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Frank Juszczyk, PhD
Professor Emeritus of English, Western New Mexico University

Creativity and consequences

[Excerpt of Be and Become, Chapter Two - copyright Stephen Pirie, 2008]

Sorting priorities

I have heard it said on numerous occasions that Benjamin Franklin would often deliberately drift off into sleep by holding a rock above a metal bucket, so that as soon as he nodded off he would drop the rock, wake and recall his creative intuitive thoughts.

That would also explain why, before drifting off to sleep, I could imagine the most eloquent, rational dialogue with all sorts of people, entirely contrary to my normal waking experience of not being able to voice my opinions easily, unencumbered by self doubt.

It would also explain why new and creative ideas and solutions to problems often came to me during my morning shower when I would often drift off into a reverie under the gentle massage of warm water. In recent years I have come to learn that many people experience a heightened creativity when relaxing or showering such as highly successful author Arthur Hailey who admitted “There’s something about that hot water that makes thinking easy.”1

It appeared that by relaxing (either via meditation, daydreaming, or some activity which engenders a relaxed state) we become more open to intuitive, precognitive thoughts. It was almost as if the more diffused my focus of attention (thoughts) the more open I was to creative ideas. Maybe in being relaxed and diffused, my thoughts somehow spread themselves out into the cosmos, connecting me with other places, people, ideas and times?

In addition, I learned that dreaming during sleep was also a valuable source for intuitive thoughts and solutions to problems. In one series of meditation workshops I had learned to recall and program dreams to provide solutions to problems. I learned how to recall all my dreams throughout the night by waking after each sleep cycle and noting down my dreams in a book I had placed beside the bed.2

This tendency towards activities that enable the mind to relax and be creative is common to many great scientists and successful people. Einstein was renowned for his avid pursuit of sailing and music, both of which helped his creative thinking.

“Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult  situation in his work” his eldest son has said, “he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.”3

And in reference to his liking for sailing:

“He needed this kind of relaxation from his intense work,” says his eldest son. And with relaxation there would often come the solution.4

Along with Einstein, other famous scientists also appeared to be creative and inventive when relaxed:

... Einstein has reported that his profound generalization connecting space and time occurred to him while he was sick in bed. Descartes is said to have made his discoveries while lying in bed in the morning and both Cannon and Poincaré report having got bright ideas when lying in bed unable to sleep—the only good thing to be said for insomnia! It is said that James Bradley, the great engineer, when up against a difficult problem, would go to bed for several days till it was solved. Walter Scott wrote to a friend: “... The half-hour between waking and rising has all my life proved propitious to any task which was exercising my invention ... It was always when I first opened my eyes that the desired ideas thronged upon me.”5

Arthur Koestler (having forgotten the source/author) wrote in his book “The Act of Creation”:

Thou seekest hard and findest not. Seek not and thou wilst find. (and ...) The introspective reports of artists and scientists on their sources of inspiration and methods of work often display the same contradiction. “Saturate yourself through and through with your subject... and wait” was Lloyd Morgan’s advice.6

In his book, The Achievement Factors,Eugene Griessman relates how Nobel Laureate Francis Crick went about being creative:

It’s well documented that the best way to have ideas is first of all to immerse yourself in a subject for longish periods—like months or more—in which you study intensely, and then step away and do something else—go for a holiday, go out dancing, or something like that. Very often ideas come in this sort of incubation period.7

Victor Frankl, well known psychotherapist and survivor of Nazi concentration camps observed:

Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue ... as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.8

In a similar manner, Griessman makes the observation that:

some achievers openly admit to what seems to be goofing off, to be less than rigorous in managing their time. 9

Letting go of the desired outcome seems to be a key component to creativity and success. I expect this is the origin of the saying that a watched kettle does not boil. Somehow things seemed to happen best when I didn’t dwell upon them. The creative process seemed very much a matter of forgetting about the desired outcome. This “forgetting” could not be feigned by deliberately thinking of something else if in the background one kept worrying about the problem. The creative process seemed to require a genuine confidence and ease—there was a certain “relaxed expectedness” required. The more I focused on the desired outcome, goal, answer or solution the more I seemed to push it away from me.

My creativity, and that of the famous scientists, appeared to be the result of a process of invitation and never the result of a request or demand. It did no good pushing myself to be creative.

This creative process also occurred, as one might expect, in the business world.

Don Wallace, in his review of work done by Steve Devore of SyberVision studying successful entrepreneurs, noted:

Here’s how a typical high achiever faces a major problem: First, he uses the problem to create motivation; he gathers information; next, he consciously releases the problem, relaxes, turns his attention to other areas; then his thoughts shift and realign; finally, he feels a surge of illumination, with feelings of joy that accompany the moment of discovery.10

So it appeared, at least according to some research, that successful business people also managed to straddle this strange paradox of desiring certain outcomes and then letting go of those desired outcomes.

I began to understand the many examples of Eastern sages’ advice about the need to give up desire although, in fundamental terms, I couldn’t reconcile this advice with life’s great thrust of desire and enthusiasm. Nevertheless, there did seem to be a sort of paradoxical duality to life—desire, but non-desire.

Life seemed to be a continual process of having to focus then relax or to desire then “letgo.” And it appeared that this “letting go” somehow encouraged one’s intuitive awareness (“gut feelings”). From my research it appears that many great scientists, inventors and successful business people rely upon this “sideways” inventiveness.

The process of intensely focusing on the problem and then relaxing to await the solution appeared to be common to successful business people, inventive scientists and creative artists.

Intuition seems to work through such mechanisms (in a similar manner in which you don’t directly stare at a star in the night sky in order to better see it). It’s interesting to note that the value of intuition is frequently undervalued, if not entirely dismissed, by modern science and mainstream Western society. And yet it shouldn’t be for it seems to be an integral part of any new idea or solution to a problem. In his book, “The Conscious Universe,” Dean Radin noted that:

Architect Buckminster Fuller once examined the diaries of great scientists and inventors, looking for common denominators. The single element he found in common was “that their diaries declared spontaneously that the most important item in connection with their great discovery of a principle that nobody else had been able to discover, was intuition."11

Koestler came to similar conclusions about the central role of intuition in inventiveness:

Max Planck, the father of quantum theory, wrote in his autobiography that the pioneer scientist must have a “vivid intuitive imagination for new ideas not generated by deduction, but by artistically creative imagination.”  The quotations could be continued indefinitely, yet I cannot recall any explicit statement to the contrary by an eminent mathematician or physicist. Here, then, is the apparent paradox. A branch of knowledge ... whose entire rationale and credo are objectivity, verificability, logicality, turns out to be dependent on mental processes which are subjective, irrational, and verifiable only after the event.12

If “subjective, irrational” feelings such as intuition (gut feelings) are such a key component to the discovery of new ideas, inventions, theories, products and services, why does there appear to be no concerted effort among the populace to develop these processes, senses or feelings? Why aren't we taught how to be intuitive in school or in our universities?

In my business training experience there are few brave souls who venture such training for fear of ridicule and being perceived as being “space cadets.” Such abilities as intuition and precognition are not generally considered “real” by such pillars of mainstream Western society as science, the media and our educational institutions.

My reading, research and personal experienced revealed a common thread -- that intuitive information comes first through one’s feelings. During the “remote viewing” research conducted at the Stanford Research Institute in the seventies by physicist Harold Puthoff, Puthoff observed that:

Good data tends to come first at the feeling level, and only then develops into a visual image. If, for instance, a subject starts out saying he got a flash of Manhattan Island, you can almost be sure that’s noise.13

 

  • 1. Jenny Tabakoff, “Hailey’s flight to success,” The Sydney Morning Herald, John Fairfax Holdings Ltd, Sydney, 31 January 1998, Spectrum section page 11.
  • 2. A sleep cycle is the transition from waking consciousness (beta brain wave frequency) through the various phases of sleep. A complete cycle typically lasts around 90 minutes.
  • 3. Ronald W. Clark Einstein, The Life and Times, Hodder and Stoughton London 1979, page 115.
  • 4. Clark, page 115.
  • 5. Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation, Pan Books (Picador Edition) London 1978, page 211, quoting Beverage, W.I.B., The Art of Scientific Investigation, Heinemann, London 1950, pages 73- 74.
  • 6. Koestler, The Act of Creation, page 145.
  • 7. B. Eugene Griessman, The Achievement Factors, Avant Books, San Marcos, CA 1990, page 75.
  • 8. Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Happiness, Rider London 1992, page 2 (citing Victor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning).
  • 9. Griessman, page 75.
  • 10. Success Magazine, Success Magazine Company, August 1989, Hal Holdings Corporation, New York, page 63.
  • 11. Dean Radin, The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena, HarperCollins Publishers, New York 1997, page 200.
  • 12. Koestler, The Act of Creation, page 147.
  • 13. Omega Science Digest, Magazine Promotions, Sydney 1994, page 55 (Omega Science Digest published by Magazine Promotions by permission of The Hearst Corporation, New York).

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