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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

A Bit About Art

Monaco (1981) notes that the ancient arts (history, poetry, comedy, tragedy, music, dance, and astronomy) were tools for describing the universe and our place in it; they help us understand the mysteries of existence and are imbued with the aura of these mysteries. These arts form the basis of contemporary culture and science. They were “each aspects of religious activity; history recorded the stories of humanity, the performing arts celebrated the rituals, and astronomy searched the heavens” (p. 3). Hill (1992) notes that art is the carrier of the culture’s myth, and goes on to explicate the “common thread of mythic expression” that that he sees running “from primeval religious consciousness down through modern cultural expression” (p. 7). Hill remarks that public art, as a reflection of the societal soul, tells us that “Plato called art a dream for wakened minds, recognizing the connection between inner consciousness and art” (p. 7). Hill also discusses the relationship between the classical arts and the newer media and arts:

Film, television, and other electronic media are arts which incorporate other arts within them and have been shaped by the older arts of music, dance, visual arts such as painting and sculpture and written arts from poetry to literature. They have also had a profound effect on shaping these older arts too. These arts are also media, channels of communication and can be used in scientific and other endeavors as well. (p. 43)

From the beginning, people have always enacted religious devotion in songs, dance and play. Literature is the descendent of drama. The older literary works such as the Mahabharata, the Attic tragedies, the Homeric epics, and the Book of Job are regarded as myths, whereas later writings such as Dante’s Divine Comedy and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are considered to be literature. In addition, myth, drama, and literature are ways of transmitting important ideas:

Aristotle saw literature and drama as the highest forms of learning, no doubt because they have the capacity to bring the highest human ideas down to the lowest recipient and they bring the participant back up to the lofts of religious sublimity. (Hill, 1992, p. 14)

McLuhan (2003) notes: “Ezra Pound called the artist ‘the antennae of the race’ ” (p. 16), who stood between the public culture and the hidden elements of numinous phenomena:

“Creative art is the power to be for the moment a flash of communication between god and man” (Sawyer, 162) . . . It is as if the artist, whether or not he or she recognizes it, carries the historic mythic torch which illumines for all generations the participation of in illo tempore or the sacred time as outlined by Mircea Eliade. The artist, along with the other sages of civilization is also the forge in which myths are wrought into new shapes for each succeeding generation. Northrup Frye says of the artist as mythmaker, “every society is the embodiment of a myth, and as the artist is the shaper of myth, there is a sense in which he holds in his hand the thunderbolts that destroy one society and create another” (Frye, 1963, p. 147 as quoted in Hill, 1992, pp. 10-11)

The founders of depth psychology have been such artists, “early warning systems” (McLuhan, 2003, p. 16), anticipating and articulating what lay ahead—holding thunderbolts at the ready. Their work and that of their successors has helped to shape society, while their art was shaped by prior artists.


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