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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Misfits, rebels and the sacred: On the metaphysics of art and the creative

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But what is about the creative minds and their yearning for something most divine, that something that escape the grasp of the human mind? What is that one thing that carries the mind in its own mold and brings it back with an expression and experience that keep the ordinary mind at bay?

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Throughout the millennia of our mortal experience we have witnessed the most creative minds being concerned with the most difficult questions. From the sittings of Hermes Trismegistus and Imhotep of ancient Egypt to the Far East with Lao Tzu and Confucius. Coming down to witnessing the great dialogues of Socrates and Plato among others, we are left wondering as to why the eminent questions and discourse touch on the profundity of human existence and what underlines the foundations of meaning which make the human a being of reason and authentic identity. The only ones who have dared to go to the core of questions such as the relation of the divine to the human soul which remains an enigma to the most intelligent minds. They were bold enough to come all out and defy orthodoxy and explore the galore questions that have accumulated within the conscience through the passage of time.

The rebellion of man against the high heavens and the orderliness of that celestial world it seems didn’t stop therein. For the paradox of human existence is the fact that while he seems self-sufficient, he is vulnerable and inadequate when it comes to governance of his inner kingdom and the more he apparently renders himself absolute and reduce all phenomena to his own world, the more he becomes stuck in a cycle of ego worship and deep misguidance that is apparent primarily in the narrative of post modernity. You can call them misfits and rebels for they don’t fit within the confines of the conventions of their times. They have transcended the dictates of the monoculture that characterise the ages they live in. 

These unique souls take the human experience to a whole new level. They are the artists, poets and mystics. For them their whole life is to revolve around the parameters that define the overwhelming, the nostalgic yearning of the soul for that time out of time experience when it subsisted in the beautiful presence of the Divine. All known beautiful art is in fact a longing and lovelorn lamentation of the soul to replicate what is at the core of its primal origin.

Rumi the great Persian Sufi poet buried in Turkey a land once known for its timeless art and poetry, explained beautifully that the singing of the reed flute when blown into, is in fact a cry from the reed flute yearning to go back to be reed bed from where it’s been cut off:

Listen to the story told by the reed,

of being separated.

 

“Since I was cut from the reedbed,

I have made this crying sound.

Anyone apart from someone he loves

Understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source

longs to go back.”

 

What the great master Rumi is doing here is trying to explain that that flute represents the human soul that yearns for its divine origin. That distant prologue in heavens when all the souls took the covenant of servitude before the Almighty. Since that time, the souls of men continue to yearn for a return. So through coming in contact with that intense longing, the artist or poet is made an emissary and vessel to serve once again that beauty that the souls thrive on.

The theophany in the cosmos when beheld by the mystic, who has since come back to humanity after being utterly annihilated in the divine beauty and rigour, becomes a means for him to reaffirm what is truth of what he has witnessed of what lies beyond this corporeal illusion. So the metaphysics of art and the transmission of beauty is more of a reminisce of our higher selves. The nature of that longing comes by way of different inclinations, like the main attributes of the Higher One is beauty and rigour, the artist too being a representation of that inherent perfection fluctuates between these two qualities. 

Rebellion against the established norm is itself a prophetic impulse at once a sacred call that remade communities and built within them the one thing that gives life to all other forms for the thriving of man, spirituality. The best forms of art and poetry of all times and places has always been from the prophetic nations; for when man is cognisant of his spiritual properties then he is apt to go all the way in bringing down below the value and heaviness of the high heavens. So in a nutshell all of art, poetry and creative expression are a just representation of the divine beauty from the beyond.

This explains why the great ones, sages, poets and mystics have always been concerned with those questions that stand at the threshold of the human conscience. Through asking questions that on the surface are unanswerable and are best left to the enigma of time, the wise ones come up with such beautiful works that our experience on this ephemeral plane will never be the same. The philosophical movements that dominate the ancient days did bring to the circles of humanity the much-needed balance between mind and matter. The ethical codes that were worked out by the moralists fused with the revelation that the prophets came with nothing less than the fullness of the human vicegerency reclaimed. 

As for our time, the narrative is superficial and hallow. The age of the misfit is once again upon us, he must needs be, start a rebellion against the desecration of art or precisely sacred art. He is at once a stranger who clings to the last fragments of meaning and beauty afloat on a sea filled with the hubris of materialism and ego worship. He must make a decisive move in changing the landscape for the better. Hollywood is one entity that is using human intelligence in the pursuance of beauty, with the introduction of all forms of mutilation in the essence of the art that was supposed to be saviour for our time. The continuous terrorism employed upon the minds of the ordinary millions through movies and thriller novels of no literary merits whatsoever, has rendered the modern world a wreck. So for the artist who is given the ability to change the status quo through protesting with what he possesses of art will ultimately, like the misfit, be called upon by the forces of history to execute his role.

To reclaim his position, he is to relearn the metaphysics that sits at the foundation of all that is creative. The secularisation of the modern times by the forces of corporate capitalism is one destructive methodology employed to trickle down beauty and separate it from its sacred origin. In doing that the big profit machine has gained control of the mediums of expression and used it to its own advantage. It’s the usurping of this fundamental right of expression that has exploded in our midst through violence promoted through the movies and utter disregard for the feminine through misogynist lyricism from our music.   

I was recently chatting with this very fine and intelligent lady, Madinah Bryant Mubarak. She is one person who sees hope in our pursuit of the rebels who will break the deadly cycle of secular monotony. She reminded me of some very harsh truths. That we are in fact seeing less and less of those really interested in the beauty manifested in the cosmos. Many, she said, don’t even notice it no more, which leads them to forget themselves. Thinking about this creates a tension within the mind of the stranger in his time. Battered by the various interpretations of reality and the manifest, he stands at a polarity between the secular and the sacred. His creative muses are to be collected alongside his discontentment to create a revolutionary art that dominates the crisis that is visiting modernity.

As a saviour in a long line of saviours, the rebel, the misfit and the mystic are called to take the less trodden path in actualising this very great truth. The experiential and Gnostic knowledge that’s the bedrock of all soul-inspiring art is to be rediscovered and set as a manifesto to reclaim our planet. Like I wrote elsewhere, the very pollution and destruction of our ecological sphere is a direct product of the loss of beauty and meaning; for its impossible for a man who sees the universe as theophany of the Divine’s beauty to go all the way out and destroy it. He will be too busy being in awe and reveling from that grace of grazing his heart upon God’s perfect art than to willfully contaminate it.

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