What Vision? Article by Gaia Orion Published on Lila Online Visionary Magazine, March 2012
Visionary Arts: What Vision?
The definition of Visionary Arts is evolving as the times are changing. In the last decade a new wave of visionary artists is flourishing and coming together as more platforms and initiatives are being created. The society for Art of Imagination for example started in 1997 and now their collective gathers almost 400 artists worldwide that describe themselves as fantastic, surrealists and visionary artists; and shows like Beinart and Chimeria attract thousands from many countries around.
The Internet and its new tools for networking are also contributing to the emergence of a larger movement. Maybe because the present art world is not yet interested in representing these artists, we need to gather and build our culture to become more integrated and accepted among the mainstream art movements. One thing is sure though, when we see the personal and independent success of many of these artists, is that the interest is there. How do these artists and their visions contribute to humanity? What is our place in the society?
We can say that pioneers of visionary arts were Jerome Bosch (late 15th century) and William Blake (late 18th century) as they were the first artists that opened the visual doors to the universe of the human subconscious. Opening the doors to these realms is giving opportunities to human beings for deepening and understanding their lives by exploring the vast dimensions of the psyche. It is like if we lived up until then in a surface land with no capacity for understanding our deeper impulses, the roots of our behaviors, the collective unconscious, all of which is hidden and motivates us in our most horrific actions, to our most sacred inclinations.
Scientist Louie Bernstein from the Montreal Planetarium tells us that we only perceive with our human senses 1000th of 1% of the whole spectrum of existing waves. So understanding this with a scientific base brings value and credentials to those that explore the subconscious world and other possible dimensions.
There are many ways of exploring these dimensions. Shamans from cultures that are in touch with nature travel through these worlds, communicate with the deceased, with animals and nature spirits, dreams guide them in their lives. There is today a renewal of interest and respect in the ways of the shamans. Many Westerners go to remote parts of the world to experience the ancient teachings of primitive cultures, learn from them, and reconnect with what we have lost in our sedentary technology-addicted fast-paced lives. Some of these cultures use sacred plants for entering the shamanic journey. These plants are not the drugs that are taken to avoid emotional or physical pain or to escape the dullness of meaningless lives. They are neither addictive nor destructive. In all the contrary: they are taken within a ritual, with healing and understanding as core intention. The states that the initiate enters when taking these entheogen are vast and many visionary artists depict visions that have been received during these journeys. Having these experiences though does not require the use of sacred plants. Many people have traveled in other dimensions in their dreams or within other contexts that took them spontaneously into those realms.
Many of the visions can be nightmarish, bizarre, and absurd or may even seem demented. It takes courage to confront these parts of our psyche or the universe as they take us into uneasy, uncomfortable grounds. What is important to understand is that we all have these “demons” inside of us. Confronting them and even dancing with them is absolutely necessary to gain maturity and wholeness. These images represent universal “demon” themes that are found in all cultures and religions around the world and throughout time.
On the other side of things many visions are angelic, pleasant, presenting a unified and harmonious world or what we would associate to the concept of paradise. Mystic St. John of the Cross tells in a poem about the soul-searching journey “seeking my love, I will head for the mountains… I will not gather flowers, nor fear wild beasts”. Wild beasts and flowers being analogies for the monsters, the creatures, the aliens, the fairies, the angels, the light beings that we may encounter in the “in between worlds” when we are on our journey to the top of the mountain or to the depth toward the source.
What is the purpose of these visions if they are not even from our reality, if they are not even real? How do we know what’s real anyway when we start to explore the infinite space of the mind? Is mind separate from the universe? We know now through quantum physics research that the observer affects the object of attention. What we perceive with our five senses, how do we know for sure that this is more real than the other 99.999% of the universe that we can’t even fathom?
The heart of the matter is not even to know what is real or not. Ultimately our life is here on earth and integrating our daily life no matter the day, the challenge, the emotion is the only real journey. The inter-dimensional visions can bring clarity and understanding to our lives and this is where they have their place and purpose. When we work to live in connection to the source, some visions simply manifests spontaneously. The artist’s life may seem to be unfolding like an archetypal legend where dreams and events are interwoven in a perfect dance. The core of these visions is an ordered and centered life with intentions of understanding and integrity. The visionary art that comes from this base is what we also call “contemporary sacred art” as it reconnects the viewer to the divine, the source that connects us all, past the demons and past the angels. The images have the same power, harmony and beauty that we find in nature, in this intelligent magnificent universe. The images awaken our spirits and conscience and inspire those that are on the spiritual journey.
This is where the role of the visionary artists in today’s society has its place. Our humanity as a whole is facing huge challenges and many initiatives are sprouting all over to unite people under nonpolitical, nonreligious movements. These movements are demanding respect, justice, equality, and integrity at all levels of society. When we see that the Occupy movement spread in 950 cities across the world after only six months, it is a sign that the voices are gathering, the independent initiatives are coming together and the momentum is gaining power. As we see the visionary artists emerging into a larger movement it is a confirmation that they have a very important role in nourishing the emergence of “The New World” and in participating in the creation of a common ultimate vision that we wish for future generations.