Hunted Man

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by ERICH NEUMANN (Art and the Creative Unconscious)

"For the art of our time inclines toward a radical spiritualism, a solemnization of the secret transpersonal and suprapersonal forces of life and death, which surge up from within to compensate for the materialism dominat- ing the outward picture of our times, a materialism conditioned by the rise of the earth archetype during the Renaissance.

As magnets order a field of iron filings, so do the archetypes order our psychic life; a similar process takes place in modern painting. Among primitive peoples the powers arc projected into strange forms and symbols, and modern art has returned to this primordial phase of exorcism.

As magnets order a field of iron filings, so do the archetypes order our psychic life; a similar process takes place in modern painting. Among primitive peoples the powers arc projected into strange forms and symbols, and modern art has returned to this primordial phase of exorcism.


In Western culture the artist first set out to represent the world implied in the idea of the beautiful; he strove to concretize this transfigured vision, and later, with the emergence of the earth archetype, the ideal of the beautiful seemed to have been imprinted on life itself. The modern development, however, has been to shatter all these static, ontological conceptions.

 Distortion, crookedness, and grotesque horror form an archetypal aspect of the demonic. If modern art is characterized by the disintegration of external reality and an activation of the transpersonal psychic world, it becomes understandable that the artist should feel a compulsion to depict the powers in their own realm—which is, of course, a psychic realm—and not as they appear, disguised, in nature. And in the art of primitives also, abstraction is often the form corresponding to the world of spirits and the dead.

Thus it is a great misunderstanding to characterize this art as intellectual—for only its hangers-on are intellectual—and to underestimate its religious and, in the true sense of the word, metaphysical impetus. The anonymous creative drive itself is the essential reality of a human art independent of any external world. Our art, like our times, is characterized by the old Chinese saying quoted by Richard Wilhelm: “The heavens battle with the creatures in the sign of the Creative.”

In compensation for the decay of our cultural canon and our permanent values, both the individual and the group are experiencing an awakening of the collective unconscious. Its inward, psychic expression is modern art, but it is also outwardly discernible in the flood of men on earth.

 

It is no accident that a human element appears so seldom at the center of the modern mandala, and so frequently a flower, a star, a spring, a light, an eye, or the void itself. The center of gravity has shifted from consciousness toward the creative matrix where something new is in preparation." (Erich Neumann - Art and the Creative Unconscious © 1959 by Bollingen Foundation Inc.)