Can Illness Be An Opportunity?

The ancient word “daemon” has returned to use as a way to describe the creative spirit within the unconscious. A person’s daemon is in charge of their calling or their life path and works to ensure that developments move forward as they should. It is an unnecessarily fanciful way of describing a genuine and observable phenomenon, but for the moment, we will allow the concept to stand.

Illustration from War of the Worlds - French Edition (1906)

Out of work, suffering from tuberculosis, and coughing blood, H. G. Wells saw his situation as a great opportunity. (Photo: public domain)

The daemons of psychologists Carl Jung, James Hillman, and similar others take advantage of accidents in the furtherance of their life goals. If a particular personal mishap does not suit, the daemon will wait for another. If none is forthcoming within a reasonable period, then self-sabotage may occur in order to generate the necessary life experience. The daemon must have what it needs to further the “calling” which it both guards and promotes, although this can be hard to perceive since each daemon, each calling, has its own unique requirements.

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Why Creative People Once Feared Psychoanalysis

Vancouver Olympic Flame 2010

Some highly creative people once believed that psychoanalysis would extinguish their creative flame and impair achievement. (Photo: public domain)

In his psychiatric practice, Carl Jung dealt with many creative individuals. Jung noted how often his patients’ psychological difficulties arose from the creative process itself. The ground-breaking physicist Wolfgang Pauli was one of these troubled creators. Jung analysed Pauli’s dream imagery after the scientist’s unconventional and tumultuous life brought him to the brink of mental breakdown. Pauli had become obsessed with where the insights for his greatest discovery had come from. He felt that he had drawn upon something beyond physics. Swiss-German author, Hermann Hesse was another of Jung’s notably creative patients. Already a famous writer when treated by Jung, Hesse – like Pauli – went on to win a Nobel Prize. Hesse suffered from recurring bouts of depression that tended to strike when his writing had reached an impasse.

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Popular Creativity Theories

We Have Not Always Been “Creative”

The Greeks and Romans ascribed the source of what we call creativity to a “genius” (Roman) or “daemon” (Greek) linked to the gods. The concept of creativity as we know it did not yet exist and the ancients regarded being “inventive” as an external process. The modern concept of creativity appeared during the Renaissance when, for the first time, Europeans saw creativity not as a gift from a god, but as arising from the abilities of “great men.” However, the shift from divine origins to mortal was gradual and did not become widespread until the Enlightenment.

Graham Wallas, 1920s

English social psychologist Graham Wallas gave us the famous five-stage theory of the creative process. (Image: public domain.)

English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead coined the term creativity in 1927 while delivering the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh. Almost immediately, it became the word of choice in literature, the arts, and science. In fact, the term went into wide use so quickly, we have forgotten its recent origins in the twentieth century.

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