Art: Old and New
Art reveals what people believe and emphasize at any one time. (Sunday)
Images such as the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” and the “Immaculate Heart of Mary” keep recurring only if they are speaking something important and good from the unconscious, maybe even something necessary for the soul’s emergence. (Monday)
Art begins with receptivity. —Mirabai Starr (Tuesday)
The thing is to allow ourselves to become a vessel for a work of art to come through and allow that work to guide our hands. —Mirabai Starr (Wednesday)
As I again sat listening to gospel music and spirituals, words began to form in my mind and I scrambled to write them down. —Diana L. Hayes (Thursday)
In its various forms, art can provide incarnational and contemplative insight. (Friday)
Practice: Contemplating Art
I often refer to the insightful work of contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber. This week’s contemplative practice is from Wilber’s excellent book The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad. Simply reading his essay is a contemplative experience. He offers one of the most beautiful and joyful perspectives on art that I’ve found.
Some of the great modern philosophers, Schelling to Schiller to Schopenhauer, have all pinpointed a major reason for great art’s power to transcend. When we look at any beautiful object (natural or artistic), we suspend all other activity, and we are simply aware, we only want to contemplate the object. While we are in this contemplative state, we do not want anything from the object; we just want to contemplate it; we want it to never end. We don’t want to eat it, or own it, or run from it, or alter it: we only want to look, we want to contemplate, we never want it to end.
In that contemplative awareness, our own egoic grasping in time comes momentarily to rest. We relax into our basic awareness. We rest with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. We are face to face with the calm, the eye in the center of the storm. We are not agitating to change things; we contemplate the object as it is. Great art has this power, this power to grab your attention and suspend it: we stare, sometimes awestruck, sometimes silent, but we cease the restless movement that otherwise characterizes our every waking moment. . . .
Think of the most beautiful person you have ever seen. Think of the exact moment you looked into his or her eyes, and for a fleeting second you were paralyzed: you couldn’t take your eyes off that vision. You stared, frozen in time, caught in that beauty. Now imagine that identical beauty radiating from every single thing in the entire universe: every rock, every plant, every animal, every cloud, every person, every object, every mountain, every stream—even the garbage dumps and broken dreams—every single one of them, radiating that beauty. You are quietly frozen by the gentle beauty of everything that arises around you. You are released from grasping, released from time, released from avoidance, released altogether into the eye of Spirit, where you contemplate the unending beauty of the Art that is the entire World.
That all-pervading Beauty is not an exercise in creative imagination. It is the actual structure of the universe. That all-pervading Beauty is in truth the very nature of the Kosmos right now. . . . If you remain in the eye of the Spirit, every object is an object of radiant Beauty. If the doors of perception are cleansed, the entire Kosmos is your lost and found Beloved, the Original Face of primordial Beauty, forever, and forever, and endlessly forever. And in the face of that stunning Beauty, you will completely swoon into your own death, never to be seen or heard from again, except on those tender nights when the wind gently blows through the hills and the mountains, quietly calling your name. 
If Ken Wilber’s words have brought to mind an actual person, place, or thing, close your eyes for a few minutes and simply contemplate your own experience of their radiant beauty. When we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, or an open heart to witness, Great Beauty will reveal itself in all living and created things.
 Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit: Integral Art and Literary Theory (Shambhala: 1997), 44.
For Further Study:
John Dominic Crossan and Sarah Sexton Crossan, Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision (HarperOne: 2018)
Diana L. Hayes, No Crystal Stair: Womanist Spirituality (Orbis Books: 2016)
Diana L. Hayes and Charles Ngede, Were You There?: Stations of the Cross (Orbis Books: 2000)
Richard Rohr, The Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013)
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How A Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019)
Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (Sounds True: 2019)