Question: Can a work of art manifest a higher state of consciousness than the artist himself has actually attained?

Sri Chinmoy: An artist, just like an elevator, can go very high for a fleeting second and create something very high. Then, the next moment, he can drop. But even if he falls as a human being, the thing that he has achieved remains at its original height. Perhaps the artist will never reach that same height in this incarnation again, but his artistic creation remains. But without reaching a certain height at least for a fleeting second, the artist cannot create anything at that particular height.

When Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” he was in a very high consciousness. But did he remain in that consciousness? When you read the whole of ‘Endymion’, you see that there are many lines that are not at all good. But the first line is so powerful. He reached that height for a fleeting second and wrote an immortal line, but then he fell down most comfortably and stayed there. But his achievement remains immortal. It has become humanity’s achievement and humanity’s treasure. It is like a builder who builds a superb house. For a while he feels that it is his house: but then the person who employed him to build the house starts occupying the house and throws the builder out.

When an artist creates something that has a particular level of consciousness, he has to reach that consciousness himself, if only for a fleeting second. When you say that his achievement is at a particular height, this means that he did enter into that height; otherwise he could not have created it. Sometimes an artist can enter into the Supreme’s Height by praying or invoking the Supreme’s Compassion or Blessing. He may not actually reach the particular height; but he just goes to the Source and asks the Supreme for help. Even if he stays at the foot of the tree, if he sincerely cries for a mango, then the Owner of the tree, the Supreme, will say, “All right, you sit here and let Me climb up on your behalf and bring the mango down for you.” But this is very rare. Generally, if you are very hungry for a mango, you have to go and climb up the tree yourself.