MANIFESTO OF VISIONARY ART

emerged from his willing descent into madness bore the marks of, what he ultimately recognized as, 'the archetypes' - that is to say, primordial images appearing in the sacred art of all times and places. These images had the power to return their beholder to the source - to the sacred time of the beginning, before the Fall, before illness, before even the onset of madness itself. In this way, the images of madness could become, through images of the sacred, a kind of healing.
      Following Jung, Joseph Campbell analyzed images of the insane, comparing them now to the imagery of myth. And he found that the pattern of their emergence during deepening schizophrenia was nearly identical to the pattern of the hero's mythic journey - prompting him to refer to this interior crisis as 'the Inward Journey': "The imagery of schizophrenic fantasy perfectly matches that of the mythological hero journey... Very briefly: the usual pattern is, first, of a break away or departure from the local social order and context; next, a long, deep, retreat backward, as it were, in time, and inward, deep into the psyche; a chaotic series of encounters there, darkly terrifying experiences and presently (if the victim is fortunate) encounters of a centering kind, fulfilling, harmonizing, giving new courage; and then finally, in such fortunate cases, a return journey of rebirth to life." (64)
      The 'retreat backward in time' is characterized by Campbell as "a terrific drop-off or regression... Falling back into his own past, the psychotic becomes an infant, a fetus in the womb. One has the frightening experience of slipping back to animal consciousness." (65)
      These regressions may culminate in 'darkly terrifying experiences' which, paradoxically, may also be experienced as near-enlightenment. In the case of one schizophrenic, Campbell relates how



 
 
 


L. CARUANA

"...he felt that he was more than he had ever imagined himself to be, that he had existed forever, in all forms of life, and was experiencing it all again; but also that he had now before him a great and terrible journey to accomplish, and this gave him a feeling of deep fear." (66) Because, as the patient ultimately discovered, the mystic may be able to dive into these psychological depths and even navigate their currents, while the schizophrenic is slowly sinking and even drowning.
      Finally, the schizophrenic may have 'encounters of a centering kind' through the emergence of certain deep archetypes - healing images that include scenes of death and rebirth, of embrace with the Goddess, or a return to the land from whence he once set out.
      But, for any of us, this unwilling descent into madness may occur - sometimes temporary, sometimes more permanent. This is due to 'the thousand natural shocks that flesh is hier to' - life's unexpected mishaps, the shock of the unexpected. Especially, there is the trauma of sudden separation, be that the death of someone loved, the break-up with a lover, or the loss of our own childhood self. As a result, a series of unexpected images uprise in our imagination, offering us visions of comfort or release. We imagine the death journey of the departed, we fantasize endlessly of re-uniting with a lost lover, we long for the lost joy of earliest childhood. Each of these spontaneous fantasies find their parallel imagery in sacred art and myth: the Egyptian After-world Journey, the Babylonian Sacred Marriage, or the birth of the Christ child.
       For the visionary artist, such journeys into 'the heart of darkness' offer him, as their reward, amazing images emerging from his inner depths. And the work of art that results allows the artist, or anyone else who beholds it, to re-experience



 
 
 


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