The Arts—music, dance, drama, poetry, painting, & beyond—are recognized cross-culturally as profound portals for ecstatic union with the Divine. As old as Shamanism, as robust as Chanting, as intimate as Whirling, and as bold as Zen calligraphy, from an Integral perspective, the Arts continue to present us with openings to Spirit—as numerous and diverse as the Forms themselves.
Today, with the proliferation of media (via digital technologies) we have more access to learning about and working with the Arts than ever before. What we are missing, however, is guidance as to how we might integrate ancient, modern, and contemporary Arts within our lives—particularly in regards to our spirituality.
I began investigating the Expressive Arts as conduits for healing and spiritual growth more than a decade ago. At that time, the digital revolution was swirling all around, and the consciousness-raising potential of the digital landscape caught my attention due to a serendipitous encounter with an article written by Roy Ascott—a pioneer in the area of interactive art.1 Ascott’s musings on the transpersonal ground of cyberspace inspired me to begin conducting research in the areas of digital altruism, the cyberhero archetype, and more recently, collaborative heroism.
For the most part, my public writing has been limited to the aforementioned topics related to my profession in the field of media psychology. Recently, however, I’ve been prompted to begin sharing my personal spiritual reflections, particularly those related to how we might utilize the Arts in tandem with digital media to strengthen our realization of Spirit on a daily basis in our contemporary lives. I’ve come to refer to the work as the Path of the Sensuous Mystic because it requires the conscious use and application of one’s senses (including the sixth sense of intuition) and, the only prerequisite is a yearning for personal experience of the Absolute. (You might be a “sensuous mystic” if reading about someone else’s transcendental states of ecstatic union with Source, creates a holy envy within you—that is, rather than being sated by such descriptions, you become hungry to experience such states yourself.)
Grounded in the Perennial Philosophy and informed by Integral theory, the Path brings together insights from numerous spiritual traditions; its process of sensory immersion in the Arts is a contemporary extension of techniques with roots in ancient spiritual traditions. Over the following weeks and months I’ll be sharing the basics of this Path. As an Integral psychologist, my goal is to write such that individuals at various stages/levels of development might find a foothold. If you are moved to step along, take note: there is nothing you need leave behind. Daily life, with all its ups and downs—its tactile pleasures and pains— its sights, sounds, smells, and tastes—its numinous intuitions—is precisely the ground within which we’ll be walking.
Here’s a glimpse of some of terms and techniques I’ll be discussing in future posts.
Valoressence: One begins treading the Path through making a personal commitment to engage in valoressence, a process defined as the courage to explore the Good, True, and Beautiful, on one’s own terms. The term arises from the union of the term valor (meaning courage) and essence (meaning one’s fundamental nature).
Soul elements: A constellation of character strengths and virtues. Soul elements serve as the catalysts through which we begin our exploration of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. You will determine the soul elements you wish to work with.
Tantric treasure hunt: A two-fold spiritual adventure involving an inner treasure hunt (self-reflective process) and an exterior, or external treasure hunt (outer directed process)—in which one searches the treasury of the Arts for various representations of soul elements across time and culture.
Divine synesthesia: A meditative experience in which one uses one’s senses to experience the soul elements across sensory channels.
Beneficent Obsession: A contemporary application of a concept first introduced by the Italian psychiatrist, Roberto Assagioli.2 The beneficent obsession is a visionary art process in which you integrate your previous experiences through consciously creating a personalized multimedia artwork using techniques arising from visionary art as described by Alex Grey in The Mission of Art.
I look forward to sharing more details in the coming weeks and months. Namaste!
1. Roy Ascott is a pioneer in the area of interactive computer art. To learn more about his work, please follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Ascott:
2. Roberto Assagioli is a seminal figure in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Assagioli For more detailed information please visit: http://www.psychosynthesis.org
Psychologist exploring the impact of digital technologies on the mythic and moral dimensions of humanity; passionately curious about the conscious use of interactive technologies to advance secular ethics and spirituality qualities such as altruism and compassion. Integral scholar and Dzogchen practitioner.