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International Journal of Transpersonal Studies

Abstract

Most traditional art forms around the planet are an expression of the spiritual dimension of a culture’s

cosmology and the spiritual experiences of individuals. Religious art and iconography often

reveal the hidden aspects of spirit as glimpsed through the filter of cultural significance. Moreover,

traditional art, although often highly abstract, may actually describe sensory experiences derived

in alternative states of consciousness (ASC). This article analyzes the often fuzzy concepts of “art”

and “spirit” and then operationalizes them in a way that makes them useful for cross-cultural

transpersonal research. The fact of the universally abstract nature of traditional art is analyzed and

used as a clue to the function of art in expressing and penetrating to the spiritual domain. A “continuum

of representational-associational abstraction” model is introduced and described. These

concepts are then applied to the author’s experiences with Navajo art and the relation between art

and the important Navajo philosophical concept of hozho (which may be understood as “beauty,”

“harmony,” “unity”). A perspective on art and spirit is developed that essentially supports

Wassily Kandinsky’s contention that abstract art is the expression of an “inner necessity” of spirit.

The article argues for a greater sensitivity among researchers and theorists for the sublime

nature of spiritual art.be induced by very different means, including contemplative practices and

chemical substances, and yet have different after-effects. Taken together, these ideas lead to the

cautious conclusion that some psychedelics can induce genuine mystical experiences sometimes

in some people, and that the current tendency to label these chemicals as entheogens may be

appropriate.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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