Creation-Dissolution of a World



of a

"Why did God create the universe?"  This question was posed by Swami Shantananda in his book The Splendor of Recognition, the text I had referenced in my last project Grace-Photograph-Symbol-Universe.  His question comes at the beginning of his commentary on Sutra 2 of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam, which states: 
By the power of her own will, Citi
[Consciousness] unfolds the 
universe upon a part 
of herself.  

Swamiji then provides an answer to his question by citing an 11th century commentary on the sutra by Abhinavagupta, a great sage of Kashmir Saivism.   Abhinavagupta wrote: ". . . it is the nature of supreme Reality to create, so to ask why God brings the world into existence is as absurd as asking why wind blows, why fire burns, why water is wet.  It is an intrinsic quality of Citi [Consciousness] to create a universe, something she cannot avoid doing."

"Creation" is one of the Five Acts of the Lord; the others are Maintenance, Dissolution, Concealment, and the Bestowal of Grace; Citi (Consciousness) is the Creative Power of the Universe.  It is the creative nature of Citi to unfold worlds upon worlds in an ever expanding flashing-forth process of creation; but it is also in her nature to Dissolve her creations.  Citi Creates and Dissolves, and then re-creates and dissolves again and again her worlds in an eternally-infinitely recurring, cyclical process of creation and dissolution.

Every human being is born and then dies; each person has within them the same divine intrinsic need to create, and it's a particularly strong and often passionate impulse for many artists.  Over a lifetime of working in any given medium (music, poetry, literature, painting, sculpture, dance, etc.), an artist will give creative form to his or her unique personal "world."  My photography website, The Departing Landscape, which includes numerous projects spanning sixty years of creative work, is such a "universe," and each project a "world" in itself, born of necessity.

We human beings "create" our worlds in infinitely different ways.  Over a lifetime, one's internal psychological patterns, one's history of personal experiences, one's acquired beliefs, cultural-social-economic environments, education, family-life, etc. . . . all this together forms a totality, an entire uniquely personal world of Being.

And yet there is another, larger transpersonal view which the yogic sages teach about.  They say that the soul has existed from time without beginning and has connections with all the different worlds. Swami Muktananda states:

"The soul has connections with every particle of matter in the universe.  It is past karma which brings people together in the form of a family and unites them with the bond of affection."   . . .   "It is the samskaras, the old connections, which are responsible for our different connections in the present birth."  . . .    "But that lasts only as long as the karma lasts"  . . .  "If you look at it from the point of view of the [divine] Self, you will realize that all of us form one family, because in the beginning there was only the one Self who assumed countless forms.  The poet-saint Krishna Suta says, 'The world may appear to be varied and manifold, yet the Self is one.'"  . . .   "In the course of this journey of the soul there may come the auspicious moment when it becomes aware of its own true nature, of its relationship with its Lord, and then it merges into its own source."  all quotes taken from Satsang With Baba Muktananda  Vol. Three   

The "world" into which a soul is born (its family, the culture, etc.) is like a "university" in which the soul has created its own curriculum and where it continues to contemplate and work on the things that it needs to learn and more fully understand.  Swami Muktananda once said: "Man has become his own worst enemy.  This tendency can be overcome by contemplation of the Self . . . by thinking about the fundamental questions: 'Who am I?'  'Why have I come here?'  'What should I do?'  'What should I avoid?'  'How can I achieve the highest good?'"  Satsang With Baba Muktananda, Vol.Three

Perception and Creation 
Swami Shantananda addresses the relationship between perception and creation throughout the entirety of his book The Splendor of Recognition.  After commenting extensively on the very first Sutra of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam, he writes: "The act of creation is simultaneously an act of perception.  When I perceive something, I am creating it for myself.  The creation lasts as long as I retain it in my perception, and when I dissolve what I perceive, for me it ceases to exist."

Swamiji tells a story in which Citi (the Creative Power of the Universe) brings forth the universe whenever she raises her eyelids.  And when she closes her eyes, the universe disappears.  He then comments: "This story is a vivid reminder that our knowledge of Reality is based on our own day-by-day experience . . . that when we open our eyes and become aware of the world around us, we are creating our world.  And at night, as we close our eyes in sleep, we're dissolving that same world."  I want to share with you a personal story, an experience I had recently, which relates to this teaching.

The Luminous Meadow Experience 
In the early morning of January 21, 2017 my wife Gloria asked me to go out to the edge of the meadow behind our house and refill the bird feeders for her.  I was just getting out of bed, so I qickly dressed and immediately headed toward the garage door, not knowing what the weather was like outside.  When I opened the garage door it was like opening my eyes onto an unknown, unformed world.  What I expected to see had become hidden--perhaps dissolved--in a heavy blanket of early morning fog.  This "world" was silent, still, moist and gray.  Smoke from burning wood added to the heaviness of the atmosphere.  I could not see the woods beyond the meadow area, nor even the two ponds in the meadow just behind our house.  All I could see in this strange, timeless, static world was a few vague shapes in a dull gray tonality.


As I was filling the bird feeders, I noticed that light from the rising sun on the eastern horizon had begun to burn off some of the fog.  I could begin to see, faintly, the very tops of some of the trees in the distant southern woods.  Then gradually other things in the meadow began to emerge into visibility from within the mist which itself was becoming a lighter silvery tone.

Then--all of a sudden it seemed--the mist became magically luminous.  I was surrounded and immersed in light which appeared to be coming from within the mist itself.  The light glowed with a sacred presence that pervaded all that was being unveiled before my eyes.  The light continued to grow and swell; I was witnessing the creation of a new luminous world.

I felt an intense desire to make some photographs, so I ran into the house to get my camera.  When I returned to the meadow, I felt drawn to stand and photograph in the space between the north and south ponds.  I looked repeatedly back and forth, north and south, watching and photographing as the landscapes in both directions underwent remarkably beautiful transitions in luminosity, space, color.  As the light continued to swell, more and more objects emerged into visibility . . .

After photographing for only a few minutes, however, the light itself changed--both in quality and in its nature of functioning.  The light had gradually transitioned from being transformative, creative, revelatory, to that of being merely descriptive.

Once the world had fully returned to its old familiar state, I returned to the house.  I left the meadow feeling deeply enlivened by what I had experienced.  Something remarkable had happened; grace had descended upon the meadow, but upon me as well: I had been gifted with an experience of the dissolution and creation of a world; I had witnessed Citi "opening" and "closing" her eyelids--first concealing the world within the gray still void of her silence, and then re-creating it once again with her shakti, her grace, her Light of Consciousness.

A Sequence of Photographs
I am presenting below a sequence of seven meadow images in two related sets.  Five of the meadow photographs were made on the foggy morning of January 21, 2017; and two--the first and the last in the sequence--were made in the fall of 2016, just minutes apart, as the sun was setting behind a dark, stormy sky.  I refer to these two photographs as the "Apocalyptic Images."

The seven photographs constitute a unified visual whole which represent Creation and Dissolution, two of the Five Acts of the Lord.  The juxtaposition of the two sets of images--of dramatically opposing character--is in the great tradition (as I will explain later) of the ancient Chinese landscape painters who strived to honor through their paintings and drawings the Taoist philosophy of the "continuum of existence and its immanent 'way' of coming into actuality and receding" -- "emerging-submerging" --"between there is and there is not."  

A Sequence of 

Seven Meadow Photographs

 Image #1   Apocalyptic Sunset    Fall, 2016,   looking west, over the Meadow's south pond 

Image #2    Creation   Early morning, January 21, 2017,  looking south over the Meadow's south pond
Before the sunrise

Image #3    Creation   Early morning, January 21, 2017,  looking south and west, over the Meadow's south pond
The first rays of light from the sun rising on the eastern horizon

Image #4    Creation   Early morning, January 21, 2017,  looking north, over the Meadow's north pond
The houses on the right are shrouded in fog.

Image #5    Creation   Early morning, January 21, 2017,  looking west over the Meadow's south pond
I was standing in my back yard when I made this photograph

Image #6    Creation   Early morning, January 21, 2017,  looking north, over the Meadow's north pond
The light of the rising sun is just beginning to touch the tops of the trees in the north woods
as the blue of the clear sky is becoming visible.

 Image #7    Apocalyptic Sunset    Fall, 2016,  looking north, over the Meadow's distant north pond
This image, and image #1, were made from the back deck of our house, just minutes apart.

A Few Comments  
Regarding the seven photographs above: I wanted to point out that despite their apparent differences, the two sets of images are connected in their points-of-view, their directional orientations.  The luminous morning Creation images look back and forth (south and north) over and beyond the two meadow ponds.  Indeed, as I have already explained, I was standing between the ponds when I made four of the five foggy morning photographs.

Similarly, the point of view of the first Apocalyptic Sunset image looks west over the meadow and its invisible south pond; the second one (Image #7) looks north over the meadow and its only partly visible north pond.  I was standing on the back deck of our house when I made the photographs, and both were made only minutes apart.  The meadow had become concealed in darkness thus in both images we must look past the meadow, past its darkness, toward the drama of the red sun setting in a stormy darkening sky above the western and northern woods.

Perhaps my interest in the shared orientation of the seven meadow photographs has something to do with the Taoist idea of the "continuum of existence" and what is called in the Hindu tradition "unity in diversity" ("in the beginning there was only the one Self who assumed countless forms").   Despite their dramatic differences in light, tone and color, the two sets of images are nonetheless intrinsically related to each other through their being part of something inexplicably great: the ever unfolding sacred inhalation and exhalation of the Lord's creative process . . . the continuum of creation and dissolution in which the meadow perpetually is emerging into the light of vision and submerging into darkness . . . 

I also wanted to point out what for me is an important visual event in the second Apocalyptic Sunset image (#7).  To the right of the image, about a third of the way up, you will see a gold toned shape just above the tree line.   It's an opened sky space which reveals the warm light of the setting sun behind the otherwise very dark clouds.  I am fascinated by the way this golden shape echoes two other similar shapes above and below it: there is the shape of blue sky immediately above; and there is the shape of a reflection of light on the surface of the distant north pond, which can be seen only faintly, as a dark silvery tone suspended in black space, below and to the left of the gold shape.  In their triadic mirrorings these three shapes quietly assert multiple pairings of corresponding archetypal opposites: sky and water, above and below, bright tone and subdued tone, warm tone (gold) and cool tone (blue).

Finally, I want to share what for me is an interesting detail about my creative process in relation to the two "apocalyptic" images.  Long before I first began woking on this project I had been intending to add the two "apocalyptic" images--which were made in the fall of 2016--to my project The Meadow Series.  This project is ongoing; I add new meadow photos to the series whenever I make them.  However, as I studied the two images more carefully a growing attraction to them encouraged me to keep them immediately available for continued contemplation, rather than publishing them in the meadow project.  I placed the two images in a digital file folder marked "Unpublished - straight photos."  I look at the many images in this folder frequently, on a regular basis so I can keep them continually fresh in my awareness.  Each image I have in that folder contains for me a strong sense of potentiality--an as yet unknown significance for me.  Even though I don't understand how I can use any of those images in the file, I have learned to trust that the context they must be placed in within my creative process will reveal itself when the time is right.  Finally the two "apocalyptic"meadow pictures have found their rightful home: in this project.  (Note: since publication of this project I have added several of the images in the sequence--including the two "apocalypse" images--to the The Meadow Series project) 

Two Text Excerpts from The Splendor of Recognition
As I have already mentioned, my experience in the meadow on the morning of January 21, 2017 came just days before I completed and published the project Grace-Photograph-Symbol-UniverseI had been studying Swami Shantananda's book, The Splendor of Recognition in preparation for the introductory text I was writing for the Grace project.  I was focusing especially on Swimij's commentaries regarding the Five Acts of the Lord (Creation, Maintenance, Dissolution, Concealment, the Bestowal of Grace) and, most particularly of course, the Act of Grace.  The present project continues the exploration of Grace in the context of its relation to Creation and Dissolution.

There are two especially important passages from Swami Shantananda's contemplations on Sutra 2 of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam which I want to share with you here.  First, the excerpt he presents from the spiritual autobiography of his teacher, Swami Muktananda.  In the words that follow below, from The Play of Consciousness, Muktananda describes in remarkable detail his inner vision of the creation of a world which he experienced in meditation:

The light pervaded everywhere in the form of the universe.  I saw the earth being born
and expanding from the light of Consciousness [Citi] just as one can see smoke 
rising from a fire.  I could actually see the world within this conscious light,
and the light within the world, like threads in a piece of cloth, and cloth
in the threads.   Just as a seed becomes a tree, with branches, 
leaves,  flowers,  and fruit, so within her own being  Citi  
becomes animals, birds, germs, insects, gods, demons, 
men, and women.  I could see this radiance of
Consciousness, resplendent  and utterly  
beautiful, silently pulsing as supreme 
ecstasy within me, outside me,
above me, below me.

Swami Muktananda ~ The Play of Consciousness

Swami Shantananda then comments:  When Baba [Muktananda] speaks about the light that "pervaded everywhere in the form of the universe," he is saying that this light is the universe.  And when he says "I saw the earth being born and expanding from the light of Consciousness," he is pointing out that this pervasive light, which is the universe, continuously gives rise to the universe.  Baba is having a vision of this creation, watching the world take form from within the very light that is itself the world.  . . .  Thus, Consciousness is projecting all of these forms [animals, birds, germs, insects, gods, demons, men, women] out of her [Citi'sown depth.  Out of that which is pure and formless come all the forms of the universe.  Muktananda writes"I could see this radiance of Consciousness, resplendent and utterly beautiful, silently pulsing as supreme ecstasy within me, outside me, above, me, below me . . ."  Swami Shantananda comments: This silent pulsing is spanda, the pulsation [of Citi, of Consciousness] so slight that it is said to be self-contained.  It is that very spanda that decides, as an act of free will, to expand and move forward, so to speak, into creation.

Synchronicity, Symbol & Revelation 
I consider Swami Muktananda's autobiography, The Play of Consciousness, and Swami Shantananda's book The Splendor of Recognition, sacred texts; their words are alive with shakti, grace, the Creative Power of the Universe.  Clearly there are correspondences between the things that are written in their two passages above, and my experience of the sacred light in the meadow on the morning of January 21, 2017.

I believe my experience was the product of the "falling together" and coming into alignment of corresponding inner and outer grace-filled events.  In other words, it was an experience of what CG Jung termed synchronicity.   The five photographs I have shown above--made during that experience--visually conjoin the inner-psychic and outer-physical corresponding events within their pictorial form.  The photographs are for me radiantly alive with grace, and thus function for me as visual symbols.


It occurred to me yesterday, (February 12, 2017) when I was contemplating my meadow experience at a Siddha Yoga program, that the sacred light pervading the entire meadow was most probably an inner experience.  The light I experienced in the foggy meadow was as much in me as I was in it.  It was essentially a meditative experience and I say the in the context of what I have written about many times before: that when I am photographing I enter into something very much like a meditative state.  I think of my creative process in photography as a means of contemplating the Siddha Yoga teachings and the ongoing question regarding the nature of sacred art.

As I was contemplating all this at the Siddha Yoga program, I was reminded of the Siddha Yoga New Year's message for 2017 which Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, my meditation Master, and head of the Siddha Yoga Lineage, gave all her students around the world to contemplate throughout the year.

Gurumayi's Message this year consists of just three brief lines.  The first and third lines are instructions regarding the beauty and power of the in-breath and the out-breath, and the breath's relation to the Heart.  The middle line is a loving command: "Revel in the Light of the Supreme Self."

I want to go back, briefly, to what I had written earlier describing my experience in the meadow:

All of a sudden, it seemed, the mist became magically luminous.  
I was surrounded and immersed in light which appeared 
to be coming from within the mist itself. The light  
glowed with a sacred presence that pervaded 
all that was being unveiled before my eyes.  
The light continued to grow and swell; 
 I was witnessing the creation 
of a new luminous world.

The "creation of a new luminous world" that I was witnessed while standing in the meadow, glowing with light that seemed "to be coming from within the mist itself" was, I believe now, a predominantly  inner experience--a "vision" of the "inner eye," the "eye of the Heart"  My perception was a projection onto the outer world of that which dwells within me, in the Heart of my being: the Light of the Supreme Self.  The experience may have been only momentary, but in that moment, time had come to a standstill; my world had become silent and all pervasively luminous.  I had been graced with an inner and outer experience, a revelation of Gurumayi's New Year Message.  


In the afterglow of the meadow experience I realized that its grace certainly gave new life--a new dimension of meaning--to the familiar texts I had read so many, many times before.  And it placed into an outer-world context Gurumayi's command to revel in the Light of the inner Self.  The experience has also given me a new and heightened awareness of my perceptions of the meadow--a place that I dearly love and look out upon and every day.  I had perhaps become too familiar with the view, and thus had allowed myself to become less attentive to its true, sacred nature.  In this experience, I had actually gone into the center of the foggy space of the meadow itself, and from within the meadow experienced the light within my own heart.

The grace of that experience yielded photographs alive with grace, visual symbols which shimmer with the "Splendor of Recognition."

The Persistent Interior Experience of Light
Since my experience in the meadow on January 21, 2017 I have been haunted by an interior "image" of light.   Is it a memory of what I experienced?  Is it the intrinsic quality of my being?  I have tried in various ways to give visual form to this interior "image" of light using some of the photographs I made during my meadow experience . . . but to no avail; the results have only looked forced and artificial.  The light within me is alive, and yet when I try to consciously see details within the "image" . . . there is nothing to see but light.  What I am seeing perhaps not really an image, but rather an  experience of light.

When I look at the photographs I took that day in the meadow, including the ones published in the sequence above, I realize that the light I experienced in the meadow that morning, and the light I am experiencing within myself now, are of a different order than the light depicted in my photographs.  The light of the Supreme Self transcends "image," time and space.  Thus I have decided it best to simply enjoy the inner experience while it lasts; Revel in that inner light rather than try to picture it or understand it.  Who can understand the mysterious ways of the sadguru--the true Guru, the divine Master--and the secret workings, the transforming power of her Grace?       


The Great Image Has No Form
"The Landscape Gave Birth To Itself-
Metamorphosed in Me"

After much contemplation of all that has been presented above, I started sensing a subtle feeling, perhaps a memory that was wanting to emerge into the full light of my awareness.  Finally I remembered a book that was quite important to me a few years ago while I was working on my Snow : Silver World project.

The Great Image Has No Form, authored by Francois  Jullien, is a most wonderful book that explores the relationship between landscape painting in the West--its aim toward representation and objectivity--and early Chinese landscape painting, whose aim was to figure (paint) the "unfathomable," the "Fount" of the created world: the Tao, that which exists between "there is" and "there is not."

In his Preface, Jullien writes: "The Chinese literati were able to produce such paintings and to reflect on them because they relied on the notion of a continuum of existence and its immanent 'way' of coming into actuality and receding."  Jullien's enlightening reflections on early Chinese painting and Taoist philosophy center, then, on picturing between "Creation" and "Dissolution."   In this regard, then, it is most appropriate to re-examine his writings in the context of this project.  I am truly grateful for Jullien's insights.  

have presented below carefully selected excerpts from his book The Great Image Has No Form which resonate for me personally, and which shed important light upon this project as a whole--especially the sequence of seven photographs, with their opposing characters and juxtapositions.

*          *          *

What is difficult to figure
Jullien quotes the painter Qian Wenshi who wrote:  ". . . amidst the fog  . . . when the whole landscape vanishes in confusion--emerging-submerging, between there is and there is not--that is what is difficult to figure [to picture, to paint]."  And then Jullien comments:


Presence is diluted and permeated by absence.  . . . the [Chinese literati] painter paints the world emerging-submerging. . . not quiescent.  He paints the world coming out of the original confusion or sinking back into it, following the great respiratory alternation, breathing in and breathing out, that bring the world into existence.  He does not aspire to immobilize it as Being and to determine it as object.  He paints it between "there is" and "there is not" . . .   Between the "there is" that takes over presence and its complete dissolution in absence, the painter grasps forms and things surging up and fading away at the same time.  He paints them on their way, not in relation to the category of being (or nothingness) but as a continuous process.

The Winter that does not Correspond to Its Season

I was concerned about the mild weather we were having in late January, 2017.  The temperatures during the day were ranging in the mid-forties.  It was not a winter like others I had thus far experienced in Canandaigua, NY since we arrived here in 2008.  I had been wanting more snow to photograph.  What snow we did have this year had disappeared.  And then came the morning of January 21 in which the world became transformed in ways I could not have imagined.  The following quote from Jullien's book seems to be commenting on this:  

. . . as noted in the Shitao, one of the finest Chinese treatise on painting, there is also the winter that does not correspond to its season . . . That is why it is up to painting and poetry to deploy preferentially these indistinct atmospheres, "half-light, half dark,"  showing each time, even in the most minor sequences, the passage and transformation from one to the other . . .   Presence-absence: the two terms are not destined to remain separate.  In the end the question dissolves.

What the Sun and the Moon Do Not Illuminate
Again, Jullien quotes an earlier Chinese painter, and then comments upon it:  Zhu Jingxuan writes: "Painting is the sage.  For it goes to the far reaches of what Earth and Heaven cannot attain, and makes appear what the sun and moon do not illuminate."  ~  Jullien writes: From these traditional formulations it is at least clear that this art is acknowledged as a power of exploration or manifestation surpassing the limits of the sensible world and integrating the invisible into itself. 


The "invisible" and "undifferentiated Fount" from which "forms" and "being" continually proceed and to which they return to be resorbed, was referred to as "the unnamable" by the great ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Laozi, author of the Tao Te Ching.   Laozi wrote:

           "The Without-name is the beginning of Heaven and Earth,

            what has a name is the mother of all existents.

          "In the world, all existents are born from the there-is

            and the there-is is born from the there-is-not."

Jullien elaborates:  "Painting is the sage" because, in its figurative process, painting has the same aim as the sage: to deploy the tao.  As Chinese painting evolves, the more it breaks free from the function of representation, the closer it moves to that aim and the clearer that aim becomes.  If the painter accomplishes an act of "wisdom" by painting mountaintops emerging-submerging in the mist, or treetops protruding and receding, or a path coming in and going out . . . it is because, rather than paint things as objects, determined by perception and specifiable by the understanding, he captures them in keeping with the logic of immanence that makes them appearing-disappearing. ~  The painter does no more than make visible that reciprocity which is constantly at work.

Meadow Path, fog, north pond      (Click on the image to enlarge)

In literally designating the air or mist "around the sphere," the notion of atmosphere also connotes presence, but a diluted and vaporized, nondelimited presence, an ambience, surroundings (of things).  Atmosphere . . . e-manates or im-parts and hence circulates inseparably between what is neither "that" nor "us" anymore . . .  Indeed, an atmosphere is diffuse, disseminated, dispersed, elusive.

Jullien then quotes an art critic who, in writing about a painting, says that he can no longer see anything but "spiritual-animated atmosphere."  Jullien comments:  Emptiness put to work by Chinese painting breaks form wide open, desaturates and distills plenitude, and thereby releases something of the spiritual.  It opens the natural to the spiritual, and the visible to the Invisible.  

"Let the sparse and the dense alternate, 
       let emptiness and fullness engender each other . . . "   

The Tonality of Existence

To return to the tao is to return to the foundational where . . . the determining character of form has not yet come into play, and where haziness, between there is-there is not, is the very tonality of existence.

Between - Breath Resonance

. . . the painter cannot "transmit the spirit dimension" without "resorting to form," individuated, singular, and tangible as it is.  The painter works between the two poles of concrete form and spirit dimension, as between the poles of yin and yang. 

Between Resemblance and Non-resemblance  
In the endless commentaries that the Six Principles of Painting elicits, the transcendence of resemblance is increasingly invoked by name . . . Formal resemblance must not be sought out as such and set forth as a goal, but must flow as a consequence from the pictorial process. 

The capacity for resemblance within figuration cannot advance except through resemblance of the whole to the "great tao," that is, to its harmonic com-possibility.

"Perfect success in painting is between resemblance and non-resemblance.  . . .  These crayfish I paint," Qu Baishi adds confidentially, "are unlike those you usually see: what I seek is not "formal resemblance" but "spiritual resemblance," and that is why the crayfish that come from my brush are "alive."

The Spirit in Landscape

In Chinese the word for "landscape" is "mountain(s)-water(s).  . . .  The Chinese chose to think of the landscape--like any reality--as an interaction between poles, high and low, vertical and horizontal, compact (massive) and fluid, opaque and transparent, motionless and moving, and so forth.  "Mountains-waters" symbolizes these dualities that hold the world in tension, and the infinite exchanges that result from them.  . . .  The Chinese painter . . . figures the process of things as a whole, the entire, infinitely diverse play of its polarities.

Chinese painters viewed the landscape as a manifestation of the absolute, and landscape painting as the form of spiritual expression that provided the best access to that absolute.  The landscape is the effective and redemptive mediation that connects man to the tao.  

Jullien writes of the painter Zong Bing who was influenced by Buddhism:  Every being has the capacity to realize within himself his "Buddha nature."  For him, it is through the landscape that the absolute guides us and reveals itself, that it can be "savored" and experienced . . .  The landscape holds within itself a power to elevate and "transcend" in the literal sense, which leads to the apprehension of the "inexhaustibility," . . . the "great" Fount of immanence . . .  The landscape, eternally there, nevertheless varies at every moment of the day and with every change of season.

From the Song Dynasty on, this became an adage: Ordinarily, we know only that man possesses a spirit, but we do not realize that everything that exists outside him as earthly reality also possesses a spirit [dimension].  The purpose of the landscape, says Shitao, is to serve-offer-present something of the "animated spiritual."

"The Landscape Gave Birth to Itself-Metamorphosed in Me"
Jullien quotes the great painter Shitao, who at the end of his chapter on landscape painting says: "Before I turned fifty, I had not yet given birth to myself in the landscape.  Not that I treated the landscape as a mediocre thing, but I let the landscape exist independently and on its own."  But now "the landscape calls upon me to speak in its place."  Jullien comments:  Let us understand: he does not say "I express myself through the landscape," as one might expect from an expressive (rather than mimetic) conception of painting.  Rather, it is the landscape that expresses itself through him.  The painter's calling is to be the landscape's go-between in the literal sense. . . . Hence the landscape "gave birth to itself-metamorphosed in me" just as I gave birth to myself-metamorphosed in it, so that "the landscape and I meet in spirit." 

Landscapes You Live In
Guo Xi reports that there are some landscapes . . . you pass through, others you contemplate, others in which you go for walks, and still others you live in. . .  Living in a landscape calls for a completely different level of immersion than contemplation . . . "but they are the ones you must choose."  The distinction between the real landscape and the painted landscape vanishes in the existential dimension proper to any landscape.

Contemplation: the Landscape Within
The terms "contemplation," as opposed to "gaze," should be understood as a conjunction of two meanings: as contemplation of self, free from importunities and uncleanness, and as a gathering up of the landscape within oneself.  Guo Xi calls for contemplation. . .  The Chinese literati maintain that since painting is born sponte sua from a "spiritual encounter" and a "silent harmony" with the world [that] lies in the innate quality of the person. . .  In that sense a painting bears the "imprint" of the nobility or baseness of the artist; that quality is truly his "signature."

Listening-Gathering It Up Within
Sight aggressively projects attention outward, whereas listening gathers it up within. . .  The Taoist master explains that, as you rise toward internal concentration, you need to listen, not with your ears, but with your spirit; and not with your spirit but with breath-energy, qi.

"Before Heaven and Earth is the yi."  Yi refers, as if to the source, to that impulse of energy mobilizing from within for the purpose of bringing about, hence able to deploy in the conscious evolution of man as point of view, intention, vision, state of mind, disposition, meaning, desire, and volition all at once.  Yi corresponds to vital breath, or to the aspiration of the inner self,  . . .  to move closer to the "flow of lived experience." 

A single rule has dominated all the treatises on the art of painting since the late Tang Dynasty "that there is yi before you take up the brush and that, once the painting has been completed, yi remains."

This yi of intentionality is properly described as the authenticity of the inner, artless, movement "that comes to light in the painter's contemplative spirit and stands opposed to a conscious application in manipulating the brush."  . . . One also speaks of the yi of mountain or landscape: "When you are personally present yourself to the mountains and waters to capture them," the "intentional disposition" of the landscape appears (Guo Xi).

The yi and the expression of the living become indistinguishable. . . . What the painter renders through his form . . . is the phenomenon of trans-forming life.  In the end, painting can have no other object. 

Seng ~ To Be Alive
What does painting aim to paint? . . . The painter will surely refrain from invoking the "visible," because he is well aware that his labor, once it achieves any degree of profundity, is to make the invisible appear: invisible feelings, or the "soul," or the "spiritual," or "breath-energy," or the continuous transition of existence and its slow incrustation in things.  The Chinese painter will say it simply in Chinese, seng: "to be born"-"to be formed"-"to be alive."


Meadow Photographs

After publishing this project two days ago (February 14, 2017) I decided to try making symmetrical constructions of the straight meadow photographs included in the sequence of seven images, above.  I have included five of the symmetrical versions here.  I think there can be something important in being able to see both the straight photograph version and its symmetrical transformation within the same project.    

I have been feeling the need to make symmetrical photographs again, and at first I thought the images below would be part of my next project.  But, no, I believe they belong here.  However I have decided that my next project will continue my exploration of Swami Shantananda's commentaries on the Sutras of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam with symmetrical photographs--unless of course my Creative Process decides otherwise.  Please watch for my announcement of the next new project in the "Recently Added Projects" section at the the top of my Welcome Page.   

 Symmetrical Meadow Photograph  #1         Creation-Dissolution of a World  

 Symmetrical Meadow Photograph  #2         Creation-Dissolution of a World 

         Symmetrical Meadow Photograph  #3         Creation-Dissolution of a World 

 Symmetrical Meadow Photograph  #4         Creation-Dissolution of a World 

 Symmetrical Meadow Photograph  #5         Creation-Dissolution of a World 

*          *          *


A Brief History 
of  my
Landscape Photography

In January 2017, when I revised my Welcome Page for my website-blogI added a section of links dedicated to collections of my online projects that share similar themes, including The Music Inspired Projects, The Studies Projects, The Sacred Art Projects, and The Landscape Projects.  I was quite surprised to see that I had created quite a large number of landscape-related projects over my fifty-plus years of photographic picture-making.

I certainly never thought of myself as a landscape photographer, but clearly the Earth, the Natural World, has been a deep and continuing concern of mine.  Our beautiful planet is for me a holy thing, a sacred place, and yet it has suffered dearly from human ignorance, greed and political-corporate corruption; in the past twenty years I have become quite concerned about Climate Change or Global Warming and what it might mean for the lives of my grandchildren in their years to come.  Indeed, my concern has grown even graver since Trump and his climate denying administration (and the corporate powers belying it) have taken over Washington, DC.  I fear I am witnessing the Dissolution of democracy in the United States, and with that the Dissolution of the planet.  As Swami Muktananda has said: "Man has become his own worst enemy." 


Below is a selection of images from past landscape projects which seem particularly in sympathy with all that I have presented in this project.
  Please note that under each of the photographs you will see a "click me" link; it will take you to the online project in which each of the images has been published.  I invite you to visit this link The Landscape Photography Projects to get a more complete overview of my landscape work.  ~  Thank you for visiting Creation-Dissolution of a World.    SF

The Lake Series

Death : A Meditation

The Meadow Series

The Symmetrical Meadow Series

Snow Angels~Rilke's Angel of the Elegies

Images of Eden

Images of Eden

"Ariel View-Clouds"   Still Life : Morandi inspired landscapes

"Goldfish pond"  from  Still Life :  the Morandi inspired landscape photographs

Faint Photographs

River Songs

Color Diptychs

Snow : Silver World 

The Interiorization of Stones : Part 6 The Photograph as Icon project

Field of Vision

Intimated Landscape Series

In the Woods


This project was published and announced 
on my blog's Welcome Page 
February 14, 2017
(revised February 16, 2017)

Related Links

This is the second in a triadic project which also contains an Epilogue.
Listed below is the complete set of the four related projects:
Creation-Dissolution of a World
The Pulsating Uncreated Heart : Origin & Center of Creation
The Siva Sutra Rock Photographs

The Meadow Series
Symmetrical Meadow Photographs
The Collected Landscape Photography Projects
Swami Muktananda  &  Gurumayi Chidvilasananda
The Symbol & the Symbolic Photograph
The Vision--the Eye--of the Heart

Welcome Page to my Departing Landscape website which includes the complete listing of my online hyperlinked photography projects, my resume, contact information, and more.