“Did you not see that when your creative force turned to the world, how the dead things moved under it and through it, how they grew and prospered, and how your thoughts flowed in rich rivers? If your creative force now turns to the place of the soul, you will see how your soul becomes green and how its field bears wonderful fruit.” ~ Carl Jung. The Red Book. Page 236.
When Lewis LaFontaine posted this quote on his Jung site the other day I was inspired to write about it, but unsure how to explain its importance to readers unfamiliar with this language. I knew some would wonder: What is the power of the creative force? What did Jung mean by turning it to the world and then to the soul? And why should I care? What does this have to do with me and my life?
I know some people wonder about these things because there was a time when I did too. One of the first books I read on Jungian psychology 25 years ago was The Kingdom Within by John Sanford. I was enormously excited about the new insights I gained from it, but couldn’t understand why Sanford treated the release of creativity as a major accomplishment. Why would I care about being creative? I just wanted to understand myself and make the pain go away. It took years of inner work to realize that creative imagination was what unlocked my true self and made the pain go away!
To create is to bring new life with exciting potential into your world. Creative imagination eases your load and enriches your days. It makes you feel better and inspires you to be a better human being. Most amazing of all, it frees you from the prisons of fear and time and lifts you to eternity: the sacred “zone” of the gods.
The creative force is, like the imagination which activates it, a natural capacity of every psyche. Tapping into it transforms our inner and outer lives by helping us find and express our individuality in ways that are unique to us and benefit others.
To turn our creative force “to the world” is to manifest a new idea or unique body of work that will prove our worth and improve the human condition. People with this drive become artists, designers, actors, composers, musicians, dancers, architects, inventors, photographers, poets, playwrights, writers, chefs, and anyone who loves and engages in creative work of any kind.
But Jung’s quote suggests that while turning the creative force to the world has enormous value, there comes a time when a new focus is called for. Indeed, the inability to release our attachment to the outer world and redirect our creativity toward the inner is the psychological basis for the stereotype of the tortured artist who has sold his soul to the devil for a lifetime of worldly acclaim.
Jung is saying that if we can “see” (i.e. become consciously aware of) how well the proper use of our creative force serves us during the first half of life, and if we can trust it not to abandon us if we redirect it in service to the inner life during the second, our whole life, youth and age, inside and out, can be transformed into a work of art.
To turn your creative force to the soul means to take the gift of your life seriously and make the search for healing, self-knowledge and meaning the primary focus of your creativity. This entails three main tasks.
First, approach your physical and mental life with the attention an artist gives to her art. Immerse yourself in the details of your body’s subtle sensations, your mind’s thoughts, emotions, values, attitudes and recurring issues, and your dreams, wishes, fantasies and intuitions—especially the ones you don’t like to admit to—until you can see them through the eyes of a lover.
Second, look beneath the surface of every form of art, especially myths, fairy tales, religions, literature and film to find the underlying similarities between these creative reflections of the human soul and the processes of your individual soul.
Third, accept all the insights you acquire, both the “bad” and the “good,” and find creative ways to integrate them into your awareness. You can do this alone, in a group, or with the help of a teacher, mentor or therapist. The important thing is to engage in healthy activities that absorb your attention, help you understand yourself, and alleviate your pain.
You probably won’t receive cultural acclaim for redirecting your creative force to your soul, but the world will benefit anyway. The creative force has the power not only to transform you into a work of art, but also to bring a healing new level of consciousness to everyone whose life is touched by your magnum opus. This is “how your soul becomes green and how its field bears wonderful fruit.”