Art, artists, and healing

Artists may be barometers of society's thought, mirrors of certain values, faithful reminders of humanity's sadnesses or joys. An artist may be a kind of scribe of the inner or outer world he sees, expressing it in special terms that awaken or surprise us. And at unique times an artist may aspire to be a prophet or healer, achieving something even more than a personal statement. Elements in the artist's work may begin to touch upon universal spiritual truths that spark and sustain within us a higher, spiritualm goodness.

I believe I experienced this deeper spiritual dimension in a concert I attended. I had come to the concert in a mood of tension and frustration because of some personal difficulties I had had that day. As the artist played, I was almost overwhelmed with a wave of sudden love and joy that nearly brought me to tears. At that moment I deeply realized that my life could be more beautiful, more Christly - that I could and must devote myself to a more unselfish way of living the goodness and beauty I felt.

It was a special performance for me. Afterward, I learned that it was the habit of this particular artist to pray before he performed a concert, to dedicate his performance to God in gratitude and praise. The music itself would not be considered ''religious.'' And yet the prayerful desire behind it had a distinctly healing effect upon this listener. To me, this illustrates a statement in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: n1 ''Whatever inspires with wisdom, Truth, or Love - be it song, sermon, or Science - blesses the human family with crumbs of comfort from Christ's table, feeding the hungry and giving living waters to the thirsty.'' n2

n1 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.

n2 Science and Health, p. 234.

Love, beauty, harmony, joy, order, peace, intelligence, strength, are essentially spiritual qualities, qualities of Truth and Love. Christian Science shows us that as we strive to live these qualities, they will naturally be more clearly manifested in our relationships and in all our undertakings, including artistic ones.

We may sometimes feel that our efforts to express our ideals in our lives and in our art are more or less imperfect; and yet the Christ, the spirit of Truth and Love, can increasingly purify and uplift those efforts. Whether we are artists, art appreciators, or both, we can raise our expectancy to a higher level - a level that is more deeply receptive to the fact that through prayer we can know and feel God's power and presence. This knowing and feeling can be clear enough to transform our experience in substantial ways.

The prophet must have felt this transforming power when he declared, ''The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me . . . ; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.'' n3 The healing tone of this prophecy touches our hearts today. We, as those of all previous generations, have felt the need of such a healing tone and touch.

n3 Isaiah 61:1,3.

Can an artist heal through his work? It is entirely possible that this can happen. And how much greater the likelihood that a healing sense can overtake us when the artist is humbly striving to know God and to demonstrate man's unity with God. At the same time, as the viewer or listener is receptive to God, to divine Love and Truth, he is more likely to be struck by the qualities a sensitive artist has striven to capture.

It is our native, God-given spiritual sense that responds to the strains of Truth and Love expressed in life and in art. The surfacing of spiritual sense is only possible as personal ego is abandoned for a higher admission: that God is the one true creator, the source of all creation. His children reflect His creative power. In proportion as the artist cherishes man's true identity and creativity, he can bring them out.

What is substantially and truly good is of God, and rings true in our hearts and minds. It transcends the mere words, sounds, colors, shapes, and movements themselves, and gives us increasing freedom. Ultimately, our very lives themselves become works of art - works of love, dedicated to God. DAILY BIBLE VERSE O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. Psalms 34.3m

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