The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

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Social Gathekas

Religious Gathekas

The Message Papers

The Healing Papers

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Vol. 1, The Inner Life

Vol. 1, The Soul, Whence And Whither?

Vol. 1, The Purpose of Life

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

Vol. 3, Education

Vol. 3, Life's Creative Forces: Rasa Shastra

Vol. 3, Character and Personality

Vol. 4, Healing And The Mind World

Vol. 4, Mental Purification

Vol. 4, The Mind-World

Vol. 5, A Sufi Message Of Spiritual Liberty

Vol. 5, Aqibat, Life After Death

Vol. 5, The Phenomenon of the Soul

Vol. 5, Love, Human and Divine

Vol. 5, Pearls from the Ocean Unseen

Vol. 5, Metaphysics, The Experience of the Soul Through the Different Planes of Existence

Vol. 6, The Alchemy of Happiness

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Vol. 8, Health and Order of Body and Mind

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

Vol. 8a, Sufi Teachings

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

Vol. 10, The Path of Initiation and Discipleship

Vol. 10, Sufi Poetry

Vol. 10, Art: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Vol. 10, The Problem of the Day

Vol. 11, Philosophy

Vol. 11, Psychology

Vol. 11, Mysticism in Life

Vol. 12, The Vision of God and Man

Vol. 12, Confessions: Autobiographical Essays of Hazat Inayat Khan

Vol. 12, Four Plays

Vol. 13, Gathas

Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

By Date



1. The Essence of Art

2. The Divinity of Art

3. Art and Religion

4. Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

5. The Ideal of Art

6. Painting

7. Sculpture (1)

8. Sculpture (2)

9. Architecture (1)

10. Architecture (2)

11. Poetry (1)

12. Poetry (2)

13. Poetry (3)

1. Music (1)

15. Music (2)

16. Drama



Vol. 10, Art: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

8. Sculpture (2)

In all art there are three stages, and especially in sculpture. The first stage is conception; the next stage is composition; and the third stage is production. If the artist is not capable of conceiving an idea, he cannot go any further. He may try hundreds of times, but he will not arrive at the desired result. The outer world may help to bring about such a conception, but it must actually spring from within. It depends upon the stage of the artist's evolution; according to his evolution he is able to catch, to sense, the rising stream of inspiration which comes from within.

The sculptor's work is of very great importance, for it is an imitation of the art of the Creator, and not always in miniature form. The sculptor's first idea is to make a life-size statue, or perhaps even larger than life-size; and if it is smaller his task is to put so much life into it that it may take the place of a living creature. Thus sculpture is imitating God.

Composition comes from another faculty. Conception is the work of intuition, but even if a person has enough intuition to form an idea, he still needs the faculty of composition to express it. A gifted artist is he who has the gift, the capacity, to compose in his mind that which he wants to bring out. There are many intuitive artists who owing to their particular stage of evolution can perceive an intuition, but if they are not gifted they cannot compose it. That is another talent. No doubt a lover of nature, a keen observer, an admirer of line and curve, a real artist, all have such a gift--the aptitude for composing that which intuition brings in the form of an idea.

The third stage is the production. If a person is not qualified to produce something with his hands, then he may have intuition and he may have the gift of composition, and yet he cannot produce a work of art. That is something else, that is skill; and skill is learned by practice. Human nature is such that it considers everything easy. If one has intuition, one readily thinks that one can also compose; and if one is able to compose a work of art in one's mind, one believes that one can produce it; but, again, producing requires another kind of talent.

Which is the most difficult stage? This cannot be determined for one artist has talent but is without intuition; another artist can compose in his mind and yet is without skill in producing; and there is yet another who has intuition but is lacking in composition and production. In order to combine these three faculties one must be not only an artist, but one must become art itself. Then to the one who is so absorbed in his work that he forgets himself, that capacity, that intuition, that skill, will come naturally; then he begins to do wonders, and his art becomes a perfect expression of what he had in mind.

In the ancient art of Egypt one finds an extraordinary atmosphere. One may take a simple statue which seems to have been made with little skill when compared with the art of ancient Greece, but when it is studied from a psychological point of view, one finds something living in it. It is not only a work of art but life has been put into it; and this shows that the tendency of the ancient artists was to give life to "their thought. Their sculpture may not show a high degree of skill, yet it is a phenomenon. If a piece of rock which was carved thousands of years ago can produce an atmosphere, this proves that the artist who made it gave it life. And the more man investigates the ancient history of Egypt, the more he will find that the Egyptians possessed the art of putting life into objects.

Coming to the art of India, the artists there made use of sculpture to produce scriptures; every work of art in India is a scripture, and we can read one or another philosophical truth in it. The carvings and engravings in the temples, the gods and goddesses, their several hands each holding some symbolical object, all have a deep meaning, and by the study of this meaning one may arrive at realization. Thus the ancient temples of India were not only places where people worshipped; but they were at the same time scriptures, places where people were inspired if their insight was keen enough to observe what was behind the symbols. The tourists who go there now and admire the artistic aspect of these sculptures, do not see what is behind them nor with what idea they were made. The artists did not give their attention only to the artistic side, for the principal motive behind these sculptures was to express certain aspects of the philosophy of life.

One finds this form of art all over India, for instance near Bombay in the caves of Elephanta, and in a place called Ajanta near Aurangabad. There are also examples near Darjeeling and in Nepal and its surroundings; and when one goes farther into Tibet, one finds that the ancient philosophy has been preserved for thousands of years in the form of sculpture, ready to be revealed to souls which are evolved enough to read what was written there.

In the East, ancient China was considered to have the highest artistic skill. What is most estimable in the art of China is its imagery; the Chinese artist produced the picture of patience, of greed, of wrath, the image of war, the image of peace, all kinds of abstract ideas like these, in the form of an animal or of man. It is a peculiar talent which is not to be found in every artist, as man naturally is inclined to picture what he is familiar with; but an artist who can imagine something entirely different from what one is accustomed to see has quite a different talent. When we look at it from this point of view it is very admirable, and the Chinese were indeed able to make most interesting works of art in this way.

All that we are accustomed to see is easy to admire, because our eyes are used to it; but any form that is different seems odd to us, something strange. The Chinese have given beauty to forms which have never been seen but which attract the eye and the mind all the same; and the thoughtful will stop to think what is behind them. By their imagery the Chinese artists attempted to bring the abstract into objective form. And to a greater or lesser degree the world has admired the ancient art of China, and yet has not wholly understood its meaning. Nowadays experts on Chinese art are trying to explain it to Western art lovers, but it is not the art expert who can explain the art of China. It needs psychological explanation, it needs the mystical touch; for it has come from a mind which is deep and thoughtful, the mind of a people which has suffered for thousands of years and has been in quest of the truth.

But as to beauty, there is no art that can be compared with that of Greece. Ancient Greek art stands alone in its beauty, in its fineness. Its peculiarity is the movement in it. It seems as if movement had been given to the statue and that the statue has been moving for thousands of years. The gracefulness, the delicacy, and at the same time the mysticism of ancient Greek art is wonderful. Every action that we can observe in this statuary reveals some meaning. Greek imagery, too, fills us with wonder and admiration.

When we come to the art of sculpture today, it seems as if the artist is searching; he is trying to reach something which he knows is absent. The soul of the sculptor is seeking for something which seems lost. First of all, by lack of appreciation around him, the artist is discouraged, and next he is put in the midst of the business world; and that relief which should be given to the heart of the artist, so that he may think of art and nothing else, is not to be found today. There was not so much thought of competition in ancient times, there was not a fixed price for art. Art was invaluable. The admirers of ancient art never considered a work of art as having a fixed price. They always thought that they could never give enough for real art. In that way art progressed; it was admired.

Besides the direction of art today is not of the same nature as in ancient times. The direction of ancient art was towards spiritual realization. Love, harmony, and beauty the artist saw in their highest aspects. And when the artist loses that direction then he comes down to earth; instead of going upward he is going downward. There is no doubt that humanity nowadays is less religious. Every step that we think we are taking in a new direction seems further removed from religion; in everything we see that humanity is forgetting religion, and the educated and intellectual people even wish to avoid any conversation on the subject. Many feel that to pronounce the name of God puts a great burden upon them; they think it is so heavy; and when this subject comes up in a conversation, they say "higher forces", "higher powers", or sometimes with great difficulty they say "gods."

Simply to say "God" is too simple; they believe they are much too evolved to say "God." A wrong conception of democracy has also resulted in modern writers writing against the ideal of God, an ideal which was pictured and beautified by the great prophets of Ben Israel and all the saints and sages. That ideal was the stepping-stone for them; but these writers say that by speaking, for instance, of the wrath of God, God was pictured in a cruel form. They think that the intelligent people of today would have expressed it better, would have given it a more beautiful form; but instead of giving it a more beautiful form they have destroyed the ideal and thus impoverished mankind. With the ideal lost, there is nothing to hold on to except objects which the senses can perceive and touch.

This does not mean that Western art has not developed since the Renaissance. It has evolved at every step, but still it seems that there is something lacking; and what needs to be added to modern art is not yet there. Modern art needs so much to make it perfect, and no one can feel this as deeply as an artist feels it today. The scientist is sooner contented with what little he discovers, but the better the work of art is the more the artist feels that there is something still missing; his heart is longing all through his life to produce something more than that. Consciously or unconsciously every artist is craving for that something which is missing. And if this goes on, no doubt the artist will find it; and on the day when the mystery is found, art will again become a language.

The meditative quality and the practice of concentration should be developed in art, and also the higher ideal; but this material world forms a barrier to all these. It stands in the Way of the artist's progress. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that a real artist is always spiritually inclined; he is only hindered by the world, and therefore it is possible that tomorrow the art of sculpture will evolve; it will evolve in fineness and in beauty, and sculptors will also develop their imagery. Then art will culminate in that great achievement when the artist will really be able to produce a living statue.

The motive behind the whole of creation is to put life into everything; that is its sole object. In other words, every rock is longing for the day when it will burst out as a volcano, and when all that is valuable in it will come out. Sulphur, diamonds, gold, and silver, everything that is in its heart must come out one day, that is its purpose.

Every tree is longing for the day it will bear fruit. Love expresses itself through every channel, and it manifests outwardly in order that God may see Himself face to face. And so it is with a work of art. People think that it is the artist who has made it; in reality it is God who has perfected it. As it is God's pleasure to create the world, so it is also God's pleasure to create through pen and brush and chisel, to give life to what is lifeless. If there is life it is God. And what is God? God is love; and thus the desire of that love is to manifest in the form of beauty in the realm of art.