The Vital Role Artists Play in Society

The Vital Role Artists Play in Society

(This article was heavily influenced by Jung’s essay Psychology and Literature, from Modern Man in Search of a Soul.)

Expanding on my last article, almost as an afterthought, I thought I would illuminate you further on the vital role I am coming to believe artists play in society.

Artists are channels. To the subconscious, to the spirit of an age (or indeed, the former patterning the latter and coming out with a judgement as to what needs to be changed or improved upon to ensure society’s health and continued development), “God”, James Lovelock’s hypothesis of Gaia, whatever; you name it. My belief is the third (listed in brackets), but I cannot say for sure and thus will not make an absolute statement. For, the subconscious not being wholly—if at all—known, who’s to say that it is not a receiver for some kind of bacterial / hormonal network that comprises Gaia, or God; perfectly explainable by science at a later date? Or that it’s nature isn’t indeed a spiritual one?

Be what it may, artists are channels. They seem to play a vital role in the development, continuation of, and overall health of society. They act as moderators, or regulators, if you will; bringing the whole back to centre should it swerve off-path, or pointing to answers concealed, and indeed areas of further development.

They do this by reflecting, by exploring themselves and emotions which they may have subliminally picked up upon, or consciously analysed. Now, when I say artist, I do not mean those who simply paint, or write, or create. I mean those who are compelled to do so, the ones who are ‘possessed’ (a rather apt word, I believe) by inspiration, or because they cannot be happy any other way.

Often they lead terrible lives as a result. That is to say, in this modern age, when their gifts (and indeed necessary contribution) towards a healthily functioning society are actively suppressed, insulted, and generally dealt encouraged misoneism. Thus, not only do they struggle to feed, house, and clothe themselves, but the very core of their being, already torn by that which drags itself from within relentlessly, is not even soothed and encouraged as it should be as part of the artist’s necessary psychological recovery after such an ordeal1. The depth of their personality, and perhaps even their subconscious, is insulted, shut down, and otherwise destabilised as to render them useless, and, as in the case of far too many, suicidal.

Now, I believe I can understand why rulers would wish to suppress and control this (for stability, as their work elicits change). Indeed, the functioning of this seemingly global society may be an artificial thing, which would collapse in on itself to its natural states should these rigid supports be removed. Whether these natural states are tribal systems, or ‘communes’, I will not hypothesise as I feel I need far more reading on the topic (history!).

But I believe that, by working with artists and others ‘divinely’ inspired, and their natural skills / passions, and embracing change (an ‘awakening’ of the soul), society, as a whole, can achieve enlightenment through the individuals.

This may be a frightening prospect, as we do not know where this would lead us. But what we have achieved in this current day and age has, to my knowledge, never been achieved before. Why, then, should we put a limit on its possibilities? Technology, when used with wisdom, is a wonderful thing, and (as I have said before) knowledge is the inheritance of ‘man. If each individual could do as they were gifted and driven to do, would that not be utopia?


1Much like war veterans (though by far not as severe, I can only imagine and by no means wish to treat the former subject lightly in making my comparison), artists need support and delicate acceptance of what they have done to achieve closure, and move on to lead mentally balanced lives. In memory from what I have read in On Killing by Dave Grossman, he writes about ancient cultures treating war as “honourable” and “noble” being a very important part of this closure, and social acceptance of what these veterans had to do (which is what made the return of the soldiers from Vietnam so incredibly tragic). I can’t find that reference however, and the best I can do is the below:

“The image of the traumatized Vietnam veteran being spit upon, insulted, and degraded upon return to the United States is not mythical, but based upon literally thousands of such incidents—as chronicled in Bob Greene’s excellent book, Homecoming. In this environment of condemnation and accusation, many Vietnam veterans felt that they had only one national forum in which they could attain some degree of closure by writing of their experiences in a sympathetic and nonjudgemental environment….” (On Killing, page XI)

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