Thursday, February 07, 2008

Creativity - The Magic Synthesis

The synthesis referred to in the title is the ability of a person to combine both the primary and secondary processes of the brain. The primary process is concerned with the subconscious workings of the brain: dreams, imagery, associations. The secondary process is concerned with logical thinking or how we express our primary thinking to the outside. The "magic synthesis" is the result of an individual merging these two, and then creating metaphors, symbols, abstractions and a new way of seeing or thinking about the world.

According to author Silvano Arieti, creative persons and schizophrenics have a greater connection to the primary process, but, unlike the schizophrenic, the creative person is able to then process this thinking into a rational or logical form and create something new. I'm not surprised to read once again about the closeness between madness and creativity.

Aside from the physiological similarities, I believe there is a driven quality, that's shared by both states. I've felt compelling urges when creating something new and in states of intense emotional duress. When I try to make art, I take that energy and hopefully, articulate it, infuse it with metaphor, rhythm, and a certain beauty. (Unlike when I've experienced deep emotional crisis, where the experience is more like a spiraling panic that I need to release.)

As I started work that combined movement and poetry, I found myself more and more concerned with the way the spiritual is linked to the physical, the way the word is made flesh, both literally and figuratively. How something ineffable as connection to Spirit manifests is incredibly important to me.
In Creativity: The Magic Synthesis, Arieti discusses the neurological and biological aspects of creativity. The fact that “the human cortex has fifteen billion neurons” seems to account for our ability to be more creative than the other animals on earth.

A path or an “engram” is formed in some neurons when we perform a task or have an experience. It is through the engram that we are able to later recall the experience or perform the task again.
“The unfolding of the human psyche may ultimately be considered as a formation and transformation of engrams (and groupings of engrams) throughout life,” says Arieti, though this is where he and I part company.

The ineffable quality of being can't be reduced to this explanation, no matter how compelling or seductive it seems to be. I say seductive, because there is a certain egotism in assuming everything can be known, dissected, reduced to quantifiable elements. And yet, I'm attracted to this kind of research, much in the same way I enjoy my own cleverness, by own ability to be witty, to craft a piece of work, to edit and shape something.

But I'd be foolish to think that I'm the ultimate source for the ideas, the inspiration.
Arieti also points out that social factors play a part in a person's level of creativity. He postulates that a society which promotes creative thinking through its educational systems and then controls it via rewards in the work force, will ensure the engrams that get traced will be more likely to facilitate innovative thinking on a collective level. I do feel a certain level of agreement here, but it's a telling comment on the isolation of the scientific ivory tower. Arieti can write this treatise with no reference whatsoever to the way social forces shape how people learn, and what, in fact, is taught to whom .

Those critical flaws aside,
Creativity offers a detailed overview and some cogent theorizing on some of current research on creativity, and takes into account unpredictability when dealing with the human mind. I can hardly wait to see the results of the engrams that were etched into my neurons as a result of this reading.

ISBN-10: 0465014437
ISBN-13: 978-0465014439

Lisa Alvarado

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In elementary school, synthesis is recognized as one of the highest levels of thinking we can try to impart to kids.

Your review gave me some ideas I can't wait to try.