Kabbalah and Creativity
The Kabbalah teaches that space is essential to creativity. In the 16th century, Shabtai Sheftel Horowitz, an Eastern European sage, wrote: ‘Before the Creation of the World, the Infinite One withdrew itself into its essence, from itself to itself within itself. It left an empty space within its essence, in which it could emanate and create.’ (©Orna Triguboff).
I have been attending a series of talks by Rabbi Orna Triguboff, in which we study a text fro the Kabbalah in detail. Each session is enlightening, adding to the knowledge and wisdom scholars have given us for centuries. Kabbalistic scholars describe two energy channels: the left side for logic and understanding, and the right for spirituality, the ‘spark’ of an idea. These two sides merge in the centre, so that both logical thought and spiritual energy give birth to the creative process. In other words, according to ancient wisdom, we need both ‘inspiration and perspiration’ to produce a creative work. Neither pure, raw, imagery, or carefully structured thought are enough alone; an artist, writer or musician needs both. The meeting in the middle is where the final work is manifested.
This age-old wisdom makes more sense to me than the rigid, either-or, dichotomy of popular left brain/right brain theories, which claim that creative people have a stronger ‘right-brain’, and that mere intelligence, logic, and organisational ability from the ‘left-brain’ will never cut it creatively . Yet without that ‘spark’ of a idea there can be no creation. Equally, without the sheer labour of structuring that idea into its final form, there will be no resulting poem, novel, painting or concerto. The Kabbalah teaches that only when the left and right sides are integrated can true creativity take place.
It seems to me that to be truly creative, both one’s intelligence and imagination must work together. First comes the ‘spark’: it may be in the form of ideas, words or images. The next stage is crafting the idea into an integrated whole, be it a poem, a novel, a piece of music, or a painting.
For years I’ve been struggling with the idea that people with a more active left brain are practical, problem-solving people, and those with the stronger right brain (‘right’ in both senses of the word) are the truly creative souls. This seems far too simplistic a way to explain the creative process; moreover science has largely discredited this theory.
The Kabbalah tells us that even the most mundane act is holy. There are Hebrew prayers for sleeping, waking washing, eating, and other bodily functions. Moreover, even the most trivial thought has a higher source, from where all creativity emanates. So when you feel caught up in the minutiae of life, don’t despair; perhaps the seeds of a new work are being planted even as you wash the dishes or take out the rubbish!
Lately I’ve been experimenting with meditation to improve creativity. Apart from stilling the mind and its constant chatter, the process of letting go of conscious thought creates the space for new ideas, words, images, or music to flow into the mind. A meditation guru tells us to visualise a point of light in the centre of your forehead. Then let it expand to fill the whole body, and then the space around you. This particular guru advises flashing this image for a second or two, at various times throughour the day. Notice both light and space around you, switch off thos chattering thoughts and let your ideas run free.