The Magic of Art
An investigation of the magical power of art for good and evil
No thinking person, and certainly no thinking Occultist or Mystic, would deny that Art has exercised a profound influence over the minds of men and women throughout the ages, and continues to do so.
We have only to think of the magnificent interiors of Gothic cathedrals, the intricate geometrical perfection of Islamic art, or the manifold wonders of ancient Egypt, to know that this is true. All these inspired creations of the past exert a demonstrable influence over the mind and heart of every sensitive beholder and have inspired generations of other artists to imitate them.
The fact that most people respond instinctively to art suggests that it appeals as much, if not more, to the heart than to the head. There is something 'magical' in art that cannot be explained intellectually, which touches us in ways we cannot put into words. If we are at all sensitive, we are delighted, uplifted and illuminated by great art. Conversely, we feel repelled, depressed and bewildered by the many examples of modern art, such as Tracy Emin's unmade bed, or the famous 'pile of bricks' which caused such consternation in the art world when it went on show in the Tate Gallery in 1976. That is, if we are possessed of what used to be called 'good taste', which we would define as the innate ability to distinguish between beauty and ugliness, truth and lies, and good and evil. If, on the other hand, we are the sort of wishy-washy liberal who does not believe that art exercises any moral influence over us, we invite you to stop reading now, for our thesis will fall on deaf ears.
Those who do recognise the power of art for good and evil will also acknowledge that the artist is a magician, regardless of whether or not he is conscious of the power he wields over other minds. His subjects may delight, repel, or merely bore us, according to individual taste or prevailing fashions. His technique may be good, bad, or indifferent, according to prevailing tastes or principles. Yet he is a magician, and as a magician his art exerts a good or evil influence over us. We are not concerned with 'artists' who throw a bit of paint at a canvas in order to give expression to their non-existent talent, who produce artworks that would shame a child of four. Such are not artists, but daubers, paint-scrapers and masters of mediocrity.
But what is Good? What is Evil? These questions have exercised the minds of the greatest philosophers since time immemorial and still do so today. Our personal conviction, based on a lifetime of occult study and the observation of men and women from all walks of life and every degree of spirituality (or lack of any) is that each knows in their innermost heart, without being told, what is Good and what is Evil. This knowledge is not intellectual, nor is it always consciously acknowledged, least of all by the liberal clever-clogs mentioned above who would have us believe that 'good' and 'evil' are merely acquired attitudes which alter in response to the prevailing social mores.
Be that as it may, occult science affirms that our knowledge of Good and Evil is innate in us. Moreover, no right-thinking person would disagree with the assertion that anything which frees the human spirit and increases joy, hope, peace and enlightenment is Good. It must then follow that anything which enslaves the human spirit and encourages misery, fear, unrest and ignorance is Evil. We might call the former White Magic and the latter black magic and we would be right to do so, for any influence that degrades, depresses and devitalises us cannot be regarded as Good.
The Evil influence of modern art
From the beginning of the 20th Century, and the advent of modernism, discord, disintegration, turmoil and deliberate chaos have become ubiquitous in all the arts, and now dominate painting, sculpture, music, poetry, drama and film. Need we mention the various 'post-modern' artworks such as dead animals swimming in urine? What damning metaphors these abominations are for our smashed-up world. Yet these grotesque exhibits are viewed by millions, and held up as shining examples of 'originality' and 'innovation' by the self-appointed arbiters of 'good taste' and 'progress' in the arts.
Since the modern Artist finds himself in this smashed-up world, it is not surprising that he is unwilling to take any responsibility for the smash-up. He merely reflects it like a mirror (and a distorting one at that). By doing so, he accelerates the smash-up, increases the confusion and chaos, and (usually without knowing it) leads his fellowmen and women to mental, emotional and spiritual degradation and the extinction of every fine and elevated desire for self-improvement. Generally, such artists defend themselves by saying "How can I help reflecting what is all around me? The whole world is a chaotic mess. I am part of it. My art reflects the helplessness, hopelessness, and general disintegration of the age. It's no use blaming me. I only reflect what I see and what I feel." And so on and so forth.
But that attitude, and those words, prove that he is no artist. He has declared himself devoid of art and bereft of creative magic. He is merely a mirror—and we do not need mirrors to reveal to us the rotten state of our civilization. We can see it all around us without the aid of reflecting mirrors, human or otherwise. In the past it was thought to be the function of the artist to 'Hold a mirror up to Nature'. But whereas artists like Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Poussin reflected the beauty of Nature, the better to elevate our thinking and feeling, contemporary practitioners of modern 'art' merely reflect the ugliness, chaos and disorder around them, dragging us down to their gloomy level and crushing out all the finer emotions and higher aspirations.
If the artist can only depict what is Evil in man and the world he is a 'black magician', regardless of whether or not he is conscious of the harm he does. The true artist must not only be conscious of what he does, but super-conscious. One who merely reflects his personal perception of his environment in his so-called 'art' is not an artist but a social commentator. To be an artist is to be more than a broken mirror lying in the gutter reflecting the disorder and filth that surrounds it. There are many modern 'artists' who attempt to wriggle out of this dilemma by trotting out the excuse that by revealing the disintegration and chaos around them, they are 'helping' mankind to recognise it and 'improve things'. But this only betrays their abysmal ignorance of the most elementary Natural law that like begets like.
Occultists and Mystics know that this is true. An image of Evil begets Evil, and can never beget Good.
"Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report . . . think on these things." (Philippians 4:8).
If the artist living in an Age of Ugliness does no more than reflect that ugliness, he connives and assists in the spread of that ugliness and disorder. We can find this same law expressed more than 3,000 years ago in ancient Egypt in The Teachings of Amen-em-Apt:
"Whether thou hearest what is good or what is bad, treat the report as no affair of thine and hearken not to it. If thou must talk I beseech thee to tell people only what is good upon the earth and as for the reports of evil, hide them in the depths of thy heart."
Evil not only begets evil, but evil conditions gather momentum and increase in proportion to the amount of attention given to them. No genuine seeker after Truth and Light who has seen Francis Bacon's 'Screaming Pope' can be in any doubt that it is an image deliberately contrived to instil disgust, fear, depression and despair in the viewer. Bacon famously stated that "You can't be more horrific than life itself." This is the same sort of cheap sophistry we referred to earlier that does not, and cannot, excuse the evil such modern artists embody in their work. There have been other artists, such as the writers Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, who although their intentions were good, nevertheless exacerbated the very conditions they condemned through the use of images of ugliness, disorder, cruelty and fear in books such as Brave New World and 1984. As we have seen, all such hopes are vain for they contradict the Natural law that an image of Evil begets Evil.
We have now seen that to be worthy of the name, the true artist must not simply reflect his environment; especially if it is an Evil environment, because, by doing so, he helps to perpetuate the Evil and speeds-up the processes of destruction and disintegration. Moreover, the artist has a responsibility to society as a whole, and those who claim that their art is more important than any definitions of Good and Evil, are not artists, but more or less conscious black magicians who employ the Magic of Art for Evil, and not Good.
The magical power of art for Good
None of this is to say that all modern art is evil. Far from it. We have before us as we write a remarkable book published in the 1970's entitled Visions which contains the paintings of a group of gifted Californian artists. Many of these images are of surpassing beauty and great technical skill which uplift the mind to the highest realms of Light. Sadly, this book is long out of print and the artists whose work it showcases remain almost completely unknown and unappreciated outside a small circle of enthusiastic admirers. One of the contributors to the book was Joseph Parker (1930-2009), who we regard as one of the truly great mystical artists of the late 20th century. As a young man, Parker suffered from painful migraines which eventually drove him to seek alternative therapy from an occultist. These treatments precipitated several out-of-body experiences (OBEs) during which he was privileged to behold something of the glory, beauty and joy of the higher realms. This profound transformation encouraged Parker to give up his work as an accountant and become a full-time artist. We reproduce one of his paintings below; you can see more examples of his art on our affiliated website Occult Sciences, as well the paintings of other visionary artists.
It is a very great pity that the work of such artists is not better known. The wider dissemination of these and similar artworks could do much to counteract the evil influence which so much modern art exerts on the mass mind. Great Art raises our thoughts above earthly cares and woes, and brings Hope and Joy to those who look upon it with seeing eyes and an understanding heart. The Russian Mystic, Ouspensky said that: "In art it is necessary to study 'occultism'—the hidden side of life". This is true. The artist must be a visionary. He must see that which is hidden from others. He must be a magician with the power to make others share in his vision. If Holy Vision and Inspiration is missing from his art; if it does not instruct us, nor bring us nearer to our Creator, it is worthless. Ruskin, the 19th Century art critic, expressed the same sentiments in a single sentence when he wrote that:
"All great art is the expression of man's delight in God's work, not his own."
It is a demonstrable fact that most people instinctively recognise goodness in art and are repelled by its opposite unless they have had their innate knowledge of Good and Evil 'educated' out of them. Prints of the 'Old Masters' still outsell the garbage of post-modernism, despite the best efforts of 'art experts' to discourage this regrettable lack of appreciation and discernment on the part of the general public.
We say 'educated', but 'brainwashed' would be a better word. This process began in the last century with the notion that people need to be 'educated' in order to 'understand' and 'appreciate' modern art. Once 'educated' they will then 'understand' and enjoy what previously repelled them. Rubbish! This is not 'education', but 'conditioning', just as Pavlov's dogs were conditioned by the dinner-bell. By this very dangerous process we are made to distrust our own first impressions, and to absorb the judgement and appreciation of self-appointed 'art experts'. Thus, over the last 100 years, the general mass of the people have been conditioned to 'like' what is, in reality, thoroughly bad for them—as, indeed, it was bad for the artists who produced it.
True artists, such as Joseph Parker and his fellow Californian visionaries, mentioned earlier, do not need a team of spin-doctors and art critics to 'explain' their pictures to us. They speak for themselves. However strange and innovative their subjects may be, their work requires no 'understanding' or attendance at 'art appreciation classes'—we simply gasp with joy at the life-affirming magic of their creative genius. With joy, please note. Not with horror and fear. That so many practitioners of 'modern' art do not see this clearly indicates that they are not really artists; for any sensitive, spiritually aware individual would instantly recognise the abject failure of most modern art to project such positive and constructive images.
Great Art has the magical power to exercise and gratify the nobler and better parts of human nature, the imagination and the judgement, love of emotion and power of reflection, the enthusiasm and the critical faculty, the senses and the reason. For without any of these—and especially the higher emotions, whatever their form or nature—Occult studies are a complete waste of time, for the mysteries of Life and Death can never be revealed to the man who cannot elevate his mind to the perception of true Goodness and Beauty which is to be found in the works of the God-inspired artist.
Need we mention names? The cathedrals, art galleries and museums of the world are filled to overflowing with the masterpieces of such masters as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Raphael, Dürer, Doré, Da Vinci and Poussin. And not an atheist among them! Many of their works are portals to a higher dimension, through which we can glimpse (if we are at all sensitive), the wonders of the Higher Realms described in such glowing colours in the pages of The Golden Star by J Michaud PhD (see review at right), as well as in the visionary paintings of artists like Joseph Parker mentioned earlier.
To be a true Artist is to be a Servant of the Higher Powers and of Truth, otherwise he is a mere arranger of piles of house bricks, or a purveyor of glossy advertising images for Coca-Cola, cosmetics and chocolate bars. Through the Magic power of Great Art we get closer to the Spiritual Wisdom taught by all the Masters and Messengers of Light. Great Art gives us a foretaste of that immortality and joyful, bright existence which is the spiritual heritage of all. Such then, is the Magic of Art, which has the power to lead us into the Light or the Darkness. Which shall you choose?
If you have enjoyed this article you may also like Visions of Light in which we review the visionary art of Tuco Amalfi and other artists.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article added 1 March 2014. Updated 22 January 2017.