Symbols of the world's religions



Lyn Ott

Meher Baba has said, "God is both personal and impersonal. He is in art, in literature, in everything." Some of us understand that Baba was really saying, "I am in art, literature, everything." Baba surely wants us to understand that He is eternally in everything.

This means that Meher Baba is not only in a painting of Him, but that He is in all paintings, especially those paintings that are grounded in His love, for that Love is the power of His presence. As an artist I think it is important for all to understand that if Baba is truly in art, then He is not simply in a picture of Meher Baba. He is in the very action of painting, His being is creation, He is in the paint of painting, and His presence emerges from out of that paint, emerges to be seen by all and to touch the heart. That is the meaning of art.

Picture-making is the least part of the art of painting, the very least part. Baba is everything, and being in everything He is in paint, even as it comes out of the tubes. He is in the very mess of painting, the kaleidoscopic stew of colour. A painting that resembles Meher Baba is wonderful, though it may or may not be a good painting. A greater painting would be one that brings forth some innermost secret of the heart, a secret which, when revealed, inspires a unique segment of love which has never been seen before in quite that way; and this is art.

As Baba lovers we understand that paint, like everything in the universe, has come out of Baba. But only those who understand something of the art of painting know, that in a painting Meher Baba comes forth out of paint, out of pure paint, and this is the excitement of the art of painting and of seeing paintings. Thus a painting of the Beloved is not so much a picture as it is an event, a wondrous creative action springing from the heart. To replicate a photograph of Meher Baba's face on canvas may be a splendid meditation, a valuable spiritual discipline, but it is not art.

Art is something entirely different. Art is not in pictures. It is in the song of the heart. For a picture to be art its image must sing. And for the image to sing it must live in and of itself. It must transcend itself to take on a life of its own, and thus serve to enliven the spirit, for all who see it. In this respect, art is a profoundly mystical thing. I have discussed these points many times over the years, for many years striving to produce satisfactory images in paint of the God-man's life on earth, His presence.

I have always tried to understand ever more deeply, that for a painting to express the Beauty of Meher Baba, every inch of the canvas must participate imaginatively in the concert of His being, His truth. If we paint a gleaming eye, shining with compassion, we have painted Meher Baba, but if we paint a rose, we have painted Him as well, and if we paint a mountain, we have also painted Him.

Long ago I understood that to find Baba in a painting I had to look for Baba in paint, the whole glorious mess of paint. I realized that to find Baba in paint is to understand the secret of the art of painting. Then Baba manifests. Then we can find Baba in El Greco, in Rembrandt, in Turner, in Cezanne, in the whole great adventure of modern painting, which, in the end, is nothing more than the search for the face of the Beloved Himself.

For us, my wife Phyllis and I, finding a way to express the image of Meher Baba in art was a terrible struggle and that struggle still goes on. The struggle was terrible because of the sheer intensity of the search. The search to discover the Beloved in paint and to discover paint as nothing other than the Beloved. We did not wish to be makers of pictures. We wanted instead simply to be seekers in paint, for that is the way of the art of painting. We wanted always to find a way to express the Beauty of the Beloved in art, so that art could stand unique, independent of photographs, of slides, of video images and of films. Our great hope was that painting as an art might communicate a hint of the truth of the glory of God.


GLOW International, ed. Naosherwan Anzar, Nov 1987, p. 11
1987 © Naosherwan Anzar


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