There are those among us now, many I think, who increasingly feel the urgency and the power of a “call,” a beckoning to become something more than we are. There is a sense of something invisible and awesome pulling us in its tractor beam, accompanied by a feeling that we must attend to something essential and if we do not, we may sicken or even die. This feeling may have a variety of antecedents. Perhaps there was a period of physical, emotional or spiritual pain, loss, panic and anxiety, or sudden states of ecstasy. Perhaps we once felt in control but now we are not. Maybe we sense the presence of angels, spiritual beings, or ancestors trying to get our attention. Maybe we have spontaneously entered a dark night of the soul and experience ourselves in a state of disintegration, enduring a long ordeal in whose grip we cannot imagine emerging from whole again. Maybe it’s the experience of finding ourselves in a world in chaos with the barbarians at the door. We know that something has shifted and life will never be the same. Whatever the origin of this call, whatever we call it; shamanic, visionary, spiritual, transpersonal, God…it has the effect of placing us beyond the limits of conventional reality because it alters profoundly what we have believed to be true about our relationship to the universe. There is a sense that something unknown is bending our awareness far beyond the trance of the shopping channels to the perception that we are in fact, divine beings. However we arrive at this awesome awareness, once it has started, we cannot stop the process. We have not so much been chosen as we have been magnetized by the gravity of the great Attractor. We are heading with increasing speed into the center of the cosmic Mandala, the black hole in our own universe through which we are being reborn as a new species. Part of the urgency of this call seems to come from sensing ourselves not as an isolated microscopic entity powerlessly stranded on a random rock in space, but as a vibrant jewel of light interconnected in an awesome neural net that is at least 4 billions years old. This “net” seems to exist as a spectacular species mind utterly intent on remembering not only its entire evolutionary past but in manifesting its yet unrealized future, all in the context of some inscrutable cosmic purpose. It is this plan and the divine intention that created it that we are now becoming conscious of. How did it happen that this enormous Being began to awaken? I don’t know. But it seems that the entire species is being awakened from a collective dream, all at once, at this moment in history. And this mass awakening is unprecedented in the experience of the species. Everything we see, the violence, the collapse, the chaos, the collective terror, the world wide tyranny, is all an indication that some new Great Story, some new Myth (in the Joseph Campbell sense of the word) is emerging into the collective consciousness bringing with it the power to renew our decaying world. In a word, we are becoming conscious of our own metamorphosis. The awe of feeling ourselves part of a vast intentional evolution for some mysterious purpose not yet realized can cause one to feel completely overwhelmed. The huge jolt of cosmic energy surging through tiny wires not designed for this kind of download can create heat and resistance that in turn can translate into somatic symptoms, illness, panic, anxiety, disorientation, despair and even a kind of divine madness. Is this like the shamanic sickness of old morphed into a newer more collective form? I wonder how many people are having the experience right now of this kind of call? What would be the effect on them if they knew how many others were having a similar experience? How would it help to renew within them a new image that more accurately reflects their own true identity? I bring this up because I am sharing such an experience with many others. In my personal case, the reason that I’m an artist at all is because nearly 7 years ago, I experienced a rapid chaotic psycho-physical/transpersonal crisis that we now call a spiritual emergency. And fairly early on a series of mandala images started to pour out of me like a fountain. Each one of them seemed to symbolize concepts like “the unity of life”, “the order behind the chaos,” and the fact that we are love, beauty and magnificence beyond our wildest imaginings. They indicated an intelligence that is “purposeful” and inscrutable. The images indicated that far from being an accident and a mechanical chemical process, our consciousness was beyond the brain and filled with the divine expression of love. That much seemed obvious, even though it contradicted the most ardent assumptions of our science. The process that caused me to release these images from inside me and change the story I was telling myself about who I am nearly did me in. It involved a psychic crucifixion and entry into a dark night in my soul that I feared I would never emerge from. I felt helpless and paralyzed, sure that I was going mad. I experienced being crushed, deconstructed, and shattered almost beyond what I could endure. I was filled with dread, panic, despair, grief, and a feeling that I was ruined and utterly abandoned by God. There were physical symptoms as well: enormous head pressure, ear ringing, shaking, jolts, extreme muscle tension, intolerance of noise, people or TV’s. For a time I couldn’t eat and for a much longer time I couldn’t sleep. I was reduced to taking medications just to get rest. I could easily feel the ears of whales and dolphins being shattered by the Navy’s use of low frequency active sonar. The violence and denial of our society became intolerable. But after more than two years, there were some turning points and I started to get up again and return to myself, albeit once through all that ordeal, I thought I should be done, that I should heal and the trouble recede far behind. But now, 7 years away from that initial crisis, a new round of symptoms have returned, this time in the form of chronic pain, paralyzing fatigue, intolerance of inauthenticity in myself and others, and the sense that I simply must come out. I have become interested in shamanism, in how to enter non-ordinary realities and contact healing spirits, in how to heal myself. I have felt an urgency to integrate the reality of an emerging new great story. My evidence for the fact that something incredibly significant is happening in the collective consciousness is the response I am receiving to the images I have painted. For the past several years now, as I show my paintings at the Santa Fe Society of Artists art market, I have noticed that there has been a steady stream of people who have “recognized” something in the images that reflects the process they themselves have been going through. They have wanted to talk, to share their own experiences, to somehow validate that they are not alone. Like myself, they have craved some new way at looking at the chaos, hopelessness, powerlessness and grief that we are all experiencing in the collapse of our institutions, our natural world, and in our own world views. We are wandering now in a new territory. We are like children, Hansel and Gretel; no breadcrumbs to throw down, no string to mark the return path. We are together now in crisis, which is marked by danger on the one hand and opportunity on the other. It is the signature of The Great Awakening that is happening now. In ancient myths, the archetype of the hero’s journey begins with the loss of their familiar surroundings, which leads to the “ordeal.“ The hero or heroine finds themselves in strange territories, magical circumstances, and arduous encounters with danger that tests their courage and endurance. The ordeal is the prerequisite for finding magical helpers, mentors, allies, animal guides and divine assistance. The hero or heroine is forced to go beyond their own limited boundaries in order to get gifts they need to survive the uncertainty and danger and bring back to their communities so that the people can once again thrive. Like them, we have been dragged or tricked into in a collective underworld, with strange hands reaching out to grab us even as we try to escape dark corridors of uncharted territory. Even though there is the world of politics and TV, of newspapers and shopping, of traffic and work, there is the terrifying sense that we are no longer in a world we know. There is climate change, blatant political corruption, institutional collapse, unspeakable violence, economic cruelty, torture and endless war. Our culture has lost spiritual and moral power and compensates with delusions of exceptionalism. There is no way out. We are in a box canyon. We cannot go back, terrified of going forward. We live in a collective schizophrenia: On the one hand, our science tells us there is no God, no spirit, no healing energies, no life after death. We are “random accidents.” On the other our religions have reduced God to a homophobic, irrational, scripture-thumping tyrant obsessed with abortion and filled with rage, violence, retribution and damnation. The collective belief system about who we are and why we are here that has been cobbled together with 400-year old scientific assumptions and 2000-year old religious dogmas are collapsing in conflict and impotence. Instead it has become a tool for tyrants and vested interests to preserve their own power. No wonder we are afraid! At times we ask, “Why me?” We may feel despair. Yet we know instinctively that we must continue onward, that we cannot live there. We must endure and dance with the pain that comes from living in these times. To stay sane we must listen to the cosmic music and find a way to communicate with the healing spirits that await our presence. The reality of our times is bringing forth the voice of not just our individual souls but of our collective soul. The soul’s emergence is a call to become more authentic and listen not to second hand religious stories or societal threats to conform but to our connection to a living Spirit that is now returning to its own creation. The reward of attending to this call is to release a great gift within us, one that perhaps we never even knew we had. It is the gold we are given when we return from the ordeal of being refashioned, which is what happens when we wander in this new uncharted territory. It is how the new great story manifests in us with the power to assist in renewing a world dying from lack of vision and leadership. The Great Awakening is the dawn of a new great story about an entire species emerging from the earth-spell, away from the conviction that we must somehow escape into the light this hellish entrapment of physicality and into the realization that we belong here, that we have a right to thrive and shine, that we are here to embody heaven on earth! We are in process. No matter how strongly our body’s clench or how many times the old traumas surface, we are healing. What is happening now is a blessing, even if it is a crisis of unprecedented proportions. As unfathomable and as ruthless as this process seems now, still, it is guided by a profound love and compassion for what we are being asked to endure. Perhaps we are doing so for the sake of realizing a grand purpose and pattern set forward at the beginning of the Creation itself by this divine being of which we are an integral and indescribably loved part. For without our willing participation, how can it ever know Itself? As Rumi writes of God telling Moses, “I was a treasure and I desired to be known.”
It’s been extremely difficult if not frightening to try to paint lately, during this incredibly potent , magical and nightmarish time. Like so many others, it is overwhelming to be witness to a time in history when the barbarians are not only at the gate, they are in the gate. It has been noted that during times of great upheaval, when the entire edifice of our shared collective belief system is threatening to crash at any moment, that is the time when the artists, visionaries and writers arise to help us navigate and name that momentous pivot point in our evolution that can be called “The Changing of the Gods. Perhaps it is not so much a literal changing of actual Gods, as it is a reimaging of the Great Story that has defined us. The Great Story is really the culture’s myth about who they are and why they are here. In our western culture this is called the Judeo-Christian myth, and it reflects a certain image of God the Father with a long list of manly attributes. For the last 400 years this myth has been modified by the scientific revolution, which it seems has given religion a rather material and mechanistic bent. Even so, for millenniums this myth has been a vital if not brutal face of who we imagine ourselves to be, what we collectively believe to be reality and where our place in the universe actually is. But now this Great Story has lost its power. The function of any cultural myth, any Great Story, has always been to renew and heal. But slowly, over hundreds of years, it has fallen into a cynical view of power that justifies harming and killing. The visionary power of Christ that electrified human beings has been organized, diluted, institutionalized and dogmatized into impotency. Thus, the Great Story is no longer capable of renewing itself or the people. It has increasingly fallen into the hands of those who want to rule the world. When Great Story becomes co-opted to serve the petty needs of tyrants it becomes deathly ill. No one can save it. This is the meaning of the phrase, ”Where there is no vision, the people perish.” What happens next is the onset of decay. We can witness the rise of fundamentalism, the justification for torture, the mass incarceration and the consolidation of wealth into the hands of a few. There is crime, depression, anxiety, terror, suicide, and addiction. The entire web of mutually benefiting relationships begins to break down, and brother turns on brother. This is the metaphorical story of Cain and Abel. As in the myth of the Fisher King, the earth goes fallow and the people begin to die, spiritually and physically. All this points to a time of chaos. Although the function of chaos is about course correction and not about punishment, it can certainly feel like punishment. But if we look at our present predicament like a spiritual emergency, that is, a rapid, chaotic psychological and spiritual transformation, then the symptoms have a trajectory, one whose potential leads to healing and a more expanded awareness of the unity of all life. The manifestation of chaos in our time has some potent shamanic elements. We are collectively being dragged kicking and screaming into our own collective underworld where the entire image of who we are is being dismembered and deconstructed by forces we are powerless to influence. Practically overnight, we find ourselves on the path of the ordeal. This is the realm of the archetype of the hero’s journey. It’s about the soul finally stepping forward in order for its needs to be acknowledged and attended to so that a gift might be released. Because when the soul steps forward, the limited ego has no choice but to step back and this can be extremely painful. The soul wants to have a say now in what is most true, beautiful and magnificent about who we are as human spirits. So first, there must be a death, an end to the old story and to the illusion that we are separate beings. That can feel like a Dark Night of the Soul. We can feel lost, utterly abandoned by God, angry, confused, and horribly alone. We no longer care about the things that used to distract and entertain us. Our relationships change. We feel despair and unspeakable grief. We long for the presence of comforting Spirit in our lives. Yet, even as the old story within us is dying, a new story is on its way. It is being birthed right now, even as we speak. This is like the myth of the Phoenix. In the birthing of the new Great Story that I see, we are the co-creators of it. By definition, the new Great Story informs us that we are not alone in the universe but are in fact altogether linked into one cosmic web of intelligence, one unity of life. We are in partnership with the divine intelligence and that source is in us. War becomes unthinkable. The idea that some beings are entitled to rule the rest becomes ludicrous. The new Great Story is a conviction that what we do to the other we do to ourselves. It is about living the truth that everything is alive and therefore sacred. Overpowering the earth with pollution and exploitation in the name of private profit is seen as a form of insanity. The new Great Story is about each of us allowing the Divine Intelligence to return to its own creation, not as religious dogma, but as a living presence in us. God is no longer “out there” but in here. And one of the signs that the Divine Presence is returning is that all the rules about what is possible start to change. And then we do too. So as an artist, how does one express this? How can one express the unseen presence of Spirit that is our essence? My own purpose in doing art at all commenced more than six years ago after a personal spiritual emergency that forced me to find some sort of order in the chaos, some sign that behind my own personal pain there was loving intent and not punishment. It forced me to try to grapple with the ancestral conditioning of a vengeful, wrathful, insane God who cast people into hell for even looking wrong in the lineup. The art that emerged for me during this time in the form of the geometric mandala was a kind of personal proof that there was a living presence of beauty and love in the universe that was beyond my limited understanding and conditioning. I viewed the art that emerged as actual evidence of our divine origins and the fact that we are already saved. If God is us and we are God, how can God cast himself into hell eternally and not die Himself? This was no easy insight. For me, with my own entrenched ego, it has involved a long ordeal of terror, anxiety, panic, body somatization, and painful doubt. It has involved moving through the conditioning of my own traumatic past and the religious conditioning of my Mormon ancestors. For me at least, it has been no small matter to stand before the inevitable confrontation with death that seems built into accepting the true power of our own spiritual nature. So how to face the burning bush, like Moses on the mount? How can something be so beautiful and terrible at the same time? It is true that my practice of art right now is really difficult. It’s hard to put into an image what I’m saying here and yet, I feel I must try. Like many others, I get terrified. I have my sleepless nights. I have my illness, my chronic pain, my doubts. And like many others, I have that experience of my heart permanently breaking at the senseless violence of our times. The purpose of this post is to share with you that the art that I do, that was born out of an intense and almost unendurable crisis of the soul, has been urging me lately to speak in words about this process and share what my experience is of living through these times. It is all about the reimaging of God and thus ourselves, so that peace, renewal, prosperity and life can once again return to this planet we call our home. It is about the right to thrive and claim the gifts awaiting us when we attend to the needs of the soul. It is about love, pure and simple.