What a fascinating and mysterious painting Kevin uses to accompany his piece below entitled “Being and Consciousness!” And how appropriate an illustration of what it may mean to be conscious, at least in some larger sense of the term.
We have to wonder if the painting originates in the unconscious mind, either personal or collective (to use Jung’s term); or does it specifically depict the conscious mind of a gifted artist, which may be different from the consciousness most of us operate on as we go about our daily activities? My guess, and my view, is that it is something else yet, something above and beyond either of these, associated neither with our normal everyday consciousness, nor with the unconscious mind, but instead with some higher level of awareness.
Let us look a little more closely at the painting itself. The two figures in the center are locked in a passionate embrace, a kiss that brings them as close to union as two beings can normally get. They are male and female, I think that is clear, but not necessarily “man” and “woman.” No, they are beings seemingly of some other time and place, representatives if you will, archetypes of maleness and femaleness, that each of us carries within. They appear to be staring into each other’s eyes, and at the same time staring out at us. That is, they are lost in each other (i.e. in oneness), but also cognizant of the otherness of the world “out there.” In other words, they who were two have become one, while still rooted in the daily world of what the Daoists call “the 10,000 things.” This is the realm of endless multiplicity that we see constantly surrounding us all the time. However, through the union of their male and femaleness they have become enlightened, and they are now able to perceive the singleness of the One among the many. They also appear to have a single nose to share between them; and so we assume they breathe as one. This, I think, references the kundalini force, as the yogis call it, the spiritual, mystic energy that comes down from above (figuratively), rests at the base of the spine (in chakra one) and then rises, uncoiled, snake like, in yogic meditation until chakra seven, that of the Thousand Petal Lotus, has been achieved. This is the energy that flows through the One, who otherwise appears to be two, because the state of consciousness they have reached is one wherein the duality of subject and object no longer pertain. They – or no longer they – neither male nor female (because such duality is no longer pertinent), can now be called Enlightened.
Each also has his or her own totem animal as a companion. There is a long mythological tradition of enlightened beings having animal companions. In Hinduism, for example, the Lord Vishnu is accompanied by Garuda, the golden bird with the face and wings of an eagle and the body of a man; Shiva sits astride his great Bull Nandi, and his consort (or one of them), Durga, rides a fierce tiger. In Kevin’s painting, a serpent emerges from the forehead of the female figure. This again refers to the great spiritual kundalini energy that has risen from the lowest level, and which is now at the sixth chakra, the Spiritual Eye. In this state of consciousness, you see that all of creation is one with the Oneness of Spirit. It is through love and intuition, the female “side,” that this level of awareness has been achieved. On the male side, we see a strange creature. It could be a dog, or a wolf, or a coyote, or some combination of all three. The dog is the faithfulness of human affection spiritualized to that of Divine Love (bhakti yoga, the Way of Devotion), the wolf is the strength and braveness of truth and intellectual activity (jnana yoga, the Way of Knowledge), and the coyote, that great trickster of many an American Indian story, reminds us that delusion, maya, as the Hindus call it, is never far away, even when we have reached the highest levels of spiritual development, so long as one is still in the body.
The last to appear (in my view) is the gnome-like creature below and beside the male figure. Who is this strange fellow? He appears to be part human, part skeleton, part dwarf. In the old European fairy tales, gnomes are the guardians of underground treasure. Here, the figure represents the lower consciousness of the male (i.e., chakras one through three), the part that once faithfully and even jealously guarded his coveted treasures of sex and power, but out of which the greater awareness of the unified figure has since emerged. We can see his spine, or at least part of it. This reminds us of and connects us once more with the kundalini power that has become fully manifest on the female side. And his expression is both one of envy (in the lower aspect of his consciousness) of the ecstatic union that is emblematic of higher consciousness, but also of a kind of awe or prayerfulness, once he emerges more fully into human form.
Finally, the colors in the painting are important, too. The background behind the embracing figures is of deepest blue, as in the depths of the cosmic night. It is, however, studded with stars both golden and silver, reminiscent of the colors of the male and female figures. They are the sun and the moon, the light of intellect and of love. Interestingly, the artist has surprised us and switched the usual associations we have with these colors. In this case, it is the male that is pale, moon-like, silvery-blue, a “cold color,” associated now (in my mind at least) with the precision and power of the active intellect. The female is depicted as much warmer, with golden earth tones, associating her with the bounty of the planet, and the great humanness of the love that can and should very much be part of being in a body. But in her case, her level of higher consciousness and enlightenment is such that even the body (i.e., in this case, her shoulder) “sees” with the light of spiritual discernment and discrimination.
This is how I understand this lovely painting that Kevin has used to accompany his reaction to my earlier article on the nature of consciousness. In it, and in a wholly different and, obviously, non-verbal way, he has taken the discussion to a very different level. As he says later (in the verbal part), we cannot forget that there are many forms of consciousness, other than the merely human. Animals, too, have their own awareness, as do plants, and even the great silent mineral life of Mother Earth.
All of these things are reflected, and referenced, and depicted in Kevin’s painting, and in his thoughts on Being and Consciousness, and I am grateful to him for taking the time to extend so fully my own initial musings on the nature of consciousness.