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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One Work: A Journey Toward the Self (a quest for the underlying
meaning of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity), Vincent Stuart,
Myth of the Goddess; Evolution of an Image (co-authored with
Viking 1991 and Penguin Arkana 1992 (now published in Spanish by Siruela,
Madrid and in Japanese in 2007 by Hara Shobo, Tokyo).
interpretation of the fairy tale Cinderella in Psyche's Stories
edited by Murray Stein and Lionel Corbett. Chiron Publications,
Wilmette, III. 1992
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
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 (email@example.com) in England.
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
Divine Feminine (co-authored with Andrew Harvey). An exploration
of the Feminine Face of God in different cultures. Godsfield Press and
Conari Press 1996
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
FOR THE SOUL
tribute to the artist Robin Baring
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
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.
Lane is a painter and the Art Editor of Resurgence.
Resurgence No. 205 March/April 2001
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The One Work
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