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Soulful Spiritual Art

By:Jaimie Cahlil
Date: Sun,28 Dec 2008
Submitter:Jaimie Cahlil

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'Loved into Life' - Jaimie Cahlil

Jaimie Cahlil: a lifetime of creating pictures " natural as breathing..."


My work essentially intuitive, inspiration arrives as an image in my mind, a feeling in my heart, poetry in my soul... When I wish to start a new picture, I settle myself before a blank page or blank canvas, and spend a few quiet moments meditative preparation... Then, beginning with what I ‘see’ (an impression), I gradually add the details (colours, lines, shapes) as I feel prompted. Initially I work to reproduce what I see and sense: the illuminated, fluid, translucent, feelingful inner scene. Very much aware how restricted I am by my materials and my own capabilities, initially this can be a frustrating.

The process is one of building layers of colour and texture, out of which images appear - and into which images merge or perhaps disappear... like the flowing and ebbing of the tide. Like breathing in and out... shapes, lines and colours advance and retreat. With each working, some images deepen with vibrancy... and sing, while others recline or fade to a whisper... As the picture slowly builds, and the images increase in clarity, the whole thing energetically expands... reaching out and filling the room. (I’m not alone in observing this effect, as those who respond deeply to my work have remarked that they sense this, too.) This effect increases as my picture evolves; and as it does, I am less and less the ‘artist’, increasingly the onlooker.

While this is how I work nowadays, in the past I tried (and failed) to create my pictures by imposing my will. I used to look around at my paintings and consciously decide what to paint next. There ensued a battle – which I inevitably lost!

This is very much what happened when I began work on my painting ‘Giving Thanks’. Having noticed I had no elderly people in my pictures, I decided my next picture would remedy this. And so I tentatively began drawing onto canvas the form and features of an elderly woman. However, after a frustrating struggle, I got the message and surrendered: consequently, I ended up with her grandchild! This was when I finally acknowledged that whatever I contrive, forcing something into being simply does not work. I’m always obliged to scrub out or paint over, before waiting to ‘allow’ the image to emerge.

Understanding the meaning each picture holds is a gradual intimate process. I consider it unnecessary to translate my images into words for others, even though it may be entertaining. In reality, your own interpretations of my pictures are the most useful ones for you. Viewing and responding to any kind of creative expression is necessarily a subjective experience. You will recognise and respond to whichever pictures have particular meaning and value for you.

This applies in respect of my mandalas too, which are inspired by traditional meditative design inspired by the universal mandala pattern itself. The traditional mandala, created to still the ever-changing waters of our emotions and the distracting mutterings of the mind, is deeply relaxing, focusing, empowering and transformative in effect.

I hope my drawings, my paintings and my mandalas will reach your knowing heart and compassionate mind, and move you in some way... and I thank all those of you who have, over the many years, contacted me with your responses, stories and warm appreciation.


My paintings are like waking dreams – each from my inner vision. Somehow I sense they are the shared creation of my heart-and-mind and our ‘universal unconscious’ (C.G. Jung). The symbolic images emergent in my work – and any creative work – are naturally common to us all, and may be understood on various levels. Images such as light, bowl, spear, hands, stairs and paths, water, fire, rainbows, archways... The language of symbol is easily comprehended by the contemplation of the nature of these forms and effects. For example, what is the nature of a bowl? To contain – equally in giving and in receiving. So, a bowl may be regarded as a symbol for both giving and receiving. And stairs? They are a means by which we choose to ascend or descend. Stairs, paths, etc, represent the directions our personal journey through life may take – expressive of our aspirations and of the depths of our soul’s search.


I was born in Oxford, UK - November 1954. As a child of three or four, I viewed my own arrival in this world, as follows:

My self and my brother were sitting on a grassy verge at the side of a country road... An ambulance appeared, and stopped beside us. The rear doors opened. A lady (our mother) stepped out. Apparently she had come to collect us. (Image faded...)

The role assigned me in our family drama before my birth, though a mis-match, turned out to be a ‘gift’, deepening my understanding of suffering and joy, love and fear, encouraging me into creative expression, and guiding me through reflective self-exploration, psychotherapy training, and my eventual work today… all of which has been profoundly rewarding.
Looking back, my fifth year turned out to be an incredibly significant one...
The following experience (which came to me in that year) is very revealing of my early self, encapsulating the essence of my then future life's work:


I see my five year old self standing outside, gazing through a window into a brightly-lit room where I see the beautiful scene of a family lovingly absorbed in one another.

After a few moments I turn away. In the darkness of this cold winter's night I walk alone; there are no people, no houses, no cars, no sounds… and no light - except for the tiny stars in the sky above.

As I walk on, I search the sky for the very brightest star…

Soon I notice a tiny dot of light, millions of miles beyond reach; yet, this same tiny ‘star’ now also seems incredibly near. As I continue to gaze into

'Fire Bird' (commissioned painting) - Jaimie Cahlil

the deepest brightest light I could ever imagine, the intensity of its glow becomes a light shaft through the night, now streaming through the crown of my head… into every cell of my body… its unexpected warmth easing my heart wide open with what I can only describe as 'love'.

I consider 'love' an over-used and inadequate word. The English language is very limited in respect of words or phases that define the unconditional acceptance and warmth of feeling we experience in genuine giving and receiving – as regards both self and other. Also, ‘light’ – in the sense that this is something profoundly subtle and beyond outward physical ‘dimension’. For me, ‘love’ and ‘light’ are warm healing transformative energies, experienced simultaneously in heart and mind.


Speaking of what we could call ‘spiritual love’, (although I regard all genuine love essentially spiritual), I'll share with you a re-occurring dream I first dreamt when I was five, to illustrate:

(In this dream) I’m approaching the summit of a sun-scorched hill on which stands what looks like a temple supported by pillars and built of sun-bleached stone...

As I enter, warm golden sunlight is flooding in... Turning to the left, as if familiar with the place, I walk among stone columns… progressively in shadow. My self here a fully-grown man, I am dressed in long robes secured at the waist.

In a moment I meet another robed figure, and we greet one another.
Soon deeply engaged in conversation, I begin speaking of (spiritual, non-conditional) 'love' – and find I have much to say. As I continue, a crowd begins to gather… I speak at length, voicing my perceptions of love and what it means to live guided by love. What I’m saying is unwelcome, the idea of change clearly meeting with resistance. The crowd becomes hostile... Sensing danger, I’m relieved to find within me the ability to rise up and fly... Leaving the temple swiftly, I rise higher and higher to the deepest blue sky...

A sensitive child, I found a sense of inner peace – and a sense of self - in all kinds of ways: solitary outdoor adventures, creative activities, philosophical contemplation – and in my dreams.

Regarding everyone on this planet as companions, I made friends easily in school; there I received a valued identity: that of ‘artist' - which gave me license to be 'different' (or who I was), any difference observed ascribed to my artistic nature. My initial role model, my father was also my first art tutor, beginning when I was six, and assisting me for many years in the development of my creative abilities. I once counted we had sixty-one art books at home - and I studied them often.

When I was fifteen, my father encouraged me to apply early for the art school which he himself had once attended. I was subsequently accepted on submission of a series of pencil drawings.

Leaving school at sixteen, the following autumn I began a very traditional three-year degree-equivalent course at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, in Oxford (founded by John Ruskin in 1871, who was also the first Slade Professor of Fine Art). At seventeen, I was studying corpses at the Oxford University’s Department of Anatomy, while gaining inspiration from the Ashmolean Museum's priceless collection of 'old master' drawings – which we students were actually allowed to hold in our hands!

The art school, now in the High Street, was accommodated then in the Ashmolean Museum in Beaumont Street, which I used to refer to as ‘The Temple’ (resembling the temple in my early dream, curiously).

During my twenties I painted very little for public view. My work, on leaving art school, was initially in portraiture. I accepted many commissions. After that, my pictures - still observational – were very different, and quietly playful in nature.

Welcoming my son and daughter into this world… in the early 1980's my pictures grew less illustrative and were now more emotional in feel. Circulating reproductions of my paintings led to invitations to give talks and slideshows, workshops and private tuition.

Entering my thirties, my connection with the spiritual was clearly re-emerging. Recognising I needed to cultivate a receptive state of mind to enable my self to be receptive enough to receive useful guidance with my work, I devised my own form of meditation. This is ‘described’ in my painting, ‘Inner Stillness’. Sitting quietly with eyes closed, I allow my mind to rest in spaciousness. Aware of external distractions, I focus differently, now experiencing them simply as colours and shapes and textures and pure sound… while steering my attention within – at the centre of which the most brilliant light glows softly… As I gaze, all distractions are drawn there and dissolve... (Later on I was delighted to discover a meditation group where I found warm, spiritual companionship – and more formal meditation practice.)

As I turned 42, I woke from a dream whose message was life-changing, bringing profound integration and the living of my deeper truth.

Over the years that have followed, my adventure of life continues… both inwardly and outwardly, expressed through the medium of my paintings and my work as therapist – an immense joy and privilege. I would like to say also… my family of birth, my two beloved children (now adult friends), and my many soul-friends, acquaintances and all kinds of travellers along the way, have enriched my soul and deepened my understanding - way beyond words. I send my love to each one.

Recognising we are all essentially 'one', I offer you my pictures… knowing that what moves me may also move you. Working intuitively and with love, albeit clumsily, I paint what comes to my mind and moves my being. I understand this is, in essence, transformative healing work. When any one of us offers whatever it is we are able to give - with love, I feel there is no difference in the value of any work we do.

June 2008
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