About the creative currents that run through the inner world of human Consciousness, and why it is important to know them
“The process of discovery appears to be one of the most enjoyable activities any human can be involved in.”Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
How does creation work?
This question is as old as mankind. Humans have sought answers in creation myths and the fantastic stories of mythology all around the world. Those stories informed our religions and the belief in creative superpowers ruling over human life.
In our contemporary culture those stories of creation have been gradually replaced by the scientific paradigm. Now we know what the ancient people have known all along: Nature itself is creative.
Somehow the mysterious creative forces make the universe work the way it does. If we could understand fully how this works, if we could calculate and predict the patterns of the creative source, then we might be able to control nature…
Our own creativity is obviously related to the creative forces as well. We sometimes assume it’s dependent on talents and special gifts. This means, the human creative forces get reduced and channeled into certain activities.
But creativity is a natural resource like air and water, it’s available to everyone, and it finds expression in all areas of life. Creativity enables us to regenerate our experience and our circumstances of life. Creativity is essential for our health and wellbeing.
In his book Creativity: the psychology of discovery and invention the psychologist and creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes:
“Creativity involves the production of novelty. The process of discovery… appears to be one of the most enjoyable activities any human can be involved in.”
In other words, creativity is present in the process of renewal or regeneration, and lights our inner world up in an experience of highest joy.
At the same time Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi observes that, “The pursuit of a creative problem is rarely easy. In fact, in order to be enjoyable it should be hard. It is never easy to break new ground, to venture into the unknown… It is impossible to accomplish something that is truly new and worthwhile without struggling with it.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s observations are gained from interviewing 91 creative people, with the aim to find out how the creative process works. One of the results of the study was that the human experience of highest joy and deepest struggle go hand in hand.
“Creativity is possible whenever we’re using our intelligence.”Sir Ken Robinson
The process of creation demands that we step into the void. We have to dissolve familiar mental structures to allow for surprising new insights and give birth to a new life.
The creative process is essentially a birth process, and giving birth may be difficult, painful, and even dangerous; and it may be a lot longer (or shorter) than expected.
Artists, writers, musicians and inventors are very familiar with this process. We know, in the creative process there are no guaranteed results.
And yet we step into that zone again and again, because it is the source of new life. It is the place from where we draw new insights, so that our Consciousness can grow beyond the limitations of the past and present.
Creativity is considered an ‘entertaining past time’ by many. Science, technology, medicine, law, practical skills, and climbing the corporate ladder – that’s real business. Yet none of them would be able to survive without creativity.
If you consider becoming an artist, you might be asked, “and what are you going to do for a living?”
Sir Ken Robinson is an influential promoter of creativity who recognises the dangers of its decline in our culture. In his book Out of our Minds he writes:
“Creativity is not confined to the arts. There are many reasons for teaching the arts in schools, including their role in fostering creativity… At the same time, other disciplines, including science and mathematics can be just as creative as music and dance. Creativity is possible whenever we’re using our intelligence.”
Artistic activities, creative writing, music, dance and performance are expressions of our creativity. However, the creative currents run through every nook and cranny of our Consciousness, and they affect everything we do.
Our creativity is ultimately responsible for how we experience our life, because we create our own experience on a daily basis.
“Our task is to learn how our mental organism works and what we can do to keep it healthy.”
20 years ago I started asking myself how the creative process really works. Understanding the creative functions of our Consciousness seemed like a matter of life or death to me at the time, because I had ‘created’ a dangerous and very unpleasant situation for myself.
Of course, this type of creativity happens unintentionally. Nobody plans to create negative circumstances for themselves.
I started reading and writing about the creative process. I explored the creative human forces, not just as an artistic pursuit, but as a way of life. As it turned out, making mistakes, failing, getting into trouble, and wrestling with the creative medium is the daily bread of the creative human.
In the past few decades many books about creativity have been written. Some of them study the ‘psychology of creativity’, like the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Others focus on the importance of creativity in our education system and culture, like the work of Ken Robinson.
Some give personal insights into the creative process, like Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and some offer valuable practical help on how to nurture our own creativity like The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
The topic of creativity for everyday life is also covered to some degree by so-called self-help books, offering methods ‘how-to-methods to create the life you want.’ Two assumptions behind such methods are that (1) creativity is a function of the mind, and that (2) our mind is something we can control.
When I followed the trail of the creative current I was lead to a couple of discoveries that challenge these assumptions. In my current understanding, creativity is a fundamental process which requires a complex interaction of all faculties of our Consciousness.
We can see an analogy to some of the fundamental functions of the body. For example, breathing is usually associated with the lungs. But many other parts of your body are essential for your breathing too, especially your nose, mouth, diaphragm, and skin.
Moreover, the blood has to transport the oxygen to all organs and tissues, the heart regulates the circulation of the blood, the brain and nervous system are involved too etc. If any of those organs and body parts don’t function, you’ll have a problem with breathing.
In the first volume of my work The Solo System I present human Consciousness as a living organism with many different ‘organs’. Most of them are usually known as ‘mental faculties’.
All of them have important functions, and all of them contribute somehow to the creative process, which regenerates and sustains human life. This means, (1) our creativity is not a ‘function of our mind’, but a fundamental process, which depends on the effective interplay of many functions.
Ken Robinson said creativity is possible whenever we’re using our intelligence. Intelligence, however is not restricted to the Intellect. Creativity is only possible, if we are using our Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition, Instinct, Will, Soul, Body and Intellect together in the right way.
Human Consciousness is a complex ecosystem, and it has autonomous and voluntary functions, just like the human body.
We don’t need to control our heartbeat, our breathing, our digestion, our hormonal system, our autonomous nervous system etc. Fortunately they know what to do all by themselves.
The same is true for many functions of the living ecosystem of our Consciousness. For example, the Instinct and Intuition are primarily autonomous ‘mental organs’. Our Imagination and Inspiration have strong autonomous aspects too. In fact, all organ systems of our Consciousness have to function autonomously to some degree, and they have done so for thousands of years.
This means, (2) our mind is not totally under our control. Many ‘organs’ of our Consciousness are working very well autonomously, meaning they don’t need us to tell them what to do.
Our task is to learn how our ‘mental organism’ works and what we can do to keep it healthy.
“How does the creative process work? – This is a key question, because our survival depends on the regenerative forces of our creativity.”
Our Consciousness, its ‘organ systems’, and the dynamics that produce creativity remain big mysteries. The notion that this complex living system we call Consciousness has something to do with how we live our lives, only dawned on us fairly recently. And we immediately jump to the conclusion that we can control it.
But we don’t yet understand how Consciousness (with capital C) works. Nobody does! Cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, philosophers, psychologists, and all the other experts don’t even agree on a definition of the term consciousness.
This means, our understanding of this inner non-material organism, which gives rise to our creativity, which gives birth to everything we do and experience, is currently only very rudimentary.
How does the creative process work?
This is a key question for humans, especially during times of crisis and change, because that’s the times when our survival depends on the regenerative forces of our creativity.
This question must not be driven by the desire to control and manipulate the creative process. When greed and material gain are the main motivation, then human creativity becomes corrupted.
Instead, keep asking this question with the curiosity of a child:
How does the creative process really work?
Then you’ll keep discovering amazing things. You’ll discover the wonders of life and the universe. You’ll discover your life, and you’ll awaken the creative forces that are within you.
© Veronika Bond, 2016
This article is complemented by an e-letter published on the same date.
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