|On the Path Interviews with Initiates An Interview with sister Anne-Claire Despretz|
Interview with a Vibrant Poet and Artist —
(originally in French)
Q: Anne-Claire, could you please tell us why you took up a career in painting?
Despretz: I loved painting even when I was very young. Also I enjoyed reading all kinds of books. As I grew older, I gradually realized that we can transmit a myriad of messages through artistic creation, which is like a shortcut through the brain leading directly into people’s subconscious and hearts. Thus, painting became increasingly important in my life.
Q: Your pieces include both black-and-white figure sketches and brightly colored, abstract watercolor paintings. Could you please say something about this aspect of your work?
Despretz: I use contrasting black and white to emphasize the light radiating from inside of people. It’s like writing with black ink on white paper, clear and simple, and that’s enough. For example, take the elderly woman in this copperplate engraving entitled “...And Smiling in the Sun...” We can see that she’s so happy inside that she seems to be deeply absorbed in the sun. I have noticed that anyone who sees this painting can perceive the light and joy conveyed in it. (Pic 1)
On the other hand, I also use brightly colored abstract watercolor paintings to interpret the energy around us that may not be felt by all. Why do I involve myself in these two greatly different painting styles? Because the left side of the brain is in charge of logical thinking and concepts, which belong to the rational domain, and corresponds to black and white drawings. However, the right brain controls our intuition, which shows our unrestricted emotions and corresponds to color paintings. It’s better to balance both sides of our brains. Though these two styles are completely different, both are related to light. I hope that in this way people can feel and understand the impulse of the true Self and of Nature.
Take this abstract painting, for example. (Pic 2) The lines in the painting seem to be dancing. This penetrating light beam represents energy at work and symbolizes the endless cycle of life in nature. Underneath the painting is a poem that I wrote describing the myriad things embraced and nourished by light and music. In addition, I often create melodies to add to poems. Music plays a big part in my creative work, especially song.
The poem entitled “Brilliances of Verdure” reads as follows:
This other watercolor painting is very special because it’s full of different parts that aren’t on the scale of human vision — I mean it’s treated in very small shapes. (Pic 3) I took a photograph of each part and magnified it. As a result, each piece became an independent work. (Pic 4) Interestingly, when the photographs were displayed, visitors thought that each was an independent piece and forgot that they were all from one original painting. The purpose of this set of works is to show people that we all confine ourselves to a certain space or certain life, forgetting that we’re closely linked with other lives. Only when we open our hearts and take a step backward can we see the boundless sea and sky; only when we become more tolerant of others can we see the whole world and the entire universe.
Einstein once spoke of this concept of “oneness in all” in one of his books. I like this text very much and found it by chance after making this painting. So I displayed it together with my painting. On this topic, Einstein said, “A human being takes part in a ‘whole,’ which we call the ‘Universe’; he stays limited in time and space. He experiences that his being, his thoughts and his feelings are separated from the rest — a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This illusion is for us a prison that restricts us to our own desires, and limits us to the affection of our near relations. Our duty is to free ourselves from this prison, by extending the circle of our compassion, so that it embraces all life, and all of nature in her full splendor.”
This painting entitled “Why are legends, finally, all the accounts kept for fairies?” uses special materials and mainly conveys the idea that legends and myths as we think of them are not necessarily fictional. When we look at the painting from the front, we can see only the patterns on the surface. But if we look at it from a different angle, we can clearly see the golden light particles hidden in it. That is to say, what we do not know is not necessarily non-existent; we have to use a different method and a different angle to see things clearly and then understand their meaning and essence. (Pic 5)
Q: Could you please tell us how you came to know the Supreme Master Ching Hai?
Despretz: Since I was little, I have known that a human being is a soul in a body, and that soul can be free of the body. But when I was young my parents always said to me, “Don’t think about unknowable things!” Then one day I had a car accident, which was not bad because it gave me an experience of my soul leaving my body. Since I was very young I have been interested in spirituality and I was told then that things would become clear to me when I grew up. Later, I gradually discovered that the grown-ups didn’t know everything; it depends. I often experienced disappointment because people could not provide satisfactory answers to my questions. So I told myself, “When I grow up, I must find the Truth that is obscured by superficial phenomena.”
Then one day, at the age of twenty or so, at a time when I was searching for answers with great enthusiasm, I saw a shining door in the sky and felt that I was dreaming, but I was not. I could have almost gone through the door and reached the other side if I had wished. However, I said to myself, “No, no! I’m not ready. It’s not time yet.” So I closed this door somewhere. After that, I continued to have inner experiences. At the same time, I started to study psychology and philosophy, trying to find a concrete explanation for these unusual experiences. But I was very disappointed when I failed to find it anywhere. So, I walked toward the spiritual path step by step.
I discovered clearly that many things could be understood only through meditation, and said to myself, “In this world, there must be someone who can explain all this, and who can help me and teach me meditation!” It was very essential, not only for me, but for making it possible to help people around me. And I knew that a true living Master should be very coherent and positive and should only demand that I practice sincerely without any material conditions in exchange.
Then one day, when I had a strong longing in my heart, I suddenly saw a small advertisement in a spiritual journal that said, “Offering the correct method of spiritual practice for sincere Truth aspirants.” I felt very strongly that this was what I had been searching for day and night, and my inner experience also gave me a positive affirmation. So I contacted the Paris Center, received some texts of Master’s teachings and bought one of Her books. I felt very good after reading them. The Supreme Master Ching Hai’s teachings are very thorough and completely compatible with the teachings of all other religions. I felt as though I had arrived at the beginning of a path toward the Essence of Truth and that there were many treasures waiting for me to discover on the way. After that, I made a very important decision in my life; that is, to receive initiation from the Supreme Master Ching Hai and practice the Quan Yin Method.
Since my initiation, I have often had inspirations spring up during meditation. Sometimes I can even “see” texts and “hear” the poetic rhymes and musical rhythms of my future works, such as this one, which was created according to an inspiration that arose during meditation. (Pic 6.) It’s something like a book inlaid in a box, with two mirrors inside and a poem of mine sandwiched in between. The images reflected by the two mirrors are just like human life, which often becomes entangled, and show that this physical world is only a reflection of the true world. There are two marks on the box, a small bullet and a rose, symbolizing our worlds of war and peace respectively.
There’s a little drawing inside of a child riding with all his concentration on a galloping bull, without any reins! It implies that if we don’t find our true Self, we’ll hate others. This may be hard for people to understand. In other words, if we find our true Self, our life will be balanced. On the other side, there is a brilliant light beam upon the words: “This colossal infinite golden light beam, do you still remember it?” We originally came from the Light, but we have forgotten it. However, we’ll remember it again one day. This is a long verse written to a human being by his inner “Self,” who also is the universal real Self, asking himself if he still remembers this familiar golden light. Many people have been moved to tears after reading it and have come to discuss spiritual matters with me.
Q: Are your family members all initiated?
Despretz: My husband and two sons became initiated very naturally. Only my daughter is not yet initiated because she is too young. But she’s waiting, impatiently! Our life is very peaceful and natural. Many things have become smoother and miracles have happened. Of course, I give thanks to the Supreme Master Ching Hai for Her endeavor to help numerous people!
* One of 90
winners (from among fifteen thousand candidates) at the 1996 “Contemporary
Artistic Exhibition” at the Museum of Bougon, Niort, France