Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vision Questing


The divine manifestation is ubiquitous,
Only our eyes are not open to it.
Awe is what moves us forward.

Live from your own center.
The divine lives within you.
The separateness apparent in the world is secondary.
Beyond the world of opposites is an unseen,
but experienced, unity and identity in us all.
Today the planet is the only proper “in group.”
Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.
We cannot cure the world of sorrows,
but we can choose to live in joy.

You must return with the bliss and integrate it.
The return is seeing the radiance is everywhere.
The world is a match for us.
We are a match for the world.
The spirit is the bouquet of nature. . . .
Sanctify the place you are in.
Follow your bliss. . . .

~ Joseph Campbell 
"The Sacred Mirrors" (http://www.sacredmirrors.org)
Joseph Campbell in his "The Power of Myth" interviews with Bill Moyers famously said "Follow your Bliss.......and doors will open where you don't expect them to."  Bill Moyers agreed in his own way, commenting that he felt sorry for people who seemingly  "had no invisible means of support".
"Spiral" by Catherine Nash

Thinking of Catherine Nash's project (in the previous post), I'm reminded of my own journey that began with a book I wanted to write just after I finished my MFA, a project that took me across the country as well.  Perhaps the reason I feel like telling this winding story on my blog is two-fold:  I'm encouraged by Catherine's project, and it seems important to pass on the good news that we so very often, if we undertake that which we feel passionate about, find that doors open where you least expect them to. When I look back at many of the creative undertakings in my life, I have to admit the presence of the miraculous.  If there is any point to sharing this journal, it may well be my effort to affirm this perception, express my clumsy gratitude.  Life really is far more magical than we can imagine, and we're usually too busy to notice.
"First Chakra" by Beth Ames Swartz

"Life is what happens when you're making
other plans."......... John Lennon

In 1987, I graduated from the University of Arizona, feeling very unsure of what it might mean to be an artist.  I found many aspects of the art world cynical and devoid of depth or relevance.   I remember the conversations Catherine and other fellow students had about  New Age spirituality, my fascination with tribal arts, pouring over Kandinsky's "Concerning the Spiritual in Art", or Jose Arguelles "The Transformative Vision", my utter delight at seeing Alex Grey's "The Sacred Mirrors" in Art Week for the first time.  Now there was something that truly moved me.

"You develop your skills and technical expertise, and then trust the process. You learn all you can learn, and then go into the studio and forget everything. There is an emptying out, being willing to confront not knowing. We really do not have a language in this culture for these kinds of experiences."..... Beth Ames Swartz
 So I boldly, if naively,   announced that I would go on a Vision Quest to write a book based on interviews with transformative, spiritual artists.  I made a book outline and proposal, interviewed my friends, and then made a list of some of the artists I wished I could interview, among them Alex Grey, Ingo Swann, and others.  I had one small problem:  I was a virtual unknown in the arts world.  How could I get anyone to take me seriously enough to let me interview them?

Synchronicities are like touchstones, you follow one and it leads to another.  Around this time I had a memorable dream - I was in construction gear with a hard hat on, and I was working on a big steel bridge.  Next to me was a black man in similar gear, and after a while he put down his tools, and said to me "we're just going to have to go to the authorities for help."  The "authorities"?  But amazingly, a few days later  I received a little booklet in the mail, which I have no memory of ordering,  from, I believe, Lucis Publishing.  It was an Alice Bailey pamphlet titled "Building and Bridging:  The New Group of World Servers".  Bridges, I thought, there it is again.

The following week, I was invited to a party, where I met an artist named Beth Ames Swartz, whose installation "A Moving Point of Balance" was soon to be on view at the University Art Museum.  I didn't really know anything about her, but at the party I shyly introduced myself, and rather audaciously told her I was writing a book about spiritual artists, and could I interview her.

Beth not only agreed, but told me she was one of the founders of the Transformative Art Movement, was organizing a conference, and would I like to have her list of contacts!  "I'm into bridge art" she told me.  That evening, when I looked through the papers she had given me, I found myself with a  list that included a number of the artists I had been thinking of, including Alex Grey.  Now I had a personal introduction from Beth!

So I booked a crafts booth at a Renaissance Faire near New York City to pay my way, and off I went, on a journey that took me to NYC, and later Los Angeles, San Francisco, and points in between. So many surprising things happened!  I got my interview with  artist Rafael Ortiz about his Physio-Psycho-Alchemy, for example,   not because I sought him out, but because a co-worker at the Renaissance Faire mentioned that she knew him, and he was organizing some kind of conference about spiritual art at Rutgers.  Which is also how I became involved in Rafael's Art and the Invisible Reality Symposium, where I met many other artists pursuing spiritual expression.  And the Quest continued.
"The problem is we’re so skimpy and stingy, so timid about asking. The Universe is willing to give; its there for the asking.  When I work, I feel that ‘seamlessness” every much, because half of the time I don’t know where the ideas actually come from. They come in all kinds of forms. An idea can be formed in a sound, or in a very articulate kind of language….but it’s all part of the same thing. This comprehension of holism is very important at this point in time. I think it is also very important to the planet for us to be able to think in those terms"...........Rachel Rosenthal
I tried for a quite a while to get my book published, but was never successful.  To be honest, I think it was my own fault this was so - I had an underlying lack of confidence in myself that, in retrospect, undermined me every time.  Perhaps someday I'll go back to the project, with new perspective and much greater confidence.

And I know Catherine's "vision quest" to her book, like everything she has done, will be a journey that will  connect and inspire many.


Alexi said...

Beth's work looks amazing and I like Joseph Campbell's words - good advice. Thank you for sharing this and reminding me to recognise all the amazing things that happen that often go unnoticed. I hope you pick up that project again or discover a new version of it to be explored.

T said...

Wonderful post! I would love to read this book, Lauren. Why not self-publish as an ebook?
- Trish

Lauren said...

Thanks to you both! Good suggestion, Trish............it's just that the material is over 20 years old. Still, it could be re-integrated into new material.