I have been working in the field of creativity for over thirty years. First, as a minister in a liberal denomination, I used dance, poetry, and art in all aspects of programming. Second, my doctoral dissertation explored the transformational power of art for individuals and communities, both secular and religious and was based on using stone carving as a means through which that transformation could occur. At that time, my work was based on process theology, self-psychology and subject centered learning Third, as a liturgical dancer, stone carver and student of the creative, both in academic and experiential forms, I have been engaged in trying to articulate what forms and informs creativity. And finally, as an archetypal pattern analyst, I believe that the field of creativity is predicated on moral, ethical and spiritual mandates that include the creation of objects of art but is not limited to objective expression.
At the heart of our search for the creative is the moral mandate of achieving consciousness and awareness in relationship to the Unconscious, what we call the Psyche, The Self or the divine. This is so, not only for those of us who are actively searching for what has been calling us through the veil, or teasing us throughout our lives, but for all human beings in their search for meaning and purpose. It is the difference between living out our unique destiny or blindly being lived out by fate. The young mother who is trying to break the cycle of abuse, poverty and live a more whole and balanced life is attempting the same thing that the artist is engaged in, that is, to create something new, to bring a new way of being, seeing and being seen into the world. This takes enormous energy, awareness and courage.
According to Jung, the purpose of the human is to bring consciousness to the Unconscious. Without the human encounter with the Divine, the Unknown, there is no God, no Creator, no creative experiencing itself as the divine creative force.
In Memories, Dreams and Reflections, he states that: “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious…Neither should he persist in his unconsciousness, nor remain identical with the unconscious elements of his being, thus evading his destiny, which to create more and more consciousness.” (326)
The task is not only to allow us to create objects of varying degrees of beauty but to give shape to human experience itself and by engaging in the process of becoming, we expand the possibility of what it means to be human, aware and connected, not only for ourselves but for the collective and for Psyche itself, or, if you will, for God.
From the moral mandate to increase consciousness, we move to the ethical component. When we engage with the Creative Unconscious, by undergoing the painful and difficult process of coming into relationship with the source of energy, power, and meaning, we are then ethically obligated to live out our destiny consciously. It becomes a question of submitting ourselves to the power of the God willingly and in awareness. It is the recognition that we are not the true masters of our own house, that, to actually live out the very individual and personal destiny that is ours, we need to serve that which created us. The central task of our individual life is to live out our destiny, in order to do so, we must be consciously related to the source, God, Psyche/Self and be willing to give up the illusion that we are the captain of our own ship. Who wants to do that? Who wants to submit to something grander, more powerful and unknown? It is the one who is willing and capable of undergoing the process with awareness. It is not always possible, for the process of individuation entails pain, suffering, alienation and union, which some can and do refuse and deny. For those who come through the dark nights of the soul, they can say either yes or no to their destiny, it becomes a choice and not a given.
The third component of the engagement with the creative unconscious is a spiritual mandate. It is about our relationship to God, not the man in the sky god, but the energy, the psychic vitality that animates a life, gives it meaning, structure, identity, and destiny. It is the Source, the limitless, unknown, and the mystery that can fuel a life with passion, energy, activity, as well as inward reflection when it is served willingly. And it is also the annihilating, destructive force that can destroy when the human is unable to come into conscious relationship with it. This is the spiritual quest, to come into direct contact with the source in service, awe, and submission. It is the Jesus, who says, not me, but the Father. It is the Buddhist knowing - Not the finger pointing at the moon, but the Moon. This spiritual journey, to connect with the God willingly is captured in the story of the word Ole.
In the Moorish culture in Spain, dancers would celebrate sacred moments. At times, the dance would be so numinous, so resplendent, that the people would chant: Allah, Allah, Allah. They would see God through the dancer. The dancer at that moment was lifted up by the God. The next day, the dancer, would walk the streets of the market, the bazaar and the people would see Joseph, Mario, the human. They recognize the human who has done the work to allow the divine to flow through and then come back to the earthly reality without believing that they are the God. They do the work to enter the temenos, they submit to the creative process, and then, when the process comes to an end, they go grocery shopping. And there is no rupture to their ego.
This is what it means to engage creatively with the very source of creativity: we do the work, we practice, we listen, we submit to the images, the whispers and intimations of our dreams. We enter willingly into the temenos, the sacred space of encounter with the god, and we allow the creative to create through us: a painting, a sculpture, a dance, a life.
Jung, C. G. 1963. Memories, dreams, reflections. New York: Vintage Books.
“And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
For many of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies, ‘Suzanne’ was an anthem, a song of mystery and depth, of wisdom and love. We sang it when we were sad, when we were waxing philosophic while silently wondering what on earth the song even meant, (not that we would ever admit that to each other). But it didn’t really matter, somehow we were taken along the waves, walking with the Jesus who looked for those willing to enter the waters, only to be taken into the depths. To be honest, I still don’t get the song, but after going sailing this weekend, I understand more about the nature of water that could be walked upon.
Maybe not of water made of the hydrogen and oxygen molecules, but of the waters that for those of us in the depth psychological world, speaks of the Unconscious, the numinous, the reality beyond our human senses. What Jung termed the Psyche, as the matrix of existence out of which all phenomena emerges is perfectly captured by the image of the ocean.
I found myself floating on these waters on a sailboat, anchored at the shore of a state park. Perhaps it was an optical illusion, created by the rays of the sun angled just right but I suddenly saw the water as both a liquid and a solid. I know something about density, how the water appears to be solid but it is due to the density of the molecules and how they are knit together. I know that displacement, mass, and volume combine to keep the boat afloat. And, I also know that if I had put my hand into the water, my hand would have separated those molecules, broken through the surface and gotten cold and wet.
But, sitting in the boat, I felt as though we were being held by a reality that was both flexible and pliant as well as solid and tangible. I could see how Jesus, as one exquisitely attuned to the reality of the Self, could simply step off the boat and walk to the other side of the bay. Not that I was tempted to try. But in this moment of psychoid clarity, as the sun was setting, I saw that what we talk about, the Self, the Psyche, the Unconscious, is more than the image and the words and the concepts and the theories. It is a dynamic and solid reality in which we are embedded where we can sink, swim, drown or walk. How profoundly humbling and strangely comforting!
Dr. Silvia Behrend is a Certified Pattern Analyst, educator and mentor