Can Art Be Separated from the Artist?

“What is that art that is coming from that percentage of oneself that is Cosmic? Then that percentage will allow that art to have appreciation in longevity, hundreds of years, perhaps thousands of years of applicability. This is one of the tests of who or what is actually the author of the art.”

Thom Knoles

Discussions about the separation of artists and their art are not new. The subject has been discussed for centuries, usually in the context of legacy, but in recent times, and especially with the rise of cancel culture, the question more often comes up in relation to the behavior of an artist.

Does the conduct of an artist negate the appreciability of their art?

In this episode, Thom invites us to consider artworks from the perspective of Cosmic influence, and offers a simple measure we can use to assess what that level of influence might be.

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Episode Highlights


What Are You?



Me-ness in Art



The Works of Something Deeper



Artistic Expression of the Unified Field of Consciousness



What Makes Some Art Forgettable?



Cosmic Influence in Art



When the Medium Becomes the Art



Cosmic and Individualistic Layers of Art


Jai Guru Deva


Can Art Be Separated from the Artist?

[00:45] What Are You?

Jai Guru Deva. Thank you for listening to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles.

The question has arisen: can the art or the output of an artist be made distinct from the artist herself or himself? In other words, can we enjoy someone’s art, whatever it may be, performing art or painting or sculpture, without having to buy into whatever the thoughts, life stories, morals, ethics, and so on of the artist may be? This is a very, very interesting question.

And first of all, we have to come back to our fundamental tenet of the Vedic worldview, which is, what are you? What are you, includes who are you? That is to say, who is the Knower? When the knower is a lowercase k, knower, I am an individual who is defined by the thoughts that I have.

I’m an individual that’s defined by the body in which my consciousness resides. I’m an individual who has a lifetime that started X number of years ago when this body was born. And this is what I am.

My best memories of, or maybe my worst memories of, a mixture of memories of where the body was at certain times, who addressed it and in what way, what did my consciousness experience at the time of being addressed by various demands, by various challenges, what were the benefits of my growing-up status, what were the downsides of my growing-up status, that mixture of memories desires, unfulfilled desires, and the idea that I am, my am-ness, is all bound up with a body.

[02:52] Me-ness in Art

There’s this body, it looks this way, it looks that way, and it used to look younger, and now it’s looking older, and that kind of thing. This is object referral identity. The objects of the world, the demands of the world, the thoughts, which are also objects, the body itself, these are all the things that define me.

I am defined by this individuality. Now, my individuality decides it’s going to begin expressing itself in a variety of ways. The idea being that perhaps if I express myself in this variety of ways, others who either read my poems, or read my work, or see my paintings, or experience my sculptures, or hear my music, I’ll be having some kind of shared experience with them. I’ll be sharing the experience of the me-ness, creating more me-ness, and expressing it.

Now, as we grow in our practice of Vedic Meditation, something begins to happen. The I, the I am inside, the sense of self inside, begins naturally to change.

When we go beyond thought, we go beyond the subtlest pulsation of the thinking process, first of all, in meditation, and then having established ourselves in Being, Being starts to become more and more the baseline answer to what am I? Not just who am I, but what am I? Being, which is the baseline Unified Field of Consciousness, ends up actually taking over, in percentages, my inner sense of identity.

[04:40] The Works of Something Deeper

When I look inside, and I think to myself, “Who am I? What am I?” There is a silent field which its own silence is the answer. Evidently, in addition to having a body, in addition to having thoughts in the brain of the body, I also, I am This, this unboundedness, this inner quiet state with which I make contact every time I practice Vedic Meditation. And twice every day, practiced over many years, I have to add the answer of Being, capital B, Being, the Unified Field of Consciousness has to be added as the answer to the question, what are you? What am I?

And so then, what is it that’s doing the expressing? As one grows into higher consciousness, the expression, the art, or the works, if we don’t want to call it art and limit it to simply art, the works of a consciousness are really the works of something deeper as evolution grows with meditation, something deeper with a greater impact than merely, this is a conglomerate of thoughts and expressions and experiences that I’ve had that I’ve posited artistically in a variety of ways and that people can experience and interpret.

In fact, the Universe itself is artistic. All we have to do is look through a telescope at where we are, and we see the clusters of galaxies and the nebulae and the beautiful starry world and the infinite trillions of galaxies, each of which has trillions of stars in it.

[06:37] Artistic Expression of the Unified Field of Consciousness

And don’t even bother going Cosmic in that way. You know, look at the behavior of the microscopic world all around us, or the macroscopic world, that is, the world that we don’t need a microscope to see. All of this around us is the artistic expression of that Unified Field of Consciousness.

So then when we look at artistic output, we’re really looking at the percentage at the time of the artistic output, in that particular moment of the artistic production, the song, the art, the sculpture, whatever it may be, we’re looking at a mixture of percentage.

How much of that is individuality, and how much of that is Universality speaking? One of the ways we can come to a conclusion about these matters is to see what stands the test of time.

Certainly, it’s true that somebody can produce some music today which could reach number one on the charts of popular music, and we could surmise that perhaps 300 years from now, that music and that artist would be utterly forgotten. No longer even recalled.

And yet, we can listen to other music, say, for example, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, which is on the order of four or five hundred years old and still as mesmerizing and as complete today as it was all those centuries ago. His name is immortalized as a composer of beautiful sequential elaborations of sound.

And so then, what is the difference between the art that is produced today, which will be forgotten within 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? 50, 100 years, 500 years, and the art of someone that is still very extant, very recognizable, and still considered to be very valuable and inspiring and uplifting even half a millennium later or up to a millennium later.

[09:01] What Makes Some Art Forgettable?

When we listen to some of the beautiful sounds that emerge from the Veda. There was a particular singer of the Veda, a Rishi. Interestingly, the Rishis were all singers. They not only could “see,” meaning all five senses, sight, taste, touch, smell, and sound, those impulses of sound of the Veda, but they could express them in song and the songs which in Sanskrit rhyme, rhyming song, rhyming lyric expressive of the blueprint of the whole of creation.

Some of those songs are up to 10,000 years of age, and are still extant, still being chanted by those who are the keepers of the knowledge from ancient times to modern times.

So then what is it about art that is forgettable? If art has a high percentage of only individuality in it, then that kind of art doesn’t pass the test of time, that it continues to be appreciated and enjoyed multiculturally over a long period of hundreds of years or even into thousands of years.

[10:13] Cosmic Influence in Art

What is that art that is coming from that percentage of oneself that is Cosmic? Then that percentage will allow that art to have appreciation in longevity, hundreds of years, perhaps thousands of years of applicability. And this is one of the tests of who or what is actually the author of the art. That is to say, the blend of percentages.

Thirty percent individual, seventy percent Cosmic, that’s going to last a long time. Fifty percent individual, fifty percent Cosmic that’ll last less time than the previous one. Seventy percent individual, thirty percent Cosmic, some good longevity, but not very long. Ninety percent individual is the driver of the art, ten percent Cosmic. Then we’d give it probably 10 years or 20 years before it was eminently forgettable, not culturally relevant anymore.

So, like that, we make up our own minds about the art and the artist. Very often, at least in the field of music or song, and also in visual arts, the field of the media used by the artist, there may be varying lengths of longevity of Cosmic versus individual.

If we look purely at lyrics, then most modern pop songs their lyrics are really rather ridiculous, and very hard to find any longevity in that. The kind of poetry in most of the lyricism has very limited cultural circumference or periphery. The event horizon of applicability and relevance is very low, and that means it’s going to have low longevity.

However, the rhythm, the instrumentation and the rhythm might be coming from the more Cosmic percentage of the artist. And this is why very often you can see people bopping along to music that has a brilliant rhythm and great instrumentation and beautifully produced even though the lyrics might be asinine.

[12:33] When the Medium Becomes the Art

So, we also can make a distinction between layers of presentation, the medium used by a sculptor.

I remember once being exposed in Firenze in Florence, Italy, to the sculpture of David and the Ofitsi, the sculpture notoriously carved by Michelangelo, and being able to see how the artist, the sculptor Michelangelo, was able to use the natural grayish blue vein in the marble around the cuff area of his subject David, and to use that natural vein of the marble that came from one solid block of marble, it’s a massive statue, to depict the vein, the major vein that everyone has on their calf muscle.

It just so happened that that particular vein in the marble ran along the same line. You could carve it in such a way that the vein in the marble replicated the vein in the human physiology.

Now we’re talking about medium, and the use of medium, rather than the subject of King David of Israel. King David of the ancient Israeli tribes. We take that, and we just look at that in terms of its cultural relevance. It may not be as long-lasting as our ability to detect the unbelievable artistry required to take a solid block of marble and then plan out how the vein in the marble matches the vein in the leg and to carve the leg around that vein in such a way as to produce that effect.

[14:27] Cosmic and Individualistic Layers of Art

I remember one woman standing next to me when we were looking at the statue of David and looking over at me in complete amazement, she hadn’t read the pamphlets and saying, ” Oh my God, it’s marble. The whole thing is marble.”

And there was a bit of a titter that went through the viewing crowd at the time because that was famously what that particular statue of David was known for. That it was one giant solid block of marble out of which he carved this figure in his way of saying that he was liberating the captive inside the marble. One of the reasons why he carved and sculpted in such a hurry.

So, when we see long-lasting art, we can make the assumption of a greater degree of Cosmic value as the ultimate author, the ultimate artist inside.

When we see short-lived, very short longevity in the art, then we can see more and more higher percentage of individuality being expressed in the art, and we can take the art apart, deconstruct it, and say, layers of the art more Cosmic, having greater longevity, layers of the art more individualistic, having deeper layers of individuality only which has limited relevance for a limited period of time.

This was one way of looking at the answer to this question. 

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