Cosmic Elf by Alex Grey
2003, oil on wood, 30 x 30 in.
Deities and Demons Drinking From The Milky Pool by Alex Grey
1987, Acrylic on Linen, 60 x 60 in.
I had a vision of the group soul of humanity as a perfectly circular pool of intense living light. All around the rim of the milky pool were a complex variety of sexual rites, a metaphor for all social interaction. Translucent Hindu deities swooped over the group taking the excessive energy of the shimmering pool and passing through the group as ecstasy and pain. I saw that the reason we were all brought together was to provide a psychic energy feast for the Gods and Goddesses. I saw my heart as the axis of karmic, earthly, and universal energies, transected by and uniting the polarities of male/female, birth/death, good/evil, and love/hate. To maintain a balance of forces we all fed both Deities and Demons.
Nature of Mind by Alex Grey
1996, seven oil paintings on wood with sculpted gold leaf frame, 78 x 68 in.
“One morning, a series of seven visions flashed into my mind. As soon as I drew one image, another replaced it until I had drawn a complex seven-stage journey of a wanderer discovering the spiritual path, having an introduction to his own true nature, embodying that truth, and reentering society.
I spent the next year painting each scene and sculpted an unusual frame to hold the paintings. As I was working on the painting, a poem related to each panel came through me. The finished altarpiece, Nature of Mind, is my homage to the artists and wisdom masters of Tibet. The Tibetan Buddhist teachings known as Dzogchen were the inspiration for these visions.
In Dzogchen texts various symbols distinguish between the conceptual dualistic “mind” and the self-liberated, non dual “nature of mind”. The thoughts of the dualistic judging mind are symbolized as clouds that arise and dissolve in the open vastness of the skylike nature of mind. The mirror is also a potent tool for illustrating this distinction. The mirror reflects all things, beautiful or horrible, and the dualistic mind gets caught up in the reflections, judging what it likes and dislikes, becoming emotionally charged about relatively inconsequential matters. The Dzogchen teachings advise us not to identify with the passing reflections but to recognize that our true nature of mind is the mirror’s infinite capacity for reflection.
There are numerous vajra symbols throughout the various panels of the Nature of Mind painting, and in the frame surrounding the images the vajra motif is found sometimes in winged guises. In Tibetan Buddhism, vajra (also called Dorje) carries the association of transformative spiritual knowledge and is a symbol of the mind’s true essence. Other sculptural details on the frame include Manjushri’s sword of discriminating wisdom hovering above a sacred text that is emerging from a lotus. The lotus is a symbol of transformation because it begins life in the mucky underwater mud and grows up toward the light, opening as a beautiful pure white blossom. The Melong, or circular mirror, at the top of the frame pillar is a Dzogchen symbol of the ability to distinguish between the conceptual mind and the true nature of mind. The Tibetan syllable Ah is used as a mantra symbolizing primordial perfection; it is found both on the frame and in the second painted panel, on a book cover held by the dead yogi. The dragon like beings sculpted on the right and left sides of the frame are hybrid guardians called makaras with attributes of elephants and crocodiles.“
Holy Fire by Alex Grey
1986-87, Oil on Linen, 90 X 216 In.
The soul-searching pilgrim arrives on the mountain top, and his kundalini energy, the serpent power, begins to ascend within him. The caduceus or healing staff is internalized. The eye of God in the form of an angelic presence channels heart-opening flames of divine grace into his center, sending his body/mind into a state of God intoxication and mystical shock.
Overloaded by ecstasy and the holy fire of God consciousness, the pilgrim’s bodily identity bursts open and is consumed in the transcendental Sun. His dead phallus unites with Kali, the Dark Mother of Time, Birth, and Destruction, in a tantric purification rite. The dark Mother reveals the spiritual core of the pilgrim as a hermaphroditic divine mutant with clarified nondual awareness, a soul bird, an angel or phoenix bestowing gift waves from an open heart.
The hero is now renewed and comes down from the mountain to address the people. The people are aspects of himself, reflecting all the moods from anger and doubt to elation and epiphany. The hero has taken the whole earth into his heart as his devotional center. The New Man speaks and acts out of a new alignment and balance of heaven and earth in order to heal the people and the planet.
Adi Da by Alex Grey
1997 - 98, oil on linen, 48 x 48in.
In my painting Adi Da, the guru is portrayed as a totally transfigured being. His heart is the dawning sun, source of illumination outwardly and inwardly symbolic of Da’s transparency to Divine Radiance. Since Da mean “the giver,” the right hand is making an offering of teachings that contain the same light as the heart. A lineage of masters from various wisdom paths are receding translucently into the horizon of the top row of heads; the heads in the bottom row are the various faces of Adi Da, from childhood up to the present. The sky meets the ocean at heart level, and a pillar of light connects the heavens and earthly realms through the central channel. The Dawn Horse in the central channel symbolizes the force that powers Adi Da’s teachings. There are many devotees inside the body. The flowers are an offering to the Master. A large translucent face hovers over his physical form. The large head rests on a central channel of light coming from the bottom of the composition, suggesting the shape of a simple grail-type drinking cup. The potion in the cup is amrita, nectar of the heart united with an ocean of love, the God intoxication that the guru provides and for which humanity thirsts. The bright ”Godhead” has large eyes and it’s mouth is placed at the shoulders, shouldering the mouth of God, and Da’s head becomes the God nose/knows.
Seeing the Master, or glimpsing an enlightened being, is called darshan, during which a subtle transmission can occur to bless or empower an aspirant’s spiritual development. It was during such a circumstance that I met the heart master, Adi Da. One of the remarkable things about this spiritual meeting was that afterword I realized that no thoughts or concepts had occurred in my mind during the entire time Da was present. There is only the Divine Presence that he is and all of us potentially are. He seemed silently to become every individual in the room, and as this happened, people swooned in devotional ecstasy. My one encounter with Adi Da was profound. I am not a formal devotee, but I have tremendous respect for Da’s writings and teachings.
His way of teaching was simply to be present for his devotees’ contemplation. This is why images of deities and avatars are important to some religious cultures. One of the most important Tantric spiritual practices is called Guru-Yoga. Guru-Yoga is a method of visualization in which the aspirant imaginatively works with an image of a spiritual master as a crystallization of spiritual potential, a psychic “attractor” from which one receives specific empowerment. This process draws on the powerful inner archetype of the “master,” one who has gone beyond the normal human limitations and achieved transcendent greatness or enlightenment. For most people this is a suppressed archetype, so bringing it to full consciousness and being empowered by it’s presence establishes an important bonding and reinforcement of one’s identity with an internal spiritual reality. By clearly representing a spiritual archetype, artworks can serve and catalyze the viewer’s own realization. Throughout the history of art, a similar principle has been used to transmit the power of religious people through their portraiture. - Alex Grey
Dalai Lama by Alex Grey
1995, Acrylic on wood, 18 x 24 in.
Dalai Lama is a portrait of the Tibetan religious leader and representative of the bodhisattvic ideal of wisdom and compassion. He is shown in a prayerful blessing posture, which is his common greeting. He describes himself as a humble monk, but his followers know him also as the worldly incarnation of the Buddha of active compassion, Avalokitesvara, who is shown translucently behind the monk. The prayer to this Buddha is also the national mantra of Tibet, Om Mani Padme Hum, and it is repeated in the background as a manifestation of the sky-like nature of mind. The Dalai Lama’s magnificent residence in Tibet, the Potala, is also seen. For the past four decades the Chinese military has occupied Tibet, destroyed monasteries, and committed atrocities against the Tibetan people. Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile from his homeland, remains one of the world’s foremost proponents of non-violence and peaceful resolution.
Christ by Alex Grey
1982-85, Oil on Linen, 84 x 46 in.
Jesus said, “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside
and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and
the female one and the same…then you will enter the Kingdom of God.”
GOSPEL OF THOMAS
Avalokitesvara by Alex Grey
1982-83, Acrylic on Linen, 84 x 46 in.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed.
May a rain of food and drink descend
The clear away the pain of thirst and hunger
And during the aeon of famine
May I myself change into food and drink.
May I become an inexhaustible treasure
For those who are poor and destitute;
May I turn into all things they could need
And may these be placed close beside them.
Shantideva, A GUIDE TO THE BODHISATTVA’S WAY OF LIFE