MANIFESTO OF VISIONARY ART

      All the tortures of Hell may now be unwillingly experienced to the full: shut up, confined, prodded and tormented by all manner of monsters and demons. As Huxley writes, "The negative visionary finds himself associated with a body that seems to grow progressively more dense... It is worth remarking that many of the punishements described in the various accounts of hell are punishments of pressure and constriction." (30) Hence the Hell envisioned by Bosch; hence the Inferno illustrated by Doré
      As the negative LSD experience deepens, mythological imagery may appear: "Quite common are illusions to the Old Testament; images of Christ's suffering and death on the cross; scenes of worshipping Moloch, Astarte or Kali, and visions of rituals and ...sacrifice as they were practiced in Aztec and Mayan religions."(31)
      At the nadir of this experience, "physical and emotional agony culminates in a feeling of utter and total annihilation on all imaginable levels... usually described as 'ego-death'"(32)
      Such are the 'darkened visions' which may intrude upon the visionary artist during his on-going explorations and experiments. Many of the greatest visionary artists - Bosch, Bruegel, Grunewald, Giger - have not hesitated to record their visions of torture, agony, and suffering, even unto death. But, all of this - to what end?
      A clue is offered to us in Grof's on-going analysis of the psychedelic experience. The negative LSD experience does not end with 'ego-death', but goes on to reveal something quite unexpected and unanticipated:
      "After the subject has experienced the limits of total annihilation and 'hit the cosmic bottom', he or she is struck by visions of blinding white or golden light... the general atmosphere is one of liberation, salvation, redemption, love, and



 
 
 


L. CARUANA

forgiveness. The subject feels unburdoned, cleansed, and purged."(33)
      In fact, the full hallucinatory experience culminates in an unequalled experience of death and rebirth - dying to one's finite self, and being initiated, recast, or reborn into something far more infinite. Now, the presence of the Sacred is felt, transpiring outside of 'clock-time' and more commensurate with its eternity. Indeed, as a result of death and rebirth, a 'return to the Father', an 'embrace with the Mother', or an overwhelming feeling of 'unity with the Sacred One' may be experienced to the full.
      As Grof writes,"The symbolism associated with the experience of death and rebirth can be drawn from many different cultural frameworks (and) experienced in full identification with Christ, Osiris, Adonis, or Dionysus. Typical symbolism of the moment of rebirth involves fantastic visions of radiant sources of light experienced as divine, heavenly blue cosmic spaces, magnificent rainbow spectra or stylized peacock designs. ...God can appear in the Christian form as an archetypal wise old man sitting on a throne surrounded by cherubim and seraphim in radiant splendor. Also quite common in this context is the experience of union with the Great Mother... Other visions involve gigantic halls with richly decorated columns... or clear lakes and oceans."(34)
      It is not surprising then that many of the Visionary artists just mentioned have recorded, beyond their dark visions of suffering unto death, equally fantastic and luminous visions of Paradise, Heaven and Eden. Grunewald's initial vision of Christ in the Isenheim Altarpiece is contorted, enthorned, crucified, and plague-ridden. But, the innermost images of the altarpiece unfold outward to reveal a blazing Christ resurrected, floating, transfigured, and enhaloed by luminous circles of



 
 
 


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