July 8th, 2014

Shaman - Horse

The Acceptance of the Mad Artist

Why are some artists able to see and hear things that others do not? Why can they realize creations that defy conventional thoughts? Does this make the artist a crazy person, realizing a world that others cannot? What keeps the artist from being derided as a mentally ill person?

The definition of mental disorder, or illness, is made at the society level. Western medicine has categorized and quantified mental disorders. Those matching the "symptoms" are considered ill. Treatment by medication or processing is prescribed. The person is considered cured when the symptoms subside.

What is an artist to do when they live in a world that others do not? I would advise people to NOT tell the medical people about the extent of their perceived realities. By nature, the artist leaves themselves open to interaction with other people. The artist's peers or fans, their 'tribe', benefit from the artist's extreme perceptions. These people appreciate the vision of the artist. What about others? How can the artist be judged by a larger society? Stephen Larson, psychologist and author, offers the following benchmarks of acceptance:

1) Orthodox acceptance: celebrated conventional artist.
2) Unorthodox popular acceptance: radical visionary avant garde artist.
3) Unorthodox unpopular acceptance: madman – ignored and locked up.

An orthodox or popular unorthodox acceptance indicates a transpersonal message. What is transpersonal? This means that the message is received and understood by others.

Larson offers the following questions as a check of "validity" for a person's message:

1) What does the particular belief mean for this particular individual?
2) How does it function in the context of the rest of his life?
3) Is what appears to be a transpersonal message good for everyone, or maybe only meant for the individual?

The more disconnected the message, the more subjective and purely private someone’s world can be. The excessively personal message indicates a state approaching what could be better called mental illness. Of these, paranoid schizophrenia is most difficult to cure of all schizoid disorders: the paranoid projects their unique inner landscape on the outside world, entirely losing the ability to differentiate projection from actuality. The person loses the ability to communicate their inner landscape in a transpersonal manner.

In the end, the artist is challenged to communicate a transpersonal message to the public. The transpersonal message makes the artist a visionary instead of a madman. The artist’s personal visions are to be shared in a way that both informs and helps the 'tribe'.