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Art Is Love

Avatar Adi Da Samraj's Wisdom on Art

May 5, 2001

 

Only that which is loved is beautiful. . . . The necessary essence of art is Love. . . . Love must be the mother of the arts, not architecture, not structure, not function. True art always involves the observer in the participatory gesture of being, or what we call love.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj

 



Avatar Adi Da Samraj
Many of the purposes of art have been lost. The arts, traditionally, were not a means of self-expression. All the arts were forms of ritual, or service to the community. There were dancers, painters, singers, sculptors, people who would recite, people who wrote stories, but they didnít do these things merely to express themselves. They did them because all the arts were presumed to have a function within the community. An individual would study to become proficient in any one of the arts, if he or she had the talent for it, and the talent was proven. Then that person could go on and spend his or her life doing this kind of work.

In general, the community in which an individual lived had a formula, a consideration, an idol, a history. It had a spectrum in which a person could operate as an artist. What a person was to do ó letís say, for instance, as a painter ó was pre-established, including the techniques to be used and the images to be created. Therefore, the individual had to transcend himself or herself to learn the art.

He or she would submit to a master ó not a Spiritual Master necessarily, but generally a master of the craft ó and would be schooled in the ďcultĒ of the art. The artist would learn the tradition, the limits, the techniques, and the purposes of art in that culture. By submitting to this demand of the culture in general, the individual transcended his or her own self-possessed motivation. The apprentice was not permitted to paint or to sing or to play an instrument until the master could profess to the community that the individual had prepared to the degree that he or she could now serve the community. Not only had the artist learned all the techniques, not only did he or she know how to awaken in others the imagery to which that culture was devoted, but the individual had mastered self in the process, had become responsible for himself or herself.

As one looks through time, however, the arts cease to have a cultural purpose that is acknowledged to be necessary. They become mere entertainments.They become a way of expressing oneís self, oneís contents. From this point of view, thereís no culture, no center, no society, no necessity to what the artist does. He or she communicates the failure of the social order, the failure of the demands within an art to represent an obligation to transcend oneís self, to master oneís self, and to provide something within the social order that is valued by others, that has intrinsic value ó fundamental value thatís not just decoration, but thatís part of the sacred purpose of the community.

We exist in a time when thereís no cultural necessity to the arts. Theyíre secondary to daily life. The arts donít have any necessity in the social order.

Art was originally a sacred activity, generated within a sacred culture.

But even apart from those aspects of a culture that one might specifically call sacred, thereís another fundamental subject of art, which is beauty ó to portray it, to represent it, to present something that is in fact beautiful or found to be beautiful by people.

But the sense of what is actually beautiful has also been lost.

The idea of what is beautiful has been reduced to something about the appearance of some one or some thing. Much of contemporary art is basically an effort to construct something based on some system. If the purpose is to make something beautiful, itís a matter of creating some object or performance thatís consistent and consistently applies some principles, perhaps even achieves some sort of balance between various forms or elements. In other words, the notion of what is beautiful has been reduced to the structure of something, or its appearance.

Itís commonly said that architecture is the mother of the arts. This suggests that structure is the basis of anything that can be called art. But the beautiful is certainly a fundamental subject of the arts.

Even where something apparently ugly was represented traditionally, even that object or performance was somehow mysteriously associated with the feeling of the beautiful.

What is something beautiful then? What is a beautiful subject?

Only that which is loved is beautiful.

No form, however comely, however it may conform to some system of structure, is truly beautiful, if itís not also loved.

The traditional subjects of the arts ó of the representational arts for instance, like sculpture or painting ó were beings: gods or spiritual figures, personages commonly known in the society in which the art was produced. Or they were images of the world, perhaps, in the case of Nature paintings. But the subject was something, generally, for which any viewer could feel love. When Nature became a subject of art, it was on the basis of feeling God in Nature, loving Nature, not just seeing trees and sky and mountains.



Avatar Adi Da Samraj


The necessary essence of art is Love.

Art depends on the ability of the viewers of any object or performance to feel love relative to the process or object that is presented to them. The work of art must in some way or other generate this feeling, this attitude, this gesture ó even if it is something as seemingly simple as a finely made pot. It must evoke somehow this participatory feeling. If it frustrates it, or doesnít allow it, or doesnít even try to invoke it, then itís not really art.

True art invites participation, and itís part of a cultural exercise. All art originally came out of the temple, or the religious culture, the sacred culture of the past. The art was used. There are high forms of art that were used within the ceremonial practices of various societies, past and present. There were other objects that were utilitarian, but were, like pots, designed in such a way that they created continuity between the temple life, or the ceremonial life, and daily life. Individuals in these cultures were expected to constantly participate in the Divine Process. Even objects in daily use were designed to create that continuity. Theyíre what we call crafts, even though theyíre very beautiful. They were considered high art if they had this ceremonial purpose, if they were part of the sacred participation of everyone who would gather on certain occasions.

But much of the art of the last several centuries has been moving in a totally different direction, not in the direction of participation, but in the direction of abstract viewing, ownership, and egoic indulgence. A lot of modern art is part of the ego-based consciousness of secular society.

If you examine the last hundred years or so, youíll see that thereís a lot of anti-art. Much of it is self-consciously trying to be anti-art, non-art, or trying to violate structural principles, or abandon structural principles that were considered necessary before.

From this point of view, to be doing art means to simply be doing it somehow differently, to be inventive in a different way than people felt obliged to be before. The process has become largely one of dealing with structure, being inventive with structures of one kind or another, in all kinds of ways, using some system for making these constructs, or using no system at all, or creating something thatís opposed to a standard system.

This obsessive involvement with inventiveness relative to structure is not the essence of art, but it has become, in general, the primary preoccupation of modern art. The characteristic of modern art is that itís specifically nonreligious. Most artists are not spiritually oriented, and their art is not a spiritual practice.

Even in those cases where modern art may achieve a form thatís comely or conforms to a system, even where it creates some sort of balanced presentation that conforms to some degree to some previous academic system of how forms are supposed to be generated, even if it fulfills those expectations or rules, itís not true art if it doesnít evoke or invoke this participation on the part of viewers ó if itís not associated directly with love.

I would say that love must be the mother of the arts, not architecture, not structure, not function. True art always involves the observer in the participatory gesture of being, or what we call love.

If art frustrates the participatory gesture, or even avoids that entirely, it degrades the viewer. It calls for non-participation.

Much of modern art frustrates all possible participation, often even intentionally. Or itís reduced to a functional performance, inventiveness relative to structure somehow.This is not sufficient for true art.

She Portrait, 2
She Portrait, 2
Avatar Adi Da Samraj

True art heals. True art restores equanimity. Art must regenerate the sense of well-being. Thatís its true purpose. When art is really useful, itís devoted to that purpose, not limited to a specific system. But whichever system is used, it must serve this ultimate process of healing, well-being, higher sympathy, and spiritual awakening.

In the twentieth century, thereís a lot of experimentation going on with artistic media ó along the lines of science, actually ó devoted to the mere plastic manipulation of media, just as science tends to devote individuals to the plastic manipulation of themselves as elemental beings. It doesnít allow those higher aspects of existence, which are acknowledged in the sacred culture.

Where the sacred culture is lost, and the materialistic culture replaces it, then even the arts ó which ultimately, or traditionally, had a sacred purpose ó get reduced to the same vision. This materialistic vision has possessed the arts. Art has been reduced to plastic experimentation and the introduction of the orientation of arbitrariness. What comes out of that is dissonance, or the loss of equanimity. If you can see this, then it purifies you, perhaps, and awakens you to be devoted to great purpose.

That sacred purpose and orientation of humankind has gradually been lost during the last several centuries, as we have entered the age of technology and materialistic scientism.

So even the arts exhibit this loss of the sacred. First, you lose religion, and then the arts become degraded. We moved from the classic era into the romantic era into the plastic era, and weíre in this plastic era now. All the fields of human endeavor are basically devoted at the present time to the mood of scientific materialism, and the apparent creativity of the sheerly plastic arts of human existence.

Truly, the artist is a sacred performer. The true artist must be this. He or she must do that magic act that causes others to participate in manifest reality in the sacred sense, or the sense of love, in the sense of self-transcendence, of ecstasy.

When the culture and politics of human beings are harmonious, when they involve sacred association, then the true artist appears.And he or she must go through a trial, an ordeal of learning and transcending self, locating the mysterious creative process that transcends his or her own egoity.

When the artist has done this, then his or her performance, or whatever he or she makes, becomes valuable to others. The artist is not whatís valuable, although he or she may be honored. Itís his or her work thatís valuable. Often, true artists didnít even leave signatures, or identify themselves along with what they created.

True art is a sacred performance, an act of love. And sacred performance can only occur in a sacred setting, a sacred culture, a sacred society. Ultimately, the artist must associate people with the sacred, must invoke in them that capacity to participate in reality thatís about self-transcendence, love, Divine Communion.

This loss of the ability to use art, true art, is one of the regrettable aspects of modern civilization. Itís part of the whole development of materialistic thinking.

Even in a society thatís relatively secularized, the beautiful, at least, must be fundamental to art. And a society thatís complete in the cultural sense adds to the beautiful the sacred dimension, the spiritual dimension.

Where the sacred is absent, then the best art can do is meditate on the beautiful and bring people to feel that. But there is nothing beautiful without love.

So much of modern art is just design. Again, the reference to architecture is significant. Design is certainly an aspect of art, whatever art form is involved, but itís not the end phenomenon. Itís not the essential principle. Itís only part of the craft of art.

An artist must learn his or her craft and then must be able to do that mysterious something that connects the viewer with the Divine Reality, or the Numinous Reality, the spiritual feeling associated with loving, and with experiencing feelings that go beyond the contracted state of life ó as you do when youíre in love with someone.

from Quandra Loka Suite
from Quandra Loka Suite
Avatar Adi Da Samraj

Someone you love is beautiful, whatever his or her physical attributes. Itís the love that makes the person beautiful. Itís only because you love that you can truly feel this.

Someone is beautiful whom you love, but there is also an extraordinary beauty potential in the love-relationship. Itís about human beings transformed by loving and being loved, not only in terms of their human relatedness, but also in terms of their spiritual participation.

So beings who love one another, and who are in love, and who love, whose life practice is that of love, live in Divine Communion.

Thereís no great art without the sacred. Thereís no true art without the beautiful. For there to be the sacred, there must be the ability to participate spiritually in Reality, beyond self. Great art must be associated with the Divine. And for something to be beautiful, there must be love. And for this, there must be a culture of love, because all art objects are somehow generalized for everyone to observe. The subject must be, somehow or other, something that anyone, in general, could love.

Without the ability of an art form to evoke the feeling of love in you, you cannot find it to be beautiful.

True art should permit and invite self-transcendence. True art is not merely the product of a hero or a heroine who is able to transcend himself or herself and create something which is then to be passively admired by others.

Participation in an art form should be a great exercise that enables you to transcend yourself. True art has a purpose for others, not merely a purpose for the artist.

Participation in an art form should be at least as great an occupation as the creation of an art form.

You must be able to participate in Reality, participate in the Divine, participate in the Sacred.

You should dance. You should sing. You should become ecstatic. You should go beyond your self. Participate in art. Donít just look at it. Donít just see that itís there. Donít just know that itís there.

Art should change you.

Thatís the whole purpose of it.


 
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