Creativity and Spirituality

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By Kurt Payne

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Kurt Payne © 10 January 2016

Opening words.

Before time began, we are told, there existed one Eternal Being, perfect in every way and beyond the power of human thought to comprehend. He existed alone. But although alone, he was not lonely. For not only was he one, he was also in a mysterious and incomprehensible way three, three persons in one god, the glorious and blessed trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

God, being perfection, needed nothing beyond himself. But as an act of divine will, or love, he began the process of creation by which other things were called into existence. Vast multitudes of spiritual beings were created, including Lucifer who ended up banished from heaven, the abode of God, to a domain of his own, a place of torment called hell.

At this point, therefore the universe was divided into two parts, heaven and hell. But then God began further acts of creation. He created light, inhabited by the sun, moon and stars. He created a firmament or atmosphere, inhabited by the birds. He created great waters, inhabited by fish. He created dry land, inhabited by plants, animals and men.

Man was the last created being, and was made by God in his own likeness.

My personal take would be that as a divine being, I should continue this process of creation, within my means, as acts of divine will and love.

Creativity and Spirituality.

As a designer and an employee in the fashion industry, evolution looks a lot like what we see as creation. Products are developed and popped out into the world, the weakest being put on clearance, never to be made again, the strongest put on repeat order and developed further into new patterns and styles, a type of natural selection.

A selection of Kurt's scarves.
A selection of Kurt’s scarves.

My learning to weave last year has followed a similar process of evolution. The first piece I wove had uneven edges and the unmatched yarns shrunk at different rates, creating something that shouldn’t see the light of day.

My second piece used a select pattern from the first but more appropriate yarns and was very successful, resulting in a plethora of similar scarves dyed multiple colours, and is a clear example of exponential expansion of life.

After that came more specialisation, finer yarns, technical patterns and dye techniques, some successful and some never to be repeated.

Can evolution like this happen without an intermediary planning and acting to cause change in the world? Is God still tinkering at every new life created?

The hermetic principle of mentalism states that everything in the universe is a “creation of THE ALL” THE ALL is a nongender, nonpantheistic way of referring to the divine, wether you call it God, Goddess, the Source, Tao, Prime Vibration, First Cause, Mother / Father / God or the great spirit. This force is also known as the divine mind.

The principle of mentalism tells us that we are all thoughts of the divine mind, existing within the divine mind. The borders of creation are encompassed by the divine mind. Everything is composed of the same thing, the divine mind. We appear to be separate but in truth we are one.

Imagine your own mind, not only as a consciousness within your head, but as a place. One where you have a lot of control over what is there. You can choose to create a beautiful scene, populate it with characters, change it or even destroy it. All these things can have detail, depth and character to them. They are individual, yet part of the greater whole, your mind. Although ultimately you are in charge, these images have a measure of free will. As you dream and daydream, your creations often do the unexpected.

Now take that model and expand it to the entire universe, all of creation. Our universe, on every level, is the mind of the divine creative being. Everything in it is a thought that the divine has created, just as you do with your daydreams and visualisations. Just as you create, the divine mind creates, showing us that the nature of the universe is very mental. Therefore the universe and everything in it, responds to thoughts because it is composed of the thoughts of the divine. If the divine created us and everything else as a thought, and we are capable of creating our own thoughts, then they too, are divine and filled with power. The universe and everything in it will respond to our thoughts. Thoughts invested with energy become reality.

That sounds a little bit like magick to me, but certainly food for thought.

Lets come back down to earth now and look at some pure, modern, scientific research.

In 2011 Dr Ann Futterman Collier conducted research with a sample of 900 women across the USA, Europe, New Zealand and Australia, asking participants whether textile handcraft making contributed to their psychological well-being. Women reported that they made fibre arts for quite a few reasons. For most it was because of the aesthetic love of textiles. For others it was the grounding quality of textile making brought about by its repetition and rhythm. Women also said they made textiles because it was psychologically fulfilling, there was joy in doing for others, it allowed them to have social connections, it provided intellectual stimulation and they did not have “idle hands”

Most interesting was not everyone used textile crafts to change a bad mood! About half did and half did not. However textile copers reported more success at repairing negative mood and stronger rejuvenation than non textile copers whose activities included long walks outside, being with friends and talking about problems. The more exciting and stimulating the fibre making activity was the more effective it was at mood change and rejuvenation. Thus excitement about fibres, metally challenging textile projects, and even the increased physical activity associated with making textiles, all appear to be good for mental health!

Keys to make this even more successful include, not staying within the lines, experiments and create something more unique. Putting your own needs first, instead of always creating for others, make something for yourself. Incorporate metaphors symbolically into your work finding symbolic ways to reflect your concerns and make multiple peaces on a theme over many years. Most import of all is to have fun.

A friend of mine is a perfect example of having fun with creativity. He is a knitter. He will go into the yarn store and buy perfect wooden needles and a beautifully coloured, luxurious yarn, just one ball. He will cast on a row and knit away with no regard to technique or pattern in a complete Zen like calm, then after a few weeks or months he will have produced a holey and irregular rectangle, or trapezoid, completely useless, but for him, the process is pure joy.

He belongs to a branch of pagan spiritually called the radical faeries. Anyone who has seen the American series of Queer as folk may remember the quote from Harry, a leader at a Radical faerie gathering: “Every fairy has a God given gift to take what’s ugly and make it into something beautiful” This wisdom is not only applied to objects of art but also relationships, people, attitudes, landscapes, anything really, where there is potential to make something better. It is certainly an interesting perspective in which to live ones life.

In 2005 Dr Guessner Guyer, presented research results to Harvard Universities “Learning and the brain” conference which concluded that older people with the most brain power varied in many ways, but all shared some distinct characteristics. All of them possessed openness towards learning new things and all shared an active connection with a community of people (a Unitarian congregation comes to mind)

Dr Geyer studies the considerable physiological changes the brain goes through when exposed to new learning and new experiences. It is discovered that as we age, people whose minds are actively engaged in new learning are more fulfilled and happier than older adults who are less active. Dr Geyer has developed a plan for being an “optimal cognitive ager” and has created nine principles of optimal cognitive aging; I will share four of those with you today, of particular interest to creative communities.

  1. You are your brains best friend. Do things that are meaningful and fun. Craft and art are obvious but how about exploring history and genealogy, singing or restoring a car? Each person knows what works best for their mind and how to find joy in their own way.

  2. Active thought takes effort, and that stimulates nerve cell growth. It is intriguing to think that mastering a new dance technique or working on an intricate knitting pattern – aside from the excitement of the challenge has a positive effect on the brain. The intense concentration required to master the coordination of hand and eyes could often feel like it is opening something new in your nervous system. This moment of opening up is not just growth in the esoteric sense but actual neurological growth in the brain.

  3. Network with other brains. You need the input, don’t withdraw. Reach for enriched environments. Find a guild, class, church or club where new people are brought into your community, ensure the hosts challenge you and gain the ability to problem solve in new ways. As your experiences evolve, take the opportunity to teach and share your new experiences with others. It is exciting to share ideas, allowing one persons to build upon another.

  4. Refuse ruts. Practice flexibility. Rigid stiff minds are dull. Anyone who has ever worked with wool or paint or clay will know how flexible you must remain in order to succeed. It is not mind over matter, but mind flowing with matter. One project evolves into the next as you learn more and come up with new ideas based on the last one; my weaving is a good example. There is a parallel between the complexity of a project and the complexity of the brain. Finding meaning, staying engaged in active thought, networking with others and remaining flexible are the keys to building brainpower and mental acuity.

Harvard experts agree that choosing to use your brains in personally meaningful and challenging ways will not only make your lives become more joyful but will keep you young!

I agree that it is our young that we should look to for inspiration in this matter.

There’s an interesting story about a little girl whose father, an art teacher, is developing a class when his daughter comes and asks, “Daddy, what do you do?” The father smiled and said, “I teach people how to draw.” The little girl is shocked and asks, “You mean they forget?”

Just watch children playing. When they come across a new object, there first thought isn’t “what is it?” but “What can I do with it?” The point is, children are open to all possibilities: observing the world, asking questions and trusting their intuition to make new connections without fear of messing up. As we get older we loose this ‘beginners eye’ Work, family and time pressures all make it hard to find the space to be creative.

Making space, embracing the present and being mindful are required to tap into our creativity and nurture this important part of us.

There are only two things required to start this process, the first is to distance yourself from your inner gremlin, you know that voice that says “you’re no good at this, why even try?” “You call this art? Who would buy this mess?” This negative self talk can chew through your self confidence and self esteem but luckily recognising that voice, writing it down, putting an image to the words and then confining to a separate place, a draw or pinned to the fridge, where it can be acknowledged, but not accepted, allows you to forge ahead with a clear head.

The second thing we need most, and give ourselves least is permission. Permission to paint instead of doing the laundry, permission to create a complete mess of baking a cake instead of getting it right first time. Permission to sit a ballet exam at age 60.

It is often hard to give ourselves permission, I am more than happy to write anyone a permission slip, just like back in school. What gives me permission is my best friends common phrase “ Dull women have immaculate houses.” My life isn’t dull and my house isn’t tidy. I create fine art; any art I create is fine with me!”

For our meditation today I would like us all to ponder the question, what would you do if you had permission? What would you create? What would you learn? Who would you be?

Poems.

For our closing words I would like to come full circle back to the story of creation, to two of my favourite poems.

The first short one is by Stewart Farrar.

Adam asked of Eve:

“What do you believe?”“Everything in Genesis

“But female androgenesis;

“Believing that is dumb,

“For Lilith was my Mum.”

The second is from a musical called Nymph Errant with lyrics by Cole Porter.

Experiment! Make it your motto day and night.

Experiment! And it can lead you to the light.

The apple at the top of the tree

Is never too hard to achieve,

So take an example from Eve,

Experiment!

Be curious, though interfering friends may frown,

Get furious at all attempts to hold you down.

If this advise you only employ

The future can bring to you

Infinite joy

And merriment

Experiment!

And you’ll see.