Art and the Evolution of Consciousness

Jeff Carreira Philosophy 6 Comments

Did you know that American Avant-Garde painters, writers and musicians in the 1950’s were inspired by evolutionary philosophy?

I just completed a weekend program with a group that I co-teach called The Evolutionary Collective and the connection between Art and Consciousness was central to our inquiry over the weekend.

In the decades following World War II, an art scene emerged in New York City that included writers like William Carlos Williams, and Jack Kerouac, painters like Jackson Pollock and William de Kooning, as well as be-pop musicians, and theater and dance groups.

It has generally been recognized that these artists were philosophically inspired by the vision of the European Existentialist philosophers. What is less well know is that they were also attempting to manifest a vision of reality that they were learning through the written works of process philosophers, especially John Dewey and Alfred North Whitehead.

What was inspiring these artists was a view of a universe that flowed through a process of evolution that took it from one form to the next as a continuous stream of emergence.

These artists were reading John Dewey’s book “Art as Experience” and Alfred North Whitehead’s “Adventures of Ideas” and were discovering a view of reality that inspired them to explore new ways of creating art.

One of the things that we spoke about over this past weekend is that it has often been the occupation of art through history to attempt to capture new experiences of consciousness and give others access to that consciousness.  The artist feels compelled to infuse her work of art with the new experience of consciousness that they have discovered and feel. When others experience and appreciate their art they are catapulted into the same experience the artist had while creating it.

Art has an aesthetic quality – a particular quality of feeling that it carries. Leo Tolstoy in his book “What is Art?” states that speech – written or spoken – is the vehicle through which human knowledge evolves, while art – in whatever medium – is the vehicle through which human emotion evolves.

These are themes that I find rich and compelling and I will be spending some time over the next few weeks sharing more of what I am learning.

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About the Author

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira is a mystical philosopher and spiritual guide. He is the author of eleven books on meditation and philosophy. He teaches online programs and leads retreats throughout the world that teach people how to let go of their current perceptual habits so they are free to participate in the creation of a new paradigm. To put it simply, he supports people to live a spiritually inspired life, free from the constraints of fear, worry and self-doubt, and aligned with their own deepest sense of meaning and purpose.
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Amy Edelstein
10 years ago

Very interesting and important direction for evolutionaries to think about. There are contemporary artists inspired by Aurobindo too whose work expresses something different – abstract but tangible directionality and forward reaching at the level of consciousness

10 years ago

There’s a long and fruitful discussion about where art “happens.” What I think is interesting is that the viewer’s level of consciousness is an important aspect of the impact of a work of art. When a creation is too “avant” of a society, it languishes, only to be discovered by a later generation. Great art, as an expression of Beauty, pulls us in a way that by-passes the rational mind – and perhaps even the emotions – toward higher orders of integration, drawing forth a response that did not exist until that moment.
10 years ago

Tech, new materials and new disciplines in psychology and science have also made a big impact on artists in modern times. Was Buddhism and Eastern thought brought up in your discussions, being a big influence in the Beats. What should also be acknowledged is the embracing of drugs by the artist communities as passports to expanded consciousness.

David Mauriello
David Mauriello
10 years ago

Dear Jeff Carreira,

Your posts are great. I receive them courtesy of EnlightenNext. I am a friend of Kenzo An.

I attended an Andrew Cohen seminar in the western part of MA a few years ago. Can it be that I met you there?

I remember talking to someone about making a movie based on Andrew’s teachings.

Keep up the great work.


David J. Mauriello Writer/Executive Producer JUST SAY LOVE

“experience the infinite/Just Say Love’

Laura Jackson
Laura Jackson
10 years ago

Hi Jeff,

So great to have you exploring in this direction and to be able to share it. As a a painter/printmaker/book artist with never enough time for same in the evolutionary present, I’m often caught by questioning art’s possible evolutionary place in pulling us forward or codifying cultural givens. Curious for the names of artists Amy refers to above and the location of the discussion Verona mentions. Add to your research the classic (for artists), “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” by Kandinsky.