Phoenix Collective
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Phoenix Collective

Way of the Freedom Artist

An Invitation

I generally avoid self-definitions.

Why limit yourself with words and ideas?

To remain undefined is to remain open, unlimited — and free.

However, I have recently stumbled on an identity that I thoroughly enjoy using:

The Freedom Artist.

I like it because it allows one to relate to life itself as a creative movement (like a dance) that is always seeking the greatest possible freedom.

By this view, we are each the artists of our unique movement through the world. This movement is our soul path, and it reveals itself as we learn to honour and follow our personal desires, passions, and visions.

If pressed to summarise my own creative movement through life, I’d describe it as something like:

The radical and compassionate subversion of consensus reality

and the re-enchantment of life as pure magic,

pure play,

pure art,

pure mystery.

Under the identity of the freedom artist, one’s entire life can be conceived of and related to as an artwork — a novel, poem, song or painting of vast and epic proportions— created for the sake of beauty, connection and discovery.

The whole arc of our lifetime can become a living experiment in the art of human freedom. The raw ‘materials’ for this art are not limited to matter (as in conventional art) but extend to embrace all perception, idea, body, time, self, soul, death, other…

We begin to learn that absolutely anything one can experience or conceive of can be moulded and sculpted by the creative imagination’s play and exploration. Indeed it already is — all of it!

James Hillman calls this a poetic basis of mind. And an immense liberation comes when we decide to use the suffering and pain of earthly existence as fuel for this creative movement. It lifts us out of the prison of selfish desires and en-courages us to blossom into our highest potentials as beings of limitless love, compassion and creativity. All that suffering becomes meaningful as its energies are creatively transmuted into new forms, artworks and expressions of freedom.

To claim the identity of freedom artist (which I am inviting you to do, by the way) busts the concepts of ‘art’ and ‘artist’ out of their narrow cultural prisons, allowing them to expand and embrace the whole. That might mean the whole of humanity, but also the non-human cosmos (humans are outnumbered by other earth-dwelling species by 1,000,000,000 to 1 — to say nothing of other worlds). This necessarily entails that the artist embrace the whole of themselves, bringing them into union with the entirety of the psyche, from its most depraved and demonic aspects all the way to its brightest, highest and most sublime.

This planet, this cosmos, this mystery… none of it belongs to us humans. And yet we are here, summoned into the world by countless ancestors, both human and non-human. Conjured by love. Dreamt. Longed for.

We belong here.

We participate as co-creators and artists of the cosmic tapestry. There is no dead material universe “out there” somewhere, behind the veil of perception. There is only US. Together, we innumerable beings are the divine mystery itself, creatively unfolding in, through and as every single being, in every single moment!

We can choose to see the whole cosmos as a collaborative experiment in beauty and freedom undertaken by an infinite number of beings.

This moment, right now, is a co-creation between you, me, and an infinitude of others.

What are we seeking? I’ll wager that the answer is freedom. For all of us.

We are all freedom artists, but only a rare few choose (or are lucky enough) to be initiated into the power, responsibility and intimacy of this role.

Intimacy — because this always involves the tender, mystical beauty of knowing that we are so connected to, so interdependent with, all other beings as to be utterly inseparable from them.

We are one and many, free to oscillate between the universal and the personal.

The personal self is a reflection and a microcosm of the universal Self (the original, primordial freedom artist, the divine creative imagination).

We merge with the universal Self by opening our heart and releasing our selfish grip on the objects of the world. But we are free to return to the personal at any time in order to beautify, glorify, and adorn — to increase the loveliness and gracefulness of the Self. To bring forth beauty as we practice our beloved way, the art of freedom.

The door is wide open for us to reclaim our role as fundamental co-creators of reality. All it takes is a leap of the imagination.

Magicians and poets of perception — us. Fearless and compassionate in the face of suffering and oppression.

Magical realists!

Because the freedom artist knows that they are fictional, dreamed up, imagined; a product and expression of the boundless divine imagination. They know that they are not actually real — and freer than ever for being so!

Yet they also know that they are not unreal, either. They are certainly not a void of nothingness, and thus they are freed from nihilism and the belief that meaningless nothingness is the ultimate reality or fact of life (thus defining the self as an ultimately non-existing, worthless and illusory thing).

The freedom artist breaks out of the metaphysical prison of conclusive statements about reality. Statements such as “I am real”, “The world is real”, “The world isn’t real”, and so on. We begin to see that these statements are all ways of seeing and conceiving which generate entire realms of perception, actually entire worlds and universes. The freedom artist knows that no way of seeing is more true than any other — leaving us free to engage with and entertain all of them.

An infinity of possible realms of perception opens us before us — and within us. This infinite expanse is the stage, theatre, garden for the work and play of the freedom artist.

Here in “psyche’s orchard”, the freedom artist knows that everything we took to be real can be deconstructed and seen as empty — as a fiction, a myth, a symbol, an image — therefore leaving it open to being re-conceived, re-interpreted, and re-constructed anew.

Just how we do that re-construction, re-imagination, re-conception of the entire world — including the self — is a primary expression of our personal creativity!

Between reality and unreality, we are free to play in the infinite in-between. The imaginal world, the Mundus Imaginalis… the subtle realm of magic, imagination, soul, psyche.

The imaginal middle way, as Rob Burbea called it. Where“as if”becomes “as is”. Because there is no final word on what “is” — only the way of seeing that we are currently entertaining.

We find, gradually, through creative experiment after creative experiment, that we are free to rewrite and recreate ourselves and our reality at any time, without limit or constraint. All apparent limits and constraints are constructed, imagined, fabricated — and can therefore be deconstructed, expanded, and re-imagined.

Thus our experience of freedom increases without limit as we awaken to our habitual modes of writing and creating ourselves and the world — seeing the fabricated — or empty — nature of all things, we realise we are free to re-fabricate them as we please.

Welcome, friends, to the Infinite Game. The Art of Perception.

Most of humanity are caught in a slumber of repressed creativity, trapped within finite games of ego-centric survival and accumulating capital (work, produce, consume, repeat).

It doesn’t have to be this way!

The more of us that start living out our visions of a beautiful world, launching headlong into passionate and creative experiments in the art of human freedom, the faster we can blossom into the limitless and autonomous multidimensional artists that we are called to be: mystic children of the ocean planet awakening to the cosmos, through the cosmos, as the cosmos.

When you live for all beings, you begin to realise you are all beings, just as much as you are an individual person. And when you live as all beings, you are free — free from the greed, fear and disconnection that colour the experience of the separate personal self. We may very well still suffer, but when we suffer as one, it is somehow bearable and deeply meaningful; it is a suffering that is allowing us to discover and express our boundless freedom. This suffering is like birthing pains, as together we co-create the most utterly audacious creative work imaginable: the incarnation of innumberable divine souls into embodied material form.

Together, we are God.

So — let’s jam!

The Art Portal

Last word. I have an emerging fantasy that we, as a global collective movement of freedom artists, are creating an “art portal” to an infinite and ever-evolving co-created reality. In fact, that’s kind of what the cosmos already is but we aren’t switched on enough to realise and join in the jam. Our honest, compassionate and creative self-expression is how we initiate our fellow beings into the infinite game — into their own identities as unlimited freedom artists.

The art portal consists of symbols and images (the language of dreams and visions)… these could be words, visual forms, musical forms, spaces, actions When people perceive these symbols, their own unconscious is reflected back to them in both its light and dark aspects, helping them to integrate it and awaken into fuller, freer beings. As well as the personal dimension, this unconscious contains the collective transpersonal unconscious, helping us to become aware of ourselves as the Whole, as all beings, as God, and therefore possessed of all the infinite creativity and imaginative potential of the entire freaking Mystery.

Because we are the divine mystery, each and every one of us!

But clearly, we need some deep-love high-energy slap-you-awake ART to help people realise this. And that art can be the beauty of people like you and me living as creatively, consciously and compassionately as we possibly can. In other words, as freely as we possibly can.

I believe that’s how our ancestors lived, long ago. It wasn’t anything forced or contrived, but the most natural thing in the world…

“The main and ancient job of the Mayan people is to be beautiful and grateful” — Martin Prechtel

So allow us to exit reality and enter surreality: the blurring of dream and waking. When we embody and express archetypes and offer people new metaphors and images, we give them new symbols with which to re-imagine the dream of life on their own terms — no longer the terms of the unconscious habitual dream (or consensus reality — which of course isn’t real at all — more of a consensus dream!). We become lucid in the dream of waking life, and thus able to creatively transform that dream for the delight and liberation of all other dream-beings. In doing so, we step through the portal and bring as many people with us as possible.

Seeing and living symbolically, we realise that life — everything we have taken to be really real, existing independently of ourselves — really is a like a dream (is mind-manifested; empty of independent existence separate from ourselves and our mind; is imaginal, divine appearance; the psyche revealing itself to itself). When that happens we become conscious of our co-creative agency and freedom to reimagine and reconceive the dreamlike universe — without limit!

The only limits are the limits of our imagination which, once we arrived at, are seen to be unreal and imaginal and thus can be expanded… this process continues infinitely as the endless creative unfolding of the divine dream / living cosmos.

“Dreams are messages from the deep” — Frank Herbert, Dune

So: sink deep into psyche’s wilderness, find your vision, and re-emerge with symbols. Express these symbols through your artmaking (i.e. your life!) and offer them to your fellow beings as living portals to liberation: to the infinite divine play of the freedom artist…

See you on stage, friend.

Group co-creation, 2019

I want leave you with some relevant words from the amazing and inspiring ALOK (listen to them speak here) which helped me arrive at this notion of the freedom artist:

I validate the idea that survival is the ultimate act of creation in a world that has reduced us to fascist arithmetic, of being a quantitative statistic, not a human soul.

So we still found a way to care, love, and create — isn’t that art?

I teach people to decipher the art that they’re already doing, recognize the artistry and the everyday miracles of life around them, and create from that place.

“There are people who have felt this loneliness before and that’s why I’m not lonely anymore. That’s why we make art — to make evidence of our loneliness and to find one another and to say “that thing you felt most impossible in — I felt it too, so it can’t be impossible.”. Thats my daily act of miracle — I try to remember that this world says people like me don’t exist. By that I mean nonbinary people but more extensively people who give a shit, people who grieve, people who cry, people who are earnest, who are idealistic.“

“Yes this loneliness is here but it’s allowed me to feel a resonant and deep and empathetic love that will sustain me for the rest of my life. I don’t think that I will burn out — who knows- but because I’m burning in me, there’s a kind of flamboyant passion that comes from a kind of earnest commitment to the human condition, that I feel like I’ve been able to discover because I shed all the preconceived fantasies of what I should be and instead embraced what I was. And it cleared space not just for the people I was waiting for my entire life but a kind of intimate relationship with myself that I wouldn’t give up for the world.”

- ALOK

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Will Franks

Will Franks

freedom artist. magical realist. metamodern beat. i also make funk.