I recently finished reading Technicians of Ecstasy – Shamanism and the Modern Artist, by Mark Levy. In it he profiles 27 artists in three different categories, Seeing, Dreaming, and Performing, and gives details about various Shamanic techniques that contemporary artists can use to advance their own work. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and my copy is now marked up with underlined passages, asterisks, margin notes, and tea stains (I spilled tea on it on the day I finished reading it and had to dry out the pages). I can not recommend this book enough to anyone who might be interested in the areas where spirituality, psychology, and fine art intersect. In the final pages of the book, Levy advocates a return to spiritual values in art, and gives us a kind of call to arms. The following quotes are culled from the Conclusion of Mark Levy's book. I thought they might bear repeating here.
“In the beginning, in prehistoric times, the roles of artist and shaman were not separated. Shamans were, in fact, the most gifted artists in their community.”
“Currently, in post-modern art where, in the words of Nietzsche “nothing is true and everything is permitted,” the task of re-valuing the world with spiritual meaning becomes especially urgent.”
“I believe the role of the artist as shaman will become increasingly attractive for artists who are seeking to go beyond the idiosyncratic selfishness, commodity fetishism, adherence to fashion, and sterile appropriation that informs much of contemporary art. Many contemporary artists simply borrow spiritual contents by appropriating images and styles from a wide range of cultures, including tribal art. The result is a simulacrum of meaning which lacks depth. Art that uncovers authentic truth requires difficult and sometimes dangerous journeys.”
“Shamanic techniques, when used properly, offer essentially non-destructive means for artists to invite visions and gain knowledge about themselves. Works of art evolving from these visions continue to nourish their audiences. The opportunity for artists to make positive contributions to their communities also eliminates their own feelings of alienation and exclusion.”
“In shifting attention from common sense or “consensus reality,” artists as shamans succeed in expanding their consciousness and the consciousness of their communities and offer blueprints for spiritual development.”