The Mission of Art

Everything that exists in the world has a function that is necessary for human society; that is, everything has a mission given to it by God.

Art is no exception. Since this is so, an artist, who is a member of society, should realize his role and do his best to accomplish his mission. This, I believe, is a duty given to him which he should faithfully fulfill.

Generally speaking, I am truly astonished at the irresponsible conduct of artists in Japan today. Of course, there are many who are fine and respectable, but unfortunately there are quite a number of others who seem to have forgotten their missions, or perhaps it is more correct to say they are not aware of their mission at all. They seem to feel that they are special individuals who can display their originality in any way they wish as expressions of their genius, and they behave as they please, without any sense of shame. Really, it is hard to deal with such people.

Also, society in general seems to give them a warm reception as special individuals, tolerating most of their behavior. I think this is making them all the more spoiled. I believe artists should have the kind of character that is finer than that of average people, and I would like to explain why this is so from the spiritual point of view.

It is true that in its primitive stage humanity had a lot of animal in its character. But man has been growing from that barbaric stage, evolving step by step, passing through many stages. Now he has come to the place where he is striving to create an ideal civilization.

In this sense, the "progress of civilization" means that man is gaining control over his animalistic nature. When this has been fully accomplished, we can say that the world of true civilization has been achieved. The truth is, however, that most of mankind is still exposed to the threat of war, and this means that a great deal of animalistic power is still present.

The artists of the world are given the important work of helping to eradicate that part of man's nature. The mission of an artist is to help elevate man's character through painting, literature, music, dancing, and drama.
Through these various means an artist's soul appeals to the souls of the people. To put it more simply, the vibratory power emanating from the artist's soul touches the heartstrings of others through his painting, music, literature, voice or dancing. A strong, inseparable connection is then formed between the soul of the artist and that of the public. If the artist's character is low and mean, the public's character becomes baser and meaner. If the artist's character is high and noble, the character of the public is elevated accordingly. Herein lies the greatest value of art, so an artist should be the kind of individual who is able to lead the public to higher levels with his spiritual self.

For this reason, I think it is not too much to say that artists are partially responsible for the increase of the social evils we see today. Think of the many vulgar and grotesque pieces of literature, of the weird paintings, and of the wild singing and discordant music, of the repulsive stage and motion picture performances. When you observe all these with deep thought, I am sure you will realize how true my statements are.

Meishu-Sama, 15th October 1949