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Art & Consciousness

Explorations Across Time, Space and Light

Christ Flagellation - reinterpreted

This page documents my research into the arts as a portal to the spectrum of consciousness, and is under continuing revision (2023). The ultimate goal is to explore in particular how the arts play a role in representing or "signifying" our collective and individual consciousness development.


Additionally,  an area of exploration is to broaden our definition of the arts into "artistry" and the essential ways of being in all our dimensions of human experience.

Hence further below you will find an "Art of Consciousness Map" that seeks to cartography the full spectrum of practices, across body, mind, spirit and nature, to provide a backdrop to how we might consider the arts in all these manifestations.

Principles of "Being" in the Creative Experience


Artists live on the edge between expertise and non-expertise...practicing 'beginner's mind' where the naïve questions fuelled by curiosity can unveil deep assumptions and open up the field of perception. Beginner's mind is very effective in revealing possible blind spots or biases.


Artists engage their full sensory field, integrating multiple levels of processing (mental, body sensorial) to make sense of the whole and being alert to detecting weak but significant signals.


Complex systems are defined by their constant dynamic, in negotiating and adapting to internal and external tensions. They can be between competing (but equally valid) values or perspectives.


Artists leverage these tensions at the heart of its practice, inviting the observers' own inquiry. 


The creative and artistic experience leads us to welcoming those opportunities to go out of our comfort zone. Discomfort is a source of insight, self reflection, challenging what our biases and habits might be hiding from us.


Art's evolutionary purpose is in its power of honing and expanding our senses, and creating new layers of abstraction.

Abstraction is at the core of how human's understand their environment and make choices.

Art can provide a unique visual or sensual representation (in combination with analogy, symbolism, metaphors) as compared to intellectual or verbal descriptions. 


Related to the practice of 'beginner's mind' is the separation from one's ego - not to disown it, but as a dynamic of opening oneself up as a channel, and later reintegrate ego. Many artists related to their works in the 2nd person, creating a dialogue where the artist feels that the creativity came from something beyond them.


Accessing deep time - - Sense of timelessness... Kairos and Chronos
    - Sense of the ongoing infinite future

The central practice of wasting time, and unproductive time.


John Berger's quote here is probably all that needs to be said: "Art is a constant process of error correction".


While deductive ('de-' = from) reasoning always follows necessarily from general or universal premises and inductive ('in-' = to) thinking forms a generalization based on what is known or observed, abductive ('ab-' = away) thinking is an inference of understanding from a collection of observations.    


There is a visceral sensation of having to suspend expectations and control. Not-knowing is a faculty or muscle that can be developed.

With patience and a willingness to play, moving in non-linear ways, accidents turn into synchronicities and can be only understood retrospectively. 


Artists are unique in their capacity to work from a place where the future already exists. They take leaps that are not constrained by the present.


The creative process engages all senses, and therefore reveals the relationships and tensions between the emotional, the rational; the intuitive, the logical; the spontaneous, the planned. Each step in the creative process therefore invites us to be aware of our constructs. The rational, the logical, the planned - as "constructs" - are all under scrutiny from their opposites. 

Mapping the Creative Experience - a proposal for "Divergent Flow"

Reading a diverse range of literature sources exploring the psychology of the arts, aesthetics and the creative experience, it occured to me that there is an opportunity to map the cognitive differences of the current predominant states of "Flow" that are talked about in the context of constructivist ideas such as "high performance leaders".

Such a definition still appears to me emphasise a masculine archetype of achievement and high levels of mastery.


Whereas I am constantly looking for the polarities at play, to understand the spectrum of forces.

Herewith is a proposal for the polarities of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow - or at least the polarities in relation to how his framework is often interpreted; Csikszentmihalyi's does contain the subtleties of "creative openess" for example - perhaps this is where the extreme outer edges of the diagram share the common properties.

Please let me know of your feedback!

Flow Extension Chart w Complexity - the creative experience.png

Films by John Oliver, exploring the inner experience of creativity

Portraits based on my unconditional witnessing practice at

Portraits in the Arts

Portraits in the Arts

Further explorations of map-making in consciousness

Art of Consciousness - Cosmogram.png
For a copy of John Rowan's distinctions across Authentic, Subtle and Causal Self, see the tables here.

Witnessing the Subtle

Check out this audio workshop of David Deida, facilitating a subtle energy witnessing workshop in the loft of Ken Wilber.

It's a wonderful example of opening up our capacities of 'noticing', that we have all at our fingertips....and helps us recognise what we are processing sub-consciously on a moment-to-moment basis in our everyday lives.

Integral Naked - David Deida in Ken Wilber Loft - subtle energyArtist Name
00:00 / 49:34

Published with permission from Integral Life

Art Theory References

Extracts from "Art as Technique" by Viktor Shklovsky (1917):

  • The purpose of parallelism, like the general purpose of imagery, is to transfer the usual perception of an object into the sphere of
    new perception - that is, to make a unique semantic modification.

  •  the author's purpose is to create the vision which results from that deautomatized perception. A work is created "artistically" so that its perception is impeded and the greatest possible effect is produced through the slowness of the perception. As a result of this
    lingering, the object is perceived not in its extension in space, but, so to speak, in its continuity.

  • There is "order" in art, yet not a single column of a Greek temple stands exactly in its proper order; poetic rhythm is similarly disordered rhythm. Attempts to systematize the irregularities have been made, and such attempts are part of the current problem
    in the theory of rhythm. 

Extracts from "The Technology of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Technology" Alfred Gell

in summary Gell  proposes that an objective anthropology of art can only be done from a point of view of someone who is neutral to or unsubscribed from society' subscription to aesthetics.  We are all too immersed in our modern version of aesthetic religiosity through artifacts that may seem common day enough as are libraries art galleries theaters and modern day design and entertainment.  And no anthropologist would convincingly take that position of being an atheist to the aesthetics of whatever culture  they have grown up in or currently reside in.  A reason why  anthropological studies of art have not progressed into the modern society context, according to Gell, compared to anthropological studies of religion (to which an anthropologist can easily claim of being independent to or atheist),  is because no anthropologist would claim to not have any aesthetic standing or engagement with. 

Unless  we begin to view art as a technology in the third person.

  • Art, Religion and Technology:

    • "...the neglect of art in modem social anthropology is necessary and intentional, arising from the fact that social anthropology is essentially, constitutionally, anti-art. This must seem a shocking assertion: how can anthropology, by universal consent a Good Thing, be opposed to art, also universally considered an equally Good Thing, even a Better Thing? But I am afraid that this IS really so because these two Good Things are Good according to fundamentally different and conflicting criteria."

    • "In so far as such modem souls possess a religion, that religion is the religion of art, the religion whose shrines consist of theatres, libraries, and art galleries, whose priests and bishops are painters  and poets, whose theologians are critics, and whose dogma is the dogma of universal aestheticism."

    • "I consider the various arts-painting, sculpture, music, poetry, fiction, and so on-as components of a vast and often unrecognized technical system, essential to the reproduction of human societies, which I will be calling the technology of enchantment."

    • Art pretends to be about individualism, but there are good arguments to say it is still encoded and embedded in deep social norms...(that takes us further away from an objective place to study art).

      • "In speaking of 'enchantment' I am making use of a cover-term to express the general premiss that human societies depend on the acquiescence of duly socialized individuals in a network of intentionalities whereby, although each individual pursues (what each individual takes to be) his or her own self interest, they all contrive in the final analysis to serve necessities which cannot be comprehended at the level of the individual human being, but only at the level of collectivities and their dynamics. As a first approximation, we can suppose that the art-system contributes to securing the acquiescence of individuals in the network of intentionalities in which they are enmeshed. This view of art, that it is propaganda on behalf of the statuS quo, is the one taken by Maurice Bloch in his 'Symbols, Song, Dance, and Features of Articulation' (1974). "​

  • HOWEVER, Gell proposes that "The power of art objects stems from the technical processes they objectively embody: the technology of enchantment is founded on the enchantment of technology. "

    • "The power of art objects stems from the technical processes they objectively embody: the technology of enchantment is founded on the enchantment of technology. The enchantment of technology is the power that technical processes have of casting a spell over us so that we see the real world in an enchanted form. Art, as a separate kind of technical activity, only carries further, through a kind of involution, the enchantment which is immanent in all kinds of technical activity.​"

  • Artist as Occult Technician:

    • "The moral significance of the work of art arises from the mismatch between the spectator's internal awareness of his own powers as an agent and the conception he forms of the powers possessed by the artist."​

    • But it is not just technical difficulty, objects such as Duchamps urinal (signed R. Mutt) "is an equally apt means of directing our attention to the essential alchemy of art, which is to make what is not out of what is, and to make what is out of what is not."

  • The Fundamental Scheme Transfer between Art Production and Social Process:

    • "We can now see that the technical activity which goes into the production of a canoe-board is not only the source of its prestige as an object, but also the source of its efficacy in the domain of social relations; that is to say, there is a fundamental scheme transfer, applicable, I suggest, in all domains of art production, between technical processes involved in the creation of a work of art and the production of social relations via art. In other words, there exists a homology between the technical pro- cesses involved in art, and technical processes generally, each being seen in the light of the other, as, in this instance, the technical process of creating a canoe-board is homologous to the technical processes involved in successful Kula operations. "

    • "Technique is supposed to be dull and mechanical, actually opposed to true creativity and authentic values of the kind art is supposed to represent. But this distorted vision is a by-product of the quasi-religious status of art in our culture, and the fact that the art cult, like all other cults, is under a stringent requirement to conceal its real origins, as far as possible."

  • The Enchantment of Technology: Magic and Technical Efficacy:

  • Magic as the Ideal Technology:
    • "The artists' remuneration is not remuneration for his sweat, any more than the coins placed in the offertory plate at church are payments to the vicar for his praying on behalf of our souls. If artists are paid at all, which is infrequently, it is as a tribute to their moral ascendancy over the lay public, and such payments mostly come from public bodies or individuals acting out the public role of patrons of the arts, not from selfishly motivated individual consumers. The artist's ambiguous position, half-technician and half-mystagogue, places him at a disadvantage in societies such as ours, which are dominated by impersonal market values. But these disadvantages do not arise in societies such as the Trobriands, where all activities are simultaneously technical procedures and bound up with magic, and there is an insensible transition between the mundane activity which is necessitated by the requirements of subsistence production and the most overtly magico-religious performances."

Extracts from "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" by Walter Benjamin

References - further research

  • Art & Physics, Leonard Shlain

  • The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin (pdf available here)

  • The Technology of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Technology, Alfred Gell (pdf available here)

  • Art and Time, by Derek Allan, 2013, Cambridge Scholars Publishing (extract pdf here)

  • Paul Valéry, Aesthetics, “The Conquest of Ubiquity”

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