Last week I quoted Ken Wilber writing in The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision For a World Gone Slightly Mad. Reading more of this book I came upon a passage, a contemplation actually, that I think beautifully expresses the highest potential of art—the perspective that everything is art. The challenge for us, of course, is to see that. I offer it here for your consideration—in its entirety.
Great art suspends the reverted eye, the lamented past, the anticipated future: we enter with it into the timeless present; we are with God today, perfect in our manner and mode, open to the riches and the glories of a realm that time forgot, but that great art reminds us of: not by its content, but by what it does in us: suspends the desire to be elsewhere. And thus it undoes the agitated grasping in the heart of the suffering self, and releases us—maybe for a second, maybe for a minute, maybe for all eternity—releases us from the coil of ourselves.
That is exactly the state that great art pulls us into, no matter what the actual content of the art itself—bugs or Buddhas, landscapes or abstractions, it doesn’t matter in the least. In this particular regard—from this particular context—great art is judged by its capacity to take your breath away, take your self away, take time away, all at once. And whatever we mean by the word “spirit”—let us just say, with Tillich, that it involves for each of us our ultimate concern—it is in that simple awestruck moment, when great art enters you and changes you, that spirit shines in this world just a little more brightly than it did the moment before.
Take it one step further: What if we could somehow manage to see everything in the entire universe as being exquisitely beautiful, like the finest piece of great art? What if we right now saw every single thing and event, without exception, as an object of extraordinary beauty? Why, we would be momentarily frozen in the face of that vision; all of our grasping and avoiding would come quickly to rest; we would be released from the self-contraction and ushered into the choiceless contemplation of all that is. Just as a beautiful object or artwork momentarily suspends our will, so the contemplation of the universe as an object of beauty would open us to the choiceless awareness of that universe, not as it should be or might be or could be, but simply as it is.
Could it then be possible, just possible, that when the beauty of all things without exception is perceived, we are actually standing directly in the eye of Spirit, for which the entire Kosmos is an object of Beauty, just as it is, precisely because the entire Kosmos is in fact the radiant Art of Spirit itself? In this extraordinary vision, the entire Kosmos is the Artwork of your own highest Self in all its shining creativity, which is exactly why every object in the universe is in truth an object of radiant Beauty when perceived with the eye of Spirit.
And conversely: if you could right here, right now, actually see every single thing and event in the entire universe as an object of sheer Beauty, then you would of necessity be undone as ego and stand instead as Spirit. You would want nothing from the Kosmos at that moment except to contemplate its unending Beauty and Perfection. You would not want to run from the universe, or grasp it, or alter it at all: in that contemplative moment you will neither fear nor hope, nor move at all. You will want nothing whatsoever, except to Witness it all, contemplate it unendingly, you want it never to end. You are radically free of will, free from grasping, free from all mean motion and commotion. You are a center of pure and dear awareness, saturated in its Being by the utter Beauty of everything it contemplates.
Not a single particle of dust is excluded from this Beauty; no object whatsoever, no matter how “ugly” or “frightening” or “painful”—not a single thing is excluded from this contemplative embrace, for each and every thing is radically, equally, unendingly the brilliant radiance of Spirit. When you behold the primordial Beauty of every single thing in the universe, then you behold the glory of the Kosmos in the eye of Spirit, the I of Spirit, the radical I-I of the entire universe. You are full to infinity, radiant with the light of a thousand suns, and all is perfect just as it is, always and eternally, as you contemplate this, your greatest Artwork, the entire Kosmos, this thing of Beauty, this object of unending joy and bliss radiant in the Heart of all that arises.
Think of the most beautiful person you have ever seen. Think of the exact moment you looked into his or her eyes, and for a fleeting second you were paralyzed: you couldn’t take your eyes off that vision. You stared, frozen in time, caught in that beauty. Now imagine that identical beauty radiating from every single thing in the entire universe: every rock, every plant, every animal, every cloud, every person, every object, every mountain, every stream–even the garbage dumps and broken dreams—every single one of them, radiating that beauty. You are quietly frozen by the gentle beauty of everything that arises around you. You are released from grasping, released from time, released from avoidance, released altogether into the eye of Spirit, where you contemplate the unending beauty of the Art that is the entire World.
That all-pervading Beauty is not an exercise in creative imagination. It is the actual structure of the universe. That all-pervading Beauty is in truth the very nature of the Kosmos right now. It is not something you have to imagine, because it is the actual structure of perception in all domains. If you remain in the eye of Spirit, every object is an object of radiant Beauty. If the doors of perception are cleansed, the entire Kosmos is your lost and found Beloved, the Original Face of primordial Beauty, forever, and forever, and endlessly forever. And in the face of that stunning Beauty, you will completely swoon into your own death, never to be seen or heard from again, except on those tender nights when the wind gently blows through the hills and the mountains, quietly calling your name.
ABOUT THIS IMAGE
Title: Watching The Earth Rise
Location: Indian Rocks Beach, FL