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"Pastorale" 1977,
Oil on board, 12"x15" © Robin Baring

1
Autobiographical Notes - By Anne Baring
2
Robin Baring - Tribute by John Lane

 

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Autobiographical Notes

I travelled widely in India and the Far East during the 1950's before training and practising as a Jungian analyst. I am a member of the Scientific and Medical Network and, until my retirement from private practice in 2000, I was a member of the Association of Jungian Analysts, London and the International Association for Analytical Psychology. I have lectured for several years in both the United Kingdom and the United States and have recently given a seminar course called The Sleeping Beauty, the Prince and the Dragon - an Exploration of the Soul, which drew together my interest in psychology, mythology, ecology, fairy tales and alchemy (see Seminars). I am currently working on a new book which integrates these different aspects of our quest to understand ourselves and our relationship to the universe. (For an amplification of these notes, please see in particular lectures 4 and 8, and seminar 1).

-----I have always been fascinated by the power of individuals to shape and influence history. Why do people feel, think and act the way they do? What is the anatomy of human creativity and human destructiveness - the root of the invisible influences, both individual and collective, which can both create and destroy civilization? Since I was deeply affected as a child by the Second World War, I wanted to understand the causes - religious, political and psychological - which could drive human beings to the depths of depravity and the heights of altruism and self-sacrifice. How are we conditioned by beliefs and habits of behaviour to respond to events in the way we do?

-----After I left Oxford University, I took off in 1956 for India and the Far East, having found a job in Italy that commissioned me to purchase photographs of the finest works of art from all the museums in Asia (except China, which was out of bounds at the time) for inclusion in an Italian Encyclopaedia of Art. Attracted to religion, I studied Hinduism and Buddhism as I travelled in search of the required photographs. At the same time, I was asking myself those perennial questions of the soul: Who am I? What is life? Why am I here on this planet? These two journeys to the East changed the course of my life because they put me in touch with the sacred literature and art of ancient and extraordinary cultures which had posed and responded to those questions. Only after studying these in depth did I begin to understand Christianity. My first book, The One Work: A Journey Towards the Self, describes these journeys to the East and what I learned from them about the essential message of all religious traditions.

-----After finishing the book, I turned in a totally new direction, becoming a dress designer and manufacturer with my own shop in London. Inspired by the beautiful materials I had discovered in India, I took immense delight in designing evening dresses. This phase lasted for twelve years. Then, issues in my personal life, in particular, severe depression, led me into analysis with a Jungian therapist and, eventually, to train and practise as an analyst myself. This experience deepened my understanding of the causes of human suffering and at the same time brought together a longing to write, a passionate interest in history and a new interest in mythology, religion and psychology.

-----During the 1980's I embarked on writing The Myth of the Goddess; Evolution of an Image with Jules Cashford, a friend and fellow analyst who had specialised at university in philosophy and English literature. The book took us ten years to write. What interested us most was the influence of the sacred image on Western civilisation and the need to integrate the masculine and feminine principles. The quest to explore this theme led us back to the Neolithic and Palaeolithic eras and the origins of the sacred image, tracing its development through the Bronze Age and beyond. We wanted to know why and how the image of deity changed from being feminine to masculine (Great Mother to Great Father) at a specific historical time (c.2000 B.C.) and how this change came to polarise spirit and nature, mind and soul, in human consciousness. We discovered that the polarisation originating so long ago has deeply influenced Judeo-Christian civilisation and the paradigm of reality which presently governs our culture, leading ultimately to the ecological and spiritual crisis we now face.

---- My concern over this crisis and, in particular, over the carnage in Bosnia, led me to write a book for children - The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time - which was illustrated by a close friend, Thetis Blacker.

-----A later friendship and collaboration with the author and mystic Andrew Harvey, led to the publication of two more books, The Mystic Vision and The Divine Feminine.

-----Since 1960, I have been married to the artist, Robin Baring. I will show some of his pictures on this web-site, because, although I have never intruded on his painting with my ideas, somehow it seems that he has been painting the images that reflect what I have been writing about. Word and image have become intertwined in our life together.



Publications

The One Work: A Journey Toward the Self (a quest for the underlying meaning of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity), Vincent Stuart, London, 1962

The Myth of the Goddess; Evolution of an Image (co-authored with Jules Cashford),
Viking 1991 and Penguin Arkana 1992 (now published in Spanish by Siruela, Madrid and in Japanese in 2007 by Hara Shobo, Tokyo).

An interpretation of the fairy tale Cinderella in Psyche's Stories edited by Murray Stein and Lionel Corbett. Chiron Publications, Wilmette, III. 1992

The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time (A book for children based on the Sufi story by Farid ud-Din Attar). The story of Earth's call for help to the birds of the world and their journey to find The Great Being beyond the edge of time. Illustrated by Thetis Blacker. Barefoot Books, London 1993. New publication September 2009 by Archive Publishing, Wimborne, Dorset, UK. www.archivepublishing.co.uk

An Audio Cassette called A Feather In Your Heart, which includes the story of The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time, read by Andrew Harvey, was released by Sounds True Publications, USA, Dec 2000 and a CD has been made by Jen Kershaw (jenkershaw@aol.com) in England.

The Mystic Vision (co-authored with Andrew Harvey). Illustrated anthology of mystic texts from different cultures in the form of a day-book. Godsfield Press, UK, and HarperSan Francisco, 1995

The Divine Feminine (co-authored with Andrew Harvey). An exploration of the Feminine Face of God in different cultures. Godsfield Press and Conari Press 1996

Soul Power: An Agenda for a Conscious Humanity (co-authored with Dr. Scilla Elworthy) published 2009 by BookSurge.com, now CreateSpace.com, a branch of Amazon.com

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IMAGES FOR THE SOUL

A tribute to the artist Robin Baring

By JOHN LANE

At all times there have been the contemplatives; the Desert Fathers, the Celtic saints; in Japan, Ryokan; in America, Thomas Merton; in India, Bede Griffiths and countless others in all ages and countries, anonymous and devoted. Today, that devotion can still be found not only amongst nuns and monks but amongst a few artists - poets, painters and writers of all kinds. Naturally, the noisiest, the circus performers - the Picassos and Warhols - succeed in attracting the most attention, but there are others, the forgotten ones, the ones who dedicate their lives in pursuit of a visionary quest, who offer us the greatest inspiration.

Of these I'd like to celebrate but one: Robin Baring. This painter is in fact barely known, largely on account of his indifference to the business of exhibiting and, I should add, his disregard of any interest in positioning himself for the purposes of career in the very decadent court of "Modern Art". As a man he could never be described as a natural marketeer nor one, like Mr. Saatchi, with a genius for public relations. In contemporary terms he is virtually invisible. Nonetheless, there is nothing quiet about his "stand-off": in fact, there is great activism about Robin Baring, dedicated as he is to a commitment that "his" kind of imagery and its underlying philosophy might one day contribute its own healing to the aridities of our mechanistic culture.

ROBIN BARING was born in 1931 and painted from the earliest age. He trained first as a farmer, then served in the Royal Navy, then worked for Christie's the auctioneers, before deciding at the age of twenty-five that what he really wanted to do was to paint. He therefore took the next necessary step by enrolling at the Central School of Art in London where he studied for three years under the now well-known painters Keith Vaughan, Mervyn Peake, Merlyn Evans and Cecil Collins. The latter soon became and remains a powerful influence, "From the start I felt I was on a similar wavelength with Cecil, a wavelength about the inner world, the world of transcendent realities."

Here we touch on a major heresy: in our culture the artist of consequence must be an innovator, must be at the cutting edge, must be breaking new ground, must be original. To paint in another's style is, quite simply, unacceptable. Baring feels that the idea of novelty in relation to the arts needs to be re-examined. New flavours, however tasty, are not necessarily a sign of excellence and may even be a substitute for real vision.

In justification he points to the duration of cave painting (a mere 20,000 years), the duration of Russian icon painting (not as long but undeniably lengthy) and the carving of the sculpture of the Hindu gods and goddesses (still being carved today after many centuries). "One thinks of the thousands of times that Christ was painted by generations of artists, yet none of them was told that this was invalid because it had already been done." He also points to the timeless nature of traditional images in which the concept of progress has no validity. No, the symbols and archetypes of the inner world, the world of visionary insight, are by their nature both permanent and timeless. They can and should be re-expressed in a contemporary idiom but must never be distorted or trivialized by the twin distractions of fashion and ego. "Although interesting work is currently being created, especially perhaps among the younger sculptors, an undue proportion of contemporary art is obsessed with psycho-pathology and much more with superficialities. In this sense much of what we see is another form of pollution, this time of the mind."

To put it that way can make Baring sound a trifle doctrinaire and preachy. Yet he is a well-mannered and deeply courteous man. Many of his paintings are closer to magic. They are poetry and illumination in one. His is a vision of the numinous inner world that lies at the heart of both art and religion.

For some thirty years he has been exploring that world through the mysterious, poetic and richly suggestive vocabulary of symbols out of which his work has been composed; he has been painting mountain caps, flaming suns, horses in flight, angels, chalices and landscapes that are as old as Eden and even older. These are slowly meditated works (he produces only three or four canvasses a year), icons of contemplation that are both strangely healing and at the same time never comfortable. Yes, they are often closely related to the images that Cecil Collins used. "I don't believe that Archetypal imagery can ever be owned by an individual since the Archetype belongs to all, the Collective," says Baring, but at the same time they possess their own naked energy; they come from deep places, in the psyche. "As a whole," he confessed, "I do not analyse the images from the point of view of iconography. I let them come. I let them open like flowers. I like to see them as possessing their own life: mysterious and evocative images that work on the soul of the viewer."

If this is so, one can understand Robin Baring's extraordinary claim that it could be artists like Rembrandt, van Gogh, Duccio or even the Symbolists of the late nineteenth century who kept alive images of the Dream in a time of increasing rationalism, that could help to "save" our endangered culture. In other words, those artists in whom the faculty of oracular consciousness has penetrated the numinous forces beyond the personal self, could act as pathfinders and guardians of the soul of our society. It is they who have retained the divinity at the root of life and sung, in a beautiful phrase of Federico Garcia Lorca, "the deep song". For as the sick animal searches out the healing herb, we too may one day have the wisdom to search out the healing energies necessary for our survival.

John Lane is a painter and the Art Editor of Resurgence.
Resurgence No. 205 March/April 2001

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Myth of the Goddess
Myth of the Goddess

The Mystic Vision
The Mystic Vision

The One Work
The One Work

The Divine Feminine
The Divine Feminine

Birds who flew beyond Time
Birds Who Flew....