The point I have been making in this series of essays is that the process of spiritual awakening is at least partially an artistic and creative process. We are both discovering new dimensions of reality and creating them at the same time. That is because we are always interpreting every experience we have. We live in a meaningful world. A chair is not just an object, it is something to sit in. A person is not just an organism, they are a mother, a sister, or a friend. A spiritual experience is not just a feeling of elation, it is a communion with a deity, a glimpse into the divine nature of reality, or a revelation of our higher nature.
It is inherent in being human that we give meaning to every aspect of our lives. We don’t just experience things, we understand them. We cannot have an experience and not ascribe meaning to it. Even if we decide it is meaningless, then meaninglessness is the meaning we have given it.
The path of the via negativa is the path of striping all the meaning we have ascribed to the world away from our experience. If we follow this path to its end point we land in the unknown. When all meaning is stripped from experience there is nothing left to know. We find ourselves in an incomprehensible void of pure experience. We have dropped all meaningfulness, including any distinctions of any kind and so reality merges into an undifferentiated, unintelligible unity of being.
The great Indian sage Ramana Maharshi is renowned to have entered this state of oneness and remained there for some years. He famously just sat, didn’t move, didn’t talk, wouldn’t even feed himself. His detachment even went to the extent that rats gnawing his legs didn’t spur any response to the god-intoxicated holy man. Reportedly, he was dwelling in the bliss of divine oneness beyond any notion of bodily existence.
Unless we are abiding in a state of absolute pure being, we can be certain that we are interpreting our experience and living in a world of our own interpretations. If we have any sense of ourselves being someone who exists, we are already living in an interpretation. We have imagined something that we believe to be ourselves, and we imagine ourselves to be separate from everything else that we experience. This is an interpretation.
The via negativa, the practice of letting go, wipes the slate clean, in fact, it wipes the slate away completely. In some spiritual traditions, wiping away any sense of manifest existence and abiding only in the emptiness of nonexistence and pure being is seen as the highest possible attainment.
At the same time, there have always been mystics and sages who, having tasted the essence of reality beyond the mind, return to the world of interpretation full of new visions of reality. These spiritual visionaries attempt to communicate what they now see in images, words, music and many other ways. In doing this, they are attempting to create visible representations of the invisible realms of spirit.
The artistic expressions of the mystical artist act as a bridge to the ineffable, serving as a trail of breadcrumbs leading home. These trails of sacred art, writing, and song, are visible to people who have not made the journey to the unknown and act as lamps in the darkness of divinity, shining with the brightness of realization and leading inspired wanderers back to their original source.
It is important to understand that the journey that these sacred expressions lead us on, is not a journey through space. It is a journey through states of consciousness back to the source of existence. Each expression was created from a state of open awareness and has the power to open that same state of awareness in the soul of another.
A spiritual realizer experiences the ineffable and interprets what they see in ways that are meaningful to them. They express these interpretations and if another soul has a parallel destiny they will have the same opening. The words, or the art, or the music, are keys that open doors of perception and create a via positiva that leads back to the source that inspired them.
These expressions are not static. They do not simply lead to one place and one interpretation. Spiritual art is alive. It changes each time it is viewed. It is alive as much for the creator as for anyone else. Those of us who create visionary expressions of our own realization, learn from what we create. Our own words, art and music have the power to transport us to new and deeper realizations. We are building our own road to divinity as we travel it. We are recording our spiritual travels, and catalyzing further growth in the invisible realms at the same time. In this way every seeker is a mystical artist, and every mystical artist is a seeker.
Our spiritual journey through states of consciousness is an exploration of inner space, and each new opening illuminates another aspect of who we are. This adventure should not be thought of as a journey through time and space. It is an expansion of our soul. The mystical artist is illuminating their own soul and creating maps that others can follow in their own soul journey.