Column: Art

by Rev. Mark Dukes

Suites for Sunday Service
Everyone has a song. Everyone has an endeavor, a vocation, or occupation that can be made better through an association and fellowship with sanctified intent. This is Coltrane Consciousness.

My icon paintings are my songs to God. They are steeped in Coltrane Consciousness. They sing continuously in the sanctuary of the Saint John Coltrane Church on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Coltrane Consciousness believes we can help the world through holy creative intent, for as John says: “One thought can produce millions of vibrations.

I believe that John Coltrane is the patron saint of all artists—and I am not regulating his significance to being just that of a saint. He has a universal appeal and profound spiritual meaning to many people. He is my patron saint because he is an example of a true artist. I see in his life—not just his music, but also his words, testimony, and philosophy—a truth that has spoken to my heart, and has made me a better person. He has become a guiding light for me. He has helped me to find my own artistic and spiritual path.

African American classical music (jazz, if you want to call it that) is a particularly apt musical genre for spiritual contemplation. Its abstract qualities help still the mind, and—in the hands of a musical and spiritual genius like Coltrane—lead to the truth of his holy intent.

John said let us sing all songs to God to whom all praise is due—to me, this is a call to sanctify every creative endeavor through our own holy intent, dedicating it to God who is A Love Supreme. That seminal album is a musical representation of the Word that ushers the listener into God’s very presence.

John said: “My music is the spiritual expression of what I am—my faith, my knowledge, my being. When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hang ups. I want to speak to their souls.” He speaks powerfully to me because of a shared African American experience of enduring America, its history of racial prejudice and hatred toward blacks. I needed in my life people of shared experiences, an example of possibility for myself. But the whole world can benefit from meditating on his life, music, and words.

John went through Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era and I admire his spiritual attainment and example. He succeeded artistically and grew in grace and character when so many hands were against him—including his own through drug addiction. He lived at a time when it was so easy to become bitter and hateful or fearful and even lose hope and to give in to despair. John didn’t; instead he made beautiful, living art, and became a saint.

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