The Theosophical Forum – March 1948

CREATIVE VS. VEGETATIVE LIVING — Madeline Clark

We want the creative faculty to imagine that which we know; we want the generous impulse to act that which we imagine. — Shelley

The divine inventive faculty is perhaps the most useful, as it is the most elusive and the most courted, of all human attributes. It is a sort of celestial lightning, a spark of Promethean fire, difficult to snatch from the gods, but priceless and necessary to all achievement. Without it we would be hardly more than graceless clods. When this spark leaps into flame, we have genius; and works of art and beauty, works of universal usefulness, are born — but not without arduous toil. When the flame burns less fiercely, we have all the lesser originalities, without which daily life could not go forward. But it is in the intensity of creative effort that we live most fully. No joy so supreme, no sense of freedom so unlimited, as that felt at the moment of "going over the top" after concentrated and sustained, often painful, effort. But the period of effort is remembered afterwards as one of purest joy. Dostoevsky has this idea when he makes one of his characters say: "Oh, you may be perfectly sure that if Columbus was happy, it was not after he had discovered America, but when he was discovering it! . . . What is any "discovery" whatever compared with the incessant, eternal discovery of life?"

Two young children in a temporarily impoverished family were told one bleak day in December: "There will be no Christmas for you this year except what you can make for yourselves." With the help of their father, an all-'round artisan and artist, and of their mother (mothers are always creative artists!) these children gathered materials and made their own toys: usable bows and arrows, a drum, Indian flutes, a kite, a fleet of small boats to sail in the creek, surprises also for their parents — never had they known such Christmas joy, and never again would they go back to the old way of being mere recipients of purchased gifts.

It seems to be demanded of us that this creative faculty should remain aggressively active in us while life lasts. The gaining of a livelihood is a natural spur to this end. To take note of two extremes in this connection: there is on the one hand the individual who launches out, like Perseus with the winged sandals leaping from the cliff, to carve his own destiny, staking his all, risking want and hunger — lean days — while he makes his start, drawing upon his ingenuity and creative imagination to the utmost to build up his art or his business, and still doing so ever thereafter to keep it a going concern. At the other end we have the individual engaged in directed employment, if his interest in his work is entirely perfunctory, if he considers his responsibility over when the five o'clock whistle blows, and that he has no need for foresight and judgment beyond the limits of his own person or family. Between these extremes is the great body of men and women who, even in supervised employment, bring to bear their creative talents on their jobs, just because it is the normal and natural thing to do useful work in the most worthwhile way.

The observation was made years ago, in the days when moving-pictures, the radio, and other substitutes for self-created entertainment were only beginning to be prevalent, that in a civilization in which such distractions are brought within the reach of all, there is a danger that character will become lax, with having no need to draw upon the individual's own resources of native talent, perseverance, taste and judgment, etc., to this same end. The psychological contrast between the negative, receptive attitude, simply responding to stimuli, and the positive, creative, effortful one, is here very sharply drawn. Every teacher of children knows that these souls on their way to maturity are at their best and happiest when they are busy with work and play partly of their own devising. Behind every creative idea as it goes into action lies Will, the soul of the idea is Imagination, and both of these thrive with use.

Well has it been said that he who lives creatively helps to create and re-create his portion of the World, while he who lives vegetatively stands still rooted to the same spot until the day of disintegration. Is it true, then, that an individual is vegetating whenever he is not making efforts? Obviously, one cannot be on tiptoe all the time. Nature demands her periods of rest and recuperation. Therefore the vegetative side has its place. It is only when it is over-indulged that it begins to express the evil, unprogressive aspect of things. Yet there is no doubt that our civilization and the individuals composing it could be set upon a path of spiritual improvement were the higher creative powers made more use of, were there less mere drifting.

In the production of countless gadgets that contribute to our comfort and convenience, our civilization has shown a magnificent quality of inventiveness. But just as the general mentality in our present Race has been stepped up to higher level, intellectually speaking, with the swift development of Mind, so the time has come for the inventive faculty to become active on a higher plane, and to concern itself with ways of making life kinder, more enlightened.

Perhaps this is happening already in a rudimentary way although we cannot forget that selfishness and insincerity are still prevalent. "Gracious living" is a phrase that has become almost a household word, and relates not only to artistry in the use of material things about the person, the home, or the office, but also to human behavior. So that we actually have a sort of code that invokes the creative spirit in no small measure. In every act that involves others besides ourselves, "gracious living" demands that we put into it a little more effort and thought, a little touch of originality, to give it grace and charm.

All this, desirable though it may be, is not necessarily an expression of the deeper aspect, the ultimate good, in human nature. It may go no deeper than the psychological element in us, which is far from being a stable and spiritual thing. On the other hand, this gentle artistry may spring from that deep fount of genuine altruism which is the spiritual and relatively permanent aspect of ourselves, and which finds its natural expression in acts of considerateness and kindness.

Perhaps the creative idea is never more nobly conceived than when it is invoked on behalf of others, in forgetfulness of self, as when an F. T. S., for example, employs his quieter moments in devising new ways to help on the work of his Lodge, or to approach those he meets with the message of Theosophy. This is the beginning of occultism; and the advanced occultist must be ever more fertile in resource as his work for humanity advances. The life-stories of H. P. Blavatsky, W. Q. Judge, and the successive Leaders of the T. S. are striking examples of this. H. P. B., ill, living on borrowed time, labored unceasingly on her stupendous literary and other works, almost to the day of her death. Judge was tireless in lecturing, organizing, writing literally thousands of letters, editing and carrying on almost single-handed his magazine The Path.

Every Leader of the Theosophical Society, upon coming into office, must bring into play to a transcendent degree this inventive faculty, this flame of creative genius. The broad outlines of what it is hoped he will accomplish are given to him by the Brothers who founded the Society: it is for the Messenger to work out the details, as we have often been told and have seen.

The tremendous outpouring of spiritual energy that is felt by every devoted F. T. S. as the "Lodge Force" upon the advent of a new Teacher, has its rise in that creative flame of divine will and imagination that is the heart of the work for humanity of which the T. S. is the outer representative. The Teacher is the focus of this Force, and he inspires in his pupils this will to inaugurate a new era of achievement. Dr. de Purucker, in the first days of his leadership called attention to the "creative individuality" that each  Fellow could exercise to help on the new effort; the present Leader, when he took up the torch, called upon each member to devote his "natural talents" to the furtherance of the Work. Similarly, when H. P. Blavatsky refers to the "outpouring or upheaval of spirituality," when W. Q. Judge writes of "the large and affluent streams" of "potentialities for good" that come from the Adept; and when Katherine Tingley speaks of the "new energy" that is "being liberated from the center of life" — their effort is to arouse us to the realization of that creative fount from which our inspiration comes.

 Finding this, the aspirant who concerns himself seriously with finding ways and means to help the Messengers, allies himself with forces of light in the Universe, and is actually helping on the work of the Divine Architects who, according to technical Theosophical teaching, plan, inaugurate, and set in motion the universal creative labor, which is carried out by the Builders, the more or less vegetative forces in Nature.

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In the Stanzas of Dzyan, when Fohat, the Messenger of the Gods, commenced his work of building the worlds at the opening of a new "creation," the sparks of the Fiery Whirlwind that formed the Lower Kingdoms "floated and thrilled with joy in their radiant dwellings" as Fohat gathered them up and separated them to form "the germs of wheels" — new vortices of life. Such joy can also be ours when we share in the beneficent creative work "for the benefit of the world and all creatures."


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