The Secret to the Nature of Great Art

In creating any work of art, but also of business or science, one must always ask “what does the work require and demand?”

In other words, what does the work by its very nature demand that it be like?

Not “what do I want?” nor “what do I want the work to be like?” nor “what do I want to say through this work?”

But what does the work itself want and demand?

Ask the question sincerely and the work will always answer

If the work is truly living, and has been inspired and intuited from living impulses, it will be able to answer every sincere question, and tell the artist what it wants and where it wants to go at any point.

This may seem like an unusual or even absurd notion to some; for many assume that the artist creates the work of art and gives it life, not that the work can possess a life and logic of its own, apart from the artist.

Birth as an analogy for art

In this regard, it also used to be assumed by many that in birth, the mother when she becomes pregnant, creates the child and gives birth to it; thus apparently giving it life.

However, this is obviously false. Through the Grail Message, we also know that the mother only provides a substantiate bridge that the child's soul uses to incarnate in the world of heavy gross matter.

The child’s physical body is developed in her passively though she can aid in various ways in its right forming. And the “spirit” or self that is to inhabit this body, that is the spirit of the child, is always an independent human spirit with a life and soul of its own.

Inspiration and artwork as artistic incarnation

So it is also in all truly great works of art, and any great work in any field, the artist must only provide a bridge through which the work is to incarnate. He also helps form or fashion the earthly means through which the living work is to manifest.

He must only help form the “physical body” in which the living work is to incarnate.

The work if it is truly living will have a life all its own, independent of the artist himself.

Playfulness and inspiration

What I discuss in this essay, is the principle of letting the artwork speak for itself as it is developing.

However in order to strike the connection with the inspiration, the artist often needs to use a seemingly opposite approach to the one we are discussing here.

The artist needs to engage a childlike, joyful, and playful attitude in order to be open to the inspiration and let it flow.

If one cannot play joyfully, one cannot be open to the touch of the artistic beauty of Creation.

Any tension, judgement, or critical attitude usually kills the budding inspiration before it has come to life.

Inspiration vs development

At the same time that one is open to and receiving inspiration through childlike playfulness, one needs to develop the plot, progression and development of the artwork according to the serious principles in this essay.

What is the difference between inspiration and development? How does one strike a connection with the inspiration through playfulness, and at the same time seriously develop the artwork?

How does one balance and harmonize inspiration with development? What are the working principles or practices whereby inspiration is cultivated to create a beautiful work of art?

That will be discussed in another essay. In this essay we will discuss development alone.

By development I mean how a person shapes and directs the progression and development of his artwork; whether it is deciding where the plot of a novel or screenplay will go, what are the events that will unfold logically one after the other to culminate in a climax, what will happen in the story, who will do what, and how the author is to express and write it all; or in which direction a musical composition or song will progress, how the melody will unfold to a climax in tandem with the harmony and orchestration, how it will all sound; forming the the vision of how the sculpture or painting will finally be and how it will develop into such a finished work; and so on.

All these I include under the general umbrella of "Development". Naturally there is no clear border in art between development and inspiration. So what I discuss in this essay unavoidably overlaps both aspects.

Great artists must hold their egos at bay

Since a true artwork has an independent life, this means that when forming the earthy vehicle and means through which the work is to manifest, the artist must never allow his personal desires, ego, wishes or whims, to influence how the work is to turn out.

The work must always be allowed to follow its own logic and its own demands, never the logic and demands of the artist.

The artist may have a strong desire to have the work go a certain way, but if the work itself does not agree with this, or if the work’s logic does not dictate the same thing, then the artist must defer to the work.

The discipline and sacrifice of the true artist

This approach to art, and to all creative work, demands a great discipline and noble sacrifice from the artist.

He must sacrifice the immensely tempting power to use the work to say whatever he wants, in the way he wants; a power the work always gives him.

Painstaking discipline

The artist must also sacrifice his ability to use the work as a vehicle for fulfilling or expressing his own purposes, goals and wishes, and instead strive to allow the work to express its own life, and fulfill its own destiny, with himself in the background as the facilitator.

He must help the work to bring across its own content and life, allowing the work to form itself piece by piece into a complete vision in his inner intuition, and conscientiously and painstakingly seeing to every detail that the work needs so that it can manifest as a complete work in the physical world.

Sacrificing desire does not mean sacrificing joy

Sacrificing his desire to direct the work, does not in any way mean the artist sacrifices his joy in the work. It is those who create artworks according to their own desires, who lose the pure joy in the work.

Their selfish intentions sully the beauty and fulfillment of their experience of the great task. A selfish intention, is equivalent to an impure intention. Selfish intentions sully the human soul in all aspects of life, and not just in creative work.

But in art, the artist's intentions are blown up to larger than life proportions for everyone to view on a big screen. So in art the errors of a person manifest much more powerfully than they do in ordinary life.

On the other hand, those who let the artwork decide the direction, experience profound joy at the breathtaking beauty that is coming together under their hands.

The pride, happiness and fulfilment when the work stands there complete and flawless, is beyond description.

The need for sustained discipline

At every stage and point of the work’s development, he must consciously hold back his desire to influence direction or outcome, and allow the work to speak.

Only a clarified person can do this effectively. In order to create something of value, a person needs to be able to perceive intuitively in a deep way, to have a vision, to see where and how the artwork needs to go.

With a narrow vision, the work one creates will likewise be narrow.

The artist who possesses the depth and clarity, needs to be continuously alert to make sure he is not allowing any personal desires to have an influence over the direction of the work, but that the work itself is setting the direction.

An example of artistic discipline and sacrifice

Thus, as a simple example, a novelist or screenwriter may deeply love the hero he is depicting in his story, and wish only the best for him.

However, he cannot allow his feelings or desires to influence the fate of the hero or the outcome of the story.

If the artistic logic and spiritual life of the story require that the hero suffer serious setback or even die, then that is what must happen, regardless what the artist prefers, desires or feels.

Another example of artistic discipline and sacrifice

This second example is very very common among all great artists. And it is a prime example of supreme discipline and sacrifice.

This is when an artist is creating his work, and as he's doing so he creates something that is exceptionally beautiful.

Let us take the example of a musical composer, though this same principle applies to all the arts.

A composer is creating a beautiful composition. As he is immersed in doing so, a musical excerpt or passage of immense beauty arises. He does not know where it came from, seemingly out of nowhere, but he does know it is something very special.

The problem is it does not fit perfectly anywhere in the musical piece he is composing. He recognizes that the composition he is creating is good, but it is just another merely good composition, like so many others. However the beautiful passage or excerpt that came to him is exceptional and powerful.

Try as he might, that excerpt simply cannot fit into the piece. And when we say it cannot fit, this means it cannot fit in perfectly, for, as already stated, it is the logic of the composition itself that must perfectly dictate where the music goes.

The mature artist and the immature artist

Here is where the mature great artist can be separated from the immature one.

The immature artist will not be able to bear the pain of leaving out what he knows to be an exceptionally beautiful musical passage, from his composition. So he will improvise a way to fit it in at a certain point.

At a certain point, he may employ a special musical technique to transition into that passage, and then use another musical technique to transition out.

Now when the composition is completed, that passage seems to fit in to the rest of the composition, in other words there is nothing wrong outright, but the passage only fits in technically.

In other words, one cannot find anything wrong with the composition in a technical sense, but because something that doesn't belong there has been put in, the composition is compromised artistically and musically.

Those who hear that beautiful passage will find it just as beautiful as the composer did, but their sense of the overall composition is that somehow it isn't right, something is wrong. The beauty and integrity of the overall work is diminished.

And so the artist has compromised his artistic integrity out of his own personal motives and desires.

To leave out the beautiful passage, requires a painful sacrifice, which only a mature person can carry out with equanimity. He must accept the possibility that that passage may never fit into any new future composition, and so may never be heard by anyone, and be lost forever. The mature artist makes the sacrifice anyway. Integrity is paramount in art.

Of course the above scenario is not always the case. Sometimes the beautiful passage can, with a little careful intuitive thinking, be fitted perfectly into the work. At other times, a beautiful passage can be fitted perfectly into another future musical work, or even be used as the basis of a whole new work.

So the above scenario is not the only possibility. I only focus on this possibility in order to make clear the principle of artistic integrity.

What about great artists who had big egos?

Some people might want to point out that many great artists were deeply troubled psychologically or emotionally. Some were neurotic or a few nearly mad.

And the reality that great artists tend to have huge egos is almost proverbial.

Doesn’t this contradict what I said above about great artists being clarified persons and having to suppress their egos?

The scales of focus

Whatever may have been true of such artists personal lives or psychological hang-ups, if they were truly great in the forming of their works, you will always find the strictest discipline and integrity in their approach to the forming of their work, as far as the work itself is concerned.

In many cases, great artists were so absorbed in and obsessed with facilitating the forming and birth of their works, thus giving themselves totally to this task, that they were not fully present to the events and problems they faced, which they considered to be mundane and banal, in comparison to the sacredness and importance of what they were creating.

Thus their intense attention to and absorption in their work meant that attention and energy were diverted away from their personal lives. In many cases this was one of the direct causes of their emotional troubles and psychological and social conflicts.

Big egos are needed to succeed in the industry

On another side, an artist needs a big ego to be able to deal with the pressures, stresses and politics of the business, media and commercial side of his particular art, which in the modern world is usually ruled by the darkness, like much else.

That artist who has the talent to produce great art, but who lacks the personality, cleverness and ego to handle these challenges, might simply not be able to succeed in the ruthless business, and so the world never gets to know his work.

There were in past times and are today many artists with much greater artistic talent in their field than the most famous and successful artists in that field, but who remain relatively unknown.

So it is not that the artwork itself requires a huge ego, but that without such a strong ego, the artist cannot bring his work to the success and prominence that will have him acknowledged as a great artist, in the dark conditions prevailing in modern times.

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