Culture, Crisis & Creativity

by Dane Rudhyar

6. The Magic of Will &
the Esthetic Experience

The recent increase in the popularity of magical ceremonies and witchcraft has raised many questions and produced a variety of answers concerning the nature of magic. These usually fail to present magic in its most fundamental aspect, because they tend mainly to deal with a modern concept of magic based on a psychological—and especially Jungian—approach attempting to "dis-occultize" and psychologize what in the beginning of human societies had a vitalistic, naturalistic, and pantheistic character. The English writer on magic and occult philosophy, Dion Fortune, has been quoted as defining magic as the art of causing changes in consciousness in conformity with will. But primitive magic had essentially nothing to do with consciousness. It dealt with the focalized release of power in answer to vitalistic human needs.

In its most basic sense—a sense which can be expanded to cover cosmic processes and also all early manifestations of culture and art—I shall therefore define magic as a purposeful release of focalized power through an effective form in answer to a need.

This definition embraces a number of factors, each of which has to be defined with reference to several levels of activity, from the most cosmic (or cosmogenic) to the cultural and the personal or egocentric. We have to define the nature of the power being used and of the need being met, then the character of the forms used to bring the power to a focus.

Magic is not merely a human activity. Wherever and whenever power is being focused and released through a specifically conceived form in order to achieve a mentally defined purpose one can speak of magical activity. For the religious mind, God's creation of a universe is the supreme magical activity. Through a "form," the creative Word, a cosmogenic power ("Light") is released. It is released in order to fill a metacosmic need. What this need is can be interpreted in two already mentioned basic ways: God may desire (or need) to create a universe in order to reveal the infinite complexity of His nature to Himself ; or if one replaces the concept of a metacosmic God by that of an infinite Ocean of Potentiality in a transcendental state of perfect Harmony (Space in the most all-embracing and timeless sense) out of which universes periodically emerge and return, the need for the emergence of a new universe (and therefore of a new beginning of activity and time) results from the apparently inevitable fact that a preceding universe ended in a dualistic condition. We may speak of a dualism of "success" and "failure," or symbolically of "seed" and "decaying" leaves. However we may picture it in our' minds, this condition is essentially disharmonic, and therefore a new attempt must be made to give to the waste products or the unfinished business of the past cycle a new chance to experience organic living and, in the end, a supreme Omega state of consciousness resulting from total and perfect integration at all possible levels.

We have already met these two basic interpretations in the source of existence when speaking of "expressive" and "cosmogenetic" (Space-differentiating) forms. In the first, religious interpretation a cosmos-transcending God expresses His being in a universe or a multiplicity of universes; in the other, God is the first manifestation of the emergence of power and at least potential consciousness out of the infinite Ocean of Space. God is then pictured as the Unity aspect of the universe. In Greek and Theosophical mysticism, It is the Logos—the One Existent out of whose unitarian Being everything in the universe evolved.

Whatever interpretation one chooses to accept, at the beginning of any cycle of existence there is activity. This activity is not explosive and formless. Energy is released in a "package," the quantum of modern science. This energy inherently has form or structure. Out of an infinite, and therefore essentially diffuse, kind of metacosmic Ocean of potential energy, a limited amount of energy is focused and released according to some kind of internal structure controlling its differentiation; and it is released within a defined space of manifestation which its differentiated products will occupy for a definite period (a cycle) of time.(1)

When we reach the biological level of activity we find that the one cosmic energy—which during the Vitalistic Age of mankind's evolution was referred to as the "One Life"—has taken the aspect of the life-force animating all biological organisms. Hindu philosophy speaks of it as prang. At this level we are confronted with a multitude of life's species and genera. In each of these the life-force operates according to a definite rhythm and within specific vegetable, animal, or human forms of varied types and sizes. The germination of a vegetable seed and the birth of an animal body are magical activities which begin with the fertilization of the flower and the formation of the fecundated ovum. These activities, like all magical activities, occur within a definite space. It is a "sacred" place, not unlike the small circle of light projected on a material surface when sunlight is concentrated by a powerful lens; and at this place heat is produced (i.e. intense molecular activity).

At this biological level, the power being released in a particular modality of the life-force operating in our biosphere; the effective form is the body as a whole; and the purpose of the new organism is to perpetuate the character of the species. Each species of life (mankind included) performs a definite function in terms of the harmonic workings of the total organism of the planet, Earth. We can speak of a life-will at work; it manifests within each organism as what we call instinct and as a few basic organic drives. These are mainly the drive for survival, the drive for expansion, the drive for self-reproduction, the drive for adaptation to environmental changes. The capacity for adaptation manifests as a biopsychic type of mind and intelligence or cunning. It may also produce mutations.

When we reach the level of primitive man there may at first seem to be no fundamental difference in the magical operations of the life-will. Hunting, eating, copulating are various types of magic, and are so regarded in early tribal societies; but with the special development of human language a new kind of mind gives a truly human form to consciousness—a consciousness that is potential in all life-forms. It also humanizes the fundamental biological drives for survival, expansion, and reproduction.

Vegetable organisms have devised a myriad of methods to insure the spread of their seed and, first of all, the production of an immense number of these seeds allowing for the inevitable destruction of the vast majority of them. Many species of animals also produce a prodigious number of eggs, of which only a relatively few develop as fully mature organisms; but mammals, and particularly human beings, produce only a small progeny. Animals protect their young by various physical means—muscular strength, agility, venom, camouflage, and group-living to magnify the defensive and aggressive abilities of individual specimens.

Human beings not only live in family groups expanding into tribes, but the complex languages they have developed permit the cumulative transfer of a special type of knowledge. This knowledge is not only acquired from experience; it has a biopsychic dimension which seems to transcend the possibility of knowledge inherent in animal species, a holistic dimension. We are able not only to perceive, remember, and convey to others what other living organisms do, but also to feel, realize, or intuit what they are, We are able not only to know, record, and transmit in detail to others all the actions another living organism performs, but also to gain a direct understanding of what the form of the organism-as-a-whole reveals as to its intrinsic nature and character. This direct understanding is then expressed in a symbol; the organism is given a name. Often at first this name imitates the cry of an animal or the sound of a natural phenomenon; but, if so, these sounds are not considered merely as sense-data being reproduced by vocal imitation, but rather as revelation of the essential nature of the life-power animating the organism producing them.

What this means is that the life within us is able to resonate to, and at least relatively to identify itself with the life in the animal, or even in nature as a whole. The human senses, and the primitive biological mind that registers sense-data, provide information as to activities in the outer world; but this information can also become a pathway leading to a holistic intuition of the life within the form. It is to this life that, in magic, the name of an entity refers. Knowing that name gives power over the entity whose biopsychic nature it reveals.

The knowledge of a name—or of a mantram—is not merely a sense-based and phenomenological type of knowing. It is the life-consciousness within us that knows. In the same sense, in the Bible, a man is said to "know" his wife when he performs sexual intercourse with her. An "intercourse" ideally is a coursing (or flowing) of life-energy between (inter) two polarized human organisms. If unhindered by biopsychic-structural tensions and undisturbed by ego-generated factors, this interaction can evoke in each partner a realization in depth of the "tone" (or essential dynamic character) of the other partner.(2)

At the level of primitive magic, when a shaman (or medicine man) ceremonially utters the name of an animal he thereby attunes his life-consciousness to the characteristic rhythm of the animal's life-energy, and a response must come from that life-energy. That response gives the shaman power over the animal; for the utterance by the shaman of the animal's name deprives that animal of his protective covering—his existential mask or camouflage. In some manner, the animal finds itself exposed to the will of the magician, who can then kill or tame it according to his need.

The need to which the primitive shaman's activity refers to is biological, whether survival, or comfort and the utilization of what the animal has to offer to man, is concerned. Above all, the power he releases in the magical operation is not the personal will of an ego but the life-will. Primitive tribal humans have no ego, no individuality. At this stage of human evolution it is the tribe as a whole, rather than the particular person belonging to it, which constitutes the psychic unit and sets the magical will into operation. This will has its origin in the root-unity of the tribe; it basically acts for communal purposes, even if this means the healing of a particular tribesman, for every tribesman is but a cell of the tribal organism whose total multipersonal life has to be cared for.

However, a process of differentiation is at work as soon as the primitive tribe develops a particular culture in and through which the essential characteristics and particular way of life of its people take exterior forms objectivizing and defining them. Nature becomes overlaid and pervaded with culture. "Man's common humanity" differentiates into more or less antagonistic and always (to a greater or lesser degree) exclusivistic culture-wholes; and in these a hierarchical order of natural functions sooner or later turns into a caste or class structure. The original life-will becomes a collective will: the will of a particular group or community. It becomes associated with an organized form of religion.

At least in its outer forms and rituals, religion is "culture-magic." It uses the collective will of the people to enhance, restore and glorify the deep-rooted sense of community, a sense having proven essential for collective survival and even well-being. Etymologically, the word re-ligio seems to imply a "binding back," thus an antidote against any centrifugal attempt of separate human beings which might disturb the tribal and cultural unity, for, as the often repeated phrase states, "in unity there is strength." In terms of such an integrative and holistic purpose, religion acts in a healing way; it keeps the collective body of the people whole and well, maintaining the communal health by the use of religious rituals, celebrations of the "sacred" origin of the group personified in a common Great Ancestor or tribal god, sports in which the group participates, and also war games or collective hunts and expeditions.

The collective will to culture-wholeness operates not only through religion and its magical ceremonies or festivals, but also in what at first is simply the special crafts of the community. The characteristics of the culture and of the organized religion (which actually is the internal superbiological and sanctifying aspect of the culture) take form in the special manner in which objects of utility such as pots, jars, tools, weapons, houses, etc. are made.

It has been said that the essential (or one of the most basic) characteristics of man is to be a maker of tools; but we now realize that some animals also use tools. Yet, they apparently do not sculpture or paint these objects of utility for magical purposes. That is to say, they do not incorporate in these tools and other deliberately shaped objects needed for biological purpose or group-convenience a concretized realization of the meaning of their functions. Somehow a consciousness emerges in the most sensitive tribesmen that life-functions can be objectivized and given concrete forms as "symbolic forms," just as the characteristic life-rhythm and power of an animal can be objectified in a name. These symbolic forms have magical power. They have power in the sense in which the image of the Cross, the figure of the meditating Buddha, the Tibetan mandalas, and in fact all the early manifestations of sacred Art—including mantrams, ritual gestures, epic narratives—are charged with the power to move and to change the destiny of nations.

The Sacred and the Profane

It is essential, however, to make a basic distinction between sacred art and the many differentiated forms gradually taken by the arts in which a developing culture exteriorizes and represents the various stages of its development. Sacred art is magical and revelatory; it arises from a single root. The cultural arts are produced according to changing styles for esthetic purposes. To ignore the difference between magic and esthetics is to be blind to an essential difference between two types of creative activity. The distinction is fundamental though often ignored. It is ignored first of all because culture-men tend to misinterpret and to shy from realizing the sacred character of the consciousness and mentality operating at the origin of and during the earliest stages of the evolution of the culture-whole to which they belong; and secondly, because the magical often shades into and blends with the esthetic elements. This occurs in all the arts; and as we shall see later on, it also happens in the art of living. It may be unwise to overstress differences where the characteristics of two levels of activity and consciousness interblend, yet this differentiation is particularly important at a time such as ours when the very purpose of art, and indeed of the individual existence of human beings, has become a crucial issue so often misinterpreted.

When a tribesman carves the menacing features of a god into the handle of a sword, his intention is not to make the sword more beautiful, it is to make it magically more effective, thus able better to kill the prey or the enemy. When he paints frescoes on the walls of a cave or a temple, or sculptures there, to us, strange but fascinating figures of gods or demons, he is not thinking of esthetic values, or of planes, angles, volumes according to some abstract concept; he is "feeling" the internal rhythm of the power which it is the function of the object or the painting to release. His mind and hands flow with that rhythm, embodying it in a concrete form. What operates within the creative act is not his personal will but the life-will within the human species; and when the culture-whole has reached a more social character, it is the collective will of the people. The creativity of the fashioner of art-forms is deeply and ineradicably rooted in the psyche of his culture-whole.(3)

In his outer personality the craftsman may display psychological traits which to some extent single him and his kind within the tribal community; but what really differentiates him is his openness and his yielding to the life-flow with which he is deeply identified, while many of the people around him tend to live and feel more rigidly in terms of social and family patterns. In and through the producer of magical forms, the creative process operates as a prolongation of the lines of force structuring the existence of entities living in the world perceptible to our senses, or in a more purely dynamic and preconcrete realm which we may call "psychic" or "astral" according to our basic philosophy and cosmology.

The essential point is that these artists, and like them the truly so-called primitive religious artists, create according to principles of formation which are in no way basically different from those ruling the geometrical formation of crystals or the growth of plants. They do not "know" intellectually cosmic or biogenetic principles; they are unconsciously attuned to these principles. We should not consider them as individualized persons. Life lives them. Their creative acts are cosmobiological gesture of power. The works of sacred art are anonymous; but they are transpersonal, not impersonal. For this reason, the magical acts have a powerful effectiveness and inevitability which belongs to the realm of instincts and life-processes. To try to interpret or evaluate magical and primitive religious art in terms of esthetic values and concepts is as absurd as to attempt to psychoanalyze Buddha and Christ according to Freudian techniques.

In a more mundane and restricted sense it is like judging the activities of young children in terms of the values and motives ruling the lives of fifty-year-old men and women. Because a culture-whole develops essentially as an organic whole, the men and women of different periods in this development have a different cultural age. However, the organism of a culture-whole exists primarily at a psychosocial level and only secondarily in terms of the physical growth and multiplication of the people whose collective mentality, basic feeling-responses, and overt ways of life it controls. It is a noospheric rather than biospheric organism. As already stated, a culture overlays, pervades and gives form to a particular aspect of human nature. Culture is rooted in nature, but the particular character of the root is derived from a seed which, by germinating, impressed its life-potency upon a root that was born from it and immersed itself in the raw material of a new soil. The seed of a culture-whole is represented by the creative activity of a personage, or of several persons, through whom, before the beginning of the cultural cycle, the process of civilization operated, releasing a new transformative vision and power.

The vision and spiritual power of these civilizers or Avatars, and the Prime Symbols or Archetypes latent in them, are occult factors during what may be called the prenatal period and the infancy of the culture-whole. During such periods, the culture is still struggling to find and define its field of organic activity in the midst of slowly disintegrating older culture-wholes to which it is at least partly apparented, yet which it destroys, as the seed destroys the plant that bore it. The old cultural forms and institutions represent the "mother" side, while the activities of the Civilizers or seed-men constitute the "father" side of the new culture-whole.

In the mythology of most cultures, these Civilizers are given a divine character. They are true "Creators," for they stand at the spiritual beginning of the cultural cycle. They sound the creative Word, the mantram, of the culture-whole; and their lives become the source of symbols and scenes which, later on, the earlier religious artists will use as sacred themes for their magical productions. These in turn eventually lose their magical character as the artist's spiritual and transpersonal consecration becomes increasingly imbued with and deviated by sociocultural and egocentric considerations. Spiritual identification turns into religious devotion; the sacred, into the profane. The sacred time of the creative beginning—the time in which gods eternally create—changes into the profane time of constantly altered artistic and social fashions revealing the changes in the interests, the problems, and the collective moods of successive generations. The magical will is superseded by the esthetic mind moved by collective feelings.

The first indication of the basic change in art-motivation appears when magically inspired forms begin to be used in terms of decoration and embellishment. This change most likely occurs as the result of interactions between two or more cultures. Culture stresses the factor of selfhood; civilization that of relatedness. Selfhood is centripetal in the sense that it is dominated by the realization of centrality. The urge for relationship is centrifugal, dominated by the desire to commune with other selves. In selfhood there is power, magic, irreducible strength—and inertia. In relationship consciousness expands, activity differentiates; and the desire and stimulation for repeated transformation is a fire that can either destroy the self or transmute it and, through participation, absorb it into a vaster field of selfhood, a sacred Community at a more inclusive level of being. Selfhood remains what it is unless the particular self totally loses itself in the absolute SELF, the nirvana in which the flames of relationship are totally extinguished, though the extinguishment may not be permanent in a metaphysical or cosmic sense. On the other hand, relationship is perpetual, cyclic change, from level to level of participation; it implies involvement in the dualistic and cyclic aspect of being, which we call becoming or existence.

When intercultural relationships repeatedly take place, a new element develops in the communal psyche of the tribes: the factor of competition. It announces the more or less rapid disintegration or the sacred. It also becomes a wedge through which the process of civilization enters into the magical circle of the culture-whole. In such a magical circle the self of the culture-whole resides. It exists there, secure and illumined by an inner light that crystallizes into translucent magical forms. The transpersonal creative imagination of men and women haunted by the divine Presence in their midst plays, in childlike devotion, at exteriorizing that Presence in forms evoking the deeds and words of by then long disappeared seed-individuals and revealers of archetypal mysteries.

The negative—yet stimulating and transformative—aspect of civilization begins to operate when a culture-whole establishes more or less steady lines of commerce and places for interchange (markets and fairs) with other culture-wholes. This negative aspect acts through the competitive motive as a differentiating, separative, and individualizing factor. The men and women in each culture-whole who can best represent its particular character, its way of life and style of form-production, are impelled by their own people to develop their skills for the purpose of winning contests with the corresponding men and women of the other cultures. This gives birth to the urge for decoration, including the self-decoration of women.

Soon showmanship is born, and the will to be better than someone else. The competitive spirit triumphs. The profane overcomes the sacred, though the sense of the latter still remains alive at the core of the activities and in the creations of the greatest artists. But these by now have developed egos born of the competitive spirit and the psychology of "one-up-manship." The process of individualization—the first inevitable, withal essentially negative, stage of civilization—transforms both the society as a whole and its members now involved in attempts at displaying their superiority, or at compensating in devious ways for their inferiority. Superiority and inferiority at any level, including what passes for "spirituality," are quantitative evaluations. When quantity dominates a culture, or any form of activity and of knowledge (including what passes as scientific knowledge) quality is bound to take a secondary role, until we come to the absurdity of producing goods (and indeed artistic products!) in terms of "planned obsolescence." This is the most characteristic expression of a rapidly disintegrating culture-whole.

A classical period is ushered in when esthetic considerations begin to dominate the field of culture. Magic withdraws into the field of occultism. Sensate values in the arts and empiricism in science take control of the culture. Perspective and the pleasure of the eyes in the plastic arts, formalism in music, rationalism in the field of knowledge, are respectively developed by the great masters of the Renaissance, by the builders of musical counterpoint, fugues, and a rigid tonality system, and in science by Francis Bacon, Newton, and Descartes. In the world of dramatic performance a Shakespeare displays extraordinary gifts in depicting tragic problems of interpersonal relationship. Personality triumphs; whether it be the personality of the artist and of the characters he imagines out of his own experience, or the collective personality of a culture-whole now concretized and rigidly defined by an official language, a code of laws and national boundaries.

In every instance, the ego-will, or its collectivized projection, the national will (usually symbolized and made articulate by an autocratic king) supplants the life-will. What remains of magic gravitates unavoidably toward the satisfaction of the ego, which often takes grandiose poses to present itself as the "true I am"; the individual proclaims his will in magical ceremonies whose main purpose in most instances is the control of psychic or elemental forces for personal or at least personalized ends. The magical ceremony may not belong to the category of "black art" filled with the release of aggressive, acquisitive, ego-inflating or destructive energies; yet it seems rarely to be a transpersonally "theurgic" activity, except in cases where healing is the purpose. The men and women who participate in the ceremonies as a rule are mentally conditioned egos assuming the role of creative "godlets"—or else they are deeply confused mediumistic split-personalities open to whatever forces their particular type of confusion and emotional intoxication attracts. This is why most publicly known groups and organizations dealing with ceremonial magic in Europe and America have often led to tragic human failures.

This does not mean that in theory during the last millennia magic (whether of Asiatic, African, or Near-Eastern and European origin) has not answered to a basic human need; but what begins as a truly sacred type of performance in most cases tends to become a profane display of self-will, or else an attempt to balance, neutralize, or compensate for the utter artificiality of modern living in monstrous cities and assembly-line factories. In the latter case, ceremonial magic as practiced today is a part of the return to nature and to the uninhibited satisfaction of biological, emotional, and sensual urges. It is part of a counterculture which, in its polarized reaction against our culture, most often refocuses, in a nonrationalistic and nonformalistic manner, what in fact are still the hedonistic characteristics of the cultural attitude since the Classical period; thus, the basic desire for the "profane" and temporary enjoyment of forms. It is this wish that characterizes the esthetic approach to art.

Estheticism is based upon the concept of personal or collective pleasure, whereas the magical approach is founded upon the ideal of supreme and transformative effectiveness in the processes of transformation and transubstantiation. Let us consider what this dichotomy implies and reveals.

The Apollonian and Dionysian Attitudes

The characteristic feature of an esthetic approach to art is the expectation that the art-forms (whether in painting or in music and dancing) will elicit pleasing or pleasurable sensations; and emotional excitement or often relaxation from the routine of daily work, can be substituted or added to the more superficial sense-enjoyment. The types of art-forms which will satisfy the esthetic sense are those in which the characteristic type of mentality and/or personal or collective emotional feelings are objectified and glorified. At a more abstract level, and especially for esthetically trained individuals, the art-forms meet the desire to enjoy in a perceptual and contemplative manner the inner security and peacefulness produced by what appears to the mind to be a manifestation of cosmic harmony and the conceptual order of archetypes. Such an art may present "elegant" solutions either to baffling life-problems or to technical difficulties; and such elegant solutions may pertain as well to the field of pure mathematics as to that of complex polyphonic and counterpoint structures. They may involve the harmonization of inherently clashing colors or, as in the theater, interpersonal conflicts.

On the other hand, magical art is an act of will determined by a transformative purpose, which in most cases sooner or later leads to a crisis or catharsis. Magical art releases power; it is not concerned with personal enjoyment of forms in themselves; esthetic art seeks to produce sensual, emotional, or mental pleasure. It presents itself as an alternative to, and at times an escape from, the pressures of everyday life. Religion, in its organized cultural manifestations has often the same purpose, though it refrains from overtly mentioning it. Thus organized religion is the cradle out of which art emerges into the hedonistic formalism of the Classical period of all cultures.

We could use here the well-known opposition, emphasized over a century ago by Neitzsche in his Origin of the Tragedy, between the Apollonian and the Dionysian approaches to art and in general to meeting life-issues. The Apollonian man seeks release from the state of tension inherent in earthly existence. He tries to obtain a feeling of inner security which he often derives from a contemplation of the sky where celestial bodies move peacefully according to a cosmic order making their position predictable—the impersonal order of unvarying laws and structural relationships. The Dionysian seeks depth-stirring stimulation and dynamic intensity. He welcomes change and insecurity, realizing that these are necessary implements to self-transformation, inner growth, and the transmutation of life into spirit. Such a transmutation can be structured by the aware and open mind, provided that the desire for it is intense enough to release into that mind the transphysical "hormones" of an unwavering faith in the individual's capacity to become more than he knows himself to be in a cultural and normative sense. The Dionysian enjoys the dynamic flow of power that thunders through human tragedies and all death-rebirth processes. He welcomes whatever is able to mobilize the energies which he intuitively feels to be as yet latent within him, even if he realizes that the cost will be suffering and possibly dying to this world, so certain is he that the "other world" can be reached only through conquest and total surrender of what others call normality and happiness.

Many human beings find in themselves elements belonging to both types; yet one of them usually dominates and if both are equally strong within the psyche, a stalemate can be produced with almost catatonic results. One should realize, however, that the Apollonian character can operate at a lower or a higher level of inclusiveness. Security obtained through predominantly static kinds of forms inevitably stresses exclusivism. What is important is how much it excludes as alien and unassimilable, and how artificial—that is, scornful of the natural energies of biospheric living—the security is. The typical "law and order" complex most often can be enforced only by police action. A Fascistic type of art can exist synchronously with a Fascistic political system. The rule of the C-major scale in classical music and equal temperament have a Fascistic character; the same can be said of Schoenberg's "tone rows" and formalistic polyphonic structures which for him, consciously or not, constituted a compensatory response to the cultural and political chaos of the dying Austrian Empire in which the composer reached maturity. We shall see in the following chapter that a musical approach to "tone" can develop on the basis of total inclusiveness. It was prefigured by the concept of pan-tonality which Franz Liszt tentatively conceived and Bela Bartok felt to be a necessity.

The Apollonian can also be the highest type of contemplative person who has reached a level of consciousness beyond duality, conflict, and tragedy. His mind may vibrate in perfect peace and serenity in attunement with the vast rhythms of the cosmos, once his emotional tensions have been calmed and his ego assuaged and made translucent to the promptings of the Divine at the core of his being. He rejects nothing because he experiences the place and function of everything in the supreme harmony of the universe and, beyond the out-and-in-breathing of universes, of That which is the forever inconceivable and unformulatable Ocean of infinite potentiality out of which the creativity of Gods and Logoi cyclically emerges and to which it returns as anabolic energy when the cosmic Form has ceased to reveal some particular aspect of the forever Unrevealable.

The Apollonian realization of, and response to, cosmic Form, especially when not securely purified from egocentric concerns, may coexist with the Dionysian urge for cultural transmutation and personal metamorphosis. The clarity, objectivity, and serenity of the contemplative or illumined mind and the emotional stress and strain characteristic of ego consciousness not infrequently have their relatively separate areas of existence in the personality of the creative artist. The one polarizes the other and this polarization is seemingly necessary to establish a link (or line of communication) between the vibration of the higher mind (vibration 5) and that which animates the human masses and in general the Earth's biosphere (vibration 4). The archetypal form must "incarnate"; it has to send roots into the humus of man's common humanity. An alchemy of mind and life has to operate within the retort of the creative artist's personality, if the art-form is to draw a fairly large public able to assimilate at least some of the vital elements contained in the seed-form.

In this sense, an element of the magical will to transformation is inherent in all great art-forms. This element can use the personal desire for esthetic enjoyment and relaxation as a means to induce a lifting up of consciousness to a realm transcending the cultural and the personal. It is unfortunately an element which usually escapes the professional attention of either the art-critic in the esthetic field, or the moralist in the realm of religion and even more, secular ethics. The critic and the moralist have, as their official and culturally sanctified business, the task of analyzing the forms of art and of a person's feelings and behavior, then of passing judgment on their cultural or ethical value. Thus we hear critical pronouncements on whether a painting is or is not great art, or a performance is good or bad.

The art-critic dissects forms with the scalpel of an esthetically sharp mentality trained in the officialdom of universities, art-schools, or music conservatories. He or she vivisects performances, being always eager to catch or to miss the pulsation of a throbbing heart under the superficialities of finger dexterity. The moralist does the same with the life-performance and implied motives of human beings. He turns biographer and judges when dealing with famous personages. And all this is for the sake and the greater glory of the culture, of whose values and paradigms these critics and moralists assume themselves to be the custodians, or else, in periods of cultural disintegration, the scavengers.

Yet the deeper issue is never whether a form or a performance is good or bad, great or indifferent, but whether it does what it is meant to do at a particular stage of a culture's development and of mankind's evolution.

Magical forms have value if they can be used effectively to release the power necessary for the achievement of a valid creative or transforming biopsychic or spiritual purpose. Classical forms have value if they impress and inform the people who will perceive and experience them with the character of the culture which it is their task to make fully objective and to glorify. In Romantic periods, a work of art is significant and valuable if, by pouring his inner vitality and soul-passion into its form and its performance, the creative person becomes an exemplar or hero stimulating lesser human beings to catch fire and live more intensely as individualized and vibrant personalities always ready for self-transformation. And there are autumnal moments in a culture when a cathartic type of art is meant either to force upon the people who can stand its tragic implications the realization that the culture-whole is nearing its crisis of death and potential rebirth, or to open the consciousness of a relatively few men and women to the presence and the subtle impact of transcendent forces that summon to radical self-transformation and spiritual transmutation those who are ready, and assist those who are willing and able.

Everything in its proper place and at its appointed time is valuable if it brings to the concrete focus of an adequate form the essential meaning of that place and that time. Form exists to make the creative will objectively manifest and to reveal meaning; thus it has a creative and an informative function. Any significant and truly valid form is functional. But the function of art changes, as do the needs of a culture and the human beings this culture has "in-formed" and made into its image and likeness. Magical art in its sacred aspect creates, transforms, heals, or destroys according to the need of the place and the time, or the individual will of the magician. Esthetic art informs, reveals, satisfies through the forms it procreates, as the artist unites his power with the essential need or the fashionable expectations of his potential public.

Yet the magical and the esthetic, the sacred and the profane, the divine ("eonic") consciousness embracing a whole cycle of existence in the immediacy of an illumined moment and the fleeting experience intensely lived within an everchanging social and biopsychic context—these and all similar dualities can be harmonized in the counterpoint of an all-inclusive mental activity in which significant forms are spontaneously created, maintained, illumined, and destroyed. This is the "dance of Shiva," the in-and-out breathing of Brahma. This is existence in its prodigality of modes of manifestation and it always implied yearning for nonmanifestation. The great artist at any particular time catches a brief moment of this cosmic play or drama; and, if he has the power to impart to power-releasing or revelatory forms what his mind has experienced and his feelings have resonated to, his work—anonymous or personalized—endures as a living symbol of the ever-present possibility of man's becoming a transcendent seed sown in the womb of the Earth to carry and transmit the messages of the Eon, the Creative Word.

1. One of the problems faced by the student of esoteric philosophy seeking to obtain a clear picture of the processes of existence and of what may transcend the concrete reality he experiences refers to the necessity of not confusing potentiality with actuality. The confusion is easily made because it derives from the most mysterious of all concepts, that of Time.

As stated erlier, whenever we think of a process time is necessarily implied, because a process refers to a series of successive phases, each of which demands a particular kind or mode of activity. Every phase of an organized process contains in potentiality the succeeding phases. The Mind that conceived and planned the entire process may nevertheless have, to some extent at least, "visualized" (an inadequate term) the whole process in one act of conscious "seeing." Thus, at the level of consciousness at which this visualization occurred the whole process, from alpha to omega, is there. But what does "is there" actually mean? It only refers to potentiality, not actuality. To say that it is confuses the issue.

Potentiality is neither "being" nor "not-being"; it is the relationship between them; or, in another sense, That which encompasses both, just as in Chinese philosophy Tao encompasses both Yin and Yang. For most living embodied human persons to say "I am a Soul" is a misstatement. He or she represents a corporified set of potentialities which, together with many other sets constitute the Soul. Only an Avatar can say "I am God" because it is God that, having become focused through his total organism, utters the words.

This is what I mean by the symbolic phrase "infinite Ocean of potentiality." If we try to imagine That out of which everything and every possible universe emerges we should only speak of an infinitude of possibilities, but if we believe that all such possibilities of existential forms will be actualized in an infinite multitude of universes, then mere "possibility" becomes "potentiality." What is only possible might not take place; but the word, potentiality, should refer to possibilities which sooner or later, in one section of infinite Space or another, must become actualized.

If we wish to personalize this infinitude of potentiality we can speak of Brahman or, to use Meister Eckart's term, the Godhead—the word God referring to the One Being out of whom an entire universe develops; yet during the life-span of that universe only one particular (even if immense) set of potentialities is to be actualized by the end of the cycle (the omega state). But such a personification places "above" the infinite Ocean of potentiality an actual Being whose nature is totally unconceivable once we try to forget the easy, too easy, analogy of an artist in whose mind the possibility of a cast number of works of art is contained which he may or may not actualize. The nature of such an absolutely supercosmic Being is unconceivable because he would exist with reference to nothing at all, and the idea of "being" with reference to nothing at all makes no human sense. Some may call it ineffable; others, absurd. Whoever tries to hold such an idea as a psychological compensation for too large a dose of rationality may nevertheless state, with St. Augustine, "Credo quia adsurdum" (I believe because it is absurd).

The concept of an infinitude of potentialities—which, in order to be actualized require an infinite amount of potential energy—is evidently not much more easily understood; but we can get a more visualizable picture of it if we think of a diffuse state of energy periodically reaching a condition of focused activity. Whatever it is that constitutes the ultimate Principle-Substance-Energy can be easily conceived in two alternating, yet also in a sense simultaneous, conditions: diffuseness and focused condensation. What is in a diffuse state of nonactivity "longs for" the focused condition of activity through a focusing Form. Mind then is the formative agency—whether it be the cosmogenetic divine Mind or the creative human mind.

This is what I call the cyclocosmic world-view. It is developed in some detail in The Planetarization of Consciousness and in a smaller volume The Rhythm of Human Fulfillment.  Return

2. What is meant here by "life-consciousness" is the central point at which the essential power exteriorized in all the members of a biological species meets and interacts with the collective response of all the cells and nerve-centers of the organism to any particular existential situation involving numerous stimuli and biological needs. The type of "knowing" involved in the magical operation has also been characterized as knowledge by identification. One can speak of identification if one deals with the level of consciousness; but at that of activity it is more accurate to think of attunement. One may imagine oneself as identical to any living organism; but the imagination needs the cooperation of the feelings in order to be effectual. In order really to feel one with another person, an animal or a tree, one's life-center has to put itself in a state of resonance to the life-center of the other organism. This is very difficult if that organism is enveloped in a protective covering of armor. Knowing magically the Name of the other being is like seeing naked a human being with whom one wants to establish a vital communication.

The relationship of naked being to naked being has recently been used in nudism and group psychotherapy. Each participant ritualistically and symbolically drops his or her psychological coverings, and is compelled to relate to the others in a totally deglamorized and deculturalized manner. Because sex-relations can dispense with and shed the intellectual coverings of the speech which the culture and the words of its language have built, such relations may serve highly significant psychological purposes. Yet they do so only if the partners are identified with each other as individual persons instead of becoming totally submerged by the stormy waves of biological compulsions. They should accept fearlessly the release of the life-energy, yet ride consciously over its waves as these beat upon the shores of their material bodies, using the power of life for metabiological ends.

A true clairvoyant, able to clearly perceive the play of changing colors and forms in the aura of a person, experiences a kind of knowing which has a magical character. The person facing him or her reveals his emotional and partially mental nature as if devoid of all psychological and intellectual coverings. In another sense, which theoretically should reach much deeper, an astrological birth-chart should reveal to the astrologer the fundamental dharma (and karmic background) of the person. The exactly calculated birth-chart represents the celestial Name of an individual. It reveals to some extent the individual's character and destiny—and deeper still, what he or she is meant to accomplish as a focusing agent for the fulfillment of a particular need of the whole universe in terms of the particular moment and place of the first breath—the original act of relationship linking the newborn and the cosmos.  Return

3. In his book Eskimo (University of Toronto Press 1959) Edmund Carpenter, a Canadian anthropologist, deals most significantly with the approach of Eskimos, who do beautiful ivory carvings, toward the fashioning of their sculptures and in general toward all relationships. The following paragraph is particularly revealing:

They enter into an experience, not as an observer but as a participant. The artist participates in seal-ness, becomes one with the seal, and thus finds it easy to portray, for he is now, himself, Seal. As the carver holds the unworked ivory lightly in his hand, turning it this way and that, he whispers, "Who are you? Who hides there?" and then: "Oh, Seal!" He rarely sets out, at least consciously, to carve, say, a seal, but picks up the ivory, examines it to find its hidden form and, if that's not immediately apparent, carves aimlessly until he sees it. Then he brings it out: Seal, hidden, emerges. It was always there: he didn't create it; he released it; he helped it step forth. He has no real equivalents to our word create or make, which presuppose imposition of the self on matter. The closest term means to work on, which also involves an act of will, but one which is restrained. The carver never attempts to force the ivory into uncharacteristic forms, but responds to the material as it tries to be itself, and thus the carving is continuously modified as the ivory has its say. It is their attitude not only toward ivory, but toward all things, especially people: parent toward child, husband toward wife. Where we think of art as possession, and possession to us means control, to do with as we like, art to them is a transitory act, a relationship.  Return

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