Creative and Spiritual Contemplation

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Horan's concept of intention as the basis for creativity seems insufficient to produce creative works that also require talent and intelligence. He suggested, however, that the root of creativity (which he calls the vacuous state) contains powerful unconscious intentions, or subliminal attentional flows, that also nourish intelligence. These deeper intentions produce intelligent creative works and expressions. Willis Harman and Howard Rheingold in Higher Creativity: Liberating the Unconscious for Breakthrough Insights suggested that, the unconscious mind can be yoked willfully through imagery, affirmation, meditation, etc., to make creative choices. In 2000, Tobin Hart suggested that a special internal mind-set is required for courting creative inspiration. It involves focus, trust, letting go, listening and embodiment. Focus is a deliberate attempt to use prayer, meditation, concentration, etc., to ask specific questions or direct attention more fully on some phenomenon. Whereas the religious person focuses through communion, liturgy, or a common language, the artist focuses first by preparing his environmental and psychological space then directing energy toward an artistic undertaking. The scientist focuses by reviewing data, finding a problem and creating a hypothesis. During focus, the 'self reaches out to 'other.' Trust implies faith in "a nonrational, postreflective way of knowing" (Tobin Hart, 2000: 47) which elicits detachment from preconceived assumptions and provides suspension of disbelief. Whereas the scientist and artist trust in their gut instincts, the religious person trusts in God or some ultimate reality. Trust builds a bridge between 'self' and 'other.' Letting go is an act of volition leading to surrender which is a serious challenge to those who cling strongly to assumptions. Letting go is an extraordinary intention. It demands dispassion and openness, thereby making the mind fertile soil for cultivating new ideas. Artists and spiritual individuals recognize its importance in developing greater sympathy with objects of attention. William Butler Yeats in his poem Among Schoolchildren captured the epistemological impact of the artist's letting go, "O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?"(William Butler Yeats, 1997: 219). Scientists often let go when the solution to a problem appears futile. For example, mathematician Henri Poincare's discovery, in 1908, of a class of Fuschian functions arrived unexpectedly from what he called the 'principle of forgetting' (Henri Poincare, 1952: 53). Listening allows insight to manifest. It ensures that subtle concepts or cues are not overlooked. The spiritual person listens for revelation, the artist for inspiration, and the scientist for solutions. Embodiment is the transmission of an idea into form, such as a painting, novel, movement, invention, mathematical equation, and so forth. The entire process, from focus to embodiment, demonstrates an attentional rhythm - first contraction, then expansion, and contraction again - much like breathing. The rhythmic process contains a dynamic interaction between transcendence and manifestation, found equally in both creativity and spirituality, but to different ends.

Horan, in 2009, suggested a similar process for engaging the unconscious mind in creative work which he called creative contemplation. Creative contemplation is based on a very ancient yogic, or spiritual, meditation practice (samyama) developed by Patanjali in the second century AD. It was designed to intentionally induce supranormal powers in the practitioner, of which extraordinary creativity was one. Lynne McTaggart, in The Intention Experiment cited a body of empirical evidence supporting the power of intention to alter physical reality at a distance. Horan proposed that the same intentional process via brain plasticity enhances creativity. Creative and spiritual contemplation (or prayer) are similar because they enlist the same attentional mechanisms, one directed toward creative endeavor, the other toward solving existential dilemmas and seeking new ways to transmit old wisdom and meaning to new generations.

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