ART OF GESTURES AND ART OF PATTERNS
The Psychological Problem
Every organized entity, every "life-form" (as we defined the term in the preceding essay) lives according to a twofold rhythm. Being an organized entity it has a life-center, the heart and soul of the entity. To this center come impressions from the outer world, the world which is outside of the skin, or in general of the boundaries of the life-form; from this center radiate impulses which cause various types of motion, affecting in some ways the outer world surrounding the boundaries of the organism. Thus a twofold rhythm: centripetal and centrifugal.
In order to receive and convey to the life-center the various impacts made upon the organism's boundaries by outside forces, certain portions of the periphery of the organism are differentiated into what we call "senses." These are linked to the life-center, (brains and heart) by nerves which transmit them as sense-impressions. Five such senses. (five types of impressions) are usually differentiated; sense of touch, of hearing, of sight, of smell and taste. These five senses are the only means whereby man may apprehend the physical world outside of the body. Every possible contact or impact reaching him, every part of physical matter which enters his physical body is normally perceived and registered by one or several of the senses. Without senses man would be utterly unaware of any life outside of himself; in a sense there would be no objective world for him at all. He would live a dream-life similar to that which we experience in sleep.
The sense part of the human being is then a purely receptive one. Sensorial man is merely a receiving station. But these various messages received are conveyed in several languages, i.e., ear language, eye language, nose language, etc. These several languages must be translated into a central language, or rather given a central coherent interpretation. Sense-impressions must be associated, then related, then interpreted. This is done, in a way as yet very mysterious to modern science, within the brain and possibly other nerve-centers. The power to coordinate sensations is what we call intellect, though there seems to be a great deal of apparently automatic or instinctive correlation going on in the body.
But we shall not discuss here whether instinct so-called is or is not accumulated and inherited racial intellect. The only point worth considering now is that sense-impressions do get correlated by means of a certain power; this power we may call the "sixth sense." It is the power to correlate and unify all sense-impressions into a whole. This whole, we call body. Any body in the world outside of our skin is merely a more or less permanent association and correlation of sense-impressions.
Sensations having reached the life-center and having become correlated with each other, a certain evaluation of the meaning of these correlated sensations is then made, which decides what is to follow next; whether the sensations will be enjoyed or fought against in pain, whether or not certain definite reactions are to take place either within the organism, or from within, without.
But here we must stop, for the process is obviously very complex, though most vital and significant. Certain questions must be answered. The discussion of such answers alone would fill a volume; and so we shall have to content ourselves for the time being mostly with mere statements, the validity of which every reader will have to decide upon for himself.
No entity can be conceived as an entity unless the certain set of sensations, which reaches our consciousness at a certain time and which we say is caused by that particular entity, is associated with and compared to sets of sensations of a similar type which have reached us in the past and which we remember. For instance we see a certain form having a certain color, moving in a certain way and related by us to a certain sound heard; we say, this is a dog. But we speak of the entity: dog, only because the set of visual and aural sensations which has just reached our consciousness has recalled to us many similar sets of sensations; and because we have learnt to give a certain name to, i.e., to make an entity of these similar sets of sensations.
What is it that remembers and how are these past sets of sensations retained? These are the very basic problems of modern psychology. The point we wish to make here is essentially that there could be no entities and no outside world (and in a sense no inner world) unless there were memory, unless sets of various sensations correlated by our "sixth sense" were somehow retained by what we shall call the "seventh sense."
This seventh sense is first and foremost the entity-making faculty in man. The sixth sense correlates sensations which are simultaneous (it organizes sensations into significant chords); the seventh sense coordinates such chords or sets of sensations, as they are perceived, to others which had been perceived in the past. The former deals in a sense with space, the latter with time. While in the former is to be found the secret of the organization of the many elements of sensations into a synthesizing concept, in the latter rests the mystery of the continuity of life-perception, the mystery of the "I am" and the "He is," or even "it is." Musically speaking, the sixth sense unites separate sounds into chords, the seventh brings out the sense of tonality of a piece of music (constituted by a succession of chords somehow related to a common harmonic center).
Thus the seventh sense has been called the spiritual sense, as it deals with and gives birth to the consciousness of the life-entity as an evolving self. It is the sense of selfhood the foundation of which is memory. For without memory no realization of self is possible, selfhood being identification in time. The sixth sense gives us the sense of form; it correlates various simultaneous elements into a momentary whole which, being a whole, has form. It is only when a particular form is remembered as a periodically recurring and perhaps permanent perception that, thanks to the seventh sense, this form-in-time is interpreted by us as being a life-entity, a self.
As time is after all nothing but a repetition of sets of sensation we see that the seventh sense in a way creates time. If no two sensations were ever remembered as being similar or identical, there probably would never be any realization of time. There might be a faint sense of duration due to the persistence of sense-impressions (according to the intensity of the stimulus) upon the nerve-cells themselves; but as there would be no relating of one sensation to the other, there would be really no succession, as there would be no one to oppose one's permanency to the incoherent change of sensations.
Because the seventh-sense creates time and individual selfhood, he who has mastered this sense has risen beyond the illusion of time and individual selfhood. For him past, present and future are as one; and all selves are mere aspects of the one Universal Self. Memory vanishes or we may also say has become concentrated into the realization of the Eternal Now — just as for him who is master of the sixth sense all form-objects are seen as mere differentiations of Space (cf. "The new sense of Space"), Which is the All-Form and also the No-Form, exactly as the Eternal Now is All-Time and No-Time as well.
Let us now illustrate the foregoing by means of a concrete example. I am sitting in my room dreaming away. The door opens and a friend enters. I rise promptly and with happiness shake his hand.
What really happened is more or less this: certain visual and aural sensations reached my consciousness which was then purely passive. At once these sensations were related into a form, or sensation-set: human body, a man, my friend. At everyone of these stages I really used my seventh sense relating this particular set of sensations to other similar ones experienced before. I established a relation between what I consider as "I" and this other entity who had been the cause of many past sets of sensations to myself. The past invaded the present and the seventh sense synthetized that past into this present; just as my sixth sense synthetized black, white, pink surfaces, the sound of footsteps on the floor, etc. — into a human form so-called.
Because this sixth sense had synthetized various sensations into a form more or less unified, I, who was dreaming (living subjectively), became awake and conscious, first of an objective world in which an event was taking place, then of a permanent something which I call my body and which is affected by the event taking place outside of itself. My body and other events of a nature similar to that of the one just perceived had been related in the past. The memory of all such relations created then not only the realization that the event outside was an entity, a human being, but also that there was friendship between my self and his self. That is to say an emotion or feeling arose in me and I expressed this emotion by means of a set of gestures (rising, shaking hands, utterances, etc., i.e., various muscular motions.
The process is thus constituted by two distinct phases. The centripetal phase begins with an impact being experienced by the peripheric portions of the body, the senses; this impact is conveyed to the nerve-centers as a sensation of some sort, or rather a set of various types of sensations (for even if the impact affected only one sense, when it reaches the brain as a sensation it is at once associated with other sensations). This set of sensations is given a more or less definite form. Lastly this form being related to other similar forms perceived in the past, is made into an entity endowed with a kind of permanency and selfhood similar to that which we attribute to ourselves.
This corresponds in a way to what we called in our last essay the Evolutionary Period of the life-cycle. This Period, we said, ends in the moment of consciousness, when the form is related to the very center of life, i.e., becomes an entity endowed with selfhood (and in the case of human beings, with Soul).
Then two things may happen. I may receive this set of impressions and be conscious that there is an entity, yet refuse to be aroused from my subjective dream-state, i.e., refuse to be moved, and thus to move (to perform muscular gestures). I am conscious of a set of impressions, I know that there is an event occurring outside; yet I refuse to recognize this event as an entity susceptible of moving me. I refuse to be moved, to leave the subjective condition, to act. My seventh sense, I will not use. I refuse to realize individual entity-selves outside of me. I may feel the pulsation of events outside of me, but they are all indifferent; they are events, but not entities. And not having any outside entities against the background of which to realize myself, I cease in a way to be conscious of myself as an entity, a self. I leave the realm of relationship in time; time stops because my seventh sense is no longer functioning. I have reached nirvana (in the lower sense of the term), psychologically speaking. I have refused to be drawn into the whirl of existence, into the creation of entities with which I must relate myself in action. I am liberated from the desire to be related, free from emotions. I have closed all my senses. I am blissfully sleeping; a state of supreme selfishness, if you want; only there is really no self left, even in me, only undifferentiated life.
The other alternative is as follows: I have received the set of impressions; I have made of it an entity, relating it to past experiences; and I am reacting to this synthesis of past experiences. This reaction is an emotion. I have become conscious of a self, to which my own self related itself, bringing as it were the account of all our past meetings (in this, and some would say, many other lives) to a balance. This balance is my emotion, my-self-related-to-his-self. It is the Now, synthesis of all past relations. This Now expressing itself, acting itself out . . . this is the Soul.
The Soul is the enacted moment. It is at every point in time the self-related-to-all-selves (or to a particular self).
But in any relation of self to self the whole universe is implied. If I see you, it is because your body reflects light. This light is the sum-total of the radiations coming from all the stars of the universe, which thus enter into that simple relation of me, to you. I cannot see, I cannot hear anything without the entire universe being part of the relation between I who see and hear and the thing seen or heard. Therefore all relations are essentially universal. Therefore there is no Soul save the Universal Soul, i.e., the sum-total and synthesis of all universal relations at every moment of time.
Moreover as the Soul is the "enacted moment", the acting out of the entirety of past experiences synthetized into that one present moment when self meets self, it follows that all actions are in reality actions of the Universal Soul. As the Bhagavat Gita says: there is but one Actor, the Universal Soul.
But why do we have the illusion of being but one single individual self? Merely because our memory is limited; because instead of seeing in every moment and every relation confronting us the sum-total of all the relations of the infinite past, we are conscious but of a small fragment of past which we call our own life. Our consciousness is limited to these few years of past; our seventh sense is so little active that it can synthetize into the Now but a very few experiences of the past similar to the experience just then reaching the brain.
If I see a friend, I know him as a friend merely because I remember various meetings of ours of the last few years or months. Thus my friendship as an emotion, as a Soul-enactment, is limited to these small sets of past experiences; it is a tiny, restricted, individual or personal enactment. I act toward him only from the past-depth of say a hundred experiences.
Should I be able to remember millions of past experiences stretched upon millions of years, this present meeting would become imbued with the consciousness of this enormous past. At the limit, I would meet him as a universalized self meeting another universalized self. The Soul of that moment of meeting would be truly universal; the gestures which would be the enactment of this Soul would become Cosmic Gestures. I would move toward him not as one small personality to another, not with a personal feeling of emotion, but with some deep Motion, which would be like the movement of a cosmic sphere meeting another cosmic sphere. It would be cosmically significant.
There lies the difference between Cyclic Motions and personal emotions: How much of the past has been synthesized into the cause of the motion — how active has the seventh sense been in the originating of the motion. The more past has been synthesized into the Now by the seventh sense, the greater the Soul enacting the gesture through which, the relation is fulfilling itself. The Soul is the synthesis of the past into the Now.
This explains why instinctive actions are perfect. Because the enormous past of the Species as a whole is synthesized in the impulse manifesting as the instinctive action. Any instinctive action is the result of the synthesis of all the experiences of the Species as a whole for endless ages; in it the Soul of the Species enacts its selfhood from a depth of experience truly cosmic. Thus such performances as the dances or songs, of courtship and mating in the animal Species are not emotional performances expressive of the selfhood of this or that particular animal entity; they are cosmic rites, cosmic Motions or Gestures, enacted by the selfhood of the Species as a whole. Every male meets every female from the depth of a past which encompasses an infinitude of such meetings — because it is not Mr. So-and-So that meets Mrs. So-and-So, but the positive pole of the Species which comes face to face with the negative pole of this Species.
We, human personalities hardly able to rise beyond anything personal (i.e., restricted to the past experiences of the body in which we are acting our narrow and earth-bound sense of self) are prone to interpret such instinctive cosmic Motions as if they were emotions of this or that particular animal body we then consider. But this is really a misinterpretation. It is only we who emotionalize, by personalizing them, Gestures which are cosmic rites expressive of the selfhood of the species as a whole.
We will see presently how obviously the preceding applies to Art and to all life-activities; but let us sum up once more the preceding so as to make our position clear.
The moment man is born, as an organic body this body begins to be subject to all sorts of impacts from the outside world (the first perhaps being the impact of air on the lungs, which causes the first cry, the first vocal gesture). These impacts reach his consciousness as sensations, which become coordinated either by the subconscious intelligence of the Species working through him, or by the conscious intellect of his own personal self when this becomes developed. These sensations are not only coordinated as sets of simultaneous sense-impressions, but they are also correlated to sets of similar nature and form which have been experienced in the past (the past of the Species, or the past of the personality). Such correlation is the work of the seventh sense which transforms these sets of sense-impressions into real objective entities, selves living in an outer world, with which we have been related in the past, with which we exchanged life-elements.
We remember the results of these exchanges; we add up rapidly their total value, what they brought us of joy or pain. The sum-total reached, determines, or rather manifests as, the particular feeling with which this relationship which we have to face is to be colored. It is pleasing or displeasing, exalting or depressing, etc. Then we may either refuse to acknowledge the relationship (in some cases), refuse to be moved and to react, or else we express this feeling (this synthesis of past experiences of our self) by means of muscular motions, of gestures. These manifest outward our inner feeling toward the particular stimulus in consideration, the reaction of our own selfhood to the outer event conveyed to our life-center, to our center of consciousness, by the senses, nerves and brain.
All gestures are thus expressions of a self relating himself to a set of sense-impressions synthetized into an entity (another self). These gestures are permeated with a feeling which is born out of the very synthesis of all past experiences of a similar nature having related the two selves in question. This synthesis of past experiences may be more or less encompassing; "past" may mean only the past of the body now experiencing, a few years, in which case the result of the synthesis is a personal emotion (persona, or mask, refers always to the body) — or else "past" may mean the past of the entire Species covering long ages, in which case the result of the synthesis will be a cosmic Motion perfectly and unhesitatingly performed, as a necessity of the life within, an act of destiny.
Personal emotional gestures, or cosmic rites. In the former there is no certainty and no necessity, because the past which is condensed therein is so short as to create no sense of definite and irrevocable evaluation. The self implicated in the act is in doubt; he weighs arguments pro and con. He has no absolute knowledge. He has not reached the center of his own life as a Species; he is only a man, not Man. Thus his memory is restricted to the past experiences of his body, which are hopelessly insufficient to decide almost any question. Only as he becomes one with the Race or Species has he access to the Race's memory. Knowing himself thus in function of the racial whole and still more as the embodiment of a function in the racial whole, he is able to act no longer from his body-self-center but from the Race-self-center. Then he reaches a memory so vast that his fully awakened seventh sense can find recorded therein, an infinitude of past experiences to synthetize into no longer personal and doubtful emotions, but certainties giving birth to necessary and perfectly adequate gestures. Such gestures are cosmic rites endowed with universal significance. They are universally true. They are the Ritual of Destiny, in which is expressed the eternal and changeless Harmony of the Cosmos.
Thus we find that the life of man is constituted essentially by sensations and gestures. Note well, we are not speaking here of the functional aspect of the human body, of the various processes of assimilation and excretion, of breathing and circulation which sustain the life of the organism, the study of which is beyond the scope of this essay. We are considering man as a self, as a life-unit, in relation to the world outside and its stimuli which he interprets as various other entities and selves. From this world outside he receives sensations, to this world he gives gestures. Thus he is passive and active in turn. And his life in many cases is strongly characterized by extreme development of the passive side, at other times of the active side.
In other words there are periods during which the entire outlook of groups and races seems pervaded by this strong actional aspect of human life; while during others passivity is the dominating characteristic. During the former, actions, gestures, the outgoing of self, are regarded as supreme and presented as ideals; during the latter, sensations, intellections, the building up of forms and interpretation of relationships are the main preoccupations of humanity. And what is true of humanity in general is true of course of every individual life during phases of which the centripetal current is strong, while during others the centrifugal expressional nature shows itself as master.
This obviously applies to Art as well. Thus our title: Art of Gestures and Art of Patterns or Forms (which are conventionalized sets of sensations); on the one hand Art which proceeds from the self and is an actional mode of relating this self to other selves with a definite purpose, a definite emotion (or cosmic Motion) at the source, with the help of the seventh sense first, then of the muscles by means of which gestures are performed; and on the other hand, Art which is based on the reception, sifting, interpretation, form-organization of sense-impressions which, after being thus worked upon by the intellect (sixth sense) gain a certain structural and permanent character, an esthetic character. Let us now consider more in detail these two different operation.
2. The Artistic Problem
We must say at the outset that when we use the terms 'art' or 'artistic' we mean infinitely more than what the words convey to the ordinary intelligence of today, especially in the United States. The main point we wish to bring out in these "Seed-Ideas" is that what we call 'fine arts' in general are but a small fragment (usually not so important) of the vast series of creative manifestations which not only are possible to Man but at certain times flow normally out of the great leaders of the human race. In other words we want to "dis-Europeanize" and thus universalize the word Art, to show that our artistic ideals inherited from the last centuries of European culture (not from the earlier and spiritual centuries of same culture) are totally inadequate, narrow and incomplete; that a regeneration and univesalization of these ideals are fundamental needs, the needs of our newly constituted American humanity.
We want to show for instance that most of our conceptions of Art, (music nearly as much as plastic art) show it to be essentially a matter of building a form or set of forms to satisfy certain requirements which we call esthetical; thus a matter of coordination of sense-impressions. We are still subject to the tremendous and possibly nefarious influence of the European Renaissance period, during which painting (and in general the plastic arts) dominated Western culture.
Leonardo di Vinci is still the achetype of the scientific, form-building man of the Western world: the analyzer and synthesizer of sensations and forms — not a Paracelsus, the adept dealing with life, regenerator and creator. In other words we are still haunted by the ideal of intellectual and formal supremacy, even in spite of the Romantic anti-European attempts at enthroning life in the place of form, even in spite of the inherent characteristics of the American spirit which manifests essentially as and through the pouring out of energy and the sense of life-power.
The Renaissance proper (which is but the second or third act of a mighty Race-drama the meaning and import of which is still almost completely ignored or misunderstood) was the triumph of natural man. All the arts tried as hard as they could to go back to nature, that is to say to sensations. The moment sensations became the ruling factor, the need is felt for that which will coordinate their chaotic display and wild frenzy. The intellect therefore is energized, as being that faculty which gives solidity and coherence to a world otherwise gone mad or in which traditions are crumbling.
The same thing which happened in the 16th century is happening with a somewhat different meaning in the post-war Europe of today; then it led to a return to Greek, now a return to classicism. . . .in both cases a return to solid ground, to the intellect and its forms, to the problem of form organization and relationship; in both cases after a sort of orgy of sensations, the former of a quasi-puberty, the latter of approaching old age.
Thus painting discovered perspective, the ideal of a sensation-born illusion; sculpture gave up medieval draperies and rediscovered muscles and flesh, tactile sensations; music strove for the "recitativo" imitating natural speech (the operatic ideal at first) forsaking the plain-chant monodies of a sacred character. The problem for all these arts became how to select from carefully analyzed sensations and images of the outer world those elements which seemed characteristic, and how to relate and combine them into esthetic forms.
The mediocre artist would of course try but to imitate nature as he saw or heard it, i.e., to set down sets of sense-impressions just as he received them. The real artist realized at once that this was obviously insufficient; that art can never be merely the adroit and perfect suggestion by means of pigments or of any other artificial means of sense-impressions offered to us by nature. Not only had the artist to select representative elements but also to so coordinate them that a structure would appear which the ordinary sensation-receiver would not perceive under normal conditions. This structure, this essential or "significant form," had to be revealed by the real work of art. Art, in this sense, is then the building of structural forms which while inherent in natural entities are not usually contained in the mere sets of sensations reaching our brain.
The crux of the problem can be found in these two italicized terms. In order to elucidate the question we will try and outline the essential possibilities which confront the artist facing nature and eager to represent it in some way by a work of art. Facing nature means having to deal with certain sets of impressions coming to his consciousness through his senses. He has these sets of impressions; what can he do with them in order to evolve out of them a work of art?
The simplest thing is to arrange pigments (or lines, or masses, or even tones) in such a way that the public will get from the work a set of sensations as nearly identical as possible to that which the artist has had. This is purely imitative art, descriptive music, etc. In a sense this is no art at all. But the transition is insensible between purely imitative art and what we might call self-interpretive art.
The artist has received sense-impressions and his sixth-sense has coordinated them into an image, a form. If this image-form is not purely and simply reproduced, as with the case of strictly imitative art, then a certain type of correlation has taken place within the artist's consciousness: i.e., the image-form has been related to some sort of an entity (production of the seventh-sense). The simplest entity to produce is the artist's ego, or personality. That is to say, the image-form of nature is related to the personality of the artist who, in the simplest instance, either likes it or does not like it.
In reality this relation of image to personality produces a complex feeling. It would take long to analyze this relation from a psychological standpoint. The important point to consider is first that this relation contains not only the immediate reaction of the personality to the group of sensations (image), but to the name which the race has given to the entity represented by this group of sensations.
I see a tree, I say. But in fact I never do. I see an image which my intellect connects with the name given to similar images by my race. This racial name (with all its implications of usefulness, scientific characteristics, romance, etc.) is in itself an intellectualized compound image, which usually comes rapidly on top of the pure and simple sense-image which has come to my consciousness through my eyes, and crowds out this pure and simple image of my own senses.
To most artists, the true artist is he who has the power not to accept the image named at once by the mind, but to retain pure his own sense-image and entitize freshly this image. The fresh entity thus created by his own seventh-sense, and not by the collective or traditional seventh-sense of his race, is then related to his own self and an emotion results out of the true life-contact between these two entities, the natural entity and the artist's self — both products of the artists' seventh-sense.
Then two possibilities occur: either the artist sets down first and foremost the emotion of his own self when confronted with the natural entity, and his work of art is thus essentially the expression of his own personal feelings about nature and life in general, his own personal interpretation colored by his own personal idiosyncrasies; or else his seventh-sense is so active and his (conscious or unconscious, individual or racial) memory so vast that he is able to synthetize in this meeting of the natural entity and his self the sum-total of life-experiences of long racial ages, or of many individualized incarnations.
As he does so, the personality (that is the product of his present body) is transcended and the emotion of the meeting takes a symbolic and cosmic character. It becomes the manifestation of the cosmically true and vitally inherent rapport between that aspect of Universal Life which we call Man and that other aspect of Universal Life which we may call Tree or Dog or Bird. The artist's emotion becomes thus universally significant. It becomes part of Life itself.
The next thing he has to do is to exteriorize in light, form, tone, this universally significant emotion or Soul-motion rather. He acts then from his own Self-center, from the center of Life itself which is the perpetual relating of self-center to self-center. He ACTS. The sensation-set has been utterly forgotten as such; it served but to arouse this cosmic fundamental relation of self-center to self-center. Will the work of art have form? Indeed, but NOT a sensation-born form; it will manifest the Form of this cosmic relation of self-center to self-center, an immediate and actional expression of Life into objectivity. An objectivization, not an interpretation.
Life objectivizes itself into Form; mind interprets and coordinates sense-impressions into patterns. The difference is that between spirit and matter, between spiritual living and sensorial-intellectual living, between positive and sacred action on one hand, and negative, receptive, and interpretative contemplation on the other. . . between Art which is sacramental activity objectivized into Sacred Forms, and the many arts born of the esthetical interpretation of nature or personalities, serving usually to adorn the palaces of the rich or the temples of gods whose worship enslaves humanity.
Art of patterns and Art of gestures. But there are gestures and gestures, as there are life-centers and life-centers.
In the above analysis we have followed the process which leads from sense-perception to the exteriorization through self and technical gestures of a cosmic relation. We shall come back to some of the practical points involved in the conception in a moment. Let us now enquire into that other process by means of which the self projects itself into direct utterances, which are motions or gestures of one or the other of man's sense-organs (hands, feet, creative and excretive organs, vocal organs, and their correlated muscles.
Philosophically speaking, the first act of will of the Creative Power willing the universe into manifestation by the utterance of the Creative Word (or Logos) is the basic and in a sense eternal Gesture or Utterance of the Universal Self, of Life. It is an act of self-expression, sustained for eternities, i.e., for vast cyclic periods of cosmic unfoldment: Behind this act of will, the Ancients spoke of the Desire to manifest as the primal hidden source of manifestation. Cosmically they spoke of it as the first-born of the cosmic gods, Kama-Deva in India, Eros in ancient Greece. In the humbler sphere of life they mentioned it as the relentless "thirst for life" Tanha with the Buddhists, which must be conquered before liberation or nirvana may be reached.
If one sees this primal Desire for relationship as a first gesture or even act of will coming out of nothingness and the no-past, the only process to explain is how by successive stages this expansive impulse starts the involutionary motion of life; how eventually by the intermediation of the efferent nerves it contracts the muscular cells, which contraction manifests as a gesture expressing outward the very inherent characteristics of the self-center from which it arose originally.
But metaphysically speaking we cannot conceive of any moment not preceded by some other moments, of any cycle of life which was the first out of nothingness. Truly there may be periods of rest and of subjective dream-like being; but these are merely interludes between two periods, of active manifestation. Moreover from an equally metaphysical point of view it seems obvious that in some manner or other one can always trace the cause of any initial impulse toward manifestation in the synthetic "last moment" of a preceding cycle; that is to say the involutionary impulse which precedes the actual manifested gesture (the Involutionary Period before birth of our last essay) is the result of the 'dominant emotion' which arose at the moment of death in a prior being synthetizing therein all the experiences of his entire life.
In fact the interim between this 'last moment' of synthetic consciousness at the end of a life and the initial desire to manifest, leading the Soul to a new incarnation, this interim is merely due to the lack of development of the seventh or spiritual sense. It is a period during which the synthetic quintessence of the life just ended is related by the seventh-sense (in its highest expression) of the Individual Soul to the very past of that Individual Soul. And it is the result of this relation (as we have seen already) which transforms itself into an emotion, normally followed by a gesture, by birth.
The simple psychological process described when I hear and see a friend come into the room and welcome him, is in fact a cosmic process which applies to the unfolding of universes or of racial cycles (with their three Periods as analyzed in the preceding essay) or of any life-form whatsoever. The differences are merely differences of planes and of degree of consciousness or development of the life-form.
If, when I see my friend coming, I rise at once to greet him, it is because the complex operation of sense-coordination, entitizing, remembering, relating to past memories etc., has become so familiar with me, a human being, that it has become as we say 'instinctive'. If, after synthetizing my life-experiences at death, I am not able to relate immediately this sum-total to the greater series of thousands of incarnations, and thus to have an emotion, or Cosmic Motion, sending a new Soul-impulse off toward a new birth consciously and deliberately assumed for sacramental purpose — it is merely because I as a Spiritual Soul have not incarnated enough as yet to acquire a 'spiritual instinct' which would make the operation nearly instantaneous.
The same is true of art-creation. Every improvisation performed on a piano by a creative musician is a 'gesture' by means of which an emotion is expressed. This emotion is the result of some inner operation of the consciousness in which some life-experience is related to the self of the composer (the sum-total of an infinitude of other similar experiences). The gesture, the improvisation is in all points analogical to a birth. It causes in turn life-experiences for the hearers which they may synthetize with their own selves.
The important point to consider is on what plane of life the synthetizing operation takes place, thus what is the nature of the emotion resulting from such synthesis. As we said before all depends on how vast my memory is, how much past I am able to synthetize and relate to the new experience. Is it the past of my physical body? then the synthesis is very superficial and personal. Is it the past of my animal species? then the synthesis is very deep but unconscious. We call the resulting action instinct. Is it the past of the Spiritual Soul in me, the reincarnating Self — or the still greater Soul of Humanity as a whole, or at least the Soul of my Race to which I have consciously or sub-consciously attuned myself? Then what pours through me in the way of conscious or subconscious "inspiration" is of a spiritual or cosmic nature.
But in every case it is a true gesture, a true action of the self — personal, racial, spiritual or cosmic as the case may be. The animal which utters a cry under the stress of hunger or of seasonal love, or makes dance-gestures under the same urge, is an artist expressing in these gestures of throat or limbs the inner self; but this self is the self of the species as a whole. This animal cry however is not only music as authentic as any operatic aria, but it is the whole of music for this particular animal species.
Likewise the gypsy who improvises his nostalgic and passionate violin melodies pours therein directly and immediately his own self; but this self is the body-self, or at best the race-self as yet undifferentiated; it is the self within the blood, the self that sings in all folk songs, the earth-self of man.
Then think of the great adept-singers of olden days, perhaps found still in Asia, singing theurgical incantations in which the spiritualized will is concentrated for sacramental uses, to cure, or stir certain occult centers in man; theirs was again music which was sacramental action, through which their self flowed out with deliberate intent, with magical power. But that self was the spiritual Self which had linked itself with the body-consciousness and brought about muscular operation.
But sound is after all vibration. May we not conceive great outpourings of cosmic Vibrations ringing through space and calling into operation nebular and stellar motions? Would these not be the Words, the creative Gestures of the Universal Self expressing its selfhood, the Cosmic Motion born out of the synthesizing of the infinitude of cosmic experiences of some prior stellar system?
In every case, music of gestures: elemental, instinctive, personal, sacramental, cosmic gestures as the case may be. Form? Yes; but in the sense that form is inherent in the tones themselves and the rhythm of their outpouring and thus will eventually precipitate into actual material formations, will act upon matter which it will in-form; as a vibrating string informs the sand particles dancing at its bidding. Form? Indeed; because all such music of gestures will be followed by some sort of dance, visible or invisible, which will produce the hidden relations contained in the tone, the mysterious parceling of the inner space of the tones themselves (cf., essay on the Sense of Space). But not patterns in the sense of prearranged, predetermined intellectual rules independent of the sonorous material forced into these patterns as into a gaol; not even patterns in the sense of mere co-ordinations of sense-impressions more or less conventionalized or abstracted into rigid structures, like a fugue or a sonata-form.
In other words whatever comes from the sixth-sense alone, coordinating sets of sense-impressions, conventionalizing them according to intellectual formulas — this belongs to the realm of patterns. What has its source in the spiritual seventh-sense, what is rooted in the self (whatever kind of self it may be) this belongs to the realm of gestures. These two realms are different, just as mind and spirit are different. It is not exactly a question of inferiority or superiority, as the lower instinctual self is certainly lower in the scale of evolution than the mind of a great formal artist; it is essentially a question of directional energy, centrifugal or centripetal.
This is true whether one considers a particular artist, or a period of artistic development in the race as a whole. For the cycle of any race as a whole unfolds like that of any single individual, or any single complete act of psychological action and reaction. We have shown the working of the race-cycle in our preceding essay, and we must refer the reader to it. The classification of evolutionary or esthetical forms, and of transvolutionary or sacred forms corresponds exactly to this classification of art of patterns and art of gestures.
In the two following essays we shall study more in detail the nature and mode of operation of these two great categories of Art-manifestations: the magical ideal of art and its materialistic reflection in our modern applied arts — then the ideal of form-building which culminates in the great synthetic drama which is the last moment of a culture, the supreme moment of consciousness of a race.
Let us close these pages with a few paragraphs in which the preceding ideas will be applied to the greatest of all arts: the Art of Living.
The Spiritual Problem
There are two great paths opening up for every man or woman: the path of adeptship and the path of mediumship; in other words the path of positive self-induced activity and the path of passive receptivity and worship. We must choose the one or the other. We are choosing every day in every one of our attitudes, of our reactions to stimuli, to external events. Some day the total of our small insignificant choices will have mounted up and the confrontation can not be delayed; that day we shall be compelled by this accumulated past of ours to become either a deliberate co-worker with the active and self induced masters of life, the creative Intelligences which guide and energize natural processes, the vehicles for the Universal Self, — or else a helpless tool under the domination of sinister powers whose work it is to "unselve" life-forms, to reduce organisms to chaos, plants to manure and human souls to matter.
Such confrontation may seem very distant; it may seem a fairy tale. But it may perhaps be a very real fact of life, and we might as well take it into consideration. At any rate it is an absolutely logical deduction from the nature of the very evolutionary and devolutionary processes which we see at work today.
Today the Western races are permeated by the ideal of mediumship. This may sound a ridiculous assertion; yet it is a fact which cannot be disputed by any calm and penetrating mind. Most of us are passing our lives waiting for something to happen. Whether on one plane or another we are rejoicing in having things done, not only for us, but to us; that is to say, in opening ourself to impacts from the outside and never going out into the world to experience as self-conscious and self-assertive individualities; in letting the world make impressions upon our senses and brain, reacting but feebly thereto and accepting the thing done to us as a precious gift of some god. We accomplish our most sacred duties and most essential functions as it were by proxy. We let ourselves be fed with someone else's thoughts, with someone else's emotion. Our loving is not even our own; it is manufactured on the screen by sensational stars. Our loving is but a regurgitation of this cheap emotional stuff — exactly as when we feel happy we whistle out of key the pale melodies which we have absorbed through the radio day and night, instead of creating songs that are our own and singing out our victorious selfhood.
As for thinking! We but memorize words and the solution of problems and categories of so-called accurate facts which are but lifeless nomenclatures, not living actualities; and we have lost the joy of struggling with concepts, of taming ideas, of thinking heroically. Instead of that we have but mechanical brain-process.
We do not experience. There is much talking about the value of experience, creative experience and the like. There is no experience where there is no real entity to experience. To experience means to go out and into the thing to be experienced; it means the use of the seventh-sense. The self alone can ever experience; the brain never does; it only gets tickled by sensations. We are all senses, all opened; we sit eternally absorbing impressions. To sit beatifically in a chair and listen to radio, or to look at screen-kisses, or to swallow newspaper or magazine news and opinions — these are not experiences!
Experience means independent action, struggle, the forcing into manifestation and relation of our hidden Self; so as to get meanings, fresh interpretation, so as to be actors in the great ritual of cosmic relationship which is Life. Experience means effort, the outgoing of energy. But modern materialistic civilization does not allow us to make real centrifugal effort. Overfed, over-burdened with tinsel-riches, sickened by lack of exertion, modern man absorbs, absorbs, loses not only the power of acting independently, but even that of reacting to impressions. He is like a baby bound in his cradle and attempting helplessly to protect himself from swarming mosquitoes greedy for his blood. All our strength is spent in trying to protect ourselves from impressions; or else in inventing ways of getting ever stronger sensations which may cause reactions from our exhausted and blurred senses. Then we take opiates (physical or psychical) and long for slumber, for annihilation. Then we become prey to the dope-power, which works in many ways, wherever there is no positive exertion of the self.
Not to experience as a self means spiritual death. Passivity and mediumship are spiritual death. Our society is spiritually dead and mentally drugged, in spite of its churches, its schools, its universities, its museums, its theatres, its radios, its millions of "intellectuals" with "scientific" minds; nay, not in spite of those, but because of them. For they are all witnesses to this spiritual-mental death; they are the products of this death, worms feeding on the corpse of MAN. Man died because he ceased to experience, to go out and conquer the world; because he sat down in front of the universe, taking it as a huge Ouija board, waiting for spooks, or gods, or worse still, God, to do something to him, for him.
Such happens whenever the evolutionary period of a race cycle ends and devolution sets in. Then the world is divided into a small group of transvolutionary selves, of Incarnating Souls concentrating within themselves, as seeds, all the wisdom and power of the cycle gone by, and acting out as vehicles for the Universal Self uttering the Tone of the new cycle; and on the other hand huge masses of devolutionary personalities following the lines of decay of the culture, rotting upon the earth like autumnal leaves.
The few transvolutionary or sacrificial Souls are the real Actors, the real Artists-Creators of the entire cycle. In them Spirit flows, which is Power and Motion unceasing. They are the true Magi or Hierophants, men of power and wisdom — there are a few coming now. Later, as the evolutionary phase of the Race begins, another type of men of action will appear; men of physical action, warriors, conquistadores or at best knights; men of character, but with strong earth-passions, strong personalities. They soon give place to men of sensation or emotion, religious men longing for salvation, or later intellectual men framing the outer world into classifications and crystallized forms.
As every small cycle repeats all the phases of the great cycle, it follows that there are always individuals who live a spiritual life in the real sense of the term. A spiritual life is a Spirit-manifesting life rather than a spirit-ward life. No searcher after truth, insofar as he merely searches and has not yet reached his center, no devotee of any god whatsoever, no religious worshipper, no painstaking adjuster of sensation into forms, no enjoyer of esthetical pattern, is a "spiritual man." A spiritual man is he who emanates the energy of a selfhood; whose scope is not restricted to the body or personality; he through whom Life in one of its aspects fulfills itself from the center outward.
All animals are spiritual, when unspoiled by men. Spirituality for them does not include self-consciousness or Mind-as-Soul; but man is essentially Mind-as-Soul. For him to be spiritual thus means to act from his own life-center which is the Soul-center, the center of meanings become deeds. The Soul is a meaning become deed; the synthetic form of a sum total of aeonic experiences, through which Cosmic Relationship fulfills itself as Life. Oriental theosophists have called it Buddhi. A Buddha is one who having understood the meaning of all relationships, fulfills them all, as a Cyclic Being. He has understood Cosmic Relationship with a fully developed and controlled seventh-sense; in him the memory of all the Race's experiences has concentrated itself. He has become the perfect Seed of Man, which now goes forth in sacrifice, fulfilling Life-Destiny for the particular moment and locality in which his body is functioning.
He stands as the meaning of manhood become sacrificial deed, become Cosmic Gesture. He is a Spiritual Man.
Art as Release of Power