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stephen linsteadt

numinous, stephen linsteadt

The Numinous in Art

There is a new movement in art. Some call it Spiritual Art. Most are afraid to be trivialized by referring to their work as spiritual. It's not really ‘new’ as the notion of art pointing to the spiritual (numinosum) is as old as art itself. In more modern times one can understand this through the work and writings of Kandinsky. His ‘point forms’ bring us back to that unfamiliar place that is beyond ourselves, beyond ego, beyond concepts. It is a place of experiencing the ineffable, almost mystical state of pure creativity – the source of the creative spirit.

It’s the created experiencing only a reflection of that which creates - The Source. It’s the one who was created reuniting with the one doing the creating. Our egocentric tendency is to emulate the creator by fancying our own concepts and ideas as unique, important, worthy of the mass’s adoration. But all we have done is further alienated ourselves, separated ourselves, removed ourselves from the source that gives us life in the first place. But the ego doesn’t care as long as it receives recognition, status, and honor as being a great artist. Then we have to keep outdoing ourselves. We have to perpetuate the joke. And this is made easier by the galleries and museums that have colluded in the perpetuation of the joke. But it can’t last. The post-modernists eventually wear even themselves out and the public wearies of the banal being made into something they all know instinctively it is not. And they begin to search for more meaning, more depth, more purpose and ultimately more inspiration.

The modernists were an inevitable evolution from the classical approach and provided ultimate freedom in expression. And for the most part the purity and rawness of that expression rode on the wave of the creative spirit. It was still larger than they were - larger than the individual, beyond concepts, beyond the grasp of understanding fully. It is more of a feeling, an inspiration. And now that the post-modernists have driven it all into the ground a neo-modernist movement can build on the ashes of the postmodernists to reach even greater heights of creativity. The post-modernists were as inevitable as the modernists. Just as new life emerges from the death and decay of old life, they have given new artists new materials and new technology that can be used for a new vision (a timeless vision only re-explored).

The 20th century also brought us a new scientific understanding of the nature of our reality. Quantum physics has shown us that there is nothing here except energy – vibrating strings of energy at the foundation of all sub-atomic particles that make up this holographic universe. There is nothing here except the vibration of that creative spirit that is the originator and the cause of the vibration. We are not here. There is no part of this vibratory illusion that we can point to and say, “ that is me”. What part of our physical body is us? We are made of trillions of trillions of cells, who are made up of countless molecules from countless more atomic and sub-atomic particles that are not really particles but vibrating strings of energy dancing to the tune of the creative spirit. At this level we are back to the nothingness of this non-reality.

The searcher of Truth must start at this place of nothingness. It is nothingness we are seeking if we want to realize the truth of our true nature. What we see with our physical eyes is only a deception perpetuated by our mind through the senses. The fabric of our day-to-day perceptions is the veil that separates us from the Truth like a dreamer asleep in one city dreaming he is awake in another city. While in that other city the dreamer is not aware that he is asleep somewhere else. That reality is lost to him. We are kept occupied in our dreams with visions, experiences, and interactions with other dreamers. The objects of the dream captures our attention, our awareness and so act like prison bars keeping us forever behind the veil of our wakeful reality. Yet there is a thread of awareness, though sub-conscious, that remains linked to our sleeping self in that far away city.

There is a sense that remains that our dream state is not totally real. But as long as we give our attention to the things and events of our dream we remain asleep. It is not until we lose focus, when we lose interest in the dream do we move on to another dream. Perhaps we move on to another dream-city. That point of nothingness between one dream and another is our opportunity to turn our attention back to the origin of our awareness and that leads us back to an awakening to our true selves. It is in the stillness of the senses and the mind that we see glimpses of our true selves.

The activity of painting can bring about a similar state and bring one closer to experiencing a higher state of consciousness. If one can fully evacuate the egocentric mind chatter of false cleverness and surrender all thought to the nothingness of all there is then a glimpse behind the veil is possible. When our awareness is focussed on the physical, the material, on hopes and aspirations these mental concepts create a veil between ourselves and our true spiritual reality. There is in all of us a latent desire to merge back into the creator - the created wanting completeness in the creator. It is the drop seeking union with the ocean.

True masterpieces in art, music, film, literature, etc. all point to the spiritual. They tap us on the shoulder to remind us that we are asleep. And deep down we all know that we’re asleep. Which is why deep down we all recognize the masterpiece as a masterpiece. Masterpieces are all around us. They are not always in the museums. Museums barely recognize them anymore. Masterpieces are not jumbled words pretending to be a poem, scratched out noise pretending to be music, or fecal matter on the museum floor pretending to be fine art. It’s when the craftsman has first mastered his trade and secondly has the right combination of words, notes or paint to unlock even a small gateway to the secrets of the spirit do we find the masterpiece. This is what the ancient philosophers referred to as aesthetics. And we all know it when we see it, read it, hear it or just feel it.

Spirituality in art, then, is perhaps more about the journey of consciousness. The resulting image may be a numinosum, that which points to the spiritual. Or, it may be a personal exercise of awareness. Maybe it can be both. It’s all a question of where we place our attention.

The work is about removing the veil of this physical reality in order to experience our true selves.

 Copyright © 2007 Stephen Linsteadt. All rights reserved.