Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Psychology of Creativity November 25, 2014

1024px-Macarons_Marcolini_04“From the living fountain of instinct flows everything that is creative; hence the unconscious is not merely conditioned by history, but is the very source of the creative impulse.” (Carl Gustav Jung)

I’m feeling inspired to write poetry these days, and this has me thinking about creativity.  Jung says creativity originates in our instincts.  In other words, our body, with its physical needs and functions, is the matter (L. Mater), or mother, of our urge to create.  And the psyche governs our responses to our instinctual urges.

Jung said we have five basic instincts:

“Whatever creativity is, it is in part a solution to a problem.” (Brian W. Aldiss)

Nurturance: Our bodies need fuel, and we get hungry, irritable and desperate when we don’t get it. They also need protection from the dangerous and uncontrollable forces of nature.  Some human caring and creature comfort don’t hurt either. So if we, our loved ones and our tribe are to survive and prosper, our basic needs for nurturing and being nurtured must be met.  Thus, creativity originally arose in the marshalling of conscious thought and focused behavior to create the necessary tools, weapons, strategies, rules and codes of conduct that would satisfy this instinct.

1280px-Paul_Gauguin_104“The essential ingredient for creativity is wasting time.” (Anonymous)

“I have always regarded manual labour as creative and looked with respect – and, yes, wonder – at people who work with their hands. It seems to me that their creativity is no less than that of a violinist or painter.” (Pablo Casals)

Activity:  Food and water don’t just automatically show up in edible and potable form when we need it, so we have to get off the couch and do something to procure them!  And once we have thoroughly stuffed ourselves it feels good to celebrate with other creative activities such as walking dinner off, participating in games and athletic competitions, and cleaning and fixing up the cave.

“The emotional mind creates, and the rational mind explains it. Another way of saying this is, your ‘heart’ perceives it and your ‘head’ translates it.” (Alvaro Castagnet)

Reflection:  If, after all this eating and fooling around we have a spare moment or two, and if we still feel comfortable and secure, our thoughts move into new areas. For example, we might reflect on how beautiful the sunset is;  figure out how not to starve or freeze to death next winter; wonder why the kids are so cranky!  So we ask questions and try to solve problems. We devise strategies and make plans. We create religious rituals to thank the earth, the animals, the plants and the gods for meeting our needs and to make sure the sun will rise in the morning, spring will return, and a saber toothed-tiger won’t have us for dinner.

Hermann-Paul_-_Les_Danseuses“The creative process is a cocktail of instinct, skill, culture and a highly creative feverishness. It is not like a drug; it is a particular state when everything happens very quickly, a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, of fear and pleasure; it’s a little like making love, the physical act of love.” (Francis Bacon)

Sex:  Every living creature is born with the instinct to preserve the species. Plus, humans and other complex animal forms have an instinctive need for love and intimacy with others. And it feels good! So we use our creativity to attract partners and be appealing to them.

“I believed that I wanted to be a poet,
but deep down I just wanted to be a poem.” ~ Jaime Gil de Biedma

Creativity:  So the instincts activate our creativity and creativity is itself an instinct, an urge that satisfies our souls and enriches our lives in numerous ways and forms.  Stories told around the fire.  Figurines of animals and gods.  Vessels for food and flowers, gathering and gifting.  Music:  songs, dances symphonies and the instruments to play them.  Painted images from myths and dreams.  Delicious foods.  Ornaments for our bodies, fabrics to wear and beautify our homes, poems to enlighten and inspire us, to make works of art of our very lives.

NPG 1899,Elizabeth Barrett Browning,by Michele GordigianiAnd in the process, to make life worth living.

“Creative activity is more than a mere cultural frill, it is a crucial factor of human experience, the means of self-revelation, the basis of empathy with others; it inspires both individualism and responsibility, the giving and the sharing of experience.” (Tom Hudson)

“If I didn’t have my films as an outlet for all the different sides of me, I would probably be locked up.” (Angelina Jolie)

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To them… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.  Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” (Pearl S. Buck)

“When I can no longer create anything, I’ll be done for.” (Coco Chanel)

I’m with you, Coco.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

All quotes except the one from Jaime Gil de Biedma are from the website Art Quotes.  That one comes from my friend Jenna Farr Ludwig’s Facebook page.

Images: Macarons, Marcolini, Wikimedia Commons.  Paul Gauguin, Wikimedia Commons.  Hermann Paul, Les Danseuses, Wikimedia Commons. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Michele Gordigiani, 1858, Wikimedia Commons.

 

Five A’s of Inventive Aging May 20, 2014

The Snail 1953 by Henri Matisse 1869-1954The latest meeting of my writer’s group, The Purple Pros, was rich with splendid conversation about art, poetry, literature and theatre. In my update I mentioned how after 24 years of  passionate—one might almost say obsessive—writing, teaching and speaking, I’ve been in a semi-fallow period since my last book came out. Little green shoots are popping up here and there, but as yet I have no clear direction. Lenny spoke of how various challenges and life changes leave her with little time to work on her long play and the four short ones she wants to start.  What with Margie newly remarried after years of non-stop writing, speaking, and presenting, it quickly became apparent that we had found our theme for the meeting: the transition from our highly productive and creative middle years into the autumns of our lives.

For her writing activity, Margie had synchronistically chosen the same theme.  She told us about visiting the Tate Museum’s exhibition of the cut-out art of Henri Matisse on her honeymoon. Bedridden and wheelchair-bound in the last decade of his life, Matisse was too frail to stand up or hold a brush for long.  So, still driven to create by his daemon—in classical mythology a daemon was a benevolent semi-divine nature spirit who drives humans forward and upward—his new medium became colored paper and his tool, scissors.  Margie shared some questions she’s been pondering since then and suggested we address any that appealed to us.

Two questions interested me: “Why is it important to re-invent myself at this stage of life?” and “What qualities would enable the reinvention of my craft?”  Since crossroads and transitions are common to all at crucial times in our lives, I decided to share my musings here. A thought:  If our daemons drive us to pursue and perfect our passions, our musings/muses infuse them with inspiration and creativity.  After all, my musings on Margie’s incisive questions inspired this new post at a time when I’ve been writing less than usual.

So, “Why is it important to reinvent myself at this stage of life?”  Because I may have completed my previous stage, but I’m not finished for good.  My life is a miraculous gift, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’m not ready to sit on the riverbank watching the rest of it flow past. I don’t want to leave without having made all the contributions that my driven daemon, creative muse and unique soul can make. I may not be Henri Matisse or Virginia Woolfe but I am Jean Raffa!

“What qualities would enable the reinvention of my craft?”  Yes, writing is my craft, but so is my life. My ultimate mission is to make of myself and my life a work of art: something beautiful, original and meaningful, something that nourishes the growth not only of my soul but of others.  As I wrote my answer to this question I recognized five qualities that have helped me reinvent myself and will continue to do so:

  1. Attention:  Staying aware of my inner and outer life—what I’m feeling, sensing, intuiting, doing, and finding fulfilling and meaningful—in service to self-knowledge, authenticity and consciousness.
  2. Acceptance:  Releasing my resistance to things I can’t control or change.
  3. Appreciation:  Being grateful for whatever happens inside and outside of me, not just what I consider positive, but also what I’m inclined to view as negative, in the knowledge that every particle of life is valuable, necessary and instructive to my soul.
  4. Assimilation:  Consciously integrating my experiences and perceptions into a growing and changing life stream of creative energy that keeps me moving forward.
  5. Action:  Manifesting my soul’s creativity in my writing, loving and living so that my offerings will make a healing difference.

So far I’ve chosen to be a friend, wife, teacher, mother, Episcopal church-goer, homemaker, carpool driver, community volunteer, television producer, graduate student, college professor, vision quester, dream worker, shadow-tamer, author, workshop leader, social media networker, and music maker. Lately I hear the call to reinvent myself again. I don’t know what choices I’ll make or how they’ll turn out, but then I never did.  What I do know is that my daemon, muse, soul and I intend to keep reinventing our life until this one ends and the next begins.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 

 

The Art of Tending the Fire March 26, 2013

An ancient theorem of enlightenment is As within, so without. Essentially, this means that we humans project the themes and processes of our souls outward into the physical world, which then functions like a giant movie screen. If we will look at this screen through the eyes of Sophia—by which I mean with right-hemisphere mythos—we will see our inner dramas enacted everywhere and this seeing will enhance our self-awareness.

For example, the following themes of the ego’s heroic journey into consciousness are found not only in ancient rituals, scriptures, and myths, but in current books, films, songs, paintings, sculptures, and other creative works:

Separation (leaving the safety and comfort of the maternal matrix to find your identity),

Achievement (strengthening your ego by finding and proving your individuality),

Sacrifice (changing your ego’s attitude toward power),

Suffering (entering the dark abyss of the unconscious),

Surrender, Death, Descent (losing the safety and comfort of familiar assumptions and conventional formulas; submitting to an authority greater than the world’s opinions),

Receiving help from unexpected sources (befriending your shadow and feminine side),

Rebirth (acquiring self-knowledge and more consciousness; being released from the prisons of rigid belief systems; becoming empowered to make original choices),

Return (re-entering the community on your own terms as a maturing, authentic individual),

Reunion (being reunited with feminine feeling and participating in the sacred marriage in which your inner opposites are united), and

Blessing (bringing healing new consciousness to your community).

These archetypal themes are developed in such literary works as Somerset Maughm’s The Razor’s Edge, Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, John Fowles’ The Magus, and even the humorous Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins. Films include Alan Ball’s American Beauty, M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Village and Lady in the Water, and George Lucas’sStar Wars series. The songs of Kris Kristofferson and other musicians likewise address many of these issues. Ultimately, the symbols and motifs of every work of art are imaginative manifestations of the artist’s need to understand and express him/herself, evolve into greater consciousness, and share what s/he has learned with others. Some artists know this; others don’t have a clue.

Imaginatively tracking the underlying threads of psychological and spiritual meaning that we find in myth, literature, film, art, our dreams and even the everyday events of our waking lives, is soul-making work.  As Jungian analyst Monika Wikman says, “The symbolizing function alive in the imagination unites the opposites of spirit and body and brings us into experience with the third, the intermediary, realm, which is both corporeal and spiritual and also more than the sum of the parts. The star in humankind—the living imagination and its connection to the divine—mediates psyche/body dimensions and misalignments…”  Using our imagination to find personal meaning in the themes and images that speak to us heals divides that prevent us from becoming our true selves.

The alchemists understood the transforming value of imagination. They addressed it with their symbolism of tending the fire and cooking earthly elements until they were distilled into their purest essences.  The essences were lifted into the heavens to mingle with and be fertilized by what Jung called the “seeds of the stars,”  their celestial, archetypal source.  Thus renewed, they returned to purify and renew the earth. This was a metaphor for transforming the baser, earthier elements of our psyches in ways that bring us spiritual awareness,  emotional warmth and the light of consciousness.

Our transformation does not happen quickly or easily. It is, as Wikman notes,  a never-ending process of cultivating “inner attentiveness to the life of the soul, and learning how to live and work with this flame that burns within in ways that are life enhancing, rather than destructive.”  This leads us “into growing awareness and participation in new transmutations between heaven and earth, between human and divine…[wherein]…we and the guiding spirit of wisdom grow in relationship to one another.”

If wisdom is the goal we seek, tending our inner fire is the art that will take us there.

 

A Dream of Venus, the Morning Star October 28, 2011

After years of near-obsessive inner work I’ve given myself permission to relax a bit. Sometimes weeks go by before I record and work on a new dream. But when I do I’m always rewarded with a cornucopia of insights and meaning. Following is the first dream I’ve analyzed since the one about individuation I posted nearly two months ago.

Dream #4338: Venus Rising. I’m holding half of a large clamshell, maybe 5 inches from end-to-end, behind my back. It’s covered with a small square of cloth. I know there’s a baby beneath it. Someone says I should take the baby out. I bring the shell around to the front, lift off the cloth, and see a placenta. The cord is attached and hanging out and down to the left. I start to pull up the baby and “someone” warns me to be careful. Ashamed at forgetting how vulnerable babies are, I pull more gently and there, dangling from the bottom of the cord, is the baby. I cradle it in the palm of my left hand. Tiny, but with adult proportions, it’s softly glowing with a pale, pearl-white aura. I’m grateful it’s okay.

Associations:  My immediate association is to the classical images I’ve seen of the birth of Venus. This one is from a fresco in Pompeii. Click here to see Botticelli’s more famous painting. To me they suggest the emergence of the feminine archetype of beauty and love from the maternal depths of the collective unconscious. In waking life I’ve been trying to honor and empower all four basic feminine archetypes (Queen, Earth Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved) for many years. This dream says that so far my ego has been shielding this one, the Beloved, from the public eye. In other words, I haven’t integrated the qualities she represents into my persona so that others can see and acknowledge her beauty and worth. But something within me — i.e. my intuition, the voice of the feminine side of the Self — knows the time is right to bring her out into the light.

According to the dream I haven’t fully appreciated just how vulnerable this archetype of love, relatedness, delicate beauty and tender feeling is in a world which still glorifies masculine toughness and treats feminine softness so carelessly. That she is still attached to the placenta by the cord suggests her dependence on my physical health. I need to treat my body with more love and care. I need enough rest and exercise, healthier food, less stress.

The warning tells me to be more mindful of my thoughts and behavior. I need to bring more gentleness to every word and action. I need to be kinder to myself. I need to stop striving for perfection, stop judging myself and putting myself down, stop trying to please others while holding the real me back. Like Venus, I need to celebrate the beauty and miracle that is me.

I’ve shared this very personal dream with you for two reasons. First, because it’s a perfect follow-up for my last post about dream symbols of transition and transformation. Second, because the dream itself seems to be urging me to do so. Didn’t the mysterious “someone” tell my dream ego to bring the baby forward and be careful in doing so? I hope I’ve been sufficiently careful in bringing forth the message of this dream, and I hope that regardless of your gender you are inspired to revisit the integration of your own Beloved into your waking life.

As with my previous dream about individuation, I invite your associations and look forward to reading them.

 

Living Art April 28, 2010

I had planned to review one of my favorite books, Prodigal Summer, this time, but after Beth’s comments about my previous post, I wanted to elaborate on some related thoughts that came up. So I’m saving Prodigal for next time.

In the late 60’s I was an elementary school teacher. Fostering creativity was a big issue in those days, and in my county a program was instigated to address it. Basically, the children chosen to participate went to a special site for a day where they collaborated in small groups with other students of similar ages and abilities to find creative solutions to a challenging task. Sort of like a duplicate bridge tournament.

While this program was stimulating and prodded kids to think outside the box, I always thought it missed the mark somehow. It taught great social skills like leadership and cooperation, and it encouraged brain-storming and problem-solving, but all this was just good teaching. How did it address creativity in ways that were not already being used by fine teachers?

But our school system had done its best and I had nothing to add to the situation, so I figured this was just one of those problems without a solution. Maybe nobody understood creativity. Maybe there really was no practical way to teach it. Maybe it was just a matter of genetics, some characteristic of DNA with which you either were or weren’t furnished at birth.

Several years later when my own creativity began to blossom I finally understood. At bottom, creativity is not a function of our proficiency with the objective logos skills emphasized in most classrooms, but of our ego’s willingness to use these skills in service to our deeply personal mythos realities: things like what feels important, how we yearn to spend our free time, or what brings a deep sense of accomplishment. For example, one of my earliest memories is of trying to write a book on folded pieces of paper. Since I was only four years old and didn’t know how to write yet, I drew pictures instead. But while my passion for writing persisted throughout my school years, few teachers noticed it and nobody ever encouraged me to pursue it.

The problem is, most kids are too busy trying to learn what their parents and teachers want them to learn and most schools are run more like factories than forums for individual exploration and expression. As Einstein wrote, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

The psychological realities of each soul are as unique as our fingerprints. Creativity is about manifesting that uniqueness. We activate our creativity by pursuing self-knowledge and personal meaning. We hone our creativity by following our passions regardless of the world’s opinions; by sacrificing popularity and approval for self-knowledge and authenticity; by creating original works of art out of our lives. By becoming who we are.

And how do we foster creativity in others? By mentoring them on the path to self-discovery. Until educators understand this, we will continue to be far better at stifling creativity than fostering it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

 

 
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