07. Literature Review (pt 3 of 4)

Carl Jung (1990: 72), discussing creative processes in what he coined ‘extraverted art’, uses a plant as an illustration for this idea. Jung says that a plant is not a mere product of the soil, but rather is a living self-contained process, which in essence has nothing to do with the character of the soil. In the same way, Jung explains, the qualities of an art work are inherent within the work, to an extent that one might describe art as a living being using the artist as a nutrient medium. Art employs the artist’s capabilities for its own creative purpose. Artists seem to describe feelings that support this idea on different levels. Some acknowledge expanded feelings that are remarkable and that the artist is part of, while others acknowledge expanded feelings of larger sources that seem separated and coming from beyond the artist altogether.

In that respect, the poet Keats (Ackroyd, 2006) asserts that poets have no identity or self, but rather they imagine the self in thousands of living forms. The poet Anne Stevenson (Curtis, 1996: 54) says, ‘The truth is vaster than the alphabet’, and the video artist Bill Viola (Shambhala Sun, 2004) declares that he observed ‘art inserting itself into experience’. The Suprematist Malevich (Drutt, 2003) discusses the use of pure geometric forms, which represent a universal essence that belongs to all people and have no single culture. These artists belong to the first group, which acknowledge intensified or larger emotional capacities in which the artist takes part. Jephcott (1972: 12) refers to these experiences in his study on Rilke and Proust with the term ‘Privileged moment’.

To the second group belong such artists as William Blake. Blake (Bowra, 1976: 44) argues that he feels the presence of something larger than man during the experiences which inspire him to write, and declares (Halpern, 1994: xv) that he is under the guidance of angels day and night. Yeats (1966: 272), who was known for his automatic-writing experiences, also supports the notion of knowledge or creative power that comes to the artist from beyond the artist’s own mind. These forms of knowledge are seen by the cultural and literary critic Marina Warner (2006: 237) as important forms which can reveal what would otherwise be hidden, and are thus useful for research studies.

Taking the same view, Jung (1963: 176) adds that some things in the psyche seem as if they were produced by themselves and not by the psyche. Jung describes an experience where he entered an intense mode of observing his own way of thinking. During that experience he visualised an imagined figure named Philemon, who asserted to him that his thoughts are not his own and are not created by his own mind. Likewise, the architect and founder of Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner (1993: 40), asserts that thought should be treated as an external object, since thoughts are basically the speech of another being speaking to us.

To describe the totality of all psychic processes and contents, Jung coined the term ‘collective unconscious’. Art, he argues (1990: 80), originates from the collective unconscious, and not from the artist’s own personal unconscious mind. Jung’s notion of the collective unconscious seems to be echoed by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard who coined the term ‘Absolute image’. Bachelard (1969: 153) explains that absolute image is a self-contained image which is not prepared by thought, and is not the result or influence of a previous image in one’s mind; rather, it is absolute. The poetic image, Bachelard (1969: xvii) explains, has no causality, therefore it is absolute image. This notion could be compared to Immanuel Kant’s important idea of the a-priori and synthetic thought, as discussed in his Critique of Pure Reason ([1787] 2000). Kant argues that thought itself is based on a-priori categories of space and time, which exist in the mind of the person even before the person thinks. Kant makes a distinction between thoughts that are the results of previous thoughts (‘post-ideated image’ in Bachelard’s terminology), and synthetic thoughts that are not produced from previous thoughts.

Kant, Jung and Yeats can be viewed as representing the notion of inner faculties, and may convince us that there are unsolved or poorly-understood influences on how we perceive and think. However, the literature on quantum physics may shed important light on this issue. Recent theories in quantum physics (Arntz, Chasse & Vicente, 2004: minute 5.27) suggest that the mind can have an influence over matter, to the extent that the mind, or thoughts, seem to alter or form physical objects. Such studies, as Professor Josephson Brian’s (n.d., para 1) Mind-Matter Unification Project in Cambridge University, imply the possibility that people may have a greater influence over reality than was previously understood. In that respect, artistic creativity could be brought closer to an understanding through the artists who create.

The literature does not seem to reach a conclusion in regard to the influence of the mind over matter or the seemingly transcendental sources of inspiration that inspire artists. Piirto (2005: 10) uses the word ‘Muse’ in relation to the transcendental inspiration source in art, quoting Ted Hughes as saying, ‘Poems get to the point where they are stronger than you are’. Piirto seems to touch on a crucial point in regard to the transcendental Muse: the Muse, she says, comes from afar but from within the artist. Albeit remote or beyond the artist, the inspirational source seems to come from within and through the artist. Piirto notes that such a form of inspiration is accessible as a result or in response to the artist’s emotional state. In that respect the artist’s feelings, or emotions, can be seen as a gate, or an access point, to inspiration.

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