‘The Maze of Ecstasy’ from Transcendental Realism
During the Renaissance, perspective–or the systematic and “scientifically” rule-based representation of physically-perceived, or, otherwise, mentally-conceived, “subjects” as if they are being observed by a spatially and temporally “point-of-view-located” viewer–became the fixed and idealized basis of Western image-art. When an artistic image is created on the basis of the rules (and the ego-affirming idealism) of perspective, everything in the image points (or refers back) to the viewer–or the “point of view” of ego. Thus, beginning with the Renaissance, “point of view” (itself), or ego (itself), became the root-“subject” and fixed ideal of Western image-art and of the totality of Western culture.
It is an irony that the Western Renaissance–or the historical period that saw the formulation of Copernican cosmology, which asserted the centrality of the Sun, rather than of the Earth–is also the historical period of the assertion of the centrality of Man (and of the egoic individual), rather than any presumption of the Divine, as the essential “subject” of human “knowledge”, culture, and history. The Western Renaissance was the birth of human ego-culture–and perspectivally-constructed image-art was a fundamental device and sign of that ego-culture and its idealization of the individuality of “point of view”.
Perspectival image-art originated with the analysis of how things appear from the “point of view” of an individual human observer. On the basis of that analysis, the artists of the early Renaissance developed a systematic and mathematically precise method of rendering a painted image as it would otherwise be constructed by the eye of the individual observer. However, it is not merely the physical eye that constructs the perspectival view of the world. Most fundamentally, it is “point of view” (itself), or ego (itself), that constructs the perspectival view. Thus, perspectival imagery represents what ego (or “point of view”) makes of the world.
In the conventions of perspectival image-art, the physical eye and the ego-“I” are the same.
The intrinsically ego-transcending root-presumption associated with the image-art I make and do is precisely the opposite of the ego-based and ego-idealizing root-presumption associated with perspectival image-art. Perspectival image-art glorifies the ego’s construction of the world–as if that ego-constructed world is (itself) Reality Itself–whereas Reality Itself is always Prior to the ego’s construction of a world and Prior to any and every “point of view” within the world.
The world that the ego–or any spatial and/or temporal “point of view”–sees is not how Reality Itself Is. My image-art is based on an aesthetic that is rooted in how Reality Itself Is. My image-art always undermines the “position” of the ego, or the will of the ego to feel that it is “located” in a world of its own construction.
Therefore, the image-art I make and do does not point to–or idealize, and depend upon, and assert the position and the separateness of–the viewer. Indeed, the image-art I make and do is intended to directly counter “point of view”, or ego. Thus, the image-art I make and do is both aperspectival and anegoic (or non-egoic). The image-art I make and do is specifically intended to counter the ego’s expectation of being able to construct a world.
The advent of perspective in the early Renaissance signalled a profound paradigm shift in European civilization–a shift from a culture centered on the “God”-idea to a culture centered on the human individual, or the ego. In the Middle Ages (and earlier, even back into ancient times), the fundamental “subject” of Western art was the “idea of the Divine”–whereas, beginning with the Renaissance, and lasting until the beginning of the “modernist” period, the fundamental “subject” of Western art was the “idea of the human individual”, as conveyed (in particular) by the technical device of perspective. Thus, pre-Renaissance culture was, at root, about surrendering the ego to the “God”-idea, while Renaissance culture was, at root, about the idea of magnifying the knowledge and the power of the ego, and about controlling and exploiting the world as constructed by the ego.
The various modes of avant-garde image-art in the “modernist” period arose out of–and, to a greater or lesser degree, in reaction to–the Western tradition of perspectival image-art. Arising out of this background, “modernist” avant-garde image-art played on the notion of “point-of-view”-perception–investigating various different modes of making image-art in an apparently non-perspectival manner, modes that were intended to (in one or another manner) break free of “point of view”, but, nevertheless, always preserving “point of view” itself as the core “subject”. The “modernist” project of achieving liberation from “point of view” (and liberation from the perception of the world constructed by “point of view”) never came to a full resolution. Certain core issues remained to be dealt with. Those issues had to do, principally, with how to make art that transcends “point of view” absolutely–rather than only partially, or only by the effort of irony and seeming.
The image-art I make and do is the intrinsically ego-transcending (and, thus and thereby, perspective-transcending, or intrinsically aperspectival) image-art that participates in (or egolessly coincides with) Reality Itself.
The image-art I make and do–rather than re-asserting myth-based ideas relative to the Divine (as in the case of pre-Renaissance image-art), or indulging in ego-based glorification of the individual “self” (as in the case of Renaissance-based pre-“modernist” image-art), or, otherwise, merely playing upon the failure of perspectivally-based ego-culture (as in the case of both “modernist” and “post-modernist” image-art)–asserts the intrinsic freedom of intrinsically ego-transcending participation in Reality Itself.
The image-art I make and do directly addresses and (thoroughly and, at last, completely) resolves all issues inherent in the consideration of absolutely transcending “point of view”.
The image-art I make and do is not an art (in the pre-Renaissance manner) of picturing a “God”-idea, or of rendering some kind of visual equivalent of conventional “religion”. The image-art I make and do is not an art (in the Renaissance manner) about the ego-“I”, or about the methods whereby the ego-“I” constructs its version of the world. The image-art I make and do is Transcendental Realism–or the image-art of egoless coincidence with Reality Itself.
There is “God-art”, there is “ego-art”, and there is “Reality-art”.
Pre-Renaissance image-art is “God-art”–or image-art made and done relative to Deity, or deities, or gods and goddesses. Thus, pre-Renaissance image-art is about what the space-time-bound ego presumes to exist above and beyond itself. Therefore, the total image-art tradition of the pre-Renaissance West (extending back into ancient pre-Christian times) is “mythology-art”–principally intended to visually portray the mythology of divinity in one mode or another, including (in later centuries) the Christian mode.
Renaissance image-art and post-Renaissance image-art (up to the “modern” period) is “ego-art”–or image-art specifically designed to portray the ego’s view (or “point-of-view”-construction) of “reality”, by means of the systematic application of the codified laws of perspective. Even the thoroughly secularized avant-garde Western image-art of the “modern” and “post-modern” era is still a play upon (or a failed effort to escape from) the tradition of “ego-art”, or “point-of-view”-art.
The image-art I make and do is “Reality-art”–not in the conventional sense of image-art that imitates or merely reproduces ordinary “reality” (which conventional “reality-art” is another form of “ego-art”), but in the sense of image-art that intrinsically egolessly coincides with Reality Itself. Thus, the image-art I make and do is not about myth-based views of Reality, nor is the image-art I make and do about the ego that invents myth-based views of Reality. The image-art I make and do is about Reality Itself–beyond myth, and beyond egoity.
The image-art I make and do has required profound philosophical and Spiritual preparation even to be made–decades of intensive consideration regarding fundamental issues of Truth, of Reality Itself, of the means to go through and beyond all traditional and ego-based modes of thinking and understanding, in order to come to the point where I could make and do image-art on an intrinsically and entirely “point-of-view”-less basis.
I remember going to a particular place at Coney Island when I was a boy. There was a maze of multi-colored posts into which one would enter, walk around, and keep walking into dead-ends. In this particular case, there were not only dead-end walls as one would walk around inside this cage of mazes, but there were also mirrors reflecting one as one walked into them, or else reflecting something obliquely, so that one lost one’s sense of the space. One would constantly slam into oneself, into one’s misunderstanding of the space one was in.
The nature of egoic experience is something like that. It is a maze of misunderstanding of the nature of where one is. One is constantly slamming into oneself, because one does not understand the nature of the space (or the “room”) itself.
The apparent world and the ego-“I”, or (space-time-“located”) “point of view” that knows the world of views, are mere conventions of human design. The conventionally apparent universe is a “room” without an exit–an unending maze of shapes and signs defined and limited by the any and every “point of view” that perceives “it”. Therefore, the “maze” of universe apparent to ego’s “I” cannot be escaped.
All seeking is an egoically-driven effort toward the illusion of escape–either by distraction or by purification or by final fulfillment or by flight to absence. The maze of ego-“I” and the universe of endless and futile seeking cannot be escaped by any means–but the ego-“I” itself, and all of its views of universal “room”, can be intrinsically (and, thus, Perfectly) transcended.
Not space-time re-“location”, but ecstasy–or the intrinsic transcending of “point of view” and all space-time-“locatedness”–is the only true and possible release from the “maze of room” that is all present bondage to thought and perception. Therefore, the image-art I make and do is made and done to serve true ecstasy by aesthetic means–and, thus, by un-confining every viewer from the shape and place of “point of view”.
The images of perspectival art are not merely representations of what is in the world. In perspectival image-art, one is constantly slamming into oneself. The perspectival image–and “point-of-view”-based perception itself–is a kind of maze, in which one does not get the direct (and liberating) sighting of the Reality one is actually in. Rather than seeing Reality Itself, one is always seeing the “point-of-view”-based “reality” one has naively constructed. Therefore, one is constantly getting lost and confused. And, always–no matter how many landscapes, portraits, still lifes, or visual narratives one looks at–all perspectivally-constructed images are essentially about oneself (or the “point-of-view”-bound and space-time-bound perceiving and thinking ego-“I”).
When one looks at perspectivally-based image-art, one is constantly being reminded of oneself, constantly being re-“located” in one’s own position of presumed separateness. One is, in effect, constantly walking into one’s own face. Thus, perspectivally-based image-art is inherently Narcissistic art–regardless of its apparent “subject” matter. Perspectivally-based image-art is, fundamentally, about the egoic “self”, or separate (space-time-“located”) “point of view”. Thus, when viewing perspectivally-based image-art, one is constantly getting lost in a maze of mirrors and fractions, in which one cannot “locate” and understand Reality Itself.
In order to intrinsically “locate” and understand Reality Itself, the maze of “point-of-view”-based perspectival experience must be seen as a whole–or from a “position” Prior to the totality–rather than seen from “inside” (or as a partial view, and as a “point-of-view-located” separateness, trapped within the maze itself).
The image-art I make and do is about intrinsically transcending the maze of ego-based experience by standing “outside” the maze (or by standing in the ecstatic “position”, Prior to “point of view”). The image-art I make and do is about not only showing Reality As It Is, but about using the device of images to confound the ego’s effort to construct the world and to understand the world in its own image. Through that confounding, the image-art I make and do serves the feelingly-participating viewer in an ecstatic and tacit understanding of Reality Itself, through the viewing of image-art that does not point to “point of view”.
I have (over many decades) made all kinds of images, and the various kinds of images each have different purposes. Some of the images I have made and done are apparently in the mode, at least to some degree, of a perspectivally-based representational form of imagery. In this essay, I am summarizing the ultimate nature of all the image-art I have made and done–and, especially, the fully and finally resolved image-art to which the entire process has led.
In all the forms of image-art I have made and done, I have been engaged in a process ultimately leading to imagery that is thoroughly aperspectival and anegoic–or “point-of-view”-transcending in the fullest terms.
Art is always coincident with culture, and culture is invariably bound to tradition–to all the limitations and (otherwise) all the virtues of humankind altogether. A global transformation is now required in human culture–after the devastation, or collapse, of ego-civilization in the twentieth century. Something entirely new is required–something comprehensively right.
My entire life has been spent in working to establish the basis for a “radically” new and “radically” comprehensive culture. My image-art is a summation, in artistic terms, of all the work I have done. Similarly, the books I have written are a summation, in literary and philosophical terms, of that same lifetime work. My lifetime of work has always been about the rightening of human existence and the transcending of what is binding human beings and leading them on a destructive course.
Therefore, the images I make and do–like the books I have written–are intended to establish a new paradigm of human civilization. The images I make and do are about an entirely different–and altogether ego-transcending–mode, not only of picture-making, but of living and understanding.
What is now required is an epochal change in the history of human endeavor. Just as the Renaissance represented a profound summation of transformation in human endeavor, so now a new kind of transformation is happening.
The “modernists” were moving toward this transformation, but they were also making images in the midst of the virtual collapse of world-civilization in the twentieth century. Since that collapse, it is no longer possible to return to a tradition that idealizes the human ego. Indeed, what happened in the twentieth century was the definitive failure of Renaissance-originated civilization, which civilization was based on the idealization and glorification of the ego and on the wholesale adoption of the ego’s perspectival view of “reality”.
The Renaissance was the collapse of the “God”-civilization that preceded it–the civilization based on mythologized presumptions of what is traditionally conceived to be spatially and temporally “behind” and “above” the world. The Renaissance destroyed that earlier form of civilization. With the Renaissance, “God”-myth-based civilization was replaced with human-based civilization, or ego–civilization–or the civilization based on the myth of the human ego-“I”. That ego-civilization came to its essential end in the twentieth century.
In this post-ego-civilization era, the only right basis for human existence–now, and into the future–is the establishment of a civilization that is no longer based on idealization of the ego, but also no longer based on “God”-mythologies. True and right life is neither “God”-myth-based nor ego-based. True and right life is intrinsically ego-transcending. True and right life is the life of intrinsically egoless coincidence with Reality Itself. True and right life intrinsically transcends all mythologies–whether of “God” or of “Man”.
The old civilization is ego-based and ego-bound. The old civilization idealized the ego, and it ended with a world of egos destroying one another. That course, in fact, is still happening, and must be stopped–but it cannot be stopped merely by force. A transformation of human understanding and of human processes altogether must occur–on every level, including the artistic level.
When I was doing photographically-based image-art, I was dealing with the fundamental limitations in what has been (and still is, in some shadowy form) governing humankind. I did this by working to transcend the inherent limitations in the “point-of-view”-technology that is materialized as the instrument of the camera. The entire Western tradition of perspectival and ego-based image-art is enshrined in the technology of the camera. The camera is the materialization of “point of view”. Thus, the camera is a device that summarizes the ego-based (and, thus, space-time-“point-of-view”-based) civilization of the last six hundred years.
I no longer work specifically with the camera, except to use it occasionally as a kind of sketchbook. Having accomplished what I needed to accomplish in camera-based work, I have now developed a mode of image-process that does not require the camera as a principal means of producing images. However, the images that I am making and doing now are aesthetic modes that came about through the ordeal of working with the “ego-technology” of the camera.
If one rightly approaches the image-art I make and do, the “point of view” (and, thus, all of ego-“I”) is confounded. The image-art I make and do is not merely about some kind of punishing of the ego, or some kind of arbitrary frustrating of the viewer–as if the mere sensation of frustration were the purpose of the image-art. Rather, the image-art I make and do is purposed to serve the viewer’s transcending of space-time-bondage and “point-of-view”-fixedness (and, thus, egoity itself) altogether–such that he or she can directly tacitly (and by means of aesthetic ecstasy) participate in Reality Itself.
I am not looking to represent ego in some form through the image-art I make and do, or to represent a world of a spatial configuration that ego can comprehend and feel comfortable–or even uncomfortable–with. The image-art I make and do is not a construct made by ego for the ego’s purposes.
I have written at length about the image-art I make and do–in order to give fundamental guidance relative to rightly participating in the images and rightly understanding what that right participation is about. Otherwise, there will be an inevitable tendency to view the image-art I make and do in accordance with the prevailing conventions of interpreting art in the “post-modern” world–and such interpretations will inevitably tend to be misinterpretations.
The fully resolved image-art I make and do is a means to directly participate in Reality Itself–and not (in Alberti’s language) a “window” through which to view the ego’s “point-of-view”-based construction of the world of conventional “reality”. The fully resolved image-art I make and do is not about looking through something to something else. Likewise, the fully resolved image-art I make and do is not about looking from a “point of view” into a world constructed by “point of view” (or by perspectival and, altogether, space-time-bound perception). The fully resolved image-art I make and do has nothing to do with “point of view”. The fully resolved image-art I make and do does not illustrate anything, and it does not merely reflect the natural characteristics of perception.
Altogether, there is a profound–and even absolute–difference between perspectival image-art and the fully resolved image-art I make and do.
The great process of Reality Itself, the great process of human sanity, is an in-depth process. That process takes place in the depth-domain of awareness, not in the superficial domain of outer awareness. Reality Itself is the in-depth domain that intrinsically transcends ego and “point of view”.
“Post-modern” civilization is secular, superficial, materialistic, outward-directed, and “object”-oriented. “Post-modern” civilization is founded on a mode of propaganda about the nature of existence that has driven humankind to the point of self-destruction. The propaganda of scientific materialism is based on the mythology of the ego, the mythology of “point of view”. The perspectival method in art is an extension of egoity, a manifestation of the notion that Reality is the appearance that the ego constructs–and scientific materialism is an expression of that same presumption.
The only “reality” scientific materialism is looking at is a construct of egoity, or (space-time-“located”) “point of view”. Scientific materialism is looking at the “room” seen from a “point of view”–not the “room” as it Always Already Is, inclusive of all possible “points of view” and (thereby) transcending “point of view” itself.
The notion that Reality is reducible to what the ego constructs is inherently “self”-deluded and (at least potentially) insane. The image-art I make and do is made and done in order to serve the transcending of that egoically “self”-deluded (or “point-of-view”-insane) notion. Therefore, right participation in the images I make and do is, necessarily, in-depth, and not superficial.
Right participation in the images I make and do requires one to relinquish–or ecstatically feel beyond–“point of view”. The images I make and do are for the purpose of serving the ecstatic transcending of “point of view”–or the intrinsic transcending of the ego-“I”-method, which is the activity of perceiving and, in effect, constructing the world from one’s own separate (space-time-“located”) “point of view”. The images I make and do are images of the “room” (or the world, or Reality Itself) As it Is–or As the “room” itself, and not the “room” as it appears to be from any particular position within it.
Reality Itself requires the surrender and the transcending of all limitations, all “points of view”–in every one’s case. Reality Itself cannot be controlled by the ego. Thus, image-art that can be controlled, contained, or comprehended from the perspective of ego (or “point of view”) is a convention of egoity itself–and such image-art is, inevitably, a superficial “object” of human diversion.
What is profoundly in-depth is intrinsically egoless. What is profoundly in-depth is not what is merely “inward”–or “inside” the ego. What is profoundly in-depth is not wandering among the ego’s “objects”. Rather, what is profoundly in-depth is at the true root-depth–altogether Prior to ego-“I”, space-time-“locatedness”, and “point of view”.
At the true root-depth, or the always Prior depth, there is always already no ego. That always Prior depth does not merely perceive through the eye. That always Prior depth ecstatically apprehends the Reality-Nature of the “room” itself–or the world, or Reality Itself, As It Really Is.
The intrinsic ecstasy of Prior and Perfect Depth is the root-basis for a new philosophy and a new way of life–the philosophy, the way of life, and, indeed, the necessary new global human civilization of egoless participation in Reality Itself.