What is meant by spiritual experience? Not evident in the era of post-modernism, Chris Hitchens, and the dubious pursuit of art as a spiritual experience. Still, there is a necessity to avoid standardization and leave an artistic scar so to speak; to go beyond the conventional threshold level and at least explore if art has a place in modern life. This can be commercial suicide; to refuse to dwell on popular motifs. Musically, this would entail a reluctance, or even refusal to dwell on popular hooks repeated to nausea levels. But the effort to give a piece of music or visual art a breath of fresh life by imparting different moods or time signatures etc. may actually be the kiss of death: scrap heap destination, by avoiding the quantification inherent now as a basic, unquestioned impulse.
Kandinsky was from another epoch, the beginning of the twentieth century, but of some relevance, he asserted that if creativity is not completely free subjectively-if it bound by objective necessity—it is not really creativity. His spiritual crisis was marked by the unresolvable question of the connection between freedom and necessity in the creation and significance of art. Art that fits together like a jigsaw puzzle; piece one part away to sell off, exploit ,and the rest doesn’t make sense. The issue today, evident, is what is touted as spiritual freedom is an improvised bromide, unstable and not reassuring. That it is not rooted in religion, discredited, bringing the concept of spiritual freedom into disrepute on many levels. That is an error since spirituality is an emotional consideration, hardly intellectual , and the question is whether today’s artists have the emotional fortitude that Kandinsky had, the threshold level; it is doubtful a Jeff Koons or Hirst is willing to struggle through the emotional barriers a Kandinsky did. But, its a different century today, and there is little understanding of Pound’s advocacy of “making new” other than new cash flow. Or, do any realize, as Kandinsky did, that one can only make art new by returning to old ideas, at least occasionally. However, Kandinsky’s belief that artist’s must live for the spirit the way “divine martyrs and servants of humanity did,” to reawaken spiritual life seems outside the ken of reality.
What Kandinsky could have implied, is the Buberian idea of actualized dialogue.A form of religiosity, even without god, a practice that would entail the personal, social and the natural realms of relationships where dialogue is a spiritual practice.
Buber’s secular spirituality can has a number of different elements, not the least being that the understanding of dialogue is a spiritual practice. This flows into an additional consideration that this spirituality-as-dialogue is a practice or applied approach that exists outside and beside the systems,theological bases, and standard rituals of conventional religion as an institution. Spiritual practice is then the dialogical i-thou relationship with all beings,a way of acting, or being pro-active that side-steps all systems of religion ,as it is an essentially existential reply to the call emanating from within the core, the heart of being. The dialogue directs the individual, points them to the source of abundant, renewable and inexhaustible moments of spiritual inception. Another component of buber’s secular spirituality., perhaps the most radical, is the comprehension that the manifestation of dialogue in “real life”, its proper forum, requires a significant and complete overhaul of the structures and vast bureaucratic and organization spider-web of human society including the entire money/banking/financial apparatus and the military/industrial/entertainment complex. This even encompasses a new language overflowing into new needs for the creation of not yet conceived human communities, social organization, economic distribution and of course dialogue.
Donald Kuspit: Kandinsky’s rebellion against measure, order, quantification, number may look psychotic—utterly unrealistic and irrational—from a scientific materialistic point of view, which in fact is epitomized by the rational perspective construction of the traditional picture—but it opens up the possibility of a new vision of vision. Indeed, his improvisations return to what I want to call a prelapsarian vision of reality—reality with which one is in spontaneous spiritual harmony, so to say, that is, with which one has an inner relationship rather than a measurable materialistic and thus contrived relationship….
…It is the difference between the way reality appears when it is freely engaged—when it seems abstractly and spontaneously expressive—and the clear and distinct way it begins to appear as one brings it under control by measuring it. I am suggesting that Kandinsky’s improvisations, in overthrowing the quantified picture, are inherently more revolutionary than Cubism’s quantifiable pictures, which still hold on to measure. Ironically, Kandinsky’s improvisations show that one way of being modern is by rebelling against the modern vision of reality as measurable and quantifiable, that is, one way of making avant-garde progress is by regressing to a vision of reality that scientific materialism has discredited.
His desperate answer to all these questions was to conceive of art as the repository and refuge of the spirituality the material world repudiated and shunned. What both Lankheit and Schmied miss in their important interpretation of Kandinsky’s insistence on the spirituality of art is the combative, polemical way in which Kandinsky presents his views. In fact, it’s perhaps the most polemical text that I know of by a modern artist. I have always been struck by the sheer force of will animating On the Spiritual in Art. The spiritual is a force to be reckoned with. For Kandinsky, the spiritual attitude exists in and through its opposition to the materialistic attitude—that is, exists dialectically—with which it is at war, just as the inter
necessity that informs, indeed, drives the spiritual attitude exists in and through its opposition to the external necessity that motivates the materialistic attitude. Spirituality comes into its own—becomes deeply meaningful and transformative of art and life—only as resistance to and transcendence of materialism. Such resistance and transcendence are clearly “religious” in character…
…The ultimate religious ambition—the ambition realized by the saints, and I believe that Kandinsky thought he was a kind of saint, the holy man of modern art, or at least a prophet announcing his potential holiness—involves transcendental resistance to the everyday world in order to enter a more extraordinary, “higher” world of experience—and I’ll talk more about what that means in a moment—it is a world that seems fresher and more alive than the everyday world—a world that seems to have been just created—just come into being. Kandinsky’s abstract improvisations are meant to be as otherworldly as traditional religious renderings of otherworldly beings and experience. They are meant to show the creative forces—the creative conflict between spirit and matter, light and darkness, as Kandinsky himself says, using the language of gnosticism—that brought the world into being, and remain alive and active in the inner world. It as though Kandinsky has projected himself into the moment of origination, as Schmied says, and witnessed the creation of the world from the inside.
As Franz Marc, Kandinsky’s close friend and colleague, wrote in the preface to the second edition of the Blaue Reiter Almanac, as he wrote: “With a divining rod we searched through the art of the past and the present. We showed only what was alive, and what was not touched by the tone of convention.” The problem of feeling alive in a society you feel is inwardly dead is crucial for modern existence. “We gave our ardent devotion to everything in art that was born out of itself, lived in itself, did not walk on crutches of habit. We pointed to each crack in the crust of convention”—”it’s marvelous, these sort of inspiring words—”only because we hoped to find there an underlying force that would one day come to light. . . . It has always been the great consolation of history that nature continuously thrusts up new forces through outlived rubbish.” Well, nature itself seems like outlived rubbish in modernity, and especially post modernity. We are in a nature holocaust, as it’s been called, an environmental holocaust, in the midst of it, and no new spiritual forces have come to light in art. Avant-garde art has become habitual, a dead letter with little spiritual consequence, however materially refined.Read More:http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v2n1/gallery/kuspit_d/reconsidering_text.htm
I am suggesting that Kandinsky experienced what Viktor Frankl, great psychoanalyst, calls an existential neurosis, that is, “frustration of the will-to-meaning,” indeed, a sense that human life, especially inner life, had become meaningless in the modern scientific-technological materialistic world—meaninglessness is associated with deep depression—and with it art, the keeper of inner life, as it were. As Frankl says, such a crisis is spiritual—this is his own word—because it involves loss of belief in the possibility and even reality of spiritual experience, a kind of paradox here. According to Frankl—and let’s get down to what spirituality means now—spirituality means “freedom in the face of three things: the instincts; inherited disposition”—or your constitution, your genes, as we would say today—”and the environment.” Spiritual experience declares “the freedom of the spirit in spite of nature,” a distinction that William James also makes in The Varieties of Religious Experience. To use Ernest Becker’s words, the psychiatrist, spirituality involves “the problem of personal freedom versus species determinism,” or, as Silvano Arieti, a very great psychiatrist who wrote on schizophrenia, writes, spirituality means the attempt to “increase [the] capacity for choice and to decrease determinism in every possible way, to move away from physical necessity and toward free will,” which is a basic definition of health. In other words, spiritual or subjective freedom involves the transcendence of natural and social determinism, in whatever form they take. Read More:http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v2n1/gallery/kuspit_d/reconsidering_text.htm