View from The Edge


Today one focus in the frontier of science is the nature of consciousness, a recognition that the scientific study of substance alone does not explain why there is order, pattern, and meaning in nature. Some recent theories of consciousness offer an alternative to Newtonian thinking, proposing that consciousness and creative intelligence are primary attributes of all existence. A common denominator of much research since the 60s is a focus on deep explorations of the human psyche and its non-ordinary states of consciousness. All ancient and pre-industrial cultures have held non-ordinary states of consciousness to be a powerful means of connecting with sacred realities, healing, nature, and each other. Modern physics, biology, and other branches of science have confirmed that consciousness and matter are engaged in a constant interplay, showing new light on animistic religions which view all nature as alive.
I propose that art works represent the kinds of consciousness with which they are made, and this is the key to their significance. Art is suited to embody many kinds of ineffable, psychic experiences and states by means of the abilities of vision----its connection to the primal and its independence of language. Removing the obstacles between rational consciousness and altered states might involve light trance, dreams, deep trance, interweaving mental states, visions and emotions. At the frontiers of mental life are found primal sources of revelation, religion, humor and creativity. These states permeate myth, folk tales, rock art, cave art, and played a big part in the development of modern art.
The veil between these realms can symbolically be the paper, the canvas, the rock face, or the cave wall, a surface which might be pierced, deformed or touched and through the holes, wrinkles or gaps the other world is released. It is not a question of a hierarchy of consciousness or an either/or value, but rather the validity of the entire spectrum as an expression of the human nervous system. Additionally, the non-ordinary end of the spectrum can aid in correcting our current human imbalance by means of its pre-verbal access to dreams, ancestors, nature, and spirits. A contemporary Native American T-shirt expresses this as: listen to the wind, it talks; listen to the silence, it speaks; listen to your heart, it knows.
And, from John Berger:

What I'm talking about now is a very ancient part of human awareness. It may even be what defines the human—-although it (was) largely forgotten in the second half of the 20th century. The dead are not abandoned. They are kept near physically. They are a presence. What you think you're looking at on that long road to the past is actually beside you where you stand.”

Because of this, it is understandable that the opposition between the real and the imaginary is false, and reality is not a simple matter of the concrete. As John Berger also says, reality lies behind a screen of cliches and is a construction that is deliberately salvaged from the stream of inner and outer events by making them coherent.