with a Perennialist teacher. This capability is also evidenced through the capacity to receive and communicate (write or speak) material containing new, original ideas and configurations. Inspired artists produce original compositions by working in dialectical contraposition or over-againstness with structures such as:
- Literature: word/sentence/paragraph/story line/character development
- Painting: canvas/pigment/brushstroke/light
- Western music: note/measure/rhythm/harmony
- English poetry: word/meaning/rhyme/stress/meter
There is a transcendent element in such "over-against" or counterpoint structures, what Grey Gowrie has called "the stored wisdom of the form itself."
A single couplet from an early poem written by a poetry student illustrates, in a simple manner, how the pressure and constraint of meter occasions the inspirational creation of meanings and phrases.
Dialectical Interchange Between Iambic Pentameter Meter and Intent Producing Creative Inspiration
With uninspired poets, meter constitutes merely a straightjacket into which they struggle to prize inappropriate words, while with an illumined poet, meter serves as a creative counterbalance against which and with which she contends to produce higher meaning. Constraints such as meter or rhyme in poetry, or any other countervailing element in other symbolic forms, operate as the "loyal opposition," serving as contravening forces acting as catalysts in producing extraordinary effects.
William Blake spoke of his "friends in Eternity" as the source of poems that he received through "immediate dictation." He stressed the involuntary nature of this experience in which works were produced "without premeditation and even against my will." Blake's allusion to his "friends in Eternity" and their "dictations" indicates that inspiration occurs not only outside the mainstream of a person's conscious minds, but in an altogether different dimension of reality.
What Makes Creative Inspiration Possible?
Mozart described his experience of inspiration as a process in which he applied the rules of counterpoint, adapting his inspired ideas to different instruments, until his composition stood "almost complete and finished in my mind, so that I can survey it, like a fine picture or beautiful statue, at a glance. Nor do I hear in my imagination the parts successively, but I hear them, as it were, all at once." This process, he said, "takes place in a pleasing lively dream."
When we examine what makes it possible to accomplish inspiration--opening to Higher ideas and sentiments to allow them to flow through us--we discover a number of essential prerequisites:
- A radical change in world view--metanoia 6--motivated by an intense dissatisfaction with oneself: one's habits and thought patterns. If a person lives and thinks in the ordinary pattern of seeing the world as a closed, materialistic, mechanistic realm and if he feels that his habitual approach to life is just fine (thank you), then inspiration is impossible.
|"An alienated man can become sighted if he realises that his heart is blind. He is like a sick man suffering from delirium. So long as he is prisoner to his illness he knows nothing of himself or of his sickness because delirium affects the brain and weakens it. . . . When he realizes that his heart is blind, it means that he has gained a bit of sight." |
The Mystical and Visionary Treatises of Shihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi, Translated by W.M. Thackston Jr.
If you haven't experienced metanoia, if you're mostly or totally content with your present life in the ordinary world, then don't even think about trying to work toward achieving inspiration--it simply can't happen within such a noxious atmosphere of egomania and self-satisfaction.
The countervailing elements against egomania provided in Perennialist writings include a clear delineation of the
operation of tyranny in the ordinary world and our responsibility to work against it. If your life of self-satisfaction and ignorance about what is happening around you continues to seem acceptable, then the
way of life and the
actions indicated in the essays on this Website will be of no genuine interest to you.
Until you've made a definite and honest commitment to dedicate your life to the
campaign outlined in Perennialist material, then you're well advised to avoid any supposition that you could achieve a state of inspiration.
2. The attainment of moral integrity
A person must have worked to gain control over his
debilitating self before he is even able to understand the existence or operation of a Higher realm from which inspiration emanates. The moral virtues a person must have achieved include having overcome the fear of unfamiliar experiences and having gained the courage to allow new, original ideas and processes to flow through him, without fear of criticism from others.
A crucial part of moral integrity is the acknowledgement that what inspiration we receive is NOT our own creation, but the receiving of elements from a higher source.
"Yet such is human nature that I still felt vanity as if this vision was mine, and I acted like one who comes across the treasure-house of a king, and spends the treasure as if it were his own. We may indeed have a personal wisdom, but spiritual vision is not to speak of as ours any more than we can say at the rising of the sun: 'This glory is mine.' By the sudden uprising of such vanities in the midst of vision I was often outcast, and found myself in an instant like those warriors of Irish legend, who had come upon a lordly house and feasted there and slept, and when they woke they were on the barren hillside, and the Faed Fia was drawn about that lordly house. Yet though the imagination apprehended truly that this beauty was not mine, and hailed it by its heavenly name, for some years my heart was proud, for as the beauty sank into memory it seemed to become a personal possession, and I said 'I imagined this' when I should humbly have said, 'The curtain was a little lifted that I might see.'|
"But the day was to come when I could not deny the Mighty Mother the reverence due, when I was indeed to know by what being I had been nourished, and to be made sweet and mad as a lover with the consciousness of her intermingling spirit."
AE (George William Russell), The Candle of Vision,1918
3. The capability of controlling one's ordinary mind so it doesn't inhibit and discourage unfamiliar spiritual experiences and concepts.
If a person is ruled by a logical, over-rationalistic mind, it's impossible for him to achieve inspiration.
4. The ability to enter into a higher state of consciousness
In his Ion, Plato explains that all enlightened poets create their poems not through following the ordinary rules of art but through attaining inspiration. This divine illumination occurs, as with inspired dancers, when they are not in their ordinary state of consciousness but, as it were, possessed by a divine Muse.
Attaining a higher--not merely an altered--state of consciousness is not easy for most persons. Perennialist preparatory material (such as this essay) provide means for serious seekers to learn how to enter into a higher state through specially prepared meanings, images, and exercises.
5. Acting on the understanding that we must prime the pump if we expect to receive the "water of life."
"In the middle of the arid Amalgosa desert, there stood a pump. A sealed can was hung on the handle of pump. In the can was a letter addressed 'To anyone seeking water.'
"The letter stated: 'This pump was installed in June 2003. There is plenty of underground water. I've arranged things so that anybody can get water from this pump for the next 5 years.
'But whoever wants to use the pump must first wet the seal within the pump in order to draw up water because the seal is too dry to create suction. Under the white rock beside the pump you'll find a sizeable bottle of water which you must use to prime the pump--not to drink! I've corked the bottle so tightly that the water cannot evaporate. There is only enough water for priming the pump, so don't drink it even if you're terribly thirsty.
'You must use the water in the bottle to drench the leather inside the pump. Then slowly pump the handle. If you do as I instruct, you'll get as much water as you want. Lastly, please fill the bottle and place it back under the rock and put the letter back in the can and seal it, just as I did.
'P.S. if you drink the water in the bottle, you'll never be able to use the pump.'"
|| Inspiration from the spiritual dimension is a direct response to the impelling force we create within ourselves. Whatever inspired ideas or intimations we receive, issue forth from a higher dimension in direct proportion to our self-invigoration. If we're only interested in taking knowledge for ourselves with no thought for assisting others, inspiration cannot flow through. Spiritual forces can only respond to selfless effort on our part. We must prime the pump if we expect to receive the "living water."|
|"We cannot depend on this law [of inspiration] to accomplish anything more than the complement of our own efforts. One must depend on oneself to build one's aspirational column, knowing that at the highest stretch of one's hopes and efforts a capital will be placed beyond one's power to conceive." 7|
Creative Inspiration As the Essence of Life
One way to describe the essence of life is in these terms:
"Filling all space . . . is a great sea of undifferentiated force. We can call it life, or spirit, or the Universal--anything we please. But it is the thing by virtue of which all living things exist, through their ability to transmute this general force into something individual. In other words . . . we are vital transformers. It follows that we are alive and developed in proportion to how much of this force we can accept, and how freely it flows through us. The better we do this the higher grade we occupy, and the more alive and contented and effective we become." 8