IMAGE AND IMAGINATION
A Soulful Exploration of the Creative Mindfield
Part I: Imagination, Part II: Creativity
by Iona Miller, O.A.K., 3-2004
www.geocities.com/iona_m and www.subcutaneous.org/Iona.html
Summary: The image stream or imaginal process is our primary experience and permeates and conditions all facets of human life. We tend to take the background noise of the constant imaginal flux of the stream of consciousness for granted. We rarely focus our conscious awareness on this imaginal wellspring, but sometimes it intrudes on consciousness during our gaps in awareness – day dreaming, fantasies, reverie, lacunae, inspiration, discovery. This slipstream of emergent dynamic imagery is often the subject of psychotherapy and the source of creativity and visionary art. It is the voice of our Muse, our genius, if we but listen instinctively and respond to the initiatory call.
Exploration of the soul or mindfield is possible through imagination. The dynamic mindscape underlies our beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Imagination is both a realm or domain of experience and a human faculty. Images come in from the outside through our senses, and are also produced autonomously from the unconscious as a perpetual multisensory narrative of experience, immediate though often metaphorical in nature. Meaningful signals or mental forms emerge from the amorphous background.
Creative genius can express a momentary fusion or sustained connection with the unconscious fount of creativity that is then expressed and manifested in some form, dynamic or concrete. Researchers are discovering the neurobiology of the creative process, including latent inhibition, sleep patterns, temperament, neuropeptides, limbic system and nondominant hemisphere function. Chaos theory shows how unpredictable forces such as creativity manifest in self-organization within constraint.
The world is but a canvas to the imagination. ~ Henry David Thoreau
The world of imagination is the world of eternity. ~ William Blake
Of the essence of things, of absolute being, we know nothing. But we experience various effects: from ‘outside’ by way of the senses, from ‘inside’ by way of imagination.
~ C.G. Jung (CW 7, 355)
One of the advantages of being disorderly is that
one is constantly making exciting discoveries. ~ A.A. Milne
Getting swamped by new information that you have difficulty handling may predispose you to a mental disorder, but if you have high intelligence and a good working memory, you are more likely to be able to combine bits of new information in creative ways. ~Shelly Carson, Harvard psychologist
Keywords: Imagination, nature of creativity, creative process, image, imaginal, unpredictability, latent inhibition, sleep cycles, serotonin, dopamine, limbic system, ANS, nondominant hemisphere, synesthesia, conceptual space, visionary art, Jung, archetypal psychology, dreams, chaos theory, conceptual space.
PART I: IMAGINATION
We live fully immersed in an invisible vortex of pure hyperinformation, an autonomous stream of imagery, originating both internally and externally. It is primordial Chaos, the timeless, infinite sea of universal consciousness from which all structure arises. Images come in from outside through our senses, and are generated internally by unconscious dynamics as an immediate multisensory narrative of experience, often metaphorical in nature.
For metaphor to elicit nuance it must be fresh, not dead; it must shock the mind into wonder by opening up a gap, an abyss, a void. The patterning principle transcends and contains all forms. Imagery is the natural expression of the pregnant void urgently fleshing itself out to the fullest extent. These images are not ‘ours’, but arise from the primordial mindfield.
This image stream, full of unborn information, is the subject of psychotherapy and the source of creativity and visionary art. Imagery is an expression of unconscious processing and conversely helps us penetrate unconscious processes. The images metaphorically reflect the core of our being, the place we have made for ourselves in the world. They offer deeper insight into our truth, a way of exploring internal and external hindrances to flow and unbroken wholeness.
Creative genius can express a momentary or sustained connection with this unconscious fount of creativity that is then manifested in some form, dynamic or concrete. During flux, many futures exist. Images penetrate and permeate latent networks operating outside the bounds of awareness.
The probabilities of evolutionary transformation emerge from total potential as pluralistic chaos erupts into awareness as motivation. In the creative process, one path is amplified and chosen. Its essence is evolutionary, following nature’s lead, based on intensification of consciousness. It takes clarity in science and art to see what no one else has ever imagined.
Art, like science, is a vocation or calling, a path toward truth and self-realization, for both maker and spectator. Revolutionary art and visionary physics are both investigations into the nature of reality, and the organization of our perceptions. Gauguin said, “There are only two kinds of artists -- revolutionaries and plagarists.” Revolutionary work marks a transition in a civilization’s worldview. Arguably, today that marriage of art and science is embodied in new media: digital and electronic arts.
Art helps us remember who we truly are, who we will become. Information is infused by resonance through direct experience, evoking creative ideas, feelings, and motivated behavior. Interactive art functions in a similar way as dynamic experience. It unpredictably seduces and surprises, shattering pre-existent notions.
Imagery unfolds as self-revealing visual or multisensory narrative. It attracts – even commands -- our attention, consciously and unconsciously. It invites entrainment through ‘recognition’, providing the energy for follow through in the creative process. We are stimulated, emotionally charged or enflammed, and respond to it intentionally, even compulsively. It drives us.
When we believe in and follow that impulse, what was pure potential crystallizes waves of psychophysical energy and becomes manifest. Each image emerges from the creative context that links all events, real and imaginal – the underlying destructured phenomenal field – the meaningful void of the transcendent imagination.
Venture in the Slipstream
Arieti (1967:337) tells us that "the creative process consists of an unconscious animation of the archetype." This animation consists in a transformation of the fearsome aspects of archetype and dream into creative fantasy in the waking world (Gowan, 1975).
Some of us are more acutely aware of the imaginal, more open to the reflective instinct. The perpetual stream of consciousness is undergird by a dynamic flux of multisensory imagery, which springs from the creative fountain within us all. We imagine rather than perceive images. Images are a dynamic meld of multimodal textures. Imagination itself has an intermediary status between the physical and conceptual level of spirit.
Morphing images are the only reality we apprehend directly. When we look at fantasy images we see the face of instinctual libido staring back at us. Fantasy is an imaginal activity that is the flow of psychic energy. Image and meaning are identical, embodied perpetually in the dynamically shifting image stream. The entire image conveys its own mood and meaning instinctually and does not require analysis or interpretation.
Images only relate indirectly to external reality. An image carries its own inherent meaning which is sort of a ‘condensed expression of the psychic situation as a whole.’ Further, ‘the image is an expression of the unconscious as well as the conscious situation of the moment,’ according to Jung.
Images are self-revelatory. Imagination is a direct expression of psychic life. Imagination flows forth from the imaginal field continually, self-organizing its multisensory narrative and conditioning our experiences. In fact, this imaginal dimension is our experience. Everything we perceive of ourselves, others and world is filtered through it.
Psyche is a cornucopia of emergent imagery, spewing forth from the primal fount of creativity, ever born anew with each and every moment. ‘Images’ are soul, in that it is impossible to experience soul, except through the imagination. Multisensory images are distinguished from symbols as they are particularized by a specific context, mood, and scene. Symbols converge in the subtle net or matrix of dynamic imagery.
Imagination has a discrete redemptive and regenerative power. Exploration of the soul is possible through imagination. Soul, or imagination, is both a realm or domain of experience and a human faculty. Imagination embodies the power of transformation. It can be accessed through obvious imagery, such as dreams, vision and other sensory analogs, or viewed directly in artistic inspiration, psychophysical symptoms, behavior patterns, emotional patterns, mental concepts, and spiritual beliefs.
The realm of soul joins those of matter and spirit by functioning as connective mediatrix. McConeghey (2003) taps into the ancient notion that "perceiving is breathing," to break through the constrictions of usual art "training," freeing the uniqueness of one’s own vision and the soul’s joy in making. The soul is always "seeing" and making images, and images are a natural function of the psyche’s eye. Images are thus the very breath of life and necessary for a vital soul.
Ancient philosophers and Jungians call this personified image making faculty the Anima Mundi or World Soul. Soul, or the imaginal realm, is the ‘Mother of all possibilities.’
‘The hiddeness and invisibility of an image lies not in the fact that it contains something apart from its appearance, but in its ‘multiple ambiguity of meanings.’ The sensual qualities of an image – form, color, texture – are not copied from objects and they replace reality as in visions or hallucinations. To put it paradoxically, images are real precisely because they do not correspond to anything in the so-called outer or objective world of our ordinary experience...hallucination (whether physical or psychedelic) pertains to perceptions, whereas images pertain to imagination.’ (Avens).
Jung stated bluntly that fantasy or imagination is reality. But he meant it on a deeper, far more fundamental level than simple daydreaming. At the most basic level of psychic reality are fantasy images. These images are the primary activity of consciousness. This ongoing fantasy activity, a vital process that Jung states cannot be explained as mere ‘reflex action to sensory stimuli’, is a continuously creative act – through fantasy “the psyche creates reality every day.” (CW 6, 78).
Images are not contained in the psyche, but are the psyche. We needn’t go to sleep to experience the stream of consciousness emerging from this intermediary world, which lies between the senses and the transpersonal spiritual world. ‘Dreaming out loud’, artists are able to make this living stream palpable, tangible. Imagination is tied to the world of sense awareness, both in the sense of perceptual ability and sense of significance.
Into the Mystic
We can experience this aboriginal level of awareness through mythical and artistic imagination, which means watching images in the psyche’s mirror. What is required for this development is the artform of ‘being fully attentive and at the same time relaxed.’ Reverie is conducive to irrational awareness and noticing what comes before us in the inner theatre.
Images ‘mean what they are and are what they mean.’ They embody meaning in the most immediate sense. Their meaning exists only in their creation while they are created or emergent. Dreams are not the only images we perceive. Dreaming continues while we are awake.
The stream of imagery is ceaseless. An image includes mood, context, and scene pervading the whole body with experience. Scent, touch, and taste, as well as auditory and visual aspects constitute the image. An image commands the immediacy of attention.
‘…An image does not have to contain any symbols or motifs that usually are considered archetypal. An image does not have to be shocking, freakish, or sick to work. An image does not have to be emotion literalized (“I felt frightened”). There do not have to be big affects or explicit emotional words to make one feel the mood in an image or its emotional weight. Emotion as mood, as textural feel, is given with every image. None of the overt implications of an image have to be literally evident, because through precisely portraying the patterns, as Jung said, the implications emerge.’ (Hillman,1977).
James Hillman calls the unfathomable depth of the image love. Love for the image is an Aphroditic or erotic function. We needn’t worry about ‘inner’ vs. ‘outer’ nor other mental distinctions, which come after-the-fact.
What we need, and what many artists bring to their work, is a form of love for images, which consists of watchful attention or sustained attention – a way of honoring and entering that flow, field or domain. Through this attention or love for images, we connect with the impersonal dimension of life, which is the source of dreams, myths, tales, art, and religious beliefs and rituals.
‘One could also say that images possess the character of necessity and inexorability because, instead of reflecting another reality, they signify and image themselves; they are necessarily what they appear to be. Image is psyche. To maintain, therefore, with Jung that human reality is primarily psychic and that the image is the primordial and immediate presentation of this reality, means that…they are shaped presences of necessity.’ (Avens:45-6).
‘Imaginal’ is an adjective, sometimes used to refer to the imaginal realm rather than using the noun. Again, the soul is the imaginal realm. So that which is imaginal partakes of the nature and quality of the soul by manifesting as image. An image begins to make sense as we intuit its significance. Images ‘make sense’ and literally become sensory. They make psyche matter.
Hillman maintains that the imaginal brings a sense of distrust or shame in its wake, but that “the real shame is that there is fantasy at all, because the revelation of the imaginal is the revelations of the uncontrollable, spontaneous, spirit, an immortal or divine part of the soul, the memoria Dei…The revelation of fantasies exposes the divine, which implies that our fantasies are alien because they are not ours. They arise from the transpersonal background.”
Hillman feels that images are not eternal but present an eternal quality because all parts in an image are happening at once. Images function in nonlinear sacred time, not on a logical narrative time line. Therefore, there is no question of “this happened, and then that happened.” Actually, all parts are going on simultaneously. For example, while looking at a painting, your eye may scan different parts at different times, but the entire scene is displayed continually – a gestalt.
Further, he suggests the actual words of the image to grasp its significance. He says, “Synesthesia is how imagination images.” So imagination is a process of cross sensory blending. An image becomes not what we see, but the way we see it. Imagination can therefore be defined more closely as the subtle sensing of the prepositional relations among events – dynamic connectivity, or complexity.
We experience fantasies as part of our conscious life. The unconscious is simply “unawareness of the all-pervasive presence of the imaginal in our so-called conscious life…The numinosity of the unconscious is due solely to its radically imaginal character which must remain invisible to our day-light consciousness.”
Experience of the transpersonal quality of the imaginal realm comes through a clear awareness of the immediacy of being, i.e. the momentary constellations of archetypal images, which are undeniably real. We are not real if we deny our dependence on psychic reality, which we experience as images. When considering the imaginal realm of the soul, we are our images.
Imagination is another word for soul, that middle ground where life and meaning merge. According to Avens “the function of imagination is to make palpable the fact that matter in its subjective (expressive) aspect is spirit, and the spirit, regarded objectively, is the material world.” Imagination is the realm of sacred psychology, which approaches the gods through imagining and personifying, rather than through explicit ritual, prayer, and sacrifice of a religious orientation. Likewise, the artist relies on the former process for inspiration.
Imaginal thinking is an experience of patterns or configurational wholes, which provides direct experience of our oneness with outer reality. Imagination is the primary reality, with a non-verbal logic of its own. Naomi Goldenberg, (213-4) says, “The task then becomes one of awareness of soul through its own expressions – through its language of metaphor. Once imagination is recognized as the realm of soul, we need imaginal inroads.”
Imaginal Inroads in Visonary Art
The creative artist provides such imaginal inroads into realms barred to those who don’t share the visionary gift for opening the doors of perception. Archetypal Imagination is a ‘visionary imagination’, which is potentially present at every level of human experience, not only in the artistic, religious or spiritual sense. It means seeing through the outer to the inner essence of things and events to their inner dynamic.
What we imagine isn’t purely possible, but is psychically real in the dramatic or dramatized form, which is found in the active imagination process. The content of the experience is psychically real in the sense it encompasses and transcends both perceptual and self-dramatized realities.
The paradox is that active imagination permits a first glimpse of this extra-personal domain, introducing us to the continual flow of imagery so we become aware of it as an ongoing process. These images add depth to our perception, being latently rich in archetypal meaning. Sometimes they come to our attention as synchronicities or serendipity, when inner and outer worlds suddenly converge in a meaningful coincidence.
To enter the archetypal region itself, a transcendent or visionary imagination is required. Through visionary imagination we come to know archetypes in dynamic interaction in every aspect of our lives and perceptions. They condition all our experience on an a priori basis. We don’t see them, but see through them. They are the means, not the objects, verbs rather than nouns, dynamic not static, primordial not secondary constructions.
Archetypal imagining is a discipline of consciousness, which is first visionary, and second provides an orientation in the inner world, in the mindscape. The visionary state is heightened awareness, a form of attentional shift from the mundane toward the more fundamental dreamworld, which undergirds it.
Jung described two categories of creativity: psychological art and visionary art. Primary processes generate psychological art. Visionary art, according to Jung, "derives its existence from the hinterlands of the man's mind." This second category connects us with the super-human, timeless worlds beyond our conscious knowing; thus, it correlates with the creative process described as fusion.
When a creator, in any field, approaches this second category, he or she becomes a scout or pathfinder for all of humanity. The order of choice is so high it appears as chaos. Exploring new directions, the artist transcends personal fate, and speaks to, and for humankind. Such work is "channeled" through receptive individuals who respond to the collective needs of the race.
Marshal McLuhan, described such people as the "dew line" (or ‘early warning system’) for society at large who capture and express the spiritual meaning of the culture (May, 1975). He argued that , “the new role of the intellectual is to tap the collective consciousness of the vast multitudes that labour. That is to say, the intellectual is no longer to direct individual perception and judgment but to explore and to communicate the massive unconscious of collective man. The intellectual is merely cast in the role of a primitive seer, vates or hero incongruously peddling his discoveries in a commercial market.” (Theall, 2003:208)
The collective unconscious described by Jung ties the psyches of humanity together; creativity thus includes the expression of the specie's needs, not solely individual need. Creating thereby becomes a function of humanity: the individual, the creative process, and the creation, form a gestalt within the context of a larger "whole."
An artistic work begins with the process of fusion. An individual artist opens to inspiration and meets the infinite flow previously described. The original work shows a merger of the individual blueprint and the infinite flow. The artistic work reflects the make-up of the artist at the time of creation. It is a conception. However, such a work is primarily psychological art because it is an expression resulting from a stable state or, cumulative life experience.
Once an artist has found a means of expression, the two forms of creativity become more clearly delineated. After the incipient work develops, the artist expands his or her portfolio by replicating the original work in various forms. The theme of each work may vary but it still bears the blueprint originally present in the artist. It is psychological art, the work of the ego manipulating the medium according to the artist's skills. Such artistic works often go stale over time.
The artist works, and reworks to extinction, the various forms of inspiration to which they were originally receptive. However, in the work of some artists a process of transformation is apparent: this results from a fresh, or continuous encounter with the source of inspirations. It forces change in the artist. This is visionary art, the result of fusion.
Visionary, transformative art results from the fusion of the artist's intrinsic receptive capacity and his encounter with the flow of infinite inspiration -- or infinite potential. Rather than replicating themselves in their work repeatedly, something of such magnitude occurs that it virtually tears the artist's ego apart.
The deconstructed ego is receptive to new perturbations, new combinations. The artist shifts to one of these new combinations that attracts and bonds with different information and energy flowing through the matrix of the collective consciousness.
The work will have a distinctly new quality that may reflect a complete shift in the life, and the medium of the artist. Visionary creative acts result from the individual creator's willingness to allow dedifferentiation of their individual consciousness and then redifferentiation of consciousness influenced by a different mindfield that changes both the creator and their work.
In Psychoenergetic Systems, (Krippner, 1979), John Gowan draws parallels between creativity, healing, and illumination (or peak experiences). All three procedures share common traits. These include a prelude ritual which includes a withdrawal to internal solitude, an altered state of consciousness during the peak of the experience, and an emotional "afterglow" after the experience. Briefly these are characterized as follows:
1. Prelude Ritual. "This consists of a number of steps, some of which may be left out or practiced unconsciously in any given case. First, there is a trigger (a physical problem in the case of healing, an unsolved issue in the case of creativity). The protagonist seeks solitude undisturbed; one concentrates on one's thought with a fixed purpose, calling or invoking some transpersonal power or must with full expectation of results. The peak-experience illumination differs only in that the entire process is largely unconscious."
2. Altered State. "It is far from trance even in the ‘wild’ (or spontaneous)
peak-experience. It is, in the other two modes, far more within conscious control, but it is still not your ordinary state of consciousness, for one is in some measure conscious of the Absolute -- outside time and space. Once the prototype of the solution is sensed there, it is experienced as vibrations, which grow into mental images, ideas instantaneously flow; they are clothed in a form which must be committed to paper at once lest they vanish, and finally, suddenly, the altered state ends. In healing, having been visualized by the healer, the perfect condition is manifested in the patient: in creativity the new product has been ‘realized’ in verbal or artistic form; in illumination the experience is ineffable and hence is felt only as overload on the emotions."
3. Postlude. "The postlude experience is one of beneficient emotions, joy, reassurance, exaltation, oneness, and goodness. ...one or more of the steps may be unconscious or omitted altogether in any given circumstance. Some of these events are more intense than others, and the spontaneous ones tend to be more ecstatic than those ‘on demand,’ but these statements are equally true of sexual intercourse, for experience breeds equanimity."
PART II: CREATIVITY
Still Crazy After All These Tears
Scientists have just discovered (2004) one of the biological bases of creativity. Ignoring what seems irrelevant to your immediate needs may be good for your mental health but bad for creativity. A tendency to be perceptually uninhibited leads to a higher rate of input and unique processing sequences that fan the fires of the creative spirit.
Rather than becoming overwhelmed, the creative are able to integrate this amplified input and transform it into innovative output. There is a psychological fusion, which alchemically ‘turns lead into gold.’
“A study in the September (03) issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people's brains might shut out this same information through a process called "latent inhibition" - defined as an animal's unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition.
"This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment," says co-author and U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson. "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities."
“Previously, scientists have associated failure to screen out stimuli with psychosis. However, Peterson and his co-researchers - lead author and psychology lecturer Shelley Carson of Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard PhD candidate Daniel Higgins - hypothesized that it might also contribute to original thinking, especially when combined with high IQ. [Research suggests] creativity increases as IQs climb to 130 (the average score of Harvard students), and even up to 150." (Cromie, 2004)
These researchers administered tests of latent inhibition to Harvard undergraduates. Those classified as eminent creative achievers - participants under age 21 who reported unusually high scores in a single area of creative achievement - were seven times more likely to have low latent inhibition scores.
“The authors hypothesize that latent inhibition may be positive when combined with high intelligence and good working memory - the capacity to think about many things at once - but negative otherwise. Peterson states: "If you are open to new information, new ideas, you better be able to intelligently and carefully edit and choose. If you have 50 ideas, only two or three are likely to be good. You have to be able to discriminate or you'll get swamped."
Neurobiology of Creativity
William Calvin (2004) from the University of Washington reports that highly creative individuals have increased expression of specific serotonin transporter and dopamine receptor genes. Creative individuals have significantly higher activation in the right and left cerebellum, frontal and temporal lobes, while they perform creative tasks.
While standard IQ tests and college entrance exams focus on convergent thinking, i.e. finding the right answer, creative individuals excel at divergent thinking, i.e. discovering multiple potential solutions. The typical behaviors of creative individuals, such as novelty seeking and harm avoidance, as well as high emotional, sensual and physical over-excitability, often result in the abandonment of projects.
Increased expression of specific serotonin transporter and dopamine receptor genes does not always transfer into the same kinds of outward behavior, resulting in behaviors that can be said to be specific to creative individuals. That's why creativity tests rarely rely on psychological profiling of "typical behaviors." The so-called ‘artistic temperament’ actually comes in a variety of ‘flavors.’
The biological parameters of creativity do not necessarily predict temperament. Highly creative individuals can be found across all segments of the Meyers-Briggs and other psychological profiling tools (Miller, 2004). That's why researchers such as Teresa Amabile recommend the kind of creativity testing that actually requires that the testee produce some output that can be evaluated as creative or not.
A great opportunity for neurobiological research into creativity would be to discover the whole range of ways in which the highly creative people of various personality types express their creativity. As Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” The creative move more fluidly between the domains of intuition, thinking, feeling, and sensing.
Creative people holistically use both introversion and extroversion during their process, use both mind and feelings often simultaneously in concert, and are certainly intuitive and artistic, often sensual virtuosos. They illustrate that the “opposites” do not exclude, but compliment, each other. For example, they may be introverted in the incubation stage while extraverted in the performance or presentational phase.
June Singer (1973) summarizes Jung’s theory of extroversion and introversion: “The introverted nature is Platonic in that it is mystical, spiritualized, and perceives in symbolic forms, while extraverted nature is Aristotelian, in that it is practical, a builder of the solid system from the Platonic ideal. The introvert is directed primarily toward an understanding of what he perceives, while the extravert naturally seeks means of expression and communication. In the introvert, the subject, his own being, is the center of every interest and the importance of the object lies in the way in which it affects the subject.”
“In the extravert, the object, the other in and of itself, to a large degree determines the focus of his interest. The introvert’s interest in self-knowledge prevents him from being overpowered by the influence of his objective surroundings. The extravert has a tendency to abandon concern for himself to his interest in others. Hence the concern of the introvert is in the direction of development of his individual potential while that of the extravert is more socially oriented. The introvert tends to set himself and subjective psychic processes above achievement in the public domain, while the extravert seeks the recognition of others as a predominant value.”
All types have the capacity for creativity but tend to express it differently. Some use the mediums and forms recognized socially as “art.” Others are conceptually creative or more subtle in their creative expression. Their creativity is part of the fabric of life, of living. For some the interpersonal, social or economic arenas are their medium. In this sense, “art” is not defined by the medium but by the artfulness of expression. There is a harmony of artforms, mediums, and styles of presentation with the primary types: Dionysian, Epimethean, Promethean and Apollonic.
A quick overview of the spectrum reveals a harmony between certain types and modes of expression: Epimethian artificers (SJ), the sensual Dionysian artisans and virtuosos (SP), singers, performers and composers (SF), Promethean inventors and conceptualizers (NT) and writers (NT or NF authors depending on subject and genre, non-fiction or fiction), and Apollonic (NFs) whose medium is people, acting, or people-helping such as healing.
The four main types of temperaments encompass sixteen subtypes, based on four pairs of preferences: Extraversion (E)-Introversion (I), Sensation (S)-Intuition (N), Thinking (T)-Feeling (F), Perceiving (P)-Judging (J). Some people have a combination of two types or a balance along one or more continuums, creating an X-factor, which yields an additional 32 mixed types. Along the J-P dimension, those stronger in judging display convergent thinking, while perceivers use exploratory, divergent thinking.
All creative people are flexible in their mental processes, paradoxically wielding the opposites, even the ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ function. This may relate to global thinking (NT), activating both left and right hemispheres of the brain (T-F), perceiving new interrelationships (iN) as well as deploying critical (J-P) and expressive (S) capacity.
Divergence, so important in creativity, actually has two components -- fluency and originality. Fluency is the ability to come up with lots of potential solutions. Originality is the ability to come up with potential solutions that are substantially different from each other yet are still part of a potential solution set, will still solve the problem.
Hartman (1973:67) notices personality relationships with dreaming. Worriers require more dreamtime sleep. But this is also true of "tortured geniuses" (1973:68) for "certain very creative, concerned persons, both in art and science, often are long sleepers."; "an increased sleep need is associated with intellectual and emotional work" (1973:78).
A good eight hours of refreshing sleep daily therefore facilitates problem solving and creativity. Research shows sleeping brains continue working on problems that baffle us during the day, and the right answer may come more easily after eight hours of rest. A new (2004) German study is considered to be the first hard evidence supporting the common sense notion that creativity and problem solving appear to be directly linked to adequate sleep.
Jan Born, who led the German study, said the results support biochemical studies of the brain that indicate memories are restructured during sleep before they are stored. Creativity also appears to be enhanced in the process, he said. The changes leading to creativity or problem-solving insight occur during "slow wave" or deep sleep that typically occurs in the first four hours of the sleep cycle, he said.
Unpredictability In Creativity
There is a chaotic element inherent in the creative process. Chaos theory suggests the interface of randomness and order is where self-organization emerges spontaneously as surprisingly new order. Creative ideas will always remain surprising or startling; unpredictability is inescapable. Devotees of the humanities expect to be surprised.
Collier (1972, p.109) speculates that, “genuine, powerful symbols cannot be deliberately or self-consciously produced; they can only be discovered in the unselfconscious involvement with the developing image. It seems that symbols develop from, and allude back to, those modes of apprehension which we attribute to intuitive or unconscious sources. Consequently, there is a degree of ambiguity or unintelligibility about the more powerful symbols for they are born from the deeper regions of the self, from beyond the fringe of reason. They give intimation of a meaning beyond the level of our present powers of comprehension.”
An arresting metaphor, or poetic image, an unexpected twist of plot, new media, novel style of music, painting, or dance are all unexpected and therefore delightful. But their creative triggers cannot be anticipated or foreseen. The human mind and experience is richly idiosyncratic, full of artful ambiguities.
Chaos theory has shown us that emergent order is always unpredictable though deterministic or bounded by constraints. The complex inner landscape can be mapped with the features of phase space, stability, chaos, and cascades of supercritical change or junctures. Creativity emerges as ‘controlled accidents’ in the ever-changing context of resonating conceptual spaces, in the gaps of our awareness.
A given style of thinking typically allows for many points at which two or more alternatives are possible--possible, that is, relative to the style. In chaos theory, this is called bifurcation. Intentions act like magnetic fields, moving attention toward some attractors or objects and away from others, focusing the mind on some stimuli in preference to others.
Once a system is perturbed, by a hunch or inspiration for example, the change gets pumped up to global dimensions in the ‘butterfly effect.’ Diverse reactions and motivations ensue. A small impulse or resonance with the flow state becomes a creative insight, inspiration, or drive.
Scientists, too, appreciate the shock of a new idea--gravity, the double helix, the jumping gene, periodic table, or benzene-ring. Indeed, unpredictability is often said to be the essence of creativity. But unpredictability is not enough. At the heart of creativity lie constraints: the very opposite of unpredictability. Constraints and unpredictability, familiarity and surprise, are somehow combined in original thinking. (Bowden)
Jung felt a minimum of order was necessary to have a meaningful relationship to imagination. The minimal ordering system expresses the relationship among archetypes in a sort of archetypal topography, or internal map. There is a subtle network or matrix connecting all potential symbols and images through a complex system of relations or correspondences. The psyche is full of dynamic feedback loops. No image is unrelated to others in this vast webwork.
Bowden contests that an adequate account of creativity should clarify the "how" in the creative impulse. It must show how creativity is grounded in constraints, and why it is that creative ideas are unpredictable--and often inexplicable even after they have occurred. To discard all constraint destroys the capacity for creative thinking, though randomness contributes to creativity. Those who are highly creative in their media or fields of expertise seldom make breakthroughs in other areas, though scientists, for example, may also be artistic.
“To justify calling an idea creative, then, one must specify the particular set of generative principles--what one might call the conceptual space--with respect to which it is impossible. Conceptual spaces are established styles of thinking (sonata form, chess, tonal harmony, pointillism, sonnets, limericks, aromatic chemistry, animation, etc.). Different conceptual spaces have distinct structures, each with its own dimensions, pathways or imaginal inroads, and boundaries.” (Bowden)
The "mapping" of a conceptual or artistic space involves the representation, whether at conscious or unconscious levels, of its structural features. The more such features are represented in the mind of the person concerned, the more power (or freedom) they have to navigate and negotiate these spaces.
A crucial difference-- probably the crucial difference--between Mozart and the rest of us is that his cognitive maps of musical space were very much richer, deeper, and more detailed than ours. In addition, he presumably had available many more domain-specific processes for negotiating them.
Much as a real map helps a traveler to find--and to modify--his route, so mental maps enable us to explore and transform our conceptual spaces in imaginative ways. Exploring a conceptual space is one thing. Transforming it is another. In general, novel ideas gained by exploring an unknown niche in a pre-existing conceptual space are regarded as less creative than ideas formed by transforming that space in radical ways.
Many exploratory and transformational heuristics may be potentially available at a certain time, in dealing with a given conceptual space. But one or the other must be chosen. Even if several options can be applied, not all possibilities can be simultaneously explored. Choices have to be made somehow.
Occasionally, the choice is random, or as near to random as one can get. So it may be made by throwing a dice or by consulting a table of random numbers, as in a jazz program, or even, possibly, as a result of some sudden quantum-jump inside the brain. There may even be psychological processes producing novel ideas in human minds.
More often, the choice is fully determined, by something which bears no systematic relation to the conceptual space concerned. Relative to that style of thinking, however, the choice is made randomly. Certainly, nothing within the style itself could enable us to predict its occurrence.
In either case, the choice must somehow be skillfully integrated into the relevant mental structure. Without such disciplined integration, it cannot lead to a positively valued, interesting idea. The schizophrenic's word-salad is not poetry, not any succession of events is a story, nor is every graphic fine art. There is art that hangs on the kitchen wall, and art that hangs in the Louvre.
Even flaws and accidents may be put to creative use, developing ideas which are not contrived or thought up. Serendipity is the unexpected finding of something one was not specifically looking for. But the "something" has to be something which is wanted, or at least which can now be deemed desirable and used. Creative events such as these cannot be foreseen. Both trigger and triggering are unpredictable.
This is so even if there are no absolutely random events going on in our brains. Chaos theory has taught us that fully deterministic systems can be, in practice, unpredictable. Our inescapable ignorance of the initial conditions means that we cannot forecast the ‘weather’, except in highly general (and short-term) ways.
Ottman’s (2004) postmodern reevaluation of genius—that disruption of the ordinary, by artists and writers, that cannot be explained solely in geographical, cultural, or formal terms. He suggests that while there is no essentialist quality of genius, the postmodern artist can reach the extraordinary by way of an active-passive Genius Decision, which is engaged in an activity of failure in its desire to represent the nonrepresentable.
Collier (1972:51-2) feels that at times the artist "shapes collective experience" and becomes a "channel through which unconscious, universal life forces are expressed and shaped." He likens art to a magical act. “It is in the creative act, in the construction of images whether they be of science or art, that he gains his independence, sense of purpose, and ability to live with uncertainty and fear.”
The inner dynamics of the mind are more complex than those of the weather, and the initial conditions--each person's individual experiences, values, and beliefs--are even more varied. Small wonder, then, that we cannot foresee the brainstorms of creativity in our minds.
Possession is 9/10 of the Law of Creativity
Like fractal patterns emerging on the computer screen, we cannot fail to notice the aesthetic beauty of the unfolding process of the creative imagination. Creativity is conceived and generated within conceptual and imaginal space and flows outward as emergent process. It is a personal moment of truth, of ripeness that also has broader social meaning.
Fromm (1959) tell us creativity requires at least four traits: “capacity to be puzzled, ability to concentrate, capacity to accept conflict, and willingness to be reborn everyday.” Maslow (1958) extends creative traits to include “spontaneous, expressive, effortless, innocent, unfrightened by the unknown or ambiguous, able to accept tentativeness and uncertainty, able to tolerate bipolarity, able to integrate opposites.”
We could also add traits of energy, autonomy, confidence, openness, drive, resourcefulness, free-thinking, flexibility, fluency, originality, and a preference for complexity. Creativity brings in its wake a sense of destiny and personal worth, resulting in joy, contentment and acceptance of self. This shows its transformative ability, transcendent and holistic quality.
The unconscious, not our egos, is the genius. Certain characteristics of genius point toward access to nondominant hemispheric (right brain) functioning and transcendental power. There can be a feeling of being possessed, seized by a power greater than oneself. This transcendent subliminal self echoes the ‘otherness’ of artistic genius, as Esther Harding (1973:151) points out:
“To the creative artist, his art (or his genius) is like a non-personal creative spirit, almost a divine being, that lives and creates quite apart from his ego consciousness. While the creative urge is on him he feels lifted out of himself; he is exalted. Inspired by a spirit breathing through him. What he portrays is not invented by himself; it comes to him he knows not whence.”
The beginnings of the creative process lie in introspection on information previously assimilated. This may take many forms, such as focusing on a problem and studying all angles of it, with various repercussions. After preparation and incubation, an illumination, or answer to the problem may suddenly occur. Its application will show if it is a true answer, or can be verified as useful. Creativity is part of the basis of philosophy in that it raises problems or questions, which it seeks to resolve through verbal creativity.
Gowan lists several theories concerning creativity, and the powers and virtues of verbal and mathematical creativity. He asserts that creativity has cognitive, rational and semantic aspects. Other aspects of creativity are personal or environmental, or stem from a certain psychological openness. The inspiration for creativity comes from the ability of the ego to access the contents of the collective preconscious. Activity directed in this manner leads to high well-being and self-actualization. Understanding increases along with creative organization.
The creative process may not be emotionally painless, however. As in chaos theory, a system far from equilibrium experiences complex turbulence which hides a high degree of organization, even beauty. This may describe part of the make up of the so-called ‘artistic personality.’ In Facing the Gods, James Hillman points out the common identity of Chaos and Necessity with anxiety, which echoes the relationship of chaos and constraint, described here in the preceding section:
“The psychological viewpoint sees Necessity and Chaos not only as explanatory principles only in the realm of metaphysics; they are also mythic events taking place also and always in the soul, and they are the fundamental archai of the human condition. To these two principles the pathe (or motions) of the soul can be linked.”
“Psychology has already recognized the faceless, nameless Chaos, this ‘sacred and crazy movement’ in the soul, as anxiety, and by naming it such, psychology has directly evoked the Goddess Ananke, from whom the word anxiety derives. If anxiety truly belongs to Ananke, of course it cannot be ‘mastered by the rational will.’
Prigogine (1984) comments on the so-called consciousness of dynamic systems far from equilibrium:
“Near bifurcation, systems present large fluctuations. Such systems seem to ‘hesitate among various possible directions of evolution. A small fluctuation may start an entirely new evolution that will drastically change the whole behavior of the system. The analogy with social phenomena, even with history is inescapable. Far from opposing “chance” and “necessity’ we now see both aspects as essential in describing nonlinear systems far from equilibrium. This is very different than the static view of classical dynamics or the evolutionary view associated with entropy.”
The future of a chaotic system can be substantially altered by a tiny perturbation. Small disturbances can radically alter a chaotic system’s behavior—but tiny adjustments can also stabilize it. The same system theory, applicable at all scales of observation, holds true for our personalities and creative process.
Chaos theory is also characterized by phase breaking transitions. This may be more than metaphorical for the artistic process, as well. Most of reality, instead of being orderly, stable and equilibrated is fluctuating and boiling with change, disorder, and complex turbulent processes.
Defects play an important role in the destruction of old order during symmetry breaking transitions. Phase instabilities are defect-mediated and arguably this holds true for personality. A disorganized system either disintegrates into chaos or leaps to a new higher level of order or organization. This psychic turbulence can create quantum leaps in awareness that emerge in surprising new ways of seeing, new themes, media, rhythms, or style.
In the cult film, Eat the Sun, the Videru Telemahandi teaches that “the ecology of the soul is to recycle one’s consciousness”, and the artist does just that. The artist helps us re-embrace chaos in our culture.
'By Names and Images are powers awakened and re-awakened'. ~Golden Dawn
Creative personalities are easily recognized by their child-like playfulness and adult discipline. They are not immobilized in their aspirations by a guilt-ridden relationship to their unconscious, seek mystery and surprise, can tolerate and even encourage disorientation and confusion, and defy explanation.
Likely to be more sensitive than most to internal and external stimuli, the creative have a certain attunement to and comfort with the interplay of extremely intense conscious and preconscious drives and motivations, paradox and duality. We all can make ourselves available for the spirit of life and ride on its breath, interrupting our habitual patterns.
It has been said that “Art is an articulator of the soul’s uncensored purpose and deepest will.” (McNiff). Echoing its shamanic roots, D.H. Laurence called art an essentially religious activity. It evolved from the quest for the sacred, from the instinct for play and tinkering, not as a utilitarian pursuit. Imagery is the door to the deep self, the compositional world of rhythm, tone, texture, color, mood, drama, and above all -- surprise.
The creative process arouses and animates us, remaining the most dramatic shortcut to discovery of the secrets of nature and our nature. It requires intuition, commitment, brinksmanship, discernment of the relevant and irrelevant, love and discipline. Through the spirit of play, without expectation that it will mean anything, we get to the essence of things. We transcend our self-consciousness, work through the central metaphors, persistent themes and moods of our lives. Our art speaks from the heart of meaningful connections.
The subjective inner domain is intimately conjoined with the external objective sphere. Radical innovations in art often foresee new culture changing concepts, matters which do not yet have words, or are unformulated intellectually. McLuhan said, “The artist is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his action and of new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness.”
In Understanding Media, he conjectured,
“If men were able to be convinced that art is precise advance knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology, would they all become artists? Or would they begin a careful translation of new art forms into social navigation charts? I am curious to know what would happen if art were suddenly seen for what it is, namely, exact information of how to rearrange one’s psyche in order to anticipate the next blow from our own extended faculties.”
Artists unconsciously introduce symbols and icons that herald scientifc ages still unborn. The significant artist is a precursor who prepares the culture for transition to the future. Works of exceptional artists can be evaluated by how they reveal anticpation of the future.
To think about things in a new way we have to begin by assimilating unfamiliar images.
The post Postmodern era has seen the obliteration of all metanarratives: the deconstruction of form in pomo aesthetics, the deconstruction of matter in subquantum physics, and the deconstruction of personality to groundstate in psychology. The image is one of ‘emptying’.
What will come next to fill that emptiness? How will we know the world? What things ‘want’ to live together? It will take form from volume, space, mass, force, light, color, tension, relationship, density, rhythm, tone, and texture with aesthetic qualities, elegance, symmetry, beauty, and grace. Somehow it will literally ‘make sense’, not in a rational but a direct way.
Creativity has a life, a vitality, of its own. We are the midwives of that which seeks to be born of necessity from Chaos. In this way, like the alchemists of old evoking the sacred in their Great Work, we free the spirit trapped in comon matter and embody that divine essence which was previously umanifest and unknowable. This is the mystery of the creative instinct, our primary calling.
Nietzsche called art, “a saving sorceress, expert at healing.” It is a soul-making process of experimentation, risk-taking, absorption, fascination, attunement, flow, a variety of mystical experience which can lift us out of ourselves in rapture and delight, revealing what was formerly hidden. Creativity supplies its own motivation, impelling us to live more courageously, imaginatively, and playfully.
We are all creative and can become moreso. We don’t have to wait idle for divine inspiration to strike, but can engage actively in the process of discovery and self-expression of our imagery. We can improvise and risk, trusting the process that when we answer the call, we will harmonize with the flow by willingly entering and following that mystery. Fantasies and metaphors bring inspiration to action, heightening experience and opening the way to different ways of knowing self and world.
Attuning and attending to imagination’s kaleidoscopic panoply offers the creative person an endless source of inspiration and discovery. We can incubate, facilitate, and enliven our own problem solving and creative process by remaining open to internal and external input, taking time for reflection, getting plenty of deep sleep and dream time, and embracing the chaotic idiosyncracies of our own creative process.
Still, inevitably, the Muse of truly innovative inspiration will visit when she will, unpredictable as ever. We can only prepare ourselves dutifully to be hospitible when she arrives.
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