It happens to all of us.
That sudden flash of brilliance; an idea so perfect, so shiny and new, it’s as if you’ve been touched by not only one, but all nine Muses. It happens in the shower, while drifting off to sleep, or curled up in a fetal position while binge listening to ABBA (okay, maybe that’s just me).
But betwixt and between the splendor that is spontaneous creative genius, have you ever stopped to think where these ideas really come from?
Do they float in the nebula waiting to be plucked by a propitious recipient like a carrot in fertile soil? Or, as British novelist Graham Greene believed, are they the “compost of imagination” – an amalgamation of forgotten memories and experiences the artist suppresses in her subconscious? Perhaps these amazing ideas are simply a byproduct of neurons firing electrical impulses in the brain?
Depending on who you ask, and according to the school of thought to which they aspire, you’ll get a different answer. Theologians, scientists, philosophers, and psychologists each with their dogmas, scientific principles, theories, and psychoanalytic insights, have different points of view on the subject. But the fact remains, there is an undeniable universal truth that these fleeting moments of creative serendipity exist as a result of something spiritual in nature.
Now, when I say “spiritual”, I’m not referring to religion (again, theologians have this covered). What I am referring to is something greater, something timeless and inexhaustible – the divine spirit. God. The one and only Creator of the raw, formless energy that flows from the Cosmos to the material world. And standing at the intersection is us humans. We possess the ability to harness and transform this energy into whatever form we desire through the cultivation of our subconscious minds.
In his book, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, Dr. Joseph Murphy states “The infinite intelligence within your subconscious mind can reveal to you everything you need to know at every moment of time and point of space provided you are open minded and receptive. You can receive new thoughts and ideas enabling you to bring forth new inventions, make new discoveries, or write books and plays.” (Murphy p. 12)
The notion of our higher creative selves associated with the flow of cosmic energy is not new, nor is it strictly a western idea. Artists from Rodin to Paul Klee, Da Vinci to Picasso, each acknowledged the existence of “something more” or the “mystery” of divine inspiration. Even Plato believed “creativity is a divine madness, a gift from God.” Moreover, the monks of Japanese Zen referred to the connection as the “Yugen” and believed that in order to achieve it, the artist must first reach a state of Zen or complete emptiness. Only then can one become a vessel for creativity and express it in the form of art.
Of course, the flow of creative energy isn’t limited to the arts and humanities, but any endeavor that requires imagination, originality, and individuality. While developing his Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein recognized the role of the divine in his contributions to science, stating “Ideas come from God.” And Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, believed genius was the result of “the ability to reach a rich vein (the subconscious mind)…and to translate it effectively into philosophical literature, music, or scientific study…”
All humans have the inherent ability to reach that rich vein, to tap into the flow of energy from the Universe housed in the subconscious and transform it into whatever we desire. But we have to be open to accepting creative inspiration as a gift from the Creator, and in doing so, recognize the fact that it may not always be on our timeline or in its original desired form. By nature, creativity is fluid. It flows to us and through us. As artists, our only job is to be an open vessel, to surrender to something greater than ourselves. The Universe will do the rest.