As white light passes through a prism, the individual frequencies are split apart revealing the colors that were contained within the single beam. When looking at such a projected rainbow effect it seems that the colors are arranged in layers or bands, separate and distinct from one another yet each one blending into the next. It is interesting that these component frequencies appear as discrete bands although there seems to be no reason why they should do so. What we actually see is a segment of the electromagnetic spectrum, each section of which, however small, can be viewed as an infinite array of minute gradations, which gradations in turn are composed of smaller ones, and so on. Yet our eyes do see distinct breaks from one color ray to the next, splitting the spectrum into seven apparently separate bands. The musical scale is another example of imposing arbitrary divisions upon a series of infinite gradations. Here too, although musical scales in some cultures use other arrangements, the seven-note scale seems to predominate. The audible spectrum, however, is much broader than that of visible light, encompassing many seven-note scales while our eyes see but one.
Throughout history in various systems of thought the human constitution has been regarded as an aggregate of different qualities, the number and description of which vary widely but in essence the concepts are the same. In theosophic doctrine the number usually given is seven:
The divine essence
The spiritual self
The desire principle
The life force
The astral or model body
The physical body
If we view them as a series of blocks piled atop one another, we are doing the concept an injustice. Here also, in close analogy to the spectra of sound and electromagnetism, the divisions we make are conceptually convenient but probably arbitrary. Within each of us exists the entire range of qualities, though we may often give more weight to some than to others. The more sublime of them are still beyond our range of perception but for an occasional flicker, awaiting the time when they will burst into flame — just as in future ages the mind principle of the animal kingdom will be awakened.
Within this spectrum of man's aspects lies a vast multitude of creative potentials. In almost any creative or artistic medium it is possible to produce works which arise from and are directed toward any of these component elements or several in combination. The desire principle is a particularly interesting one. It is neither good nor evil, but is rather the motive power, the force behind our energies. This wellspring of creativity, when channeled effectively, can produce wonders. And though often accompanied by toil, pain, and frustration, the production of a work from one's own being can cause the body and life forces, the mind, the heart, or the spirit, to thrill with elation, equivalent in kind to the human principles utilized.
Creation within each of the planes of our being brings with it its own kinds of joy and pain. Within the purely physical sphere, procreation is most certainly an example, and although we share this expression of creativity with our less evolved comrades in the animal kingdom, it is undeniably still an essential aspect of our own stage of evolution as well. Man, however, comes into his own in the realm of mind which of all his qualities is the most intrinsically human. The agony connected with functioning in this mental field is all too well known to most of us who have from earliest school days had to contort our spastic minds to assimilate the body of knowledge and methods which our culture has made indispensable. On the other hand, the cerebral delights of devising and subsequently appreciating a truly elegant algorithm could well justify labeling the fruits of such mental gestation as a kind of "poetry of the intellect." Yet, although the mind is a most useful tool, it is by no means the highest in our creative spectrum. From sonnet to symphony, media of many kinds have evolved to fill man's need to exercise his creative energies, the loftier of them subtly, very gradually, superseding the others. For while the joy and pain involved in procreation manifest largely in a physical way, it is less easy for the frustrated pencil-chewing schoolboy in a mathematics class to say where it hurts. And a poet, though a master of his art, may seek in vain for words in human language to describe the bliss of inner discovery. Thus, in ascending the ladder of our component principles one may find that the rewards become increasingly less tangible, but, at the same time, indescribably more potent.
Music is a good example of a medium of creative expression, as it can convey its meaning without pictures, words, or gestures, often without overt symbols of any sort. By merely manipulating vibrations in air a very broad range of message content may be transmitted. Certain forms of music act directly upon the body; the rhythmic pulse in some musical idioms, for example, can bring about in some people a physically sympathetic rhythmic response that can amount to frenzy. Other forms can grate upon the nerves of a sensitive person like a fingernail on a chalk board, occasionally even producing physical illness. Still other forms can evoke pastoral or devotional images, perhaps bringing one into a state of harmony with one's surroundings. Then there are those musical works that, to a person inwardly attuned, might transcend imagery entirely. Or there may be works whose sublime inspiration is too subtle not only for words and images but for any medium of which we can at present conceive.
What is the highest form of creativity? Perhaps that question is equivalent to asking "What is the highest color in the spectrum or the highest musical note?" Could it be that some of the great among us have participated in forms of creation that we share with the gods?
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1984. Copyright © 1984 by Theosophical University Press)