More just now than at any other time, we need to reach out with heart and mind to grasp the feeling that we move with the current of a life greater than the human one. This tends to lift us out of the stratum of violence. The weight of our life can tell in the balance of constructive forces if we are careful to be never at war in our thoughts, to be truly creative in sending out love and courage to all who are troubled.
The reservoir of world thought requires clarifying in these times when so many persons have lost what they most cherished in life, home and loved ones. It is important that we be positive in the best ways lest we be caught up in a stream of gloomy thoughts which only add to the world's sadness. We can still be dynamic and definitely the generators of a spirit of joy and beauty.
When we have the spirit of giving and helping, we are working with nature, in harmony with the action of the sun's rays, the rain and the gentle breezes that open the petals of the flowers. This arouses in us the creative side of our natures and then we shall find at hand work to do that will be helpful. If we determine to do some beautiful thing every day of our lives we can rise to this creative level of consciousness. It may be no more than making an arrangement of flowers to send to some one or making the home more beautiful than usual. Association with creative work inspires us to do something, then the will comes into play.
It is possible to escape contact with the baser and ugly side of life. One may live with his chosen works of art, his garden blooming with flowers and his own thoughts, but unless the real self is stirred by some ideal of service to help humanity through the unfortunate lessons of life, there can be little true happiness. Where there is time, it is wise to take up some form of creative work and give expression to the best self that it may become a genuine contribution to the light side of nature and the life we all share.
We need art in our lives more in times of great stress than at any other time. The magic of it is more easily comprehended when we try it on troubled minds, persons absorbed in personal affairs; for if they have learned to be quiet and sympathetic to interests outside of themselves, they will always find the effect of this magic in an hour or two all alone in an art gallery. Happy days would be found nearer if all who were unhappy would cultivate a friendship with art.
The compelling inspiration of the artist challenges self-forget-fulness in one who would get the true message intended. The artist can only interpret grand ideas when he himself is self-forgetful, lifted by the inspiration of the moment into a higher stratum of consciousness. In every age great art is the product of self-forgetfulness, of that artist who goes quietly about his work and finds happiness in it.
Whenever an artist has been carried out into the higher ranges of his consciousness by the inspiration of his work, this imprint has the power to lift the sensitive beholder out of the ordinary self and to awaken the higher imagination, to refresh the whole nature. The search for truth, for understanding that flowers in sympathy and kindness, must be in the background of all true art that will live and furnish an ideal of inspiration to others.
We must begin sometime if we are ever to come into our own as awakened artists. An artist is not made in a lifetime. It takes the mounting impress on our characters of many lives of real effort. The creative urge is a priceless thing. It drives the artist to want discipline, to go to any trouble, to strive ever toward perfection, growing in the conception of the ideal. Discipline is the very foundation of all art. Discipline abolishes the petty and the personal and makes way for that abandon which releases the inner greatness. "One should discipline one's self in the spirit of autumn, and deal with others in the spirit of spring," said old Chang Cha'o.
As we advance away from much that we abhor in the art expressions of today, from brutality, sensationalism, fakery, vulgarity, and the reign of the evil forces in man's nature; as we approach cleaner, simpler, and more wholesome living, finer sentiment about life, more and more numbers of the human family will become artists, in the sense that all life is a school of art.
Everything moves in cycles. Just as violets blossom in the spring time and chrysanthemums in the autumn, so the human family has its dark ages of spiritual barrenness and its epochs when conditions are right for interest to center upon the nobler aspects of life, a time when latent memories of "golden ages" of enlightenment in the eons of the past blossom forth and men catch again gleams of age-old spiritual truths.
Those "golden ages" of China, Egypt, Greece, and other lands were times when art, science and spiritual truths were revered, when every person was an artist of some kind. The art expressions were noble, there was beauty in the smallest detail of daily living, simplicity, dignity and regard for others. The inner joy, the generating force that brings to flower such a cultural cycle, is deeply rooted in man's spiritual nature.
As we grow into a genuine culture in this western world it will be the usual thing for every person to be an artist just as it was in those ancient days. The value of the development of the potential artist that dwells in every human being will then be clearly recognized, for it is a challenge to all, a chance to forget our small personal selves, to grow and to be our greater selves.
Even the products of the lowly earth, which in obedience to human hands, responsive to the artist's vision, have been transformed into vases, jars, bowls, plates, kettles, figures, and bottles of innumerable varieties of color and form, make us realize that the love and devotion of the artists who have made them have impressed something of their self-forgetfulness, of impersonality, on the very atoms of the pots they have made and have lifted them up, but not simply by the new forms they have given them.
With all our aspiration, our turning of our faces toward the stars, we are after all bound to this old earth until we have done our part to launch every atom of the vehicle of our experience, on its way toward its God-like unfoldment. Indeed we can learn even from the pots and jars; yes, and kettles. It was George Midgeley who said: "When you are up to your neck in hot water, do what the kettle does — sing!"
The artist, filled with awe and reverence, with joy in his work, his quick sympathy ever stirred by nature's manifold wonder, possesses the seer's vision that senses some of the inner beauty and harmony residing within the simple objects of life about him. All nature speaks to him in terms of rhythm; poems in line, color, mass light, shadow, movement, and repose. He is absorbed in his world of the problems of interpretation of all he sees and feels.
The power to be an artist — whether musician, poet, painter sculptor, architect, dancer, actor, or writer — is latent in every human being. An artist's career is filled with an inner joyousness that comes from obedience to the awakened positive and creative forces in his own nature, and he truly lives only when he is waked from absorption in non-essential affairs, into the universal wonder the unspeakable grandeur of the inner spiritual qualities of the world in which we live.
As we move forward into a new time and a more genuine culture every occasion should be modeled after a plan of perfect harmony and beauty, an inspiration to carry a lovely spirit into the daily tasks, great or small.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE