The Evolution of Art
PETER: Do you agree with Keats that 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever', or that 'Truth is beauty, beauty ... truth'?
GRAHAM: No, I don't! And neither do I agree with his near contemporary, Goethe, who said: 'The eternal feminine draws us up'.
PETER: Oh and why is that?
GRAHAM: Because the feminine aspect of life is merely a temporal affair and, except in the erotic sense that Goethe probably intended, only serves to draw us down towards the beastly rather than up ... towards the godly. When one makes love to a woman one is in the feminine world, which is inherently sensual, and consequently turning one's back on the world of spiritual striving. One's responsibilities there are feminine and, hence, negative, not masculine and positive. Baudelaire defines the situation well when he says: 'Love greatly resembles an application of torture or a surgical operation', and, later, when he goes on to record: 'There are in every man, always, two simultaneous allegiances, one to God, the other to Satan', and proceeds to define the latter as a 'delight in descent' involving, amongst other things, woman, he directly refutes the aforementioned maxim of Goethe - at least as it may apply to moral standards!
PETER: Which is, I suppose, only to be expected, since Baudelaire was an ascetic Catholic and not, like Goethe, a hedonistic Protestant. But, really, I asked you a question about Keats and still haven't received an enlightening answer.
GRAHAM: I told you that I didn't agree with Keats' lines, and my reasons for saying so are similar to my reasons for not agreeing with Goethe's oft-quoted line - namely that, like the feminine, beauty isn't eternal, and therefore is incapable of being 'a joy forever'. You see, beauty appertains to appearance, an attribute which is quantitative and, hence, temporal. Truth, on the other hand, appertains to essence, an attribute which is qualitative and, hence, eternal. To write: 'Truth is beauty, beauty truth', like Keats, is to write nonsense from any higher or objective point-of-view, seeing that essence and appearance are forever antithetical, and therefore incapable of being reconciled. The beauty of a beautiful woman is apparent, whereas the truth of a truthful man is essential, and never can the two attributes be harmonized, let alone become equal. For whereas the former leads down to sensuality the latter leads up to the spirit. Only a dualist could confound them and strive, no matter how self-deceptively, to reconcile the two in one equation. Yet as Baudelaire said somewhere else: 'The more a man cultivates the arts, the less he fornicates. A more and more apparent cleavage occurs between the spirit and the brute'.
PETER: Doubtless that is true within certain limits. But surely it also contains a contradiction, since the arts are more often apparent than essential, and thus more aligned with beauty than with truth?
GRAHAM: Traditionally, and on the lowest artistic levels, that may well be the case. But the highest art, especially during the last century or so, is primarily concerned with truth, not beauty. The criteria of artistic excellence have changed, in accordance with the dictates of evolutionary progress away from the natural, material world towards a supernatural, or spiritual, one. To be concerned overmuch with beauty, in this day and age, would hardly help to place one's work in the vanguard of artistic progress. Rather, one would be producing anachronisms, only fit for the most popular or old-fashioned appreciation.
PETER: But the fact nevertheless remains that art is largely apparent, if only because it stands outside the self and obliges one to contemplate it from a distance.
GRAHAM: Ah, if you are specifically alluding to the art of painting, then that is undoubtedly true! But, you see, modern art utilizes appearance in the service of essence to the extent that appearance can be so utilized. Of course, one is going to be at cross-purposes to some extent, and this is an unfortunate limitation of art as we currently understand the term. For no matter how much the artist may strive to convey truth as opposed to beauty in his work, appearance inevitably remains tied to the sensual, temporal, material world.
PETER: Then what is the point of the artist's working at cross-purposes with himself if the end-product is going to fall short of perfection, as defined in terms of the essential?
GRAHAM: The point is not to attain to perfection, as just defined, but to intimate of it, no matter how crudely, by utilizing apparent means. Improvements from the spiritual point-of-view on the physical constituents of art are always possible and continue to be made, whilst its content can likewise be improved upon through increased abstraction. Where painters were once dependent on heavy frames and thick canvases, not to mention stodgy oils, they now have access to much lighter frames - assuming frames are used at all - and thinner canvases on which less materialistic pigments, like acrylic, can be applied. On the content side of artistic improvements we find a progression from, say, the religiously pictorial paintings of Tintoretto and Rubens to the completely abstract paintings of Mondrian and Ben Nicholson via the bare interiors of Protestant churches, as revealed by de Witte and Saenredam. Thus, in the material context, we find that the materials used in modern paintings are, on the whole, less materialistic than those used in the paintings of earlier centuries, whilst, in the spiritual context, we find that the subject-matter of the best contemporary works is far less apparent than with paintings at any previous time, and therefore signifies a closer approximation to essence. An abstract painting may not constitute essence, or spirit, but it is at least a superior symbol of essence than could have been attained from a representational or pictorial work of religious objectivity, as produced in earlier centuries.
PETER: But surely art conceived in terms of abstract painting must inevitably reach a dead-end, if what you say is true, with a maximum approximation to essence beyond which it cannot evolve.
GRAHAM: Oh, indeed! And, to all appearances, this is what has happened. Or, more accurately, painting has attained to its consummation in the pure abstractions of masters like Mondrian, Kandinsky, Nicholson, Klein, et al., beyond which no reasonable progress is possible. What began with Turner and the Impressionists in the nineteenth century has attained to completion in the twentieth. Indeed, whenever I look at an Impressionist painting these days, whether by Monet, Sisley, or Pissarro, I am conscious of looking at crude abstract art, at the beginnings of a process of spiritual development that was furthered and brought to perfection in the twentieth century. The Impressionists thus become for me somewhat primitive, I might even say too materialistic and apparent for comfort. I prefer the superior developments of Mondrian, Nicholson, et al.
PETER: Then, assuming these developments have attained to a climax now, it would seem that art has got very little left to do and is essentially a thing of the past.
GRAHAM: When conceived solely in painterly terms I agree that that must undoubtedly be so. But to imagine that art ends with painting would be to underestimate its evolutionary capabilities, since moving from the canvas to the air or electric-light bulb is as inevitable a progression as was the one which led from the cave or wall to the canvas. Like biological evolution, which takes the form of successive transmutations of species, art also changes its constitution in the interests of both survival and aesthetic improvements, with the latter consideration dominating the former in this day and age. Thus light art, as reflected in fluorescent tubing and various types of light bulbs, becomes the successor to painting ... as a better means of approximating appearance to essence. An abstract arrangement of slender neon tubing provides a superior spectacle to abstract painting ... to the extent that it conforms to a less materialistic context, both as regards content and materials. The slender transparent plastic tubing is less materialistic than a canvas, with or without frame, and the light, created by electricity, is likewise less materialistic than the pigments utilized in the creation of paintings, which congeal into hard layers of paint capable of being touched. But you can't touch electric or neon light, since it is an impalpable medium diffused throughout the tubing by the process of molecular action on chemicals. In the case, for example, of fluorescent lighting, it is the electron bombardment of phosphor that produces the impalpable glow. Thus light art is far better suited for an approximation to essence than painting, and has accordingly superseded painting in this respect.
PETER: But isn't light art a kind of sculpture rather than successor to painting?
GRAHAM: Doubtless some
of the more cumbersome light works, involving bulbs and tubes, can be regarded
as a kind of modern sculpture. But I
incline to regard most light works as a step beyond painting, rather than as a new
manifestation of sculpture. And I do so
because, fundamentally, sculpture is a tactile art and must remain so ... if it
isn't to become transmuted into something else.
Modern sculpture, as produced, for instance, by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Archipenco, Arp, Brancusi, and Viani, remains fundamentally tactile, and especially is
this so with such outdoor works as are accessible to the public. A large bronze by
PETER: So, presumably, to contemplate sculpture instead of to touch it would be as absurd, in your view, as to touch paintings or light works instead of to contemplate them?
GRAHAM: I didn't say that, although I am in no doubt that, traditionally, sculpture should be touched as well as contemplated. If, however, we prefer to contemplate than to touch sculpture these days, that is simply a reflection of the spiritual bias of the age, which induces us to treat matter more spiritually, as it were, than our ancestors would have done, and so elevate sculpture to solely optical appreciation. Probably it would be bad form now for people to go about touching sculptures, particularly those housed in galleries, since the solidity experienced by their fingers would contradict the modern preference for spiritual or partly spiritual interpretations of matter, as upheld by contemporary science, and only serve to remind people that matter is still solid, after all. Doubtless they would be more willing to touch sculpture in Marxist-Leninist societies, which are materialist, than in quasi-transcendental ones, if you follow my drift.
PETER: Indeed, though whether they would be encouraged to do so is another matter! However, getting back to the subject of light art and assuming, for the sake of argument, that such art does indeed signify a step beyond painting rather than a new type of sculpture - how can it be improved upon if it is to intimate more closely of essence in the future, bearing in mind that it will always be tied to appearances no matter what happens?
GRAHAM: Well, what applies to painting applies no less to light art, so that the progressive reduction of its material side will constitute a mode of improvement, as, no doubt, will the progressive expansion of its spiritual, or abstract, side. Thus what is all the time happening on the macrocosmic plane of contracting suns and on the microcosmic plane of expanding spirit, is also happening in art, with regard to its changing constitution. The diabolic side of art is reduced in proportion that its divine side increases. Consequently, where light art is concerned, the next obvious evolutionary improvement will free light from the plastic tubing, or whatever its material envelope may happen to be, and place it in the air, in the sky, in space. So not only will light be free of the plastic tubing, it will simultaneously be free of the support wall or floor or stand on which the tubing rests. Now with this contraction of its material side will come an expansion of its spiritual side, as light is concentrated into purer and brighter globes, with the convergence towards one central point in space of the beams of numerous searchlights or equivalent powerful lighting apparatuses, like a convergence to Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point.
PETER: Thereby taking light art outdoors?
GRAHAM: Yes, although
there will also be scope for indoor light shows of a progressively more
transcendent order, which may involve the projection of kaleidoscopic colours
onto walls or ceilings. But the most
spectacular effects with light will be outdoors, and should come from laser
beams projected into space as an approximation of appearance to the ultimate
essence of pure spirit in the future transcendental Beyond. There have already been a number of
laser-light works on display in the West, particularly
PETER: Presumably not only with regard to the light-producing mechanism, but with regard to the appearance of light in the sky as well?
GRAHAM: Yes, undoubtedly. For essence, conceived transcendently, would not be phenomenal but noumenal and therefore totally beyond appearances. The Spiritual Globes that should issue from Superbeings, at the transformation point from the post-Human Millennium to the transcendental Beyond, could not be detected as visible presences looming large. For the spiritual world is necessarily invisible to the senses, since antithetical to what is sensual. Traditionally, we have realized and acknowledged this fact by conceiving of ghosts as impalpable, scarcely perceptible entities that float aloft like transparent clouds. Our egocentric status in the past did of course lead to ghosts being anthropomorphized, or given human form, as though the spirit was patterned on the entire physical body and stemmed in bodily form from the body with death! This, of course, isn't the case. For, in reality, it is only the most noble organ of the body, namely the brain, that truly produces spirit, and then only in its higher, or new-brain, part, which, translated into psychological terminology, we call the superconscious. It is from this new brain/superconscious symbiosis that, with transcendence, spirit will emerge as the climax to the post-Human Millennium, and it won't have human shape for the simple reason that - apart from the aforementioned absence of divine spirit from the body in general - the human body will have long before been superseded by the artificial supports and sustains of the Supermen and Superbeings respectively.
PETER: Then, presumably, ghosts were figments of the imagination and little else?
GRAHAM: Yes, though inevitable figments, given the evolutionary limitations of the age of religious objectivity, with its notion of man being made in God's image and the consequent fact that spirit was believed capable of surviving death and returning to its Maker. But these beliefs would now be incapable of standing up to logical, rational opposition, which is why they should be discarded, like a dead husk. If at death the spirit dies it is because the body, being mortal, has killed it off, snuffed out something that would have been capable of lasting for ever if only it had been given more adequate or long-term support. For spirit remains dependent on matter so long as it is insufficiently cultivated to manage without it, which is to say, until transcendence is achieved as the fruit of so much spiritual striving ... carried out in collective and extensively artificial contexts. But whether, depending on the age into which one was born, one's spirit is destined for immortality or not, the fact nevertheless remains that, being essence, spirit is aligned with truth and isn't therefore capable of being detected, like beauty, on the plane of phenomenal appearance. Consequently all attempts to depict transcendent spirit, whether by paint, electric light, laser beams, or whatever, are intrinsically contrary to the truth of spirit as noumenal essence, and can only be misleading from a strictly subjective standpoint. Even the Hindu conception of God as the Clear Light of the Void is fundamentally inadequate, since it presupposes appearance and consequently induces one to visualize, in the mind's eye, some clear light shining in the 'heavens', like a purer kind of star, perceptible to sight. Yet that isn't what the Omega Absolute would be, nor even the Spiritual Globes that will precede the ultimate unification of pure spirit. One could never know the Omega Absolute in the sense of perceiving it. One could only conceptually experience essence as pure spirit, which would be the condition of Heaven. Light art, however, will always remain partly tied to Hell, no matter how sincerely it is used to intimate of Heaven. For one will always see it, just as one can see the hell specific to our world if one looks up at the sky on a clear day.... Contrary to traditional belief, there is not one hell but literally billions of hells scattered throughout the Universe, which correspond to individual stars. Our star is therefore but one of millions of petty hells which revolve around the great star at the centre of the Galaxy - part of the overall pluralism of the Diabolic Alpha. Given the limitations of the ancients as regards the true extent and nature of the Universe, it is possible that the Creator was abstracted from the sun rather than from the central star of the Galaxy, which, then as now, would have been too remote to be seen. However, this is a debatable point, since it is well known that primitive societies have responded differently to the concept of a 'Creator', doubtless by abstracting from different cosmic sources. Thus if some of them, like the Aztecs, referred religion directly to the sun, others, like the Jews, abstracted from a something assumed to be the sun's creator - quite possibly the central star of the Galaxy. Hence when the sun is regarded as Creator, we get polytheism. For the other stars that can be glimpsed in the Galaxy or outside it are likewise regarded as gods. But when the sun is considered as merely a part of nature, and not its sole creator, we get monotheism, and can surmise that the religious sense appertaining to the Creator will be abstracted from the central star of the Galaxy, since that would probably be the star responsible, directly or indirectly, for the creation of such minor stars as the sun, and need not be known to mankind to be placed in a creative role. The important thing to remember, however, is that when we refer to 'the Creator' we are primarily referring to a creator of this world and, by implication, everything naturally in it, not to the Creator of the Universe. For the latter would have been created from an explosion of gases giving rise to the star clusters we now refer to as galaxies. Yet such a Creator, or First Cause, would have no relevance to man, and could not be prayed to as something that was believed to exist in the Universe. Only the stars exist there, and if it was the case that ancient man, with his cosmic myopia, abstracted the Creator either from the nearest star or the unglimpsed central star of the Galaxy, then there is no reason for us to attempt to equate it with all the stars. After all, the Lord's Prayer, beginning 'Our Father ...', suggests a relative rather than an absolute frame-of-reference, doesn't it? There is no reason for us to doubt that there are other 'Fathers' in the Universe, or that other peoples or whatever on other planets haven't likewise prayed to their specific 'Father', during the period of evolutionary time in their historical destinies when such a prayer was deemed relevant. For the post-dualistic civilization of the future, however, no such alpha-oriented prayer could possibly be relevant, since people would be exclusively concentrating their religious attention on the cultivation of spirit in an omega orientation, not referring back to a cosmic creator for assistance or forgiveness. Religion at that fortunate epoch in time, beyond the tyranny of priests and all those who would uphold alpha in the face of ongoing omega, would be purely subjective, not abstracted from the materialistic objectivity of the external cosmos in objective illusion. And art, you can rest assured, would be superior to what it had ever been in the dualistic and transitional civilizations of the contemporary West.
PETER: Although, presumably, it would still remain tied to appearance, and thus be no more than a crude intimation of essence?
GRAHAM: Yes, and that would apply to holography no less than to laser art, since holograms, as three-dimensional reproductions of objects projected into surrounding space through the use of mirrors, would still be apparent, if the nearest thing to the ghost of an object. A telephone, for instance, can be projected into surrounding space in this way, positioned no more than a few feet above the ground.
PETER: I have actually seen this done, and felt very tempted to put my hand through the holographic 'phone, in order to verify that it really was an illusionary projection and not a factual reality. But as other people were verifying that fact, I was content merely to gaze at it, charmed and intrigued by its pale-green luminosity.
GRAHAM: You behaved wisely! For holograms, being a form of light art, are primarily there to be seen rather than karate-chopped. Of course, they are novelties within the context of dualistic civilization, and so they will remain. But the next, wholly post-dualistic civilization will develop them to unprecedented heights and take a special pride in them, a pride commensurate, one might say, with the extremes of scientific subjectivity, in which a wavicle theory of matter will probably come to replace the compromise particle/wavicle theory of twentieth-century physics, and art forms seemingly reflecting this new theory duly be accorded a place of honour. Doubtless a hologram through which one can put one's hand will be more suited to the spiritual bias of transcendental man than an impervious object! And the translucence and gem-like lustre of the hologram will provide him with an aesthetic foretaste, as it were, of the still higher art of the Superman, which won't be external but internal.
PETER: To what, exactly, are you alluding here?
GRAHAM: The internal visionary experience induced by LSD, or some such hallucinogenic stimulant, which will constitute the highest possible use of appearance put to essential ends. For whereas the hologram, no matter how translucent or bright, still remains tied to the external world, with hallucinogens like LSD, however, art is brought into the internal one, into the lower reaches of the superconscious, where it is closer than ever before to essence. Here, in the spiritual landscape opened up by LSD, the Superman will apperceive the translucence and gem-like lustre of the utterly passive, crystal-clear contents of his visionary superconscious, the spiritual contents of the transcendent psyche.
PETER: You mean, he will be apperceiving a kind of internal hologram, or series of internal holograms?
GRAHAM: That is probably not very far from the truth! Although, in his case, there will be no holographic apparatus. And consequently 'art' will attain to its apotheosis in the maximum approximation of appearance to essence ... achieved through the complete internalization of the former. Every Superman will become an artist, the witness of his own psychic creations.
PETER: Like watching an internal television show?
GRAHAM: In a sense, though television programmes are usually negative, or active, whereas the visionary contents of the superconscious are purely positive and, hence, passive, like a hologram. What holography is to LSD experience, television is to dreams, which are always active. Watching television is rather like dreaming externally, dreaming, one might say, objectively instead of subjectively. Looking at holograms, on the other hand, is rather like tripping externally, tripping objectively instead of subjectively. A confusing distinction perhaps, because the external objective ends with material reality, whereas the internal subjective really begins with the spiritual reality of the superconscious. Thus dreams, which appertain to the subconscious, are ever objective, while the visionary contents of the superconscious are subjective, in accordance with internal reality. Dreams, you see, are rather like the idealistic abstractions from the external material world of religious objectivity. They distort and reinterpret external reality. The visionary contents of the superconscious, however, strive to illuminate internal reality, which is purely spiritual and, at its highest levels, completely beyond appearances. Beauty still clings to visionary experience, but it is a beauty through which the light of truth shines as an intimation of things or, rather, essences to come. Eventually, with the advent of the second phase of millennial salvation, the light of truth will eclipse the illuminated beauty of LSD visions, as the Supermen are transformed into the Superbeings of spiritual communality, the true and ultimate earthly communes in which new-brain clusters, artificially supported and sustained, will meditate their collective way towards transcendence and, hence, the heavenly Beyond. What LSD was to the Supermen, intensified meditation will be to the Superbeings - a meditation in which not appearance but essence will prevail, as the full-blown superconscious experiences the undiluted truth of post-visionary spirit. Here life will be completely beyond art. For no longer will the mind be in need of guidance towards the essential through the exploitation of progressively refined-upon-appearance. It will be in the essential, and accordingly almost at the long-awaited goal of spiritual striving. Almost! For the earthly paradise of Superbeings will be superseded by the transcendent paradise of Spiritual Globes, and they, in turn, will expand into one another in the heavenly Beyond, to form the ultimate paradise of the Omega Absolute. It is a curious fact that truth, oneness, pure spirit, and transcendence will not only be the attributes of ultimate divinity, they will also be the attributes of Spiritual Globes on route, as it were, to the Omega Absolute. They will even be the attributes, to a lesser extent, of the Superbeings. They won't be unknown to the Supermen. And neither will they be completely alien to transcendental man, who will glimpse them but faintly through the barrier of his human psyche. That is why, as a Transcendentalist, I speak to you of these matters in the hope that you, too, will find a place for them in your psyche.
PETER: Those words aren't wasted on my ears, for I am not deaf to truth, like so many people. But perhaps I shall become blinder to beauty than formerly, and therefore disinclined to agree with John Keats that 'Truth is beauty, beauty truth, that is all ye know and all ye need to know'? There's no beauty in his words for me now, and neither is there much truth. Like you, I have become deaf to illusion. I see and hear only truth.
GRAHAM: That is better. But it will be even better when the time comes for minds like yours to experience truth, and so escape from the senses. Until such time, let us be content to improve and refine upon art - of whichever kind.