The Cosmic Dancer
Joseph Campbell examines a quote by Nietzsche, who said;
“Freedom to pass back and forth across the world division … is the talent of the master.” ~ Nietzsche
“The Cosmic Dancer,” declares Nietzsche, “does not rest heavily in a single spot, but gaily, lightly, turns, and leaps from one position to another.” ~Joseph Campbell
The concept of the Cosmic Dancer fascinated me when I first read it. As an artist, I identified my feelings about my own art and how they fit into the grand scheme of things. Mainly, in the difficulties of these times, how do we find a balance between creating and sustaining ourselves?
To create, one must isolate oneself in a state of consciousness that allows creation to occur. We artists often call it the flow, extremely focused, and operating free of time and space, in-distractable. It is the vulnerability to the process of the art. When I am in create mode, with my senses elevated, I am painfully aware of every shadow, line, and form of inner landscapes.
I find myself going deep within; I fall into a dreamlike state during the painting process. As artists, we protect our ability to create; we must guard against distractions; to manifest our perceptions and get them out on the canvas, we must be in touch with the unconscious, letting it flow through us.
Later, when reality sets in, we may find ourselves driven by the need to make money by selling our art. Exposing ourselves to new things can “fill the well,” eventually presenting the world with our offerings, our perceptions, in an attempt to, as Campbell puts it, “bring life back to the wasteland where people live in-authentically.” This is the challenge of the Cosmic Dancer.
On This Side of the Abyss
My experience when feeling overwhelmed creates an opportunity for the inner and outer worlds to collide. For example, I am in creative mode, the phone rings, and somebody wants money for something. Or, while standing on a crowded bus on my way to buy art supplies, I must process all sorts of foreign energies swirling around me. It can be overwhelming.
It is not these actual tasks that are difficult; it is making the transition between the inner and outer worlds, time and time again, which invokes the challenge—having to adapt and change at a moment’s notice to navigate the great abyss. We strive, but the Cosmic Dancer is a master at this.
Being an Artist
Being an artist feels like being an onion without its outer skin. Things only can deeply impress or wound me when I allow it. Yet, in venturing out in this over-sensitized state, I find myself easily overstimulated by my external environment. It can be exhausting. Unable to turn ourselves on and off on a whim, we must somehow stay in tune with the natural flow so that it may flow through us to create.
Is staying on one side of the abyss or the other easier? Let’s not. Let’s say we did; as the old expression goes, why not skip it?
Unless we have a catalyst to take the plunge, most will find it much easier to live the shadow life, doing something secondary to their art in a related field—no need to face and overcome fears that seem too difficult to surmount.
This refusal of the call, says Campbell, creates a kind of “drying up, a sense of life lost.”
The shadow life allows us to stay close to what we secretly love, but without taking risks, and by the same token, without the payoffs.
To become a master, we must hone our skills and abilities. While the world swirls around us, we strive to find inner peace, attempting to quell our anxiety. The circle requires completion, so we must return the great abyss to ourselves. Then across the chasm again for our journey.
What do we have to lose? We strive towards honourable pursuits. Why not live out our dreams, allowing our deep-seated purpose to take the forefront? We must live authentically; we must do it. Will you answer the call of the Cosmic Dancer?