The Creative Process
On-Line Peer Day

1998 John Perkins

January 3 - 9, 1995


Participating Peers: John Perkins, Alan Hunt, Chris Holzer, Tom Heuerman, Lenore Wadsworth, Maureen Toles, Victor McGregor, and Walter Pokines

The Objectives as drafted by Marilyn Gale: "1. to gain an understanding of the creative process with learners in different disciplines. 2. to define the creative process.
3. to learn ways to facilitate the muse. Text: Witness to the Fire: Creativity and the Veil of Addiction, by Linda Schierse Leonard, publisher, Shambhala Publications, Inc. l989, read part three; The Creation, pages 211 through 352."

The agenda Marilyn proposed included:

"Day 1: what is creativity? Rollo May Definition. In The Courage to Create, May defines the act of creating as an encounter, an engagement with reality. Creativity requires the enactment of this encounter.

"Actualizing one's potentialities gives one the sense of joy, the heightened awareness, and the ecstasy one feels in the creative process. All this requires the courage to choose to create and stand in the center of this ongoing process. What has it been for you? Describe a creative act.

"Day 2. Share a famous person's or mentor's creative process that you have carried with you in your journey through creativity.

"Day 3. Creativity and the dark night of the soul. What has emerged from your abyss?

"Day 4, how do you facilitate your muse? Music, meditation, dreams, pictures. Share success stories.

"Day 5, resistance to the creative process, our bad days, an act of faith, shame, addiction.

"Day 6, toward a redefinition of the creative process."

From the opening day I felt like I had been swooped into a whirling vortex. The fecundity and diversity of my peers left me dazzled and thinking. Sometimes a particular day's contributions left me so excited I had trouble calming myself enough to get to sleep.

How can I now think of creativity? In effect this report, which will be shared with the others in this peer day, forms part of my response to the challenge for day six - moving towards a new definition. I can call it only part since my creativity can never be captured in words, as words can be seen as a type of map; my experience will always remain richer, subtler and livelier than any set of words. But I feel good maps can be very useful.

Each of us, as we played our role within this peer day, provided a different perspective on how creativity can be expressed in a collaborative effort. Marilyn carried the spirit of this peer day, having called for one on the bulletin board and midwifed it through channels into a reality. She set the agenda and made an effort to look at each of our contributions and comment on them, when she could. In the midst of this on-line peer day, Marilyn traveled to Chicago to attend her mothers funeral. Her mother had died just before we were to begin, and Marilyn carried on with both her grieving and the peer day.

Marilyn did not discuss these details until well into our effort. I admire her courage, and it saddened me to know of her loss. She read at the funeral a tribute to her mother as one of her mentors she had contributed to the peer day. In a way, this action merged for a moment three domains of her life, her self identity, Union and her family--an act of creation.

Alan Hunt and myself seemed to write at great length. Alan's initial approach seemed to be heavily weighed towards books; my writings expressed my personal experiences. Along the way I learned how to attach a file to my messages, a minor achievement. Alan's sharing of his vast knowledge enriched my experience of this peer day. He also is a potter, and I would like to see his rare bilaterally symmetrical bowls.

Victor McGregor at one point thanked Alan for his genius but questioned if he could forgive him for his wordiness. Victor posed a paradox: if we get too wordy perhaps we would not be able to go as deep. Victor wanted a "sweaty palm phenomena" as he said Marilyn called it, "that poetry of the heart that is generated by genital energy but is spiritual in nature and 'recursive' in effect..."

Victor in his next message deliberately tosses in some "dissonance" detesting May for using the word "reality as if fantasy was not important." Victor also admitted that he was a conscientious objector to military service in his home country of South Africa. Clearly Victor plays a role of the rebel in this group. Later, and maybe symbolically, his computer had trouble cooperating to get his words to us. Too often the rebel is silenced from speaking a language that few can "relate to" and so understand. Rebels often speak truths which leave us feeling uncomfortable.

My life partner and I read each days print out and debated how I would respond. Victor's feelings about fantasy raised a number of issues we shared at home but I missed the chance to share during the peer day. Arnold Mindell (Union Graduate) in his book Coma (1 ) shares his conviction that people in a coma are still actively working through the last moments of their soul's purpose and progress in this life. By cutting off life support are we then cutting off their last chance to tie-up lose internal spiritual threads? If this is true, isn't what he describes a spiritual, inward creativity?

Artur Lundkvist, an acclaimed Swedish poet, validates Mindell's ideas with his own true experiences. From the jacket notes, we learn:

In October, 1981, the internationally known Swedish poet Artur Lundkvist suffered a near fatal heart attack while delivering a lecture...In mid-sentence, Lundkvist simply fell to the ground, comatose.

After two months in a coma, in the intensive care unit of the hospital, Lundkvist, at the age of 75, awakened. It was just before Christmas, 1981. There followed weeks of semi-consciousness during which the moments of wakefulness and clarity increased. At the same time Artur Lundkvist was dreaming, richly and strangely, perhaps as part due to the heightened bodily ventilation supplied by the heart-lung machine. Each trip comprised a journey. The trips were filled with great joy and deep sadness...In each case, Lundkvist's imagination soared while his body remained in a state of immobility near to death.2

As a system, or package, Lundkvist's story challenges us on many levels. Oddly, the internal and external effort of going about our lives may actually block us from our creativity. The creativity we do experience seems to be the shadows that Plato describes dancing on the back wall of the cave; never quieting ourselves enough, we fail to turn and face the source of the light that produces the shadows.

Chris Holzer reminded us of the use of ritual. She always lights a candle before her colloquiums and peer days to honor all the participants and our individual programs and work. She suggests that high creativity is produced by living in tension. For some this might be true, but throughout our own peer day we discussed the rituals and methods we used to let go (synonymous to relaxing). Plus we can contrast this view with Lundkvist's experience of being in a coma, which is not a state of tension.

Tom Heuerman and Lenore Wadsworth in their first day's pieces, returned to the faith in the unknown and unconscious. Lenore also brought in expressions of creativity as a collaborative act.

Walter Pokines joined us on the second day, beginning with another story of loss. A friend of his suffers from a brain disorder and he missed the first day because he had been with her trying to cheer her up. He used selections from our text, Witness to the Fire to help her get perspective on what she has been going through. Another type of creativity similar to Marilyn's reading what she had written at her mother's funeral. Walter wrote: "I am amazed at the confluence of this peer day and this crisis in my friends life. It is surely one of the benefits of following your bliss."

Maureen Toles had trouble with her phone and computer connections and didn't catch up until the third day. Painter, art therapist and dream worker, her entrance into the discussion surprised me. Who is this new voice, I thought? Like a writer who finds a character insisting on being in a novel, Maureen's presence represented the surprise factor, serendipity, chance encounters. She played a more witnessing role, in my mind, even writing one of the last entries.

Creativity might be one of those paradoxical human behaviors, both common and rare simultaneously; capable of being consciously directed and an uncontrollable outpouring from someplace or somewhere beyond conscious comprehension, much less control.

After all of this and over 100 pages of edited downloaded material, I think I will follow one of Victor's suggestions and revisit my notes in nine months.


1. Coma: Key to Awakening, Boston: Shambhala, 1989.
2 .Artur Lundkvist, Journeys In Dream And Imagination: The Hallucinatory Memoir Of A Poet In A Coma, New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1991.