Tell me about creativity as an external anima, please.
August 10, 2009 3:33 AM   Subscribe

Looking for information about creativity as an external force or spirit (or manna or anything even vaguely similar). Things like the Greek Muses, from any cultures.

I've the hatchling of a plan for a story that involves a creativity-inducing environment, and am looking for background reading / idea-spawning stuff.*

If you can think of any rituals people perform in other cultures to commune with creative spirits, the names of any sprites or nymphs or kami involved in this, any great speeches by poets declaring opiates to contain idea-giving properties, any of that would be gold.

Famous arguments to the contrary would also be appreciated. I'm not looking for a discussion about the merits of this worldview, particularly (although if you want to hash it out a little in this thread don't let me stop you) but am more interested in historical proponents of both sides. This thread about conceptual blending, for example, was gold. If a moustachioued Edwardian had said something pithy about something similar, even better.

Looking to spend some time filling my brain with this stuff and seeing if anything useful comes out.

(*What's that you say? Using external materials to induce creativity? Good spot, but not exactly what I mean. I'm after external anima-type things that people think they can commune with.)
posted by Cantdosleepy to Religion & Philosophy (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
<>This talk by Elizabeth Gilbert is relevant.

She talks about the psychological and philosophical benefits of thinking as 'genius' as something that comes from without rather than from within. Mentions the muses and relays a few anecdotes.
posted by SebastianKnight at 3:44 AM on August 10, 2009

Ack! Borked the link.
Here it is again.
posted by SebastianKnight at 3:45 AM on August 10, 2009

A good "anima and animus" story is that of Cupid and Psyche. Read symbolically, it can be seen as Eros (animus; I prefer "Eros" to "Cupid") inspiring Psyche to creative exploration of her own individuality: she chooses to follow Eros, it's not imposed on her, indeed she's often discouraged from it; she could give up the quest at any time, but doesn't, so it's clear that it's her individual path. From the point of view of Eros, it can be seen as Psyche (anima) bringing Eros to a more developed, human level; giving him an understanding of the complexity of human life (because if one thing can be said of life as a deity, it's that it's very uncomplicated and removed from humanity, unless the deities themselves choose otherwise, which the Greek/Roman ones so often did).

Nowadays we seem to view "creativity" as equating to the arts, and often forget that it can also apply to so much else, such as the courage and creative solutions required for living one's own life, and the creativity of the mundane: cooking, gardening, raising children, rearranging the layout of a room... Whatever inspires your desire to follow something that grips you deep inside, is "anima/animus". Of course there are "negative anima/animus"; not all creativity is good, as the children of abusive parents can attest, for instance. It's creative for a mother to imagine her children are worthless... but not healthy. Many other examples can be found of using creativity for ill (one could argue the atom bomb).

Personally, my "eros", "animus", has been good friends, French, cultures and languages, writing, the outdoors, and keeping a home of my own. I love them ("eros"), and following those passions sincerely — that means allowing for reasonable doubts and compromises — has brought me to a life I know is mine, a life I continue to discover, eagerly, day by day. It is not easy, but it is terrifically fulfilling. Joseph Campbell: If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
posted by fraula at 4:44 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've heard about the Voodoo concept of loas, specific spirits that can manifest themseves onto/into anyone at any time. When a singer or dancer begins to get powerfully carried away and is clearly in the creative 'zone,' sometimes practitioners see this as an instance of a visitation from a loa.
posted by Miko at 7:16 AM on August 10, 2009

Automatic writing would be an interesting ritual to try.
posted by hermitosis at 7:41 AM on August 10, 2009

This may be a little far afield from your interest, but there is a philosophical movement (primarily 20th century American) that speculates that creativity is the fundamental metaphysical stuff out of which the cosmos is constituted. That is, creativity is the material out of which all events occur, and thus the propagation of novelty and innovation is an essential feature of existence. See Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne primarily. Resources: Wiki, , IEP (self link), SEP, more.
posted by reverend cuttle at 7:41 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Shakti is the concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as 'The Great Divine Mother' in Hinduism.
posted by jammy at 8:22 AM on August 10, 2009

and there's also Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, music and the arts...
posted by jammy at 8:38 AM on August 10, 2009

Thanks guys, good stuff. Keep it coming!
posted by Cantdosleepy at 2:21 PM on August 10, 2009

Rudyard Kipling believed that inspiration/genius came from an external source, and he illustrated his thoughts on this point in two short stories: "Wireless" and "The Finest Story in the World." Both excellent reads. I think they'll inspire you as well.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 6:32 PM on August 15, 2009

If you were to take a look at the work of Aleister Crowley and his Magick in Theory in Practice in particular, you will find a very good introduction to the Hermetic notion of the Genius.

In his system of training, the personal discovery of this very force is the primary goal of all aspirants. In this tradition, this force is often called the Holy Guardian Angel.

Along with his works, Israel Regardie's The Tree of Life may also help.

Best of luck!
posted by mgorsuch at 12:31 PM on August 16, 2009

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