Singing Songs of Ecstasy
"...when artists are working directly
from their emerging consciousness, their art is their most honest mirror."
On September 14, 1989, in her candlelit living room at around
midnight, we interviewed poet and painter Carolyn Mary Kleefeld at her
home in Big Sur, perched on the crest of a mountain cliff high above the
sea. Carolyn was born in Catford, England, and raised in Santa Monica,
California. Fueled by a life-long fascination with psychological
transformation and a passion for creative expression, she is the author of
three internationally acclaimed, award-winning poetry books that address
these archetypal themes: Climates of the Mind, Satan Sleeps With the
Holy: Word Paintings, and Lovers in Evolution. Her influential
books received the rare honor of being translated into Braille-so as to
give vision to the blind-by the Library of Congress, and are used
worldwide at many universities and human potential centers. Carolyn is
currently completing her sixth book-The Sixth Dimension: Architecture
During the Summer of 1990 the Gallerie Illuminati in Santa Monica
featured a daztling series of Carolyn 's visionary paintings in an exhibit
entitled "Songs of Ecstasy," and an art book of the same title was
simultaneously published. Since then her work has been featured in
galleries all over the world. A selection of her paintings is also
available as a line of fine art cards, from Atoms Mirror Atoms of Carmel.
Her painting "Neuro-Erotic Blast-Off" appears on the cover of my first
Brainchild, and her piece "Fluorescent Sunset of the Future " is
included in a textbook on visual art called Unique Journeys, by
Professor James Schinneller of the University of Wisconsin. Carolyn spoke
to us about the relationship between art and consciousness, expanded
awareness and creative expression, and personal and universal
transformation, and muses with us about the living secrets of nature. She
looks as though she danced right out of one of her own paintings. Her eyes
and smile have a luminous mystery about them that is present also in much
of her work. She has a graceful and elegant manner about her, and one is
easily enchanted by her poetic style of expression.
DJB: What was it that originally inspired your interest in
CAROLYN: It is the discovery of my relationship with the
universe, the unknown, that propels my translation. The spheres explored
radiate a spectrum of seed-images. The wilderness of the unconscious is
lush with the gems of infinity. The ancient codes lie in the seams between
worlds. They only await the radiance of our conscious light to be
For example, at seven years old, I wrote and illustrated my first book
entitled, The Nanose. Many years later I found out that my
experience then, which was triggered by dust particles dancing in a
sunbeam flooding my bedroom window, actually had its inherent meaning in
my poetic translation of it, rather than in the external event itself.
Through my impression of the dancing dust particles I had my first
recorded interaction with atomic life. My art was the bridge, translating
localized conception (dust particles) into atomic theory. I thus
experienced intimate dialogue with the vaster universe.
Today my reading of science tells me that the Nanose in my childhood
book were monads, or cellular/atomic entities that underlie our
contemporary concepts of biology and physics. Even the title Nanose
essentially is the Greek word "nano," meaning very small, as in the
contemporary innovation called "nanotechnology."
So art acts as a prescient translation from the unconscious mind,
revealing the codes--the consciousness of the underlying forces of nature.
DJB: So, it was basically a need to express powerful
CAROLYN: Well, it was my interaction with inner experience,
rather than the exterior event itself, that propelled the creative
DJB: What do you think triggered these experiences?
CAROLYN: It is in the dynamics of discovery that innovation
occurs. I also am saying that I "respond" from the inside out. Rather than
having the exterior world give me its reality, I interpret the reality
from within myself.
The experiences are woven and sculpted by my particular nervous system.
Those certain experiences that need to be lived as part of one's
evolvement are the ones to leave the deepest impressions. These
impressions imprint their design within me and are the songs that emerge
in my tides of creative expression.
Also, it is out of the foundation of my own philosophical architecture
that I germinate my art, with subsequent reflection, consciousness. Out of
this constant processing within me, which is my life's work, my visible
art reveals the seeds, buds, blossoms, fruits, the pollen of my interplay
with the unknown. Even the mistakes that are birthed instigate further
invention. The propulsion of innovation wings me beyond localized sight.
This last idea intimates the possibilities of developing "laser sight"
in the future. This means to inhabit a transparency of being that is so
open a system as to let radiance f-lood it. The vision of our futures
could possibly allow us to see through the density that now blocks our
From the architecture of a new way of perceiving, we will peer from the
infinite spheres and see into the gossamer connections of our electric
loom of being. Our cosmic eyes will see immediately into the true laws
that be. Instantaneous perception will bloom in this smoldering symbiosis.
Our cellular beings will manifest our consciousness in new sight and
technologies of life.
RMN: To what extent is your work autobiographical? How do you
use it as a tool by which to access, understand, and integrate your inner
CAROLYN: Being an artist, I am the translator of my experience
and thus am the author of my life. Since each of us experiences something
in our own unique way, everything we create is essentially
autobiographical. I am at once the tool, and the work. The universe is
strumming the strings of my nervous system and I record the songs. After
the songs are born, either in my paintings, drawings, prose, or poetry, I
study and endlessly see different perspectives depending on my own state
of being, or cycle of evolvement.
Last Fall, I gave a reading in Monterey at the Cafe Portofino titled
"Art as Evolution's Mirror"--my theme being that when artists are working
directly from their emerging consciousness, their art is their most honest
mirror. I mean, when the work comes from the inner development of the
artist, rather than from imitation. Most artists are like engineers
reproducing the familiar. This type of art, from the outside in, is not
the same art as art that is being created as part of an emerging
consciousness. If artists are not involved in the inner consciousness of
their work, they can't learn by it.
But each of us has a unique path, and none are to be judged. It's just
that for me the conscious reflection is part of the fun of discovery, so
I'm blessed with this tool which shines light on my work. Symbolic poetry,
which is my bridge of translation, offers a kind of insight similar to the
It reflects back to the participant-viewer or reader. It is a kind of
Rorschach, revealing from the truth of the unconscious one's inner shadow.
This way of living requires constant preparation, keeping oneself clear
enough to create the space to ride the constant waves of invention. The
process is one of digestion, assimilation and integration of the universal
RMN: Do you think you benefited by having a formal art training,
and how have you incorporated that?
CAROLYN: In both my painting and poetry, I learned what didn't
inspire me. It served to tell me I was to sculpt my own path, sing my own
unique song. "Find your own voice," as
Anais Nin wrote to me while I was writing Climates of the Mind.
RMN: How easy do you find it to be objective about your own
creations, and what do you think are the most important qualities that a
good critic should have in order to evaluate something from a non-biased
CAROLYN: There is no such thing as being objective. Every
observer has a particular set of prejudices and preferences, so it isn't
possible for myself or a critic to be non-biased. The most essential
quality for a critic to have is to be aware of this.
DJB: When you're in need of inspiration, where do you turn?
CAROLYN: It depends on what cycle or season I'm in. It could
range from quiet meditation in a beautiful environment, to dashing
somewhere for social stimulation. It's all in my relationship to the
internal dialogue that the inspiration comes. So, I will draw to me that
which mirrors me. The outside inspiration comes from a projection, which
later I may say "inspired me," or was the "stimulus." Actually it's the
interplay of myself with that which mirrors me. The company distributing
my art is called "Atoms Mirror Atoms," which reflects this idea. We are
nature's forces translating, in human terms, our existence. Art is my
bridge of translation. That is why art is the "international language," as
it has the myriad tongues of its artists' voices.
DJB: Are there any particular authors or musicians that have
inspired or influenced you?
CAROLYN: Yes, my first mentor was Dr. Carl Faber, then came the
writings of Anais Nin. Other influences include: Herman Hesse, Rainer
Marie Rilke, William Blake, Vincent Van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Gustav Klimt,
D. H. Lawrence, Baudelaire, Dylan Thomas, Benjamin de Casseres, Aldous
Huxley, and Mozart. Then there is the current powerful influence of my
friends and contemporaries.
DJB: How do you experience and describe the stages of the
CAROLYN: To begin with, creative expression requires an overflow
of energy. It requires me to be a canvas or open page. I offer myself as
the film for being photographed by the sublime. It is always out of a
random spontaneity. That is why I have paints in different areas outside
as well as in my living room. I carry a pen and paper on my hikes. I draw
some of my best work while in a car. As to the length of time of the
stages, it varies from very quickly to a few months, or longer. Sometimes
there is a fermentation or incubation; other times, the flame seems to be
ignited in the darkest night.
DJB: How do you see consciousness evolving in the next century?
CAROLYN: Progress is painfully slow. We are still existing on a
biological survival level. Nature will use us as its tools to continue its
galactic body. For us to survive, we will have to refine ourselves as one
with this endless expanding universe. Notice that the word "universe"
means united verses. When in harmony, life is a symphony of united verses;
when discordant, there is cacophony.
RMN: How do you compare the creative process involved in writing
poetry with that of painting?
CAROLYN: My painting and drawing, being visual, are pre-lingual.
Poetry and prose, being verbal, are more restricted in their word-clothes.
I enjoy both translations, the freedom of the non-verbal in painting, and
the architecture of words. They are in constant dialogue, a harmonious
chord ascending my song.
DJB: In your three books, there seems to be an evolution of
consciousness that is being expressed: a progression from states of
psychological difficulty and struggle to ecstatic mystic revelations. How
would you describe this archetypal journey from darkness to light?
CAROLYN: I would say the darkness is there before the "witness
of oneself' is developed. It's in the capacity to reflect, that one
illuminates one's experience and thus can move into the light. The light
is one's own star in orbit amongst the galactic systems in constant
electrical interplay. The dialogue, the information, the secret messages
come from being deeply in reception of these infinite channels. It is a
lying back in the embracing arms of infinity, having all in expecting
nothing. My books are the charting of this voyage of experiences, the
currents in the wake of navigation. Presently I am editing and completing
my first prose book titled The 6th Dimension: Architecture for a
Ecstasy. It represents the recordings of my own particular vessel as
it rides the waves of existence, a vessel united in verse with the
RMN: Many of your paintings reveal mythic combinations of humans
and animals. Does this arise from your own experience of inter-species
CAROLYN: Yes, we have an aviary here with thirty-six lovebirds,
parakeets, and cockatiels. We're living with owls, hawks, peregrine
falcons, chipmunks, squirrels, mice and many other unique creatures. The
creatures and I are in daily dialogue. I make a special whistle sound when
I paint which I also use to communicate with the birds. They seem to tune
in to the resonance.
RMN: Are they usually friendly?
CAROLYN: Yes, unless put on the defensive, which we avoid. In
Nature one can see into the ancient wisdom, the order that governs our
greater existence, our interactions with one another.
DJB: So you feel that you can talk to Nature sometimes, or that
Nature talks to you?
CAROLYN: Yes, I do commune with Nature. It may be necessary for
others to also experience a less literal, more poetic language for this to
happen. Incidentally, we've discovered that lovebirds aren't necessarily
monogamous and that falcons can carry grudges.
DJB: Free-love birds?
CAROLYN: Well, their behavior exposes our misconceptions about
their monogamy. The creatures' instincts are the same as ours, except that
we are far more complex and lethal. Even though our birds have all their
needs met in the aviary, they are still programmed in a survival code, and
will fight if territory or sex is involved.
DJB: How has your location influenced your artwork?
CAROLYN: We are living 500 feet above the sea, with a 360-degree
view. This serves to keep a lid off our heads. The beauty is a
never-ending, changing spectacle. We receive the winds from every
direction, which can be quite a challenge to live with. The wildly
divergent energies, forces of the "dragon's crown" where we live, are all
translated into my art through the instrument of myself in concert with it
DJB: How has being in Big Sur in particular influenced your
CAROLYN: It's a unique place to be. It has accelerated my
internal journey, and simultaneously my art, to be in a place where I can
create the space and time to let all that's possible happen. It's an
enigmatic and challenging environment. It's been essential for me to be in
the constant inspiration of nature, where I can be in a position to live
my own natural rhythms, and define my own nature. Previously, I didn't
have the time to do so. Here, I'm able to create a world where I can live
in my imagination as much of the time as possible.
This wilderness is a place that allows me to be in a receptive and
vulnerable state of being. Because I'm not dealing with the daily traffic
of a city, I'm not having to use the defense mechanisms that dull my
sensibilities. My sensitivities and sensibilities can have the freedom to
play, experiment, and just be. Big Sur is a mirror for a beautiful state
of mind, hence the real importance of keeping it unpolluted can't be
stressed too much, since we have so few places left that can mirror the
human soul. Of course, one's internal environment always creates one's
perception of the external environment, wherever one is, and can
eventually reshape the external.
DJB: So you're saying that there's a reflection or a
synchronistic parallel between your own inner experience and the
CAROLYN: Yes, I'm attempting to live in a conscious process with
my experience, weaving this integration into my artwork. Of course I'm
also dealing with many business issues, social issues and other demands
while I live here. So, I'm not able to be totally in meditation. But in
dealing with the world, I can see how other people are relating to the
universe. There are enormously divergent climates, conflicting
psychological warfares, and assumed prejudices that take different cruel
forms of human expression. This does not make for a healthier world, and
drags our evolutionary force downward like gravity, instead of evolving us
into an ideal future.
DJB: What's dragging the evolutionary force downward?
CAROLYN: I see us as the clothed forces of nature in our vast
geometric diversity. Our greatest limitation is our closed minds, our
limited perceptions. This causes us to live from survival fears, and
prevents us from realizing that we have everything that we need, here on
this glorious planet. If all people were to cultivate themselves, the way
they think, we could grow out of this survival mentality. But human beings
have been raped of their self-rights, and have allowed this to happen. For
some reason they've given up their original birth-rights.
DJB: Why do you think they've done this?
CAROLYN: There's a temptation to hand over self-responsibility,
first to familial hierarchies, then to the influences of educational and
governmental "authorities." On the other hand, we are tools in the hands
of nature, and the world uses us according to our strengths and
susceptibilities. The jungle needs its mechanics to go on, just as the
inter-galactic intelligence needs its imagination.
DJB: So what do you think we can do to help wake people up? Or
maybe you're saying we shouldn't, because if we're all part of a larger
super-organism, and some people play the role of liver or stomach cells,
maybe they don't need to wake up-but then again you said before that
they're hindering or pulling back on the evolutionary process. So what do
you think people can do?
CAROLYN: Ideally, all people would develop a self-referencing
point to comprehend themselves and their universe well enough to guide
their own vessel with awareness. Otherwise all you have is sleeping, dazed
nuts and bolts, endless repetitions of people in reproduction. A certain
amount of this is obviously an ingredient of evolution, but at this point
in history we can see that a total regeneration of inner, thus outer
values is necessary for all of our survival. The exploitation, the
murderous lies of our leaders, must be recognized, and the individual must
reclaim their rights to harmony. Everything that's going on outside is
also within us. It's up to us to navigate our forces, unify to a greater
harmony. The collective is only as great as its every individual.
DJB: The idea being that the more people that do it, the easier
it is for other people to do it. It creates a stronger field, and then
there's more of a resonance?
CAROLYN: Yes, for instance, once an athletic record is broken,
then it's psychologically easier for others to do the same. The resonance
is in the expanded consciousness.
DJB: And you think part of the problem is that the bureaucratic
systems discourage people from living their highest integrity?
CAROLYN: The word integrity has been lost to a dysfunctional
fragmentation. The comprehensive whole has become disconnected, schizoid.
There is no prominent ethical reality in our society to serve as a model
for a healthy way of being. I consider it truly pathetic that the leaders
chosen by the people are the most aggressive, vicious and deceitful of the
population. This shows we are on a bare survival, fear level and choose
the most murderous dogs to defend us. The people have to think differently
and demand a voice that gives them their basic rights to a healthy
existence. They must not agree to having their hard-earned money used for
defense instead of progress.
Einstein said, the problem is the way we think. I think everyone has
been constricted by a non-culture that is dollar-crazed, where the
churches have been replaced by the banks. People are enslaved by their
fears, by the stress that they're under financially. You know, I'd like to
see everybody in America all stand up together demanding to have a voice,
right on their tax form; as to how their money is spent. The most
humiliating thing the government does is to levy a tax so hard on the
people that they have to work everyday under stress, and then their money
is used to build systems that kill them.
So, here you have an example of what I was speaking of earlier. If you
take the individuals' rights away, you make them completely dependent on
you. Once people submit to having their birthright, their individual
rights, taken away, they've sacrificed themselves to a system that
swallows their integrity. That's the end of them, because they've lost
their capacity to grow as individuals beyond that social survival level of
existence, and that's not where anyone's ever going to find fulfillment.
Out of the relentless need for exterior power and exploitation can only
come the damaging imbalance of needs and greeds.
DJB: Do you foresee a major change coming along soon?
CAROLYN: Well, I think that generally everything happens very
gradually, just like Nature. But Nature also can do some very extreme
things that are the opposite of gradual. An asteroid or comet could crash
into Earth, for example, and there would be instant evolution, in a
direction that we may not recognize!
DJB: Without warning there are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions,
and genetic mutations. Things happen all of a sudden sometimes.
CAROLYN: I think that the earth is, as we are, a transforming
entity. We are planets unto ourselves, the same as the earth.
DJB: Planets are really people?
CAROLYN: Planets are really people. They have transformations,
they go through illnesses, and everything just like we do, on every level.
Right now this planet is in a health crisis, and it will do whatever it
has to in order to move to the next stage. So I think that there will an
increase in natural and peculiar physical disasters, including increased
volcanism, or at any moment we could be hit by asteroids from outer space.
DJB: Wow. You really think that something like that could
CAROLYN: Well, anything is possible with Nature. Its design in
undesign goes beyond our localized conceptions.
DJB: In the way that we're like cells in a larger body, planets
are also like cells in a larger body, and our planet is sending out SOS
CAROLYN: Yes, every atom in every universe is in response from
another alchemical stage of transformation. We are part of an expanding
intergalactic system and what the interplay of ail this will mean is very
complex and speculative. I see it as in our molecular biology, where
different enzyme combinations have a uniquely specified part to play.
DJB: Have you had any experiences that you thought to be
communications with beings from another planet or not of this world?
CAROLYN: Well, I feel as if I'm in touch with what I call the
"ancestral resonance." This would be a poetic translation for receiving
information from everything that's ever happened. Within one's every
breath lives every beginning.
DJB: It sounds like what Philip K. Dick called Valis--the Vast
Active Living Intelligence System, or what the Hindus called the Akashic
Records, or Alyha Vijnyana, where all the information in the universe is
CAROLYN: Yes, if you listen to the sounds of the tides of the
oceanic pulse, you hear the music of all that's ever been. Everything
that's ever been has a sound, and the sound is still reverberating from
its origin. Of course the eternal symphony is forever expanding with each
new cellular note of sound. I have a poem about this idea called "The
Lost Language of Unheard Sound."
DJB: The way that each sound is connected to its whole ancestral
past, and carries within it the whole history, and maybe even the
CAROLYN: Yes, it can be the exquisite music I heard in deep
meditation that inspired my poem. It is the lost language of unheard sound
because it's lost in the infinite until we open our ears and deepen our
silence to hear and receive it.
DJB: Have you ever thought that you are translating music into
CAROLYN: Yes, the fluid media I use allows the musical colors
and rhythms to form a circulation of patterns and forms through me. The
fusion of the varied colors and chemicals creates a form of its own,
paralleling the synthesis of musical textures.
As the example of the dolphin's ultrasonic communication teaches us,
you can remake the form if you have its sound. So, out of the currents and
colors of the music I paint to comes the form through my translation. The
sound I make is dolphin-like and tunes me in mantra-like to the unknown,
carrying back images like a dolphin's sonar.
DJB: You've refrained from imposing a kind of internal structure
onto the natural flow?
CAROLYN: It's more like I become the empty canvas, empty mind,
and in becoming one with the atomic energies that be, these energies, this
consciousness, uses my nervous system for its translation. Rather like an
Aeolian harp being brought to sound by the winds.
DJB: It seems like a musical instrument, your body or nervous
CAROLYN: True, an instrument that lets itself be played by
nature, but it isn't that I'm not guiding. I'm very much in charge of what
I'm doing. But I'm also completely not in charge. It's like all the
opposites are happening--because that's the only way you can get perfect
balance, meaning the balancing of opposites. I wear ballet slippers when I
paint. At an early age I was a prima ballerina, so I was always involved
As in our living, we must be the navigator of our energies, the
balancers of the flow of atomic information. As a conductor I stand above
my paintings and work as the skies and winds as a torch of current. I
dance and leap about quite unconsciously, letting us form each other, the
work and I, as one. Thus, in the inherent order of my particular
integration, consciousness, the gossamer order, underlies the freedom of
DJB: Because you are unique, your works have their unusual
CAROLYN: Thank you. Originality has its origin in its freedom
and the only way true liberation is possible, is through inherent order.
So I am spinning and weaving my thoughts constantly into my art, into
order. The bliss of inventing keeps me in tune.
DJB: Yes, being a musical instrument is a beautiful metaphor for
the process of creative expression.
CAROLYN: Also, it is a unique circulation, a poetic metabolism.
I've noticed the imagination has beautiful sounds when in tune; it hums.
The metabolic intensity of creating is hypnotic, like an unfurling chant,
chord in accord.
I once experienced my body as being a nanotechnological factory in
which I heard the buzzing and repairing of my system. Atomic elves
regenerating all my parts.
DJB: So your work expresses, through poetic metaphor, atomic
CAROLYN: Yes, the language of poetic symbolism is multi-faceted,
offering a kaleidoscopic view of life that is ever moving in possible
perception. It is connected to a deep comprehension of the question of
reality, not limited in the linear, or one-reality concepts. You can see
from this overview the theater of our existence, its pageantry of
absurdity. There is the cosmic eye with all its clarity and humor. In my
drawings, I have a character called "the Witness of the More." This is the
self-referencing director who sifts out the superfluous in the editingroom
of one's consciousness.
There are some of us who live in the imagination, in the crown of the
Universal consciousness. There are others essential to the industry,
the mechanical. Unfortunately most people have become enslaved by the
rusty mechanics of our times, the stale and massively re-broadcast
thoughts, and operate as robotized ants.
CAROLYN: Yes, liberation requires people to wake up, see the
illness of their planet, of themselves, their leaders, and rise to a
higher more conscious integration. Through abrasion there is refinement.
So the brave, the bold, the adventurers will put themselves out there, and
invent these possibilities for higher existence. Like being a diamond or
crystal through their strength of vision, their capacity to see through
life, they illuminate the genes of life's potential, the ideals of
themselves. Since this planet is in a crisis stage, it will call on its
healthiest instruments to bring it to its next stage of evolution. Of
course this is all happening in integration with an ever-expanding
Remember, every atom of our consciousness is being involuntarily
mirrored throughout space. That's why each individual is so important; if
they are living from their highest potential, it is automatically
transmitted, radiated. Today we must replace the "arms race" with a "race
to hold hands." Atomically speaking, we are anyway, even though our
defenses block the natural harmony of really holding hands.
DJB: What do you foresee happening to the evolution of human
consciousness in the future? Where is the human race going in terms of how
it's evolving in say ten years or fifty years?
CAROLYN: I saw a small waterfall of sand sifting down from a
huge sand dune at the beach the other day. I thought about the fact that
it took all of time for that one movement to happen just the way it did.
If we can move out of our "survival mode" and put our resources,
imagination and money into medical science and technology, we could hold
immortal life sooner than we might think. Nature already does it, and
through nanotechnology we can.
DJB: What effect do you think immortal physical bodies would
have on the evolution of consciousness?
CAROLYN: We could evolve beyond our constant preparation for
death. This could liberate people from many of the exploitative emotions.
In the prose book I'm writing, that's what I write about--the dimension
that doesn't have to have death for life to exist.
DJB: So your latest book is about going beyond physical
CAROLYN: Yes, it's architecture for a new philosophy, a new way
of thinking: a spiritual technology which, hopefully, will manifest in our
DJB: Spirituality. What does the word spiritual mean to you?
CAROLYN: It means to go beyond the limited, physical conception
of oneself, one's personality, to unify with the greater order. This
requires shedding the many superficial needs, desires and myriad other
ego-enslavements. It also means having a reverence for life, a passion
that takes you beyond the limits of self-imposed "will-power" into a space
that is effortless and yet animated by the greater forces that be, that
are within each of us.
It takes giving oneself the time and space to recreate one's life and
self. It requires much re-structuring to eventually regain the essential
simplicity. When you are living in your unconditioned being, in the
rhythms of your Tao, life becomes a surfing of reality, of the waves and
cycles of the infinite seasons. It is action through non-action. The
circles of our cycles bring us back to a beginning that makes everything
possible, where again imagination may ride the crest of our highest