Response to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk on Nurturing Creativity –
The Most Extraordinary Aspects of You on Loan from a Disembodied Being
YOLANDA QUIROZ SOTO, JD
I realize that this is a very late response, but I just stumbled onto Gilbert’s TED Talk and I’m compelled to write a response because I found it disturbing and potentially dangerous.
Is Gilbert really advocating that we assign our inherent creative genius to disembodied beings external to ourselves because seeing and accepting our genius as internal to us is too much responsibility? Or is it merely the coping mechanism constructed by a fearful and desperate woman to ease the pressure and potential pain of her much anticipated follow up book to Eat, Pray, Love being a failure and perhaps never creating at that level ever again? Is Gilbert anticipating that the book will fail and telling us that it is not her fault because her daemon/genius was lame? Three years have passed since her Ted Talk. Only she knows whether her coping mechanism worked, but as a general philosophy on the creative process, it not only fails on many levels.
Gilbert brings up two issues:
Is genius is inherent or does genius stem from without us?
Does the creative process inevitably lead to anguish?
At the time of the talk, Gilbert’s much anticipated follow up book to Eat, Pray, Love was about to come out. Understandably, she is afraid that it will not meet with the “freakish” success of its predecessor. At 40, she faces something daunting, i.e., the idea that she never again will produce something as successful as Eat Pray Love. In other words, that she is done.
The fear of your creativity (your inherent creative genius) failing you is a common fear of creative people. What if your next project sucks? What if you never produce anything noteworthy again? Etc., etc. As human beings, we are hard-wired to strive for the full manifestation of self, i.e., to reach deep and be the best that we can be. But what if you reach the pinnacle of your success, the expression of the full spectrum of your creative abilities at an early age? What then? You end up like the football star or prom queen that peak in high school and steadily descend into oblivion. It is, as Gilbert states, a fear that can drive you to drink Gin at 9:00 a.m.
Gilbert blames the creative philosophy of the Renaissance. The shift from seeing creativity as emanating from disembodied daemons or geniuses to believing that it stems from within the individual artist simply places too much responsibility on the frail human psyche. The Renaissance, she states, is responsible for the death of artists for the last 500 years. Really? Oh, please!
Understandably to avoid becoming an alcoholic, Gilbert searched for a “healthier” alternative to this notion. She came up with a “protective psychological construct” to help her deal with this creative crisis and concerns about the creative process, primarily the notion that creativity is linked to pain. Her search took her to ancient Greece and ancient Rome where they believed that creativity came from outside human beings, specifically from a “divine attendant spirit” that came to human beings from “some distant source, for distant and unknowable reasons.” They called these creative spirits “daemons.” Socrates, for example, had a “daemonic sign” whose voice he heard when he was about to make a mistake. In fact, it is this voice that kept him from entering politics. The Romans had a similar idea, but they called these beings, geniuses. A genius was a creative spirit who assisted the artist in his work. A genius was not an individual exhibiting a high degree of creative information and ability.
Although Plato believed that all our key ideas and intellectual processes are innate, implanted within us by God at conception and which we subsequently recalled through the process of rational discourse, it was not until the Renaissance that this idea becomes popular. For the first time (at least in Europe), the idea that human beings have creative powers/abilities themselves is accepted widely. Individual human beings are perceived as possessing unique gifts and abilities themselves rather than deriving them from their daemons or geniuses and are referred to as being geniuses rather than having geniuses.
Gilbert thinks that allowing somebody to believe that he or she is “the vessel,” “the essence,” and “the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery” is “just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche.” And, she believes that this pressure has been killing off our artists since the Renaissance-.
To create some separation from herself and her creative product, Gilbert adopts the ancient Greek/ancient Roman belief of externalizing our creativity to dismembered beings who just show up and feed us creative ideas. They live in our walls, hang out in our cars, chase us in the mountains, etc., often at inopportune moments.
We should recognize our creativity as a “strange, external thing” outside of ourselves, Gilbert points. Further, we should not believe that “the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you.” Rather, we should believe that they are on “loan to you from some
unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you’re finished…”
Really? Does anyone else find this disturbing? Believing that the best of me derives from some being in the ether that is feeding me information is supposed to make me feel better? This belief devalues us human beings, misconstrues the creative process, and sets the stage for dangerous activity. Did she not learn anything while in India and Bali?
Like Plato I believe that as human beings, we are innately all-creative. Unlike Plato, I, however, do not believe that our abilities are bestowed upon us from God, Allah, the Supreme Being, Voodon, the cosmic computer, or whatever else you want to call this energy source. I believe that we are the individual expressions (creative sparks/thought forms) of the Supreme Being and as such possess the same creative attributes as this energy - that all-creative energy source from which everything was created including ourselves. Our creative power was not given to us from a higher source. We have this creative power because we are a part of this creative source.
As spirit, we are omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. We are creative energy hardwired for expression. It is through life experience (not just discourse) that we manifest this energy - attributes, talents, gifts, genius, etc., in the physical body. Our journey, in fact, is to manifest all that is divine/creative within us – within all of us – in this creative field we call the physical universe. This is the definition of spirituality – spirituality is the process of manifesting fully as creative spirits on earth (the physical plane).
Genius as an External Thing
Externalizing our inherent creative genius denies our human nature and negates the creative process. We do not need to work with beings, daemons, geniuses, fairies, or spirit guides to experience transcendent creative glimpses of God or even to get simple creative ideas. The full spectrum of creativity exists within each of us. We possess all the creative information that we require to be successful as beings (which is not measured by the number of sales). It’s just a matter of learning how to access that information and creativity and to create the environment in which we can live from this space all the time not just in fleeting moments of dance or whatever.
Do we really need to believe that the most extraordinary aspects of ourselves do not come from us in order to protect ourselves from the daunting responsibility that we are geniuses (all-creative)? I think not. I do not buy Gilbert’s premise that it is a lot to think that as individuals we possess all the creative power of the divine. We do. Period. And, we should own it rather than externalize it to some disembodied being.
The idea that the best of me is the result of a disembodied being that I was either channeling or somehow psychically perceiving - hearing (clairaudiently) or seeing (clairvoyantly) - rather than the expression of an innate ability that I have manifested is depressing and alienating. I don’t know about you. I like to think that I am the source of every thing that I have done creatively whether that thing was a success or a failure. At least, it was me. It was mine. I take responsibility for this. I also can take responsibility for the daunting idea that I am the vessel of the universal all-creative energy. That I am that all-creative energy. In fact, I welcome this. Bring it on!
Creative Process Filled with Anguish
The creative process may be linked to anguish, but not for the reasons that Gilbert believes. I do not think that it stems from “too much responsibility” of seeing ourselves as the source of divine expression. I think it stems from not being able to access this expression. R. Buckminster once said that, “Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.” As babies and children, we are full of enthusiasm and creativity, but it gets programmed out pretty rapidly through invalidation, judgment, and even punishment. Foreign energy (information) that negates our true essence registers as pain in the body either physical, emotional, or mental. Pain causes our creative energy to stop flowing and as such as spirit (awareness/consciousness), we lose the ability to access the full range of our creative information in the body. It is then that we look outside ourselves for the piece of information that is missing. We bring that information in and perpetuate the process. To reverse this process, we need to be aware of the pain, release it, and reclaim our information.
Perhaps artists experience this more than the average person. But this is because by nature artists are people on a quest to access and express their creative abilities. That’s why they pursue the work that they do. Working in fields like writing, music, art, film, etc., accords the artist the opportunity to reach within and express their creativity in a way that accounting does not.
When we are accessing/expressing who we are as spirit in the body, we are in the zone, in the flow, in the moment, etc. Body and spirit are in full communication. These times appear to be transcendent. But, they are our natural state of being. They typically do not last very long, but that is the result of mechanics. We tend to experience high creative periods followed by anguish. This is because as we move forward, as we take a next step in reclaiming our creativity, we first have to clear the pain caused by foreign energy that is blocking it. We engage in a creative activity, hit pain from invalidation/punishment. At this point, we either release the pain or get stuck in it. Those who can release the pain, reach a new level of creative clarity. Those that don’t, stay stuck. Sometimes, the pain becomes too much. My heart still aches from the news of Heath Ledger’s untimely death. It is a mechanical process. But, it does not have to be one so filled with pain and anguish. There are ways to work this. And, it is my hope that everyone learns how – because as I see it we all are creative beings – not just those of us that are engaged in “creative” fields. All of us are creating. All the time.
To that end, I would like to suggest a different psychological construct designed to empower us to live not by externalizing their genius but by owning it. As creative beings, we need to encourage and support each other. (Let me clarify something here. By creative, I mean create – the act of transform an idea into reality – this includes people in creative fields like writing, art, music, but also people in the sciences – Einstein was one of the most creative people of this century.) As a society, we must encourage our creative minds to live and to thrive. We need this because it is vision and foresight that move societies forward. Our inherent genius is what bends history and transforms human evolution.
It is important to recognize and to own the fact that as human beings we are creative by nature. It is what we do whether we direct this into occupations like chemical engineering, writing, law, sports, education, science, etc. We each are engaged in the act of creating, i.e.,
transforming pure energy (ideas) into physical reality (form). An anonymous quotes says:
“A fish is born to swim. A bird is born to fly. A human is born to create.”
Indeed. We each are here to express the universal creativity in a unique, individualized, and focused way. We are each unique onto ourselves. We each possess gifts and talents that no one else does. As Jim Morrison said,
“There will never be another one quite like you. There will never be another who can do the things you do…”
This sentiment is echoed by Martha Graham who said, “There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.” (unless you come back as a disembodied daemon and attach to a human being!)
Rather than seeing our creative abilities as originating from some external source on loan to us, I suggest that we own our inherent genius and strive for its expression and create conditions that are supportive of it.
As a society, we need to shift our thinking and create an environment that nurtures creativity and the creative process so when we hit creative periods of anguish and despair, we have the tools to work thought them. The idea of the tormented artist needs to change. It starts at home and in the early educational system. By middle school, I think it is too late. We need to nurture the creativity of our children and give them space to explore and experiment. And, we need to teach them how to work with energy so they can identify the creative blocks, clear them, and reclaim their innate creativity.
Master the creative process:
We need to learn about the creative process and its mechanics. Just to reiterate, the angst and anguish that creative people often experience is the result of them not being able to access their creative abilities due to pain stored in the physical body which is stopping their creative energy (information) from flowing and making it inaccessible to them. Pain in the body - whether physical, emotional, or mental - is the result of foreign energy in the body. It stops your creative energy from flowing making it impossible to access. When we cannot access our information, we look outside of ourselves and bring in foreign energy into the body – whether this information comes from a being with a body or without. This ultimately creates more pain. It’s mechanics. And by understanding the mechanics, you can reverse the process.
Meditate, Psychic/Higher awareness Training:
We need to learn meditation and psychic/higher awareness techniques to learn how to own our creative abilities in the body and clear the pain so we can reclaim our creative information rather than looking outside of ourselves for it.
We need to learn to be neutral to the outcome of our creative endeavors rather than internalizing what others perceive as failures. This way we will not have to create a protective psychological construct to assign failure outside of ourselves to our lame genius. We can own both ends of a dichotomy – be okay with failing and be okay with winning.
Working with daemons, geniuses, disembodied beings:
The idea of working with beings is nothing new. In fact, I would argue that it goes farther back than ancient Greece and Rome. Seeing beings, hearing beings, etc., is an ability that we as human beings have. It is known as Trance Mediumship, Clairaudience, Clairvoyance.
There are numerous examples of this throughout history. Joan of Arc heard voices telling her to join the army. Edgar Cayce got his healing information from at least two beings. Andrew Carnegie had a counsel of beings who gave him business advice. Jim Carrey channeled Andy Kaufman. The founder of Reiki got the information by hallucinating and hearing voices. Gandhi heard voices. William Blake took dictation from his deceased brother. Examples of this abound. But, I bet there are more examples of people who hear voices or see beings that are not benevolent in nature. We know this group as schizophrenics or as psychotic. Did you see The Exorcist?
In thinking about this, I wonder how may people were inspired by Gilbert to start working with disembodied beings for creative inspiration? Or to separate themselves from being responsible for the end product?
There is a whole universe not visible to the naked eye. In this universe, there are beings that no longer have a body or that never took a body. Beings come in all shapes and sizes and with varying degrees of creativity, awareness, and ethics. The idea that disembodied beings are more creative or intelligent than you is a fallacy.
It is up to you to chose the being or beings with whom you want to work and the reason why. There has to be an agreement in place. Beings don’t just show up without your consent. So, Ms. Gilbert working with a disembodied being does not absolve you of your responsibility for a bad work product because it was YOU who chose a lame being…
If you are going to work with a being, interview a few and choose wisely. The last thing you want is to get stuck with a dud, with a being that is out to pursue his/her own agenda, or with a being with low awareness that will punish you rather than inspire you. Working with beings can be a tricky thing if you do not know what you are doing. Take Jim Carrey, for example. When Carrey worked on Man on the Moon, he was channeling Andy Kaufman. Creatively, this served Carrey as it enabled him to represent the character accurately as Andy (because it was Andy), but it created problems later. After the film rapped, Carrey could not make separations from Kaufman.
If Gilbert’s talk has inspired you to work with daemons or geniuses and to use them to tap into higher levels of creativity, please be careful. Working with beings without awareness of what you are doing potentially is dangerous. Here are some rules that the being should agree to:
1) You are senior in your space – you call the shots. The being is here to help you not the other way around.
2) The being stays out of your space – the being does not plug in or attach to your body. If you are hearing the self- defeating voices of someone else in your head or having a physical reaction when you are working with your daemon/genius, most likely that being is in your space. This can be dangerous because their energy will not work in your in your body and most likely they are in your space controlling you rather then inspiring you creatively. (Watch Being John Malkovich – It’s a good analogy about how this works)
3) The being does not work with anyone else and he/she comes when you call it. He or she is your assistant, therefore act like the boss. Be senior in your space. Set guidelines and follow them. If the violate them. Fire them.
4) And most importantly, be clear about why you want to work with a being. What are you seeking to accomplish? What information are you seeking to access?
Work on accessing what you are seeking from the being within yourself first. Get trained on owning your inherent genius in the body. As previously stated, as spirit you are all creative. You are pure energy and are not limited by time or space. You can be any where. But, the best place to be in order to express the full range of your creative abilities in this plane is the physical body. To create in this plane, you must be in present time. The body, because it is composed of matter, is limited by time and space. You only can be in one place at one time. When spirit is in the body, you are in present time, the moment, the zone, the flow, etc. It is from this space, that you access all your creative attributes in the body.
A lot of people cannot access their creativity because as spirit they are outside the body. So, their genius is external. Because that information is inaccessible to them, they bring it in from without. This is not the ideal state. Learn to be in the body – internalize your genius. Get to know your higher self. Listen to your inner voice – work on this communication. Own who you are and release the rest. Do your best in no effort and amusement. And, enjoy the ride.