We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
There are many ways to explore our relationship to the creative, we can examine the life of artists throughout the ages, we can consider ourselves as creative people, and we can ask who or what is expressed through art. I am most interested in exploring the heart of creativity as the direct human experience with the creative engagement as a possibly transformational experience. That engagement is with the source of our being and existence, whether it be known as the Creative Unconscious, the Psyche, or God. It is helpful to have a framework from which to journey into the creative and I believe that Carl G. Jung provides a way to understand the creative function of art by dividing it into two types of art, visionary and psychological.
Visionary art is that which flows through the artist directly from the unconscious in an effort to inform the world about what is repressed and hidden, what needs to be brought into the collective awareness. Think of Picasso’s Guernica, the painting that gave voice to the despair and alienation of the Spanish Civil War. Visionary artists don’t have a personal say in the process, their skill and talent is in the service of the unknowable, hidden and unconscious processes that seek a voice and a presence. Their artwork serves to enlighten, perturb, and illuminate from the darkest recesses of existence.
Psychological art, on the other hand, is that art whose artifacts are created out of the materials drawn from the realm of human consciousness, from the lessons of life, “with emotional shocks, the experience of passion and the crises of human destiny in general –all of which go to make up the conscious life of man and his feeling life in particular. This material is psychically assimilated by the poet, it is raised from the commonplace to the level of poetic experience, and given an expression which forces the reader to greater clarity and depth of human insight by bringing fully into his consciousness what he ordinarily evades and overlooks or sense only with a feeling of dull discomfort.” (Jung, p. 155). These objects, whether paintings, sculptures, plays, poetry, etc., do not obscure but rather reveal everything that we know about what it means to be human and helps us understand our experience. These are the artists whose works help us see ourselves, their autobiographaical art resonates with and we can be moved, changed and inspired. This type of art is still art that is recognized as art because it is in the public sphere.
And yet, for those of us who are not artists in the Western definition of those who make a living creating objects, how are we to relate to the innate need and desire to create, to make and give expression to the movements of our own souls? It is exactly through the direct engagement with the creative that we can give shape to the inner life. We can be transformed, we can those give a local habitation and a name to those contents in our unconscious that are crying out to be seen, heard and accepted. By projecting our inner world into an outer object, regardless of the medium, we are able to give life and meaning to our life because the engagement with the creative process bypasses all of our cognitive defenses.
We can rationalize anything with our conscious mind, but we cannot dupe the unconscious because that which wishes to be known will push us until we give in. When we engage consciously with those unknown contents of our psyche, we have a hope of transforming and assimilating them into our conscious being. When we do not, they will have their way in depressions, rages, complexes that occlude our ability to choose our destiny and not simply live out our fate.
Whether we doodle, draw, sing or dance (with or without talent), when we consciously enter into the sacred space of creating, we are saying to the gods, we are ready to give up the illusion of dominion and invite you in. The goal of creativity is not to become an artist, but a whole and balanced human being. We do ourselves a disservice by denying the urge to bring something new into being, a new recipe for life that calls us from behind the veil. Our authentic self does not emerge through our intellect only, nor does it arise solely our intuition, but from the willingness to enter into the creative process. And by so doing, we are creating in ourselves a new life.
Jung, C. G. (19330. Modern Man in Search of a Soul. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Dr. Silvia Behrend is a Certified Pattern Analyst, educator and mentor