Creativity: The X Factor


The Birth of New Spiritual Life
The Birth of New Spiritual Life

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.

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.

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0 Responses

  1. For me this dream speaks about peace – all those meditating people in this wide open space. I had a similar experience but it was in waking state. i did an exercise where you connect to your crown chakra to receive a symbol. The symbol I got was a key that was dangling from a piece of string. I had had keys in some of my previous dreams at the time. So I thought about what I might unlock with this key and was told that the door it unlocks was in my head.
    I went inside of my head and found a door and stepped through it and went up to the fourth floor. It was an ordinary old apartment house. When I had gone up several stairs I used the key to unlock the door to an apartment. It looked like I knew that this was the place, as if I had been there before. Inside there was a long hallway and a door at the end. I opened the door and there were people in white clothes lying on mats on the floor, which was also painted white. The room was filled with light coming from large windows. I thought the people were lying in Savasana, which is the “dead” yoga posture. I went into the next room where I found some white clothes which I put on, then I went back and also lay down on a mat.
    Then I found out that it wasn’t yoga at all. The people there were broadcasting thoughtforms of peace out into the world, so that others could connect with these thoughtforms if they wanted to bring more peace into their lives. I think there’s lots of people who do this now, so dreams or visions like this aren’t just about our individual process, but about what happens in the world.
    A bit like these Buddhist monks praying for peace:
    Still it might be interesting to check if there’s really underground spaces underneath your property.
    Thank you for sharing your dream! 🙂
    Many blessings,

  2. Wow, Zarah. Thank you for sharing this beautiful (and hopeful) image, your active imagination experience, and your associations to my dream. There’s much here to think about. One thing that immediately strikes me is how your waking collaboration between your conscious and unconscious selves via the in-between space of active imagination activated your creativity, bringing you meaningful symbols and images that have transforming power for you. This is a perfect example, not only of how to gain access to our creativity, but also of how to enlist it in service to love and peace.
    With warm gratitude,

  3. What a marvelous dream to have! Thanks for sharing it and your reflections. I’m especially intrigued by: “Psychological alienation and spiritual inspiration can both be components of creativity.” This helps to frame some of what I often feel while writing, that it comes from a desire to connect as well as to create, but that I also often feel like simply a channel for something or someone else. This may not be what you meant, but it’s what I received … and it feels supportive so I’m going with it. 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Hi Darla, Yes, feeling like a channel for something other is part of what I meant by “inspiration.” I’ve had many experiences during the writing of all three of my books—not counting the one based on my doctoral dissertation!:-)—when, after bursts of inspiration that left me in awe and with tears running down my face, I would simply bow my head and say, “Thank you.” I still say it when I have a dream as powerful and personally meaningful as the one above. So definitely go with that interpretation!!! You’re so welcome, Darla.

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