongruous forms of Dadaism and Surrealism.

At a higher level, the challenge to the past comes also from geniuses who, intuitively sensing the need for a new type of culture, introduce a new approach to the old forms, extending their boundaries until these explode and release what they contained for a vaster, more significant type of integration. These men are the great mutants, whose entire being is polarized by the drive toward rebirth.

All adventive men and women are transpersonal beings. Space, Life, God, act through them, even if they are not aware of this fact. They often display what, to the superficial observer, may appear to be an extreme of individualism and even at times a boisterous, proud egocentricity. Yet one should realize that these men of genius in most instances have to be unconscious of the true source of their action if they are to perform disintegrative deeds. This is especially true of those iconoclasts whose function is to initiate or sustain cathartic processes, whether in politics, education or the arts. A clear consciousness of what impels them to act would confuse them. They have to be tough and perhaps violent in their catabolic passion for transformation in order to stand against the collective pressure, often the hatred and persecution, of "the Establishment" whose values (or lack of values) they challenge. The forms they produce—and also the form of their individual ego having developed through a deep feeling of compelling opposition to the status quo, often caused by personal tragedy—have to be strong, sharp, impervious to the many allurements with which society may try to seduce them; and these often appear in the classic and personalized shape of a "tempter" or temptress.

For similar reasons, the vital core of vegetable seeds must be enclosed within a tough envelope, without which they would at once be disintegrated by the strong chemicals within the autumnal soil. "Seed men and women" also must either be enveloped in what appears to be an intense and exclusive concentration upon their destiny—a psychic skin of imperturbability which may appear to be insensitive to those attempting to penetrate it—or else they must be so strongly integrated around a powerfully radiant center that the outgoing flow of energy and the power of the vision it manifests render the seed individual impenetrable.

"Seed forms" appearing toward the fall period of the life-span of a culture-whole are intrinsically different from the artistic and institutional forms in which that culture comes to fulfillment; just as different as a seed is from a plant in full bloom. The characteristics of these two types of forms answer opposite, yet in a sense complementary needs, and these characteristics refer respectively to the inherent meaning and purpose of civilization and culture. A plant in full bloom has actualized its birth-potential. It reveals fully what it is and in many cases it is prolific and exuberant in the development of its fundamental nature. A seed, on the other hand, exists to carry a message from the species; a message from a particular type of life in the biosphere to the materials available on the Earth's surface—a message of integration, in which nevertheless the potentiality of mutation is latent if not explicit. This message is not superficially visible; it is hidden within the hard envelope of the seed—thus "occult." Within the seed is to be found only what is necessary to convey the message or to sustain those parts which will constitute the actual carrier. Bareness, condensation, internal necessity, and total consecration to the task to be performed characterize the seed-form and its contents. In it everything is as compact as in a modern man-made satellite loaded with instruments.

Here, however, we must not be confused by analogies. I am referring to the life-cycle of a culture-whole and to the fundamental character of the cultural forms created by men and women who, because they act as "civilizers" rather than "culture-men," make of their creations agencies for sociocultural transformation rather than fulfillment. Yet it is within flower-fulfillment that the seed is born. As the seed begins to grow, the yearly plant begins to die. The process at the level of vegetation may appear to be a Nietzschean kind of "eternal return"; but there are seeds in which mutations occur. In the human kingdom mutability is the fundamental law. In humanity the cyclic inertia of nature is challenged; the circle is meant to be a spiral, and this implies that civilization is active within the fateful biological circularity of living processes producing a culture-whole. It is active as a centrifugal power.

When this power is particularly active within a cuture-whole the latter assumes an intensely dynamic, but restless character. Our EuroAmerican culture-whole, especially in the West, has been characterized by what Spengler called the Faustian temperament. Human beings are periodically seized by a "divine discontent" and rebel against circular concepts and practice. This Faustian character, ceaselessly aspiring toward "more" and/or "beyond," has produced specific forms that reach toward an increase of complexity in relationship, because it is in and through relationship that changes occur. Selfhood—or at the cultural level, the Tradition—possesses inertia; it is and insists on remaining what it is; it resists change. On the other hand, relatedness produces change; yet the change may operate in opposite directions. In and through relationship the self can either lose its identity, or expand its field of activity and consciousness.

Selfhood may develop in depth without the challenge of relationships—which is why in the self-oriented culture of India the seeker after God insists on total solitude and concentration on the self. But the small field of human selfhood can concretely expand into that of the greater Whole only through a multiplicity of relationships, provided —and this is a crucial point!—the person is able constantly to refer his experiences of relationship to his own individual center. It is because this "reference to center" is often very difficult—which is why the process of multiple relationships is dangerous—that religious and cultural institutions have developed systems of morality compelling individuals to accept limitations to the centrifugal drive inherent in relationships; in other words, taboos and the concept of sin.

Within these "safe and secure" ethical boundaries the flow of cultural relationships can extend with relative freedom, and at any length. Thus cultural forms can develop and unfold their inherent potential of meaningful relationship for long periods of time, as in the case of India and other places where musical performances, involving a great deal of improvisation on ragas or similar bioenergetic tone-patterns, last for many hours. The musician is relatively free as an individual just because he feels secure in his rootedness in a tradition, and because in many cases, he is innately certain that by accepting its dictates he is following "laws of cyclocosmic activity," revealed to some illumined Ancestor or spiritual Teacher. Today, instead of divine revelation the musician or painter might speak of acoustical and (in general) natural laws, for instance, laws of symmetry and harmonic resonance. But the psychological result is the same in either instance.

Natural laws are only laws of the world we know and experience through our physical senses. Human cultures are local manifestations of the laws of a nature we can perceive, directly or indirectly, through our instruments; and each culture emphasizes some aspect of this nature and plays down other aspects. The result is a characteristic kind of form in which a particular type of relationship is concretized, other types being eliminated as irrelevant, alien, unwholesome, and therefore dangerous. Culture-forms, by stressing the type of relationships which the culture proclaims in no uncertain terms to be "good," are seen also to be "beautiful." They are based on the true knowledge derived from what to culture-men seems evident. The approach to culture-forms is therefore esthetic; just as the approach to culturally and religiously acceptable relationships is ethical, and propositions derived from the particular kind of experience and knowledge satisfying the collective cultural mentality are deemed to be true.

This is the basis of the well-known trinity of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. All cultures define the characteristics belonging to each of the members of the trinity, and each does it in its own particular way. Nevertheless it is possible to discover many features common to most of these cultural formulations because each of the presently known local and psychically as well as geographically defined cultures is a specialized manifestation of the planetary nature of mankind as it has been developing during the last millennia, or as the Hindu would say, during our planetary Kali Yuga, a period of many thousands of years. Traditionally men whose vision is focused backward to the One Root of our human cycle think of Kali Yuga as a dark period; but it is dark only in a certain sense. It is also the period of gestation of a new humanity through which the vibration 6—of which I have previously spoken in the third Chapter—will more specifically and totally assume concrete form. Today, however, we can only dimly envision how the new cosmic-planetary vibration will manifest.

In the meantime the process of civilization is releasing into operation during this Kali Yuga, and more specifically and actively at the close of all cultural cycles, an array of forms needed to break down our collective attachment to cultural images and values which have only a local character. These civilization-forms have a catabolic character; yet it is only through the crises they initiate that the seed-forms of a new culture, normally at a higher level of the evolutionary spiral, can reveal themselves to disenthralled or at least open minds. These civilization-forms are not to be approached from an esthetic, ethical, or truth-haunted point of view. They are there to perform a liberating and transformative function. In at least one sense of the term, they are magical forms.

In the following chapter, I shall attempt to clarify the contrast between magical and esthetic, between spiritual and religious, and between evident truth and validity. But here this much can still be said the concept of creativity applies as well to civilization-forms as to culture-forms. Creativity releases and liberates as well as builds, and having built, produces esthetic pleasure, the perfume of sanctity, and the intellectual satisfaction that comes from "elegant" solutions to scientific problems. There are times when men and women of courage and open consciousness are faced by the grave and disturbing question: What do you seek, liberation or happiness, transmutation or stability —the forms that free or those that satisfy?

1. cf. H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine I. 274-275: "The whole kosmos is guided, controlled and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies, each having a mission to perform and who are ... agents of Karmic and Cosmic Laws. They vary infinitely in their respective degrees of consciousness and intelligence ... Each of these Beings either was, or prepares to become, a man, if not in the present then in a past or coming cycle (manvantara). They are perfected when not incipient man . . . None of these Beings high or low, have either individuality or personality as separate Entities, i.e., they have no individuality in the sense in which a man says, I am myself and no one else ... Individuality is the characteristic of their respective hierarchies, not the units."   Return

2. cf. Bhagavad Gita, end of the Tenth Discourse (p. 76, William Q. Judge's translation): "I established this whole universe with a single portion of myself, and remain separate." And the Seventh Discourse (p. 55): "I am the cause, I am the production and the dissolution of the whole universe," etc.   Return

3. A few years ago in a mountain village of French Switzerland I met men who, when asked why they were performing at different times certain operations on their grapevines, answered at once—as if surprised by the question, "Because the plants like it that way." The father of a French Canadian composer, Alfred Laliberté, who cultivated a small farm, including woods filled with various plants and bushes growing wildly, had an extraordinary gift for selecting leaves or seeds with medical properties. He scorned ordinary doctors and no one in his family ever remained ill. Once with his abdomen smashed by the hoof of a rearing horse he directed his wife to get a number of plants and to make with them a poultice he applied to the wounds. After a week of rest he left his bed, showing no ill-effects. He "knew" that some plants able to stimulate metabolic functions when collected in the spring could be poisonous when used at the beginning of autumn. Yet he could hardly read or write and hardly ever went to a large town.   Return

4. Sins of omission, more than those of commission, are very often breeders of tragic karma. It is the action that is not performed, when the particular phase of the life-cycle required its being done through the form then available, which may cause the deepest disturbance in the evolutionary process, whether for mankind as a whole or for an individual person. According to the occult tradition which inspired the writings of H. P. Blavatsky, it was the refusal of spiritual entities to ensoul the crude bodies of human beings living on now long-disappeared continents when it was their function (dharma) to do so, which led to the appearance and growth of evil on a planetary scale. These spiritual entities, emerging from a cosmic night of consciousness, became aware of the animal-like forms into which they were called upon to incarnate and were appalled by the prospect. As a result of such a refusal these animal-like bodies gradually developed into distorted and often monstrous forms through mating with even less evolved animals. When, later on, the spiritual entities found themselves compelled to incarnate in the perverted bodies lest worse might happen, some of them became caught in psychic whirlpools of biological energies and, losing the consciousness of their spiritual essence, allowed these energies to deviate their will and infuse it with lust, ambition, greed, the roots of "black magic."

This may be a myth; but myths are the fundamental realities of human consciousness, as they reveal the meaning of archetypal and cosmic processes. Who among us, modem men and women, has not at some time failed to perform an action which seemed difficult, boring or unattractive, yet—even if we did know it—was so crucially needed that dire results followed? If a vacuum is left in a process of relationship, some other factor usually fills it, and the character and quality of relationship may change so drastically that tragedy may ensue. In the life of any truly aware and consciously responsible individual a moment usually comes when he or she suddenly realizes that a few words have been said or an act performed whose traces can never be erased. It is irreparable; the whole life, the whole universe perhaps, will never be what it could have been if this vacuum had not been created by the failure to do or say what one's destiny demanded at that precise time. Such a realization of irreparability can be traumatic. It may be at the root of spiritual regression or psychosis, even if the realization is at once blocked and made to sink into the inner abyss of the unconscious mind. And the human race also has a collective unconscious mind!

This is the real meaning of what has been mythified in the "original sin." This sin of Adam-Eve—mankind at the level of dualistic consciousness—was not the eating of the fruit of the Tree which, together with the knowledge of the polarities implied in any existential process, brought to mankind the polarization of birth and death; the sin was the manner in which the man and woman reacted to the feeling of the irreparability of the act which closed to mankind the world of divine unity, even if what they experienced in the Garden of Eden was only a reflection (indeed, a mirage) of the divine world. Adam and Eve were afraid! Fear is the ultimate cause of evil.   Return

5. In my book The Pulse of Life, first published in 1942, now in paperback (Shambhala Publications, Berkeley, CA; now free online) the character and meaning of the zodiac and of each zodiacal sign is psychologically interpreted in terms of the ever-changing balance of what I called the Day-force (Yang) and the Night-force (Yin). These two polarities manifesting in any existential cycle can be most significantly defined as the personalizing (or individualizing) and in-gathering (or collectivizing) aspects of the dynamic process (cf. p. 27). It is the ratio between their capacity for effective action—thus the state of their power -relationship—which, as it constantly changes, defines on any day (and particularly at every New Moon) the essential nature of the energy produced by the relationship of the Sun to the Earth.   Return

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