One of the last conversations I had with Kris Hjelli before he died has particularly influenced many of the thoughts I’ve had since. He believed that beneath all the problems we face in the world is human anthropocentrism, the species wide self-absorption that sees everything else on the planet as existing for our consumption. It begins with the idea of a single God in charge of all there is. The hierarchy is reproduced from top to bottom and implies control over what’s below. Separation and status on the pyramid are implicit in all aspects of the metaphor. At the pinnacle the image gives us a bigger version of ourselves, the ultimate judge of our behavior and controller of everything. The metaphor itself puts us down. Many people turn to Buddhism to find a more enlightened view of reality that is connected and compassionate, that’s respects the environment and every being as part of a connected whole. All contributions are important to the underlying intelligent consciousness that learns about material being through us. We all have a Buddha nature, the same Self beneath the separate selves, and have only to realize it. Likewise, a system based on that metaphor, that recognizes and utilizes all human gifts, could cope with the complex developments of the current global situation.
I remember hearing of a scientist who when asked if he believed in God, said
“No. What I believe is much bigger than that.”
The crisis of religions is a crisis of image. As a noun, the word ‘God’ objectifies, reduces and personifies in a way that clashes with the modern zeitgeist. So much religious art envisions God as a glorified human male, forcing a set of metaphors based on the power of an ultimate single authority that punishes deviance from his laws. But people have discovered that they don’t need an authority to be good people. Being good feels good because it connects us to others. The positive brain chemistry rewards and promotes virtuous behavior because we’re societal beings connected in myriad ways. With an image of a unified consciousness that flows through everyone, helping others is helping our own deepest self. Visionary artists to a great extent are trying to express these connections and find new ways to represent the divine flow of energy. We’re part of continuous unfolding manifestation. As artists what we show is the trail of our inquiry into underlying patterns. A recent student created a triptych that represented spiritual qualities as pure continuous energy, pulsing at many frequencies without a deity or any sense of separation. Each artist offers a fresh vision of the primal intelligence reflected in the elegant order of our material reality. It will take many different images reflecting the insights of many different minds to help people see their embeddedness in the unbroken continuum of waves and frequencies bearing the patterns of information and intelligence. Humans didn’t invent the relationships that science measures and describes, and description can get in the way of understanding by limiting what is described, thus separating it from the whole. Everything acts on everything else.
Likewise the descriptions in story-based religion can limit our conception of the underlying intelligence that needs to be visualized in a way recognizable to modern consciousness. Imagery can guide contemplation and reflection, be the finger pointing to the moon. With multiple artists working to envision divine intelligence we can build a multidimensional personal sense of our connection with the fundamental consciousness we share and harmonize with the universal flow.