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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Arnold

The Mysterious Source of Creativity Within

Image credit: Alexander Grey,

Hello friends!

Here's another excerpt from my upcoming book, "Soulforce Arts: The Vital Role of Musicians & Other Artists in a World That's Lost Its Mind." It's from my chapter on the elements of Soulforce Arts, and this section is about how creativity isn't something you can force or "do" -- it arises from a mysterious source within.




The Mysterious Source of Creativity Within

Another unique aspect of Soulforce Arts is that it explicitly recognizes and honors the mysterious source of creativity within. As Lewis Hyde writes in The Gift:

We are lightened when our gifts rise from pools we cannot fathom. Then we know they are not a solitary egotism and they are inexhaustible. Anything contained within a boundary must contain as well its own exhaustion.

Works of creative expression that come from a place of vanity, fear of judgement, or merely commercial or utilitarian concerns could be considered expressions of the separate self, the personal ego, and thus will lack real transformative power. You know that you’re in the presence of such a contrivance when, even if it is technically masterful, it leaves you feeling hollow, turned off, or just feeling “meh.”

On the other hand, real transformative power comes from the “pools we cannot fathom,” whose expressions, feelings, and moods cannot be said to be owned or created by the personal ego - as anyone who’s ever been “struck” by inspiration or surprised by their own unexpected reaction to a song knows well. Just as often as not, the authentic expression of these “pools” runs contrary to the desires and fantasies of the ego, and so to know their power and inexhaustibility we must commit to authentic expression and sacrifice our self-serving impulses. You know you’re in the presence of the genuine expression of such pools when there’s a feeling of having let go of any ideas of personal gain or loss, leaving a space open for the felt impulse or “wish” of your heart and soul - a wish which might seem to have come into being, fully formed, almost as if from a source outside yourself.

Thus, the proper stance to creativity is that of receptivity. To avoid the dispiriting effect of the merely contrived, we must listen deeply to the source of creativity within. This source - which I’ll be referring to alternatively as our heart or soul - is non-rational, non-conceptual, and has feelings and wishes that may lead us into places unknown (or perhaps even undesired) from the point of view of the separate self. However, if we truly listen to the stirrings the source of creativity within, it will unerringly lead us back into connection with life, truth, and beauty. This connection, just as in the Thomas Merton quote above*, will simultaneously transform us into who we were meant to be and reveal the ephemeral nature of the self we thought we were. In an echo of Interbeing, art made from this process will invite our audiences into the same experience, providing both artist and audience with an experience of immense power and beauty.

Self-Guided Practice

What’s your relationship with creativity? Where do you think your creative ideas and impulses come from? More importantly, where do you experience creative ideas and impulses coming from? Is creativity more something you “do” or “receive”? What’s this been like in your own experience? Whatever the case, don’t judge the answer - just make note of what comes up.

*“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

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