Alex Grey & Allyson Grey 2010
Soul Mates and Universal Consciousness
Jan Irvin – Tell us a little bit about who you both are?
ALEX: We are both artists. We met in art school and our lives have been dedicated to finding the connections between spirituality and creativity. This led to founding a church, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, CoSM, in the Hudson Valley, where art is our religion.
ALLYSON: I am Alex’s wife and business partner. And I am the mother of actress Zena Grey. Alex and I live in Wappingers Falls, New York with a group of temple builders.
JI: How did you both get involved in painting and art?
ALEX: Children are born natural artists and some never stop. I can’t remember when I wasn’t an artist. My mom saved an artwork from when I was five years old, it was a skeleton and I still paint skeletons.
ALLYSON: I was an artist when I was in nursery school and all through school; art editor of my yearbook, recognized as the artist in the class, only one in my graduating class to go to art college. Alex and I met in art school. Art is our favorite subject.
JI: You guys recently tried to park your Subaru in a tree. How successful were you at that?
ALEX: It was a terrifying and really serious car crash. Our car was pointed heavenward on fire like a candle. We both crushed our spines and have been recovering from that this year.
ALLYSON: The person who came to help us out of the car, who called 911, and who stayed with us while we waited, lying on the side of the of the road for the ambulance to come, gave testimony that corroborated our testimony, helping to receive insurance coverage, was named Angela Grey — Angel of Grey. Could that be an accident?
JI: You both were wearing the latest in back brace fashion wear at the MAPS conference. How are the both of you doing; are you still wearing those, or is that over?
ALEX: Ten weeks after the accident we went to Bali and decided ourselves to take them off for good. Recovery continues as we do yoga and meditate daily.
JI: Alex let me ask you: Why did you choose the last name Grey?
ALEX: On my first LSD experience, which happened to be at a party in Allyson’s apartment, I closed my eyes and could see inside of my head, a vast darkness that spiraled around toward a beautiful white light. The helical tunnel was like a spiritual re-birth canal with iridescent mother of pearl living walls. I was in the dark going toward the light. Every shade of grey conjoined the polarities. I felt that my quest as an artist would be to unite the opposites and grey would bring them together, so I changed my name to Grey.
JI: And what is this temple you’re building, this COSM, or Church of Sacred Mirrors?
ALEX: Since the beginning of time, humanity has built temples. All the world’s religions have left their traces in sacred architecture and art. Temple complexes in Egypt, cathedrals throughout Europe, countless Buddhist stupas, and Hindu temples; are places of divine remembrance through a specific cultural lens. At this time, unique in spiritual history, we can see how each of the wisdom traditions has special individual gifts, yet each is founded on basic truths of love and transcendental intelligence. Some call it Buddha Mind and some call it Christ consciousness, and some call it God. There are many names for the ultimate mystery. Creativity has always played a key role in the nature of religion. Art can be the servant of a higher, deeper mystery, a reflection of our soul and the group soul of our community and time. The infinite oneness of God consciousness is behind all sacred architecture – to remind people of their own divine origin and allow us to see ourselves, others, the world, and the cosmos, as sacred mirrors. At CoSM all traditions are honored and the universal truths depicted with visionary art.
JI: Other than your last name Grey, would you like to discuss how the use of psychedelics has impacted other areas of your artwork?
ALEX: My artworks are oriented towards a holistic or an integrative perspective uniting body, mind, and spirit, connecting micro and macrocosm, linked with the over-mind, the nöosphere, planetary and galactic consciousness. Mystical states that we’ve had the profound privilege of experiencing have occurred time and again with the sacramental use of entheogens. The artworks point to a translation and transmission of these experiences.
JI: Allyson, did you also have an entheogenic “opening” to spirituality?
ALLYSON: Yes. I attribute my spiritual opening to my teacher Ram Dass whose book “Remember: Be Here Now” has been profoundly influential to many. Our daughter read it and gave me a fresh copy not long ago. After first reading it at age 19, I got together with two friends who had also read the book, and in my tiny room we took LSD seeking “the white light” that Ram Dass reported. We were all cynical, atheistic, Godless politicos in the midst of protesting the draft, the Vietnam War, civil rights and women’s liberation. We had all been tripping for a few years but not with spiritual intentions. In my little room I did see the white light quite clearly. It ran through everything with an interpenetration of light that is the essence of all beings and things. Everything was in motion, everything glowed with halos and auras. It was such a shock to me, in my cynical, atheistic state of mind. Several years went by in which I separated myself from all my former friends and started meditating and studying Eastern religion. When Alex called me on May 31st 1975 to tell me about his experience on LSD that he had on my couch in my apartment — his first LSD experience in which he had gone through “a spiritual birth canal,” he was the first person in my life to link spirituality and psychedelics. I was not aware of Walter Pahnke’s Good Friday Experiment. I think it is our spiritual life that keeps us together in a transformative relationship.
JI: Can you describe the levels of the full blown, out-of-body, cosmic, psychedelic experience? And then talk about how psychedelics have influenced your idea of what soul mates are.
ALEX: Lying in bed together, my mind was going 500 miles an hour down a hallway of endless infinite imagery, until I popped into this really bright, vast space. I no longer had a physical body. Instead, I was my own spiritual essence, a ball of light with a core of light running through the center. The light took the shape of an apple, a toroidal energy field. The essence of my being or soul was one of these energy balls, a fountain and drain of light. I felt more awake than being in the flesh body. A veil had been lifted from the material world. I had awakened from the flesh dream and had recovered my timeless essence, connecting with every other being and thing in the universe, an endless interconnectedness of cells in the body of God. This resolved all tension between self and other, while maintaining an individual point of view. We called it the “Universal Mind Lattice” because it was an infinite web of souls connected with universal mind.
JI: Have both of you had simultaneous or telepathic experiences with each other?
ALLYSON: Yes, of course. Do you mean under the influence of psychedelics or just in life in general?
JI: Ok, how about both.
ALLYSON: We are sometimes psychic, but like most people it is not something we can totally control. We wish we could send psychic messages when a cell phone’s not working but we haven’t been able to use our ability to that purpose.
JI: I know the feeling …
ALLYSON: We have had simultaneous psychedelic visions; one of them being our first MDMA experience during which we envisioned the chapel. Two doses were given to us by an acquaintance who was in therapy for a serious illness. It was legal pharmaceutical grade. The man was a wealthy collector who wanted to buy all twenty-one of the Sacred Mirrors. Lying on the bed by ourselves quietly with our blindfolds on, we both saw the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors and we realized that the paintings needed to be installed in a public place; not in someone’s storage facility or in someone’s home even. But basically, somewhere the public could have access to them and USE them because they’re meant to be used. They’re meant to be an interactive healing, like a battery, exchanging energy and mirroring an ideal self in many forms. The Sacred Mirrors were originally created as a performance installation. Alex painted the paintings and we worked on the frames together. COSM has also been a collaboration.
The gentleman who wanted to buy the Sacred Mirrors did die within a year and his daughter has been the chairman of our board of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors COSM since we became a non-profit in 1996. She helped us become a non-profit and has been our board chairman since then, still very devoted to us and to the project.
ALEX: The Universal Mind Lattice is my interpretation of the earlier simultaneous psychedelic experience I described when we both became toroidal balls of light. Allyson created the Jewel Net of Indra from that experience, a very transformative and definitive painting within her series.
JI: Would you say that, what you’ve described so far are really three different types of experiences: one is the Universal Mind Lattice; another being telepathy where you perceive another’s images or thoughts. Then there’s an intimate soul mate level between two people?
ALEX: We call that the third force, an angel that unites two souls and creates a stronger unit than either person individually.
JI: What does this experience or this mind-meld connection mean to you?
ALEX: Through love, one transcends attachment to oneself and unites with another for mutual benefit. If relationship is embraced by both partners as a transformative path it furthers ones spiritual life because of shared spiritual experience, merging into an over-mind or a oneness between the two-ness. We experience this with the closest relationship that we share with our daughter –an alliance or partnership that goes beyond the body.
JI: What would you say to those who argue that telepathy, unity or simultaneous experiences from drugs or otherwise is just crazy talk?
ALEX: If they haven’t experienced this it sounds like crazy talk. Once you’ve had a mystical experience, you can’t really deny it.
JI: We need to get Roland Griffiths or Rick Doblin to study this specific experience.
ALLYSON: They’re studying the mystical experience, among other things.
JI: Right, but what about the experience of putting ten people in a room on mushrooms and they all communicate without opening their mouths?!
ALLYSON: It would be good work, bet the Russians have already worked on this. There are probably people here or in Russia working this. Have you seen Men Who Stare at Goats?
JI: Oh I did. Do you know that that’s actually a true story based on the documentary film, Crazy Rulers of the World?
ALLYSON: We met that guy! We met the guy who they made the movie about. He was a speaker at the Alchemeyez Conference in Hawaii.
ALEX: He’s an artist.
ALLYSON: His art is awesome — very spontaneous and unique.
JI: How has all of this connection experience – and it obviously has deeply – but how has it affected your art and how has it affected the ideas surrounding the building of your temple?
ALEX: Both Allyson and I have felt drawn to weaving infinite patterns of interconnectedness. I’m working on a painting of an individual praying outdoors in a forest at night. Inside his head we see a planet with a swirl of clouds. An eye sits in the midst of the swirl and outside of the planet is the cosmos — a spiral Milky Way. In the deep tissue, like the fabric of the person who’s praying, there’s a cardiovascular system that’s very tree-like, while outside of this person are trees. An interconnected web of branching forms is inherent in the natural order of things, the fabric of being.
JI: Alex, would you talk about better religion through science and art?
ALEX: The scholar and author, Arnold Toynbee spent a lifetime studying twenty-seven distinct world civilizations–and at the end of his career, he said that he believed that “civilizations exist in order to give rise to better religions.” This is an evolutionary view of how consciousness manifests through the epochs and crystallizations of world cultures around experiences of spirituality. Toynbee claimed that civilizations decline when they move away from their culture’s orienting mystic core. Recently, scientific discoveries, Roland Griffith’s studies at Johns Hopkins Medical School, have proven that a full-blown mystical experience can be predicted for nearly seventy percent of spiritually inclined people who are given a single dose of psilocybin. This statistics cannot be claimed by any known world religions, a pretty strong and bold promise.
Religion comes from the roots re – again, and ligere – to bind, or to unite– as to unite the self with God. The word religio, refers to uniting oneself with the ultimate mystery. Bob Jesse, founder of the Council of Spiritual Practices has said, “Don’t let the fundamentalists take ownership of the word ‘religion.’” The history of religion has scared many spiritual people, myself included. Bob encourages distinguishing between exoteric dogmas and religious wars, and the esoteric, or primary religious experience, which is the mystical experience. A new planetary civilization is dawning. Many people feel it. The Love Tribe greets us everywhere around the world. We’ve been to Moscow, Australia, Egypt, Bali, Mexico, Brazil where we meet people who feel a planetary connectedness and reverence for the Earth that transcends nationality. The mystical experience, oneness with nature, with the cosmic and natural order is a better religion.
JI: So, in your opinion, what are the similarities between the various religions and the psychedelic experience?
ALEX: My interest in psychedelics lies in the mystical experience, not in the drug itself. Revering drugs is idol worship. Entheogens can catalyze transformative and visionary, theophanic experiences, similar to visionary states described by Blake–and pictorialized by Heironymous Bosch. Visionary imagery has played a crucial role in the world’s religious art and architecture. Angels exist, holy people glow and have halos and nimbuses and auras. Transfiguration, not crucifixion is central to orthodox Christian mysticism, where Christ revealed his Godhood and his connectedness with life beyond the flesh. A glowing, transfigured Christ is a symbol of a higher possibility of connectedness with the divine. Images of the Buddha portray a glowing being similar to portrayals of Jesus, both are symbols of enlightenment. These are Sacred Mirrors for our own higher possibility. Every great religion creates sacred space and iconography to unite people with the One. Visionary artists connect with the archetypal ground known to mystics, archetypes that transform humanity through myths and icons, teaching tools that are as important today as ever. This is why a film like Avatar can resonate so deeply with people.
JI: Would you discuss your theory of Adam and Eve and consciousness evolution?
ALEX: My portrayal of Adam and Eve is a hybrid examination that combines the scientific with the mystic in dawn humans. As homo erectus distinguished themselves from their environment, their consciousnesses separated from their previous embeddedness in nature and this caused separation anxiety, and fear of death. The Serpent symbolizes a Kundalini ascension and an evolution of consciousness.
JI: The serpent around the staff is also the symbol called the caduceus, a symbol for pharmaceuticals.
ALEX: Yes, the Caduceus is one serpent around a staff, it’s the symbol of medicine. The Hermetic staff, the double serpents entwined, refers to the connection between heaven and the lower worlds. Hermes was the spirit of communication who flew between the realms of humans and Gods. The serpent, also called the naga, is the protector of wisdom in so many traditions. In the Western story of Adam and Eve, the Serpent becomes the tempter, but also speaks the truth. God has already warned, “Don’t eat of the Tree of Knowledge or you will die,” and the Serpent says, “You won’t die. You will be as Gods.”
We could say that Adam and Eve died to their innocence, their self prior to eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But Ken Wilber describes that as a fall upwards, the first emergence out of that embeddedness of the animal-mind in the nature field. Once you become conscious of your own death and you begin to have a cultural memory of your tribe, art of that culture is created. There’s a tip of the hat to Terence McKenna’s stoned monkey theory in my painting of Adam and Eve. The dawn humans are holding psilocybin mushrooms as well as the apples, which will lead to transformation.
JI: How has philosophy affected your studies?
ALEX: My artwork is philosophical, and art is a reflection of the worldview of the artist. What is the most important thing in life? To love and to evolve consciousness. Consciousness is the ultimate artistic medium. We are each artists of our own experience of reality. A neuroscientist recently quoted in Scientific American said “everything that we experience is a figment of our imagination.”
JI: What is the new religion and how did it begin?
ALEX: Any new religion is connected with old religions and the religion that is beyond time. If it is a real religion then it is connecting with the timeless transcendental dimension that is beyond physical reality and at the same time is the creative source of our experience of reality. New religion today can mean finding a direct connection with God and understanding that the religions of the past have been reflections of this higher glory. There is a call to activate the imagination and call in creative insights that will make us more adaptable with environmental changes. Darwin taught that it isn’t the strongest or the smartest that survive, but the most adaptable to change. Adaptability favors evolution and is the brainchild of an active imagination that finds ways to implement new possibilities. Solar energy, the internet, a podcast — these are miraculous technological victories. At the same time, the way humanity treats the web of life is a ticking time bomb. It’s important that we wake up. New religious understanding is tolerance and respect toward all paths, seeking of dialog between all faiths, divinization of the biosphere and cosmos. An awakened consciousness must come with an awakened conscience for the preciousness of life. Technology and imagination is essential to halt the damage and self-destruction, and to uplift with positive visions of what is possible.
JI: Would you talk about how others can relate experience through visionary artwork?
ALEX: Seeing a work of art is the easiest way to alter your consciousness. Listening to new music, or looking at a new painting or a new movie takes you to a new head space.
ALLYSON: Or an old painting, or an old movie, or old music. You love Bach, Beethoven, Schubert…
ALEX: I’m a great lover of the classics. Visionary artists experience transcendental realms and depict them from observation. There are rainbow-winged angels in many cultures. Brightly colored wings and halos are common features of Spirit beings. There is a rainbow feathered serpent down in South America.
ALEX: Exactly. I just painted a Rainbow Serpent Being inspired by the Aboriginal tradition while we were down in Australia. Visionary artists today have mystical experiences, some through the use of entheogens, some are natural mystics and visionaries. They all depict worlds of high luminosity and patterns of infinite interconnectedness, brightly bejeweled iridescence appearing in sacred art and architecture. When people see visionary art and say, “I had an experience similar to that,” it verifies a transpersonal reality.
JI: What is the cosmic dimension to you?
ALEX: Cosmic means “world” or “realm.” A “microcosm” is a tiny microscopic space. We imagine the world of cells, molecules, atoms, quarks and sub-quarks — a lot of no-thing-ness, shells of reality that go up through the tissues of the body itself, and then out to the web of life. All of these interconnecting dimensions; the microcosm and the mesocosm, a medium realm with creatures and a biofield occur within the macrocosmic dimension,.
JI: That’s an interesting concept, the “mesocosm.”
ALEX: Yes, that middle realm. There is also the macrocosm, which includes the solar system, our galaxy, the cluster of local galaxies, all known galaxies. And then you can look to the transcendental realm of all cosmic manifestation. Along with the exterior realms of cosm, microcosm, macrocosm, mesocosm, there are also interior realms. Ken Wilber likes to point out that “kosmic” spelled with a “k, the original spelling, refers to both the inner and the outer order of the universe. CoSM is the anagram for Chapel of Sacred Mirrors.
JI: How has science brought us the new religion?
ALEX: Science has verified a means by which 70% of spiritually inclined people can connect with the Divine. This is scientifically proven. Mystic union with Spirit, with God, is the basis of religion. This does not define God or the primordial mystery. This cannot be explained, but it is possible to have the experience if one desires. Progressive psychologists and scientists, including Walter Pahnke and W.E. Stace identified categories of the mystical experience. Recently, this analysis was further refined by Roland Griffiths and his team at Johns Hopkins. A scientific understanding of the mystical experience has been established. The study of entheogens, and specifically the study of these mystical experiences may be among the most important investigations a person can make. A mystical union is possibly the most healing experience possible. Medical studies show that a mystical experience can completely transform the way we see our life. These are revolutionary and positive results.
JI: Have either of you studied either the Trivium or the Quadrivium?
ALEX: It was part of the curriculum in the retreat at Chartres that we did with Wisdom University. Keith Critchlow, probably the world’s most prominent sacred geometer (and CoSM Board Advisor) has always spoken of it, because it’s a tenet of mystical education.
JI: Correct. And I’ve been focusing a lot of this show on the Trivium and the Quadrivium. At the beginning, middle, and end of the book project, we’ll be discussing the Trivium at the beginning, the Quadrivium in the middle, and then the Kaballah at the end. We’re trying to make the field of psychedelic studies, more comprehensive by creating a critical thinking meme. When people understand the Trivium specifically it’s like arming them with the mental antivirus that protects them from bullshit. It’s like having a razor blade that slices through all the crud and gets you to the truth of anything you’re studying. It identifies the logical fallacies, the false use of grammar, and poor logic. The Trivium is based on grammar, logic, and rhetoric. It provides a tool for how to think. Creating a meme of the Trivium method will actually neutralize politicians, sophists, liars.
JI: Do you think sacred geometry has affected your art?
ALLYSON: I know very little about sacred geometry, really. I’ve taken a few classes with Keith Critchlow, with Alex, with John Lloyd and other sacred geometers, and followed their instructions to create some of the basic amazing patterns that have been used in Sufi and Christian architecture, and Moslem design work. We went to the Alhambra, where an army of Moslem artists created astonishing architecture and decorated it with mind blowing sacred geometry. In Islam and Judaism, the graven image is prohibited and patterns of interconnectedness represent the Almighty. They portray the part of the All that’s all of the All. My use of geometry came from personal psychedelic visions. I was given a message on June 3, 1976 that everything is made of spectral light, both particles and waves, cells that make up systems. This teaching broke existence down to three basic categories: Chaos, which is the material world, where everything is falling apart in entropy; Order, which is the mystical bliss world, where everything is interconnected and made of multicolored strands of interpenetrating spectral light, and Sacred Writing, the language of manifest creativity. All thoughts that become things are represented by symbols. That is what my art represents: Chaos, Order, Secret Writing. It is my signature and my statement to the world,
JI: Would you care to speak about sacred geometry in your work, Alex?
ALEX: I’m very fascinated by the whole subject. I don’t claim to be a wizard at it, but it’s a universal template that is symbolically important, because sacred geometry points to the natural order of reality. Harmonic proportions exist in the body and in all natural forms. Father Desiderius, was a man of God and an artist who measured the Egyptian and Greek statuary and found a common resonant proportion of the human figure. I adopted his system and used it on the doors of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in New York City. We’re now having a likeness of the sacred proportions of Adam and Eve carved in Bali for the doors of the new exhibition hall in the Hudson Valley.
The sacred geometry of the Eye of God is our symbol for CoSM. It appears in each of the Sacred Mirror frames. It is only through God’s eye that you see God. When we realize our oneness with God we can truly see God. Sacred geometric proportion is a subject of great fascination to me, and especially now as we design the sacred spaces here on the land.
JI: The Quadrivium is based on arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy, and that arithmetic is space and time; geometry is number and space; harmonic theory is number and time; and astronomy is number and space and time
How has the Kaballah affected your art?
ALEX: Kaballah is the core of Hebrew mysticism, underlying the esotericism of the great western religions. The Adam Kadmon, the tree of life, connects the material world at the bottom of the tree to kether at the top of the tree, a material world to spiritual world hierarchy similarly to the Hindu chakras that includes body, mind, and spirit.
JI: Let’s talk about the Sacred Mirrors. Are you able to give us a picture of the process of unfoldment, progressively throughout the Sacred Mirrors?
ALEX: The series is divided into the three sections of body, mind, and spirit. The Sacred Mirrors portray an individual through the physical systems first, the physiology. The Skeletal System, Nervous System, Cardiovascular System, Lymphatic System, Viscera (a deep dissection of a male), and Muscle System (pregnant female). The viewer is invited to mirror their own systems by standing in front of them. The section representing “mind” reveals a sociopolitical realm by portraying the various races and sexes. This is where we experience our differences, judgments, and distinctions. This portion of the series invites the viewer to see themselves reflected in others. Approaching the spiritual, we see the subtle energetic systems. The physical body melts down into the Spiritual Energy System and then the Universal Mind Lattice, the experience of our purest essence. Entering the Void Clear Light we emerge from the totally transcendental into divine symbols, archetypes and Avatars — Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of active compassion, and Christ, the Western Bodhisattva. The divine feminine is represented by Sophia, wisdom herself. The final Sacred Mirror is an actual mirror, Spiritual World, showing a radiant sun bearing the name of God in the center. The Sacred Mirrors analyze consciousness evolution, and divinize the human experience.
JI: What is the overall theme of your temple?
ALEX: Each of us are Sacred Mirrors, reflections of a higher possibility. The great spiritual and philosophical traditions reflect divinity. When Sacred Mirrors face each other, they experience the infinite. Building a temple is the effort of a community to create something beautiful together. This is a great goal, and is why temples have been built throughout history.
JI: Alex and Allyson, what is the single most important idea that you’d like people to take away from this interview?
ALLYSON: Look for the light.
ALEX: Rise in love.
ALLYSON: If people get along, they can make something beautiful together.
ALEX: Here in the Hudson Valley of New York a group of us are living in a community, builders transforming this land into temple grounds. Each of us reach for something higher and confront our shadows. Waves of spirit are flowing through the world today, showing us the way toward a peaceful, sustainable planetary civilization. We would like our artwork to serve the evolution of consciousness, by creating ceremonial sacred space and a context for fusing spirituality and creativity. This is our goal.
JI: And would you like to give out your website, book titles, or any other information you would like people to have?
ALEX: Check out cosm.org.
The Mission of Art discusses the evolution of human consciousness, the history of visionary art and art as a spiritual path.
Transfigurations and Sacred Mirrors are monographs of the work — picture books.
Art Psalms has poetry and drawings describing the core teachings of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors.
Allyson and I wrote a book called COSM and there’s a movie entitled COSM. Both of these describe the artwork and the Chapel in some detail.
JI: Thank you so much. This has truly been an amazing interview with the both of you and I appreciate the both of you taking the time to be a part of this project.