what is the nature of creativity?

#2
Welcome, maddyin. Nice questions! :)

In a way, I think creativity is related to free will. Without free will, how could one create anything? Stuff would just happen deterministically: everything from aircraft carriers to the Sistine Chapel would somehow just come into being through physical laws. Mathematicians seeking to create new concepts wouldn't actually be seeking to do any such thing: they'd simply be under the impression that they were seeking to do that, when actually the bags of chemicals that they are would inevitably be generating new mathematical concepts, only, of course, the term "concepts" itself would be illusory.

So if free will is involved in creation, why do beings with free will feel the need to create? I mean, we all do to some degree or other, whether it's creating tonight's dinner or composing the St. Matthew Passion. It seems to be in the very nature of sentient beings to create.

"Inspiration", for me, means that the source of the impulse to create, and the thing to be created, arises from some intelligence or consciousness greater than the creator, who in a sense is acting as an agent; not a few composers and writers have remarked that some of their work seemed to come from nowhere: to arise more or less fully formed without their conscious effort. "Intuition" may be more a process of connecting with the personal unconscious in which new ideas are forming and bubbling up into conscious awareness.

I think it's linked to spirituality because It has that same ineffable quality: it's inexplicable: one can't explain why one feels the urge to create, or why it's so satisfying to do so. It's just a given, as is the urge to seek out some meaning and purpose in life. One senses it comes from a common source.

I'm really looking forward to what others have to say...
 
#3
My belief is that creativity, inspiration and intuition are caused by influences.

These influences are partly known, and part vastly unknown.
Influence is not limited to space nor time; That is, we are influenced by all things and events, both in the future and the past.

As you say Michael Larkin: "one can't explain why one feels the urge to create, or why it's so satisfying to do so"
this could be, the satisfaction, that lies in the future, influenced the start of the creation. There is no separation in time.
 
#4
"Inspiration", for me, means that the source of the impulse to create, and the thing to be created, arises from some intelligence or consciousness greater than the creator, who in a sense is acting as an agent; not a few composers and writers have remarked that some of their work seemed to come from nowhere: to arise more or less fully formed without their conscious effort. "Intuition" may be more a process of connecting with the personal unconscious in which new ideas are forming and bubbling up into conscious awareness.

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Like for example Johannes Brahms; he said at the moment of inspiration he got everything served ready for him, and not just the melodies and harmonies, but the orchestration too. He only had to write it up as fast as possible. I am just personally not inclined to think that everything came to him - and other composers like him, Bruch for example - from his own subconscious, rather I assume a power higher above, in which case the subconscious would act as a filter. But who knows.

I guess widespread knowledge about phenomena like these among classical musicians is one of the reasons why one is bound to find fewer convinced atheists among them than, say, among mechanical engineers. In line with this is too, that the one group who has scored best so far in Ganzfeld is the Juilliard School Of Music classical music students -they scored almost 50%.

It is delightful that Colin Andrews in his recent interview on Mike Clelland's podcast linked the mystery of creative inspiration with the wider question of anomalous phenomena.
 
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#7
I think creativity is a synthesis process, where pre-existent patterns of thought, expression, relationships are synthesised into forms that appear novel to the observer because they have forced a perspective shift. The greater the shift, the greater the impact of the creation. I think that as humans we are eager to classify and categorise almost everything we can, so when we come across the most creative acts that do not readily fit into our schema, the psychological impact is greater. I do not mean to denigrate the work of the truly creative, but if the creator forces a perspective change in the beholder/participant and the degree of change, then this is what separates what is considered good art from bad. I would ask not what makes us create, but what is it about a change in perspective that can imprint on a self with such power?
 
#8
I think creativity is a synthesis process, where pre-existent patterns of thought, expression, relationships are synthesised into forms that appear novel to the observer because they have forced a perspective shift. The greater the shift, the greater the impact of the creation. I think that as humans we are eager to classify and categorise almost everything we can, so when we come across the most creative acts that do not readily fit into our schema, the psychological impact is greater. I do not mean to denigrate the work of the truly creative, but if the creator forces a perspective change in the beholder/participant and the degree of change, then this is what separates what is considered good art from bad. I would ask not what makes us create, but what is it about a change in perspective that can imprint on a self with such power?
Interesting post, Vesalius. I think there's something to what you say. Certainly, many times in the past I've been preoccupied with solving something and thought about it from all sorts of angles, if I leave it alone for a bit, something coalesces and I can move forward, sometimes in a totally unexpected direction. The very act of dealing with everyday issues can be creative, especially if one can adopt a different perspective, as might happen when one takes a break from routine. Meditation is such an opportunity, it occurs to me. As is sleep, really. Have you ever woken up in the morning and seen a new way of approaching something? Maybe dreams have somehow helped in resolution of issues or a creative approach to an old issue.
 
#9
The nature of creativity is the most manifest truth of the whole psi debate. Speaking from personal experience, the most creative phases of a career spent in the arts and humanities, have proved to be exactly the opposite from the reductive, diagnostic process of scientific enquiry. The creative act is almost always one of defocused, playful openness into which ideas, often of great insight and complexity, emerge. At its most fruitful, creativity is almost an act of mediumship in which the process pours itself out unbidden, though I would draw short of claiming it's spirit mediumship in the orthodox sense, and suspect it's something to do with a higher self.

To push the psi debate forward I believe we have to put aside the diagnostic process, or at least acknowledge its limitations in accessing the fundamental conduits of knowledge.
 
#10
Interesting post, Vesalius. I think there's something to what you say. Certainly, many times in the past I've been preoccupied with solving something and thought about it from all sorts of angles, if I leave it alone for a bit, something coalesces and I can move forward, sometimes in a totally unexpected direction. The very act of dealing with everyday issues can be creative, especially if one can adopt a different perspective, as might happen when one takes a break from routine. Meditation is such an opportunity, it occurs to me. As is sleep, really. Have you ever woken up in the morning and seen a new way of approaching something? Maybe dreams have somehow helped in resolution of issues or a creative approach to an old issue.
Hi Michael, dreams certainly have a big impact on the creative process. The "self" in the dream a complete version of the waking version. Perspective can radically change during these episodes, allowing the synthesis of different strands of thought and ideas than would be otherwise accessible. Perhaps if this version of the solution to the problem is so radically different, then it can carry through into waking life?
 
#11
The nature of creativity is the most manifest truth of the whole psi debate. Speaking from personal experience, the most creative phases of a career spent in the arts and humanities, have proved to be exactly the opposite from the reductive, diagnostic process of scientific enquiry. The creative act is almost always one of defocused, playful openness into which ideas, often of great insight and complexity, emerge. At its most fruitful, creativity is almost an act of mediumship in which the process pours itself out unbidden, though I would draw short of claiming it's spirit mediumship in the orthodox sense, and suspect it's something to do with a higher self.

To push the psi debate forward I believe we have to put aside the diagnostic process, or at least acknowledge its limitations in accessing the fundamental conduits of knowledge.
I can buy the idea of mediumship for creativity, but where I would differ is instead of the idea of a higher self as the source, it would be the strands of thought and memory that is embedded in the subconscious, the ideas that are vetoed before they can come to fruition. In fact, I believe that a great deal of the subconscious activity of our minds are a source of what are called psi phenomenon, though I won't venture so far as to what makes up the subconscious. Merry Christmas by the way.
 
#12
I think the connection between mental illness (whatever that is) and creativity is really interesting. So many of our luminaries have "suffered" for their art. And many have reported their creative work being delivered to them whole and complete. I've noted in other threads the link between syphilis and a period of intense creativity. So what is it about suffering which opens the portal? Or is the portal being open which enhances our sense of suffering? Chicken? Or egg?

Jules
 
#13
I think the connection between mental illness (whatever that is) and creativity is really interesting. So many of our luminaries have "suffered" for their art. And many have reported their creative work being delivered to them whole and complete. I've noted in other threads the link between syphilis and a period of intense creativity. So what is it about suffering which opens the portal? Or is the portal being open which enhances our sense of suffering? Chicken? Or egg?

Jules
And similarly, sometimes there is a connection between autism and brilliance. For instance let's say Kim Peek / The rain man.

Perhaps our ordinary logic is hampering creativity just as it is aiding it?
 
#14
And similarly, sometimes there is a connection between autism and brilliance. For instance let's say Kim Peek / The rain man.

Perhaps our ordinary logic is hampering creativity just as it is aiding it?
Interesting that you say that. During other states of consciousness my rational mind is disengaged to a large extent so that I can't plan or problem solve. This is pretty uncomfortable actually, but I can't see 'beyond' with that other stuff going on. I see people here arguing back and forth about spiritual understanding and I think to myself - well you're never going to come to spiritual understanding by arguing back and forth - its just not the way to get there :).
 
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#15
It is interesting to look at what is destructive to creativity - this could give clues to what it is in essence. Modern secular humanism, materialism and scientism say that our minds are a product of our brains, that there is no free will, no God or higher beings communicating with us, and that the universe does not care anything about us. The ascendance of such scientism among the intelligentsia and much of the general public has been associated with a great decline in the quality of new art and music. It is no coincidence that inherent in this belief system is the dismissal of subjective experience, mental states and emotions (including the perception and appreciation of beauty), and the spiritual traditions offering wisdom about these, as merely deterministic epiphenomena of the brain.

Art and music are trivialized as unimportant, and humanities departments in institutions of higher learning are starved of funds. After all, the search for truth of the physical world via the scientific method (and especially finding profitable technological applications) are supposed to be the highest pursuit - all else is derivative and culturally determined.

All this should be contrasted with the belief system of much of the intelligentsia during the periods when art and music were flowering. In this mental atmosphere art and music were ultimately important to mankind in a world containing spirit. This would not be surprising, if the ultimate source of artistic and musical creativity is a spiritual realm, and/or the higher self. An atmosphere of belief in these things would naturally be conducive to opening up subconscious and conscious channels to this source.

Of course this does not really explain the creative act itself, even if it takes place in a spiritual realm. This seems to be essentially the putting together of a beautiful something out of nothing, or at least out of disconnected threads and pieces of other patterns, where the new pattern inherently contains new information having qualities of beauty, symmetry, order, whatever. This essence of the creative act seems to be as much of a mystery as the ultimate nature of consciousness and the answer to Chalmers' Hard Problem.


There always is a materialistic interpretation. The materialist could speculate that this takes place purely in the subconscious or subliminal mind, through a neurologically based process combining Darwinistic variation and selection. Through the power of suggestion, the unconscious mental processing repeatedly picks various fragments of pattern at random or following various rules, combines them, evaluates the results for artistic quality, combines this with the previous results, accepts this as being the best so far or rejects it, repeats the process, and so on. This process would be carried out for some period of time until some subconscious decision is made that the best or optimal product has been achieved. Then the conscious "aha" moment occurs and the new creation comes into consciousness apparently from nowhere. Naturally this elaborate process could not happen without an extended period of training the brain in all the intricacies of the particular art form.

Following this approach, that there was great artistic and musical creativity during periods of spiritual and other cultural beliefs would simply be because of suggestion - the subconscious mind was prepared by the prevalent belief system.
 
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#16
It is interesting to look at what is destructive to creativity - this could give clues to what it is in essence. Modern secular humanism, materialism and scientism say that our minds are a product of our brains, that there is no free will, no God or higher beings communicating with us, and that the universe does not care anything about us. The ascendance of such scientism among the intelligentsia and much of the general public has been associated with a great decline in the quality of new art and music. It is no coincidence that inherent in this belief system is the dismissal of subjective experience, mental states and emotions (including the perception and appreciation of beauty), and the spiritual traditions offering wisdom about these, as merely deterministic epiphenomena of the brain.

Art and music are trivialized as unimportant, and humanities departments in institutions of higher learning are starved of funds. After all, the search for truth of the physical world via the scientific method (and especially finding profitable technological applications) are supposed to be the highest pursuit - all else is derivative and culturally determined.

All this should be contrasted with the belief system of much of the intelligentsia during the periods when art and music were flowering. In this mental atmosphere art and music were ultimately important to mankind in a world containing spirit. This would not be surprising, if the ultimate source of artistic and musical creativity is a spiritual realm, and/or the higher self. An atmosphere of belief in these things would naturally be conducive to opening up subconscious and conscious channels to this source.

Of course this does not really explain the creative act itself, even if it takes place in a spiritual realm. This seems to be essentially the putting together of a beautiful something out of nothing, or at least out of disconnected threads and pieces of other patterns, where the new pattern inherently contains new information having qualities of beauty, symmetry, order, whatever. This essence of the creative act seems to be as much of a mystery as the ultimate nature of consciousness and the answer to Chalmers' Hard Problem.


There always is a materialistic interpretation. The materialist could speculate that this takes place purely in the subconscious or subliminal mind, through a neurologically based process combining Darwinistic variation and selection. Through the power of suggestion, the unconscious mental processing repeatedly picks various fragments of pattern at random or following various rules, combines them, evaluates the results for artistic quality, combines this with the previous results, accepts this as being the best so far or rejects it, repeats the process, and so on. This process would be carried out for some period of time until some subconscious decision is made that the best or optimal product has been achieved. Then the conscious "aha" moment occurs and the new creation comes into consciousness apparently from nowhere. Naturally this elaborate process could not happen without an extended period of training the brain in all the intricacies of the particular art form.

Following this approach, that there was great artistic and musical creativity during periods of spiritual and other cultural beliefs would simply be because of suggestion - the subconscious mind was prepared by the prevalent belief system.
I think I would differ with you @nbtruthman. I think creativity is central to discovery no matter what form that takes. The scientific and mathematical geniuses throughout antiquity have talked about those moments of gestalt where understanding came like a flood. And like the poets novelists and painters who "suffered for their sanity" so too have our scientific and mathematical giants. Kurt Gödel, the mathematical genius who gave us the Incompleteness Theorem.eventually starved himself to death convinced the food was poisonous if his wife didn't prepare it. His wife's demise precipitated his own. John Nash, Nobel laureate who brought us Game Theory (as depicted in A Beautiful Mind) ended up losing himself. I think this is exactly the same phenomenon. I remember my father in law who is a physicist saying its essential for anyone managing a research institution to be a scientist. The reason for this is that being a scientist involves long periods of apparent non-productivity where you stare out of a window and simply imagine. Managers who aren't scientists don't understand this. Einstein's years spent imagining travelling a light beam is an example of this.

With respect to the degradation of art, I would like to share a story. I remember an exhibition I went to some years ago by a New Zealand artist Colin McCahon. That exhibition taught me what art is - that its not about beauty but about something much deeper - communication. The effect stayed with me for weeks and remains to this day. It left me with an understanding of what it to search for God all your life and not find him. I felt the same poignancy and yearning viewing those paintings that I did viewing 'the masters' in great galleries or listening to Handel's recorder sonatas. Like any art form though, you have to be able to access that vocabulary. Yes, there is plenty of dross in the modern arts, but there was in the arts of times gone by as well. Only the worthy has survived, and so it will be with modern art and music. You may not understand the vocabulary of the modern artistic vernacular but others do, and that music (at least the best of it) has the power to stir the soul like any symphony if you can access it. I offer another analogy. Dean Radin put me in contact with another shaman, Gail Hayssen. Gail is a white American who has been initiated into shamanic traditions of both Native American tribes and also Mongolians. She talked to me about the spiritual power a feather can hold and how she can pick that feather up and feel the spiritual force in it. I know from my own experience that if I picked up that feather I would feel that force as well. Yet there is no spiritual iconography that comes from my cultural tradition - no stained glass windows, no frescos or halos; and nothing from my Viking or Celtic ancestry. Sometimes things don't come packaged the way we expect them to be. It doesn't mean they're not of immeasurable worth.

My view is not that science has destroyed creativity as it continues to embody it; rather that its comfort, material wealth and isolation from our landscape which has stifled an essential part of our nature.

Jules
 
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#17
This video has relevance to this discussion. I believe there is an underlying purposefulness in the Western tradition which we don't understand, and yet are a part of. This is Peter Kingsley discussing the spiritual origins of Western civilisation which lie with shamans in Ancient Greece.

 
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S

Stephen Timmis

#18
I do not know if this helps the discussion, but I remember the novelist, Martin Amis, being asked what the purpose of "The Novel" was, and he answered that it was to "explore the next phase of consciousness".

Many modern "truisms" were the outrageous artforms of the past. Today Beethovens 3rd Symphony is a staple of the concert circuit, but was sneered at when first written. Tchaikovsky's, "Swan Lake" was considered, "Undanceable", and Stravinskys, "Rite of Spring" caused a riot in the auditorium. Today everybody hums these tunes as they take a morning shower.

I personally find much modern, "Instalation Art" to be hard to understand. I do not condemn it because I know the future will laugh at me, and the fault is my paradigm not being up with the artist. People like me need 100 years to catch up with thoughts of the artists.
 
#19
I do not know if this helps the discussion, but I remember the novelist, Martin Amis, being asked what the purpose of "The Novel" was, and he answered that it was to "explore the next phase of consciousness".

Many modern "truisms" were the outrageous artforms of the past. Today Beethovens 3rd Symphony is a staple of the concert circuit, but was sneered at when first written. Tchaikovsky's, "Swan Lake" was considered, "Undanceable", and Stravinskys, "Rite of Spring" caused a riot in the auditorium. Today everybody hums these tunes as they take a morning shower.

I personally find much modern, "Instalation Art" to be hard to understand. I do not condemn it because I know the future will laugh at me, and the fault is my paradigm not being up with the artist. People like me need 100 years to catch up with thoughts of the artists.
My thoughts very much. Carmen - now the most favourite opera of all time was thought an outrage at the time. Bizet never recovered from the rejection. Van Gogh and Mozart and many others died and were buried in pauper's graves.Van Gogh never sold a painting! Alan Turing, mathematical genius had his life destroyed by the state - he was even chemically castrated, In my view - we don't understand the value of what is created at the time and far too often we don't value or recognise the people who are the conduits.
 
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Stephen Timmis

#20
My thoughts very much. Carmen - now the most favourite opera of all time was thought an outrage at the time. Bizet never recovered from the rejection. Van Gogh and Mozart and many others died and were buried in pauper's graves.Van Gogh never sold a painting! Alan Turing, mathematical genius had his life destroyed by the state - he was even chemically castrated, In my view - we don't understand the value of what is created at the time and far too often we don't value or recognise the people who are the conduits.
Actually, Mozart spent money faster than he earned it, and he earned a lot. Van Gogh sold one painting, to Paul Gauguin. Alan Turing was persecuted for being gay. For some reason they thought he was open to blackmail because of his homosexuality.

Having said that, I understand the point you are making.
 
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