Theologian Brian Mahan introduced me to Otto Rank’s and Ernest Becker’s writing, in college, as I recall, and the importance of creativity and forward movement stuck with me.
Matt Fox writes today:
Shortly before his death, Ernest Becker, Pulitzer-prize-winning author of Denial of Death, commented that Rank’s Art and Artist was the most important book he had read in his entire lifetime. And he said that of all his works, “Art and Artist is the most secure monument to his genius.”
Otto Rank’s definition of neurosis is a person who either ignores his or her creativity or uses it to beat up on oneself (or to beat up on others). Thus, the artiste manque. The misuse of art or creativity. Whereas the average person largely subordinates himself, both socially and biologically, to the collective, and the neurotic shuts himself deliberately off from both, the productive type finds a middle way, which is expressed in ideological experience and personal creativity. But he warns that finding a balance “is difficult, impermanent, and in all circumstance painful.”
Creativity is a choice and using creativity for life’s sake is a choice. Poet Denise Levertov and the social-psychologist Otto Rank have spoken profoundly to such truths. Levertov declares that: Man’s capacity for evil, then, is less a positive capacity, for all its horrendous activity, than a failure to develop man’s most human function, the imagination, to its fullness, and consequently a failure to develop compassion.
Art and Artist, by Otto Rank
This book is not available on an e-reader, which is how I am reading everything these days, but here is an overview, from http://70000-fathoms.blogspot.com/2014/11/art-and-artist-by-otto-rank.html
Ed. excerpts from the below:
“The artist does not create, in the first place, for fame or immortality; his production is to be a means to achieve actual life, since it helps him to overcome fear” (408-09).
Otto Rank’s magnum opus, Art and Artist, was never published in the language in which he wrote it, German. It was translated by an American enthusiast for Rank’s thought and published in the U.S., in 1932. On the whole it has received far less attention than it deserves. Forty years after its publication, Ernest Becker celebrated and leaned heavily upon Rank’s work in his Pulitzer-winning The Denial of Death—after which Art and Artist promptly receded back into the mists of history. Now, another forty year later, we might hope for another resurgence. This is one reason I am providing a collection of sorted quotes from the book; I have found little online interaction with the text, and I feel that at least the most provoking, time-tested parts of his book deserve to be searchable on google. I have grouped them according to the themes that interested me. These themes are not organizing principles of the book. Actually, it is hard to find any organizing principles in the book—another reason for these grouped quotes.
– “A common spiritual root for the meaning and origin of collective ideologies… I conceived to be the belief in immortality, and this belief I regarded (if one can say so of any one belief) as the original ideology, out of which, as it became increasingly untenable, there arose various others, more securely anchored in reality, but always animated by the same immortalization tendency… From whatever the artist achieves by his successful work is in actual fact immortality, a result from which we need only infer this intention in order to obtain an understanding of the individual will to art as a personal urge to immortality. In this sense, however, the feeling of immortality is not only the result of creating but actually the presupposition on which it rests” (xxvi).
– “Artistic productivity, not only in the individual, but probably in the whole development of culture, begins with one’s own human body and ascends to the creation and artistic formation of a soul-endowed personality” (355).
– The creative impulse has been channeled through art, the motivation for this is a desire for immortality. Art is therefore motivated by mistaking it as a means for salvation. “The artist does not create, in the first place, for fame or immortality; his production is to be a means to achieve actual life, since it helps him to overcome fear” (408-09). “In him the wheel will have turned full circle, from primitive art, which sought to raise the physical ego out of nature, to the voluntaristic art of life, which can accept the psychical ego as a part of the universe. But the condition of this is the conquest of the fear of life, for that fear has led to the substitution of artistic production for life, and to the eternalization of the all-too-mortal ego in a work of art” (430).
The artist says something of himself with the material of another: “the artist, as a definite creative individual, uses the art-form that he finds ready to his hand in order to express a something personal; this personal must therefore be somehow connected with the prevailing artistic or cultural ideology, since otherwise he could not make use of them, but it must also differ, since otherwise he would not need to use them in order to produce something of his own… The artist not only creates his art, but also uses art in order to create” (6-7).
Art imitates not nature, but “soul” – the “mirror of nature” is a low view of art:
– “The redeeming power of art, that which entitles it to be regarded aesthetically as beautiful, reside in the way in which it lends concrete abstract existence to abstract ideas of the soul” (13).
– “Worrigner was certainly right in denying that art began with the imitation of nature, or even had this object; but it was imitation all the same, though in a wider sense” (14).
– “Art unquestionably serves an end, probably even serves a variety of ends – but the ends are not concrete and practical, they are abstract and spiritual” (14).
– Art creates and “proves”, not just “illustrates” or “represents” ideas: “religion used [art] as a means to represent, in objective and concrete form, the contemporary idea of the soul; but not, so to say, ‘illustratively,’ as if mankind were too immature to form abstract ideas of the soul. It had to be made concrete, pictorial, and real, so as to prove its existence… It is therefore not a defective faculty of abstraction which drives to the concretization of the soul and its pictorial representation in the god, but the will to objectify it and thus to impart to it existence, and, what is more, eternity” (15).
– “The imitation, however, concerns the unreal, which later becomes steadily more naturalized and humanized, while the aimlessness concerns reality – a fact which aesthetics has, strangely enough, inverted by looking for imitativeness, vis-a-vis reality, in which domain it has no purpose- and so being led to deny that art has any aim except that of aesthetic gratification” (96).
– “Thus, at the very commencement of human development – then indeed, in far greater measure than subsequently – we have the unreal element as the decisive factor which led to expression in art. But if religion is originally unreal, and the (psychologically speaking) equivalent love-experience at the other end of the scale is predominantly real, art stands in the middle, realizing the unreal and rendering it concrete. In doing so, it merely follows a universal law of development… that human development consists in a continuously progressive concretization of phenomena that were originally purely ideal or spiritual. In this sense the whole of cultural development is an artistic, or at least artificial, attempt to objectify human ideologies” (103).
– “The essence of art, however, lies precisely in the concrete representation of the abstract” (415).
The meaning behind any piece art is egotistical – that is, any given piece of art represents the creative urge as well as having a specific aesthetic effect: “The tacit assumption that the artist intended to present the effect he aimed at in its phenomenal form, and that therefore there were involved in the creation, at least potentially, the same psychological experiences and psychical processes as are to be observed in the contemplator of the work and especially in the aesthetic critic. Without disputing that in some cases the artist does aim at a definite idea effect in his work, it is certainly not the rule, especially with the individual work of the creative artist, since here the work of art is essentially an expression of his personality… While aesthetic pleasure, whether in the creator in the contemplator, is ultimately a renunciation of the self, the essence of the creative impulse is exactly opposite tendency towards assertion of the self” (23).
The neurotic vs. the artist:
– “The neurotic, no matter whether productive or obstructed, suffers fundamentally from the fact that he cannot or will not accept himself, his own individuality, his own personality. On one hand he criticizes himself to excess, on the other he idealizes himself to excess, which means that he makes too great demands on himself and his completeness, so that failing to attain leads only to more self-criticism. If we take this thwarted type, as we may do for our purposes, and compare him to the artist, it is at once clear that the artist is in a sense the antithesis to the self-critical neurotic type. Not that the artist does not criticize himself, but by accepting his personality he not only fulfils that for which the neurotic is striving in vain, but goes far beyond it. The precondition, then, of the creative personality is not only its acceptance, but its actual glorification, of itself” (27).
– The neurotic, on the other hand, is generally regarded as the weak-willed type, but wrongly so, for his strong will is exercised upon himself and, indeed, in the main repressively so it does not show itself… Both are distinguished fundamentally from the average type, who accepts himself as he is, by their tendency to exercise their volition in reshaping themselves. There is, however, this difference: that the neurotic, in this voluntary remaking of his ego, does not get beyond the destructive preliminary work and is therefore unable to detach the whole creative process from his own person and transfer it to an ideological abstraction. The productive artist also begins… with that re-creation of himself which results in an ideologically constructed ego; this ego is then in a position to shift the creative will-power from his own person to ideological representations of that person and thus to render it objective” (41).
– The neurotic holds back: “His only thought, one may say, is to save life and life-force, but this saving brings him no aesthetic pleasure, but neurotic dissatisfaction, because it dreads every sort of spending, even spending on a plane of illusion. From the therapy of such cases it has emerged that the neurotic must first learn to live playfully, illusorily, unreally, on some plane of illusion – first of all on the inner emotional plane. This is a gift which the artist, as an allied type, seems to possess from the outset, and in an even higher degree than the average person possess it. For the artist too is a totalist type that, unlike the average, cannot live in perpetual ‘partialization,’ but is forced to totalize every act of life. And on the artistic plane of illusion, in the act of creating – which is at once appearance and reality, a part and a whole – he finds it possible to conquer creatively this fundamental human dualism and to derive pleasure therefrom” (109).
The creative urge begins with the artist’s self-election of himself as an artist:
– “The act which we have described as the artist’s self-appointment as such is in itself a spontaneous expression of the creative impulse, of which the first manifestation is simply the forming of the personality itself… but this alone does not suffice to make an artist or a genius. It is, however, indispensable” (37).
– “Creativeness lies equally at the root of artistic production of life experience… the creative impulse itself is manifest first and chiefly in the personality, which, being thus perpetually made over, produces art-work and experience in the same way” (38).
– Art and will: “I see the creator-impulse as the life impulse made to serve the individual will” (39).
– “For the artist impulse to create is a dynamic factor apart from the content of experience, a will-problem which the artist solves in a particular way. That is, he is capable of forming the given art-ideology – whether of the collective kind (style) or the personal (genuis-idea) – into the substance of his creative will. He employs, so to say, personal will-power to give form or life to an ideology…” (50).
– “The creative type nominates itself at once as an artist… in the artist-type the creative urge is constantly related, ideologically, to his own ego… whereas the average man uses his calling chiefly as a means to material existence, and psychically only so far as to enable him to feel himself a useful member of human society… the artist needs his calling for his spiritual existence, just as the early cultures of mankind could not have existed and developed without art… His calling is not a means of livelihood, but life itself” (371).
– “always the starting point in the formation of a biography is the individual’s ideologizing of himself to be an artist, because thenceforward he must live that ideology, so far as reality allows him to do so; and so far as it does not, the artist makes for himself the experiences that he needs, searches for them and gives them forms in the sense of his ideology. …That in every age the poet’s life should be revalued and re-edited to suit the ideology of that age is only natural, though this does not exactly lessen the complexity of the problem” (383).
– The creative impulse is the mysterious antecedent: “This impulse [to create], however, produces both the work and the artist, and ultimately the ideologies necessary for artistic creation and for the artist’s psychology” (424).
The drive for coherence and totality, and the artist’s resistance:
– “The creative impulse in the artist, springing from the tendency to immortalize himself, is so powerful that he is always seeking to protect himself against the transient experience, which eats up his ego. The artist takes refuge, with all his own experience only from the life of actuality, which for him spells mortality and decay, whereas the experience to which he has given shape imposes itself on him as a creation, which he in fact seeks to turn into a work. And although the whole artist-psychology may seem to be centered on the ‘experience,’ this itself can be explained only through the creative impulse – which attempts to turn ephemeral life into personal immortality” (39).
– “The profoundest source of the artist impulse to create, which I can only satisfactorily explain to myself as the struggle of the individual against an inherent striving after totality, which forces him equally in the direction of a complete surrender to life and complete giving of himself in production. He has to save himself from this totality by fleeing, now from the Scylla of life, now from the Charybdis of creation, and his escape is naturally accomplished only at the cost of continual conflict” (60).
– “For the artist too is a totalist type that, unlike the average, cannot live in perpetual ‘partialization,’ but is forced to totalize every act of life. And on the artistic plane of illusion, in the act of creating – which is at once appearance and reality, a part and a whole – he finds it possible to conquer creatively this fundamental human dualism and to derive pleasure therefrom. For when he creates, the artist uses the whole of himself without being in danger of losing that self therein, for it is certain that the work itself, from his point of view, represents only a part of his ego, although it does in fact represent the whole artist and his personality. It is just, like every good symbol, a pars pro toto solution, in which, however, the artist does not go charily with his life, like the neurotic, but positively spends it as he creates. This again he does not actually, but essentially—that is, he puts into it his being, his “soul” as we say—and this then stands for the whole living ego, just as the abstract soul in primitive and later immortality-beliefs represents not only the whole individual, but even more than that: his essence, and with it the essence of man and of humans in general. Once more we find art expressing the same thing as the abstract-soul concept, only in an objectified form, which we call beautiful precisely in so far as it is unreal “more than earthly.” For this very essence of a man, his soul, which the artist puts into his work and which is represented by it, is found again in the work by the enjoyer, just as the believer finds his soul in religion or in God, with whom he feels himself to. be one. It is on this identity of the spiritual, which underlies the concept of collective religion, and not on a psychological identification with the artist, that the pleasurable effect of the work of art ultimately depends, and the effect is, in this sense, one of deliverance. The self-renunciation which the artist feels when creating is relieved when he finds himself again in his accomplished work, and the self-renunciation which raises the enjoyer above the limitations of his individuality becomes, through, not identification, but the feeling of oneness with the soul living in the work of art, a greater and higher entity. Thus the will-to-form of the artist gives objective expression, in his work, to the soul’s tendency to self-eternalization, while the aesthetic pleasure of the enjoyer is enabled, by his oneness with it, to participate in this objectivization of immortality. But both of them, in the simultaneous dissolution of their individuality in a greater whole, enjoy, as high pleasure, the personal enrichment of that individuality through this feeling of oneness. They have yielded up their mortal ego for a moment, fearlessly and even joyfully, to receive it back in the next, the richer for this universal feeling.” (109-10)
– “A deep study of neurosis has shown me that a characteristic quality of both the productive and the thwarted… is an Over-strong tendency towards totality of experience. The so-called adaptability of the average man consists in a capacity for an extensive partial experience such as is demanded by our everyday life, with its many and varied problems. The non-conforming type tends to concentrate its whole personality, its whole self, on each detail of experience, however trivial or insignificant; but as this is not only practically impossible but psychically painful (because its effect is to bring out fear), this type protects itself from a complete self-exhaustion by powerful inner restraints. Now, the neurotic stops at this point in the process, thus cutting himself of from both the world and experience, and, thus faced with the proposition ‘All or nothing,’ chooses the nothing. The artist, however, here also, in spite of many difficulties and struggles, finds a constructive, a middle way: he avoids the complete loss of himself in life, not by remaining in the negative attitude, but by living himself out entirely in creative work. This fact is so obvious that, when we intuitively admire some great work of art, we say the whole artist is in it and expresses himself in it” (373).
– Identification: the struggle for unity: “At the highest level of human personality we have a process which psycho-analysis calls… identification. This identification is the cho of an original identity, not merely of child and mother, but of everything living – witness the reverence of the primitive for animals. In man, identification aims at re-establishing a lost identity: not an identity which was lost once and for all, phylogenetically through the differentiation of the sexes, or ontologically in birth, but an identity which the cosmic process, which has to be continually surrendered and continually re-established in the course of self-development. In the attempt at this re-establishment the two types with which we are dealing, the ‘totalist’ and the ‘partialist’, diverge fundamentally. The average type of a well-adapted ‘partial’ being can feel himself as part of a greater whole – in religious communion, social and vocational grouping, or family feeling – and thus find his identity with the world. The ‘total type, on the other hand, is set on maintaining himself as a whole and on absorbing the world as part of himself. In so far the artist and the neurotic are alike, that in contrast to the average man they have a far wider, more ‘magic’ feeling of the world, which is gained, however, at the cost of an egocentric attitude towards it. The neurotic stops at the point where he includes the world within himself and uses this as a protection against the real claims of life… but here the paths diverge, since the artist can use this introverted world not only as a protection but as a material; he is thus never wholly oppressed by it—though often enough profoundly depressed—but can penetrate it by and with his own personality and then again thrust it from him and re-create it from himself” (376-77).
– The artist protects and endangers the ego at different moments: “the artist-type, with his tendency to totality of experience, has an instinct to flee from life into creation, since there to a certain extent he can be sure of matters remaining under his own control; but this totality tendency itself, which is characteristic of the really productive type, in the end takes hold of his creation also, and this totality of creation then threatens to master the creative artist as effectually as the totality of experience. In short, the ‘totality function’ of the artist-type in the end makes all productivity, whether in itself or in a particular work, as much a danger for the creative ego as was the totality of experience from which he took refuge in his art. Here the conflict of the artist versus the art becomes a struggle of the artist against his own creation, against the vehement dynamism of this totality-tendency which forces him to complete self-surrender in his work” (385).
The cycle repeats, stretching for transcendence from mortality and collapsing:
– “He desires to transform death into life, as it were, though actually he transforms life into death. For not only does the created work not go on living; it is, in a sense, dead; both as regards the material, which renders it almost inorganic, and also spiritually and psychologically, in that it no longer has any significance for its creator, once he has produced it. He therefore again takes refuge in life, and again forms experiences, which for their part represent only mortality – and it is precisely because they are mortal that he wishes to immortalize them in his work” (39).
A piece of art cannot be fully explained by…
– The style: “the individual artist who employs this style as a form of expression is something more than a mere representation of this tendency… ” (xliv).
– An experience: “The mistake in all modern psychological biography lies in its attempt to ‘explain’ the artist’s work by his experience, whereas creation can only be made understandable through the inner dynamism and its central problems” (49).
– What inspired it: “the creation of a work of art cannot be explained even by the reconstruction of an inspirer. Thus the factual and concrete biography of Michelangelo or Shakespeare does not enable us to understand their works the better” (57).
The artist’s default is insecurity:
– “The fundamental problem is individual difference, which the ego is inclined to interpret as inferiority unless it can be proved by achievement to be superiority” (42).
– The artist’s personality and creative urge cannot be explained by tracing it back to a sense of inferiority or a lack; it is, in fact, what creates this lack: by breaking away from the collective the artist cuts himself off from those very sources of validation.
The “uses” of life:
– “In general, a strong preponderance of the fear of life will lead rather to neurotic repression, and the fear of death to production – that is, perpetuation in the work produced. But the fear of life, which we all suffer, conditions the problem of experience in the productive type as in other people, just as the fear of death whips up the neurotic’s constructive powers. The individual whose life is braked is led thereby to flee from experience, because he fears that he will become completely absorbed in it – which would mean death – and so is bound up with fear. Unlike, the productive type, who strives to be deathless through his work, the neurotic does not seek immortality in any clearly defined sense, but in primitive fashion as a naïve saving or accumulation of actual life. But even the individualist artist-type must sacrifice both life and experience to make art out of them. Thus we see that what the artist needs for true creative art in addition to his technique and a definite ideology is life in one form or another; and the two artist-types differ essentially in the source from which they take this life that is so essential to production. The Classical type, who is possibly poorer within, but nearer to life, and himself more vital, takes it from without: that is, he creates immortal work from mortal life without necessarily having first transformed it into personal experience as is the case with the Romantic. For, to the Romantic, experience of his own appears to be an essential preliminary to productivity, although he does not use this experience for the enrichment of his own personality, but to economize the personal experiences, the burden of which he would fain escape. Thus the one artist-type constantly makes use of other life than his own – in fact, nature – for the purpose of creating, while the other can create only by perpetually sacrificing his own life… From the spiritual point of view the work of the Classicit, more or less naturalistic, artist is essentially partial, and the work of the Romantic, produced from within, total. This totality-type spends itself perpetually in creative work without absorbing very much of life, while the partial type has continually to absorb life so that he may throw it off again in his work… [to] save the artist from having to give himself… The real artist regards his work as more important than the whole of life and experience, which are but a means to production – almost, indeed, a by-product of it. This refers, however, to the Classical type only, for to the Romantic type his personal ego and his experience are more important than, or as important as, his work; sometimes, indeed, production may be simply a means to life, just as to the other type experience is but a means to production…” (48-49).
– The problem of justification: “The primitive artist-type finds his justification in the work itself; the Classical justifies the work by his life, but the Romantic must justify both life and experience by his work and, further, must have a witness of his life to justify his production” (50-51).
Creating ideals: “Experience, and still more the whole attitude towards life, grows out of the struggle to create and so reduces the problem of experience to the problem of creativity. For the extent to which the artist succeeds in actualizing his love-ideal, in the service of his own self-immortalization, is of minor importance compared with the basic attitude that his work discloses – namely, one originating in dissatisfaction with artist creation and so urging the creator in some form or other towards life – that is, towards the actual experiencing of his fundamental self. In any case his impulse to form man in his own image or in the image of his ideal inevitably brings him into conflict with real life and its conditions… Now, a certain measure of conflict is, of course, necessary to creative work, and this conflict is, in fact, one of the fields in which na artist displays his greatness, or, psychologically speaking, the strength of his creative will-power. By means of it he is able to work off a certain measure of his inner conflict in his art without entirely sacrificing the realities of life or coming into factual conflict with them. In any case, the destructive results of this ensemble of realities upon the neurotic, as we are able to observe them in his neurosis, show that what distinguishes him from the artist is that the latter constructively applies his will-power to in the service of ideological creation. A certain type of artist… will learn to deal with his experiences and conflicts economically and in the end wisely, while another type exhausts his strength in chasing after stimulating experiences so that his conflict does not come out in production. For the artist himself the fact that he creates is more immediately important than what he produces” (58).
Attitudes to life: “Primitive art looks beyond individual, mortal life towards an everlasting soul. And the essence of Classical art lies in the fact that it renders life itself everlasting – that is, tries to conserve the actual man as he is and lives – the very thing that the primitive Egyptian sought to do by mummification… Modern art, with its dynamics of expression, differs from both these style-forms; neither starts from an abstract of the living nor aims at an ideal conservation of it, buts its style-form consists in a vivification of the essence of the actual. This can, however, only be achieved at the cost of real life. The three art-ideologies… are based therefore on varying attitudes to life itself, and these attitudes, although determined by the prevailing collective ideology, will still be found to vary in the different individuals of the same epoch” (71).
Art vs. Life:
– “On the other hand, creativity itself is, of course, a special form of experience and one peculiar to the artist, and all depends in the last resort upon whether the individual is capable of restoring harmony, or at least a temporary balance, between the two forms of experience – artistic and vital – and to what extent he succeeds. This does not by any means signify that the person who better adapts himself to, or succeeds in, life must-needs be the better artist. In this respect Goethe forms a single exception in the whole long line of really great men whose lives have been swallowed whole by their work. Croce maintains that this was the case even with Goethe, but in reality the man Goethe has come to be more important to us than his work, which we are inclined to regard as more interesting from a psycho-biographical than from a purely artistic standpoint. Goethe himself looked upon his works as “fragments of one great confession,” as “life’s traces,” and it looks as if this had been more or less consciously the artist’s general attitude towards his work. His work is not only his particular expression of life: it both serves him and helps him to live, and his worth as an artist comes second – or even plays no special part at all. A mediocre work, acceptable only to a small circle, may yet satisfy the artist more and mean more to him than the undying world-fame of a poem that has grown into a folk-song, the author of which most people are quite at a loss to name.” (82).
– “If Goethe’s importance lies rather in his representing the purely Classical ideal, as against the personal artist-ideology of Romanticism, than in his actual creative work, he is perhaps the first example—and at the same time the highest possible type—of the poet who becomes a universal genius. Also, in our own day, such a type could express himself as an essayist, a cultural critic, or a first-class journalist. As we have already pointed out, our modern author has become conscious of the personal art-ideology that is within him; but the first result of the process has been to project this intuitively recognized artist-ideology on to the history of art and to misinterpret the whole of its development in the light of its latest phase” (83).
– “the poet also, and the artist in general, sacrifices his life to gain immortality. How far this is a necessary precondition of artistic production, for whose purpose life must be spent, and how far it is a more or less conscious self-sacrifice of the man to his work, is one of the deepest problems in the whole psychology of productivity” (289).
– “Since Renaissance days, there can be no doubt that the great works of art were bought at the cost of ordinary living” (429).
Sex-impulse: “The will, conscious or unconscious, will always be the expression of the individual, the indivisible single being while sexuality represents something shared, something generic which is harmonious with the individually—willed only in the human love-experience and is otherwise in perpetual conflict with it. In art this conflict is won in a different way; though closely akin to the individual conquest in love and the collective conquest in religion, it is differentiated from both by a specific element which we may broadly call the aesthetic. We shall deal with the peculiar qualities which this consists of in our next section. In closing this section we need only say, without particularizing, that the artistic solution of this original dualism is not merely psychological, but appears, as regards its evolutionary history, to lie between the religious and the erotic solutions. The religious solution is at bottom collective; that is, the individual is delivered from his isolation and becomes part of a greater and higher whole—not in the biological- generic sense, but through his spiritual ideology, by becoming one with God. In the love-experience, which becomes possible only at a stage of fully developed individualism, we see this spiritual process objectified: God, as representing the idealized self, is found in the beloved, and, with the sense of union, the individuality seems to be exalted and intensified, lost, and yet enriched. Finally, in art, which has developed out of the collective consolation-ideology of religion and at whose further limit we find the Romantic artist striving after the complete love-experience, the individuality-conflict is solved in that the ego, seeking at once isolation and union, creates, as it were, a private religion for itself, which not only expresses the collective spirit of the epoch, but produces a new ideology—the artistic—which for the bulk of them takes the place of religion. True, this happens only at the summit of individual “artist’s art,” where there is deification of the genius-concept and an adoration of works of art which is comparable only to the worship of statues of gods, though they already represent mere men. Before this, art is still – particularly in its Classical period – an individual working-out of the forces of which religions are made. These forces then become concentrated in the single creative individual, whereas before they animated a whole community. The works of these peak periods of artistic production manifest in their development the individualized religion-forming forces which finally return, by way of Romantic love-experience, to their origin, which is the personal craving for immortality of the ego. All three ideologies, however—the collective-religious, the social-artistic, and the individual-erotic—lift the individual above the biological life-plane of reality—in which only the sexual immortality of propagation counteracts the individual isolation—on a higher, supernatural, super-real, or super-individual sphere wherein reigns an ideal collectivity that is created by individual intention and may at any time be altered at will.” (85-87)
Energy: “Art, like play, passes from the condition of being a compulsory activity necessary for life into the realm of freedom even if (again as in play) this liberation can never be wholly successful. Hence we have the explanation of the two types of artist: that which creates from an inner need and that which does so from an inner surplus. But in both cases the greatest part of creative force can come only from an excess that arises during and out of the actual creation, just as in play the playing itself is needed to liberate the energy in the individual” (328).
Life vs. truth: “When it is still tied to nature, the ceremony is more or less an imitation thereof, whereas the freedom of play tends rather towards stylization the one being, even in the deeper sense, nearer to truth, and the other to beauty. When I say ‘in the deeper sense,’ I mean that man’s acceptance of his dependence on nature is more honest, while freedom-ideology, beyond a certain point, presumes the negation of that dependence and is therefore, also in a deeper sense, dishonest. This fundamental dishonesty towards nature then comes out as the consciousness of guilt, which we see active in every process of art, and which is not wholly absent from play. This feeling of guilt, of human hybris… also allows neither play nor the exercise of art to rise wholly from compulsion to freedom; nay, the more strongly man feels his freedom and his independence, the more intense on the other hand is the consciousness of guilt, which appears in the individual partly restrictive, partly creative, but in the community is accompanied by the gradual growth and formation of another ideology, that of truth, which acts paralysingly on the freedom of the ideology of beauty… This is the profound reason for Plato’s exclusion of artists from his ideal republic; for in their extreme type, the poet, he saw the truth-falsifying element, which his scientific ideologism condemned as lying ” (328-29).
Art denies dependence: “The truth of the dependence of man on nature, which play and art deny, reappears out of this guilt-feeling as the impulse to scientific knowledge” (330).
Beauty vs. Truth:
– “This conflict between the ideologies of truth and beauty, which only worked its way into the full consciousness of mankind in Greece, is actually as old as humanity itself, because in last analysis the root of it is the dualism between mortality and immortality. For, in our view, even the most primitive art consists in the attempt to make the abstract idea of the soul “true” by making it concrete; that is, aesthetically satisfying, or, in other words, beautiful. The question whether primitive likenesses were portraits or of symbolic character could therefore become prominent in art-history only as and when truth and beauty fell apart, as they have increasingly done in the European spiritual culture from the time of the Greeks onwards. For primitive artists the question was quite meaningless, for their truth was not realistic, but spiritual” (334).
– “the artistic and scientific ideologies of the beautiful (that is, the immortal) and of the true (that is, the mortal soul)” (347-48).
Consciousness as conquest (through will-to-form):
– “If we take modern art as a comparison ready to hand, we find that both, form as well as content, are becoming more and more individually subjective, and that the impulse to create, which is still fundamentally the same, is more and more a matter of consciousness in the artist. But there is a certain limit to subjectivity which the most individual of artists cannot pass; and for two reasons: because the creative impulse, which is fundamentally always the same, implies a similar principle of form, or, better, impulse to form: and secondly because, if the work is to have some general influence, it must manipulate some collective content of general human significance. Thus, subjectively, there does exist in the artist the creative impulse which in the individual, as arising from the conflict between the lower and the higher self, corresponds to what in the history of culture we have traced as a gradual defeat of the animal by the spiritual principle. This impulse includes those elements of the conflict which strive towards the voluntary control and domination of the lower by the higher self; the actual victory comes, in art, from the will-like impulse to form, which at first aims at no more than a cessation of the conflict by delimiting and ordering it. This impulse to form, and at first finds, collective traditional forms, which had been produced by similar conflicts in the course of cultural development, and which in many cases carry with them their particular content. These collectively transmitted or dominant forms constitute what in their totality we call style, by accepting which (in whatever degree) the artist does subject himself to a principle outside his individual self. And though it may be collective, it is yet a man-created collectivity, and not one prescribed by nature. Here too our earlier formulation of the imitation-ideology fits into its place, for while we allowed imitation its full importance, we showed besides that it is no matter of simply copying nature, but of representing nature as already altered or interpreted by man in his own sense (macrocosm-microcosm)” (360).
– “In his inner conflict, then, which corresponds potentially to that of earlier cultures, he looks instinctively later, perhaps, consciously for collective forms to justify and to liberate himself, but he also looks for a collective (material) content, so that he may achieve simultaneously personal freedom and collective effect” (361).
– Victory over the ego: “The victory is always, at bottom and in some form, won over a part of one’s own ego. We may remark here that every production of a significant artist, in whatever form, and of whatever content, always reflects more or less clearly this process of self-liberation and reveals the battle of the artist against the art which expresses a now surmounted phase of the development of his ego. In some artists the representation of a process of personal development seems to be the chief aim of their work… This process of the increasing extension of consciousness in humanity, which psycho-analysis has fostered so enormously in the last decades… was prophesied by me… as likely to be the beginning of a decay art” (375).
“The struggle of the artist against art is really only an ideologized continuation of the individual struggle against the collective” (372).
Creation is the justification for creation:
– “As the artist, during this process of liberation from the ideology, has to include in what he surrenders the person or persons who were connected with it, he has to justify this action, which is usually done by magnification. That is, he will either really create something greater, in order to justify his action, or in the effort create this greater he will be impeded by a still more enhanced feeling of guilt” (380).
– “This type… has its opposite in another type of artist, who not only gives and fulfills himself in every work, but whose whole production is one vast justification of his impulse to create” (381).
Conflict with ideology: “This feeling of the poet that he is the mouthpiece of his age or, for that matter, of all humanity, explains not only why he has to ascribe his work to a Muse and thus connect it with his personal life and give it concrete form; it also throws a light on the fact that, and the degree to which, the art-ideology affects the poet’s life. There is thus an influence of personal experience on creation and a reciprocal influence of creation on experience, which not only drives the artist externally to a Bohemian existence, but makes his inner life characterologically a picture of his art-ideology and thus once more calls forth the individual self in protest against this domination by that ideology” (382).
Two tendencies of the artist:
– “the one which wishes to eternalize itself in artistic creation, the other which wants to spend itself in ordinary life” (395).
– “Because of its ‘totality-tendency,’ the creative type is inclined, in this struggle between life and creation, to give up the one wholly in favour of the other, and this naturally intensifies the conflict rather than solves it” (395).
The artist and his justification for art:
– “The artist does not create, in the first place, for fame or immortality; his production is to be a means to achieve actual life, since it helps him to overcome fear. But he cannot get out of the bypath he has once trodden, which was to lead him back by means of his work to life. He is thus more and more deeply entangled in his creative dynamism, which receives its seal in success and fame” (408-09).
– Self-assertion and self-surrender: “But along with all these expressions of the opposition of the artist to art-ideology, to the dynamism of creation and the final absorption of his individual immortality by the community, there must exist other, and even stronger, tendencies of surrender, self-renunciation, and self-sacrifice. These seem to be just as necessary for the artist as the tendencies of self-assertion and self-eternalization; and, indeed, we have had to assume that what is perhaps the most decisive part of creative dynamism originates in this conflict of opposing tendencies and their settlement in the harmony of the work. This conflict between self-assertion and self-surrender is a normal phenomenon in human psychical life, which in the artist is extraordinarily intensified and reaches gigantic, one might say macrocosmic heights. As the strong creative personality is driven to destroy a pre-existing ideology, instead of a mere individual, as his “building-sacrifice” before he may eternalize himself in a new one, the conflict between surrender and assertion, which otherwise takes place in relation to a person, is here manifested with society and its whole order as the player on the other side” (409).
– “The individual may, by his nomination to be an artist, have asserted his independence of the human community and rooted himself in self-sufficient isolation; but ultimately he is driven by the work he has autonomously produced to surrender again to that community. This creative self-sufficingness which generates the work out of oneself alone…” (409).
– “I believe we have here a deliberate denial of all dependence…The artist therefore has to give himself the more and more intensively and exhaustively in his work because he has created it the more independently of others” (410).
– Justification through proof of the unreal: “Not only does his work become the most concrete proof that the individual can live on in spirit for centuries; but the last sections have shown us how the artist is under a sort of organic compulsion to transform his art-ideology into experience. In this he makes reality of the unreal to just the extent that it represents the concretization of the soul-concept in the work. In other words, the artist must live his ideology so that he, as well as others, may believe in it as true; on the other hand, this ideological experience acts both as a means to make artistic productivity possible and as a means to live a real life. For we have seen that the basic conflict of the creative personality is that between his desire to live a natural life in an ordinary sense and the need to produce ideologically—which corresponds socially to that between individuality and collectivity and biologically to that between the ego and the genus. Whereas the average man largely subordinates himself, both socially and biologically, to the collective, and the neurotic shuts himself deliberately off from both, the productive type finds a middle way, which is expressed in ideological experience and personal creativity. But since the artist must live as a human being and yet feels compelled to make this transitory life eternal in an intransient work, a compromise is set up between ideologized life and an individualized creativity—a balance which is difficult, impermanent, and in all circumstances painful, since creation tends to experience, and experience again cries out for artistic form” (416).
– Free from the need to justify: “An artist who feels that he is driven into creating by an external deprivation and who is then again obstructed by a longing for life can rise above these conflicts to a renunciant view of life which recognizes that it is not only impossible but perilous to live out life to the full and can, willingly and affirmatively, accept the limitations that appear in the form of moral conventions and artistic standards, not merely as such, but as protective measures against a premature and complete exhaustion of the individual. This means the end of all doubt as to whether he is to dedicate his whole life to art or send art to perdition and simply live; also of the question whether he is live a Bohemian life in accordance with his ideology or live an ordinary life in despite of his art; and in the end his creativity is not only made richer and deeper by this renunciatory attitude, but is freed from the need to justify one or the other mode of life” (417).
The development of personality:
– “But the more conscious the creative process becomes in the artist, the more the creative tendency is imperceptibly and unnoticed being pushed back from the work to the artist himself from whom it originated. Only, primitively this self-creative tendency showed itself, as we saw, corporeally in body-ornament, whereas in the modern artist it ends with the psychical will-to-experience, his own art-ideology in full. This is, of course, impossible and brings the artist into all the conflicts – which we may describe as neurotic, but which are not any the more intelligible for being so called. For these difficulties of the creative type show also that his true tendency is always towards actual life; as is shown also in the so-called realism or verism of modern art. This therefore discloses itself as the counterpart to the tendency, which has been mentioned earlier, to mould life in accordance with an artistic ideology, since the idea is now that art is to be made wholly true to life. But in this wise the boundaries between art and life are obliterated; each is to replace the other whereas formerly each complemented the other. In both spheres the movement from art to life is clear; but the creative men of our time are not capable of going the whole way and accepting the development of their personality as the truly creative problem. What hinders them is the same individual feeling of guilt which in earlier times was able, owing to the counter-force of religious submissiveness, to work itself out creatively, but nowadays limits both complete artistic creation and complete personality-development. For artistic creation has, in the course of its development, changed from a means for the furtherance of the culture of the community into a means for the construction of personality” (425).
– “I feel that the modern artist has to buy his success too dearly, since he feels either like a believer among unbelievers or like the founder of a new religion who is persecuted and scorned by the members of the old religion” (427).
– “it is a fatal confusion to assume that every strong personality must express itself artistically if it is to develop” (427).
– “Art does not, after a point, favour the personality, but impedes it, since it forces on the artist a professional ideology which more and more penetrates the human self and finally absorbs it… The two masters whom the artist has to serve at the same time, a self-confident productivity and a life of sacrifice, are less and less reconcilable, so that art and life are both dissatisfying, or, rather, the individual attains neither, because he is not satisfied with one and cannot attain both” (428).
Art and salvation:
– “If he seeks his salvation in artist creation instead of in the development of his own personality, it is because he is still in the toils of old art-ideologies” (430).
– “In him the wheel will have turned full circle, from primitive art, which sought to raise the physical ego out of nature, to the voluntaristic art of life, which can accept the psychical ego as a part of the universe. But the condition of this is the conquest of the fear of life, for that fear has led to the substitution of artistic production for life, and to the eternalization of the all-too-mortal ego in a work of art. For the artistic individual has lived in art-creation instead of actual life, letting his work live or die on its own account, and has never wholly surrendered himself to life. In place of his own self the artist puts his objectified ego into his work, but though he does not save his subjective mortal ego from death, he yet withdraws himself from real life. And the creative type who can renounce this protection by art and can devote his whole creative force to life and the formation of life will be the first representative of the new human type, and in return for this renunciation will enjoy, in personality-creation and expression, a greater happiness” (430-31).