The study of the nature of the consciousness is an integral part to absolutely any artistic practice. It is the manipulation of the consciousness itself which defines the art practice at its most fundamental level and, as such, each artist takes great interest in learning about the condition of the consciousness in every state. To first define what it is we refer to by speaking of the "consciousness", however, is of utmost importance.
The definition of consciousness takes many forms but, for artistic purposes, it must be a clearly defined aspect of the living animal. The flesh composes our material body, which is the corporeal aspect all humans deal with on a daily basis and that which seems to be our primary plane of interaction. Many can carry through an entire lifetime and never consciously interact with any facet of existence other than the corporeal material world, thus it would seem safe to assume that the material level is fundamentally our native arena of influence. The artist sees further into life though and also acknowledges the influence of death on all living creatures. This death is not seen directly on this level. It is seen through effects made readily apparent by the loss of vitality and onset of conditions resembling lethargy, any number of diseases, and many general forms of physiological malady. The powers which induce these conditions can be preemptively felt on the instinctive and intuitive level. Multi-layered reality is becoming a fairly popular physics theory. Artists came to this conclusion long ago, though with far less decorum, and have made use of what abilities were readily available within the human psyche to interact with that level.
Keeping the dimensional nature of reality in mind, the definition of what exactly a "consciousness" is becomes immensely important. But first, let us digress slightly to address a common and unfortunate association: the consciousness, as defined by art practice, is not the same as "spirit". Consciousness and spirit are proposed aspects of the human, potentially as essential emanations which manifest in a corporeal body, which are commonly thought to be respectively ascendant in dimensional reality models usually finding their apex at gnosis or some similar concept. With regards to art practice now, spirit tends to be considered a convention used almost exclusively by religions or those speaking of afterlife with religious connotations. Its nature is unknown and it is not known how humanity ever came to the conclusion that spirit exists except to attempt to validate various religious beliefs. The spirit is considered an immaterial thing which is beyond manipulation or control, travel, and ultimately beyond all comprehension supposing it even does exist. The consciousness though, by artistic definition, is similar to what has come to be known as the "ethereal body". The consciousness is the intangible essential emanation of our material body, which mirrors us on the corporeal level. It is the life force that flows through our body and serves as the embodiment of the individual at the most essential level. Its traits are identical to the mind (not brain) and is usually considered to be the same thing.
Why does this matter?
Knowing the nature of the consciousness -- an ethereal body emanating the structure of the material body -- allows us to understand the mechanics of consciousness as well. The revelations of the nature of consciousness allow us to assume a few things about it to base a practice on. The first of these is that the consciousness may be tangentially affected. Conceptual reading, which is a technique some artists learn to develop, shows that the metaphysical body is in a constant state of flux yet is assembly trying to achieve equilibrium in the very same way that the material body does. We may catch a flu, or cut ourselves, but the material body continually tries to negate these effects and return to its normal course of growth and maturation until prepared for death. Even Shakespearean plays, Greek burial rites, native American burial rites, Roman Catholic last rites, and Egyptian burial rites emphasize that the consciousness must be properly set to rest rather than separating from the body as result of sickness or premature destruction of the material body. Such an event would theoretically be a premature interruption of the consciousness incubation period, throwing it back into a disheveled state of chaos before being fully prepared to cope with the realm of the dead. The consciousness is naturally maturing to pass on to non corporeality once capable of surviving as a self-sufficient entity. In this sense, the "meaning of life", to an artist, is to condition the consciousness during one's lifetime for as long as it takes to become strong enough to survive the rigors of the body to spirit transition and competently adapt to the consciousness's realm without the aid of a physical anchor. The artist can be considered a psychopomp, in this respect, capable of preparing the dead for their final voyage.
Many consider such a view of life as a harsh and fatalist viewpoint. The macabre skills developed and the artist's general attitude towards life is less than joyful, often overtly labelled as morose, but the cowardice of those who shy away from truth because they do not appreciate or understand it are not worth paying heed to. The role of physical death is the end of our preparation period. Many people default to reincarnation theory to explain what happens to the unprepared consciousness (such as the Greeks, in particular). Others simply say, in honesty, that they do not know, and this is perfectly allowable. The destiny of prepared consciousness is unknown, though the process of conditioning the consciousness focuses on conceding movement and volition to the artist. If the art of practice operates as it is intended to, the destination of the consciousness is up to the individual. The prejudice of the fearful and weak in no way detracts from the utilitarian value of art practice.
The artist's intimate knowledge of the mechanics of the consciousness has not only earned them respect as psychopomps, but also as hierophants. Knowing that communication between the living and the dead is possible leaves the key to knowledge in the hands of the cunning artist. Being able to traverse the material world as any other human is a fine skill itself, but the ability to traverse also the lands of death offers knowledge and power untapped by the general populace, or verily even the majority of various art practices. Filling the role of hierophant, the artist understands the realm of the dead by their own direct experiences during artistic practice or through communication with others that have found enough clarity within that realm to be able to attempt to call back to the realm of the living which we currently reside in. What could be more fulfilling than complete knowledge of where you are and where you are going?
With more security than any religion could ever provide, the artist rests assured of their position in this world and the next allowing them an unprecedented degree of security coupled with moral liberty. Moreover, navigations through the void of death are not a sterile which the artist must feebly hope will pay off one day. The skills and abilities available through the netherworld are directly applicable to this realm as well through manipulations performed on the consciousness of a selected target; the artist is also capable of targeting their own consciousness for manipulation as well. Related to the hierophant aspect, the artist's knowledge of consciousness, acquired through personal experience and testing the capacities inherent in the realm of the dead, allows them to also retain the awesome ambience of a seer and diviner of the arcane future. Much like turning over a bit of woven tapestry, the artist can analyze the threads that bind reality from a reductionist standpoint. Consciousness of the dead and departed have had time to gather information and some would be willing to share this information. In life as in death, personalities come in all flavours and there will always be every strain of spirit available for communication. The artist can find solace and advice in calling for like-minded guests, familiar demons of the nether as "interpreters", or, to the delight of the antisocial, one can even partially detach their own consciousness from the body to trek the underworld on their own.
The power of understanding such a superficially simple concept as the nature of the consciousness has profound implications which the wise artist learns early to exploit.
Edited from Ars Falcis