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Precepts of the Gurus - 2nd Seminar Part 3

by Sangharakshita

... of the same thing. So nature is aspiring, you could say, after the condition of art
or even that nature imitates art, as Oscar Wilde said. Nature never produced pale green
sunsets before Turner painted them! Of course it is paradoxical but anyway you see what I

Devaraja: Well, I've seen pale green sunsets - the lower air was tinted a very subtle green.

S: But did you see it before Turner painted pale green sunsets? Would you have seen it if
Turner hadn't painted his pale green sunsets? Well this is what is, in a sense, said, but you
know what is meant.

Devaraja: Do you mean that in the sense that being exposed to Turner had a influence on me

S: Well he sharpened our perception of nature. The great painter educates his audience so
that they are enabled to see what without his help they would not have seen otherwise. They
would have said it's blue. But he looked really closely and saw that no, it was green and he
not only saw it was green, he registered that on the canvas: and at first people said, "well,
whoever saw a green sunset? A green sky?" But he said "no. it's green." So maybe they
looked again and said "oh. well yes there is a tinge of green there." and after a while they said
"yes, it's actually green there, who would have thought it, it's really strange but it is green".
So he's educated them into seeing the green that he sees.

__________: It's becoming more popular to express terms: that they're calling skies a Turner
Sky. or a Constable landscape.

S: That's true. Or a Pre-Raphaelite face.

Devaraja: All sickly!

Nagabodhi: What you said about green sunsets is as near almost as you can answer
Manjuvajra's question. You can only look, you can only try and develop your ability to look
and see.

S: But I would like to in a sense develop this theme of people actually all the time from a
certain point of view, being engaged in artistic activity. In the sense that they are moulding
their environment or part of their environment and they are doing it in accordance with
almost archetypes, one could almost use that word, within themselves, at a deeply

unconscious level. The artist proper does it in a much more concentrated and intensive and
successful form or way, but as I said, when you rearrange a room you are exercising your
artistic temperament, so to speak. Or when you arrange a few flowers in a vase - it's going on
all the time, actually, in varying degrees, with varying degrees of success.

So yes, in that sense everybody is an artist. In the way you organise your business. In a way
it's an art .....(unclear)..... must be bad art. if you see what I mean. The way in which you
organise anything or recreate anything is art. This is the way in which you interact with your
environment, it isn't that it leaves an impression on you, or that you are reacting to it - you are
recreating it all the time. But the recreation is very rarely complete, very rarely adds up to a
meaningful whole, is very rarely isolated in the form of the actual work of art. But it's really
only a difference of degree, not a difference of kind.

Manjuvajra: You're organising your material in accordance with some vision that you have.

S: Well it may not even be vision, because that suggests a conscious ideal. It may be a vision
like say, Dante's vision of
existence. But it may be something of which you are quite unconscious, and I think usually
the artist becomes conscious of what he is trying to express, so to speak, only in the actual
process of trying to express it. Goethe even says, speaking about his own Faust, the work of
art is incommensurable. Even the artist who produced it doesn't fully understand it.

Mangala: You said this in one of your Brighton Lectures actually. That you set out, and, in a
sense the FWBO - it doesn't have a set goal, it doesn't know what it's trying to become, but it
finds that out in the process of becoming it.

S: I think this is true. This is also from another point of view what I mean by saying not
attempting a premature synthesis. Not trying to say too quickly what we are or what we are
doing. Not trying to sum it up too neatly too soon. Otherwise you might limit possibilities of
further development.

Derek: You used the phrase "bad art". Could you elaborate a bit on what is meant by that?

S: By "bad art" I mean material which has a sort of a shape in a way but doesn't really add up
to any whole or anything which is complete, or perhaps even which can be made complete.
It's perhaps the expression, even, of a schizophrenic personality, one could say. Though again,
one must be careful because sometimes a schizophrenic personality, in the process of
expressing its schizophrenia, manages to heal the schizophrenia. That's the healing aspect of
art too, even the therapeutic aspect of art. Art is therapy because greater integration is being
achieved. I mean ideally, or at least possibly.

I mean. we all know what a bad organisation is, don't we? So. a bad work of art is much the
same thing. It's stereotyped. cliche ridden, etc.. it doesn't add up to a living whole. Imitative.
Has no principle of it's own. (Pause)

So I think one should see the interaction of the individual with his environment in terms of a
constant, as it were, aesthetic appropriation and re-creation. We're not just sort of passive, it's
not that impressions fall upon us like marks being made on a blank sheet of paper. It's not
like that at all. It's as though aggressiveness is when we over-manipulate our material or sort
of cut more deeply into it than is required. And so under aggressiveness is when we attempt
or don't cut into it sufficiently - are merely passive to it. We are not able to handle it and
recreate it.

Mangala: Perhaps one is when you deny the other. The other is when you deny yourself.

S: Right. Yes. indeed. But in the artistic process there is this very vital interaction. With
neither being denied - you respect your material, but at the same time you're determined to
give expression to your artistic impulse. Otherwise. you can be so afraid of dirtying the
canvas you don't even succeed in painting anything. On the other hand you might paint it so
vigorously and brutally the brush goes right through! (laughter)

Mangala: This is one of the things you could, maybe. sort of feel
like in a big city like London: when you first come you just sort of feel totally overwhelmed
by the environment: you feel you can't make any impression on this at all, you've almost no
place in it, you're kind of helpless, and it's a very killing sort of thing to feel.

S: I think for the ordinary person, within our current situation, the field of creativity is the
family. This is one, at least, positive aspect of it. The whole family life and family situation.
For the ordinary person without any conscious spiritual aspirations. this is the creative
medium. including the whole way you live, the way you decorate your house, and cultivate
your garden, bring up your children, and dress - this is the ordinary person's, as it were,
creative response to his environment. It can in principle be carried to quite a high level.
Usually we don't try to do that, but it can be. There can be such a thing as gracious living as it
were, artistic living.

So I think ordinary people find quite a bit of creative outlet in the family situation and the
family environment, and this is not to be underestimated or depreciated. Maybe one of the
reasons why artists don't care so much about home life is that they've got another better,
higher, more intensive outlet. They don't care so much whether the room is untidy: or the
roof is leaking. But for the ordinary man, the ordinary householder, well, it's not just a job to
be done, there is a sort of artistic outlet in that, I mean under, as it were, reasonably good

Manjuvajra: A voice: That would explain why people can spend so much time on their
garden and painting the house.

S: Yes, it is quite clearly something of this sort which constitutes their interest or is the basis
of their interest. It isn't purely utilitarian. On the other hand, admittedly it doesn't reach a
very high artistic level. Sometimes it's bad art unfortunately: the results are really poor. But
in principle that is what it is. In principle it is artistic.

Devaraja: It's almost, it may be an entirely false thing to say, but it's almost like in order to
be a good family man, you've got to, as a general rule, not to have a job which fully expresses
your creativity: work ...

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