Ryan J. Bush, Ph.D.
Photography and Transcendence
Updated: Aug 20, 2018
I'll talk more about the awakening process in following blog posts, but wanted to share an essay that I originally presented at the Art & Psyche conference in Siracusa, Sicily, in September 2015.
Photography and Transcendence: An Essay on Photography, Meditation, and the Experience of Transcendence
In the essay, I talk about the series of photographs that burst out of me in 2014, including series of 3-D photographs like Visions and Satori, which form the basis for my exhibitions From Wandering to Illumination, and the Presence series, which led to my forthcoming book The Space Beyond Words. I also talk about how the photographs were related to the intense inner work I was doing with dream work, meditation, and active imagination, culminating in a powerful awakening experience.
Here is an excerpt from the conclusion of the essay, which includes a list of factors that seem to be necessary for awakening, aka satori, samadhi, fanaa, illumination, or transcendence. While these experiences are deeply personal, it’s important for us to share our experiences with each other so we don’t have to keep rediscovering the wheel. While Satori or Transcendence is fundamentally about rediscovering your own true nature, there are a number of challenges and pitfalls along the way. I’m happy to share what has been helpful for me, and would love to hear what has worked for others.
This last year has showed me how intertwined Art & Psyche can really be, with my art pushing my psyche, and vice versa. I’ve found that photography can be an ideal medium for active imagination, and to develop the abilities of single-pointed focus. The Visions series opened up a new dimension in my self, going beyond the rational mind into the place beyond words. The Self-ies series helped me explore the temple of the body, and enter into a direct relationship with the many different layers of my self, and paved the way for experiences of Transcendence. Unconsciously or not, my art has always been trying to evoke Transcendence, but with the Satori series I was conscious for the first time of the experience I have been trying to show. And with the Presence series, I practiced being ‘radically present’ in non-duality, where we can see what an incredible Eden we already live in.
This past year also showed me what’s possible when we explore all our different layers -not just the rational mind, but also the body, energy and spirit. Experiences of Transcendence are absolutely possible, and well worth the effort, though many different pieces have to come together. With the concept of Integral Spirituality, I believe that we can put together a more complete understanding of Transcendence if we combine the best parts of many different traditions, comparing our own experiences, and staying connected with our inner voice of wisdom (whatever exactly that voice is, whether it’s your own unique higher self, or some external, imaginal figure). The path to Transcendence should not be undertaken lightly, but I believe the time has come for “Open-Source Mysticism”, where people can study any topic they want, even Transcendence. After all, it’s our birthright to be able to know our whole selves.
With that in mind, here are some of the factors that seem necessary to experience Transcendence, and I’m sharing them in case anyone is interested in having these kinds of experience:
Make sure all of your ‘energy gates’ are open (meaning all your chakras, joints, nerves and meridians), including a healthy and decalcified pineal gland (aka the ‘third eye’).
You also need to have an open channel for energy through the top of your head (that’s one reason a teacher can make it easier, if they do an initiation known as a darshan or reiju), though you can do it yourself if you raise your kundalini energy.
Let go of all negative emotions (like anger, fear, and worry), but you don’t have to be a saint or already be perfect.
Fill yourself with complete love for yourself and all others.
Raise your frequency/vibration (e.g. with deep breathing like Reiki’s joshin kokyu ho (grounding on in-breath, expanding on out-breath).
Keep your spine straight, help spinal fluid circulate (slight sinuous movements help activate the pumps at the coccyx and top of spine)
Enter the ‘gap’ between your thoughts, to enter a deep meditative state.
Combine together all opposites, let go into non-duality.
Connect with the vast, ‘great white light’ above your head (the ‘transpersonal chakra’).
To paraphrase The Law of One, “We can’t teach enlightenment, but can only teach information, inspiration, or a sharing of love, of mystery, of the unknown that makes others reach out and begin the seeking process that ends in a moment, but who knows when someone will open the gate to the present?”
If anyone has any thoughts or questions, please let us know!