Art and Spiritual Development*
What is spirituality?
A number of people believe that spirituality is about… going to the cinema, to the theater, attending concerts of classical symphonic music, which was created, by the way, in the epoch of the Inquisition.
But in reality this word originates from the statement of Jesus Christ: “God is Spirit…” (John 4:24). It concerns those processes and phenomena which spiritualize people, that is contribute to bringing one closer to the Divinity — in the quality of consciousness, soul. Therefore, only those people can be called spiritual who achieved significant success on this path.
Art can and must play an important role in the process of positive evolution of consciousness. But does it always happen this way?
For example, movies that “savor” violence and killing, where it is presented as a natural way of life and is imprinted by young souls as a norm of conduct… — the work of creators and distributors of such anti-art should be considered criminal — in the face of God and humanity.
As for the example given above, to reasonable people everything is quite clear about it. But there are cases not so obvious. And then question arises: what can be the objective criteria for judgments here?
For instance, insane people try to express themselves by the means of art! They can share their sick experience with other people very vividly! There are plenty of such cases. Let me give just one example — not so grotesque, but very illustrative in this respect.
One of my acquaintances, an artist, once showed me the works of his teacher. They were pictures for wallpapers. I looked at them and asked him if his teacher was sick with schizophrenia and committed suicide. The artist was astonished and said to me that it was so indeed!
These pictures were truly awful! Their patterns affected the viewer in a weird way causing coarse confusion of the consciousness. I hope that these pictures have never been used in production. Had they appeared on room walls it would have cause much harm to people.
It also happens quite often that works of art express depressive or aggressive states of their authors. Where do they bring people who listen or view them?
There are also more simple examples, not from psychopathology. Let us recall the battles in the past century regarding abstract art! Was it good or bad? There were also hot discussions regarding rock-n-roll or even the Charleston! Was it good or bad?
Always there are people who support something new. And there are others who oppose anything new. Both sides present their arguments. But what is the truth? How to distinguish subjective factors influencing the evaluation of an innovation or work of art — from the objective ones? How to discriminate them?
There was a person who, for the first time, spoke about the existence of objective laws of art. He was George Ivanovich Gurdjieff — a bright man well-known in the spiritual field.
He worked in Russia in the beginning of the twentieth century. He was born in the Caucasus, into a Greco-Armenian family. Grown up, he taught in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The civil war in Russia forced him to move abroad together with his school. His students went to different countries: some went to France, others to England, still others to the USA. And there they created branches of the school. The literary works of Gurdjieff and his students were published in all main European languages.
Since early childhood Gurdjieff grew as an uncommon man. From the very beginning he chose a Purpose: to learn everything that people can do. And he resolutely went to this purpose for many years. He learned to dive, to trade, to battle, to darn carpets, to repair all kinds of home appliances existing at that time. For example, when he needed a large amount of money for organizing an expedition, he would come to the city, rent a room, and put an announcement that he repairs everything. At daytime he accepted visitors and at night mended all kind of things: from gramophones to bicycles, umbrellas, etc. He even collected parts needed for repairing at the city scrap-heap. Having collected the money needed for the expedition, he hired assistants and went to seek spiritual knowledge. He visited a lot of spiritual schools, monasteries — Sufi, Christian. He managed to collect much knowledge that allowed him to develop an integral worldview and establish his own school.
One should not idealize Gurdjieff. Many things which he did are far from being exemplary. Many ideas of his teachings have only historical interest at present: more perfect knowledge replaces them now. However, there are certain key points in his teachings which are important today as well. And now we can use this knowledge thanks to Gurgjieff.
In particular, Gurgjieff postulated that there are objective laws of art. He did not formulate them though. At least we could not find a list of these laws in many books of his school that we read. There were only some hints. Nevertheless, Gurgjieff contributed a lot even by declaring that there are such laws. Further development of this idea of Gurgjieff allowed formulating these laws. Now we are going to discuss them in detail.
The most important principle (or law, as Gurgjieff put it) is the necessity of following the path of refinement of consciousness. It is the use of this principle that can help us to become competent not only within the material world but also within the whole multidimensional universe. It allows us to achieve the Primordial Consciousness and to merge with It.
For this purpose we must, in the beginning of the learning, undergo the process of refinement in the physical plane, abandoning that coarseness in which most people live.
The easiest way to do it is by means of emotional attunement with the subtlest phenomena found in nature. For example, when the morning sun rises and sends its first rays through the mist to the water, to the grass, to the flowers, to the leaves; when the first morning birds begin to sing, when fishes begin to splash in the reed and above this reed illuminated with tender morning sunlight the mist dances and floats about — so wonderfully subtle are the states that nature gives us in such moments!
I should note right away that it is not possible to establish oneself firmly in such states without learning and applying to ourselves the ethical principles suggested to us by God and also without mastering the art of psychic self-regulation which includes the ability of controlling one’s own chakras (see more details in the book Spiritual Practices. Training Aid, “Polus”, Saint Petersburg, 2002).
One of the concepts suggested by Gurgjieff is very important for us in this regard. It is the concept of the scale of hydrogens. It is one of the most interesting concepts in the history of spiritual search! What are these hydrogens? This term originated from alchemy. At the time of Gurgjieff there were also schools whose knowledge was not open for everyone. And the adherents of these schools enciphered their secret knowledge. Mathematicians use a special language of letters. And at that time there was an alchemical language, which uses the names of chemical elements for enciphering.
Probably many of us, affected by ignorant atheistic propaganda, laughed at alchemists who tried to transform lead into gold and become rich. But in reality, by lead the alchemists called not metal but the basic state of man who has not started the spiritual practice yet. And by gold they called the perfect state of man succeeded on the spiritual Path. “Golden elixir”, by the way, is that goldish Light of the Holy Spirit which we observe in the meditation Latihan and with which we can fill our bodies.
And all those unusual reactions described by alchemists were but symbols of different stages of spiritual transformation of man.
These are, for instance, some alchemical symbols: “carbons” are active components of reaction, “oxygens” are passive components, “nitrogens” are the third kind of components — factors like catalysts, which are needed for reaction. And “hydrogens” are those elements or states which are considered outside of the reaction. This is where the term the scale of hydrogens originates from.
So what does the concept of the scale of hydrogens consist in? Its main postulate is that all substances, phenomena, states in the universe can be arranged in order according to their level of coarseness-subtlety. On this scale there is a place for minerals, planets, stars, different kinds of food — from corpses of animals that many people eat — to, for example, a wood strawberry. On this scale there is a place for the state of the chakras, for our emotional states, etc. That is — virtually for everything. “Hydrogens” have numerical values; this allows finding some sample states by which we can evaluate our advancement along the scale of coarseness-subtlety, that is, along the “scale of hydrogens”.
For example, the morning sun and its light is H-6; it is one of the most subtle phenomena in nature.
Or, take the emotions that occur in harmonious blooming of the reproductive function: sexually tinged tenderness, love for children, those manifestations which we see in plays of young animals, and the energy states peculiar to buds opening in spring — all this is H-12.
There is a very interesting state in our organisms — the energy plane of the chitrini meridian (its other name is Brahmanadi, the meridian of the Holy Spirit) — it is H-3, one of the main states of the Holy Spirit.
And H-3 is very close to H-1. H-1 corresponds to the plane of the Primordial Consciousness, the Creator.
It is absolutely impossible for a person, living in the coarse states and pertaining to “ordinary” people, to change immediately to the subtlest state, to “dive” into the depths of the multidimensional world, to cognize the primordial plane of the universe, to cognize the Creator! It is not possible!
One can only gradually move along the scale of hydrogens. First one should traverse that part of the path of refinement which exists within the material world — and only then one can “dive” into other spatial dimensions.
In some occult schools, students practice exiting from their material bodies without switching first to ethically and energetically pure nutrition (i.e. killing-free nutrition), without getting rid of their initial coarseness (some of them even intentionally strengthen it for the sake of suppressing other people and controlling them; this is the feature of black magic schools). If such students succeed — where do they go? They find themselves in the coarse astral plane, in hell. They find there anger, lie, fear pertain to this plane. They get confused, frightened… Moreover, they develop “friendly relations”, so to say, with the representatives of that plane, very obtrusive sometimes. Many such people go mad, as a result…
Therefore, the most important principle of spiritual growth and of the spiritual art, which contributes to spiritual development, is the principle of walking the path of refinement of consciousness.
In the art, man can be a creator and a viewer or listener. Both these cases can provide favorable possibilities for development.
Let me draw your attention to the fact that any work of art can be assessed according to the scale of subtlety-coarseness. And every high-quality work of art should be used for refining attunement. Or, at least, it has to show the way from tamas (that is, from the initial coarseness, dullness, ignorance) — through rajas (the stage of active search of way out to the light of Truth, when man transforms from a dully suffering person into a fighting one) — to sattva (purity, harmony, subtlety) — and higher.
In relation to the above said, let me emphasize that on the Path to Perfection one cannot skip the stage of sattva. One cannot become perfect at once, starting from tamas or rajas! One cannot “leap” over the stage of sattva! The path of refinement, development of inner harmony and the ability to love — is necessary for everyone! No one should think that “it is not for me, let others be engaged in this but I will achieve the Perfection in other way”. No! The law of the evolution of man expounded, in particular, by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita consists in gradual advancement through the stages-gunas mentioned above, so that one may come then to higher stages of work on oneself.
With the help of art one can also train energy, vigor; this corresponds to maturing at the stage of rajas. Let us take rock, for example. Non-coarse, dynamic dances of youth — who opposed them? The people of tamas, who are far from real, pure energy! Opposed those who are angry about everything new, or inert, irresolute people who lack energy themselves. Had they danced rock ‘n’ roll or similar dances in their youth, they would live their lives more actively now.
Non-coarse energy (vigor) is very needed on the spiritual path, because it develops the personal power, allows one to accumulate strength that can be used for various needs, for meditative work, for example.
So, with the help of adequate dynamic music and dynamic dance one can develop in oneself these missing qualities.
With the help of other kinds of music and dance one can master higher states: calm, inner quietness (hesychia; you can find more details on this subject in our book Practice of the Modern Hesychasm, LP OGT, Odessa, 2004).
Painting, poetry, orient kinds of art such as ikebana, “philosophical landscapes”, etc can also be helpful in mastering these states.
Yes one has to master calm, not energy alone; this is essential on spiritual Path! That is, one has to become universal: to be able to relax and to be maximally active when necessary.
With the help of works of art one can also exert directed energy influence on the audience.
There are several possibilities of that kind. One of them is icons. Many people know from their own experience that through some icons one can receive flows of subtle energies. Different icons transmit different flows — different both by their intensity and by their level of subtlety-coarseness. By the way, I saw icons of some pseudo-saints which radiated very coarse, devilish energies…
There are also non-icon pictures that radiate energies. Such pictures are necessarily created by a strong artist. For example, such are the paintings of Nicholas Roerich. All such paintings can be assessed according to the scale of hydrogens, and they can be assigned corresponding numerical values. By that way, the paintings of Roerich are rajas. On a certain stage of development of spectators, they can have strong positive influence on them, but later they have no such effect.
There can be more exactly directed influence through art — the influence not on man in the whole, but on his concrete bioenergy structures. Through music, vocal, or dance one can induce resonant states in a certain chakra of the listeners or viewers, or in a certain meridian. In particular, these structures can be developed simply by letting into them the vibrations coming from the artist.
For example, if we listen to a vocalist who concentrates in the anahata, then our anahatas passively attune with his anahata and this produces the corresponding emotional state.
This phenomenon is called svara; this is a Sanskrit word. There is a book by R. Menon Indian Music: The Magic of the Raga. It describes svara as a mystical phenomenon whose mechanism has not been understood yet. In fact, the mechanism of svara consists in work of the performer with the bioenergy structures. The performer simply moves the concentration of the consciousness into a certain chakra or other energy structure, and if this is done strongly enough then the listeners enter the resonant states.
The same mechanism works in dance when we watch a dancer who possesses svara mastery.
It is quite interesting that through sounds produced by musical instruments one can create resonant states in the chakras and meridians of the listeners. The example of this is tango of Oscar Stroke, the “tango king”. He empirically found this effect and created his musical compositions in such a way that all notes in his tangos affected the vishudha, activating it. Due to this, the vishudhas of the listeners get “overflowed”; his music evoked pungent, strong emotional states of ecstasy, joy.
Now also there are musicians who use no single note that would cause resonance in the head chakras. To listeners such music is relaxing and refreshing, especially to the people of intellectual work.
… Spiritual seekers who established themselves in the state of sattva, who got rid of the possibility of entering coarse emotional states — they can try using the method of laya.
There is a direction of yoga called laya yoga. “Laya” means disappearance, dissolution of oneself in the Harmony of the Absolute. This implies turning off the mind, which resides in the head chakra ajna, — so that the organism may begin to act not under the mind’s commands but under the control of God. An example of this is spontaneous dance performed in the state of the latihan meditation, which is the most typical example of training in laya yoga.
There are other methods. For example, one can “yield to laya” one’s hand holding a dowsing rod and with the help of this rod to discover that which cannot be seen by eyes or heard by ears: to get answers about ore deposits or about underground communication lines, to perform medical diagnostics, and do many other things. Dowsing is also laya yoga, its particular case.
In the same way one can learn to paint when one’s hand as if by itself draws using a pencil or a brush. In the same way one can learn to write texts… In all such cases the hand is controlled by some spirit, and if the man deserves it, then it can be the Holy Spirit.
I mentioned about dance. There are special methods that can help one to learn to yield the body to laya. For example, if the arms are raised, then it is easier for the body to begin moving, for the backbone to bend. Then it is very easy! On the contrary, if the arms hang down, then it is difficult to begin dancing in this state.
It is the same with any direction of art where we want to apply the principle of laya: one has to know basic methods, to be an expert in this area to some degree. For example, in order to paint, one has to be able to mix dyes, to apply them on the canvas or paper. Of course, in order to dance one has to know the principles of plasticity of the body. Of course, one has to be able to hold a pen to write with it.
In regard to laya, I have to warn the readers about non-critical attitude toward what we do in this state. The loss of a critical attitude can easily make us a laughing stock. This happens when one violates the ethical principles, because ethics is the foundation of Harmony. On the contrary, if everything is all right with ethics, then Harmony with everything and everyone including God can become perfect.
… With the help of art one can stimulate the intellectual process as well. Let us think: how to do this?