Creativism

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Creativism is a theme in philosophy, religion and ethics. Its fundamental premise is that life is constant creative process. Generally thischange is seen as positive in the long run, or at worst an ongoing balance between positive and negative. At its most basic and practical level, creativism manifests itself in a simple commitment to doing good, for this is life-enhancing. In more sophisticated thought it seeks to explain life and the world in terms of creative process, ultimate value and ultimate reality.

Creativism is most evident inprocess thought and Chinese philosophy but it also appears in other literature including New Age.

Contents

Creativism in philosophy

Creativism in philosophy sees life chiefly in terms of creative process. Life is forever changing, diversifying, becoming more complex, and not only renewing but introducing novelty.[1] This contrasts with other worldviews which see life as conflict and destruction and decay, or an interplay between things that are essentially fixed and static and enduring. It also contrasts with the view that life is not real butillusory.

Chinese philosophy

Though the word ″creativism″ is relatively recent, it describes ideas with a long history. Suncrates and Kidd characterize Chinese philosophy even from early times as being primarily one of creativism; the I Ching or Book of Changes is an example. In their analysis ″The ground-concept for Chinese philosophy is that of creativity, or more precisely, perpetual creativity.″[2] Inspired by the concept of the Great Center or celestial archetype, it is humanist as well as religious.

[It] branches into various streams of thought such as Primordial Confucianism, Taoism and Mohism. By confluence and concrescence with congenial strains of thought in Mahayana Buddhism, it culminates in various distinct but related types of Neo-Confucianism (realistic, idealistic, and naturalistic) from the 10th century onwards, tending to move towards the phase of creative synthesis with world philosophies on a greater scale.[2]

Chinese creativism according to this interpretation has multiple facets. Not only does it mean a dynamic view of the world, similar to process philosophy from the West, where reality is creativity: it also sees life as moving towards ultimate goodness. Thus this thinking emphasizes synthesis and harmony over division and conflict. It also values knowing by doing and “realizing the heavenly reason in every actual occasion of life”.[2] Thomé H. Fang who advocated “creative creativity” may be considered the leading Chinese creativist in modern times.[3]

Process philosophy

Creativism in the West is largely a product of process philosophy, which is similar in some respects to Chinese thought.[4] Process philosophy identifies metaphysical reality with change and development. Alfred North Whitehead, progenitor of process philosophy, put creativity at the center of his argument. For him:

Creativity is the most general notion at the base of all that actually exists. Thus, all actual entities, even God, are in a sense “creatures” of creativity. Whitehead also characterizes creativity as the principle of novelty. The events of the past are ceaselessly synthesized into a new and unique event, which becomes data for future events.[5]

In a sense, creativity is beyond description, for to Whitehead:

Creativity is without a character of its own in exactly the same sense in which Aristotelian ″matter″ is without a character of its own. It is that ultimate notion of the highest generality at the base of actuality. It cannot be characterized, because all characters are more special than itself.[6]

Michel Weber has coined the word ″pancreativism″ to describe Whitehead’s philosophy.[7]

Process philosophy is largely concerned with the way in which things change and develop,[8] however value is also a key concern. In Whitehead’s theory, value is inherent in change.[9] Discussion of value leads then to discussion of God (see Creativism in religion below). A related issue is that of purpose in creativity. Some process thinkers – typically those who are religious - believe creativity is directed to some end, while others think it is merely the undirected working out of the dynamic quality which is inherent in nature.[10][11]

A more recent preoccupation of process philosophy and creativism has been the interconnectedness of all things. John B. Cobb, for example, has written extensively on ecological interdependence and the need to preserve creation and creativity through environmental action.[12]

Other modern philosophers

Creativism is also evident in the work of some other philosophers, notably Pierre Teilhard de Chardin whose main contribution was on the directionality of evolution. Teilhard saw the universe as heading towards a higher level of complexity and consciousness which he termed the Omega Point. Thus creativity is ongoing and is not only material but also spiritual, but it requires human beings to unite and commit to faith.[13]

More recently, Ken Wilber has addressed the problem of pluralism which arises out of creativity. Like Whitehead, Wilber considers creativity to be a fundamental principle of existence, central to individual lives as well the universe, and a source of energy for us all.[14] However, creativity has also led to diverse understandings of the world which need to be drawn together. Wilber’s Integral Theory, spanning a range of disciplines, attempts to synthesize different models into an interrelated network of approaches which are mutually enriching.[15]

Pascal Etcheber sees creativism as an aspect of existentialism. While in existentialism the existence of the individual can be bleak, that same existence, properly focused, can be joyful. Creativism is a recognition of our capacity to find new meaning in life and be reborn through the way we live. We find ourselves and our fulfilment when we re-gear and bring something new into the world.[16]

Phil Roberts has focused on value in creativity, attempting to redefine good and evil. He argues that goodness is the conjunction of right order with right relationship. Right order is the ultimate fitness of things, whereas right relationship is the propensity for things in right order to come together in a positive way; thus, right order and right relationship are interdependent, and creative action inevitably occurs whenever they coincide.[17]

Creativism in religion

Creativism does not necessarily imply religious belief though it includes a strong element of religion. Creativist theologians see the divine primarily in terms of creative energy or creative process. Issues that then arise are: what is the nature of this creativity, what other attributes might reside in the divine, and does creativity imply a separate and distinct creator?

Unlike creationism, which focuses on the extent to which the Genesis story can be taken as scientific fact and is often identified with Christian fundamentalism, creativism sits within Progressive Christianity and kindred views from other faiths.

Process theology

Whitehead diverged from traditional Christian thought which interprets God as the origin and source of all.[18] Rather he saw God as the outcome [emphasis added] of creativity[19] or ″the primordial embodiment of creativity″,[20] that is, the first or primary or original embodiment of creativity. In his theology God is the optimum potential ahead of us as we move from the present to the future, and it is also the urge to achieve this potential. God is ″the initial aim, first thought, instigator or ground of each moment, luring the world toward harmony.″[21] Val Webb adds:

The Process God is therefore not an external Being but part of the interconnected universe where God is both in everything yet more than the sum of its parts (panentheism), working in us and the world, affecting and affected by the events of the universe.[22]

As things change, so too does God: ″The primordial nature of God is unchanging perfection, but the consequent nature in process with the world ′changes,′ because new things are happening, new creatures arise, new experiences occur, and thus, divine experience is also being enriched.″[20]

A later process theologian, Henry Nelson Wieman, saw God as ″creative interchange″, a term which includes the idea of love. Creative interchange increases both the understanding between human individuals and human freedom.[23] Thus for Wieman as for a growing number of other thinkers, God is a natural process and not supernatural.

Other concepts

Whereas Whitehead interpreted God as the primary embodiment of creativity, Harvard theologian Gordon D. Kaufman saw God as creativity itself, ″the bringing (or coming) into being of what is genuinely new, something transformative.″ It is a profound mystery but on the whole, despite the pains of life, ultimately positive. Being manifest through all space and time it also transcends – and shows itself through – all religions and cultures.[24] Similar thinking is identified in Chinese creativism as described by Suncrates and Kidd.[2] A related view from science is that of theoretical biologist Stuart A. Kauffman. He sees science as leading to a new world view where the creativity of the universe is God.

This God brings with it a sense of oneness, unity, with all of life, and our planet - it expands our consciousness and naturally seems to lead to an enhanced potential global ethic of wonder, awe, responsibility within the bounded limits of our capacity, for all of life and its home, the Earth, and beyond as we explore the Solar System.[25]

Traditional Christian thought still holds to the personification of the divine, which can be expressed in creativistic terms, for example Juliet Bennett for whom ″God is the personification of creative energy behind life.″[26] However, the prevailing trend is towards a non-personal God, whether in the sense of process theology or the ″ground of all being″ identified by Paul Tillich.[18] Phil Roberts has attempted a synthesis of these positions. On one level, he sees God as goodness, defined as right order (or truth) joined with right relationship (love) in creative active action. Truth, love and creative action are effectively one, like the Holy Trinity. Beyond this, however, he discerns a creative divine which is beyond value, beyond good and evil, and beyond (to use the Taoist analogy) all forms of yin and yang. In this theology the question of divine personhood remains open, bound up with the possibility of a universal mind which might exist and might, like creativity itself, be in a state of constant evolution.[17]

Creativism in ethics

A humanist ethic

As an ethic, creativism fits within the tradition of humanism, both religious and secular, and extending to all life. Given that creativity is central to life, wherever it occurs, the ethical person is called on to promote this creativity. As a minimum:

The purpose of the creativist is to create: to think, say and do new things, things that have not happened before. It is to teach and enable others to do the same things, and also to create new things for themselves. Lastly it is to nurture diversity wherever it occurs and in whatever form.[1]

Thus there is a necessary focus on action; we cannot turn a blind eye or rest in inertia.

If things are inimical to creativity, for example cruelty, oppression, and natural disasters, they are to be resisted. Thus creativism becomes a tool for determining one’s stance on particular issues. A creativist in religion will seek to align his or her actions with the creative will of the divine. For example, Juliet Bennett says:

A Creativist is someone who sees Creativity as the expression of the Divine Creator present in all life and the universe. Creativity is humanity’s source of greatest pleasure, satisfaction, and act of generosity. Creativity expresses your individual consciousness and shares it with others, simultaneously expressing the collective conscious and providing avenues for your individual conscious to learn.[26]

However, there are those who recognize that creativity is not always good.[27] And Henry Nelson Wieman made a distinction between ″Creative Good″ and ″Created Good″. The former is the divine energy and love flowing throughout our whole history, whereas the latter is merely the ″time- and culture-bound and provisional expressions of what is believed within a particular human community.″ Humankind, says Wieman, becomes wedded to created good, failing to respond to the opportunities inherent in creative good, whereby we can ″contribute to the birth of fresh expressions of human becoming.″[28]

Creativism seeks to maximize human potential, both in others and in oneself. The dimensions of this growth will differ, according to whether one’s viewpoint is religious or secular, but either way the endpoint is likely to be an increase in happiness.[17]

Alternative to consumerism

Creativism may also be understood as an alternative to consumerism. This view is outlined in the Creativist Manifesto by Olivia Sprinkel.[29] According to the Creativist Society which grew out of this Manifesto, we can passively accept the identity given to us by consumer society or we can be active in creating our own identities. Taking the latter path we use our gifts to their full potential, working to make positive changes in the world. The Creativist Manifesto expresses the belief that ″great things will happen when creative, active minds connect and collaborate.″[30][31]

New Age concept

Former Scientologist Harry Palmer, founder of the Avatar Course, developed his own concept of creativism. In Palmer’s teachings, an avatar is a person who has reached a state of enlightenment through ″the evolutionary development of consciousness toward greater self-awareness and creative expression.″[32] Creativism is a term used to describe the way of thinking that leads to this goal, also described as ″living deliberately.″[33]

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Heath 2002.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Suncrates and Kidd 1995.
  3. Qian 2008.
  4. Berthrong 1998 and 2008.
  5. Hustwit 2007.
  6. Whitehead 1978, p.31.
  7. Weber 2006.
  8. Seibt 2013. She says: ″For process philosophers the adventure of philosophy begins with a set of problems that traditional metaphysics marginalizes or even sidesteps altogether: what is the role of mind in our experience of reality as becoming? Are there several varieties of becoming - for instance, the uniform going on of activities versus the coming about of developments? Do all developments have the same way of occurring quite independently of what is coming about? How can we best classify into different kinds of occurrences what is going on and coming about? How can we understand the emergence of apparently novel conditions?″
  9. Herstein 2007.
  10. Rescher 1996, quoted in Seibt.
  11. Clifford Heath 2002, remarking on the novelty, complexity and diversity of the universe, asks why they occur, and says: ″As far as we can know a single purpose, it is to preserve and extend that novelty. That is the creed of creativism. The question ′Why?′ answers itself.″
  12. See his website http://processandfaith.org.
  13. King 2000.
  14. Visser 2011.
  15. Esbjörn-Hargens 2010.
  16. Etcheber 2012.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Roberts 2013.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Cobb 2008.
  19. Whitehead 1978, p.88.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Webb 2002, p243.
  21. Webb 2002, p.245.
  22. Webb 2013, p.64.
  23. Connolly 2011.
  24. Kaufman 2005.
  25. Kauffman 2006.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Bennett 2009.
  27. Cropley and Cropley 2013.
  28. Rowe 2013, p.7.
  29. Sprinkel 2010.
  30. Creativist Society 2010.
  31. A variant on this theme is the identification of some religion as creativist, that is, religion which emphasises love and service to others, rather than self-sustenance which is essentially consumerist (Hoogator 2010).
  32. Palmer 2001.
  33. Palmer 1994.

Bibliography

• Benedikt, Michael (2007). God Is the Good We Do: Theology of Theopraxy. New York: Bottino Press. ISBN 9780979375408.

• Bennett, Juliet (2009). ″Creativism - A Philosophy for Life.″ Adventures with Ideas: Truth, Beauty and the Paradoxes of Life. http://www.julietbennett.com/2009/09/10/creativism-a-philosophy-for-life/.

• Berthrong, John H. (1998). Concerning Creativity: A Comparison of Chu Hsi, Whitehead, and Neville. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 9780791439432.

• Berthrong, John H. (2008). Expanding Process: Exploring Philosophical and Theological Transformations in China and the West. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 9780791475157.

• Cobb, John B. (2008). ″Tillich and Whitehead.″ Process and Faith. http://processandfaith.org/writings/ask-dr-cobb/2008-07/tillich-and-whitehead.

• Cobb, John B. (2012). ″Process Theology.″ Process and Faith. http://processandfaith.org/writings/article/process-theology.

• Connolly, Peter (2011). ″A Faith in Humanity: The Humanist Perspective.″ Unitarian Universalist Church of Bowling Green, Kentucky. http://www.uubgky.org/members/sermons/faith_in_humanity.htm.

• Creativist Society (2010). Creativist Life: Creating the Life and Future You Want. http://www.creativistsociety.com.

• Cropley, David H.; Cropley, Arthur J. (2013). Creativity and Crime: A Psychological Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 5, General Enchantment With Creativity. ISBN 9781107024854.

• Esbjörn-Hargens, S., ed. (2010). ″Introduction.″ In Integral Theory in Action: Applied, Theoretical, and Constructive Perspectives on the AQAL Model. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 9781438433851.

• Etcheber, Pascal (2012). The Strength of Becoming: A Philosophical Treatise on the New Science and Art of Becoming. London: Substance Publishing. Kindle edition. ASIN B009JLRNFQ.

• Heath, Clifford (2002). ″Creativism.″ Polyplex.org. http://polyplex.org/creativism/.

• Herstein, Gary L. (2007). ″Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947).″ Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://www.iep.utm.edu/whitehed/.

• Hoogator (2010). ″Meditation 6-6-10: Consumerism, Creativism, and Christianity.″ 40:6. http://hoogator.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/meditation-6-6-10-consumerism-creativism-and-christianity/.

• Howard, Mark (2006). ″Creativism and the Rise of the Art Insurgency,″ News Corpse: The Internet’s Chronicle of Media Decay. http://www.newscorpse.com/ncWP/?p=138.

• Hustwit, J. R. (2007). ″Process Philosophy.″ Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://www.iep.utm.edu/processp/.

• Kauffman, Stuart (2006). ″Beyond Reductionism: Reinventing the Sacred.″ Edge. http://www.edge.org/conversation/beyond-reductionism-reinventing-the-sacred.

• Kaufman, Gordon D. (2005). ″Prairie Lectures: Some Concluding Remarks.″ Mennonite Life, vol. 60, no. 4, Dec. 2005. http://archive.bethelks.edu/ml/issue/vol-60-no-4/article/prairie-view-lectures-some-concluding-remarks/.

• King, Ursula (2000). ″Rediscovering Fire: Religion, Science and Mysticism in Teilhard de Chardin.″ Earth Light Library. http://www.earthlight.org/essay39_king.html.

• Palmer, Harry (1994). Living Deliberately: The Discovery and Development of Avatar. Altamonte Springs, Florida: Star’s Edge International. http://www.avatarepc.com/html/LivDelElectronic.pdf.

• Palmer, Harry (2001). ″Excerpt from ′Creativism: Belief Systems.′″ Avatar Overdrive. http://www.avataroverdrive.com/avatar_journal/88-6/creativism.htm.

• Qian Gengsen (2008). ″The Values of Thomé H. Fang’s Philosophy.″ The Complete Works of Thomé H. Fang. http://www.thomehfang.com/suncrates6/qiangengsen-E.htm.

• Rescher, Nicholas (1996). Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy, New York: SUNY Press. Chapter 5. ISBN 9780791428184. Cited in Seibt.

• Roberts, Phil (2013). Banishing Boundaries. http://www.banishingboundaries.com.

• Roberts, Phil (2014). ″Creativism.″ SoFiA Bulletin, May/June 2014. Upwey, Vic.: Sea of Faith in Australia.

• Rowe, Keith (2013). ″Believing.″ In Hunt, Rex A.E.; Smith, John W.H., eds 2013. Why Weren’t We Told? A Handbook on ‘Progressive’ Christianity. Salem, Oregon: Polebridge Press, pp. 7–8. ISBN 9781598151114.

• Seibt, Johanna (2013). ″Process Philosophy″, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta ed. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/process-philosophy/.

• Sprinkel, Olivia (2010). ″The Creativist Manifesto: Consumer or Creativist?″ Change This. http://changethis.com/manifesto/show/66.03.CreativistManifesto.

• Suncrates (George C. H. Sun); Kidd, James W. (1995). ″Chinese Philosophy as World Philosophy: An Eightfold Characterization of Creativism.″ Inbetweenness. http://www.inbetweenness.com/Suncrates'%20Publications/CHINESE%20PHILOSOPHY%20AS%20WORLD%20PHILOSOPHY.pdf.

• Visser, Frank (2011). ″Ken Wilber’s ′Creativism′: God and the New Biology.″ Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything. http://www.integralworld.net/visser44.html.

• Webb, Val (2002). Florence Nightingale: The Making of a Radical Theologian. St Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press. ISBN 9780827210325.

• Webb, Val (2013). ″Process Theology.″ In Hunt, Rex A.E. and John W.H. Smith, eds 2013. Why Weren’t We Told? A Handbook on ‘Progressive’ Christianity. Salem, Oregon: Polebridge Press, pp. 63–64. ISBN 9781598151114.

• Weber, Michel (2006). Whitehead’s Pancreativism: The Basics. Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag. ISBN 9783868381030.

• Whitehead, Alfred North (1978). Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, ed. by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne. New York, Free Press. First published by Macmillan, New York, 1929. ISBN 9780029345801.

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