Artistic Spirit

HugalHugal Shipmate
In Purgatory, being a discussion board we tend not to talk about the artistic much. I am not that scientific but am very creative. There has been much talk of spirit and spiritual lately so I thought this might be interesting. My creative friends who are atheist use the word spirit in several ways. The human spirit, the ability to push on in adversity or through to artistic success but also they say that a poem, painting play etc touch their spirit. What does this mean? Is it simply touching emotions is there something within the human experience that we cannot really understand but is none the less affected by these things?

Comments

  • The way I see it, every human being is made up of body, mind and spirit. The body and mind are the physical aspects we can pin down, while the spirit is the essence of our personalities, affected by the physical but not confined to it, and also affected by the Creator God's spiritual realm while not being confined to it. Our emotions are affected by all three dimensions, which are of course connected so that physical disease is exactly that: dis-ease. We can't pin down our emotions, or the spiritual dimension of the universe, can we? Surely religions try to.

    Some people are able to channel God's good gifts in creative ways, whether in art, poetry, music etc more than others. I have a logical rather than a creative mind, and yet when emotional I am more creative in my writing. Those in love are more likely to write poetry etc. I am fascinated by how each aspect interplays with the other.
  • Hugal wrote: »
    In Purgatory, being a discussion board we tend not to talk about the artistic much. I am not that scientific but am very creative. There has been much talk of spirit and spiritual lately so I thought this might be interesting. My creative friends who are atheist use the word spirit in several ways. The human spirit, the ability to push on in adversity or through to artistic success but also they say that a poem, painting play etc touch their spirit. What does this mean? Is it simply touching emotions is there something within the human experience that we cannot really understand but is none the less affected by these things?

    It's an interesting issue as "spirit" is used very widely today, for example, people talk about a sports person showing great spirit, not something supernatural. And also the human spirit, as you say. It doesn't seem mysterious to me, people are referring to part of us that isn't part of the body, but the psyche or sense of self, often a deep part, or the core.
  • Spirit and soul are words with a huge array of meanings, sometimes interchangeable, sometimes contradictory. In Paul's letters psyche and pneuma refer to two different things.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I'm probably going out on a limb here, but I've for some years thought Jesus's listing four qualities in his interpretation of the Shema‘ offers more, body, mind, soul and spirit. He increased the number of qualities from three in the Pentateuch to four. I've thought of them as,
    body - our physique etc.
    mind - our thinking and mental faculties etc.,
    soul - our emotional faculties, responses etc, a bit corresponding to what we mean when we say music has 'soul', and
    spirit - the inner core that can be aware of God or the supernatural, and is where the will is.

    I think, though, that when people speak of the arts speaking to the spirit, they often aren't distinguishing soul and spirit.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    Spirit - which in a Western mindset includes "soul" - usually covers the non-physical aspects of a person. So there is the physical - arms, legs, nose - the mind - physical stuff in the brain, but things that cannot be seen - and spirit - the non-empical aspects of reality.

    So Enochs "soul" really fits into the "mind" category, with connections to the spirit. But it is measurable. And (IMO) the spirit is the most interesting - it fits all of the uses. It is where I experience God, but it is also where I am inspired for music and writing. It is where I appreciate art.

    So it is fair for an athiest to appreciate spirit - they can still engage with the non-empirical, even though they might not understand it in the same way. But then, none of us can "understand" it. we can all appreciate it.
  • Spirit - which in a Western mindset includes "soul" - usually covers the non-physical aspects of a person. So there is the physical - arms, legs, nose - the mind - physical stuff in the brain, but things that cannot be seen - and spirit - the non-empical aspects of reality.

    So Enochs "soul" really fits into the "mind" category, with connections to the spirit. But it is measurable. And (IMO) the spirit is the most interesting - it fits all of the uses. It is where I experience God, but it is also where I am inspired for music and writing. It is where I appreciate art.

    So it is fair for an athiest to appreciate spirit - they can still engage with the non-empirical, even though they might not understand it in the same way. But then, none of us can "understand" it. we can all appreciate it.
    I have read this interesting post several times and it sounds exactly right from my atheist point of view. I would perhaps quibble very slightly with the words 'measurable' and the 'it' at the end, but certainly not here.

  • Thank you for starting this thread. I was thinking the thread you're referring to in Purgatory had gone through one too many diversions and the accusation of gnat straining from the host was starting to worry me.

    I did a very minor bit of wiki-research off the back of that thread and concluded that in modern usage the terms spiritual and spirituality no longer imply belief in a spirit, or at least belief in a spirit as it is understood in theistic belief.

    This wiki piece was particularly interesting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_spirituality
  • Fine. Secular spirituality is a thing. I don't think anyone's contesting that, although the usual caveats should apply to a Wikipedia entry.

    I may have misunderstood but those who seemed to have an issue with your broader use of the term spiritually seemed to be contesting the 'spirit' bit because they saw that primarily in 'deity' terms. I don't think they were denying that atheists could have good and lofty thoughts or a sense of mystery, the numinous or practices that echo in some way those who hold to formal religious beliefs.

    I certainly wouldn't claim a monopoly on all that.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    edited October 4
    ...I may have misunderstood but those who seemed to have an issue with your broader use of the term spiritually seemed to be contesting the 'spirit' bit because they saw that primarily in 'deity' terms. I don't think they were denying that atheists could have good and lofty thoughts or a sense of mystery, the numinous or practices that echo in some way those who hold to formal religious beliefs.

    I certainly wouldn't claim a monopoly on all that.
    Nor would I. Most of the atheists and agnostics I know are moral, upright, and obey the Golden Rule (at the very least).

    The beauty of these boards is the way we've traditionally been able to discuss things and get along.

    And I hope that those who were denigrating the traditional concept of spiritual direction have found their way past their objections.

  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    Nor would I. Most of the atheists and agnostics I know are moral, upright, and obey the Golden Rule (at the very least).

    The beauty of these boards is the way we've traditionally been able to discuss things and get along.

    And I hope that those who were denigrating the traditional concept of spiritual direction have found their way past their objections.

    I have, as you put it, found my way past my objections to the term Spiritual Direction as used in a Christian context. I now accept that when used in the job description Spiritual Director the words Spiritual and Director are used in the same way the words Human and Resources are used in the term Human Resources.

    In a lay context spiritual direction means something quite different.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Can I bring us back to the idea of artistry or creativity and spirit. I see that we are created by a creator God, in his image and therefore are creative. Some have stronger talents in that area than others. I believe that when something touches in a deep way it touches that part of me that reflects God’s Feelings for us in some way.
    Atheists would not. Yet there is a part of us as humans that we cannot understand that is moved when this happens
  • Hugal wrote: »
    Can I bring us back to the idea of artistry or creativity and spirit. I see that we are created by a creator God, in his image and therefore are creative. Some have stronger talents in that area than others. I believe that when something touches in a deep way it touches that part of me that reflects God’s Feelings for us in some way.
    Atheists would not. Yet there is a part of us as humans that we cannot understand that is moved when this happens

    Thank you for bringing it back on track.

    I'm not convinced that secularists don't understand artistry or creativity or the effect it has on us, though it's not an area I have studied.
  • I make the distinction:

    The spirit is the one who says "I am". It is infinitely divisible into various roles and skill sets that operate as identity asking for recognition and validation.

    The soul is the one that observes the spirit. It is the one that says "be that as it may, I have always been and I will always be."

    AFF

  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I wonder if the concept of a creative spirit relates to the concept of a muse. General definitions of spirit seem to be about some kind of force/animation taking possession of you - either something within yourself, a kind of life force, or something external, like the Holy Spirit, or evil spirits, or alcohol. The concept of muses seems to be similar - the idea of being possessed/inspired by a muse when creating.

    Certainly when I create, it is a feeling of a different sort of energy flowing within me, and I feel kind of swept up/absorbed by the creative process. I've never thought to define it as spirit, but my language tends to be quite concrete. I had the experience today, when writing a silly poem - I don't write poems very often, but when I do, they are deliberately silly ones, playing with rhyme and rhythm and such, and once I start, I am totally absorbed and focused on it, and amused by it, with some strange creative energy. It's the same when I draw, and when I write creatively. However, it's also the same when I come across a fun maths problem that I want to solve - to me, that is still a form of creative thinking, but I'm not actually creating, just solving. But I don't experience it with other solving things, like crosswords or sudoku. I also don't experience it with knitting or crochet.
  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    @fineline it sounds like you are describing flow, a psychological state of such complete engrossment that you have no attention left for anything else.

    Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who developed the concept, argues that flow states are more likely to occur for some kinds of people (roughly, those that set their own goals), when the level of skill and the level of challenge are both very high. That seems to chime with your experience - a maths problem could be very challenging, sudoku less so (for example). And it sounds like the play with rhyme and rhythm in your poems is also enjoyably challenging. Perhaps your poems are, therefore, actually quite good :smile:

    While flow is a secular concept, it’s not inconsistent with spirituality. The idea of flow is prefigured in religious practices that seek to overcome the separation/duality of self and object, for example as found in some kinds of Buddhism, or in Sufism. Rumi’s poetry is a great way of looking into that kind of spirituality, if you are interested.

  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    Flow - the core of my PhD.

    But not the same, IMO. Spirit is about inspiration, whereas flow is about process. Yes, a flow state is really useful for artists producing art, but in terms of what drives them to their creative process - that is (IMO) spirit.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Yes, I’m familiar with the concept of flow, and have read the book, and whenever I describe the experience of drawing, people say ‘Oh yes, that’s flow.’ I’m not sure if it’s quite the same thing - though I guess these experiences are very subjective anyway. But the flow state as I understand it can also be present (for me, at least) in non-creative activities. When I’m reading, or if I’m absorbed in a task, even a mundane task, or eating a meal, I can experience it, but that is not the same as when I’m drawing.

    I’m not sure that with art and creative writing I would separate so clearly the inspiration and the process (though with other things I can separate these easily), because the inspiration is part of the process - it can only fully happen when I’m actually doing the creating. It’s partly a form of experiment and curiosity, which is perhaps why i also experience it with maths problems.
  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    Flow - the core of my PhD.

    But not the same, IMO. Spirit is about inspiration, whereas flow is about process. Yes, a flow state is really useful for artists producing art, but in terms of what drives them to their creative process - that is (IMO) spirit.

    Oh, what a cool PhD!

    Could you say more about how flow state researchers frame debates on the spirit / inspiration?

    I am intrigued because reading the work of Rumi, and about his life, makes me think about it the other way round: engagement in practices / a process leads to flow and (poetic) inspiration. That’s not to say the process is the cause - it might be a “door for the spirit”, if you see what I mean - but that makes me wonder if the creative drive can be either intrinsic or extrinsic to the process?

    Of course, I could be asking questions which make no sense, since I have only read a little about flow states. In which case, my apologies.

  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    I think flow and inspiration are linked but separate. Sometimes you can get inspired straight away but sometimes you make a start and it is the action of creating that leafs to inspiration. The famous cliche from writers can be true. Yes I work by inspiration and I make sure I am inspired at 9:00 every day. I think the nature of creativity is not as simple as it seems to pin down. I have a friend who is very mathematically minded. He creates computer programs.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    You can always buy a copy .....

    The researchers don't usually separate the two, but the context I was looking at is in was work - whether creative work or not. In this context, it is activity that is important. The "inspiration" part may come out from this, but inspiration usually takes time and space.

    I suppose for me, working in IT, the inspiration comes in terms of an idea, a direction, a focus. Then the work - where flow takes over - is making that happen really well (hopefully).

    I think in more creative areas, the inspiration often comes in a moment (sometimes an extended moment). The real work is to make that happen. So an artist has an idea/image that they want to create (that is the inspiration), the work then comes in a flow state when they are making this appear from the blank paper.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    In principle I guess you are right. The only thing I would say is that inspiration can happen more than once in any endeavour
  • Yes. I was struck by a jade carving on last evening's Antiques Roadshow - popular Sunday evening BBC TV programme for those of you outside the UK.

    The expert pointed out that the carver had clearly been struck by some cream coloured jade hidden within the green jade block they were carving into a monkey. So they turned it into a second monkey sitting on the first one's shoulder. They then came across a patch of brown jade within the block, so they carved that into a peach branch.

    All were linked three-dimensionally in a way that 'worked' visually from all angles. Very clever indeed.

    For me, it embodied the combination of slow, meticulous graft combined with sudden flashes of inspiration.
  • Hugal wrote: »
    I think flow and inspiration are linked but separate. Sometimes you can get inspired straight away but sometimes you make a start and it is the action of creating that leafs to inspiration. The famous cliche from writers can be true. Yes I work by inspiration and I make sure I am inspired at 9:00 every day. I think the nature of creativity is not as simple as it seems to pin down. I have a friend who is very mathematically minded. He creates computer programs.

    Please tell me how this works. Oh - right - tongue in cheek.

    I have many creative friends and occasionally class myself among them. They have typical artist angst - especially the graphic designers who discover once they are in the business that they are pimping their artistic spirit and problem solving genius to the lowest bidder.

    I love to pep talk them, and this is how I do it.

    I say to them "Did you know you are God?"

    And they say "No. How do you mean?"

    And I say "When you meet a client do they have even the foggiest idea, even the slimmest glimmer of a vision of what they want?"

    And they will say "Usually not. In fact mostly not."

    Then I say "So. You help them develop a mental picture of what they want right? Then you expand on it to help them further fine tune their needs and desires. They have NOTHING, and you have NOTHING to work with until you can draw this out of them. Then, with your incredible skills and abilities, you transform what was nothing, into something. From that NOTHING you bring forth website design, promotional materials, brand identity, and other SOMETHINGs that can be perceived by others in the world, that can be touched and used by others."

    "Do you know who else can bring SOMETHING out of NOTHING? God. God can. You are God. They have NOTHING until you apply your talent and ability to make it SOMETHING. I hope now you feel like you should be paid commensurate with the value you provide as God."

    AFF


  • How much does God get paid?
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I find, in creating art, that the inspiration can come while I am doing nothing, but if I don't get started on the process, the inspiration will run dry. The two seem to be interdependent, and perhaps the separation of them is a bit artificial.

    I'm reminded of the interview with Marilynne Robinson, where she talks about her three interconnected books, Gilead, Home and Lila, about the same characters, from different perspectives, and how she was inspired to write more after the first book because the characters were so real and interesting to her and she wanted to explore their stories more. She was asked if she would write another book about the characters in Housekeeping - which she'd written many years before - and she said no, that the moment had passed, that if she'd done it at the time, she may have come up with more books, but now the characters weren't alive to her in the same way. (I'm rephrasing in my own words, which are probably not exactly how she would word it, but something along those lines.)
  • A Feminine ForceA Feminine Force Shipmate
    edited October 7
    How much does God get paid?

    You'll have to ask Him.

    I know how much God-Me gets paid for doing God-stuff.

    AFF
  • Hugal wrote: »
    In principle I guess you are right. The only thing I would say is that inspiration can happen more than once in any endeavour

    I'd say that for endeavours requiring a long period of gestation repeated periods of inspiration are essential. I'm thinking particularly of novel and script-writing and musical composition.

    I think that's partly because the actual project is too complex to be conceived in one inspiring moment but also because the craft of making generates further inspired moments.
  • A Feminine ForceA Feminine Force Shipmate
    edited October 8
    Hugal wrote: »
    In principle I guess you are right. The only thing I would say is that inspiration can happen more than once in any endeavour

    I'd say that for endeavours requiring a long period of gestation repeated periods of inspiration are essential. I'm thinking particularly of novel and script-writing and musical composition.

    I think that's partly because the actual project is too complex to be conceived in one inspiring moment but also because the craft of making generates further inspired moments.

    I think about this when I listen to Beethoven's symphonic works.

    It's like he was looking all his life for the 9th - certain themes, chord progressions and riffs from earlier works make their appearance in the 9th - and then he finally found it.

    AFF





  • I'd say that for endeavours requiring a long period of gestation repeated periods of inspiration are essential. I'm thinking particularly of novel and script-writing and musical composition.

    I think that's partly because the actual project is too complex to be conceived in one inspiring moment but also because the craft of making generates further inspired moments.

    I think about this when I listen to Beethoven's symphonic works.

    It's like he was looking all his life for the 9th - certain themes, chord progressions and riffs from earlier works make their appearance in the 9th - and then he finally found it.

    AFF

    Indeed, one could say the same of 'Mull of Kintyre' by Sir Paul McCartney.... :wink:

    Or more seriously one really could say it of Sibelius's seventh symphony.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I think the Beethoven story show the distinction: He had his inspiration, but he had to work to make it come to fruition.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
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