Monday, 13 August 2007

Sufficient unto Itself

The world of consciousness is boundless, which is to say that there are not a finite amount of possible mental states to fit all circumstances. Each of these states, if we were to commit the error of isolating them into supposed distinct realities, is in itself real - such states being for example terror, wonder, sorrow, joy. The works of Homer would seem to operate within an heroic but ultimately rather crude universe of finite states covering the multitudes of experience while we could say that Shakespeare represents the boundlessness of consciousness.

The human mind can conceive of imaginary physical realities, but this cannot be said of psychological/emotional states which if capable of conception must be real, as the mind cannot create beyond itself in these terms. That they can be experienced means they are real. If we allow ourselves a self as a reality, then this self moves within an infinite world of itself, or Self.

To now move to the world of art & in particular art of a religious nature...the essence of great art of this nature such as Bach's Matthew's Passion is not a religious world that it points towards; the music is itself religious. This music is an emanation of a state of consciousness which is itself religious; it cannot simply be said to be about an idea that is religious, but which may not exist.

Art of this nature fails when there is a discrepancy between what the art is 'about', & what it is in itself. This kind of art aspires consciously to being 'of' the elevated heights, but is in itself not intrinsically this reality & so is rightly described as pompous or pretentious. In other words, the art is not the natural outpouring of the artist's inner being but a forced effort to be something he is not. Great art in general & great religious art in particular are of themeselves the world they point towards. This shown especially in some of the images at this site on Russian icons here; an image I would especially mention being The Burial of Christ on the second page. The psychological reality of these images is itself spiritual, & since an experience of the mind is itself real, then these images are their own proof of the spiritual aspect of reality. To stress, they are not 'about' a projected spiritual dimension; this spiritual reality is their very existence as emanations of consciousness.


Neil Forsyth said...

I don't go along with much of that, Andrew. For a start I think we can indeed conceive of psychological/emotional states. We can use that wonderful thing, the imagination. If we could not conceive of psychological and emotional states, there would be very little art, good or bad. Great artists are very good at this imagining lark or more to the point they are very good at expressing their imaginings/conceptions through their chosen medium. The novel, painting or whatever is not born of something real, per se, but a product of the human imaginaition, itself a purely mental state. As for this notion of 'beings of consciousness' is that not just the very same thing as imaginings or thoughts, perhaps combined with their possible emotional impact? You also make a distinction between what art is about and what it is in itself. To me this is a curious distinction. Great art is great art. 'In itself'? What? As physical object? As a collection of sounds or words on a page? Is it some Kantian idea you have in mind? As for what art is about, to a large extent it doesn't really matter. Rather what counts is the artist's ability to capture experience (it could be me making a cup of tea), give it meaning, shape and form, and most importantly produce something beautiful or thought-provoking. That is it. It is not some spiritual outpouring or whatever, it is great skill combined with a great deal of hard work I suspect. By the way, when I listen to Bach, I don't care why he it wrote it. It has no bearing on my enjoyment of his music. The same goes for most other art.

Andrew said...

What I mean by conceiving of emotional/psychological states, Neil, & probably failed to mention, is that it is impossible to conceive of imaginary psychological/emotional states. Thess sates are real & not imaginary. It is right to say that the emotional essence of Matthews Passion is itself religious. This is its emotional reality where life is intrinsically imbued with very deep meaning. Like you, for me the why of why he wrote it is irrelevant. This is what I mean by referring to what art is about as opposed to what it is. Some much poorer artist/musician might try to make music 'about' the same subject matter, ie Matthew's Passion, but the task is beyond him in terms of expressing this kind of significance of being. Their music is 'about' the same subject matter but in itself the music is not imbued with this innate significance with which Bach's music is. Contrarily, you could take away all reference to Matthew's Passion from Bach's music & it would still be innately religious. That is its inner essence. To try & stress again, what I mean by the mind being incapable of conceiving of states beyond itself is that if it is capable of conceiving them, then & they are of the mind & not beyond the mind. Or that it is impossible for an emotional state to be beyond the mind. And that is why we experience great art as is directly experienced as charged with meaning, & the more charged the more great.

elberry said...

ah, that's interesting. i hadn't thought of it in those terms. i like certain works of art, which don't advertise themselves as religious or spiritual, but are - i think Michael Mann's 'Manhunter' is one such. There's an eerie power generated in the film by the faithfully rendered 80s Miami Vice aesthetic: garish clothes, bright, artifical lights & colours, synthetic interiors (one conference room looks like it belongs in a starship), and then the deeper currents, which at first seem to be about horror & pain, and then becomes, in the final speech of Hannibal Lecter, about the nature of God himself. Kieslowski's 3 Colours films too have this curious tension between a rather modest surface and the depths.