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The Mission of Art Paperback – March 13, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this Technicolor manifesto calling for a renewed spiritual content in modern art, Grey argues that contemporary artists have lost touch with the search for transcendence that infused the work of such masters as Michelangelo, van Gogh, Pollock and Kahlo. In a freewheeling narrative, Grey compares what he sees as the materialism and moral irresponsibility of most contemporaryart to his own creative endeavors, which draw on meditation, visualization, shamanic drumming, Taoism, yoga and Tibetan Buddhism. The book is bursting with his own mystical paintings and drawings, depicting floating cosmic eyes, the soul leaving the body of a dying person, haloed skulls, metaphysical thought-diagrams, human torsos lit from within by chakras or psychic energy centers. If this sounds reminiscent of the psychedelic 1960s, that may be because, as Grey freely admits, "sacramental" hallucinogens like LSD and mescaline have been a source of inspiration for him since the mid-1970s. He's found equal inspiration, however, in the works of Blake, Kandinsky and the drawings he made of Michelangelo's sculptures and paintings during a 1994 trip to Italy. Grey acknowledges a big debt to transpersonal psychology, the study of manifold dimensions of human consciousness, a science whose leading philosopher, Wilber, contributes the hyperbolic foreword ("Alex Grey might be the most significant artist alive"). As a hodgepodge of art-historical analysis, social commentary and spiritual philosophizing, the book is so idiosyncratic, and sometimes so preachy, that many readers will find it difficult to penetrate. But Grey's insistence that art should be a revelatory and healing force in our culture should resonate with artists in virtually any discipline.

Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Alex Grey's mission is nothing less than the transformation of our 'depleted world' through art that supports the evolution of human consciousness. He discusses the lives and work of artists throughout history, and his own journey, as examples of the higher mission of art, and encourages others to break out of the prevailing mood of irony and cynicism and create work with the heart and spirit."— Yoga Journal

"An inspirational text for artists and for everyone else who has ever had a glimpse of art's power for personal catharsis and spiritual awakening."— Branches of Light

"Grey's insistence that art should be a revelatory and healing force in our culture should resonate with artists in virtually any discipline."— Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; New edition edition (March 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157062545X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570625459
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
My whole being shouts "yes!" as I join the brilliant philosopher Ken Wilber, (who wrote the Foreword) in proclaiming that visionary artist Alex Grey is perhaps the most soul-filled, divinely inspired artist alive today.
I urge anyone who loves and appreciates art, especially art students, to make this book both a part of your "way of seeing," and "being in," the world.
In The Mission of Art, Grey gives us a glimpse of his expanded transcendent view of reality, which includes dimensions seen and unseen. His sublime vision embraces the polarities of good and evil, beauty and horror, but ultimately transcends the limitations of both. His words and art bring us to a hauntingly familiar archetypal place within which is ultimately beyond these dualities. The ability to do this, as he with eloquent, gentle wisdom puts forth, is itself the "highest" of the many functions of art. Grey's dozens of illustrations, reminiscent of Blake but for me more transformative, fill the book with a noumenal force which several times brought me to poignant tears of divine remembrance. What makes Grey's work so powerfully authentic is that it is a product of his own direct experience of transpersonal states of consciousness. The highest function of the artist, he submits, is to capture the essence of this universal transcendent experience, and through art, share it as gifts to humanity. Grey not only shares these archetypal, imaginal realms with us but goes further. Bespeaking his spiritual maturity, Grey points to the necessity of going BEYOND all form in our inward journey that we will all one day take back our common Formless Source.
Grey's art, and this book, itself fulfills the highest function of art by showing us what is on the other side of the inner veil, and potentially ushering us to its threshold. -Eliot Jay Rosen, author of Experiencing the Soul
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Format: Hardcover
As one who finds Alex Grey's works of art imbued with sacred truths I am delighted that he comes forward to share his insights in The Mission of Art. In this work Grey speaks from experience on mystical states and how they inform the creative process. He includes choice gleanings from various wisdom traditions and mystical literature that map, describe and otherwise illuminate the nature of the transcendental frontier. We can regard visionary artists as emissaries between the spirit and material worlds, who employ their craft to translate the ineffable truths encountered beyond the veil. And the art derived from such a vantage point speaks to the deepest and highest dimensions of our being. It nourishes the seeds of potential and advances the evolution of consciousness. As an artist, Grey believes it a moral imperative to remain true to the order of things, thus it is a moral offense to create art that would thwart the healthful harmonious unfolding of this order. In setting forth art's moral dimension Grey is sure to raise the ire of a vast contingent of the art world who contend that art is amoral. I eagerly await their rebuttals. Any discussion from this day forward must now reckon with The Mission of Art; as it shall be sited among the classics of the philosophy of art. ~Carol Price, author of Mystic Rhythms: The Philosophical Vision of Rush
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Format: Paperback
Since the fin-de-siecle, artists have had a reputation for egoism and perfidy that has been glamorized and often excused for their supposed insight into society. For Grey, merely being an artist is not an excuse to act without regard for human beings in the supposed pursuit of beauty. He details how, initially, his art came from his own dark impulses, self-loathing, and power trips which would have led him to ruin--with the possibility of being remembered in a celebratory light anyway. Through changes in attitude, the love of his muse then colleague then wife Allyson, and respectful experiences with ethnobotanicals, he underwent a profound transformation whose noble fruits are seen in his art. He details these aspects of his life and his thoughts on art as a spiritual practice with practical advice on developing the consciousness that channels energies both dark and light into extraordinary works that benefit all sentient beings. It should be read alongside his portfolio TRANSFIGURATIONS as the two illustrate this process he underwent both visually and in textual form. The drawings in The Mission of Art are just as incredible as any of his spectacular paintings, especially the treatment of Beethoven in the style of a Tibetan thangka and his mindmaps that are throughout the pages. I came out of this with a profound sense of vindication for my own artistic endeavors and I hope it serves the same for any who wonder whether their art can mean something.
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Format: Paperback
Soul Expression Can Be Visionary Artistry
Imagine, for a moment, the Creative Forces. How do you envision the Spirit of Life, as it expresses itself within you? When I suggest this meditation in my classes, people usually enjoy it. When I suggest to pick up a colored crayon or two and help the Creative Spirit express itself on paper, this second instruction creates more anxiety than pleasure. I hear the protest, "But I can't draw what I envisioned!" I might reply, "Just allow yourself to enjoy the process and don't be worrying so much about how you think it should look. Let it be easy, let the vision guide the drawing, let it do what it wants with itself."
After we have made our drawings, people share a little of what was experienced during the meditation and we get to see how it came out on paper. The drawings are so different, yet group members usually recognize the mark of the Creative Spirit in them. Their sheets of paper contain precious revelations. People remark favorably, of course, about those that are more "artistic." Some may denigrate their own work when comparing it with those that win the group's "artistic" award. I try to draw their attention elsewhere. It's not about being "artistic," but about honoring one's experience as best one can.
Alex Grey, author of The Mission of Art (Shambhala), writes that the purpose of making art should not be trivialized into a career path toward fame and fortune. The essential purpose of making art, he reminds us, is to honor Spirit, to make it visible, to make it real in this world. If we create also for the purpose that it might further awaken Spirit in others, then making art becomes a spiritual mission as well. If sufficient talent, dedication and hard work are present in the mix, then it can also be a profession.
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