In 1975 Morrisseau embraces Eckankar, a spiritual tradition that promotes a duality of the soul and body. Eckists believe that soul travel leads to spiritual emancipation. From the 1970s on, Morrisseau’s visual vocabulary — especially in relation to his use of colours — was significantly influenced by Eckankar.

In this book, In My Soul I am Free, Paul Twitchell identifies himself as the father of Eckankar—the ancient science of soul travel. After 1975 Morrisseau began to change his visual language to incorporate colour and subjects related to his exploration as an Eckist.

This painting expresses Morrisseau’s changing ideas about spirituality. The left panel shows his grandfather, Moses Potan Nanakonagos, who expresses the personal embodiment of mino bimaadiziwin, or living a good life. Separated from his grandfather in the right panel is a young Morrisseau, respectfully explaining to his grandfather his ties to all living beings but with new spiritual teachings that enter this panel from the upper right side. Linking Morrisseau's arm and Eckankar teachings is one of Morrisseau’s circular energy bundles, but this one contains the Eckist mantra HU.

Norval Morrisseau, The Storyteller: The Artist and His Grandfather, 1978.

This work was painted after Morrisseau’s spiritual awakening with the Eckankar movement and shows how he melds a number of connections between Eckankar and his Anishinaabe spirituality.

The painting shows the upper and lower realms of Anishinaabe cosmology. The upper world includes the Thunderbird, the two-headed medicine snake, and heaven people. The lower world includes a shaman standing on a sacred bear and a loon, connected to fish, birds, and other sacred beings.

Norval Morrisseau, The Light is the Way, 1979.

Norval Morrisseau, Man Warding Off Psychic Powers, 1978.

This experimental work is an excellent example of Morrisseau working to meld elements of his visual language to capture spiritual connections between Anishinaabe ways of knowing and Eckankar. Morrisseau plays with drip paint techniques to capture the complexities of the layers of spiritual planes.

This work was featured in Art of Norval Morrisseau in 1979 with the following description:

The central figure is rooted to the physical or first level of consciousness—symbolized by the bird-fish theme. The third eye, being the spiritual eye of man, gazes beyond the physical onto the Astral plane.

Art of Norval Morrisseau, 1979, 143

Norval Morrisseau, Door to Astral Heaven, 1977.

Combining Eckankar teachings with Anishinaabeg ways of knowing: A New Worldview

Norval Morrisseau, Androgyny, 1983.

In 1983, Morrisseau wrote to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and offered Androgyny as a gift to the Canadian people. Trudeau happily accepted the gift.

While we can only speculate as to why Morrisseau gifted this powerful work to Canada, Carmen Robertson believes Morrisseau intended it as an opportunity to offer a teaching about relationality and kinship, given the work’s celebration of the interconnectedness among all living beings. 

Morrisseau wrote:

A shaman that is Androgyne in four directions filled with all parts of nature in Canada, thunderbeings, sacred serpents and turtles, flowers [sic], and we children of Mother Earth.

Correspondence from James P. Richards on behalf of Norval Morrisseau to Tom Axworthy, secretary to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, 19 February 1983, Indigenous Art Centre Archives.

This masterpiece depicts boldly coloured images of animals, humans, and spirit beings living in an interconnected universe, where layers of storytelling and ways of knowing are part of us all.

Balance, relationality and considerations of future generations are central to the message of this painting.

Morrisseau’s gift inspires a new way of considering Canada’s relations with land and Indigenous peoples.

The house of invention gave me colour.

Norval Morrisseau: Return to the House of Invention, 1997, p.14

Pulsating with colour, this image shows how Morrisseau combines spiritual teachings in his paintings created late in his career. The Thunderbird transports the man and child to an astral portal. The sphere that frames the beings is connected with birds, fish, and animals.

Norval Morrisseau, Thunderbird Man Child Yellow Portal Red, 1993.

Norval Morrisseau, Observations of the Astral World, 1994.

My art reflects my own spiritual personality.

Norval Morrisseau: Return to the House of Invention, 1997, p. 58.
This quote by Norval Morrisseau is read by  Logan Fiddler, Great-grandson of Norval Morrisseau, 2023. 

This large-scale painting shows how Morrisseau integrates all aspects of his spirituality from Anishinaabe cosmology, shamanistic symbolism, and Eckankar teachings. The artist uses intense colour to convey a sense of balance between two spheres or worlds. On the left, the artist paints a family interconnected with living beings of aki, or land, surrounded by a copper coloured background. The encircled shaman figures on the right include the sacred bear, fish, and a thunderbird headdress. The two groups are divided by a tree, with the central trunk of this tree of knowledge a black dividing line. Morrisseau includes a yellow orb, which has connections to Eckist teachings, from which fish, symbols for underwater spirits, swim across the divided composition, signifying the interactions between realms.

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