Subjective Art and Objective Art
A compilation of excerpts where Osho talks about these two art categories
Gurdjieff used to say that there are two kinds of art. One he used to call objective art, and the other he used to call subjective art. Subjective art is absolutely private, personal. Picasso’s art is subjective art; he is simply painting something without any vision for the person who will see it, without any idea of the person who will look at it. He is simply pouring out his own inner illness; it is helpful for himself, it is therapeutic.
The ancient art was not only art; it was, deep down, mysticism. Deep down, it was out of meditation. It was objective, in Gurdjieff’s terminology. It was made so that if somebody meditates over it, he starts falling into those depths where God lives.
Khajuraho or Konarak — if you meditate there, you will know what the Tantra masters were doing. They were creating in stone something that is felt in the ultimate orgasmic joy. It was the most difficult thing to do, to bring ecstasy into the stone. And if the stone can show the ecstasy, then everybody can move into that ecstasy easily. But people who go to Khajuraho are foolish people. They look either, at Khajuraho sculpture as obscene — then they miss the whole point, then they are seeing something which is within their own unconscious; or they are too moralistic — then they don’t meditate on any statues, they are in a hurry to get out of the temple somehow, they just throw glances.
Khajuraho sculpture is not just to see, it is for meditation. Sit silently and meditate for hours. If one goes to Khajuraho, one should live at least for three months there, so he can meditate on each possible inner posture of orgasmic joy. And then, slowly slowly, the at-onement, slowly slowly, the harmony; then suddenly you are transported into another world — the world of those mystics who created this temple. This is objective art.
Osho, The Book of Wisdom, Ch 24
But objective art has disappeared from the world because mystics have disappeared from the world. Objective art is possible only when somebody has attained to a higher plane of being; it is created by those who have reached the peak. They can see the peak and they can see the valley both. They can see the height of humanity, the beauty of humanity, and the sickness and the ugliness of humanity too. They can see deep down in the dark valleys where people are crawling and they can see the sunlit peaks. They can manage to create some devices which will help the people who are crawling in the darkness to reach to the sunlit peaks. Their art will be just a device for your inner growth, for maturity.
Osho, The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 9, Ch 4
For example, the Taj Mahal is an example of objective art. When the moon is full just meditate on it. Just sit silently and look at it, and something starts disappearing in you. A moment comes soon when you are not and the observer has become the observed. It is a piece of Sufi art. Tourists will never understand it because they will not give time to it. The whole day people are passing in the Taj Mahal, coming and going — the whole day. If it was in my hands I would prevent these people entering the Taj Mahal unless they are prepared to meditate for a few hours. That should be the entry fee; otherwise they should not be allowed. It is profaning something sacred. it has to be approached in a certain attitude, in a prayerful attitude, at a certain time.
When the moon is full — the full moon night is the night for the Taj Mahal — exactly in the middle of the night when the moon is just on the top of the Taj Mahal, sit for one hour looking at it and you will disappear, and you will never be the same person again.
Osho, Hallelujah!, Ch 30
You will be surprised to know that the Taj Mahal was created on Sufi principles. This is not discussed in history, because the people who write history do not understand such depths, nor do they try to. They think it is just a memorial made by some emperor for his beloved and the matter is finished. But they have never looked into the fact that the emperor was advised and counselled by great Sufi mystics. The Taj Mahal was made in such a way that on a full moon night if you sit for a whole hour, just looking, you will become meditative. It is an example of marvellous religious art. If you look in a special state, with a special feeling and from a special angle, then the Taj Mahal is a temple, not a tomb. It is a matter of how you look. The images we have made of Buddha and of Mahavira are not merely evidence of the art of sculpture.
Osho, Death is Divine, Ch 10
All those statues look alike — Mahavira, Gautam Buddha, Neminatha, Adinatha…. Twenty-four tirthankaras of Jainas… in the same temple you will find twenty-four statues all alike, exactly alike. In my childhood I used to ask my father, ‘Can you explain to me how it is possible that twenty-four persons are exactly alike? — the same size, the same nose, the same face, the same body….’ And he used to say, “I don’t know. I am always puzzled myself that there is not a bit of difference. And it is almost unheard of — there are not even two persons in the whole world who are alike, what to say about twenty-four?”
But as my meditation blossomed I found the answer — not from anybody else, I found the answer: that these statues have nothing to do with the people. These statues have something to do with what was happening inside those twenty-four people, and that was exactly the same.
And we have not bothered about the outside; we have insisted that only the inner should be paid attention to. The outer is unimportant. Somebody is young, somebody is old, somebody is black, somebody is white, somebody is man, somebody is woman — it does not matter; what matters is that inside there is an ocean of silence. In that oceanic state, the body takes a certain posture.
You have observed it yourself, but you have not been alert. When you are angry, have you observed? — ¬your body takes a certain posture. In anger you cannot keep your hands open; in anger — the fist. In anger you cannot smile — or can you? With a certain emotion, the body has to follow a certain posture. Just small things are deeply related inside. So those statues are made in such a way that if you simply sit silently and watch, and then close your eyes, a negative shadow image enters into your body and you start feeling something you have not felt before.
Those statues and temples were not built for worshipping; they were built for experiencing. They are scientific laboratories. They have nothing to do with religion. A certain secret science has been used for centuries so the coming generations could come in contact with the experiences of the older generations — not through books, not through words, but through something which goes deeper — through silence, through meditation, through peace.
Osho, Beyond Enlightenment, Ch 2
In India there are many places of objective art, and it is obvious why they are in India — because for ten thousand years the country has been involved with meditative techniques. The caves of Ajanta and Ellora… there are many caves; the whole mountain has been carved. Great caves have beein made into the mountain. A line of caves — perhaps thirty or thirty-five, and each cave has its own beauty; not just beauty, but its own meditative fragrance from a different angle. In the last cave, Buddha is lying down just before he died. It is a long statue — perhaps thirty feet long. Just sitting by the side, alone in the cave, you can again feel something that must have been felt by people who saw Buddha dying — the release of his light, the release of his soul becoming universal. Somehow the statue gives you an insight into it. Tourists miss it. It is not something that you simply go in and have a look and then rush into another cave. That is simply idiotic. And most of the tourists are idiots. Most of them are old women having nothing to do. Perhaps they have finished their husbands — now there is nobody even to nag. India is full of old women from all over the world. Tourists cannot understand it. You have to sit down. You have to be quiet and silent. The cave is very cool — remains cool even in the hottest summer — and outside is the lush green valley. If you can sit for an hour or more, then perhaps some glimpses of objective art will be felt.
There is one cave in Ajanta which has been made of special stones which are musical. You can just hit them with your hand, with your finger, and you will be surprised that they resound just like a guitar. lf you are really a good musician, you can create any music on those pillars in the cave, on the walls of the cave. But if you are not a musician, no problem: you simply sit there. Once in a while a breeze comes in, and with the breeze there is a murmuring music in the cave. And it is so soothing. I have never known anything that can be so soothing to your mind, to your heart, to your body — so relaxing. This is objective art.
Osho, From Bondage to Freedom, Ch 17
Picasso’s pictures are subjective art. Seeing a painting by Picasso … he has not considered you, who are going to see the painting. You are not taken into account at all. He has simply vomited his own madness on the canvas. It is simply vomit; hence you cannot go on looking at a Picasso painting for a long time. You will start feeling tense, your stomach will start feeling weird — because Picasso is not concerned with you, what happens to you, he is simply subjective. He is pouring out his own mind, what is happening to him; unconcerned about humanity or anybody. He is going crazy, that’s why his painting is crazy.
Almost all the painters in the West have gone mad once or twice in their life, and have been put into mad asylums. Many of the Western painters have committed suicide. This has never happened in the East. There is not a single instance in ten thousand years that a painter, a musician, a poet, has been mad, or has committed suicide. The reason is, it was art on the surface, but meditation in depth. In the West it is just surface, there is no depth in it. And the surface is without any compassion, without any consideration, without any responsibility, When you compose music or poetry you are to understand that somebody will be reading it — what effect it is going to have on the person? Will it drive him sane or insane?
Osho, From Darkness to Light, Ch 7
My definition of sane art is that listening to it, looking at it, it gives you health, wholeness, silence, peace. […]
Classical music has tremendous sanity. It can make even an insane person sane. Just listening to classical music, he may calm down. But jazz — even a sane person may start feeling a jerk. All that has happened in the modern art, whether it is painting or music or poetry, it is great but yet it is not sane.
Osho, The Last Testament, Vol 3, Ch 30
Modern man is suffering, is in immense misery and hell and that shows in modern art. Modern art is a reflection. Art is always a reflection, it is a mirror, because the artist is the most sensitive person in the society, hence he is first to become aware of what is happening; others take a longer time to become aware. The poet is the most prophetic because he becomes aware of things which are going to happen, he becomes aware a little ahead of time, hence he is never understood. Modern art is psychotic — it reflects humanity. It shows that something has gone wrong, very wrong: man is falling apart.
Osho, Zen: Zest. Zip, Zap and Zing, Ch 14