As a boy, I spent a lot of time in nature in my northern German homeland. Whether with my friends or alone with my dog, I spent hours after school in the forest or in the wide fields. I always felt a deep connection and a kind of equality or oneness with the trees, plants, animals, insects, and even the air in which everything moved – the wind and the rustling leaves, the Earth – simply all the phenomena of nature. When the wind came, I could hear how it first went from the East into the pine forest, then into the mixed forest, and then over me toward the West into the leafless beech forest, creating its own specific sounds.
The wide sky and its colors always filled me with a kind of wanderlust that I was later to identify as spiritual homesickness. I never felt lonely in Nature but instead found comfort in it.
As a young student in Vienna, I went by tram as often as possible to the undeveloped nature at the city limits, which calmed my restless, agitated, and electrified mind.
A little later, in my mid-20s, after starting a heart-based meditation practice, I lived for two to three years in a farming area 60 kilometers from Vienna. I helped with the harvests, fed the ducks, wild boars, and deer daily, and lived with the natural rhythms of Nature, as there was little to no electricity in my dwelling and studio. Whenever the weather allowed, I meditated outside under a tree.
By this time, my first exhibitions were quite successful, and I regularly delivered paintings to the gallery in Vienna. But otherwise, I had little to no contact with the mechanisms of the art market, and the demands on young artists to propagate and communicate creative processes, artistic will, and its ambitions. Instead, I developed the understanding and awareness that there is only one real “creativity” in the literal sense, and that is Mother Nature.
Indeed, it is only here that real creation takes place, at which we can marvel and witness with constant fascination and admiration. What we call creativity, or art par excellence, seems to me to be more a play, or perhaps an interpretation of our world of experience and knowledge. Perhaps a mixture of both, interwoven in the web of opposites and their references. In this respect, it could perhaps be considered a modest, interpretive creativity.
Immersion and surrendering to an interpretation of our world of experience and its insights was what the ancient Greeks called the “visitation of the daemon,” the divinity, the inspiring force, and in ancient Rome, the “company of a genius.” There is a kind of humility in these formulations that reflects the hierarchy of creative forces. The daemon was later demonized, and the genius still later demoted to the artist’s ego. And now we are again in search of our role in the relationship with the creative force.
There is a beautiful story about a painter-monk in the monastery of Kiev in the late 13th century. A duke commissioned him to paint an icon of Holy Mother Mary. Due to severe illness, he could not leave his cot and even after several inquiries if the painting would be finished in time, he was unable to get up. The night before the arrival of the duke, a celestial light filled the monk’s small cave and an angelic being began and completed the icon. It is said that this is the most beautiful and vivid image of Mother Mary.
Now, the question arises: who painted the icon?
In my experience, the true answers are often of stunning simplicity. The great saint, Shri Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur, known as Babuji, once said, “The heart is the playground of Divinity.” So, it seems that we must dive deep into the heart to join and enjoy the creative play of Mother Nature.