Are we so caught up in our devices that we’re losing touch with ourselves? We know how to ask Siri about the best restaurants in town but are we cut off from the creative part of our minds? It seems to me we have much to learn about connecting with our selves, about conversing with our own creative unconscious. Since we’re spending so much time alone I want to say something about that.
To begin with, we don’t know the extent of the subconscious reach of our minds. Add telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, and precognition to the picture, and we have a much expanded concept of mind to converse with. We seem in fact to be part of a Greater Mind, in which our personal consciousness is nested. It suggests that our real identity must be greater than we suppose.
The faith traditions say we can talk with this greater mind, called by countless names, from God and guardian angels to cosmic consciousness. To converse with the creative unconscious, people have used every conceivable device: art, music, prayer, meditation, drumming, dance, drugs, sex, solitude, fasting, and so forth.
But something has been happening. Techno-corporate capitalism increasingly dominate our consciousness. The dependence on technology is eroding the skills that make us human: to mention a few, empathy, sense of justice, love of beauty, respect for truth. You can’t tune in to that Greater Reality if your attention is glued to the tentacles of corporate reality.
Famous examples come to mind that illustrate dramatic encounters with the creative unconscious.[i] In each instance we find some presumably higher agency inserting itself into our mundane lives. Nothing is mechanical or predictable about the way these queer phenomena unwind. Socrates, one of the great discoverers of rationality itself, had a lifelong daemon, an eccentric but infallible inner guide who stopped and warned him against all manner of danger. Or consider the teenage Joan of Arc who began to hear voices, at first reminding her of small personal duties, then guiding her to become the leader of the French army in the war against the English.
What I found from my research is that conversations with the creative unconscious show up in all kinds of experience, among the religious and mystical or among the scientific and the mathematical. The phenomena consist of one-off individual encounters or may recur among groups with shared belief systems. It can be born of petition or possession; in other words, you may initiate the encounter or it may descend upon you out of the blue, as when Benvenuto Cellini was about to kill himself while rotting away in prison and an invisible force threw him to the ground and later appeared in a dream to instruct and console him.
Combing through endless accounts, I’ve come to believe that dialogue with our transcendent ally is possible in any conceivable context, trivial or momentous. But there’s a problem. We’re becoming clueless as to the how. As we get swallowed up in the digital universe, our creative unconscious gets harder to access. There are no passwords or algorithms for conjuring up our muses and guardian angels.
We’re trapped in hyper-rationalized psyches, out of touch with our inner resources. We know how to drive cars, fly across the world in planes, soar instantaneously around the digital universe, but have forgotten, or never learned, or even conceived of, the possibility, of exploring our vast mental life. What can we do to stop devolving homo superficialis?
No easy answer there. But I have few hints garnered from my own experience. The first I borrow from the Jungian, James Hillman, who said that personification helps us connect with the unconscious. You have to name your deities and form a felt, trusting relationship with them. Personify the transcendent in whatever way it works for you, a face, a gesture, a sign, a symbol—whatever serves to ignite your creative unconscious.
Personify, in other words, animate your vision. Having done that, pay attention to your dreams. Dreams are miracles, magical and inexplicable. I would pay attention to the hypnagogic and hypnopompic twilight zones of dream life. When I lapse into insomnia, and hover on the edge of sleep, I sometimes slip into a state where I’m awake but find myself also in a dream world. This world is formed by arrays of faces of utterly real human beings, each with their own mood, tone and color. I feel like a ghost being noticed by the strangers I meet in hypnagogia. Now and then one of the faces gets real close, which jolts me back into my insomnia. The places and people I visit during my hypnagogic states seem real. They seem to be in another, a parallel world.
One last suggestion for tuning into the creative unconscious is a method of making visual art where chance and spontaneity permeate the process. The dialogue with our creative angels has to be fluid and spontaneous, and you can use anything, an art form or everyday practice, to make it come to life. Everyday life is full opportunities for the creative unconscious to erupt into consciousness.
All the arts are ways of lighting the spark of our creative life, ways of making contact with the deeper side of our nature. You don’t need a university degree to activate your creative unconscious; for starters, personify, connect with your dream life, and find a way to turn on your soul.
[i] See my Smile of the Universe, Ch. 7, ‘Dialogue with the Transcendent.’ Available on Amazon