Friday, October 19, 2012

Abraxas: Simultaneously Pan and Priapos

 Abraxas: cow femur, merino wool, chain.

 Here's what I knew about "Abraxas" when I started working on this piece: Not much.  I just had the word stuck in my head for no good reason that I'm aware of, and this image that I couldn't get away from.  I knew from an old grad school interest in gnosticism (the early form of Christianity positing direct knowledge of the spiritual realm) that according to gnostic mythology, Abraxas was the creator of the Archons, who in turn were the creators of our material world.

I was also aware of the idea in some gnostic writings that the material world we find ourselves in is actually a prison created to separate us from our spiritual selves.

Finally, I had also encountered the idea that the Archons were not just generators of our reality, but also Aeons, or ages, and that their age would come to an end.  This is interesting currently because it goes along with the popular 2012 notion that the Mayan calender is not predicting the end of the world but the end of an age of materiality and the beginning of a new era of spiritual enlightenment.

 So with all that in mind, what I was trying to capture from a conceptual point of view was the impression I had that this archon I was seeing must necessarily embody all the dualistic contradictions of creation within itself. . life/death, good/evil, material/spiritual.  This idea was played out with the material juxtapositions of wool and bone: one dense, hard, heavy;  the other soft, light, airy.  And yet, they would mimic each others appearance.

Abraxas on an ancient coin.
I don't like to research things too much before hand that come to me in the way Abraxas did so as not to contaminate the vision, but I almost always at least do a Google image search to make sure I'm not doing something cliche or already done.  And to my knowledge I had never seen a picture of Abraxas.  Turns out, this archon is traditionally represented as a cock (or rooster) and two serpents, and nothing at all like the dessicated, ectomorphic alien-like winged Pan/Priapos I was seeing.

 After finishing a piece though, especially the archetypal and mythic creatures I've done, I like to research the topic, partly to find interesting quotes for the accompanying blog post, but mostly just out of curiosity.  After finishing this piece last week, I began researching Abraxas, and also googled "Abraxas Pan" to see if there was anything there.  I was astonished to find Carl Jung, the brilliant psychiatrist who came up with the concept of the "collective unconscious," had transcribed something about Abraxas called "The Seven Sermons to the Dead, written by Basilides in Alexandria."

This was kind of an Oh Shit moment because "Seven Sermons" wasn't "written" it was "transcribed." I had no idea that Carl Jung had ever experimented with "automatic writing" which is not unlike channeling.  The process of automatic writing is similar to how I approach the felting process when creating pieces like Abraxas.  Consider the following passage from Sermo III:

The Power of Abraxas is twofold; but ye see it not, because for your eyes the warring opposites of this power are extinguished.  What the god-sun speaketh is life.  What the devil speaketh is death.  But Abraxas speaketh that hallowed and accursed word which is life and death at the same time.  Abraxas begetteh truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness, in the same word and in the same act.  Wherefore is Abraxas terrible.  It is splended as the lion in the instant he striketh down his victim.  It is beauitful as a day in spring.   It is the great Pan himself and also the small one.  It is Priapos.  It is the monster of the underworld, a thousand armed polyp, coiled knot of winged serpents, frenzy.  It is the hermaphrodite of the earliest beginning.  It is the lord of the toads and frogs, which live in the water and gets up on land, whose chorus ascendeth at noon and at midnight.  It is abundance that seeketh union with emptiness.  It is holy begetting.  It is love and love's murder.  It is the saint and his betrayer.  It is the brightest light of day and the darkest night of madness.  To look upon it, is blindness.  To know it, is sickness.  To worship it, is death. To fear it, is wisdom.  To resit it not, is redemption.

 I found the synchronicity here astonishing.

There is MUCH more that could be said on the topic of Abraxas, but it's really far beyond the size and scope of this already indulgently long and egg-headed blog post.

If you want a juicy speculative read that is eerily relevant, check out "The Gnostic Theory of Alien Intrusion."

I must emphasize my agnostic approach to all these matters.  I don't believe or disbelieve any of this stuff, and personally suspect our experiences with archetypal images and energies to be a deep consciousness connection with hidden parts of our own psyches, rather than with actual external entities.  Confronting these things could be considered a very old form of healing.

Initiating the work

Etc, etc, etc. . . .

I don't want to get too personal or detailed about the actual experience of creating this sculpture, but it was the worst artistic experience of my life.  It plagued me with uncharacteristic darkness for weeks, even though if you added it all up, the actual work time was only a few days.  I could only work on it in short bursts without feeling sick.   I was cut off from the spiritual light and bliss that I have been blessed with over the last few years.  I considered abandoning the project, but could not.

The day I finished pushing Abraxas out of my psyche and into the wool and bone,  the inexplicable sense of freedom and joy that flooded my soul was as welcome as water in the desert.  That light and joy has lingered, and a smile has been tickling my face.  I feel deep gratitude for the healing gift of creative energy.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing story and journey you went through to create this incredible piece of art. I love the meaning(s) behind it and what was going through your mind (that you explained) while you were creating. You are indeed a true creative soul.