Art as metaphysics

I have sometimes wondered whether art has any importance, and if so, what?  In more lucid moments I recognise art as the very essence of the soul, a window to consciousness.  Not only that of the artist but of our own.

Let us play, by juxtaposing the word “art” with other words of less ethereal evocation.  Politics, business, factory, terror, famine, cruelty.

Art can contain all of those, can be “about” all of those.  Art can be the outpouring of a tortured soul and often is.

But art can also be about beauty, meaning, reflection. It can be about opening the mind and re-configuring the brain to lead us from dull and worn patterns of thought towards something higher altogether.

I wrote recently about psilocybin and its role in opening the mind, making new connections.  Perhaps art can perform some of the same functions.

I was taken aback today by the statue of Diana (above) in Green Park, London.  It was a surprise – I had not expected to see it (it was new to me) and when I did it spoke of all manner of things.

Sinuous branches and golden leaves woven in twisting metal.  How like the London plane trees I was walking under and yet how different – its beauty took me from London to Lothlorien.

And from there to Narnia and Archenland, to the fauns and dryads and wood elves.  To Arcadia and to Eden.

The lithe elegance of the female form and that of the dog – both as curved and sinuous and beautiful as the branches and golden leaves that carry them.

So much for fantasy and yet not so.  Not a falling back to base reality, but a realisation that in base reality itself beauty can be found every bit as luminous or indeed numinous.  Our minds reflect natural beauty and the beauty of nature is reflected in our minds. The two should not be segregated.

Art can be missed altogether if you so much as blink your eye. The healing of art can be overlooked by all of us caught up in survival and the daily grind.

And yet life can itself become art; should perhaps.

It is universal, it is not just in the eye of the beholder. Like consciousness itself,  it has, maybe, a separate existence andis  a law of physics in its own right. A close relative, or perhaps derivative of consciousness.


  1. From the point of view of a mystic or Seeker art is a human artifice, not the real thing; artificial, distractions filled with human values such as emotions, intellect, qualia, lust, anger, greed, attachments and ego (hubris) for instance … The mystic experience is we are not our bodies, brains or minds.

    Best wishes,


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    1. Unfortunately, stuck as we are on this mortal plane, we need to find something to fill our days. Art, music, literature all do the job nicely. I think that most if not all of us share the yearning for transcendence to a better realm and in that sense art can be viewed as one of the “fingers pointing to the moon”. Some may even achieve a form of transcendence through art – at least in the sense of an escape from mundanity. I believe that art and human artiface have their uses. Without distraction, pleasure and interests it would be difficult to live? Such artifices may not be reality, but I suspect for some of us they help to point to a better place.


  2. I think that without something to do we would cease to exist. Which would not of course matter in the least. That has always been the danger of quietism. I can only say that for myself I find that art, broadly defined, enlarges my thinking and my world. Rodin’s Thinker, Munch’s Scream make me think about Reality. Help me to define it, to contemplate it. So does the music if Tallis and Byrd, Faure and Purcell. I suppose I would say that I use art. In a sense it enables me to escape the limited confines of my own musing. I find much the same use in science for the layman – in particular I find Steven Wolframs views sympathetic to my own. That great complexity has resulted from a very small number of rules fed back on each other and infinitely mutated. Perhaps reality is thought, consciousness. In the sense of a vast and overarching universal or multiversal system of thought and being. I don’t know, I really don’t. But personally I have found so very many things which have pointed me in the direction I find myself heading and I would nit be inclined to discard any of them. There is only one thing which I have achieved in life; some small beginnings of wisdom and while none of what I have though or done, or achieved (or not) matters, it does make a kind of sense to me. My life is like a Persian rug; knotted and complex, patterned and worked. Art has played its part in my making.

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  3. George Fox, the pacifist founder of Quakerism is said to have told a youth who asked him when he should stop wearing a sword, as was the tradition of his time, replied: “wear it as long as thou canst”. I’d suggest much the same to any haplessly called Seeker who said the same as you have done about the artifice in their lives.

    By the way, there seems little evidence that the generality of humans recognise their true condition or would do anything about it anyway unless ‘called’. Ron Krumpos feels there are more mystics about. There’s certainly been a sudden surge of world wide academic and scientific interest since the 70’s. I just don’t know.

    Another BTW: I don’t think there is any danger in quietism as you suggest. I think quietism shows every liklihood of being the final condition of mankind before mankind leaves the chrysalis of the human conditiin to assume its proper Reality (where there is no artifice…).

    All good wishes. I do enjoy your deep eloquence, indefatigable, enthusiastic searching.


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    1. You know, I think that those who truly practice extreme quietism must surely achieve deep peace. The danger is not “dangerous” as such merely that in conventional terms they cease to exist – to the outside world anyway. So you may well be right about quietism being the final condition we are aiming for. Or indeed perhaps “seeking”. In ultimate quietness, there must by definition exist ultimate peace, ultimate letting go of the absurdities of life in favour of a better mode of existence. Is there thought I wonder in Reality? Or perhaps simply gnosis – perhaps by then thought is irrelevant. In any event I follow your train of thought. You might just as well substitute any of those other terms for quietism which would probably describe that ultimate condition quite well. Nirvana and so forth. Yes, you comment makes a lot of sense to me.


    1. The sound of one hand clapping. Indeed but in a sense do they not break the mind from its shackles? Its a shock, its a circuit breaker. I know you would not approve but of course that is just what Huxley sought in self hyposis and mescaline.


  4. On the matter of quietism, what I know is that nothing a mystic does is a “practice” if my experiences are anything to go by. I was infused with mysticism spontaneously. That must be the same way quietism infused and enveloped me. Quietism is not a sought after deliberate discipline or “practice”.

    Could it be what some Christians call one of the many “fruits of the Spirit” that helps maintain the balance mystics require whilst being partly humani?

    I was also infused with the ability to ‘small talk’ in human company in my early 40’s. That brought much peace, ease and comfort to the sparating tumult of my inner calling. Was that a ‘fruit’ too?



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    1. To be honest I had neglected for a while the spontaneity of your mystical experiences . That does indeed put everything else into perspective. Given direct experience one would not need koans let alone art. I am afraid I have little ability to small talk these days. I guess that is partly my character and partly the fact that I mostly avoid company. I imagine that for some in religious orders quietism, or at least contemplation and solitude is a practice but presumably in many cases it leads nowhere. I have to confess I have always wanted to chat to somebody who is reputed to have reached advanced spiritual states. Certainly the Dalai Lama has a wonderfully beatific smile and seems a genuinely good egg. But there again in this context I imagine that good and bad have little context or meaning. Small human concerns such as morality probably have little relevance in the vastness by which we are surrounded. Hmm…food for thought.


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      1. You wrote, “I have to confess I have always wanted to chat to somebody who is reputed to have reached advanced spiritual states.”

        Try it when you’re on your own! Go into the Silence and listen. Remember, “That which you seek seeks you.”

        “It is closer to you than your jugular” is another pertinent Sufi experience, a mystic truism.

        When spiritually crippled by human values, grasping at human values for remedies keeps you spiritually crippled. I can report there were no spiritual cripples in the Way of Reality in my experiences.

        It’s waiting. Trust, and keep ‘chatting’. You of all people have no option anyway.

        Very best,


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