Commentary II

Absolute Image: The Structure of Consciousness In Visual Form - Front Cover

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The Structure of Consciousness in Visual Form

By Lawrence Sheaff

PART ONE of a commentary on the book by the artist/author


Maharishi Vedic Science and Technology

In 2007 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gave a summary of his Vedic ScienceSM to the Parliaments of World Peace. Twelve of the most basic areas of human life and living were reviewed in the light of Maharishi Vedic Science and Technology. In his address on Music and Art, Maharishi specifically mentioned the disciplines of music, painting, and sculpture thus confirming them as legitimate, timeless Vedic disciplines of art.

Maharishi University of Management (MUM), Iowa, USA

Founded by Maharishi In 1972

Maharishi charged the faculty of MUM with two principal responsibilities. Firstly, in the context of Maharishi Vedic ScienceSM they should connect their discipline to its source in pure consciousness, the unified field of natural law recently glimpsed by modern science, and secondly, they should unfold new values of knowledge within their specific discipline. As a faculty member of MUM, I took on the role of Research Scholar and Artist in order to fulfill this faculty mandate. The Absolute Image Series of Paintings and the discussion on art and consciousness contained in the above book is the result.

Notes on the Title of the Book

Applying the foundational principles of Maharishi Vedic Science and TechnologySM directly to the disciple of painting set me on a compelling new path of discovery. (See Commentary 1 for a description of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Vedic Science, which will be referred to throughout as MVS.)

The progression of my work as an artist culminated in the series of paintings reproduced in my book titled Absolute Image: The Structure of Consciousness in Visual Form (shown above). The choice of the book’s title is a deeply considered one, and very purposeful.

The term ‘structure of consciousness’ is a concept first coined by Maharishi in 1971. My own use of the concept in the context of my book – while faithfully maintaining Maharishi’s original meaning – extends the understanding of that meaning deeply into the visual arts. This expansion of the term has occurred simply by placing that concept in a new setting – the specific domain of our visual world. It has thus imbued the term ‘structure of consciousness’ with a new and fresh value of significance.

As said, the title, Absolute Image: The Structure of Consciousness in Visual Form, was very purposefully chosen. It was chosen for six reasons:

FIRST: it was chosen because it simply and very directly describes the book’s essential topic.

SECOND: it boldly re-introduces absolute values into the visual arts thereby directly confronting our present postmodernism-dominated era. It is deliberately provocative in relation to this current tenor of the world of the arts and is thus designed to arrest the attention.

It is provocative because over the past forty years, postmodernism in the arts has rejected all notions of an absolute foundation either to life itself or to the arts: the postmodernist mind regards such notions as having no basis in reality. The current view – and until now, justifiably so – is that because there seems to be no means of verifying such a reality, it has to be regarded as an irrelevant topic.

The significance of re-opening the topic at this time is that this absolute level of life and art can now be directly experienced in human awareness through the Vedic technologies of consciousness contained in MVS. At the core of these Vedic technologies is the simple, natural Transcendent MeditationSM programme and its advanced techniques.

Furthermore, the reality of this absolute level of life can now be discussed on a truly comprehensive scientific basis. This comprehensive scientific basis is the result of the most recent discoveries in modern science and, again, the revival in recent decades of the total knowledge of natural law contained in Maharishi Vedic Science and Technology.

THIRD: another function of the book’s title is that it presses upon the central issue of all knowledge. The issue is how can any impulse of knowledge and experience be verified as true in absolute terms? The book examines that question specifically in the context of the visual arts and, as said, examines it in a new scientific light – in the light of the complete science of consciousness contained in MVS.

FORTH: this function of the title Absolute Image: The Structure of Consciousness in Visual Form is to define what might be thought of as the ultimate level of expression that could be conceived of and aspired to within our world of visual experience.

FIFTH: in terms of my own personal relationship with my work, there came a time when I had to commit to it in public. In order to maintain a friction-free flow of knowledge between my own consciousness and the consciousness being made manifest in the series of paintings, a level of complete commitment to them had to be expressly demonstrated.

I needed to, as it were, ‘stand by’ what I felt these paintings to be. It was necessary for me to declare in public what I personally felt these works to be addressing. I was certain that only with this would my interactions with the medium continue to yield knew insights into its deepest levels of significance in relation to the individual and the life of society as a whole.

This complete commitment was best demonstrated in the title: ‘Absolute Image: The Structure of Consciousness in Visual Form’. In a single phrase, this title directly conveys to the viewer and the reader something of the tone of the work and its central concern with the foundational level of the visual arts from which all the varied expressions of the discipline arise.

SIXTH: As stated, the title conceptually defined what I felt to be the ultimate level of expression that could be conceived of and aspired to within the visual arts. But further to that, my mission was then to address the means of validating the reality of such a level of expression within the discipline of painting. It was thought that with this the relative and absolute – the objective, subjective, and transcendental values in the medium – would be fully encompassed.

Also, by addressing both the practical and the theoretical aspects of the visual arts, this consciousness-based reconstruction of the discipline could thereby be made complete.

The Absolute Image Series of Paintings reproduced in the book are an individual artist’s attempt to give aesthetic material form to these abstract concepts. In the context of the book the paintings are used purely as a tangible reference point for understanding abstract principle. They are used to help establish the principle of an ‘Absolute Image’ at the foundation of our visual aesthetic reality.

The paintings are used to concretely demonstrate how the unmanifest, abstract organizing principles at the basis of creation are made manifest, are made material, within the 2-dimensional arena of painting. This process unfolds the whole range of our visual world from unmanifest absolute to manifest relative levels of existence.

The two most basic MVS paradigms ‘all is nothing but consciousness’ and ‘the individual is cosmic’ when applied to the process of painting, opened a whole new world of understanding and expression within the visual arts. It created a revolutionary new vision of the scope of human artistic expression and the profoundest significance of it in a cultural setting.

Part Two of this commentary continues in Commentary 3

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