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Creativity and Psychic Phenomena

In Eye to Eye, Ken Wilber carefully teases apart the different ways of knowing (through the eye of flesh, the eye of mind and the eye of spirit). He discusses the problem of describing these different ways as "scientific" endeavors, and proposes a set of criteria for scientific investigations in the different realms. One anomaly, however, he "brackets" (sets aside) as something that does not seem to fit the classification scheme: psychic, or paranormal, events. In the chapter on "The Problem of Proof," he writes a single paragraph about such phenomena, which ends with:

"This, of course, makes their data accumulation and verification very difficult—much more difficult than even that of transcendelia, because the realm of transcendelia, as a higher but natural stage of growth and structure of consciousness, can be repeatedly demonstrated by those who attain it, whereas psychic events, like creativity, seem to come and go."

I remember my frustration upon reading that passage for the first time, because psychic phenomena have been such a mystery to me, even in the context of my (rather arrogant, as it seems now) loudly proclaimed agnosticism. I wanted him to put such things into the new context that he was building in my mind. In reading the passage again after a couple of years of absorbing Wilber's worldview, I'm struck by something quite different: his simile "psychic events, like creativity, seem to come and go."

Of course creativity is a mystery, one more powerful than psychic events if only because of its ubiquity. The deeper one goes into the mystery, the more mysterious it becomes. Everybody, it seems, has some access to creativity, even if some of us appear to grasp and use it almost effortlessly while most of us struggle even to recognize its manifestations (to say nothing of giving birth to them). There is obviously something paranormal about creativity. It doesn't come out of analytic effort and it's not itself amenable to analysis. Whether, as Wilber asserts, creativity (and psychic events) seem to come out of someplace other than the realm of the eye of mind or that of the eye of spirit (perhaps from some transition stage of consciousness), their study seems to me to be incredibly practical as well as philosophically important.

I guess it just never occurred to me to put them together as similar (or similarly based) phenomena. I'm flabbergasted at the notion. (Isn't it interesting how a single sentence in a 400-page book can burst like a flare on one's awareness, even after having completely escaped notice before!)

I think that I was annoyed, the first time I read this passage, that Wilber seemed to grant even the slightest validity to "psychic events" that I lump together with UFOs and exorcism and haunted houses and guardian angels. He wrote (as I remember) that the documented cases of some kinds of paranormal phenomena suggest at least that one cannot discount them all out of hand. But creativity? Who can deny it? I have to smile at myself.

Most people (it seems to my admittedly biased eye) can accept mystery and go on with their lives, perhaps using creativity or denying that they possess it (and sometimes both at the same time), without having to ponder and read and write and think, think, think about it. Sometimes I wish I could. It would make my life so much simpler.

And bland.

Ah, yes. I've been here before. Another mystery to dig into.

November 28, 2004

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