There was an immense amount of interest in the subject of morphic fields arising from the last letter. This little understood phenomenon suggests a Jungian collective consciousness — I have often wondered about the presence of this condition in artists.
On speedy trips to galleries as far afield as London, New York and Pont-Aven, Brittany, I’ve often noticed paintings and other works of art of remarkable similarity with different artists’ names on them. It’s particularly prevalent and more surprisingly obvious in the world of abstraction. It seems to be beyond the usual conventional knowledge and motifs picked up in art schools, art magazines, or even in the ebbs and flows of fashion. Perhaps our knowledge and ideas are already “out there.”
Is there a possibility that something funny is going on? Look, for example, at research using the New York Times crossword puzzle. Every day thousands of people do these puzzles. A test group of 500 was asked to do the puzzle every day, complete it, not talk to anyone, and keep track of the time it took. Another 500 were asked to do the same thing with yesterday’s puzzle. The second group, on average, finished sooner.
If stuff is floating around — what’s the individual artist to do about it? I think artists need to act as if they are unique vessels of originality. They need to stand on their own shoulders, take their own counsel, paddle their own canoe. If the feeling that “it’s been done before,” or “someone else is also doing it” creeps in — so does cynicism. We may all be guilty of reinventing the wheel in some way or other — but that’s not the point — art is a “doing” thing that when properly understood and practiced gives continuous challenge and continuous joy.
PS: “We tend to think things are new because we’ve just discovered them.” (Madeleine L’Engle)
Esoterica: ESP. J. B. Rhine of Duke University pioneered investigations into unexplainable phenomena and claimed the existence of extrasensory perception. In his tests human success in ESP often depended on a strong belief that it worked, a relaxed attitude toward performance, and the acceptance that the ability comes and goes.
The following are selected correspondence relating to the above letter. If you find value in any of this please feel free to copy to a friend or fellow artist. We have no other motivation than to give creative people an opportunity to share ideas and possibly broaden their capabilities. Thank you for writing.
by R. A. Boyce, New York, USA
Your quote from Madeleine L’Engle is so appropriate yet so simple. The world of full of artists who suffer from the belief that they are original because they never took the trouble to do any research. And think of all the critics, green behind the ears, who go ga-ga over this and that, and tell all who will listen that it’s new, new, new. Robert Hughes wrote a book on it: The Cult of the New.
by Andrew Mellor, London
The current authority on morphic fields is British author Rupert Sheldrake. In a recent interview he noted the following: “In the transmission of ideas or forms, art forms, by morphic resonance, there are two things. One is the number of people who do it or the number of times it’s being done, and then there must be some variable of intensity. It makes a difference if someone is absolutely intensely involved with an idea compared with someone who just flicks through a magazine and sees a picture of your particular kind of thing for a few seconds and it’s very superficial. If somebody in solitude works away in an extremely intense way it may indeed set up a morphic field.”
Sheldrake is the author of several books which are of value to artists: Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science (with Matthew Fox), Dogs that Know when their Owners are Coming Home, A New Science of Life and The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature.
by Betty, Ohio
I call it “mass mind.” I live in a very small town and compete in a couple larger towns. I wanted to do the local history of the Native Americans that lived here, but found everyone was doing that, so I gave up. Then lighthouses became an interest, because my daughter has a cabin at lake Erie, but then everyone was doing lighthouses! I’m afraid to mention this but my thoughts are on spider-webs right now. I have done some with sparkle, some that look real, some in fields with clover, etc. However, I am still trying to perfect them, but before I get there, I am positive someone will beat me to it, and do a beautiful job! Strange things happen.
I’m not surprised that these things happen. I have always been intrigued by the pheonomena called “harmonic convergence.” I first heard this applied to discoveries in the field of science when scientists, working completely apart from each other and separated by great distance, make breakthroughs in their research in the same field of study at almost the same time. Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicity states that there are connections between people, places, and things in the world even when widely separated in space; and that there is “a unitary world underlying the deepest archetypal level of the psyche and the deepest quantum level of matter.”
by Billy Krumenacker
A few months ago I was feeling especially aware of my own mortality, and I began to ponder the question, “What makes us unique?” The answer eluded me for about a week until one day it knocked me on my ear. It was perfect… The one thing that nobody could ever share with me, the one thing that would be buried with my body when I’m laid to rest, the one truly unique thing about each of us… Our life’s experiences. Think about it for a second, nobody will ever see the world as you do, and even though you tell them the stories of your life, they will envision it in terms they can relate to. Say I met a guy named Ralph. We each have an image which to us is a “Ralph,” and no two are exactly alike. As artists we try to convey our images to others, but when they look at our works they see their own version of our works. There is no one perfect artist with one perfect painting. The reason for this is the differences in life experiences of each and every unique person. And when the final curtain comes down on each of our lives, that will be the one thing that we can take with us–our own unique experiences as seen through our own eyes.
by Stewart Turcotte, Kelowna, BC, Canada
Jesus, Einstein, Leonardo, Pablo and Michelangelo were all alive and breathed molecules of the atmosphere in and out for their entire lives. Those same molecules have spread out to cover the planet like moisture from an atomizer and some have remained in an unchanged form all that time only to be breathed in and out by you and I in our everyday lives. Perhaps some connection between the contemporaries and the ancients is possible but still remains beyond our understanding. I have seen trees painted by the nineteenth century painter Allen Scott that are identical to trees painted by a contemporary B.C. painter that would have had no possible chance of seeing Scott’s trees. Did she possibly breathe in the salt air of the small Canadian town of Ladner once carrying the scent of heather in the highlands?
by Sam Green, Seattle, WA, USA
Interesting that you would say that the similar ideas would come up more often and obviously in abstract work. Obvious, yes, it’s easier to recognize what an abstractionist’s “thing” is. But what about subject matter? How many paintings are there out there of a farmer and his livestock crossing a stream? Or the Blessed Virgin for that matter? Geez. I think we have a collective discovery curve going on here. Not just in painting. Dale Chihuly has elevated his craft of glass blowing to high art. His bowls are $35,000. Good for him. Way to go Dale. Unfortunately I was in Red Robin, a burger chain in Mt. Vernon, Washington and the place was newly decorated with Chihuly rip-offs, cast from molds in all his colors, in the form of low hanging lights over each red plastic booth. Collective consciousness?
Pearls of wisdom
by Susannah Wagner, Ashland, Virginia, USA
The idea of morphic knowledge is found over and over in the jewellery field. Sometimes the idea is centuries old and is (re)discovered simultaneously by artists in different countries.
by Kim Brosemer
Sometimes I get an idea and find that others had the same idea at the same time. I think people have more than the five physical senses. I believe we have several more subtle senses, or one other sense that takes a few different forms. I think that in the next century we may have machines that can quantify and measure the energy given off by the brain and perhaps qualify these extra senses.
As artists, our job is to act on our inspiration when it comes. Each artist will have a different experience of the same inspiration, even if several are working on the same idea. Each individual will add something to the total body of work on the subject, so I think we should not worry about the idea that somebody else could also be working on it. Each individual’s unique voice needs to be heard, each vision needs to be communicated.
Seeds of the movement
by oliver, Texas
Stuff floats around and I think cyberspace speeds it up and makes regional schools and thought larger until they encompass the world. It floats around and those on the creative side respond in similar fashions to the collective stimuli. Following this, schools or movements arise as artists have similar responses to the same influences. They then feed off of each other — and then usually after a burst of creative energy, they fragment, taking the seeds of the movement and growing in different directions with only a precious few exploring the original movement to its logical end.
by Bobbi Snope, Coeurd’Alene, Idaho, USA
Could it be that artists are tapping into the water table of creativity and coming up with something that appears similar? My friend Sally and I have been looking at this non-tangible idea of creativity and how the body has a “taproot” so to speak for something that is available to all who are willing to “sit” with it…and is this flow of creativity proportionate to how well the body is able to handle it? We’re thinking of creative people who have gone mad, suicidal or turned into alcoholics. Then you pose the universal question of collective consciousness and actually “improving ourselves” in direct relation to others…I say yes! And if all this is true…there is a domino effect of what else is true.
There is such a thing as plagiarism and I have witnessed some who jump on the “do what they do” bandwagon. There are also those who take someone’s idea and improve on it and produce it. Not sure this is unethical… still pondering that one myself. I have been told if it is 25% different it is legal… not plagiarized. I guess I would have to ask my own conscience and go with the inner voice of right and wrong. My intention is not so much originality but creating something from pure love, contentment and courage. As I type this I realize that could be one definition of original.
by Jeffrey Howard
The painter/artist who claims to paint solely and only for “art’s sake” needs to remember the observation of Goethe: “I am not who I think I am and I am not who you think I am, but I am who I think you think I am.”
I know of no one who sets out to do a picture with no intention whatever in mind. We select our frames in film-making carefully (based on accumulated experience) and we slap paint on our full sheets or canvasses with an end in mind even if we don’t know what that end may be. In a workshop in La Manzanilla, Jalisco, Mexico, the home of “Instituto La Manzanilla,” artist Jack Rutherford from Spain referred to this process as follows: “Buddha suggests to those who need inspiration for their art to go to it before a perfectly blank wall until its design, composition and subject reveals itself.”
by Eileen Williamson
All thought and energy has a vibration. According to George Leonard in his book the “Silent Pulse,” if the vibration has a rate of 7 pulsations per second, this matches the theta-wave state of the brain. “This state is associated with the twilight-zone between waking and sleeping in which the customary censorship of the mind is absent.” Further, in the 1920s and 1930s, Dr. Harold Seashore measured the vibraton rates of several famous singers. Caruso sang at 7.1 cycles per second, Galli-Curci at 7.4 and Martinelli at 6.8. When the vibration rate is around 7-cycles per second oscillation, it tends to repeat itself over and over, as it does during orgasm and in the standing wave produced by the human heart. Thus it would seem a primary vibration of the planet. It is no wonder that as quantum physics proves that on a vibrational level we are connected, that art, poetry, discovery and invention happen simultaneously on different parts of the planet.
You may be interested to know that artists from 70 countries have visited these sites since March 30, 2000.
That includes James Chan of Hong Kong who found his work in another gallery with someone else’s name on it, and Dr. Lorne Waring who said, “The cosmic mind of artists is like cyberspace without the equipment.”
What is your criterion for choosing which letters you include?
(RG note) We’re looking for letters from the world community of artists that challenge or add to what I have to say. We publish what we think are interesting, original, imaginative, informative, authoritative, opinionated, off-the-wall, or amusing pieces that tell us we are not alone. We edit the long ones with the idea of turning them into quality zingers. Obviously, when writers are saying the same thing we try to choose the best one. Furthermore, I’m still reading every single letter and I feel a strong sense of sisterhood and brotherhood when I do. I hope you do, too.
We are in the process of putting together a Resource of Art Quotations. If you are interested in volunteering to help with this project or would like more information about it please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org