Ecstatic poetry and the mystical perspective

"New Man, New Woman," Alex Grey, 1984, oil on linen, 24 x 30 inches

"A world without art would leave us bereft of a language of beauty; we would lose access to one of the primary ways that spirit reaches people." ~ Alex Grey


Lately I’ve been really “digging in” to the work of visionary artist Alex Grey. Looking back, I can see that my contact with his work spans nearly my entire path as an artist. I think it’s accurate to say that he is one of the greatest influences on my personal journey, and also, undoubtedly, on my art itself. Something happens to us when we behold one of Alex Grey’s many masterworks of transcendent art. It is as if his work has the ability to transport us into an entirely different dimension of experience, a realm in which the mystical is perfectly real, where Spirit dwells immanently alongside us, where we beings of flesh and blood and matter are far more than we could possibly imagine. Alex Grey’s world is one in which deep spiritual realization is at once profound and commonplace. It has the ability to show us that his lens, the lens of Divine understanding, can be the lens through which we all might be looking, examining our lives with luminous inspiration and truly-sacred insight.

In addition to producing one of the most meaningful bodies of artwork that any human being has given us, Alex Grey is also a champion in the realm of mystical/ecstatic art. His life’s work is imbued with a mighty reverence for the many ways that Spirit can be channeled into art and thereby offer its gifts to us a people, both individually and collectively. As I sink into my place in this world as an ecstatic poet, I can’t help but resonate more and more with this message. Art and Spirit are inseparable; they dance together in loving embrace, a double helix of lived human experience and Divinity-given-form. For me, reading a truly ecstatic poem – a Word-centric art-object that arises from a place of connection with the Divine – evokes precisely the same experience as viewing a powerful Alex Grey painting. And so, then, a new realization has emerged along this journey. Ecstatic poetry is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a mystical art, a practice that allows us to navigate the mysterious terrain of our longings, a tool which might assist us in unpacking some of our personal conundrums, and a method that invites us to connect with our essence: the name we have chosen to represent God-in-Self that is inherent in the human experience.

"Painting," Alex Grey, 1998, oil on linen, 30 x 40 inches

In his book “The Mission of Art,” Alex Grey writes: "Art that emphasizes ecstasy and mystical experience will always fulfill profound human needs, bringing people back to the source of infinite love and ultimate reality." This statement is positively striking to me. I could not envision a more apt descriptor for the power and purpose of ecstatic poetry. As we continue to create the future of ecstatic poetry as a practice and a path, one of the things that continues to come forth, unfailingly, in all of our thoughts and formulations, is this idea of “coming back (or connecting) to our Source.” This is what ecstatic poetry does. But what is the path that we must walk in order to reestablish that connection?

In ecstatic poetry practice, we often talk about "getting out of our own way" or "unobstructing our deeper nature" so that we can become channels for inspiration, for essence-driven word to flow through us. (There are specific ideas, techniques, and practices that we have developed that can facilitate this process.) In this way, a human being can become like a lightning rod: a poet can train herself to be an optimized and wide-open being, perfectly prepared for God-energy to enter and move through her. In another section from “The Mission of Art,” Alex Grey says almost exactly the same thing: “In order to experience art fully, viewers must go through a mini ego death by placing themselves in the inspired mind of the artists, who themselves are out of their minds and only acting as channels of creative spirit.”

Ecstatic/mystical art is quite literally a practice of “going out of our minds.” The rational, ego-mind sees boundaries, seeks for its own pleasure while rejecting pain, and keeps us isolated in this mundane world of form by convincing us that it is the only world. But, not unlike spending a few moments in contemplation with an ecstatic poem or a visionary painting, the practice of mystical art invites us further, takes us out of our normal mindstates and into Alex Grey’s world, a world where Spirit takes whatever form we can imagine to create. It is a world of connection, a realm of power, and a place that, more and more over time, we find is inseparable from our living, waking lives.

I don’t know about you, but I know which kind of art I intend to create.

All images utilized in this post are the work of Alex Grey. 

"Wonder - Zena Gazing at the Moon," Alex Grey, 1996, acrylic on paper, 16 x 20 inches