Posts Tagged ‘science’

I will be in Boulder, Colorado next week to present with my friend Marda Kirn on the dance of science & art. If you are around the area and are interested please click on the announcement below…


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“The unborn work in the psyche of the artist is a force of nature… The creative urge lives and grows … like a tree in the earth… We could do well, therefore, to think of the creative process as a living thing implanted in the human psyche.”

C.G. Jung (CW 15, par. 115)

I have been struggling to find a voice with which to write longer works. I realize that this struggle is deeply imbedded in my wanting to be open to the creative process and how this wanting gets in the way of creativity. I need to let the tree grow from the earth and not force the process. I also realize there is a struggle within me between the poet and the scientist. The poet wants to live in the mystery of life and be immersed in experience. The scientist wants to understand the meaning of life events. This dichotomy between heart and head often creates a roadblock within me. How do I hold these two parts of myself in a co-creative way? Jung was well aware of this dilemma both personally and professionally as a psychologist. Here is what he (CW 15, par. 121) says about this struggle between wanting to know and living in the mystery:

We must interpret, we must find meanings in things, otherwise we would be quite unable to think about them. We have to break down life and events, which are self-contained processes, into meanings, images, concepts, well-knowing that in doing so we are getting further away from the living mystery.

We feel compelled to understand what life presents us and for those of us inclined to science, this means ‘breaking down’ the experience. Yet in the moment of analyzing the thing, the mystery is lost. Jung goes on to say:

As long as we ourselves are caught up in the process of creation, we neither see nor understand; indeed we ought not to understand, for nothing is more injurious to immediate experience than cognition. But for the purpose of cognitive understanding we must detach ourselves from the creative process and look at it from the outside; only then does it become an image that expresses what we are bound to call ‘meaning.’

So, we are caught between being in the midst of the creative process and wanting to understand it. Jung states that our cognitive approach is ‘injurious to the immediate experience’ of the creative process. It seems that he is suggesting that it is best to dwell in the experience, i.e. be a full participant in the experience, and only then look back with a cognitive gaze to find meaning. This way we give both heart and head their due.

Giving heart and head their due has become a challenging path for me. I hope to walk this path more often in the future.

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“… the moon, sublime, purposeful suddenly steps out over the peak, bringing the night to serene completion.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

We spent Thanksgiving at a colleague’s house. The food was delicious and the company and conversation were heartfelt. After dinner we went outside and gazed through a large telescope to view the moons of Jupiter and our own moon. It was quite moving to stand outside and view these celestial bodies.

I was reminded of Galileo and how science has evolved, since he first looked at Jupiter and its moons in 1610. Galileo’s observations supported the Copernican view of the solar system, not the reigning Church approved paradigm of Ptolemy, in which all planets were believed to orbit Earth. Galileo was tried for his heretical planetary views and forced to recant his observations.

We also had a chance to look at our moon. What a sight to see the craters of the moon in such detail. The surface of the moon has a rich diversity of light and dark regions. Galileo also looked at our moon and saw these features. This too upset those who believed the moon to be a perfectly smooth glowing sphere in space. So, again Galileo was in the proverbial doghouse for upsetting prevailing beliefs.

Such is the role of science in the world, for science often comes along and upsets a reigning worldview. Science has spent the past 500 years physically displacing us from the center of the universe. First, Galileo and others proved that we do not sit at the center of the universe, Kant came along to show that we are limited in how we know the world, Darwin came along to show we are not a separate species in the world, and finally Freud and Jung came along to show that we are not in complete control of our personal world. This is quite a series of blows to our place in the universe.

But I felt something completely different Thanksgiving evening as I gazed at the celestial sphere hovering above me. I did not feel small and displaced as I stared at the moons. On the contrary, I was filled with the wonder in the structures of our solar system, the wonder of our ability to build devices to look so closely at these bodies, and the wonder of our ability to construct theories that accurately predict the motions of the moons of Jupiter. If anything the past 500 years has shown how imaginative we humans are at building models of the universe. Our imagination is a precious facility that we often forget about in a world so focused on practicality. Galileo, Kant, Darwin and many others were filled with curiosity. Their curiosity and imagination led to wonder filled ideas about the universe. I am thankful for these two gifts: curiosity and imagination, may they continue to make us a creative part of the Universe.

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