For nearly 130 years, the field of psychology has been confused about the nature of consciousness. Researchers have confounded consciousness with cognition, which is why the role of consciousness in the creative process is not more well-understood.
The problem dates back to William James, whose 1890 textbook Principles of Psychology included a chapter entitled "The Stream of Thought." In that chapter, James identifies "five characters in thought" that are still accepted as the defining features of consciousness. "I use the word thinking," James wrote, "for every form of consciousness indiscriminately."
Alas, this is where the confusion begins, because thinking and all other cognition, including attention, perception, memory, and language, are NOT the same as consciousness. Yes, the two can co-exist, but there is evidence of cognition in the absence of consciousness, on the one hand (the "cognitive unconscious"), and consciousness in the absence of cognition, on the other.
The latter claim does not sit well with intellectuals, who have trouble with the idea of consciousness existing in the absence of thought. Yet, millions of meditators profess to have that exact experience on a regular basis. What happens when we silence our minds in meditation? We may stop existing as independent entities, but we do not stop existing altogether! There is still an "I AM," a sense of pure essence. We can just be, without thinking or knowing anything at all.
This mental silence is not just a reality. It is crucial to creativity. As Pope John Paul II stated, "Every great work is born in silence." Such silence lets old ways of thinking fall away so that new ones may arise. It also connects us with the source of all creativity, which is pure formless consciousness. All form--including the set of thoughts that occupy our minds--emerges from formlessness and returns to it eventually.
Deep Creativity attempts to correct a misconception that has plagued the field of psychology for more than a century. Until creativity researchers come to a new understanding of consciousness, the creative process will remain an elusive mystery to them.
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