TITLE: Köhan

MEDIUM: Digital

Many human animistic religions and cults have deities that represent tangible features of nature, such as the sun and the moon, seas and oceans, the Earth itself. When creating Consciousness Animism, I was mostly inspired by the ancient Greek and Old Norse pantheons that had many gods and goddesses that specifically represented intangible aspects of the human condition. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a handsome young king who was so vain that he fell in love with his own reflection. In psychology today, vanity along with other antisocial traits that the king also had is known as narcissism. The Norsemen regarded Loki as the god of trickery and even terrible cruelty; a type of Satan. The animistic pantheon I wanted to create was to reflect the psychological, sociological and spiritual qualities of at least the human condition, and potentially an extraterrestrial mind.

I invented Köhan to be the Great Spirit of ignorance. I have never heard of ignorance being used as a deity before and I thought it would be interesting and alien to explore this manifestation of anyone's being in a religious sense. Looking at and personally dealing with the social psychology concept of pluralistic ignorance at various points in my life also played a part in why I chose to create Köhan. I grew up in a Christian family so certainly, there were the more spiritual concepts of vincible and invincible ignorance in Catholicism and philosophies of ignorance in Hinduism and Buddhism, which have their own semantic fields, which affected my development of this fictional deity. I did consider the epistemological concept of rational ignorance but in the end, it didn't have much bearing on what Köhan was to symbolize.

I started writing my first draft of T'kökwïkövalë (The Sacred History) in the early 1990's. Köhan is the first Gïpan deity encountered, very early in the Sacred Lesson named The Beginning. In creating all of the Great Spirits of Consciousness Animism, I attempted to think like a primitive Gïpan on the verge of developing sophisticated concepts to come up with a physical humanoid look to each deity. I tried to accomplish this just as primitive humans have long attempted to give humanoid appearances to most of the gods, goddesses and demons our various primitive cultures have created. The effort forced me into thinking like a surrealist, an artistic and literary form of expression that I am not used to exercising, especially with developing Köhan. I was challenging myself right from the start. I was frustrated that I had to stop writing, after getting only 18 simple sentences down, just to work on envisioning what the deity should look like.

Shortly before this time, I had developed my first draft of Colour Symbolism in Consciousness Animism. For most humans, the colour of silver is most associated with the metal and therefore has been symbolised as a material for killing werewolves and of warding off vampires. As a precious metal, it certainly continues to be a symbol of wealth and championship. Silver can also be viewed as a cheap reward for treachery as the disciple Judas Iscariot took a bribe of thirty silver Tyrian shekels from the high priests of Jerusalem so that Jesus could be identified to the Roman soldiers of Pontius Pilate, arrested and crucified. Other human meanings include femininity, purity, lucidity and strength. I decided for the Gïpan Consciousness Animist, however, that silver lustre is symbolic of ignorance. This is because silver tarnishes easily like an ignorant mind that may reflect brilliant intelligence and wisdom at first but eventually reveals that its knowledge is easily discredited. So I knew right away that silver was going to play heavily in the appearance of Köhan.

As expected, it was difficult trying to think like a fictional alien species, so it took me a couple days to think up what ignorance looks like in a metaphysical humanoid form. I tried to get inspired by looking at some of the neo-surrealistic fantasy art of Peter Goodfellow, and the techno-surrealist illustrations of Peter Gudynas. Even more useful, I also thought of the umpteen expressions, expletives and insults that people use to describe others they regard as ignorant. The result was a fairly finished pencil sketch of a faceless, hollow-headed, emaciated and neutered nude figure with silver skin. No other sketches or true drawings were ever made but I was able to continue writing. The concept stayed with me for many years as a surreal but accurate interpretation of an ignorant person, human or Gïpan. Whenever I encountered someone who I judged--fairly or unfairly, to be ignorant or immoral for some reason, this image of Köhan would always come to mind. This was the primitive thinking I was trying to harness as I developed T'kökwïkövalë.

Something else I learned from this experience; I'm not a Freudian but I can't help but agree with his assertion that the true surrealist artists of the 1920's merely convinced themselves that their images were developed unconsciously. Freud concluded that their creations were born from the ego part of their conscious minds. I don't think any of my fantasy or sci-fi art as surreal but I do think that there are surreal elements within them. If experts in true surrealist art consider my aesthetic depiction of Köhan as surreal at all, then I wonder what they'd say about my declaring that my depiction clearly came from my focussed conscious considerations of ignorance. Rudolf Hausner was an Austrian expressionist and surrealist artist who delved in fantasy. He was reportedly criticized by other dedicated surrealists for deliberately trying to give credence to both conscious and unconscious artistic processes through the development of at least his first illustration to depict "Adam", his recurring alter-ego, in 1957. In any case, the experience of personifying ignorance helped me develop a much greater understanding and respect for artistic surrealism than ever before.

After years of redrafting The Sacred History of Consciousness Animism, I felt ready to finally illustrate Köhan as it is first encountered in The Beginning, right after the nearly starless universe is created. To get the colours right for this piece, I listened to "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus while working on the colour comp. This really got me in the right frame of mind for this illustration.

The most respected theorists in astrobiology believe that if we were to encounter intelligent extraterrestrial life, the chances of that species being humanoid are virtually nil. I believe that not because there is reasonable proof to this but because it seems quite likely, even though the notion could be an ignorant one. I also believe that such a species might create their own deities with similar physical features to themselves. So, my making Gïpans, and some of their deities, humanoid is strictly artistic liberty. I do this, of course, to be able to evoke a sufficient level of identity between the human viewer and the unreal beings I illustrate. This is done all the time in sci-fi and fantasy. True lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural fiction and paranormal romance are in my judgement, the most open-minded bunch one could ever come across. I'm not talking about those who just like watching TV and cinematic shows of the genres for the special effects, interesting means of travel, weapons and anything shocking, I'm talking about genuine admirers who seriously ponder the ideas behind the stories and images. Even most of them--perhaps I should say us, however, would have difficulty relating to a chrome-skinned supernatural being that more resembles an oversized cockroach, worm or communications satellite. Some will for sure but most won't. This is probably due to the fact that despite being so imaginative we--speculative fiction lovers and everyone else, work so hard at thinking rationally and even intellectually while being, of all things, ignorant about just how diversified life probably is in the universe.

Even children are more sensitive to humanoid space aliens. Olivia, a niece who was three years-old at the time I created this piece, told me in her little way that she really liked the image but what was so striking to her was how I had Köhan posed. "Why do you have the hand like that?" was her only question to me as she waved a finger up and down the figure's tightly clenched arm. Nothing else about this image was more fascinating to this very observant preschooler. In truth, I had deliberately selected a nearly true fetal position to put this divinity of ignorance in. It is a very sympathetically human posture for any mortal or spiritual extraterrestrial to take on.

Psychology and psychiatry tells us that when a person goes into a fetal position, he or she is instinctively exhibiting a physical reaction to extreme stress or trauma when their brain is unable to cope with the surrounding environment, and "shuts down" temporarily. I find that people often recoil when they are faced with circumstances that they are ignorant about. Very rarely have I seen any such person actually recoil into the fetal position but I have observed a physical, inward recoiling response in many. I've simply exaggerated what I've observed in this illustration. Instead of a full fetal position, I've pitched Köhan's head up and kept its legs from being too close to its feeble torso. My intent is for this posture to show that this is a deity awakening in the manifestation of a newly formed, unfamiliar and uncertain universe, and although Köhan will always be quite ignorant, it is showing curiosity.

When people see Köhan, I'm hoping that they see a bit of themselves. I know that I recognize some of Köhan in me. It's a reminder to me to always strive to smarten myself up.

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