By Lawrence Sheaff
An extended commentary on the book by the artist/author in the form of a supplementary essay
THE BOOK’S MAIN THEME
The holistic nature of an artistic creation can fully embody life’s own holistic reality. By giving that abstract unbounded holistic reality a localized concrete form, a work of art can help powerfully align a culture as a whole with nature or natural law for a problem-free life – heaven on earth.
Modern science tells us in detail about the structures and functions in nature but in relative terms only. Moreover, they only tell us the ‘what’ of things and not ultimately the ‘why’. Maharishi Vedic ScienceSM points to the fact that the ‘what’ of the universe can only be properly known and properly understood by first fully understanding on a scientific basis the ‘why’ of the universe.
From this perspective, if modern science is not able to authentically reveal on a scientific basis the ‘why’ of everything, its knowledge will always remain fragmented and incomplete and thus ultimately ineffective. Again, one can only truly understand the ‘what’ by knowing the ‘why’ – and moreover, not just knowing it in relative terms, but knowing it in absolute terms.
The universe is purposeful. Maharishi Vedic Science (referred to throughout as MVS) sees all the structures and functions in the universe as governed by an overall purpose, an overall directedness. Its nature is to expand.
Everything consistently proceeds in set, orderly patterns of growth and expansion. Nothing is random. All is governed and propelled by consistent laws that systematically unfold the universe in the light of an overall process of purposeful expansion.
The two central tenets of MVS are, ‘All is nothing but consciousness’ and ‘The individual is cosmic”. Thus human life is integral with the cosmic life of the universe as a whole and its process of expansion. That expansion in relation to human life means the expansion of health, happiness, intelligence, creativity, and organising power. In short, the expansion of everything we naturally deem meaningful and fulfilling to life.
Knowledge gained without reference to that overall purpose is bound to be incomplete because it will be divorced from, or in some way at variance with, nature’s purpose. When not properly aligned with nature’s purpose, knowledge becomes weak and ineffective. Such incomplete knowledge creates problems in all directions.
As we have seen, the application of such incomplete knowledge in our modern age has brought our world to the brink of destruction. New, more holistic knowledge is now at hand in the form of Maharishi Vedic Science and Technology which offers science-based holistic knowledge that can immediately, and at a single stroke, solve all the pressing problems of out time.
The book ‘Absolute Image: The Structure of Consciousness in Visual Form’ describes how that holistic value of knowledge is already being implemented on a global scale and in all fields of human endeavour. However, the book’s main focus is the application of that total value of knowledge to the discipline of the visual arts.
It describes how this complete knowledge of consciousness, the total knowledge of natural law contained in Maharishi Vedic Science and Technology, unfolds the full cosmic potential of the discipline. Further to that, the book explores how the works of art that emerge from the activation of the full cosmic potential of the discipline in a cultural setting will be imbued with unprecedented levels of power. And further to that again, the impact that such works will have on the life of society is examined and assessed.
The book also examines how the application of Maharishi Vedic Science and Technology to the visual arts reveals the enormously important role the visual arts have to play in the transformation of the world. This means, the transformation of the world from its present epidemic of stress, strain, struggle, and suffering, to a world of dynamic peace, joy, and unlimited progress, abundance and creativity.
The series of paintings reproduced in the book, which are titled Absolute Image: The Structure of Consciousness in Visual Form, represent the culmination of my work as an artist. I have used the title of the paintings as the title of the book.
The choice of the title for the paintings and the book is a deeply considered one, and very purposeful. The phrase ‘the structure of consciousness’ is a concept brought forward and explained by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi the founder of Maharishi Vedic Science and TechnologySM, in 1972.
Maharishi Vedic Science is broadly described in the book on page 77 (and briefly in Commentary I). This new and complete science of consciousness forms the basis of the reconstruction of the visual arts presented in the book.
‘A science of consciousness’ and ‘the structure of consciousness’ may be new concepts for scientists and laymen alike. The aim of the book is to give a full explanation of these new concepts and their significance in relation to the life of the individual and the life of the nation as a whole.
However, the book’s central purpose is to explore in particular the impact of MVS as the total knowledge of natural law on the specific discipline of the visual arts. This means in terms of the discipline’s theoretical as well as practical aspects.
My own use of the term ‘structure of consciousness’ 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, i.e., the specific domain of our visual world. It has thus imbued the term with a new and fresh value if 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 new 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 thus an individual artist’s attempt to give aesthetic material form to the deepest, most foundational dynamics underlying the visual arts.
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 two-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.
The book puts forward a new, science-based framework for re-evaluating our world of visual aesthetics founded upon the principles of Maharishi Vedic Science. The purpose has been to reveal the fullest cosmic potential of our visual aesthetic reality.
Part One of the book deals with the personal subjective aspect of this study. It deals with my own personal relationship with my Absolute Image Series of Paintings reproduced in the book.
Part Two of the book addresses the question of verifying the authenticity of such an absolute level of expression. To build a model or mode of approach for tackling this issue, as said, I take recourse to the total knowledge of natural law contained in MVS.
I should emphasise again that in the objective analysis contained in Part Two, the Absolute Image Series of Paintings are used strictly objectively. The series of paintings are used only as a concrete reference point for discussing abstract principle. As said, they are used solely to help establish the principle of an ‘Absolute Image’ at the foundation of our visual aesthetic reality.
This study therefore is akin to a scientific investigation. The proposed new principles related to the visual arts described in Part Two are offered in the spirit of a scientific paper presented by an individual for critical review. The intention has been to present these new principles related to the visual arts in a way that allows them to be freely engaged with both artistically and scientifically and assessed on their own level of merit.
However, it should be noted that our topic concerns the arts, and the visual arts in particular. Although the visual arts can be assessed scientifically, it is not, in itself, a scientific discipline. It is an ‘expressive discipline’. ‘Subjectivity’ therefore is inevitably interwoven in its every fabric.
As a general note, the style of objective analysis required to grasp the real truth of an ‘expressive discipline’ will inevitably differ from that conventionally applied to the disciplines of science (this particularly refers to the so-called hard sciences).
This is because the very subject matter of the expressions of an artistic discipline is the subjective sensations of the artist as the creator and, in the case of the visual arts, the subjective sensations of the viewer as appreciator. Therefore the personal subjective factor is inescapably present both in the creation and the appreciation of a work of art and thus also required to be present in any attempt to scientifically investigation the discipline as a whole.
Because of this predominating subjective theme in the disciplines of artistic expression, the process of appreciating a work of art is based upon an individual freely forming a personal subjective relationship with a work of art.
Both aspects, creating and appreciating, are unavoidably impacted therefore by the unique set of subjective preferences intrinsic to every individual. This dynamic therefore will inevitably be in play throughout the whole discussion.
As an important aside, it could be added that all human activity, including that of engaging in scientific study, could never claim to be totally free from subjectivity in the form of our personal nuances of thought and feeling. ‘Objectivity’, even in the sciences, can never be absolute. It is always a matter of degree.
The discussion in Part Two also brings forward the vital necessity of fully actualizing the cosmic potential of the arts within a culture. It is vital because without this the full activation of this facet of human creativity, the knowledge in a culture would be incomplete.
If a society’s knowledge is incomplete its ability to maintain a sustained value of alignment with natural law will be undermined. This would make a culture vulnerable and lay it open to internal and external disruption.
The fullest unfoldment of the arts is vital in a culture for another reason. The arts have a unique culturing capacity. As indicated, their role is to culture and nourish the most sublime levels of human thought and feeling.
Further to that, the arts bestow upon the environment in which life moves the qualities of grace and beauty. They also play an essential role in maintaining the vital essence of a nation and its core integrity over time.
Through aligning the arts with the evolutionary power of natural law and fully activating them in all aspects and at every level of education the full culturing of human life can be made complete and, further to that, sustained in harmony with natural law in a consistent way over time.
I have tried to make the book into a process of discovery for the reader. I have tried to capture in their sequence the fields of discovery that I myself traversed in the process of my study. A story is being told that for me is a vital story: a necessary story. And because of the unprecedented nature of Maharishi’s knowledge, in our present times it is certainly an unprecedented story.
Moreover, because MVS is universal knowledge, if the story has been properly told it will be the story of total natural and therefore everyone’s story. It will be the story of everyone and everything.
The power of a story rests largely on the art of its sequence. The imagination of the reader should be captured and drawn step-by-step into a new world of understanding. Thus a book about art and consciousness has to be a work of art in itself.
Unavoidably, the successful achievement of this in the book rests solely upon the author’s level of understanding and expressive powers. As the author, I can only say that over the years I have naturally become very conscious of what it has taken to give the book the shape that it has, and why it has been given that shape.
I also tried to take the measure of the book’s spirit and content in relation to past and present discussions on the arts. Exploring other texts on art made it clear to me that the purist essence of human creativity has never been thoroughly and systematically investigated on a scientific basis – perhaps ever.
My work is an attempt to fully elucidate in step-by-step detail how the whole of the visual arts emerge from their source in pure consciousness. As has been made clear in the book, it is only the principles contained in MVS that makes both the conception and realization of such a project possible.
The book then explains how the knowledge and experience now provided by MVS will completely transform the visual arts by unfolding the full cosmic potential of its three basic constituents defined as, 1) the artist, 2) the art-object and, 3) the viewer of art.
I offer therefore what I have concluded to be the most authentic approach to fully integrating the principles of Maharishi Vedic Science into the visual arts. I regard the approach as authentic because to my mind it has revealed the deepest levels of experience and understanding concerning the nature of the discipline and its significance in the cultural life of every nation and the world as a whole.
Furthermore, in this reconstruction of the visual arts in the light of MVS my deepest concern was to uphold the dignity and cosmic grandeur of the ancient Vedic wisdom. Only by maintaining the integrity of MVS could the fullest expressive power of the visual arts be brought forth in a way that aligns the discipline with the evolutionary power of total natural law.
As the book concludes, in the process of establishing the absolute foundation to the visual arts as a whole, its own cosmic potential is both revealed and activated.
This opens the way to an unparalleled expansion in all facets of the discipline. It elevates the artist, the art-object, and the viewer of art to entirely new heights and, as a result, expands them to entirely new and more unbounded levels of expression.
– Lawrence Sheaff