Thank you Mary for your thoughtful response. It gives me great pleasure to see and hear about the connections that I tried to make in my blast. Everything you’ve written is exactly on point.
And I’m glad that reference to the sacrificial dimension of art (after all, to “sacrifice” also means “to make sacred”) does not imply that artists are gluttons for punishment pure and simple, or that we suffer from a particularly masochistic proclivity. That is why I opted for highlighting that, at a very basic level, this willingness to make sacrifices is not some kind idiosyncrasy but quite simply what it takes to achive professional world-class standards in any field. Be it art, sports, science or what have you, there is a point in which the quest takes us beyond ourselves and our limited sense of subjectivity.
As I wrote in a post on my site about “What is Art”, it is primarly the subjectivistic ego-centric bent that must be avoided in order to give way to the archetypal objectivity of the creative process. This is why often as artists we feel to be merely an instrument and not the final end and purpose of our creative endeavors. As I elaborated on that said post:
Friedrich Nietzsche had already warned us about the subjective self-encystment that preys on the unconsciousness of the would-be artist, concluding that:
“to us the subjective artist is simply the bad artist, and since we demand above all, in every genre and range of art, a triumph over subjectivity, deliverance from the self, the silencing of every personal will and desire; since in fact, we cannot imagine the smallest genuine art work lacking objectivity and disinterested contemplation.” (The Birth of Tragedy 37)
Although the personal aspect can play a positive role in the creative process, the very transcendent nature of art forces us to look beyond the dimensions of personal feeling, to open up our private selves to an archetypal realm of universal human experience. Failing to transcend the personal, art simply becomes an instrument of ego, an accessory of my selfish goals and private interests.
As every artist knows, however, the experience of the creative force is quite the opposite; it is quick to turn the tables on ego and its sense of alienation. As my habitual self-centeredness dissolves and becomes an instrument, operating out of a center that is not my own. It bends my personal will to fulfill—not mine but its own—unknown goals and objectives. This is what characterizes most the effects of the creative spirit on our precious self: the sense of being “transported” or “displaced” (ékstasis) by the transcendental experience of creative being itself.
Carl Jung—who famously distinguished between the personal and collective unconscious as the difference between the subjective and objective psyche—also develops this general insight into the profoundly impersonal nature of art and its peculiar mode of transcendence:
“What is essential in a work of art is that it should rise far above the realm of personal life and speak from the spirit and heart of the poet as man to the spirit and heart of mankind. The personal aspect is a limitation— and even a sin—in the realm of art.”(CW15: 101¶156)
Going further, it is only when art becomes a purely personal affair that the opinion of a psychologist becomes increasingly relevant:
“When a form of art is primarily personal it deserves to be treated as if it were a neurosis. There may be some validity in the idea held by the Freudian school that artists without exception are narcissistic—by which is meant that they are undeveloped persons with infantile and auto-erotic traits. The statement is only valid, however, for the artist as a person, and has nothing to do with the man as an artist. In his capacity of artist he is neither auto-erotic, nor hetero-erotic, nor erotic in any sense. He is objective and impersonal—even inhuman—for as an artist he is his work, and not a human being.”
I think Jung’s statements above also dovetail with James’ quote from MDR and the objectivity of the psyche. Although I wouldn’t discount the role of eros in this process as Jung seems to do, using Freud’s insistence on eros as if it were a mistake for the artist. This is typical Jungian propaganda against Freud, unfortunately, criticisms that literally nobody holds outside tightly knit, dogmatically sealed Jungian circles. I can’t think of any artist getting behind the idea that eros plays no role at all, even when we are elevated into the realm of the objective psyche. After all, eros is an archetypal force—perhaps THE archetypal force of the psyche— and thus an intrinsic part of that psychic objectivity which Jung is otherwise correct in highlighting.
Best wishes to all of you and thank you very much!