65 miles north of New York City, a spiritual revolution has taken place. Thousands of people per year make their pilgrimage to the green hills of Wappinger, New York for spiritual awakening, for healing, for community. Inside a temple that rivals those that came centuries before it, monumental paintings by Alex Grey are on view, reflecting elements of the cosmic spirit. Paintings depicting Chaos, Order and Secret Writing by Allyson Grey vibrate in an essentialized worldview that transcends time. The spirit of visionaries including William Blake and Timothy Leary resonate with both the human and the divine.
This is Entheon, a spiritual center at the forefront of a sensory reawakening. The only obstacle now is, it hasn’t been built—yet. Today, many are coming together to change that.
CoSM, acronym for Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, began in the Greys’ loft in Brooklyn and became a five-year exhibition on 27th Street in Manhattan before moving to a permanent home in a tranquil wooded setting upstate. Nonprofit, transdenominational, and interfaith, this radically welcoming church is recognized not only by seekers the world over, but by the town of Wappinger, the IRS, and New York State. It’s quite literally a vision incarnating. The Greys conceived of the temple together during their first MDMA experience back in 1985. What has now been created rises three stories into the air: a 12,000 square foot concrete, wood, and metal transformation of an 1882 carriage house on the CoSM retreat center complex that includes an office, a ten-bedroom guest house and the Greys’ shared studio.
Today, touring the building with the Greys is like watching the painters plan a canvas, but with a bit more Kickstarter inspiration. Their description of the future sculptural facade appears in your mind’s eye with its steeple head rising above when fundraising goals are met. On the first floor will be a shrine to Alex’s legendary work with the band Tool. We picture the rooms full of visionary artworks by select Visionary artists, a reliquary with the ashes of Timothy Leary, and the Entheon Shop to help support the project. On the top floor, arches in the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors reach 19 feet high, highlighting the centerpiece series consisting of 19 paintings and two etched mirrors. Sacred Mirrors is also the title and subject of Alex Grey's first monograph published in 1990. Its gift is a visualization of the transcendental energies only experienced within.
“In our 30s, the vision of building a temple occurred to us simultaneously as an undeniable challenge,” Allyson tells The Creators Project during a sit-down interview. “Building a visionary temple was seemingly unattainable and surely would be a life-defining journey. We chose to walk toward it.” There may be no better example of the core values of the visionary art movement than building a temple through 30+ years of love and intention.
Its models? The Khajuraho Monuments in India, Chartres Cathedral in France, the Baha’i temple in Chicago, the Goetheanum in Basel, among others. “These are the greatest works of spiritual architecture that have been left by cultures of humanity,” Allyson explains. "As spiritual visionaries, what is the greatest contribution we could offer?” Entheon, then, is a link in a long chain of temples, devotional monuments, and social sculptures devoted to the higher powers that be. Alex cites the rise of festival culture as setting its stage. (Actually, he calls the current outcropping, including Burning Man, an “explosion from the underground of the mycelial body,” but you’ll have to visit one of CoSM's weekend lectures for that.)
Entheon serves an important purpose within the art community. “The role of CoSM is to catalyze everyone’s creative path,” explains Allyson. “In the throes of building this sacred space with a community, Visionary Art inspires a new kind of sacred space to share our inner worlds.”
Entheon is targeted to open in 2017 and Alex and Allyson intend that the art in Entheon will grow and evolve long into the future. After all, you don’t build a cathedral overnight. Including new Visionary Art each year, the experience of Entheon will be refreshed. Disney animator Ryan Tottle, Oscar winner for his contribution to the film Frozen, donated his talents towards transforming Alex's drawings into a sculptural building. Another round of funding will be required to create the 3D-printed models and casts required for the sculptural exterior. Kate Raudenbush’s monumental sculpture, Altered State, a work first exhibited at Burning Man, is now on long loan at CoSM, and is expected to be joined by future sculptures that resonate with the spiritual creativity of CoSM.
The mission of CoSM is to build an enduring temple, an endeavor of the highest order, and that’s exactly the point. “This temple could last a thousand years or more,” says Alex. “Precious inspirations can feel holy, worth sharing and have lead to building a temple that honors that inner world of visions. Sacred spaces have a healing potential.” Entheon is a thus grand human effort in which we can play a part.
There are a few days left to back the Build Entheon Kickstarter, ending May 31. To find more information about the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors go to cosm.org. Check out alexgrey.com & allysongrey.com where you can see much of their artwork.