Notes on THE SECRET DOCTRINE SERIES
The impetus for the series were these questions I asked:
What are the implications of perception in giving a picture of daily, experienced reality? How much do the senses create that reality? What effect do the daily habits of viewing, seeing, observing have on the sustained, continuous creation of everyday reality? How does the introduction of an artistic mind-set, perceiving and creating within an art-istic framework, effect or affect objective or subjective reality?
How does technology, digital photography, recorded sound, or digital video capture the moment, and what kind of “reality” image do these extensions of our senses reveal?
Initially, when I began this series, my intent was to achieve an understanding of the above through the IMAGES, JOURNAL, and WORKSHEETS: WAKING DREAM aspects of the series. My intent was to consciously short-circuit daily, habitual interactions with my environment by employing almost daily procedures such as searching and retrieving earth-matter and fix it to a 6”x6” (I Ching) art paper. Simultaneously I cut segments of pages from the book Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, 1958, and added drawing , painting, etc. to create the image over a few days. The choice of this book was for several reasons.
Right out of high school I was introduced to this book by some older friends who had just returned from San Francisco where they were introduced to Tibetan yoga and philosophy, all of us were interested in Buddhism. It was a pivotal time that led to my fascination with all things Tibetan that continues to this day. The allure did not extend over time for the book however. It fell out of favor with later scholars who criticized the translation and Evans-Wentz’s Theosophical leanings.
So the book was loaded with meaning, personal, historical, and cultural and therefore perfect for my, at the time, somewhat vague purposes. I would “reconstruct” it, in defiance of “deconstruct,” by cutting it up and adding the language of nature, the language of art, and spontaneous creativity.
On the same day as the IMAGE took shape I initiated the WORKSHEETS: WAKING DREAM section by sitting blindfolded for 15 to 30 minutes, pencil on paper in position to record imagery, sounds, etc. that appeared within my mind’s eye. Consciously I suggested that the imagery obtained in the blindfold session relate to the IMAGE and perception of “The Day.”
I used abbreviated marks to assist in recalling as fully as possible the information during this time period and the results were intriguing. I was struck at how similar the process was to recording nightly dreams. In fact I often use single words or images to trigger the unfolding of lengthy passages of dreams that I wish to record after waking. Three words can open up an entire dream sequence seemingly forgotten upon waking. Though fully awake during the WORKSHEET sessions I was astounded at how much I had forgotten during the 15-30-minutes and how much I could remember with the assistance of the information on the WORKSHEET.
This process overall led me to the conclusion that the stream of the dream state runs concurrently with the stream of everyday awareness. I believe that both are forms of consciousness even though one or the other is unconscious at any given time.
Similar to a dream recording I transferred and fleshed out the WORKSHEET information into the prepared JOURNAL section of the piece additionally documenting the date and time. I had not considered the WORKSHEET to be a portion of the final piece. However, I was struck by the quality of the blind mark-making, relating it to blind-contour drawing exercises I had often encouraged my students to produce, and as I had often done as well. They relate also to automatic drawing of the surrealists, and, more disreputably, to automatic writing. I believe they straddle all of these. I place them next to each other on the website in the SIDE BY SIDE gallery for easy comparison.
The element of time is an additional facet involved with the IMAGE section in particular. A minimum of 3 time periods are involved including the periods of the published book that attempts to translate the 500 year period of The Secret Doctrine, Tibetan yoga practices, within a 1950’s western slant (historical and cultural), in addition to the personal factors of the late 1960’s-early 1970’s when the book came to my attention. We can add the 2011-12 time period as well, with the inception of THE SECRET DOCTRINE SERIES. They are all entangled and present at once. The IMAGE aspect is a creative expansion into these time periods that also unfolds a reconciliation across time.
The IMAGE aspect suggests a different component of language that can bridge form, meaning and comprehension as an attempt, perhaps crudely, to use the natural form, say a blade of grass as a multi-meaning-ed “letter” of an alphabet. The three forms, text, art/design, and nature are compiled to form an image/text/language structure that thickens meaning. *(SEE Image 1 example)
There are, at a minimum, a visual relationship to Chinese calligraphy. (SEE Image 3 zoomed in, photoshop enhanced, Image 4, and Image 5)
I also sense the possibility of reading the gridded image in an associative manner, or with the same open intuitional comprehension one employs in gleaning understanding from the ritualistic process needed to grasp the nonlinear significance that an intuitive reading of the I Ching *(SEE Image 6) is capable of providing. I am reminded that the history of the divination process of the I Ching involved heating the shells of tortoises with a hot iron pole then reading the cracked lines.
As I proceeded with THE SECRET DOCTRINE SERIES the project slowly expanded to include documenting with PHOTOGRAPHS, AUDIO RECORDINGS, and VIDEO. Because they are later additions and the day or date is an important aspect of the piece, there are fewer than the 123 works for the IMAGES, WORKSHEETS, and JOURNAL sections.
Documenting “the day”, as I slowly began to think of the series, included photos, audio, and video as rote, objective, semi-scientific, and routine processes to complement the more spontaneous, intuitive, subjective processes of the other 3 processes. Looking back I now see the relationship of the use of technology in this piece and the algorithmic, computer, digital, experimental works I completed later. And isn’t it interesting how the technology so easily allows for the “rote, objective, semi-scientific, and routine processes” to be employed for these purposes.
One final note involving the IMAGE, WORKSHEET, and JOURNAL sections. After making several of these I began to wonder about the purely mental images that occurred while blindfolded then recorded physically on the WORKSHEET. What is its nature? Is it composed of electrical pulses? What is its composition? Does it still exist? What is its physical, subtle, nonphysical relationship to the SECRET DOCTRINE SERIES? Consciousness?