A picture is worth a thousand words. The words are slow, but the image is immediate: in a fraction of a second, the clear perception of an image imprints on us what would take hours to read.
Gurdjieff and emotions
Preparing the Emotional Center
Gurdjieff said that for art to be useful to us, we had to have a sufficiently developed emotional center.
The emotional center is the fastest of the four lower centers (namely: the emotional, motor, instinctive and intellectual centers). The perceptions of this center are instantaneous: thus, when we enter a room, we immediately sense whether people are tired, happy or aggressive. We immediately sense whether someone is well-disposed – or not – towards us, whether they trust us or are suspicious of us, whether they love us or fear us.
If we knew how to apply the speed of our emotional perception by looking at objective art, then a sculpture could make us vibrate at the very core of our being.
But, ordinarily, the emotional center does not receive what it needs to be able to work at its own speed. Its fine energy is wasted in negative emotions. As a result, it only has coarse fuel, like a sports car running on unrefined gasoline.
To be able to bridge the gap between sleep and wakefulness, the emotional center must shift into high gear: working on the non-expression of negative emotions prepares the ground for proper emotional perception. This attitude prepares the heart to receive a higher form of nourishment, a more refined fuel which will bring it closer to the higher centers.
A Higher Form of Nourishment: The Objective Art
Objective art is that nourishment. It has the power to transform its viewer. As Gurdjieff found on his travels, objective art imparts wisdom in abundance. But it is not wisdom imparted by words; it is a certain amount of energy without words, a powerful breath of new inspiration.
The reality is in the moment. If you want to penetrate reality, you don’t have time to use words. Therefore, an image has an advantage that words do not have: speed. Words speak to the intellectual center (the slowest of all centers), while images speak to the emotional center (the fastest of all centers). Objective art propels the viewer into the present moment.
In other words, by allowing man to cross the interval between his lower world and his higher world, objective art moves from the emotional center to the higher centers.
Gurdjieff and Intelligent Art
The purpose of early Buddhist sculpture was to produce this effect. At Buddhist pilgrimage sites, visitors were greeted by intricately carved Bodhisattvas. Although hewn from inert stone, they were extraordinarily animated. They seemed to breathe and pay attention to the visitor, greeting him in person and welcoming him into his home.
The visitor is often a pilgrim who arrives there after a long journey. He is greeted by sculptures that give him a deep impression of serenity and awareness. If the pilgrim takes the time to allow himself to be penetrated by this impression – provided he is emotionally prepared for it – this image can cause him a shock which propels him into reality.
Let us see the Bodhisattvas represented in this position. They instantly express the many characteristics of enlightenment—characteristics that would have taken a whole book to describe: wisdom, compassion, awareness, bliss, focus, flexibility, and many other qualities . The sculptor expressed in stone what the authors of the Dhammapada transmitted in writing. But since the artist conveyed his message here visually, the heart prepared for it receives it instantly.
Ultimately, objective art strives to reflect objective man. It reflects not only what it is, but also what it could become.