One of Ken Wilber’s chief insights of Integral Philosophy is his model of Four Quadrants that describe the relationship between inner and outer worlds, the individual self and the collective. I’ve applied his theory to gain understanding about how art may help transform or evolve consciousness.
First, a vision illuminates the artist’s inner world, this corresponds to the upper left quadrant in Wilber’s model, the subjective conscious interior of an individual. To use the example of the Net of Being, this step would be when I first experienced the image on a mystical ayahuasca journey. Second, the vision or subjective state of the artist is expressed into an individual aesthetic artifact — such as a painting, story, or dance. Related to the Net of Being, “outputting the vision” took several years. Third, the artifact enters the collective systems of aesthetic reception, the gallery, museums, newspapers, magazines, and websites — like when the painting was reproduced by TOOL on their album, on banners at concerts, on T-shirts and other merch, etc. Fourth, the artifact is absorbed into the meme-stream of the cultural psyche by a public interpretation of the meaning of the artwork, potentially transforming the collective interior. Like a tincture added to a body of water alters the entire body, so artworks can color and anchor a collective’s understanding of itself, birthing a unique worldview of cultural meaning for that community. The altered Zeitgeist becomes a context for the next phase of visionary aesthetic inspiration and the grand round of art continues on it’s evolutionary path.
Art is a way for the subjective inner world of the artist to be fully expressed into an outer world object. This creative process is inherently developmental because the psychology of “the subject of one stage becomes the object of the subject of the next.” Art literally objectifies the subject, allowing the artist the opportunity to witness and transcend their former stage of being. For example, the artist who is caught in a depressive state may be able to transmit their feelings of despair into a painting. Their spirit may feel uplifted by the accomplishment, and by their observing the art, they may gain insight about their emotions and enter a new stage of maturity in relation to their feelings. This is why art therapy works. If the artist observes the clues embedded in each work, their creativity can be a transformative path.
Art can offer the beholder an attractor toward higher development. Icons of wisdom masters like Christ and Buddha, represent what we might become. Portraits of Bodhisattvas, Angels, and Deities are Sacred Mirrors of possibility for our own enlightenment.