Sarah Turton

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Research Project: Technologies of Soul: Instrumentalisation of Blue

Thesis Abstract

This thesis is about how the colour blue operates in the context of spirituality and  transformational experiences. How it is utilized as an instrument with the aim of soul transformation. Its strategy is to examine how the colour blue operates in these described practices. How it is utilized as an instrument with the aim of soul transformation. It does this to consider how colour is used in these practices with the aim of soul, or self-transformation. Where physical essence and culture are convention and nature is the immaterial or ‘soul.’ As such it runs counter to traditional approaches that investigate colour perception through the binary of nature versus nurture that engage with the concept of the soul as a cultural construct shaped by convention rather than experience.

The questions driving this research emerge with from my own writing and visual arts practice, which engages with automated processes and contemplative practices and subsequent reflections and literature review. These suggest a direct association between the experience of blue and the transcendence of soul.

Transtechnology Seminar Presentations

March 2021

The emptiness of the ground between blue and soul; complementary epistemologies of art and science

This presentation examines the medical illustrations of Versalius’s 16th Century Fabrica and the 12th century Blue Beryl or Four Tantras – the illustrations for which were created in the 17th C. by Gyamtso. It considers how the illustrations in these works can help us to think about transcendental practices through the theme of ascension. The presentation will engage with the practitioner and patient techniques that Blue Beryl describes in its text and illustrations. These representations of the body and the descriptions of the Buddhist tantra practices include subtle body healing practices. According to Geoffrey Samuel these relate to a level of functioning that is ‘quasi –material’ and ‘intermediate between conventional concepts of body and mind.’
The presentation will consider the promises that these texts make about resurrection, healing, rebirth and mastery over death. In particular it will ask how these texts address the question of what is under the skin? Does scientific reductionism lead to the emptiness all the way down that Middle Way Buddhism proposes? Gaston Bachelard ‘s idea of ‘epistemological blocks’ will serve as a frame for this analysis along with his description of the medical-psychiatric technique of Robert Desoille in Air and Dreams as a preparation for ‘Ascensional Psychology”. According to Bachelard, these blocks are created by certain ways of thinking that prevent the progression of science. Making a case for an epistemological rupture between science and the art, he proposes the need for a complementary epistemology. Rethinking the concept of ‘epistemological ruptures’ that incorporate old knowledge into new and complementary paradigms can be adapted into new frameworks for thinking about the body.

November 2019

Blue is Soul; soul technologies and transformation through fabulation; seeing the excess novelty of blue in psychology and spirituality.

This paper examines particular subjective and transcendental experiences of blue associated with practices of ‘creative fabulation’. Deleuze and Guattari have argued that fabulation and fissure are features of novel written and artistic works. However, this paper draws attention to examples of how fabulation and fissure also appear in nonfictional works reporting spiritual and psychological practices such as meditation and active imagination (Hillman on Jung), and Jungian automatic writing practices. As part of a project to understand the instrumental function of these practices this paper will outline and examine the theory of fabulation as discussed by Henri Bergson in John Mullarkey’s synthesis of his work. Bergson argues that we create fabulations in order to make sense of what we cannot comprehend, such as the end of the individual self, the result of which being the stories associated with religion. This paper will argue that for some scholars thinking about fabulation and spiritual practices, experiences of blue or disjuncture are signs that transformation has taken place, but for others it is the actual process and features of the act of fabulation that have the effects of soul transformation. It is within an excess of novelty that a disjuncture or discontinuity is created, one that results in an experience that can be understood as transformative for the individual. Within this framework the paper will review a number of examples of forms of excess within spiritual practices; saturation, listomanias, excess of novelty, sky symbolism and the overwhelming of the senses. In particular the discussion will focus on fabulation and its layering of metaphor through story structure and personification. This will create a framework for understanding how the practice of fabulation creates fissure, how this relates to soul transformation, and the wider questions of whether blue, as fabulation or metaphor, can stand in for soul. As indicated by the philosopher Joshua Ramey (2014), in considering the works of Deleuze and Guattari and as this concerns an analysis of fabulation in ‘non’ fiction blue literature, their commitment to ‘how language works’ and ‘the effects it has’. The ongoing question for discussion raised by this analysis is; how does blue within transcendental experience stand in for soul?

July 2019

Blue fissure; garden soul – an exploration of instrumental blue as a technology of soul in the arts, philosophy, psychology, psychiatry and contemplation

Following on from insights linking blue to transcendental experience. This paper critically engages with and investigates how the immaterial is associated with a deep personal engagement with transformation of the individual soul through the instrumentalisaiton of blue. This paper examines one particular aspect of instrumental blue – fissure in the description of contemplative practices recounted in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyl Rinpoche.

This account is brought into critical analysis with schizoanalysis as outlined in the collaborations of the philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychiatrist Felix Guattari. It examines the potential breakdown which can follow the breakthrough. It will consider through blue fissure the proposed advantages of schizoanalysis and schizophrenic break.


Blue: Practical Philosophy of Creativity

June 2018, Design Research Skunkworks

April 2017, ADA Expo’17 Ecologies