A future astronaut may travel to Tau Ceti without leaving his or her living room. Sitting comfortably, gazing down the center of a slowly rotating spiral, the traveler might view a holographic image of the stars in his or her consciousness. The rotating spiral pulls them safely and securely down its vortex toward his or her destination. Our traveler has reached an era where humanity has once more realized that real space and perceptual space are indistinguishable from one another. A second realization would be the one we all had in the beginning of civilization but have been carefully steered away from. This is the understanding that consciousness is a singular phenomenon, and we are all of us like fish who swim through an ocean of awareness. This awareness, rather than being separate little packages of awareness in us lucky humans, as distinguished from the animals, plants and minerals, have been blessed with privatized awareness. Given that awareness extends to the stars and beyond, and that this awareness is ours as well as all else’s, it becomes altogether possible and even probable that we may travel to the stars. Rather, the stars are inside the perimeters of our consciousness, and we just think ourselves there. Welcome to the age where time/space travel is as common as flying to L.A. Perhaps in this era, rather than saying, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand it, ” they will be saying “You don’t have to be an artist to understand it. ”
As an artist, I made several versions of such consciousness-cockpits for travel. Most of them were not meant to deliver a viewer to outer space, as in the first painting-assemblage in this article, but to deep inner space. The modular painting above was exhibited at Mesa College Gallery in San Diego several years ago. Its center has a light machine that projects softly moving shapes in color on an inner screen. Surrounding this screen is a yantra, or visual mantra.That is, instead of a chant that is repeated as a tool to deliver one to an increasingly higher state of consciousness or state of profound meditation, it uses certain visual cues to create the same result.
It is extremely helpful for visual artists to understand the principles behind the yantra. Proof of this is in the Mesa College exhibit when a ten-year-old girl sat down on the chair provided in front of the piece we are discussing (above). She placed on her head earphones that provided an audio-guided visualization instructing her to relax and simply gaze at the changing center of the painting, even amidst an art opening reception. The guided visualization escorted her into the Void and made her comfortable being this emptiness. She relaxed and viewed the piece for fifteen minutes. The painting’s leaves that surrounded the softly shifting colored light of the center were yantras that pulled her awareness outward, stretching her ability to take in information and see the piece not in parts, but as a whole. When she was instructed by the guided visualization to come back out of the state of being the emptiness, she reported that she saw colors in the outer paintings of this piece, as she had never seen color before.
After this experience, she went over to this module art piece I had assembled which was made of small, colorful triangles with energy symbols painted on them. ( above) Each triangle is 15″ per side. These triangles were interactive, on a large background of black material, allowing her to lift the triangles and rearrange them into new compositions and leave them there. She did this for nearly an hour, as her parents tried to persuade her to leave the gallery. To my way of thinking an artist may have been born.
Here are a few more images of such pieces that I call transportation art.
Between the Atomic Galaxies
Enter the Void
The idea of a yantra as a means of transporting one into a different time/space is the original human space program. It goes back thousands of years. Today, it still exists but it is disguised as decorum, something of good taste to be used for decoration. Let me describe what the principles of a yantra are before I show you what I am referring to.
A yantra has a neutral center that one gazes at. On either side of this center are two shapes that, in an arrow like manner, attract the mind outward toward them, equally. They are positioned at the same level as the neutral center on a horizontal line. Once this is established, in the surrounding area a pattern is created. Often this pattern is two dimensional and includes arrow-like shapes that imply motion in one direction around the whole background as well as arrows moving around in the opposite direction.
Here is one example of a Yantra. Yantras work horizontally. Like art, they are energetically highly functional. In an energy-conscious culture, as we all once were, they are vital, and not decoration. If you liked Avatar in three dimensions, you’ll adore open-eyes meditation on a Persian rug. Remember, Persia was the cradle of human civilization. One gazes at the neutral center from such a distance that the eyes line up with the right eye in front of the shape that is to the right of the center shape, and the left eye aligned with the shape that is to the left of the center shape. That is, view it from such a distance that the eyes are directly in front of each of the two side diamonds, in this case. Gazing at or meditating with open eyes at the center shape, your consciousness will become pulled outward to expand and take in more information. Before long, you will be seeing the entire rectangle, at which point your consciousness will enter into it as a three-dimensional, moving time/space theater. Trust me, it will feel very good, and lends a new definition to the phrase “super-size me.”
When this occurs, the arrow-like shapes will further stretch out our field of awareness. When our awareness is opened wider, all of the patterns that imply motion will become perceptual. That is, we will see the patterns become not only three-dimensional, but four-dimensional. The implied motion will be perceptual motion. The whole will begin to pulsate and move in a deep three-dimensional space that is surrounding it and our consciousness will be able to move into its vast arena. Persian rugs and yantras are earth’s original space program, for outer and inner space, and took us farther in an open-eyes meditation than NASA ever dreamed possible.
It is interesting to note that space travel is as much an aesthetic choice as anything else. We have chosen technology to get us from place to place. Others in the past, who did not have such technology, chose pure consciousness. They designed patterns that allowed the mind to experience the crossing of distances. Even today, the Russians have a crew of astronauts who train rigorously in how to project their consciousness into the space satellites in order to troubleshoot technological malfunctions from the ground. No doubt we have the same program, but we do not talk about it.
Gazing at the center of this piece gives a sense of very deep inner peace to the viewer. It is extraordinary in its ability to create a feeling of absolute stability within a viewer. If you wear glasses, they may force your vision not to wander outward. If at all possible to see this yantra without wearing your glasses, please remove them. Find a distance where the yantra is in focus. If it is not possible because of your vision, then use your glasses, but try to relax as much as possible and simply gaze at the center. You will feel the life force building within you, and the experience of absolute stability will grow. This yantra is perfect for meditation.
When gazing at this circular yantra, one’s awareness moves outward to include the center circle and even the outer ring. The outer ring becomes soft and inviting, holding the viewer protectively, while the center circle becomes a forest of foliage in three dimensions. It wriggles slowly, as a plant seems to feel when absorbing the sensual and energizing sunlight. Parts of the foliage recede while other parts appear to move forward. Even with glasses on, this opens the viewer to the energy of living plants and to the sensuality of their being.
An aspect of such yantras is that originally they were all hand-tied knots. This literally imbued the fibers with human energy. I have made paintings of such patterns with the idea of meditating on them and entering into the world they implied, only to realize that there was an essential element of sensuality that was missing from my paintings. The hand-dyed and hand-tied fibers, using living fibers such as cotton or wool, made it welcoming to enter into, which flat paint did not equal.
Navajo rugs also use patterns that are yantras. I once visited a main-frame industrial- scale computer manufacturing plant where I was led through the wiring room. I was astounded to see that when the backs of these large computers were opened, thousands of multicolored wires hung out from them like a frozen waterfall extending to the floor. Each wire had its own critical address and destination. Who could handle the complexity of wiring our most sophisticated maze of electronic intricacy? There, on stools behind each six-foot-high computer, were Navajo women, quietly working the thousands of colored wires as they have done for thousands of years of unwritten, true American history as weavers.
I will mention another story here that seems related. When I taught weaving, and studied Peruvian tapestries, I explained to my students how each piece was made in time. What I soon realized with some Peruvian weaving was that it was not physically possible to have made such a woven structure. It could only have been made simultaneously. This stood as proof to me that the people who wove these masterpieces were exponentially beyond our technological culture in their weaving technology. It was a read-out of an amazing level of consciousness, sitting humbly in the desert, weaving things that defied our ability to understand how it was done.
In the above Navajo (yantra) rug, the corners advancing and receding ancient symbols known as twirling logs were later re-used as the swastika. This, however, was originally a sacred Native American symbol. Arrows show us the direction in which these logs spin, for, to our amazement, this blanket’s sacred pattern was a technological schematic for a principle that we have not discovered to date. The smaller version of the twirling logs is found in the main shape, along with an implication that these “logs” spun toward the center of a spherical vessel. An Open-Eyes Meditation using this rug reveals a cross-section of a brightly illuminated, pulsing vessel, a schematic drawing of a vehicle that hovers without interference from gravity. It is buoyed up by virtue of the many spinning “twirling logs” that ring it top and bottom. All I know for certain is, there are no twirling logs in the forests or on the plains. An interview with one of the last Miwok Indians focused upon an astounding last question. When asked if he had ever seen or heard of an alien encounter in their culture, the Miwok Indian said, “There were a people who came from the mountains. To see them is bad luck. They say that they are human, but I don’t know. They have such big eyes.”
In conclusion, I believe that technology is an aesthetic choice. Moreover, technology is and always will be a metaphor for what we, as pure awareness, are capable of in and of ourselves. I once knew a man who could make telephone calls from his mind. A phone would ring, and the called person would answer, and have a perfectly normal phone conversation, except there was only one phone involved. At that time in my life I was infatuated with, even obsessed by the things that were purported by entering into the astral plane. I wrote a book about it, and gave him a copy, hoping for his opinion. He was silent. After much coaxing, eventually he told me that I was headed in the wrong direction. The true miracles of our being were by being utterly present and not leaving our bodies to find treasures of mind. This influenced the rest of my life. It was from him that I realized that technology was metaphorical for what we ourselves could do. We have greatly underestimated the powers of many ancient cultures, most of which have been destroyed by our modern version of technological superiority.
How we have chosen to heal ourselves, or travel across vast distances of time/space, are aesthetic choices. Mankind has always made great art, whether his tools were smoking bones, sable brushes or three-D films, and we have always traveled great distances, whether by entering into the limitless volumes within our own consciousness, or by hammering from the earth a space craft. We have always manifested our daily bread; whether through song and dance and art, or through driving to a supermarket, we have made our aesthetic choices and preferences. As artists, we are the ones who have our hands on the steering wheels of human desires and human fears. If you doubt this, take in a movie or watch television for as long as you can handle the trauma of those images, and then observe how they influence your desires and fears in the following days. As artists, we have more power to elevate human consciousness through our visions. We, as artists, as creative spirits incarnate, are only dangerous when we believe that we are powerless. We are not. I believe that we should use this immense power to teach trust and playfulness. Those two powers are, in reality, the greatest forces ever known, and we as artists are their custodians.
Ross Drago, Paint Rag Magazine
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