The unconscious is a repository of infinite properties which are unknown to our conscious egos. A recent dream vividly highlights this reality:
Dream #4592. The Root Cellar: I’m looking through a window into the old root cellar carved from the base of the mountain on our North Carolina property. The large, light-filled room contains peacefully meditating people. Where the back wall used to be is a wide lit hallway extending far into the mountain with passageways on either side. Where the wall to the right of the window used to be is another opening into another generous space of warm light and more meditating people. Someone tells me that somewhere inside there is a portal to an underground system of rooms underlying the entire property. I’m thrilled and can’t wait to explore it.
After my last post, Five Links to Creativity, was published I realized I had failed to address a crucial source of creativity. This dream which came two nights later, showed me what was missing and inspired this post.
The “me” standing at the window represents my ego. The cave in the mountain represents my inner life which my ego observes. In waking life, the stone root cellar has no window and the entire structure measures maybe 12′ X 12′; but in the dream it’s much larger and filled with light and people. The areas I can see represent the aspects of my inner life of which my ego is conscious. I am unaware of the left wall, i.e. the parts of my personal unconscious I have yet to “see” into. The dream tells me that my inner work has brought light into many formerly unknown parts of myself. But there’s far more, both in my personal unconscious and the collective unconscious below, about which I know nothing.
The X Factor of creativity is one of these things. Why have I always felt compelled to create? Why did I draw pictures of horses throughout elementary school, start a novel at the age of ten, write a serial story for the 5th grade monthly newspaper? Why make my own clothes, keep a diary, write plays and poems throughout Jr. High and High School? Why the college art class and pencil drawn portraits? Why the urge to write stories and essays in my 20’s and 30’s? Why the pottery classes? The Christmas card linoleum prints? The hand-made quilts? I have no idea.
There’s an X Factor I can’t explain that may have far more to do with creativity than anything we can know. It’s that unknown component in Mozart that made him a child prodigy who performed throughout Europe at the age of six. Can we credit his creativity to self-knowledge? Certainly not as a child. What about psychological balance? Not really. In his own words he suffered from “black thoughts” and deep depression, leading some historians to believe he may have had some form of bipolar disorder. He also had periods of hysteria and spells of hectic creativity. Yet he was an innovative genius whose creative daemon expressed itself in some of the most beautiful, violent and sensual music the world has ever known.
Vincent Van Gogh was deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence brought about by his bouts of mental illness including a nervous collapse, an acute psychotic episode, and a hospital diagnosis of generalized delirium. Yet, during his worst years his daemon expressed itself in some of his best work.
What is this daemon that drives us to create no matter how balanced, turbulent or comfortable our inner or outer lives may be? The term “daemon” derives from a Greek word meaning “godlike power, fate, god.” In classical mythology daemons were benevolent nature spirits similar to spirit guides who dispense riches, guidance, protection and good fortune to humans. It was believed that every individual had its own spirit, daemon, or genius which was the source of their exceptional creativity in certain areas of their lives.
According to the Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research, “the concept of genius still holds some mystical connotations suggesting inspiration from the supernatural powers, the unconscious or the higher states of consciousness.” And in terms of our psychological development, “The ideology of genius as an exceptional personality possessing some extraordinary qualities assumes that the function of genius is to eliminate alienation (of the self and the world from themselves), and to establish “a higher order in which unity is achieved or restored, and in which humanity is fully realized.”
Psychological alienation and spiritual inspiration can both be components of creativity. Certainly alienation played an important role in mine. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been stressing the psychological aspects: how the ego’s search for greater consciousness and balance can activate our creativity.
But a few nights ago my dream reminded me of the existence of a vast realm beyond the knowable psyche. To ignore the X Factor of the collective unconscious wherein the spirits dwell is a great mistake. It gives too much credit to the ego and conscious mind and not enough to the Great Mystery of life, our source, essence and reason for Being.
Have you found creative inspiration from your dreams? How does your daemon manifest?
Image: The Birth of New Spiritual Life. A linoleum print I made in the early 70’s.
Quote: From Carl Jung Depth Psychology, a web site moderated by Lewis Lafontaine.