Alternate Perceptions Magazine, January 2023
Segment #10 –of “IT” - January 2023
by: James Edward Carlos
Immanence: Beyond in The World Of Aesthetics:
In a public lecture about one of my large works of art during the year of my retirement, the artwork involved a challenge for me in attempting to explain mystical consciousness via various exigencies in pictorial-artistic-aesthetic immanence, which was the thematic intent and content thereof. This particular life-size set of sculptural figures found me transcribing through metaphor the mystical experiencing within which one finds oneself, when encountered. I attempted a description of the working process of the “walk-through painting” composed of thirteen life-size figures in a semblance of mesas in the nights’ varying darkness as to shape, hues, and symbolic connotations - a crèche set on the theme (too) of creation with the infancy of birth and the ultimate intimacy of creation.
Mystical consciousness manifests variance through acknowledging layers of insight about complexity brought into form from ideas. I presented the work in such a way as to be hopefully helpful to the general audience’s understanding of some of the sensations of various levels of imagery creatively involved often as intent and even if its content remains invisible. The artist’s elucidation of a unity newly informed as to any prior awareness of mystery.
This public presentation concerned a large work completed during my year of retirement, a challenge for me because I intended to explain mystical consciousness via various exigencies in pictorial-artistic-aesthetic immanence, the content and thematic intent thereof. The manner of presentation involved my creating a life-size group of figures assimilating the traditional crèche honoring the infancy of Jesus surrounded by Joseph and Mary, shepherds, and magi. My central concern was what close encounters had informed me as to the process of Creation, the all of all. Thereof I was metaphorically transcribing a mystical experience given me through close encounters within which one finds oneself during such a surreal occasion.
Mesa and Sky (detail) Below: (five 8’ x 4’ oils on luan wood in a set called, Aurora Borealis).
My personal experiencing of close encounters reinforced my realization that clarifying mystical ascendancy was attempting to delineate the ineffable was literally impossible. Hence while admonishing myself for including a somewhat specific order of the procedures involved in building these figures and placing them as one to another, each to each other, I nonetheless addressed some of the realizations inherent to my context partially because of the “need” to verify in my work a cosmic sense of creation and to clarify to my audience a partial elucidation of my deliberation to fulfill having been inspired via the close encounters. As implied, the inspiration hinged on camping in Monument Valley in vestiges of the West (Arizona, Navaho Tribal Park. Utah-Oljato).
Too, I realized, of course, that my incorporating anthropomorphic sculptural imagery is a bit contrary to my sensing a god-beyond-gods (or gods beyond gods) as inherently being Creation (form and process) and is paradoxical in theory; I wanted to declare to my audience a partial elucidation of my deliberation to fulfill my having been inspired in the original mesa-desert night setting and to share with them that close encounters had been possibly the most intrinsic philosophical and theological significance of my life. In any manner of viewing, the viewers, individually, would be participating in a discovery by observing their surround while moving through and within the series of painted dimensional forms/figures.
This lecture offered an opportunity to explain what entering a strange new environment might be like, feeling such an adventure as supernal in nature. I felt a numbering system would be a way to explain the stages of artistic working and that sharing my insights might offer a means to my audience’s grasping the essential but complex elements in the fleeting moments when hearing a public lecture and assessing what I was sharing. Although in reality the episodically based experiencing of visions can hardly be labeled as sequential, I offered a linear and numerical process by way of description of the process involving my creation. But I continue to realize some lack of effectiveness in my effort with numerically listing these stages that do not really clarify the mystical experiencing but perhaps is an obfuscation of the content of the reality of encountering. Thus, however, I described the actual working process and methodologically of my thesis, resorted to as content. I did this facing the possibility of failure by my demarcation listing of working details. Yet, too, I am aware of the interaction of elements of meaning so thereby I justify my deliberation to some degree. The occasion was an opening reception for what would be my final singular faculty exhibition at the university of my final thirty-six years of professorial employment at this particular school after being employed teaching in universities in Hawaii, Oregon, Illinois, and Ohio. An expectation exists with galleries that artwork being presented are to be accompanied with a lecture expected as part of the presentation. I illustrated the thesis offered with images from nature (mesas designed as human figures, based on the color and textures of mesas during the night from a camping trip out west with my white husky dog, Lobo, and of art both in process during these moments of ongoing inspiration and as completed in this exhibition. I felt a certain trepidation at an inherent falsity in realizing any such posit but, perhaps like the other authors/artists mentioned in this manuscript, I saw this as an opportunity to introduce a statement hoping the effect would not be taken merely literally in the step-to-step description). I employed a set of images of the multi-pieced complex artwork - Creation: Nativity - being presented, based on the content being expounded that insisted on the form. The “walk-through” painting was a life-sized three-dimensional nativity set (i.e., a crèche) based on the idea of birth, as in creation, the implication being creation-ongoing. The larger sense of Creation resided thematically, symbolically, and formatively in my large scale textural acrylic painting comprised of thirteen dimensional, figural, life-sized as the separate sculptural forms spread throughout the large gallery room. All figures (human presences, one a shepherd holding a lamb; another the Madonna with infant) were created in mesa format from a sabbatical leave western desert study.
Ultimately, however, the artwork of night in a desert plateau was truly a dark night of the soul as of the wonderful poetic language in The Beloved by St. John of the Cross. I impressionistically painted the sculptural forms with hues-dark purples, blues, browns, and black, intermixing matt finishes and glossy finishes simulating the cliff walls, i.e. the entire set of figures comprise a single painting with unconventional dimensional surfaces in spite of being composed of separate parts. The artwork as well as my explication in the public presentation was an attempt to offer to my audience an arbitration of intent as to the creating and the inspiration engendering the format, the subject being something of the nature of what is a mystical experience (and simulating for viewers what such might feel like as they individually roam throughout the gallery space, moving within the “walk-through” painting). To confound my own artwork’s dimensionality as a painting I placed an adjacent set of six mesa paintings, each 8 ’x 4’ on wood, with each being image-supported by my adding an aurora borealis in the sky conjoined to the mesas depicted, in a sense defiantly, a bit like positive and negative theologies intermixed. The occurrence of an aurora borealis observed in the south of the USA is extremely rare.
I, too, like Sells and Merrell-Wolff, both of whom I refer to extensively in this essay, whose written inferences of scholarship I deeply appreciate despite my concerns about numerically oriented codification. Their having presented steps leading through a particularized narration. My effort, at least in the oral presentation about the artwork, was somewhat like narrating the phases of a dream (and a close encounter as a possibly viable motif) that keep evaporating as you attempt recounting the imagery. You find yourself someplace other than your intent, the insufficiency of expression persisting. Yet, you persist. As an artist inspired, you are so driven.
I remarked in my lecture that to occasion such a list at all is, actually, an undoing of the message inherent in the experience and in the subsequent aesthetic mannerism of the nativity set (as in the case of my example utilizing a sculptural format of dimensional configuration).
All imagery has a sense of the ineffable, whether visual or in written form, or other in the primal natural experiencing of sensory data. All imagery carries somehow the quality of a deep silence, an insistent silence articulating meanings as if in solitude, whether images of art or that landscape whereby one sees merely looking through a window at the world outside or standing on the edge of a cliff with the colors of the sunset falling over one’s face and body and the world in the valley before you.
I shared with the audience the six stages of enlightenment defined by Franklin Merrill-Wolff as a movement toward mysticism yet being only a preliminary set of stages involving qualities of an initial and initiating enlightenment. I accepted his arbitration of this enlightenment and realized this was affirming and confirming his as well as my own experiences, which therefore validated the premise. As if in a tradition of sorts, I further shared ten additional stages (of my own) of experiencing a mystical encounter but realizing how tenuous and obliquely narrative and confining such steps were leading from this stage of enlightened awareness to and through a mystical experience such as encountering the great breadth of the universe. Even as I wrote about each stage of creating the large work over two years, I realized the hollowness in the counting, in the staging because of limitations in my language and verbal discourse. The ineffable remains ineffable!
I felt more comfortable losing myself in the premise of the artworks themselves when creating them, when organizing each separate entity into an eventual community, in fulfilling the innovative genesis of the creative process of working. For one thing, the stages do not separate so succinctly, but in a manner, each represents a sense of the all-in-all, and noting fluidity in the moment from part to part; all stages interact and although perhaps seemingly delineated in one interpretative over-all coherence at the time. The facets fuse and separate finally as to the final public lecture of my teaching career (I add that 400 were present that evening in the audience in a small college town, fifty of whom had volunteered to assist in moving these heavy forms and rebuilding those damaged, each figure lifted and carried to a truck bed for the journey and removed at the gallery door that proved to be too narrow for some of my sculptural forms. These wonderful individuals aided me by cleaning and touching up paint damaged during the moving and assisting with the electrical units for dramatic lighting during a two week period prior to the opening and reception).
Merrill-Wolff confirmed that his six initial steps fall short of the mystical experience although the enlightenment of these as an intense emotional and spiritual experience initiates an awakening of the person causing a sense of the transcendent. The effort is humbling despite the passionate dynamics forbearing. The roar of failure is deafening because I sought ultimate mystery felt, but my execution fell short as if an inevitability. Merrell-Wolff addresses the prelude of mystical apprehension as a spiritual apperception through the term introception (implying pure spirituality), describing the process of consciousness enacting the experience it seems, which is how I, too, accept the visionary encounters that preface my artwork. In the same way that as an artist I draw images (or marks, e.g.) the configuration via the hayyot in turn draws me often using my body for partially demarcating markings exemplifying star constellations; this format for cosmic creative consciousness enacts us, draws us into our own development (past and future) through personal mythic and biographical imagery.
As a form of biography, our individual grasp of what cultural history’s symbols include are those incidents that would be considered spiritually creative - that which is inspired or religious, spiritual, scientific, literary and artistic et al. Through interactions with an external (the hayyot) (the Merkavah) enacting in concert with us mediating with our close encounters), we confront a range of possibilities, from one level of being into another beyond our hitherto comprehension. You are simply thrust into the milieu, into an essence that provokes your continuance. For Merrell-Wolff, an introception is an interaction of three functional forms of consciousness: perception, conception, and introception or pure Spiritual Consciousness. (p. 135, Transformations in Consciousness. Franklin Merrell-Wolff). “This is an effort to perceive perceiving.” (pp. 145-146. Ibid.). Franklin Merrell-Wolff suggests characteristics of the process by which a subject experiences introception. He designates “the following five features”:
“1). The object tends to grow dim. 2). Often something like a dark shadow which yet has a character different from ordinary darkness, begins to grow over the object. 3). The object may disappear completely. 4). A field of light may replace the object. 5). Along with this, there is a very frequently a marked change of the affect of awareness. It is a somewhat intense feeling of felicity of the general type reported from mystical experience, but not as completely developed.”
(p.145, Transformations in Consciousness. Franklin Merrell-Wolff).
The dark shadow I perceive is akin to being immersed in a hazy cloud-like formation of plasma. This last comment is significant especially as a gap or stopping point is indicated between levels of consciousness separating what I might confirm as a preparation for a wider expanse of consciousness to another level of awakening, i.e., the visionary encounter with a mystical consciousness that is image-profound, metaphoric as relating to the structure of its surrounding, and narrative in some capacity as akin to parable. The totality eventually offers something in the province of myth. A living mythic narrative ultimately! You are part of the pulsation of what is extraordinary.
I add succeeding steps - number six through seventeen which are part of the process of mystical or archangelic acclimation from my experience at the time of creating the sprawling floor-based walk-through painting in several pieces – Creation: Nativity.
To experience something of the effect of such a progress, I invite you as a reader to stand some night across from a rural road-sign on the other side of the road as a car in the distance approaches and passes this spot. Observe the light approaching, the light hitting the sign, the environment in the surround, your own perception and awareness and see what happens to the sign, to light, to the surrounding environment and your perception and awareness, et al. Hence, we learn that the mystical by way of Merrell-Wolff is not so faraway. All visages will disappear and return in a slight second.
I utilize, by way of similar illustration, an imaginative image of one’s standing on a pier in the middle of a cold rain-drenched winter night (for me on the island of Iona, Inner Hebrides and observing what seems to be a star coming toward you). Hence, in my succession from Merrell-Wolff’s delineation, is number 6). The light approaches from a significant distance. Let us say for a landmark, that this light grows when approaching you from out in the distant strait between islands as if emerging from far off over the sea. This point of light – peach-pink in hue, forms first between islands, and then flies toward you over the dark waters growing all of the while and subtracting from your visage and from your awareness of the exact moment of your sight from the sites of your location on a pier in thundering, pouring cold winter rain. Initially the light resembled a star, perhaps, seemingly, close to the horizon of the ocean.
Already, however, in even designating a landmark as confirming a description, I realize that each encounter is acutely different from what has preceded and what then followed, so this is indeed a described moment in a unique encounter exposition that was one of many over the years. To confirm the location herein is the Hebrides Island of Iona on one occasion of several on each of four visits to the island, an effort initially based on wanting to understand the exigencies of St. Columba’s spirituality through his nature poetry and hymnody. The strait indicated is the concourse between Iona and the larger island of Mull.
7). Next, and stating once again, I do not imply a definite sequence because there is comparable overlapping of imagery and event, and often a sense of discontinuity - you are enveloped at this point within the light (sometimes as stated you note that the light is like a cloud of plasma manifesting forms around you such as a dome or a bubble. In other encounters finding yourself being inside a plasma-formed tunnel that covers your current embodiment thereby returning you to a previous life (on Iona Isle as an instance) (but in keeping with the means to earlier incarnations) as if you are overtaken and subsumed within the light that draws you inward into itself. That structure of a dome-effect instantly disappears when you are in that suddenness of being another personage, the boy your soul had been in the 800s of the Piscean Age in this instance. Thus, the initial object of the land visage is suddenly gone, and you are within this form that appears, i.e., you are within the visage itself as a young boy, that of a new clearly defined object of other-elsewhere sited and a variant realization of space. In this sense as a part of another lifetime, you are the visage. During this “night” – indeed a dark night of the soul, all in this lifetime is displaced and you as the young orphan in that tragic circumstance having no inkling of who you were/are seconds before that moment. 8). An event is unfolding within which you are involved, i.e. The shapeshifting is oblivious to your awareness. 9). The perspective is radically other, like an unacknowledged and perhaps unknown memory that is instantly objectively real and enfacing the vision as a real event in your life as in the past and/or the site and now have returned to investigate the Viking murders of a monastic brotherhood in 795 AD, only this memory is not quite as you might have imagined or remembered had you thought of the encounter as, indeed, a memory from somewhere out in your own pasts. But the vision is present now and you are now inside the memory, living (reliving) the narrative-styled sequences as if anew and this vision being somewhat in the nature of a dream or nightmare to your current self who is unaware of what is occurring on that island pier.
You are no longer aware of your regular here-in-now world and that landscape (as if of today) as provocatively sustained. Same island. In that instance as a child in that period you, the child, have no awareness beyond what you are experiencing in that time and in that place. Nor are you present bodily in your present embodiment, only that of a past life and age; instead of being in the present time, you find you are transported to another instance entirely.
The island quivers, expositing you to the conditioning of many lives lived, as if simultaneously being and living on the same spot. The other young orphaned boy with you on this other plane of existence was killed by a Viking arrow, as was one of two monks present who came to the small beach to welcome the Viking craft. You were a child exposed to frightening violence like so many children have experienced throughout history and continuing today. Both time and space are altered although in each embodiment you are in the same landscape which acted as catalyst to the double existence.
As with the earlier mention of the road sign, the light momentarily obliterates that which has been objective as with your conceived nature of what has been in front of you momentarily and about you spatially, i.e., you emerge into an island of light as a form yourself of light, twice defined. As stated, you are now totally immersed and inside that first situation in an earlier age, in a space that might be between the usual perception that no longer exists in the moment, apparently, because what is the, then present, perceptual state that has taken you over. The object changes and you discover a process or dynamic narrative of some sort operating within you that is being presented once again, presented as an external, into which you have fallen, having been drawn into the past as within an eternal geometry of compliance – a viable part-to-whole hereof, however, engrained in invisibility. Light is a memory universally. Light holds the forever.
I continue with the configuration of a mystical unio between the aesthetic disposition and the metaphoric insistence of form in such a state of consciousness, closing in on the subconscious by way of being unconscious as to the current event and its implications, a sensing of what is unconscious slipping onto a mass consciousness and somehow, more, the gripping of mystical consciousness and all through the altered state of awareness.
10). A development of the interiorizing process: You are in a dynamic metaphor that is enacting. You are immanently part of the metaphor, as if permanently in each instance. You realize at some level that metaphor is the heart of language being born into a comprehensive state of mystical consciousness, always newly distinguished. I do not mean to imply that such and such is symbolized which distances event to concept, but that the metaphor is an actuality in your immediate surrounds in which you are actually phenomenologically, incredulously, experiencing. From that stage described above to what follows is in effect traumatic and powerful both aesthetically and mystically.
11). Implicit is a loss of consciousness, and sometimes a loss of memory afterward, at least for a while as you reckon with the discoveries and the messages given in the encounter. An amnesiac effect then is prescribed, and comprehension of sorts is reached at least in acceptance of the unusual: and, 12). You will understand, then, and later this is reinforced, that this enactment within which, of which, and by which you are a participant is a metaphor inside of a consciousness beyond your own - a cosmic consciousness - and your own personal consciousness has fused with and been taken over by another - that other - consciousness.
You are inside the “in-between,” an adventurer, suddenly, within the ocean of the void, the water that is the river of heaven, aphoristically. In the initial adult stages of a dawning realization the confusion engendered by such encountering is frightening, sometimes painful, and often contradictory, but recognized, now, too, as necessary while often making a kind of absolute sense. In the encounter being utilized for the moment, what was symptomatic in the past reincarnation returning as a partial event of that earlier incarnation is that that event both precipitated and profoundly influencing your current life as a restaging of a memory. The memory was one of tragedy, which is often a catalyst for the indescribable memories ahead, eventually to be remembered. The diverse images form a pattern, together, yet a different slant of a mass consciousness although each encounter has seemed so sudden, so separate, so isolate, so intimate, so devastatingly “there” in the objective sense of a particular sensation, yet, the effect is simultaneously “here” - a personal initiatory relevance. The experience is actualizing and is as real as any other perspective or perception, or image of your awareness, in the sense of your being/s, or otherwise experienced through your senses and your mind – indeed, a unio mystico.
The experiential metaphor is a spiritual metamorphosis, the activity of a transubstantial change of direct meaning, fusing together disparate acts from your pasts, bringing you to an insight that you will not discern immediately or at any given time, just a peremptory intuition that fills out over time (and time again), life after life in one format or another/an alter circumstance…when you are returned to your regular state attempting comprehension of whatever you have to deal with or remember. You walk, though, among the new objects, like the figural painting-forms in this final university exhibit of the cosmic crèche and go on to experience the next sensation. You find yourself interacting with the unfolding about you while being inside the mystical experience.
13). Within the light envelopment, you are the narrative story unfolding, and the event is you, as an aside in the Shakespearean sense, then…like when an actor or lecturer addresses the audience directly, the story of the drama unfolding “behind” the oration (say, the irascible, ignoble, and confrontational character, Iago, in Othello) while momentarily stepping elsewhere (downstage). You recognize the surrealism in the experience. You encounter physical realities—objects (in this case, fields, sand dunes, surf and beach, waves, stone obelisks with a cave facing the sea, boats and other humans, sheep, and goats). You encounter beings. You interact. You are somewhere, elsewhere, and you no longer know where your body that was is…the former state of your body. You do not apprehend in the moment any of these changes. Or, if you recognize the location to some capacity, the entire event is itself unsettling and hence, so unconscious to your usual physical orientation as awareness. You may not recognize that you are in a different state of consciousness nor why this experience is daunting and disorienting, and you perhaps will yourself not to remember. Or, you may be otherwise so willed, as if to protect you by the encounter-beings (like the shifting imagery) from too much intensity. The image with its tragic events, the rapes, murders, intimidation, theft as perceived in this altered state of consciousness may infer such protection.
14). Yet, at some point in time you will know something of the changes in status, and something of the whereabouts of the change. You remember, too, however, that this has actually happened had you recognized that the imagery is experiential - a dynamic living metaphor - you are the subject of a parable. You have become the parable. Without effacing you entirely, a process occurs by which you “reenter” your regular life and struggle with the actualizing of the experience in future events that for me implies painting, writing, drawing, and teaching. You attempt to grasp the love and loss, the horror of the deaths in former lives and in this current means of deep feelings.
15). During the encounter, you are given lessons. Again, these are presented metaphorically. Imagery finds a visual means for telepathic communication. Too, what you “hear” in the passing are sounds, perhaps even words, but the impact is a visual narrative being enacted (too, simultaneously). Nothing can be taken literally or at face value. Nor can the imagery be repeated regardless of seemingly so. You have some sense, although deeply internalized in your awareness, that a constant shifting of imagery is occurring, extending a kind of pattern over the face of the deep, a reflective light spreading over a mirror-like ocean into which you gaze and, yet, find yourself swimming within and breaking the surface with each thrust. This liquidized air is in actuality a mostly unrealized atmosphere in which all humans breathe. I mean, too, that in the scene as recovered, the narrative imagery, like a film, like a dream, at hand (once again) faces and effaces consequences literally. Each instance of these encounter details of supposition acts as a device of demarcation with the melding of levels of consciousness, in one sense, levels of thought and memory. You are dealing with a plurality in which you are structurally a singular embodiment.
The immediate aftermath: once the narration runs its course, you are abruptly back on the cold of Iona Island shore, once again realizing the fierce, cold, harsh, winter environment around you, with dark lightless night pouring storm. You realize that you stand once again - suddenly - on a pier by the strait in black pouring precipitation, that you are soaked through and through, and cold to extremes. You have no memory of what just happened to you as a boy there on a warm sunny afternoon playing with another adopted young boy. You have no awareness or memory of the murders, of the spawning of Viking evil. You are once again alert and present to your circumstance on Iona on this, then current Piscean Era, and you adjust and move past the body trembling from the cold to the couple of streets comprising the village of Iona. You turn and find your way home (to a hotel with a lobby sitting room), the early heating logs now embers. You undress and place all clothing near the fireplace, and shivering being nude you climb the stairs to enter the bedroom midway down the unheated dim (15-watt small bulb) hallway where you immediately fall asleep and to forgetfulness. The need for sleep that night was too deep for dreams to be remembered. The experiencing may be akin to dreaming, but the matrix is not the stuff of dreams; instead, some other surreality, some definite encountering.
The format here is that of a form within a form, a life being lived within the life, but this form is continuously erased as you re-form the cognition and memory later. The narration is an interlude within another narration, adjusting to the past as well as to the present. Anytime you make a statement about the essential quality of the event you realize the incompleteness and to some extent insignificance in that then you feel passionately that you must efface, maintain the secret you do not fully understand anyway, by unsaying what you say. 17). Ongoing, again in your regular life - in this time and with each discovery thereafter, you find yourself in a scattering apprehension about everything, a persistent confusing sense of being non-centered, other than how you tend to address experience, consciously or creatively.
Finis James Edward Carlos
This essay concludes SEGMENT #10 January, 2023, in APM, Brent Raynes, Editor.