Painter and actor Leigh McCloskey has transformed the library of his Malibu home into a masterpiece of visionary art. The Hieroglyph of the Human Soul is a study in consciousness, creation, and what it means to be human.
California’s coastline is a mystical place. It marks a point where Manifest Destiny met its fate at the Pacific Ocean and began its slow descent into entropy. And the landscape of Malibu, where the Santa Monica Mountains are greeted by the Pacific, is particularly dreamlike in its quality. Beyond the tacky cliffside mansions, the bourgeois boutiques and the weekend warrior RV tourist traps that have come to dominate the region lies a primordial otherness. This was a space that came to define the California surf culture of the 1960s, where the ersatz of Los Angeles is swallowed by big waves and the high tide. And today, Malibu is home to one of the most breathtaking esoteric libraries in existence.
Enter Olandar: the library, studio and homestead of visionary artist Leigh McCloskey. It is a literal Malibu dream home.
“Somebody once said I was a visual Philip K. Dick, because everything [here] is embedded with information,” McCloskey explains about his library.
McCloskey began his career as a film and television actor, having roles in such diverse titles as the 1980s primetime soap opera “Dallas,” and Dario Argento’s 1980 film Inferno. He is perhaps best known as a visual artist for his contribution to the cover art of Flying Lotus’ 2010 masterpiece Cosmogramma.
But McCloskey’s own masterpiece is his private library, The Hieroglyph of the Human Soul. This is a library like no other, where the information isn’t merely catalogued and contained in the pages of its volumes, but spills out in a deluge of cosmic gnosis—drenching the ceiling, floors and walls in a kaleidoscopic mandala that swallows the visitor in the primordial ascent of the soul. The painting contains giant depictions of the yoni with minuscule haunting figures hiding in waves of Pranic resonance. A portrait of the Holy Sophia, the Mother of Wisdom, spills out of the cabinet and on to the floor. Even the spines of the books have offered themselves as canvas to this brilliant radiance—an apt medium when one considers that the spine is the channel of Prana in the philosophy of Yoga.
Leigh McCloskey has dedicated the last 15 years to this work that he calls The Hieroglyph of the Human Soul (or T.H.O.T.H.S.; “Thoth’s library,” as Leigh is quick to point out). Stepping into “The Hieroglyph of the Human Soul,” the visitor is transported into a liminal space of consciousness that is at once a library and a temple, a stage and a studio, a cave painting and a cathedral. In this place of strange convergence, McCloskey performs the simultaneous roles of artist and critic, actor and director, shaman and prophet. Like Thoth-Hermes, McCloskey is both author and librarian of a living language.
McCloskey began work on The Hieroglyph of the Human Soul on September 11, 2001—the day that the Twin Towers fell, signaling the unstoppable entropy of Manifest Destiny. He had just completed his brilliant and unorthodox rendering of the twenty-two Major Arcana of the Tarot, a work which took him 17 years to produce.
“The coming down of the Twin Towers is what triggered The Hieroglyph of the Human Soul,” explains McCloskey of the genesis of his living library. “[It’s] the falling away of the old binary: the two brothers, the Piscean fish. One [is] the man of god, the [other is the] man of money. The two kings who grow higher and higher like the Tower of Babel, only in jealousy to fall back to earth—and we are left in the rubble.”
That rubble, however, is the key to our survival. In McCloskey’s eyes, the falling of the Twin Towers signaled a second great Biblical flood. He explains: “The last flood was of water; this one was information.”
What we do with that information is our choice. If the falling of the Twin Towers signaled the collapse of the Piscean Age and dawning of the Aquarian Age, then we must look to Aquarius’ ruler Saturn as our captain/librarian on this sea of information in hopes of leading to a more beautiful World.“True beauty is Saturnian,” ruminates McCloskey. “[S]he says, ‘You have earned me. You have not been entitled to me.’ Jupiter might have said, ‘Simply because you’re grand you can have me.’ But Saturn says, ‘No, I remain… the Devil, the Dweller at the Threshold, he who sees all of the weakness of your argument.’ [He] essentially torments you until you become worthy; no one can do it for you. You must become self-redeemed. [A]nd so doing you become honorable. You go from being a soldier—a coward of authority—to becoming a Grail Knight, worthy of great beauty because you honor not what you have taken but what you can finally see.”
McCloskey remains hopeful about humanity’s coordinates upon this flood of information.
“That’s who we are, whether we see it or not,” he continues. “That’s what I see in the greater library. It says, ‘Know this, blossom with this. This is your out breath, so when you breathe in you don’t have to take responsibility for the whole thing. You just go, ‘Yeah, I have to say yes rather than yikes!’”
Where is the flood carrying us?
“I’m optimistic that all of this is leading to renaissance,” he elucidates, “or a blossoming of our human story. Because, essentially… as Joseph Campbell would say, when you look at your life as the Hero’s Journey, [then] you are the center of this story. Your dragons are unique but they are dragons, and you will learn to navigate this narrative not by feeling yourself incomplete, but as the outcome of this great question: ‘What does it mean to be human?’ …[T]hat’s why we’re in a library setting here… [W]e have access [to this narrative] now in our DNA, quite literally, because we are woven of this story. But if we think about our human capacity it’s only our imagination… that let’s us access it.”
The DNA double helix has appeared in unexpected ways in McCloskey’s work. One day in 2003, when preparing for an art exhibition, he dropped a stack of postcards of his 1997 painting Phoenix Arise. An annoyance to the mundane eye, but one as sharply focused as McCloskey’s found a message in the accident.
“A holographic, double helix, DNA weave—suggested from a painting,” McCloskey expounded in a talk he gave at the 2012 TEDx Conference in Malibu.
“Phoenix Arise” gives itself to a seemingly infinite diversity of fractalized imagery when it is reproduced upon itself. When the image is repeated in one way, it creates an egg; in another it is a blossoming sun; and yet in other it is the DNA double helix itself.
“Everything we’re looking at… is from one painting recapitulating itself—the painting of creation,” said McCloskey at TEDx.
Today, Phoenix Arise hangs in McCloskey’s The Hieroglyph of the Human Soul: the story of creation contained within the living library. On the wall of the patio deck just outside of the library, McCloskey has taken creation from the neurogenetic to the non-local subatomic with his work Mothership: Revelations in Pink.
What initially began as a means of attempting to express his experiments trying to photograph orbs, Mothership grew into a mandala containing the quantum womb of the goddess of creation. It reveals the soul’s embrace of matter as the mother’s envelopment of the unborn child in her womb and depicts our rise from the amniotic oceans of quantum indeterminacy into physical manifestation itself: mother, mater, matter.
“Like an ancient future science, [we] begin to recognize that [what science calls] the quantum… is actually the imagination, because that’s where energy is interactive… Like any birth, I am a process of gestation, and when I talk about my art it’s always a seed that’s planted, an idea,” says McCloskey.
If Mothership is the mother of the library, then Leigh’s wife Carla is the mother of Olandar. Carla is a woman of divine grace and kindness, and a constant source of Leigh’s inspiration.
“I must come home and tell my children and my wife why being human matters,” Leigh says on the importance of family and community in his work. “What brought me home was intimacy, was the sense of value when I looked in my children’s eyes, my wife’s eyes.”
Carla organizes workshops, discussion groups and film screenings right out of Olandar, the couple’s Malibu home, which all take place as offerings from the Olandar Foundation for Emerging Renaissance (or O.F.F.E.R.; perhaps “Thoth’s Offer” as Leigh points out).
Through Olandar and The Hieroglyph of the Human Soul, Carla and Leigh offer an experience as ancient as the cave paintings at Lascaux, as classic as the Library of Alexandria, and as current as a Facebook feed.
“This is what I feel about us, about community,” Leigh says. “I feel an ancientness in us… We must, as performers of consciousness, artists of consciousness… go places [together] where you can’t imagine.”
Learn more about Leigh’s work by clicking here.