Fish. Consciousness as Structure, Body
Rodopi, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2007
396 pp., illus. Trade, $118.65
ISBN: 13: 978-90-420-2172.
Reviewed by Rob Harle
University of New England
The term "Big Fish" is a metaphor used
by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which "
to the self-referral dynamics of pure
consciousness and its expression into
sound and form." That is, from the infinite
ocean of consciousness an individual may
become the "big fish" by, "witnessing
the mechanics of ones infinite awareness
as the creative play on the unmanifest
level of consciousness" (xi).
This book concerns consciousness, art,
and art practice. Specifically, consciousness
from the perspective of "
authority of consciousness [?], Maharishi
Mahesh Yogi" (xi). Maharishi has established
an academy, observatory, and a discipline
known as Maharishi Vedic Science. This
is based on the ancient wisdom of the
Vedas and uses Transcendental Meditation
and advanced technologies of consciousness
to help individuals gain enlightenment.
The Big Fish: Consciousness as Structure,
Body and Space is arranged into two
parts. Part One: Infinite Mind /Infinite
Body: Awakening and Re-envisioning Consciousness
is written by Anna Bonshek. Chapter 1
through Chapter 6 develop in a progressive
way as Bonshek defines consciousness according
to Maharishi and the Vedic Literature.
Part Two: Expressions, Visions, Perspectives
is written by different authors, together
with Anna Bonshek and explores different
art practices and works of art by international
artists which, whilst not all specifically
Vedic orientated, "...do explore a broad
(xv). These essays present various viewpoints
and most have been previously published
as articles in journals. There is a useful
Glossary of Sanskrit terms and an excellent
Bibliography, and the book has numerous
black & white illustrations, particularly
in Part Two. The book is well written,
highly readable, and explains well the
various concepts of consciousness, which
by their very nature are complex and generally
difficult. There are, perhaps, too many
quotes for my liking, the use of which
Bonshek defends; these are mainly from
the master, Maharishi.
This book as previously mentioned approaches
art and consciousness from the Vedic tradition
which believes consciousness to
be, "an infinite field of intelligence
at the basis of all forms of existence".
This belief is diametrically opposed to
the Western scientific approach that sees
consciousness basically as an epiphenomenon
of the brain, or being charitable, the
brain-body system. If prospective readers
subscribe to the scientific understanding,
they will probably find the book somewhat
irritating, as it really is a sort of
truncated course or extended lecture in
Maharishi Vedic Science. However, if the
reader has an open mind, or believes in
the "consciousness as infinite field"
notion, Im sure they will find the
book of great interest and, particularly
for artists, inspirational.
The Vedic understanding of consciousness
is an infinite field of intelligence;
this infinite field is, "
to human awareness, being the very nature
of mind and the structuring dynamics of
the physiologyfrom the DNA,
to the cell, tissues, organs, and to the
whole body and its sophisticated functioning"
(back cover). By implication this means
that all things we do, from designing
structures to producing art in its many
guises, should incorporate the design
principles of universal Vedic truth. This,
according to Maharishi, will make them
more efficacious in their use and enable
them to resonate with the whole universe,
rather than being idiosyncratic, egocentric
creations based on universal ignorance.
As such, Modernism and Postmodernism are
critically discussed in various sections
of the book, as an example, Chapter 12
discusses an art work Reverie I
from a Deleuzian Sensation and Unbounded
Consciousness perspective. Chapter
8 outlines a proposal for a Socially
Responsible College Art Curriculum.
At around 400 pages the book packs in
a lot of information, describes some very
interesting artworks, and, I think, provides
a considerable challenge to many current
art practices and their resultant artworks
that seem banal and lacking any universal
validity at all. If the book does no more
than this, then the publication will be
well worth the effort. However, the price
tag of around $120, which I find exorbitant
(there are no colour plates or illustrations),
may prohibit access to the book for many
students and general interest readers.