In this world where we are so immersed in trivia and in concepts and ideas that are materialistic and do not provide any food for our Spiritual Nature, art in its many forms helps to provide the sustenance needed for so many. Ideologies that suppress art or try to channel artists energies into what they regard as more ‘useful’ occupations are actually stifling true creativity and creating a soulless society in which all that matters is the upkeep of the merely physical self, which leads nowhere in the final analysis.
This raising of consciousness is true also of poetry, literature and music. Who does not feel one’s whole being elevated by the sight of a great painting or reading a wonderful poem, novel or essay, or listening to beautiful music of whatever kind?
The Heart is said to be the Spiritual centre of our being. Not the physical heart, but the chakra connected with that area of our being. So, to stimulate this centre helps us to awaken to our true Self.
Of course not all art does this, there are many levels to our being that can be affected from the highest to the lowest. Eventually we go beyond the sensual world and enter that of ‘no form’, but until then there are many stages. According to Theosophical teaching the sixth level of the astral is the plane “whence come all beautiful inspirations of art, poetry and music; high types of dreams, flashes of genius.” (Inner Group Teachings -HP Blavatsky). This can be correlated with the principle of Buddhi in the human constitution or our intuitive nature, the vehicle of pure Spirit.
As a ‘tree is known by its fruits’ so we can be aware of what type of art, music or poetry etc., resonates with the higher aspects of our nature and stimulates our Higher Self. Beauty is on many levels, according to the consciousness of the individual, at any given time or maybe for the whole of that person’s life. In general, someone’s consciousness is rather up and down, depending upon one’s circumstances at the time. Plato states that only lovers are aware of true Beauty. He was not meaning love in a sentimental or sensual way, but those whose love is directed towards the Divinity within and towards their fellow creatures.
It is also a fact that most great artists, poets and musicians did not have particularly happy lives in the traditional sense. This is why perhaps they had to retreat into their inner sanctuary to find the inspiration and beauty that shines forth in their works. Esoteric teaching states that we learn more from suffering than we do from a comfortable life. People who are happy in their existence rarely feel the need to express themselves in an artistic way and if they do the products are rarely great. Of course this is a generalisation and there will be many exceptions to the ‘rule’ on both sides! Someone creative in an abject condition needs to find some outlet, and that usually comes from within.
It is a way of seeing the world in a much different way than we are obliged to see it through our materialistic education and orthodox religious views. Of course society at the moment attempts to fit everyone into its narrow grooves and exiles any mention of Spirituality. Art is often ‘inspired’ by this attitude, as is poetry, music and literature. In this case it does little more than anchor us to the lower planes of our being and does not open that portal that leads into the beautiful pure air of a better world. True art stimulates the imagination, so often stifled by trivial entertainment and the rush to accrue more baubles in the busy marketplace of the world. It can give us glimpses into a Golden Age where the Good the True and the Beautiful are predominant and the Law of Love takes the place of the Law of Violence.
In this case seeds are planted and people are able to become aware that there is a better way to live, to think and to be. If one’s heart is open, then to gaze at a wonderful painting awakens one to infinite possibilities of being, frees the mind from the limitations that orthodox society imposes upon us, and at least for a while helps us to meditate on what truly matters in this crazy world. Our old friend Wikipedia describes art very well when it says:
“Art is a diverse range of human activities involving the creation of visual, auditory or performing artefacts, (artworks) which express the creator’s imagination, creative ideas or technical skill, intended to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. “
Emotion is on many different levels from the lowest to the highest, which is the “inexpressible yearning of the inner man to go out towards the infinite” as the Theosophical definition of meditation puts it.
Beauty also has many levels extending from the beauty one may see in form to the Beauty that one feels within. Plato states that:
“The contemplation of beauty causes the soul to grow wings…. For he who would proceed aright… should begin in youth to visit beautiful forms… out of that he should create fair thoughts; and soon he will of himself perceive that the beauty of one form is akin to the beauty of another, and that beauty in every form is one and the same.
So, in art in its many forms we have the gateway into our secret garden, where flowers of love and beauty grow in profusion and where we can find that peace and freedom that society tries so hard to deny us; and that gateway is through the heart.