If ‘creativity,’ in its most basic form, is defined as using intelligence to create and utilize the tools with which to enhance our existence, then ‘creativity’ within the animal kingdom is nothing new. For time immemorial, birds, cetaceans, and mammals have used tools to feed, forage, and fight. However, as far as we can tell, the earliest example of creative tool use in apes, was their capacity to create beds in which to nest and sleep. The earliest primates were also the earliest architects. Then came Homo Sapiens.
Despite centuries of speculation, the question of when, where, why, and how it happened remains a mystery. All we know for sure is that between fifty thousand to five million years ago, a massive increase in homo sapien’s cognitive abilities occurred at a pace that left the rest of the animal kingdom in the dust. The cognitive revolution empowered our kind to articulate and share concepts previously confined only to our imagination, and laid the groundwork for homo sapiens to spread across the world. Essentially, it equipped us to tell stories via language, and paved the way for mankind to create some seriously advanced tools.
Most researchers agree that the boosting of mankind’s bandwidth, and consequent spark of creativity really caught fire around 40,000 years ago, during the Upper Paleolithic period, when Homo sapiens started adorning cave walls with images of Ice Age animals and forging inventive beaded designs and other innovations. It was a period when human creativity began to rise exponentially. This shift allowed for the kind of abstract thinking that would eventually lead to the I-phone and artificial intelligence. However, back then, the height of the homo sapiens creative capacity to form unique concepts, methods, or one-of-a-kind ideas, was art.
The agricultural revolution was a crucial milestone for human creativity. Suddenly, with large food stores at our disposal, it became a period in human history when the world became a canvas on which to convey our imagination. Paintings, songs, poems, architecture, and work that took on the quality of play, became the creative pinnacle of human endeavor.
Reasons for the cognitive revolution will likely forever remain a mystery. Similarly, questions regarding the source of creativity in the brain, and why humans are able to generate original creative ideas, have been a source of debate for millennia. The answer, it seems, depends on who you ask.
A psychologist may cite Einstein and Edison. They’ll tell you creativity comes from openness to experience, and is an outward reflection of one’s willingness to engage in new ideas, varying experiences, and intellectual curiosity.
If asked what makes humans able to create art, invent tools, and think in the abstract, the neurologist may respond that imagination stems from a widespread network of brain areas that collectively manipulate ideas, images and symbols.
Unfortunately, these theories are just that:- theories, which despite their worth, fall short as a practical resource from which the artist can draw. When it comes to answers surrounding the source of creativity, the common answer throughout history, comes not from the white-coated laboratory researchers, but from the artists.
Carl Sagan once said, “somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Although Sagan possessed a formidable scientific mind, he was in fact referencing a concept which not only seems to transcend modern science, but would have many material scientists balking at the idea. Why? Because, it invokes God, or in Greek philosophical parlance, the Muses.
The Muses were a Goddess channel for the energy of the cosmos to the earth. These goddesses of inspiration rained knowledge, insight, and inspiration onto early poets, writers, musicians, artists, sculptors, scientists, and everyone else involved in the creative process. They were the conduit between man, and an infinite reservoir of divine knowledge. Without them, creators fell short of their potential; with them, masterpieces were born.
Similarly, in early Christian theology, there’s a belief that God created the universe ex nihilo, meaning “out of nothing.” Each man and woman was born in the image and likeness of God, and comes into this world with a specific destiny – a purpose to fulfill, a message to be delivered, a work to be completed. You are not here accidentally–you are here meaningfully. There is a purpose behind you. The whole intends to do something through you. Thus, the early Christian theologians believed Creativity is not a mood. Creativity is not a gift. It’s the very nature of God inside of you.
Although this belief in muses and divine destiny are ancient ideas, if you ask any creator how they produce their art, the very best they will tell you that the act of creation is not solely their own. They say their inspiration comes from a place given many names over the ages. These include the source, the Akashic records, the Absolute, God, Goddess, Allah, the universe. Essentially, it is a domain of consciousness that is non local or infinite in space and time, in which all information resides as one mind, and all individual minds come together. Ralph Waldo Emerson called this single, universal mind the Over-soul.
Like the early Greeks, and countless other master creative minds since, Artist Paul Klee admitted his work reflected the speaking of “the whole.” “The artist’s position is humble. He is merely a channel.” Psychologist Erich Fromm supported Klee’s claims. Fromm said that the creator:
“… has to give up holding on to himself as a thing and begin to experience himself only in the process of creative response; paradoxically enough, if he can experience himself in the process, he loses himself. He transcends the boundaries of his own person, and at the very moment when he feels ‘I am’ he also feels ‘I am you. I am one with the whole world.”
Fromm’s words will likely strike a chord with meditation practitioners, or users of powerful psychedelic compounds. Tapping into this creative source energy requires transcending the realm of thought and mind, a state achieved through meditation, ecstasy, or dreams, in which the past, present, and future merge into one, and time is perceived as an eternal present.
Once we arrive at this space, the ideas begin to flow naturally, or to come out of nowhere. Another force seems to take over. The creator suddenly feels less like a creator and more like a messenger who conveys otherworldly ideas through his or her creative medium. We realize that we ourselves are creations, whose purpose is to be creative.
This is the God-force extending itself through us. We understand that creativity is God’s gift to us. Using creativity is our gift back to God. And, it is the gift that truly keeps on giving. You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. It is a never ending dance, where one must accept the fact that the only destination is the journey itself. For some creators, this can seem arduous. For the architectural minds at Modus Operandi, this idea – this guiding principle that we must constantly remain mindful we are always learning, is our Modus Operandi.
It’s been hundreds of thousands of years since the earliest primate architects began building nests. Is it a strange irony that modern architects, who build precisely the same thing on a far grander scale, have come full circle? And, if a home is truly where the heart is, what can be a more impressive of an architectural creation produced when the heart has connected to the mind, which has connected to the source, whatever and wherever that source may be ?