Seeing the Soul Through Visionary Art | Omega

Accomplished visionary artists Alex Grey and Allyson Grey are cofounders of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM), an art sanctuary and cultural center in Wappingers Falls, New York. In this interview they discuss the origins and transformations of the visionary art movement. Read Part 2 of the interview.


Omega: How do you describe visionary art to someone who encounters it for the first time?

Alex and Allyson: The visionary artist’s mission is to make the soul perceptible. Where scientific, materialist culture develops the eyes of outer perception, visionary art encourages the development of inner sight. To find the visionary realm, we use the intuitive inner eye, the eye of contemplation, the eye of the soul.

Visionary mystical experiences are humanity’s most direct contact with God and are the creative source of all sacred art and wisdom traditions. The best currently existing technology for sharing the mystic, imaginal realms is a well-crafted artistic rendering by an eyewitness. This is why visionary art matters.

The visionary realm embraces the spectrum of imaginal spaces, from infinitude to formless voids. Psychologist James Hillman calls it the “imaginal realm.” Poet and artist William Blake called it the “divine imagination.” The aborigines call it the “dreamtime.” Sufis call it “alam al-mithal.” Plato writes of “ideal archetypes.” Tibetans speak of the “Sambhogakaya,” a dimension of inner richness. Theosophists refer to the astral, mental, and nirvanic planes of consciousness. Carl Jung knew this realm as the “collective symbolic unconscious,” the space we visit during dreams and altered or heightened states of consciousness.

We tune into a visionary world when we deeply meditate or dream. Mystics of all wisdom traditions describe visionary experiences of luminous beings, heaven worlds, wheels within wheels, hell worlds, and shadow forces. Cross-culturally, shamanic reality describes lower, middle, and upper realms accessed via divine imagination.

Divine canons of proportion, sacred geometry, mystic sigils, and sacred writing were visualized by wisdom masters and artists by contact with the heaven worlds. Sacred art can be a focal point of devotional energy to access the transcendental domain and make contact between the spiritual and material realms.

Omega: What makes your pieces unique in the visionary art world?

Alex and Allyson: Alex's paintings describe worlds of mystic light and love. Some “x-ray” the physical body and interlace glowing subtle energies of the soul during such archetypal human experiences like praying, kissing, copulating, pregnancy, birth, nursing, and dying. Alex's paintings honor the sacredness of planet Earth and some recent works explore the subject of consciousness from the perspective of “universal beings” whose bodies are grids of fire, eyes, and infinite galactic swirls.

The symbol system in Allyson's paintings represent a worldview comprised of chaos, order, and secret writing. Chaos is order plus entropy, embodied in the physical world. Order refers to the interconnected harmonious patterns, the transcendental unity called heaven, nirvana, and the divine. Secret writing, comprised of twenty unpronounceable letters, represents the spirit of communication irreducible to concepts, windows to inner concepts manifested in the material world.

Omega: How big is the visionary art community today? What changes have you seen in the community since you started painting?

Alex and Allyson: The visionary art community is now a global movement, and when we started out there were only a handful of us.

Early on we were friends with Paul Laffoley, Mati Klarwein, Ernst Fuchs, H.R.Giger, Robert Venosa, and Martina Hofmann. Everybody knew and respected each others' effort to portray alternate realities and higher dimensions.

The term "visionary art" appeared in the title of Alex's first book Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey, published by Inner Traditions in 1990. The maiden voyage of the 5-day Visionary Art Intensive at Omega occurred the following summer and we've gathered at Omega every summer since.

Now the world is full of visionary artists and writers. As more artists experience the visionary worlds through use of shamanic visionary sacraments, dancing, drumming, yoga, or meditation, they will naturally want to share their heart-opening, mind-scorching insights. This direct approach at sharing the glimpses of infinite beauty has been spread through the worldwide transformative festival network and via the intelligence of the social networking sites of psychedelic and visionary art.

Many exhibitions and books on visionary art have been published over the past decades and galleries and curators specializing in visionary art are emerging around the world, too.

Omega: Do you think the art world in general is more conscious today than when you first began?

Alex and Allyson: We began being artists as babies and have never not been artists. There are many art worlds. We are all evolving.

© 2015 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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