Spiritual Uses of the Capacity for Artistic Creation
The spiritual purpose in the field of art embraces and fulfils all other purposes of life.
Art can be approached for this threefold aim:
one: for the dynamic spiritual disciplines involved in the pursuit and creation of art, disciplines that prepare and render pure, luminous and sensitive the various higher faculties in us.
two: for the fullness of spiritual experience it can yield.
three: for the expression of that experience and its many results.
The concentrated effort and other disciplines of consciousness implied in painting a picture, sculpturing a form, writing a masterpiece, are in their nature a distinctive type of spiritual activity. Instances are not lacking of great artists who have sought, through such activity, an experience of God. And art, as a valuable and very effective instrument for the popularisation of spiritual vision, ideals, and truths, cannot be overestimated.
The Source of Artistic Activity
All creative activity proceeds from conditions of high inspiration, from states of exaltation, from fiery reason, or flaming emotion, or blazing thought, or blindening vision, or from overwhelming experience, or anything that profoundly affects our consciousness, or moves our being to the depths.
Lacking the essentials for exalting their being into states of inner enthusiasm, perception, fire and force of consciousness, the artists of average talents generally resort to all kinds of wrong stimuli, to smoke or drinks, to narcotics and sensuous excitement. Thus, they work their way into abnormal mental states, and mistake them for genuine conditions of inspiration.
However, there have been, are, and will always be, some artists who owe their states of creative consciousness to the purity, serenity, and tranquillity of their inner nature. They have no need for any external stimuli. Having arrived at higher stages of evolution, they find inspiration is a normal state of their mind. Great illuminations rise in them as naturally as thoughts rise in a normal individual. They dwell in intuitive planes of consciousness as effortlessly as do the normal individuals in planes of instinctive experience.
Moral purity, single-hearted devotion to great truths and values, love of God, have always been the most natural and the greatest sources of artistic, aesthetic, creative and spiritual activity. Nothing has contributed to the world's enduring and classical art so much as religious vision and spiritual experience.
Purpose of Art
What are the sentiments, feelings and thoughts aroused in us, when we are brought face to face with the flourish of Beauty and Grandeur in Nature? Similar is the impact on us of the works of art we behold and contemplate. They cause in us new perspectives. They awaken in us feelings that purify our subjective nature, and thoughts that illuminate our conscious existence. They pour into the structure of our life a new significance, a new richness and a new purpose.
Through the centuries, in the fields of art, there have always been currents and counter-currents of opinion and view, progressions and regressions in standards. Some had pleaded the cause of art for pleasure. Some assigned to art the goal of expressing beauty. There were those who demanded of it special tasks. A few groups had set afloat the idea of art for education, and others advocated art for art's sake.
We are familiar with the uses of art as a powerful medium for the creative self-expression of the human consciousness.
Aristotle, and many after him, have required of art a catharsis of our nature, a purification of our being.
Art for the purpose of God-experience had, in the world-culture, dominated at least the Indian genius.
An independent and critical examination of the aims of art, and a deeper grasp of the full implications and phenomena of art for God-experience, will disclose to us that art undertaken with a view to unfolding the various excellences of the divine Consciousness within us, - for the experience of the ultimate Ground of all existence, beauty, goodness, perfection, delight, - fully fulfils and transcends all aims and ideals of art.
The pursuit of art for the development of spiritual consciousness within us, includes and exceeds art for pleasure, for art's own sake, for beauty, for creative self-expression, and so on.
Like all things, art also can be debased by the human hands, and made to pander to the passions of men, to purvey pleasure to the senses of the individuals whose splendour is imprisoned beneath the enervating sensations. Art ceases to be art, when its Soul is not discerned and understood, and the dignity of its functions not respected. Aesthetic enjoyment, as men understand it in its limited sense, cannot constitute the sole aim of art. The primary function of any real art consists in its capacity to extend human vision, purify human perception, elevate human consciousness, intensify human sensibilities, and illuminate the whole life with the Light of the divine Beauty, Harmony, Peace, Joy, that dwells in the Timeless Reality resident in time-processes.