. .  ..




Adapted from a presentation to the congregation of The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (13 November 2022)


This morning we will sing and speak of CREATIVITY, its deep connections to spirituality, its roots in human memory, and its fruit in our imaginations and those of the generations to come.”





HERE WE ARE AGAIN, in our congregation’s sanctuary, a sacred space, a place of SAFETY

(Recalling our opening HYMN —”May nothing evil cross this door)  and I believe that THIS SANCTUARY—not by coincidence—is amongst our supreme CRADLES of CREATIVITY.[i]   


My ambition this morning is to point out some CONNECTIONS between our SANCTUARY and our CREATIVITY…  I believe that this is because this place is particularly conducive to our experience of MEMORY and of IMAGINATION—and it is the CONNECTIONS between these two cognitive functions from which CREATIVITY emerges – it is a place with ancient roots in both culture and biology in which MEANING can be created.  I am encouraged on this perilous path because as a research scientist I find deep RESONANCE between emerging understanding of the brain and ancient tradition.  


I mention CREATIVITY… BUT “I am not an artist,”  you might say.  So let me speak to that:  ARTISTS are simply those amongst us that might budget long hours or reservoirs of energy giving free rein to imagination in creating art—such as visual records like paintings or photographs, music, dance, performance –we do this to communicate with ourselves, learn our own boundaries and skills … and to communicate our experiences to others when ordinary language will not suffice.   WE DO more-or-less of THIS because creating connections, as I said, also creates MEANING! It is also a selective emphasis on specific cognitive functions, and like all selective emphases it can become dysfunctional when manifest in excess.


CREATIVITY involves constructive change at every level of the organism from the functions of our cells to our experience of free will. In the extreme, creativity is manifest as ART—the CONNECTING of one’s depths to the depths of another.  but YOU and I, often stricken with the lethargy of custom and habits that normalize what should be appreciated as extraordinary … often fail to notice this powerful way of creating MEANING in our lives.

From everyday problems (where should I park? How much should I put in the offering plate?) through solving our individual and shared existential crises (how can we help our descendants survive?), CREATIVITY is the psychological AIR WE BREATHE –that’s why they call notable examples, INSPIRED


Of course there are layers within layers like matryoshkas, those wonderful Russian nesting dolls—here we all are surrounded and feeling loved by these sheltering walls. And each other. Our minds enjoy a greater degree of FREEDOM to make deeper connections that ENRICH … ENLARGE our HUMANITY.


THIS IS BECAUSE each of us is also a cathedral built of uncountable layers of memory:  we have within us the cumulative memories of our ancestors: an unbroken genetic thread going back to the dawn of life itself—but also the cellular memories of personal experiences going back to our time in the womb.


AND how we YEARN to know and to be known … to make the connections that enable CREATIVE growth—


and Yearning is not to be taken lightly:

Mary—a federal witness-protection marshal—once  said. “We have needs, wants, desires, and then there is this other thing … and this is important, so pay attention:

before the big bang, before time itself, before matter, energy, velocity, there existed a single immeasurable state called yearning.

This is the special force that on the day before days obliterated nothing into everything. It is the unseen strings tying planets to stars. It is the maddening want we feel from first breath to last light.” [ii]


We yearn to connect because we yearn for meaning.  And it is in our vast reservoir of memories that connections are found that give rise to IMAGINATION.  IT IS  born there—struggling—yearning—to go beyond—like a word desperately trying to escape the dictionary.


IMAGINATION is like a constellation of some stars amongst the countless number we see– and experiences are the same, all more-or-usually-less accessible to consciousness. We exist and we function because these experiences are connected to each other in the matrix of about 86 billion neurons[iii] A number hard to imagine (unless you are an economist considering our national debt).  We are born with many connections, others develop in predictable ways as we mature, others are created by new experiences.


BUT it also seems that we cannot imagine what we have not first experienced in some way— an idea validated at every level within the organism:  and at the very deepest levels, consciousness is not even required. 


For example, ALL neurons that control our movements must make constant adjustments—and at every level, our nervous system does that by making PREDICTIONS. 


PREDICTIONS are based on past experience.  AND then we CORRECT ERRORS –even at the level of the spinal cord and in milliseconds.  At another level, predicting and error correction is responsible for all learning.  Do you listen to the news or think about economics? It is hugely dedicated to what we might expect based on what has happened.  What we KNOW lasts only a few seconds: You do not KNOW what happened 2 minutes ago—you REMEMBER IT—and you do not KNOW what will happen in two minutes, you IMAGINE IT.[iv] 


SO I found it thrilling when I learned that, like Russian nesting dolls again, our supreme future-oriented cognition—IMAGINATION—emerges from the neural substrate of memory.[v] In a very real way, we imagine the past, and remember the future.[vi] 

—these two functions share much of the matrix of connections in our brains… the neuroscience comforted me—as do all findings that converge on mitigating the mysteries I encounter routinely—like the denouement of an Agatha Christie mystery, an epiphany.  In fact (another scrap of neuroscience) we become wired to experience a surge of pleasure when unrelated threads of ideas converge in mutual support of a larger idea. (notes from A&O seminar)


Like all great insights in science, this idea raised more questions than it answered.  The endless horizons…  And in particular, IMAGINATION being the engine of CREATIVITY.  



CREATIVITY is a universal experience as we learn, develop, grow—never thinking about it.  It seeks answers to questions that are miniscule and mundane through those of survival itself. From solving a crossword puzzle through devising a possible solution to the mystery of our origin or fate or even that of the universe. 


My mother bootstrapped my reading by showing me comic books –and one day at table, my infant mind learned that GOD (whoever that was) CREATED THE UNIVERSE!  WOW! He (or she or it) created something from nothing! WOW! AND THEN created humans in her image!  so that is REAL creativity!   The comic book of the bible was one of my favorites until I discovered the Odyssey and how gods and humans interacted with each other on a regular basis. 

(Maybe that’s why I now feel that as God created Humanity on the earth, Humans created God in their hearts—we exist as…—WE ARE—a dialogue with the transcendent)[vii]    


And I was (and am) in a continuing dialogue with understandings that are just out of reach—forever on the tip of my tongue : but I was encouraged: what could be more creative than to see the resonances between superficially dissimilar things:   “To see a World in a Grain of Sand?”  Or “Heaven in a Wild Flower,” Or to Hold Infinity in the palm of my hand / and Eternity in an Hour”[viii]


A Resonant Connection.

AND THIS is an appropriate place to ask and suggest answers to the questions about some of the ways that SPIRITUALITY is inextricably intertwined with CREATIVITY.


And we could start with the young SHIVA, known as NATARAJA –there is a good reason that many people revere the NATARAJA, the Sanskrit name for “Lord of the Dance”—the Hindu god Shiva in his form as the cosmic dancer.  The story resonates with our experience of CHANGE



SHIVA dances of doomsday, represented by the arch of flames that accompanies the dissolution of the universe … and THEN rebirth—symbolized by his drum.   THIS the dance of creation is said to have been performed in Chidambaram, in South India, a place identified with both the centre of the universe and the human heart.

A giant sculpture of Nataraja is the icon of CERN[ix] (“Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire”), the European Council for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, the $5 billion home to the Large Hadron Collider, and represents the seamless bridge between science, spirituality and the dynamic cosmos.  His lordly presence there urges us to take all these connections seriously. 


Fritjof Capra, author of the landmark book,  The Tao of Physics (1975), highlights the connection of Nataraja with modern theories of physics, observes:

“According to quantum field theory, the dance of creation and destruction is the basis of the very existence of matter. Modern physics has thus revealed that every subatomic particle [participates] in a dance—a pulsating process of creation and destruction. For … modern physicists then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter, the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomena.” 

But in the 45 years since Nataraja was installed at CERN, inquiries boot-strapped by billion dollar efforts indicates that when we look more deeply into particles, they give way to something dramatically less tangible: a cloud of probabilities—


have we found that down deep EVERYTHING is really NOTHING?!   Like before THE CREATION?   Or THE BIG BANG?  Or in the DAY BEFORE DAYS?  before TIME?


We can get lost in such questions … but we must get on with our daily lives — Surely we can create something more satisfying.  Perhaps the best place for such questions is in the background, like the faint sound of our own heartbeats and breath, only a source of interest or concern at rare moments… moments of awe, sublime experiences inspiring the exercise of these ideas. 


ARE THESE the RESONANCES that echo through our CREATIVE IMAGINATION?  Have we CREATED this idea or DISCOVERED it?  Is REVELATION the outcome of  DISCOVERING CONNECTIONS?  …  I believe the physicists that imagined, conceptualized and designed demonstrations of the fundamental constituents of the universe are no less artists that those of us who use words, or paints, or music, or our bodies.[x]


CHANGE.  Participants in a seminar I’ve taught every spring since 1979 hear me get passionate about my own experience as a brain scientist experiencing a deep resonance with the idea that Nataraja conveys: the MAELSTROM OF PERPETUAL DISINTEGRATION AND RENEWAL—a phrase I happily found in Marshall Berman’s book on CHANGE – he comments on why CHANGE is often approached with such great trepidation:

 “… To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world‑‑and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. 

…  it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish.”[xi]



BUT THERE IS A PLACE of PEACE even in a MAELSTROM– within this vortex of unimaginable power and potential for violent destruction there is, an ephemeral place of perfect balance, a place of  harmony, a place of peace—in what we call its eye[xii]Poets call it a “stillpoint.” It is also a moving target.

“Art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm—an  arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.”

  • Robert Frost considered that such stillness is a precious “momentary stay against confusion.”
  • As Ellen Handler Spitz put it, “the aesthetic ideal dissolves categories of time and space and absorbs into itself past memories and anticipation of the future” (1985:142).

      WE all pursue balance, by orienting toward such a STILL POINT[xiii] That state in which apparent contradictions feel reconciled: We NEED to know that the peace it implies is possible. 

      Vincent van Gogh, said that “Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. [I see art] in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”  —


The biological roots and resonances of perpetual disintegration and renewal go deep:  Creative and destructive forces are no less present at the level of our development, beginning at conception … and every day, now, in the organization of our organs—most notably The human brain itself is a continuing, more-or-less controlled organ of the creation and destruction and recreation of CONNECTIONS.   And our humanity is the (usually) hopeful outcome.  


ASIDE: In another beautiful (and to me unexpected) resonance, such forces seem to weave throughout the universe:  Wonderfully, astrophysicists at Cornell University  estimated that change occurs also at the cosmic level: about 275 million stars are born and die each day.


You can see why I entered this dazzling world


AND why I have come to BELIEVE that CREATING CONNECTIONS is the source of ALL MEANING we can ever know—EVEN THE MEANING OF LIFE itself !


And our SANCTUARY is an ideal environment for their creation and  discovery of CONNECTIONS—in large measure because it is safe! Free, if only briefly, from the distractions of urgent needs  –Such is the nature of organisms: whenever possible, exploring, discovering, taking apart, putting together, always creating and discovering connections in activities that are more-or-less like PLAY.

It is in in such a unique state of consciousness that the forging of new connections manifests and surges within and between us


  I always envision a playground full of our children, and my backyard where squirrels and finches in their season are learning all they can about who they are, what they are capable of, and what it means to play with others.


The ancients understood THE POWER OF A SAFE PLACE—in the times of the ancient Greeks, groups of participants, often in an altered state created by chanting, dancing, or drugs, created a ring of fire to designate a place of safety that enabled them to be free in their expression and to protect the audiences (who gathered at their own risk) from their possible excesses. 


In more recent times (say, the last 1500 years) churches in Europe might be explicitly recognized in law as SANCTUARY


Another aside: part of my definition of SANCTUARY involves replaying in my mind the most famous scene in The Hunchback of Notre Dame when Quasimodo (played by Charles Laughton) saves Esmeralda (Marureen O’Hara) from an angry mob, rushes her into the cathedral and cries out, “Sanctuary!” (note[xiv]

(Never mind that Maureen O’Hara was the most beautiful woman my 11-year-old mind had ever seen. Even prettier than Princess Summerfall Winterspring on Howdy Doody     [I was surprised by a surge of romantic sentimentality when I met Maureen again a year later as Mary Kate Danaher, “Trooper” Thornton (John Wayne)’s true love in The Quiet Man (1952)]




The proscenium of every stage is the descendent of the ring of fire. The theatre where ceremonies & traditions should enable enhanced real or perceived access to transcendence—that is, going “beyond” your present cognitive “boundaries,” enabling true creativity.   A kind of Sacred Space[xv]

While ring of fire was initially to protect the intoxicated performers immersed in the rituals of self-discovery from an AUDIENCE that might feel threatened, much has changed as theatre evolved and joined in our culture’s understanding of what constitutes a work of art.


AND Just as the great Romantic era painter Eugene Delacroix said, any art—not least the art of the inspired orator—is  “no more than the pretext … that joins the mind of the artist with that of the spectator.”(1850)[i] 


Not the MEETING OF MINDS we find in academe or board rooms, but the SPEAKING OF HEART TO HEART. 

For Parker Palmer, “Sanctuary is wherever we find safe space to regain our bearings, reclaim our souls, heal our wounds, and return to the world …. It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm…”:  




Of course ANY space can be sacred if it encourages … if it enables … CREATING CONNECTIONS—the source of all meaning. … AND always, in lockstep with our personal experiences of the wonders of the world—HERE! Especially in sanctuary, we are especially safe to find connections with EACH OTHER: You may agree with John Donne[xvi] who (while recovering from near death from typhus) understood and wrote 400 years ago … that we never need to send to know for whom the bell tolls.  Because we are all part of humanity, anyone’s death diminishes every individual[xvii]


It is not for nothing that the sanctuary is where we explore and practice “RELIGION” the word derived from–RE-LIGARE, to restore the ligatures that bind us one to another.

 This is the place where…

TOGETHER we can COMMISSERATE and comfort each other when beleaguered by the injustices and darkness of the world… and

TOGETHER we can CREATE the CONNECTIONS that will prevent the darkness from consuming our light …[xviii]






And just as we cherish and protect our infants and children as they grow and develop, we must protect all those in whom the yearning for connections and the creative spirit surges…  when we find such a person we should

Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
she on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Modern people understand that perceptions come from outside one’s self and a transmuted into thoughts that seem to come from within themselves


BUT the exact path that information takes when we are being CREATIVE involves machinations that we do not understand!

We can describe the devil out of it, but people that experience unexpected or abundant creative experience are often at a loss: ideas come from a SOURCE that is USUALLY HIDDEN—the perception is that it is from OUTSIDE YOU.





Edward Albee:  spoke of writing as self-discovery, connecting his act of writing to what he’s thinking about. –like when something is on the tip of your tongue and you can’t quite connect it to consciousness—Truman Capote would agree!  


BUT it can go further, as when W. H. Auden discovered by writing things he would never have otherwise thought or felt before. Robert Frost had a similar experience writing poetry. and Keats had often “not been aware of the beauty of some thought or expression until after I had composed and written it down”  Similarly, E.M. Forster famously said, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”


IF pressed, modern creatives would consider that an altered state of mind enabled access to otherwise unavailable or even unknown resources—new dots that could be connected;  BUT we are still in transition from the views of ancients in the Western tradition who were likely to believe  that  creativity originates from a divine force, either  one God  or multiple  gods ( (Niu & Sternberg 2006). And other scholars[xx]


It was all a matter of connecting dots, some of which are inaccessible—theology often argues we are creative because we were made in the image of the supreme creator:  “The King James Version translates “breath of the Almighty” as “inspiration of the Almighty.”


So, when the source of one’s inspired expression is mysterious, we are sore tempted to invoke the god of the gaps.



It is part of the human condition to seek explanations—the steps by which one’s state of mind has come about.  And in our tradition, when one is not forthcoming we satisfy this need with GOD. Nicknamed in scholarship, “THE GOD OF THE GAPS” Filling in where other explanations are not forthcoming. 


Most problem solving is Like driving across country at night in a dense fog: out headlights only let us see a few feet ahead, but you can travel from sea to sea if you are patient.[xxi]  


Experiences and feelings we do not understand are often considered MYSTICAL—that is MYSTERIES: and working toward solving them is part of the great game!   OF COURSE we will never know it ALL…this recreation (and I mean RE-CREATION) is endless and REFLECTS in our minds the truth of being in a universe the ends of which are undetectable.  We pursue more points of light—dots to connect—and comforting metaphors.


… thinking about people who are conspicuously creative[xxii],



To approach the meaning of “Spiritual” it is important to recall that as we experience the world, its representation within us grows and enlarges.  We inhale the world, we take it into us, like our breath.  Spiritual refers to that in a way — “spirit” is breath, the breath of life that we take into ourselves.  The urgency of breathing partly informs the meaning of “inspiration.”   The external world, taken in through our senses has become part of us, in some senses we are indistinguishable and have become—even briefly—“one.”   But as we mature this is so gradual it is imperceptible. 

Spiritual refers to the fact the we have been inspired by taking something from outside ourselves into us.  Inspiration has from earliest times been regarded as the gift of the gods. 


We have experienced views of cosmos, from the Palomar Observatory’s telescopes, then the Hubble Space Telescope, and now the James Webb Space Telescope

And not so unlike ancient navigators that connected the dots to create intelligible patterns we are still trying.  

Just as we find these progressively more complex pictures views of the cosmos extraordinarily affecting, we are confronting vastly expanded views of the components of the brain that support our cognitive abilities in extraordinary ways … and I find some of these potent sources of stimulating ways to think about CREATIVITY.





“A mind,” William James has written, “is a system of ideas, each with the excitement it arouses, and with tendencies impulsive and inhibitive, which mutually check or reinforce one another.  The collection of ideas alters by subtraction or by addition in the course of experience, and the tendencies alter as the organism gets more aged.” — How does the interplay of your ideas changed and how do they change YOU?  And what of the dramatic transformative change sometimes called a “mystical experience?”


Biological basics: We were born with a mission.  We are the bridges to the next generation. [medieval culture had us suspended on a bridge, halfway between apes and angels]  We have uncertain knowledge about the past and even less certain knowledge about where we are leading, but we are the bridges.


There is a haunting question that shadows us:

we are told by our physicists (and they have so transformed our world that they must be taken seriously) that if we proceed step-by-step to the causes of being. We eventually come to a void—an emptiness—a “cloud” of possibilities that is without form as we understand it and ruled by chance. 

So, “does anything mean anything?” 




FOR ME the word “mystical” resonates with “mystery”—a common experience we are all motivated to solve and which may represent the meeting of needs from recreational to biologically urgent—a matter of survival.


AND I feel that the specific experiences themselves operate across a gradient or spectrum of intensity, from the common classroom experience of “transformational learning” (Piagetian accommodation writ large) through a whole-life-changing intense “spiritual experience” –a major paradigm (world view, lebenswelt) shift.  




To approach the meaning of “Spiritual” it is important to recall that as we experience the world, its representation within us grows and enlarges.  We inhale the world, we take it into us, like our breath.  Spiritual refers to that in a way — “spirit” is breath, the breath of life that we take into ourselves.  The urgency of breathing partly informs the meaning of “inspiration.”   The external world, taken in through our senses has become part of us, in some senses we are indistinguishable and have become—even briefly—“one.”   But as we mature this is so gradual it is imperceptible. 

Spiritual refers to the fact the we have been inspired by taking something from outside ourselves into us.  Inspiration has from earliest times been regarded as the gift of the gods. 



“Spiritual experience” and “religious experience.”  For our purposes, spiritual experiences are personal, private and  ineffable. We may approximate them in words or pictures, and others with whom we try to communicate may even understand in part, recognizing some common ground, some shared dimension. “Religion” on the other hand refers to a social phenomenon which is founded on, validated by,  spiritual experience as related by like-minded individuals and/or role models.  We are bound to each other by common beliefs and goals, and our validation for this activity is our corroboration from personal experience of our inspirations or of our pursuit of them.  Below we will visit definitions and experiences and try to find common ground.

“Sublime,” often regarded as one of the supreme aesthetic experiences (see Burke) involves simultaneous deep attraction combined with awe and fear.   



WHAT is a “CREATIVE experience?”  The dictionary/shared definition is only a doorway!   We MUST enter in this way if we are to share questions and answers with others.




James (1918) described four salient characteristic of the mystical experience which have sustained the test of time and are still quoted by today’s scholars of mysticism (e.g. Stace, 1960; Happold, 1990):

  • Ineffability: The experience defies expression; it cannot be described in words.
  • Noetic quality: It gives insight and knowledge into deep truths, which are sustained over time.
  • Transiency: Mystical states cannot be sustained for long. Usually they last from a few seconds to minutes and their quality cannot be accurately remembered, though the experience is recognised if it recurs.
  • Passivity: Although the oncoming of mystical states may be facilitated by preliminary voluntary operations, like meditation, once they set in, the mystic feels out of control as if he or she were grasped and held by a superior power.



[in the definition of spirituality we probably do not need reference to religion –although they are often linked, in part because most if not all religious traditions have found various ways of evoking a mystical experience and then putting these experiences into service as validation for the religious precepts: they make predictions, ask for trust in the process, and are validated by success.  


IS Dostoyevsky’s “eternal harmony” the same as  Maslow’s “peak experience” or the  Zen Buddhist’s “satori” or  the yogi’s “samadhi”? 

Is Buddha’s “awakening” the same as Jung’s “individuation?”     Is the  “luminosity” of the Tibetan Book of the Dead the same as the Quaker’s  “inner light” or Jacob Boehme’s “light which is the heart of God” or the  “living flame” of Saint John of the Cross?  

Is Saint Paul’s  “peace that passeth understanding” the same as Thomas  Merton’s “transcendental unconscious”?  

Could Blake’s “divine intuition” be linked to Gurdjieff’s “objective  consciousness” or Brother Lawrence’s “unclouded vision” or Arthur  Deikman’s “deautomatization”?  

How are Arthur Clarke’s “overmind” and Emerson’s “Oversoul” related?    

Could Colin Wilson’s “intensity experience,” Eliade’s “shamanic  ecstasy,” and  Saint Teresa’s “ecstasy” be the same as the LSD  explorer’s “moment of truth” or Meyerhoff’s peyote-induced “mystic  vision,” 

Or how about what Julian Silverman (writing of acute schizophrenia) called “the  oceanic fusion of higher and lower referential processes”? 

Might all these be a manifestation of one part or another of the  neurophysiological “drive-arrest-release sequence in biogenic amine inhibitory systems, releasing temporal lobe limbic, hippocampal-septal  hypersynchrony that lasts for long periods of afterdischarge?”





MY OWN DISPOSITION is to search for facts with which I am comfortable because they seem to correspond to reality—these derive from experience (but can I trust my senses?) or the experiences and testimony of trusted witnesses.




(DIGRESSION: “RELIGION” means to restore the ligatures that bind us one to another)



Modern people understand that thoughts come from within themselves, often under the influence of some outside influence—a trigger or catalyst


BUT the exact path that information takes when we are being CREATIVE involves machinations that we do not understand!

We can describe the devil out of it, but people that experience unexpected or abundant creative experience are often at a loss: ideas come from a SOURCE that is USUALLY HIDDEN—the perception is that it is from OUTSIDE YOU.



  • THEATRE and an old memory that in the most ancient forms, only special people performed (sometimes in an altered state) and others watched at their own risk.
  • BUT, if there was a barrier—say a circle of fire—people would be protected from the powers unleashed in the center, where all forces converge in ceremony. 
  • The place where we GO BEYOND ordinary experience – the ground on which we are safe to think unconventional thoughts;  The processes that energize the sacred dance, experiments. IT OCCURS IN A PLACE WHERE people seem free to allow creative—transcendent events and feelings to OCCUR
  • FOR ONE PERSON OR ANOTHER, A SPACE is found to be sacred or can be invested with sanctity—maybe a space is  sanctified by what happened there.   [my recollection of the Wailing Wall versus the Dome of the Rock]
  • THE MERGING OF THE DARK AND LIGHT AXES OF THE MAGEN DAVID (at least as the Seal of Solomon as in Freemasonry) ; Of THE tai chi—yin yang symbol of the possibility of the fusion of otherwise seeming conflicting forces—DARK and LIGHT, INNER and OUTER, SUBCONSCIOUS and CONSCIOUS, REASONING and FEELING as ways of knowing—the eye of the  maelstrom of perpetual DISINTEGRATION and RENEWAL!


MEANING derives from these CONNECTIONS –every word I use is defined in the dictionary using all the other words.


Looking at  stars in the night sky, suddenly one will seem to stand out and an entire

constellation of connections will appear


[ii] (voiceover by (character) Mary Shannon at the end of an episode of “In Plain Sight.”)

[iv] An organism’s expectations are apparently reflected in the activity of ventral striatum (Schultz et al 1992) … apparently as a result of error-signal detection by dopaminergic neurons (Schultz, Dayan, Montague 1997).    Schultz (1998) has observed that the activity of dopamine neurons in the ventral striatum, once evoked by a rewarding stimulus, come to be controlled by reward-predicting stimuli over time.  Considering the critical importance of an organism’s capacity for making predictions to create associations between stimuli and responses and to help discriminate most favorable responses, ventral striatal neurons are apparently involved in the information processing that underlies motivation (as reviewed by Schultz 1998).

[vi] https://neilgreenberg.com/ao-creativity-imagination-and-memory/  especially, “The Future of Memory: Remembering, Imagining, and the Brain”  Daniel L. Schacter et al. (2012) Open Archive DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2012.11.001 

[vii] Just as DISINTEGRATION and RENEWAL are an interlocked dyad, so may our limited selves be interlocked with the transcendent—what IS and that which CAN BE but is beyond imagining.

[viii] (these are among William Blakes “Auguries of Innocence”)

[x] we are all artists—the invention and discovery of new ways to connect our experiences within and between us is an integral part of being human—amongst our implicit mandates is to KNOW and to be KNOWN—we want to be more fully our unique selves, but paradoxically, that happens best in the company of others—the processes of INDIVIDUATION  and SOCIALIZATION. In our pursuit of knowledge we emphasize different paths depending on our disposition and experiences… and often we emphasize the senses and their privileged access to our subconscious as a pathway.  Often the impulses that surge through us are so powerful that what began as recreations that exercise the senses comes to dominate us—we call people at such moments, “artists” … and their skills can be applied to anything from how best to solve an everyday problem to telling us what is in their hearts.

[xi] –Marshall Berman (1982) All That is Solid Melts into Air 

[xii] eyes of storms known from CYCLONES and tornados—maelstrom is a whirlpool, but still has a center.

[xiii] STILLPONT — we must orient to the stillpoint because, as the Trappist monk, Thomas  Merton, put it,  “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times. Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace.  It destroys the fruitfulness of our work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” –

… TS Eliot called it the still point of the turning worldTime present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future … Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”  In Burnt Norton (https://www.themarginalian.org/2015/11/18/t-s-eliot-reads-burnt-norton/ )

[xv] SAFETY, SANCTUARY: “Historically, churches have been places where fugitives could seek at least temporary protection from the law. In Anglo-Saxon England, churches and churchyards generally provided 40 days of immunity, and neither the sheriffs nor the army would enter to seize the outlaw. But gradually the right of sanctuary was eroded. In 1486 sanctuary for the crime of treason was disallowed, and sanctuary for most other crimes was severely restricted by Henry VIII and later abolished. In the 1980s many U.S. churches provided sanctuary to political refugees from Central America, and the U.S. government mostly chose not to interfere. Today, wildlife sanctuaries provide protection for the species within its boundaries, and farm-animal sanctuaries now rescue livestock from abuse and starvation.”

  “Although the word “sanctuary” is often traced back only as far as the Greek and Roman empires, the concept itself has likely been part of human cultures for thousands of years. The idea that persecuted persons should be given a place of refuge is ancient, perhaps even primordial, deriving itself from basic features of human altruism. In studying the concept across many cultures and times, anthropologists have found sanctuary to be a highly universal notion, one which appears in almost all major religious traditions and in a variety of diverse geographies. “Cities of refuge” as described by the Book of Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, as well as the Bedouin idea of nazaala, or the “taking of refuge,” indicate a strong tradition of sanctuary in the Middle East and Northern Africa. In the Americas, many native tribes shared similar practices, particularly in the face of invading European powers. Despite tensions between groups, many tribes still offered and received sanctuary, taking in those who had fled their tribal lands or feared persecution by the Spanish, English, and French.[2] (Wikipedia)

  • “templum, an open space, originally an open space reserved for observation of augurs… marked off with a line drawn in the ground by the augur, and was later demarcated with stones, gates, and doors. The earliest temples were where augurs read the signs… (Cousineau, Wordcatcher)
  • theaterProscenium
  • Ancient Greek Theater.  “Greek theatre had its origins in religious ritual. The god Dionysus, often associated in modern minds only with wine and revelry, was also an agrarian deity, with aspects reminiscent of the Egyptian god, Osiris. Like Osiris, he was twice-born, the second time from the thigh of Zeus, father of gods and men. Celebrations linked to planting and harvesting began in ancient times right on the floor where the grain would be separated from its stalk. It was an opportunity to exhibit the Greek love of dance and music, to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and perhaps to partake of the beverage with which Dionysus is most associated. Some of the nomenclature used in the theatre clearly had its origins on the threshing floor.”  Theater of Ancient Greece.    Etymologically linked to the Dionysian rites ; Theatre of Dionysus    Apollonian and Dionysian 

Birth of Tragedy (Nietzsche).  Nietzsche found in classical Athenian tragedy an art form that transcended the pessimism and nihilism of a fundamentally meaningless world. The Greek spectators, by looking into the abyss of human suffering and affirming it, passionately and joyously affirmed the meaning of their own existence. They knew themselves to be infinitely more than petty individuals, finding self-affirmation not in another life, not in a world to come, but in the terror and ecstasy alike celebrated in the performance of tragedies.

Sanctum sanctorum is a translation of the Hebrew term קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים (Qṓḏeš HaQŏḏāšîm, Holy of Holies)

[xvi]  Meditation 17 of John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624). “No man is an island,” Donne observes, “entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

[xvii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devotions_upon_Emergent_Occasions (#17)  No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the SeaEurope is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.[22] [Donne’s original spelling and punctuation]

[xix] Last four lines from Kubla Khan by ST Coleridge


  • Thinking of God today as creativity (instead of as The Creator) enables us to bring theological values and meanings into significant connection with modern cosmological and evolutionary thinking.  (A Religious Interpretation of Emergence: Creativity as God Gordon D. Kaufman  2007. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2007.00880.x)
  • ancient  Westerners were more  likely to believe  that  creativity originates from a divine force, either  one God  or multiple  gods, whereas  modern Westerners are  more  likely to believe  that  creativity should  be attributed to the  individual  human  mind.  (Niu, W., & Sternberg, R. J. (2006). The philosophical roots of Western and Eastern conceptions of creativity. J Theor and Philosoph Psychol 26(1-2), 18–38.   https://doi.org/10.1037/h0091265 )
  • https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19826556-000-perspectives-why-humanity-needs-a-god-of-creativity/


[xxi] (“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”—E.L. Doctorow)

Professor Emeritus, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.