Creativity has a huge attraction, especially today in all fields of work. but the creativity which comes out of a relationship to God is quite something else. For me it is a most enigmatic phenomenon as it has an amazing potential and a breathtaking fragility.
Creativity does not happen in paradise. Adam and Eve are not creative figures. Everything is golden in paradise and all problems of the earth have not arisen; however creativity is absent.
How is this possible, as we value this energy so enormously and yet paradise eludes it? The startling fact is : creativity needs separateness. Man needs to feel and understand himself as separate from God. Man needs to be thrown out of paradise to become creative. Oneness does not produce creativity.
How come that separateness is the very stage where man can be creative? If man and God are so separate, what carries this creativity? The enigmatic quality of creativity comes from an enigmatic memory of the soul. I ask, what kind of memory does the soul hold?
In the teachings of Meher Baba we are told of God’s whim, to manifest consciousness. This creative moment is called the OM, point. The first vibration within total stillness.The image of a big wave is used, creating bubbles on the surface of the divine ocean, separating drops from the ocean. The image of the drop soul, separated for the first time from God and experiencing it, is described. This experience of separation constitutes a gigantic jolt within the drop soul, but amazingly, it creates also the first iota of consciousness. However, the drop soul never seems to have forgotten the oneness with the divine ocean. And this surfaces in multitudes of moves the soul undertakes on its evolutionary journey.
How does this memory of the soul manifests in human incarnations? It shows in the phenomena of longing. Man’s longing for God, longing for Oneness. But now consciously. Longing makes us reach out to God, longing looks for ways and means to address God, it makes us build steps to God.
In order to anchor my thoughts in history, I resort to a most ancient time. 4000 years BC, the place between Euphrates and Tigris, Mesopotamia. There an extraordinary event took place amongst a highly skilled group of priests. An awareness arose, separating the heavens from the earth.
This image describes the Separation of Heaven an Earth. It is from Egypt and dates around 1090 BC. We see here the sky- goddess Nut, her body covered with stars, below, her spouse, the earth – god Geb. Normally in Egyptian art the god elevating the sky goddess is the air-god Shu. Here however his part is taken by an ape-headed figure with the ‘mountain sign’ on his head, the reference would seem to be not only to the power of air, the life breath, but also to the “ primordial hillock”, by which heaven and earth were first separated. On the right and left of this figure a soul- bird, Ba, lifts human arms in the attitude of prayer. Behind and before the goddess Nut are male figures in adoration.
To separate the heavens from the earth stands for an unique and extraordinary vision. Namely the separation between Man and the Divine. As the image portraits, it is not a scientific event, but it is understood as a deeply spiritual event. The Divine was seen to be in the heavens and man was seen to be on earth. This separation caused an explosion of creativity. The heavens became a map to be explored, measured and understood, mathematical notation and writing were invented, the lunar calendar, the wheel, irrigation etc. are examples of that energy. However contact between the heavens and man was also experienced, and needed to be expressed. For the first time ever in the history of this world, monumental brick constructions were built, the ziggurats. They are gigantic pyramids in steps. They are not burial grounds for kings. They are gigantic steps, which signify graded stages of spiritual development in individuals and graded manifestation of divine interaction. They are forms of connection and interaction between the Divine and Man. They are temples, as ladders of dialogue between Man and the Divine. At the top was a small room, for the meeting of the Divine. These places were not for general worship or ceremonies, only priests were allowed to be there. This points to practices only accessible to priests.
This concept of the separation between God and man reached Egypt, Crete, India, China and America.
About the fragility of creativity……..this is because of the tailor’s wife. I am referring to a story, a fairy tale. Fairy tales are per se metaphors of insights.
The story of the nightly fairies. It describes a small town from long ago. A time, when craftsmen made things, like the shoemaker, the tailor, the butcher, the baker, the thatcher, the blacksmith. They are in their workshops all day long with their tools and materials making, what people wear, eat and need for shelter. Some time ago, these people first notice a change – inexplicable, surprising, wondrous. Shoes, which were half completed in the evening stand beautifully finished the next morning in the workshop. The baker’s breads, buns and cakes are freshly baked and ready to be sold. The tailor’s cut out coat hangs in the morning, already sewn; made more beautiful than he himself could do it. The town thrives and an atmosphere of happiness and contentment pervades. This continues for some time. However there is the tailor’s wife. She has heard noises at night, footsteps up and down the stairs in their house, noises of doing things, of sewing and cutting in her husband’s workshop, and she also sees the completed clothes next morning. Curiosity descends on her, she needs to know. Once she just opens her bedroom door a chink and she sees little figures disappearing in the night. She becomes even more curious. She needs to know who that is, what it is and how it is. She plans to intercept what goes on at night. So in the evening she scatters dry peas on the stairs from the workshop. The night approaches and she waits. She hears movements, whoever it is, has come, and is now in the workshop, the sound of tools and movements are discernable. The tailor’s wife needs to know. She opens the door of the workshop. And what she sees are little figures sewing, cutting, and ironing the clothes her husband left for the next day. When they notice her, they jump up, shrieking, dropping everything and running down the stairs. But because she put the peas on the steps, they slip and fall and roll and tumble and she is clearly able to have a good look at them. And then they are gone.
The next morning the town’s people notice a change. Those wondrous hands, completing their work have stayed away. And they never returned.
What has that to do with creativity? The tailor’s wife is the figure of the Ego. The Ego always wants to know, how creativity works. Wants to know the very process. It in fact intercepts the creative process, wants to repeat it at ease, wants to control it and appropriate it. Saying: it is me, who is creative, special, talented, me, who knows how to do things, me, who knows, how it works. And I am special, I will be seen and admired by others, I will be successful. I call this an act of appropriation. Creativity however stops. You repeat what you know, but creativity stems from the unknown. The Ego is a most important vehicle, yet it hampers creativity, even brings it to a halt. The Ego forces one to become an observer, one exits the creative process to look at it from the outside and also to judge it. This is fatal; one has left the zone of not knowing and has left the state of self-forgetfulness. Self-forgetfulness, this is a state, hinted at in so many spiritual paths. Self-forgetfulness together with full awareness is rare and precious states. In my work, I have experienced often the intercepting quality of the Ego at moments of creating. Then the working, emerging from the not knowing, always stopped. I had exited the process. What to do? I then have to start all over again. It is like in meditation or other spiritual disciplines, you have to start all over again, it is a lonely and often tremendously discouraging process. As one refuses to repeat, what one knows will work, the Ego is at a loss, what to do. Feelings of despair and self-doubt threaten the entire project. Sometimes the Ego or the Self-awareness being so disappointed about itself, drifts away and the thread to the unknown presents itself again. I am showing you a piece of my work from some years ago, a film installation called : Walking Drawings. I did it together with another artist, Everton Wright, a friend and artist from long ago. It tells my story of creativity.
Two years before this work was started, the human figure was central to drawings, paintings and printmaking of my work. How to integrate the human figure into a drawing, without illustrating it, occupied me. I did not know what to do. Two years this idea just lingered in my mind. Trying this, trying that, not finding a way forward. Then one day I saw a documentary on the television, about the Nasca lines from a plateau in the Peruvian mountains. Lines as pathways – one archeologist, surveying and studying the site, had the idea to ask a group of men and women to walk these gigantic lines. When I saw this on television, I immediately knew, that was what I was searching for. The human figure should walk the drawing. No illustration, the interaction with the drawing would happen by walking the drawing. The preparations are always long, detailed, littered with doubts and setbacks and also with surprising generosity. To cut the scenery short, the whole installation would take place at a beach near Hastings in South England. When the tide is out, the beach there offers a gigantic sand space, sometimes pink in color with remaining inlets of seawater, reflecting the light of the sky. As Everton and I financed the entire project ourselves, we both gave £2000 each, which is a minute sum for such an enterprise, the entire project had to be filmed in one day. If it would rain, or would have glaring sun or the crane on which one camera man needed to film, would not arrive — too bad. Although we had planned in detail the shots for the camera people, and we were in total agreement what should happen, we had not made templates for the drawings on the sand, we had not planned its composition, we had not choreographed the walking of the people, we did not know, whether our lines, drawn with rakes, hoe and rotavator would actually be seen from above the crane. We had hired a bus from London to bring friends and acquaintances as the walkers, we hoped they would come, but as it so often happens, on the day, people suddenly have other things to do. None of the walkers were paid.
Everton and I arrived at 5 a.m. alone by car, it was summer. Taking our garden tools out of the booth, we started to draw and try out lines in the sand. From the distance we see a man on a tractor with a huge rake at the back, raking the beach sand to make it look clean and fresh for the summer visitors of the area. We both stood looking, and then moved simultaneously in the direction of the man in the tractor. He stopped and got down from his vehicle, looking at us in a surprised way, he was in his sixties. Would he be able to draw with his tractor and the rake, making lines as we just had done with our tools? He said not a word to us; he just turned to climb into the tractor and moved away. Well, you will see what happened then. The sky became clear, the 2 camera people arrived, the crane was in position, and it was time to draw. Everton and I approached the sand surface like a gigantic canvas, drawing directly into it, sensing each other’s movement and intentions. The bus had come and 30 people descended, others from a Hastings art group had been informed and they also were present. I need to tell you, we were amazed and elated. We had a drummer to give a rhythm, it was time to greet and introduce the walkers to the project. Everton took the first group to walk the lines. I had no idea where he would go. I just watched and took in the scene. Then I timed my group, doing something different. When each group had walked the drawings in different places, I felt, we had to come together with both groups walking the middle spine of the scene. Again, not knowing, when the creative process is unfolding is not a hindrance. It is just ‘a different doing’. At the end of the day, when everybody had gone, Everton and I just sat on a little hill silent. The tide had come in, taking the entire work back into the sea. And the day was complete. I could not say I had a dialogue with God, more a channel opened to let the unknown through. However this energy could only show itself as such, by using all the preparations, materials and the context of my particular search. My Ego had drifted off. A form of self-forgetfulness happened throughout. That is when we say, something fell into my lap.