A picture is worth a thousand words. But words are slow and an image is immediate. In a moment a clear perception, an image can impress us with what only hours of reading can convey.

«There are images of gods and various mythological beings that can be read like books, only not with the mind but with the emotions, as long as they are sufficiently developed.» –George Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff on emotions

Prepare the emotional center

Gurdjieff-Wei-BuddhaGurdjieff observed that to benefit from art required a sufficiently developed emotional center. The emotional center is the fastest of the four lower centers (namely, emotional, motor, instinctive, and intellectual). The perceptions of him are instantaneous: We enter a room and immediately feel if people are tired, happy or argumentative. We immediately feel if someone is happy or not happy with us, believes us or mistrusts us, loves us or fears us. If our speed of perception were directed towards objective art, then a sculpture could instantly strike a deep chord in our being. Normally, however, the emotional center is too undernourished to work at its proper speed. Your fine energy is lost through negative emotions. You are left with crude fuel, like a sports car that ran on unrefined fuel. To bridge the gap between sleep and awakening, the emotional center must be brought up to speed. Working with not expressing negative emotions prepares the ground for proper emotional perception. It prepares the heart to receive a higher form of food, a more refined fuel that takes it closer to the higher centers.

The food of objective art

Objective art is that food. It carries the potential to transform the beholder. He conveys volumes of wisdom – as Gurdjieff observed on his travels – but this wisdom is non-verbal. It’s a wordless dose of energy, a potent breath of fresh inspiration. The reality is instant. To penetrate reality, there is no time for words. Therefore, the advantage of a picture over a thousand words lies in speed. The words speak to the intellectual center (the slowest of the lower centers), while the images speak to the emotional center (the fastest of the lower centers). Objective art catapults the viewer into the moment. In other words, it transforms the emotional center into higher centers, bridging the gap between the lower and higher worlds in man.

“In the course of our travels through Central Asia we encountered, in the desert at the foot of the Hindu Kush, a strange figure that we at first thought was some ancient god or demon. First, he produced on us simply the impression of being a curiosity. But after a while we began to feel that this figure contained many things: a large, complete and complex system of cosmology.» –Gurdjieff _

Gurdjieff on intelligent art

Gurdjieff-BodhisattvaEarly Buddhist sculpture aimed to achieve this effect. Finely carved Bodhisattvas greeted visitors at Buddhist temples. They were incredibly animated, despite being made of dead stone. They seemed to breathe and pay attention, to meet the visitor in person and welcome him home. The visitor – often a pilgrim arriving after a long journey – is greeted by a profound visual representation of serenity and awareness. If he pauses and lets the shock sink in—if he is emotionally ready—the image can shock him back to reality. Examine the featured bodhisattvas in this note. In an instant, they display the many characteristics of enlightenment, characteristics that it would take a book to describe: wisdom, compassion, awareness, contentment, concentration, flexibility and much more. The sculptor has expressed in stone what the authors of the Dhammapada conveyed in writing. But, being visual, his message instantly enters the prepared heart. Finally, objective art strives to reflect the objective man. It reflects not only what is, but also what could become.

“In the whole statue there was nothing accidental, nothing meaningless. And we gradually understood the purpose of the people who built this statue… that was, by the way, art!” –Gurdjieff