The other day I was wondering what to say when someone asks me what I do. Even though I’ve had a significantly long career as a priest, counselor, spiritual guide, teacher and psychotherapist I’ve always had difficulty answering this question. It may be because I’ve always thought of myself outside the so called boundaries of these or any other ‘labels’ which seem to be constrictive and not inclusive enough. After all, we’re all so much more than any job or title. After much reflection I finally decided on an answer.
When asked, “What do you do?” or “What kind of work are you into?” I’m going to humbly say, “I’m an artist.” I’ll then smile and wait for a non verbal and verbal response. I’ll not go into a long expository narrative on how I think everyone is an artist and that the greatest art is the Art of Life. I’ll not go into some self congratulating justification and rational. I’ll just smile and simply answer the questions that follow. Here I sense I can stand in the midst of all the creativity that is, has been and ever will be as an artist. Here I can practice the Alchemy of Art.
Historically alchemy was a mystical art form that found the highest values in the lowest forms. It found the blessing in the curse, the wisdom in the ignorance, the affirmation in the scorn, the acceptance in the fear, the praise in the insults, the light in the darkness. Carl Jung, the father of depth psychology gave a lot of attention to the esoteric meaning of alchemy. “The supreme artist (i.e.,God) has prepared a great uncreated mystery. It is a concretization in projected and symbolic form of the process of individuation.”
Individuation for Jung was the highest integration of the human and divine natures of being. He saw it as achieving the supreme level of Pure Consciousness. It was the attainable alchemical transmutation of the lead of humanity into the gold of our divinity. It was the ‘philosophers stone’, the ‘pearl of great price’, the ‘New Being’ that was promised of old. For me it points to an alchemy of art to be performed by everyone who calls themselves human. It paints a bigger picture, a more wholistic image for us all. It helps us remember who we truly are. . .
Art is contemplation in action. It’s knowing the small selves within as well as the Source Self that is found everywhere and nowhere throughout the Cosmos. Art is an affirmation of the Great Creator by whatever name you choose. Art is an expression of our co-creative relations with one another, the whole of creation and the Great Creator. Art is dropping directly into ourselves, into Source Energy where we create something new, curious, challenging, comforting, evocative, beautiful, egregious, contrasting, expanding, penetrating and inspiring.
The alchemy of art is an awareness of our significant part to play in awakening the gold within. We are the ones creating the world. We are the ones who are fascinated with misery, evil, despair, tragedy, fear, punishment, anger, aggression, and inflation. We are also the ones who are fascinated with affirmation, trust, optimism, acceptance, forgiveness, transcendence, meaning, wisdom, reverence, love, joy, peace illumination and enlightenment. To be an artist is to live into the biggest picture we can imagine, to realize that everything is possible in art. . .
As we take this alchemy of art personally we begin to recognize the transformative nature of all the love and loss we’ve experienced. We begin to see how our shattered selves can be made whole, how our fearful selves can be embraced, how our aggressive selves can be affirmed, how our inflated selves can be reconciled and transformed. We start seeing how our choices can transform our victim positions, our helplessness, our ‘unconscious lead.’ At its very center art is triumphant. Its spirit can never be destroyed. Artistic co-creation is built into our DNA.
So my dear friends and fellow artists: “Walk softly into the night. Come gently bring your own light. Dance lightly gleam in your eyes. All ways bring all your own highs . . . Open your hearts to love and you will see the Essence within you seeks to be singing creations own special melody.” Be bold. Be brave. Be the artist you’ve been created to be. Practice the Alchemy of Art . . .
- Sit quietly this week as you practice stilling a few minutes every morning. Make a date with your artist to write, draw, sing, play, rearrange, design, create before you walk out your door and into the world. Treat your inner artist as you would a child. Help her begin creating again.
- This week take an artist walk for at least a half hour. In this walk, be attentive to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches and intuitions you experience as you slowly walk, stand and sit during this artist walk. The intention is to perceive and receive more expanded awareness.
- Carry a little memo pad with you this week and open space to simply sit and receive from your Inner Being. Note what feelings, impressions, directives, affirmations, encouragements, and awakenings come up. Listen and gently follow what you feel is drawing you.
- Practice turning what you consider some of the ‘lead’ in your life into ‘gold’. Give attention to changing indifference into permitting, permitting into affirmation, affirmation into intention, intention into acceptance, acceptance into understanding, understanding into reverence and reverence into love, joy and peace. Feel which emotional process brings the greatest satisfaction. This is an ongoing practice in the Alchemy of Art. Notice your new creations.