Art As Psi, Radionic Art and A Question of Organizing Principles.

The background in my line of inquiry began when considering ‘how do we create?” As someone who has gone through formal education as both a fine artist and graphic designer, it seems like there’s a point where formal training stops and creating the work falls to a different mechanism.

When trying to explain it as a designer educator, I was at a loss for words that would do the mechanism of creation justice. The best I could do to explain to my students was to keep working and develop a sense for the right creative decisions. That by practicing their art they would refine their instinctual application of the creative decision-making process, which is continuous and ongoing in the creation of any work of art or design.

What is the precise mechanism or mechanisms involved though? While it’s not been well-documented or studied, personal research has identified several key factors.

The first as recently identified by Dr. Genevieve von Petzinger in her book The First Signs, is the human capacity for symbolic, abstract thought. While cave paintings depicting humans and animals during the Neolithic period are well known, until recently there’s been limited recognition and virtually no study of the symbolic artworks found in the same locations. While there’s insufficient information in the archeological record to ascertain the meaning of these signs at present, they demonstrate the human capacity to address ideas with deeper, non-literal meaning. Perhaps these first signs as Dr. von Petzinger calls them represent the earliest attempts of human beings to create artwork that acted as on the human mind to induce a specific effect.

The next factor is the advent of Gestalt psychology and the study of the psychological mechanisms that organize visual perception. In Rudolph Arnheim’s scholarly work Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye, these rules are and the studies that lead to their recognition are introduced and explained. Reading Arnheim’s work, one is struck by how fundamental these principles are rooted in the human mind and how much of our relationship to the world is governed by them.

 Illustrations of Gestalt Principles

However, in the arts their study and application remain generally unpopular outside of specific applications. Art training in the United States is less about the study and application of principles than about positioning oneself to create work that will sell. It’s also here that we see, with the decoupling of the appreciation of fine art in society at large, that the motivation of creating art vs. creating design becomes very different.

Art as a psi experience was part of a larger construct, be it a religious or magical tradition that involved degrees of knowledge and participation in ritual or thought related to viewing the art. Fine art today frequently exists solely as a visual manifestation of personal principles or thought of the artist. A lack of education and sophistication among the viewers leaves most ill-equipped to decipher meaning and the experience of art lies strictly in the realm of pure visual experience for most modern viewers.

On the other hand, design serves commerce as it’s master and is a much more calculated practice, where visual principles are employed to create messaging both overt and implied with the goal of getting the viewers to take a particular action, which is usually to buy something, or “convert” in industry jargon. To this end, the visual principles of Gestalt psychology have become widely taught and used in the field of user experience design.

This is important because it’s using artistic principles with purpose. UX has developed by “light” and “dark” patterns with either aid or manipulate the viewer that encounters them while interacting with a purposefully created design. In this respect, they’re very similar to the works discussed throughout the course that were intended to induce a psychological state and/or psi effect in the viewer when interacting with them.

The final component for me in tying together both guidance for creating art and developing a method for looking at outcomes came from Duncan Laurie’s The Secret Art: A Brief History of Radionic Technology for the Creative Individual. Laurie first proposes that the artistic decision-making process is guided by a semiotic response that is essentially similar to what he termed the “dowsing reflex” that is to say the point when the dowser’s rods cross and what they’re seeking is found.

Laurie’s description of this sensation struck a chord with me. This is essentially what I was attempting to articulate to my students, where I was referring to this as the honing of instinct to make the decision, I see as a honing of being able to be receptive to this artistic equivalent to finding something via dowsing. Furthermore, Laurie’s book and artworks go past just using a psi tool to make art but turning the art itself into a tool to achieve a direct effect in the viewer using radionic technology.

Laurie’s work as a sculptor reference what he terms the “cupules” – carved indentations arranged in patterns that are highly reminiscent of the neolithic works studied by Dr. von Petzinger. Dots form the basic structure of the language of his works, referencing the dial configurations of radionics devices. In discussing his sculptures, he talks about developing a symbolic language

We have crossed the line from radionics as a historical inventory of ready made ideas into our own world. Some type of internal logic presents itself as the designs materialize on the computer. They do not feel artificially thought out but rather emerge from another awareness into our hands. They sit on the cubes well, and I begin to wonder if these could be sculptural radionic devices?”

Laurie is bring together the early works of neolithic humans, using the earliest symbols for representing abstract thought and concepts, governed by the psychological laws of visual perception studied by Arnheim and incorporating them into functional radionics devices that provide a healing effect to the viewer – literally art as psi.


In my research, I’ve become aware that there is a great deal of debate regarding whether downers are receiving information from without (their belief) or within, as is believed by many psi researchers and parapsychologists. For the purposes of this brief discussion, I find the delineation of secondary concerned to the demonstratable effects of the technique employed in Laurie’s works. Clearly this is an avenue for continued research, but I feel it’s academic to the creative practitioner.

His work gives the practitioner a replicable formula. Starting with your intention, begin creating utilizing symbolic imagery that elementally embodies the earliest visualizations of abstract thought. Organizing your symbols with the principles of Gestalt you can psychologically prime the viewer into a receptive state for the actual healing energy you’ve created your art to emit.

Duncan Laurie, Radionic Cube 9 — 8″ x 8″ x 8″ — Granite — 2014;
Radionic Cube 44 — 8″ x 8″ x 8″ — Granite — 2014


Von Petzinger, Genevieve (2016) The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World's Oldest Symbols. Atria Books

Arnheim, Rudolph (1954) Art and Visual Perception, Second Edition: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. University of California Press

Laurie, Duncan (2009) The Secret Art: A Brief History of Radionic Technology for the Creative Individual. Anomalist Books LLC


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