Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The daimonic: The soul of creativity

Rollo May:

"Already in Aeschylus, the daimonic is both subjective and objective – which is the sense in which I use it in this book. The problem is always to see both sides of the daimonic, to see phenomena of the inner experience of the individual without psychologizing away our relation to nature, to fate, and to the ground of our being. If the daimonic is purely objective, you run the danger of sliding into superstition in which man is simply the victim of external powers. If, on the other hand, you take it purely subjectively, you psychologize the daimonic; everything tends to be a projection and to become more and more superficial; you end up without the strength of nature, and you ignore the objective conditions of existence, such as infirmity and death. This latter way leads to a solipsistic oversimplification. Caught in such a solipsism, we lose even our ultimate hope. The greatness of Aeschylus is that he sees and preserves both sides so clearly."

Rudyard Kipling:

"When your Daemon is in charge, do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait, obey."

Allan Bloom:

"But when it [the word "creativity"] was first used for man, it had the odor of blasphemy and paradox. God alone had been called a creator; and this was the miracle of miracles, beyond causality, a denial of the premise of all reason, ex nihilo nihil fit. What defines man is no longer his reason, which is but a tool for his preservation, but his art, for in art man can be said to be creative. There he brings order to chaos. The greatest men are not the knowers but the artists, the Homers, Dantes, Raphaels and Beethovens. Art is not imitation of nature but liberation from nature. A man who can generate visions of a cosmos and ideals by which to live is a genius, a mysterious, demonic being. Such a man's great work of art is himself. He who can take his person, a chaos of impressions and desires, a thing whose very unity is doubtful, and give it order and unity, is a personality."

Adam Phillips:

"‘Criticism,’ Hartman writes, ‘has an unacknowledged penchant for reversal in it, which is near daemonic, and which brings it close to the primacy of art.’ ‘Reversal’ here means that the omnipotent figure previously referred to as God can be accused of setting away with something; that a world in which people can accuse each other of getting away with things is a world of competing authority, a world in which there is no final or absolute authority. A world, as Hartman puts it, of ‘daemonic’ reversals."

Martin Laird described the beliefs of early Egyptian Christian contemplatives:

"The demons could not enter the inner depths of the person. This was the Lord's domain. But the demons could exert considerable effort to keep us ignorant of these inner depths by bombarding us with whatever thoughts would most likely excite our patterns of obsession (the technical term for them is 'the passions')."

See also Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials which presumes that everyone contains a “Daemon”, an animal spirit.


Rollo May, Love and Will, New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1969. p. 136

Rudyard Kipling, Something of Myself, 1936. Quoted in The American Scholar, Autumn 2011, p. 130.

Allan Bloom. The Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987. pp. 180- 181.

Adam Phillips. Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. p. 104.

Martin Laird, O.S.A. Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. p. 50.

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