by Ross Bishop
For thousands of years creative people have acknowledged the inspiration and guidanceof the Muse. These claims have been pooh-poohed by rationalists, yet, belief in divine influence persists. It is easy to blow off divine influence as superstition or delusion, but it is impossible to stand before the Pieta, view the Parthenon or read about David or Abraham and not feel the power of divine inspiration in human endeavors. Then there the two most important texts in the Western world, the Christian Bible and the Muslim Quran. It is difficult to dispute that these books were divinely inspired.
The Greeks believed in the influence of the gods, and so it was natural for them to attribute the inspiration of a poet or artist to the Muses. To be so blessed was a great honor. When Pythagoras arrived at Croton, his first advice to the Crotoniates was to build a shrine to the Muses at the center of the city, in order to promote civic harmony and learning. In the Great Library of Alexandria, the circle of scholars was formed around a mousaion or “Museum” or shrine to the Muses, which was placed close to the tomb of Alexander the Great.
If we can accept that divine influence was possible for the Greeks or for Abraham or Moses, why could it not also be true for Shakespeare, Beethoven, Van Gogh, Michelangelo or even you? What was it that gave these people their incredible inspiratioin? The Darwinian view stops at personal genius, but that is an overly simplistic explanation. And how does one connect to this “other worldly” influence”? And what, exactly is it?
In a creative context, the Muse is the guide that helps bridge the gap between the human world of imperfection and the perfect universe of the Creator. It allows us to reach beyond the limitations of our fear and to hold, if even only for a moment, divine perfection.
Let’s say a poet wants to create a poem. Somewhere “out there” is the perfect expression of what she wants to say. But she has to find it, and this is difficult when she is held back by feelings of inadequacy, fear of rejection, etc. So her initial self-generated effort may well be the poetic equivalent of, “It was a dark and stormy night.. . . . “
It is at this point that an experienced poet will kick back or meditate and reach “outside themselves” for inspiration. Eventually, and not necessarily in that moment, the author will become aware of something “out there.” Sometimes it will simply come as an idea, but most often it will appear as a scintillating light with color and a most remarkable energy. And as she comes in contact with that energy, she will most likely not get the words she seeks, but rather experience a clearing away of her obstacles and resistances so that “inspiration” can then come through. Our word “inspiration,” by the way, comes from the Latin inspirare, meaning for the sacred breath of a supernatural being to impart truth or an idea.
In most cases, she will have to work with the undefined energy she has experienced in order to give the idea life. It is a gestational and birthing experience, and it can be hard work! Successful people, especially in the arts, work unbelievably hard to breathe life to their inspirations.
In order to succeed, she will have to possess an almost superhuman perseverance. She must be incredibly dedicated and courageous to give life to this “child” in the face of almost certain rejection. She must want her art above everything else, and she will have to persevere long after others have quit and given up. Stardom of any form comes at an incredible price. The dedication it demands overwhelms mere mortals.
People who are not successful allow themselves to be held back by their fears and anxieties. They find ways to stop short and not go for the brass ring, although they can work very hard at not succeeding. There are other people who power through obstacles, and this can work for a time, but they invariably end up crashing and burning from the stress.
So, how does one find this kind of inspiration? Is it really available to everyone? I believe that it is. There are several ways to find the Muse. From the positive side, if you feel basically at peace with yourself, you can reach the Muse through meditation and prayer. You can also learn to talk directly with God or one of His many many angelic emissaries who are here to provide help and guidance. One can also be trained to develop a highly sensitive intuition. The arts themselves offer a number of doorways to the higher realms through expression such as dance, music and poetry (the Sufis make great use of these).
The people who have achieved inner peace and can pray, dance, sing or meditate their way to higher consciousness are to be admired. But the vast majority of us have to bang our way up the back stairs, essentially backing into greater awareness. And this happens most often through our pain. Pain is very familiar to most creative people. In fact, many of them have experienced a good deal of it. Personal lives of emotional turmoil are legendary in the arts, as is substance abuse. The drunks of English literature are legendary, blues and jazz musicians are renowned drug users and as you probably know, Van Gogh was in so much personal turmoil that he cut off one of his ears! So what is the relationship between pain and the Muse?
Pain is one of the most common ways we break through to the other dimensions. If we look at the extremes such as in sexual abuse, we find that abused people generally possess a heightened sense of psychic awareness. They generally do not have the skills necessary to manage this connection, but their raw access is well beyond what is typical for their level of spiritual development. In working with abused people for many years, here is some of what I have learned:
When a child is in significant pain she will break out of the confines of her conscious awareness in a desperate search for relief from her pain. The “other realms” offer resources that serve to disconnect her from reality and give her relief from the terrible situation she is in. By connecting to the other realms, she can learn to shut down her feelings and emotions, thereby limiting her exposure to pain. She can numb herself, block her awareness of what is happening, disassociate from reality, not remember what has occurred, rationalize the situation away or move into complete denial that anything happened at all.
Through the resources of this realm, she can also learn to perceive the intentions of others before they act. And she can seriously ramp up her rage in order to keep threats at bay. Although none of these compensations provide resolution to her situation, they do offer help in surviving it. They give her an “edge” where she otherwise would feel powerless and helpless.
Entering the unconscious realm, unguided and from a place of fear, will generally end up being a rocky experience, but she will be able to get through the crisis. And as is so often true in life, she will then have to deal with the consequences of her entry into the unconscious world. Most people will go through life struggling with these psychic influences as well as the unhealed emotional pain, because they have not had the guidance of a shaman or guru to teach them how to both heal their wounds and successfully navigate the other realms.
But, with that all in mind, let’s go back to the creative world and consider the creative needs of an actor or a writer. The actor or writer needs to disconnect from reality and become someone else in order to act like them or write about what they might say or do. Access to these “other realms” provides an incredible resource for getting in touch with the roots of emotion. Also, we rarely write books, plays or operas about common people. It is the eccentrics, the radicals, the risk takers, the troubled leaders, S.O.B.’s and troubled minds that intrigue us. And what better reference could there be than to have access to all the pain, agony and distress contained in the human shadow?
The human shadow is only one part of the vast resource contained in the God Space. In addition to pain and dissension, there is also incredible beauty and harmony to be found there. Language cannot describe this realm but there is incredible sensual energy there that we try and interpret through art. Creative people speak of feeling or sensing these things and then desperately struggling to translate them into tangible reality. Isadora Duncan once exclaimed, “If I could say it, I wouldn’t have to dance it!” Writers and poets struggle mightily to capture in words the unspeakable majesty of the other space. Artists strive to bring the incredible beauty and power of the etheric to canvas. Musicians labor to convey the grandeur and glory of the music of the spheres. And the Muses are there to help us make those translations. The limitation is our ability to perceive.
So what about you? What about your creativity? Artists tend to be unconventional people because conventional thinking is death to creativity. Conventionality, by definition, involves not taking risks, and if you are going to carve out a new creative niche` it means taking the risk of almost certain rejection. Artists learn to live on the edge because that is where the juices flow. That is where the excitement and energy of life is. Where are you on that spectrum? Are you clinging to the tree trunk for dear life, or are you getting ready to spread your wings and fly? As a child were you encouraged to take risks? Or, did your parents urge caution? As a result, what are the beliefs that you bring into your opportunities? And what have you taught your children? Recklessness is foolish, but shaking the tree once in a while to get the energy moving is a life-sustaining exercise.
Copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2011