Art As a Hidden Message: A Guide to Self-Realization

Art As a Hidden Message: A Guide to Self-Realization

by J. Donald Walters

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ISBN-13: 9781565897410
Publisher: Crystal Clarity Publishers
Publication date: 06/28/2004
Pages: 189
Product dimensions: 5.47(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.45(d)

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Chapter 1 - The Arts as Communication Unfortunately, obscurity is the vogue nowadays. The artist feels superior to his public when he can get them to admit that they haven't fathomed him. He feels further sustained in his self-esteem if a handful of esthetes, anxious to demonstrate their own sophistication, claim to "sense" what he is saying. It is all an ego game, not unlike Hans Christian Andersen's story, "The Emperor's New Clothes."

I remember a man whose habit it was to make obscure remarks, then chuckle significantly at his own wit. I never got the point of those remarks, but assumed that I must simply be missing something.

Then one day I understood what it was he was chuckling about. To my astonishment, it was utterly banal. His other statements, I then realized, must have been equally so. In fact they'd always seemed so, but I allowed myself to be hoodwinked by those knowing chuckles.

To offer the fruits of one's inspiration to others in the form of art, is one of the best ways for removing blocks to clear perception in oneself. This is a final justification for returning to a genre of art that seems almost forgotten nowadays: art that can be cherished, not merely endured.

Unsophisticated humor often says it best. A couple of rustics once visited a modern art gallery and were chuckling at the exhibits before them.

"Say, Zeke," said one, "why did they have to go and hang that one?"

"I guess," Zeke replied, "It was 'cause they couldn't find the painter."

Sooner or later, I suspect, someone-perhaps only a little child as in "The Emperor's New Clothes"-will explain, "I see now what all the fuss has been about. Those artists were only trying to stir up a bit of excitement. But they haven's really been saying anything at all!"

Chapter 3 - Art and Science: A Perfect Partnership A young would-be composer once asked Mozart, "What do I need to do to write a symphony?"

Mozart replied, "The symphonic form is difficult. You'd need to practice writing simpler forms first, such as sonatas. Once you've gained proficiency in those, try writing chamber music. Only after you've learned the limitations and possibilities of numerous instruments will you be ready to try your hand at symphonies."

"But," the young man objected, "You didn't follow that procedure. You wrote symphonies from the very beginning."

"True," replied Mozart, "But then, you see, I didn't have to ask that question."

The rules for competence in any field are there to be discovered, whether on some deep level of memory (perhaps from some former lifetime) or by a simple process of trial and error. Since they are spelled out in the classrooms, thy are more readily accessible to formal students, but for every rule there had to be someone, at some time, who discovered it. When finally it entered the textbooks it was because enough people agreed it worked. The rule wasn't accepted as canon merely because someone with sufficient influence declared, "It shall be done this way."

Chapter 8 The Source of Inspiration For all artistic creation is like flowing water: Its flow is downhill. Whatever point it reaches after its first emergence onto a mountainside can only be lower than that initial point. Artistic expression is filtered inspiration.

Observe how the process works:

First there is the filter of the artist's own understanding, of his individuality, which is to say, of the uniqueness of his being. Whatever his inspiration, moreover, he must seek to attune himself to it with as little ego-intrusion as possible, that he understand it as a truth in itself.

Second, there is the medium the artist uses, through which he must strive to capture the intensity of the inspiration he experienced. Herein he proves his skill as an artist, for it is not easy to hold onto an inspiration while struggling with the limitations of material reality. Perfection, at this stage of expression, is impossible. No one can commit exactly to mere canvas or paper anything so insubstantial as an intitution.

Third - at least in the case of music - comes the consciousness of the interpretive artists: the soloists, the conductors, the musicians. With literary works, they must pass through editors, publishers, typesetters, illustrators, and printers, all of whom place on them the stamp of their own personalities.

Sculptors and painters may not seem to have this third "filter" of presentation to deal with, but in fact the very atmosphere of the room in which their works are displayed influences the impact of their work on the public.

Composers and playwrights, however, are in the worst situation at this stage, for they are almost wholly at the mercy of interpreters, who may succeed in turning even a joyous work into one that resembles a dirge.

Fourth in the process come the filter of critical opinion, whether favorable or unfavorable. At this point, a work often becomes shrouded by almost impenetrable veils of misunderstanding. It must endure comparison, whether favorable or unfavorable, to the works of others, which causes people to forget altogether the artist's own, special inspiration. His work must also steer a course through the white waters of people's prior conditioning. It is all too seldom that people get to experience, or are even able to experience, a new work of art in itself.

Fifth and lastly, there is the filter of public reaction. An artist may lay bare his soul but if the person viewing his painting or listening to his music has just eaten several hot dogs with mustard and relish and is feeling a bit queasy; or if he has a child tugging at his arm, pleading, "Daddy, c'm on, I wanna go home!"; or if, glancing at the work he thinks, impressionists-bah!" without giving this particular impressionist an opportunity to tell his own story: What chance has the poor artist for a fair appraisal?

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Guest More than 1 year ago
Finally...an anthem for beauty and meaning in the arts! I sent a copy of this book, in an early manuscript edition, to Sir Kenneth Clark, the late doyen of British art historians. Lord Clark thanked me and remarked that he'd 'found myself much in agreement with it.' And no wonder; where Clark ferreted meaning from the history of Western art in the celebrated television series and book, 'Civilisation,' Walters's subject is even wider: the arts as a force for personal change. And he's found a unifying key in the concept of Self-realization. Pick up a puppet by the head, and all is order; lift it by an arm and it's a jumble. Walters shows that if we grasp the arts from the focusing perspective of human fulfillment, we can have clear sailing--at least, if we understand where human fulfillment actually lies. And Walters is sublimely qualified to talk about human potential--in an alternate persona, he's known Swami Kriyananda, one of the most prolific and lucid interpreters of oriental philosophy and spirituality for the West. I wish I'd had 'Art as a Hidden Message' when I was an undergraduate in the 1960s. It would have saved me a great deal of time. It's quite amazing in the way it finds essences in philosophy, the arts, and spiritual practice; and Walters turns it into an immensely enjoyable journey. With such a vast subject before him, you'd think he'd run out of breath, but he never does. This is Michael Jordan for the mind. 'Art as a Hidden Message' is one of the great groovy books. I suspect that Walters will eventually be honored as one of the West's great synthesizing minds. That's fine, and appropriate; but don't wait--this is a stunningly universal, immensely satisfying book, right now.