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Creativity and Love

Lee Irwin (Sirr al-Basir)

What is the relationship between love and creativity? Why is creativity important in our relationships with others? How is love a source of inspiration for creative action?

Such questions point toward the importance of embodying creativity as an essential aspect of our loving relationships, particularly as spiritual seekers. We stand between worlds in our current era, between the traditional teachings of great visionaries and the emergence of whole new ways of knowing, in sciences and technologies, in new arts and literature, in music and social values no longer intrinsic to any particular religious or spiritual worldview. In the gap between these various realities, we each face the challenge of finding a way of life that resonates with our deepest values and concerns. We face what Rollo May called “the courage to be” – that is, our willingness to live according to values whose importance is greater than our desire for pleasure, or security, or simple conformity to collective attitudes. We face the call for authentic being as creators, lovers of beauty, seekers of wisdom whose ideals are not limited by any fear or indecision based on social attitudes that might limit or repress creative freedom.

And yet, our freedom as creative beings is conditional, relative to our understanding, education, social location, and our inner aspirations toward excellence. In my view, each person is a creative center, an existential nexus, whose health and well-being depends upon meaningful relationships with others. Further, our health as individuals depends upon our abilities to relate to others in a context of wholeness, a wholeness that includes our living relationship to nature and other beings, be they humans, animals, plants, angels or spirits. A creative vision of the whole is inclusive but at the same time relational, we are in-relation-to-the-whole at all times, in waking, in sleep, in visions, in creative aspirations. But our relatedness is co-conditional, a circumstance that requires an ability to maintain, negotiate and adapt in those relationships in order to be truly creative. The idea of a “lone creator” or “isolated genius” is not the highest image of health but one often reflecting a lack of genuine, heartfelt love. Even the solitary creator needs love. For love is at the very core of the creative life because it is the quality that sustains and amplifies our relatedness to others.

One of the greatest motivators for creative response is our awareness of the suffering and needs of others, our ability to understand that our creative vision might be valuable in helping or inspiring others. Can we imagine an artist or creator of any kind who has no audience, no reader, no one who appreciates or values his or her created expression, ever?  We create because we want to contribute, to add a nuance of insight or artistic or scientific discovery to the whole, to create an alternative to suffering or a lack of vision, to respond to human needs. We communicate our creative expressions to enhance the vision of others, and we receive from others the benefit of their insights and discoveries. The medium for this exchange is a deeply felt appreciation and love, a thankfulness whose heartfelt intensity is a foundation for individual freedom. We are free to assist others, free to be in dialogue for the improvement of human life, free to offer alternatives whose impact may change an inherited way of life, free to love others and to assist them in whatever ways we may discover together.

Traditions offer stability, a grounded way of life whose practices and values have endured as vital contributions to authentic human existence. These traditions have endured for thousands of years, reflecting a human tendency toward the conservation of moral principles through religious institutions, assigned roles, sacred texts, all envisioned as expressing cosmological truth and treated with utmost respect as based in revelations of the Most Holy. Many exemplars of great spiritual accomplishment can be found in every tradition, and each provides a template representing an aspect of human development. In each of these traditions we discover that the founders were creative visionaries motivated by a desire to serve a community whose needs, sorrows, and limitations could be surpassed, transformed, and uplifted. They offered a revelation that might enhance and reshape a life path more able to meet the deeper needs of the heart, the deeper aspirations of the soul. These same aspirations for transformation are with us today, we continue to hold those deep desires of soul for a more comprehensive, integral, complete way of life, one that values the perceptions of others and is able to offer creative insights for mutual growth.

In loving relations with others, in a shared state of relative freedom, we can seek to engage in heartfelt dialogue, to cultivate a presence open to diversity of thought and belief as intrinsic to a complex world of cooperative co-discovery. The “heroic journey” is no longer the operative metaphor; there is a new metaphor, an emergent archetype for this process of co-discovery, one based in loving hospitality, a welcoming of others inwardly, based in respect and heart-centered concern. It is the metaphor of the “Sophianic visionary” whose purpose and goal is to discover wisdom, a deep intuition of Being and Mystery, directed toward the formation of communitas, a shared participation in wisdom that might benefit and support the spiritual needs of all. There is no one path, no one way, but a multitude of wisdom paths that can each contribute to the open field of our collective human needs. This Sophianic wisdom is strongly feminine, based in respect for life, preservation of species, cultivation of mutual health, overcoming of addictive and excessive tendencies, and healing of all lack of respect for every living being.

To love requires courage, overcoming doubt and fear, in order to open to unknown possibilities that may require transformation, new values, and a reorientation of concerns. The love I am describing is not self-centered, not about the personal satisfaction of basic needs.  Sophianic love, a wisdom-based love, a soul-felt resonance with Being, is a love whose purpose is the enhancement of inner qualities, an eros meant to serve the well-being of others. This love arises from the depths, far deeper than the conscious mind; it encompasses a greater dimensionality of soul, a more supraconscious immediacy of presence whose expressions overflow into abundant creative realizations. It is a love that cannot be constrained to any tradition, any religious teaching, scientific discovery, or artistic manifestation. It is a love without boundaries in an ocean of possibility. We are each an instantiation of that love, for our very existence is an expression of love’s capacity to create. We feel love because we are creations of love; we are not simply the product of social or cultural life, we are multidimensional beings whose soulful existence cannot be reduced to any one life, to any one path, to any fixed or unchanging law. We love because love is at the core of our being and its manifestation is best found in loving and sharing that love with others.

Out of love comes creativity, following the path of inmost courage and commitment, to be and see what is possible in a world of less loving relations. If we want to co-create a more loving world we must actualize our individual capacities for love in all our relations. The bridge in this process is built by discovering creative ways to actualize the love that is latent in the hearts and minds of every being. We are each a creative being and we are each capable of deep and intense love if we can overcome the limitations that bind us to a less loving and less creative way of life. To love and to create requires genuine  commitment and deep determination, and, in a world of conflict, calm and inner stability. The primal source of our creative expression is a consequence of a profound love exchanged between our personal being and a universal spiritual ground irreducible to any one interpretation, a ground supportive of tremendous differentiations and yet, fundamental unity. Like the flowers of the field, the forms of love are variable, a riot of colors and shapes, all nourished from a common soil, all expressive of qualities of beauty held in a field meant to nurture change and maturity.

The fruits of a creative life are manifest through the praxis of love—this is my most basic belief. Love of others, love of life, love of creatures, love of God, love of nature, love of solitude and self-reflection, love of learning, love of beauty, music, art, science and every aspect of creative discovery—these are fundamental features of my dedicated life. But most of all, love is my greatest teacher, my guide and inspiration, my motivation in the search for wisdom and self-realization. Love is the soul guide to greater self-awareness and creative expression. Love is also humbling, sometimes severe in correction of behavior or attitudes, a reprimand for insufficient responses or lack of care or concern. But love is a partner not a master, a companion who cares deeply that what is enacted is worthy of being called love. And creativity is a realization of love in visible form, perhaps not material, but emotional or psychic or imaginatively realized, a visionary form that leads to profound insights. Love can be surreal, challenging, an inversion of expectations, a comic reversal of the ordinary, all resulting in inspiration and creative expression animated by delight in artful discovery that will contribute to the well-being of the whole.

The link between love and creativity is imagination, the power to envision or hear or feel an alternative that is yet unmanifest. To make manifest the unrealized takes effort, sometimes training and practice, for the goal is not simply expression but a creative impact capable of fostering alternative perspectives. There is alchemy when love and creativity engage through mind and imagination in soulful discovery of better ways more expressive of the possible. Imagination offers us creative impact that enhances life and shared awareness; it may be playful, exploratory, confrontational, or shockingly new, a display of alterity whose possibilities require reflection and consideration. From a Sophianic perspective, I see imagination as an expressive capacity meant to unveil unseen aspects of cosmic life, to serve as a medium of communication between species, and to open the depths of soul to hidden, shadow aspects of our human struggles—a visionary potential whose cultivation is based in intention. If love is the shaping power of that intent, if hospitality and kindness are formative as functional values, if creative discovery is aimed at communitas, then our creative discoveries will serve a higher Wisdom. And if love is the guiding light, then what is illumined will be a world healed of illness and conflict, opened by love to the utmost creative realizations of Spirit. So might it be, so it will become.

Image Credit: Cornelia Kopp, Flying Spirit

Lee Irwin is a Professor in the Religious Studies Department at the College of Charleston where he teaches world religions with an emphasis on Native American traditions, western esotericism, hermeticism, contemporary spirituality, mystical cosmology, and transpersonal religious experience as related to dreams and visions. He is the Vice President of the Association for the Study of Esotericism (ASE) and a board member of the Sophia Institute and the Institute for Dream Studies. He has been a workshop leader and group facilitator for over twenty years, particularly in the areas of visionary cosmology and the development of the sacred human. He is the author of many books and articles, including: The Dream Seekers, Visionary Worlds, Awakening to Spirit: On Life, Illumination, and Being, The Alchemy of Soul, and Coming Down From Above: Prophecy, Resistance, and Renewal in Native American Religions.

Read more about Lee Irwin

Comments (3)
  • This article by Lee Irwin is just what I need to hear now. Thank you!

    — Karima Gebel on March 20, 2014

  • So might it be, so it will become. . .Appreciate this, Lee. . .

    — Jacob Wienges on March 21, 2014

  • Lee this is veritable, beautiful and complete ~
    I want to share it, proclaim it and live it.
    Thankful to know you!

    — Carol Coronis on June 26, 2014

16 March 2014

Tagged Under
love, community, soul, alchemy, creativity, co-creator, What May Be, Creative Expression, health, Sophia,
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