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Deep Thoughts, High Spirits
by Richard Perry

0F THE FOUR BOOKS considered here, the most scholarly is Ann Davis`s The Logic of Ecstasy: Canadian Mystical Painting 19201940 (University of Toronto Press, 216 pages, $60 cloth, $24.95 paper). Davis, director of the Nickle Arts Museum at the University of Calgary, provides a concise, well-considered survey of the ways in which five Canadian painters - Bertram Brooker, Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Jock Macdonald, and Frederick Varley merged their inherent admiration for the natural world with a m6lange of Easterninspired religious ideas deriving from Walt Whitman, Madame Blavatsky, R. M. Bucke, and other "mystics." The resulting paintings, explains Davis, seek to express a higher consciousness of union with cosmic forces, and thus represent a turning away from traditional modernist concerns and methodologies: "Their achievements were outward manifestations of intuitions and intimations of the ineffable and the divine; their art was not so much a feast for the eye or an arena for the emotions as it was a launching pad for the spirit... ." Although early in her monograph Davis asserts that mysticism is a "slippery concept" and not intended to imply spiritualism or the occult, her exegesis does not always make clear the many ways in which the yearnings of these artists diverge from the experiential mysticism on exclude which they are based. Neither original nor revolutionary, Davis`s thesis has previously been discussed by several Canadian art historians, a fact somewhat obscured by the book`s omission of a proper. Departing Day, by Jock Macdonald, from The Logic of Ecstasy bibliography. Davis also follows the academic inclination to reflections that do not promote the dominant hypothesis. For example, the commonly held interpretation of Jock Macdonald`s Pacific Ocean Experience as a transcendental vision is offered to the exclusion of other possible readings.

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