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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Life on the edge of Ego disintegration

Cosmic Strings & the Human Heart - by Stephanie Tihanyi
(all copyrights held by the artist)

Come you lost Atoms to your Centre draw,
And be the Eternal Mirror that you saw:
Rays that have wander'd into Darkness wide
Return and back into your Sun subside
The Conference of the Birds- Farid ud-Din Attar
My painting above is organised in what is known as a Mandala. At the time I constructed the painting I was not thinking consciously on making a mandala painting, in fact I did not research mandalas until much later when I came across some psychology texts claiming that mandalas utilised in art therapy, had been found useful in helping schizophrenic patients deal with overwhelming feelings disintegration and ego loss. The focusing on a center helped to focus and calm such patients.

I did recognise that this is exactly the same reason I had been compelled to paint this painting. One does not have to be a schizophrenic to be suffering from overwhelming feelings of "coming apart". It happens in many disorders (anxiety) , throughout the history of human kind. Though in some conditions, it can be experienced more intensely and more frequently.
For me, its one of the worst feelings imaginable, worse than the fear of death. In actual death you die and leave behind a body that once was. At least something is left behind, signifying you were actually there, existed, even though now your not.

But this is a feeling that you are disappearing, taking with it the reality that you ever existed!. The words "coming apart" are felt literally, as if it were real. Its like every thing, all of your substance, identity and being, is slowly disintegrating out of existence. All of your very atoms are separating and drifting apart leaving a faint thinning vaporous haze, like what you can imaging happening to you if you went over the event horizon into a black hole. Its that vivid.

Also note that in ego weakening, the boundaries between inner and outer worlds merge. The self associates outward reality (physical universe, atoms, space, black holes, gravity) with the inner psychological experience. Some speak of this as a sign of illness but I think it is a tool and can aid self re-structuring.

What could possibly remedy such an awful experience. There have been self therapies, from times before the 11th century Sufi mystics, to the present day through the use of the arts, meditation, poetry, ti chi, martial arts and mystic wisdom.

I believe the drive to re-organise the psyche after painful experiences is instinctual and somehow blue printed into the human mind. A self re-organising gift. But from where?. To find that answer, that's the quest of a spiritual Way. The whole thing may also be part of a developmental process. How many times can I die?. as many times it takes to be reborn comes the answer, from somewhere inside me.

As I tried to address the distress I felt, the first thing I did was create the elements around me to contain my poor dissolving self. Earth, Air, Fire and Water. I kind of felt like a magician or shaman doing some kind of magical operation, I don't know what I felt like most the time. I didn't think, I just worked in an unconscious way, doing what felt right, without knowing why.
With the elements and their symbols in place, I worked on the Space beyond the Earth outside. About this time I had been reading about String Theory in a science magazine. Hey, I am no mathematician but I kind of gleaned some images in my head from the article, even though I could not explain it in words.
Around the Space, containing the space, is a tube or string. The picture now becomes like a cross section of a string, like a spaghetti that is seemingly infinite in depth. The skin of this string is Time, as indicated by the encircling snake or Ouroboros, with the infinity sign on its head. So now both the Time and the Space within it, are infinitely long. As one moves along the String, so one moves in Time and Space. The center is my Self, its still unknown to me. But I imagined in it, a Way, to the light source of multiple colours, a place of warmth and golden light, like the Sun. The Gate to the Sun is a flower, a Rose whose petals, (red, passion) are in the shape of a glowing Heart.

 Don't ask me if I an trying to illustrate String Theory, I know little of that, or if I am trying to do magic, again, I know little of that. All I know is making this art, helped me restore my inner compass and pull myself together. I died in my soul and came back. I will die again and again but each time I come back I find I have grown more as an individual, as a person. I added onto myself, I was not lost and if I did lose something, it was the painful shedding of something false about me that I no longer need.