CHAPTER TWO: THE SOURCE OF CREATIVE POWER
"Let us be silent to hear the whispers of the Gods."
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Where does creative power come from? Most people would say the mind is the source of all creativity. The visionaries featured in this book would agree,except for one thing: Many of these visionaries claim that there are two minds--not one--and that the mind associated with thoughts and thinking is not the one that plays the most important part in the creative process.
You may be wondering: What kind of mind can there be besides the thinking mind? In our language, "thinking" and "mind" seem inseparable: The dictionary defines the mind as "the seat of consciousness in which thinking takes place."
Yet the visionaries you will meet in this chapter describe a second mind that exists in the complete absence of thinking. This other mind is easy to overlook; it is drowned out by the constant stream of thoughts that occupies our awareness. In fact, it is such a subtle part of ourselves that we may go an entire lifetime without ever noticing its presence.
Even some visionaries discover their "second" mind unintentially, as a result of an unlikely set of events. Once they make the discovery, however, it doesn’t take long for themto realize the extraordinary source of creative power they have stumbled upon. To a large extent, what makes certain people visionaries is their ability to recognize this hidden creator within themselves. Visionaries must gain an understanding of their creative power’s source before they can begin to take advantage of this power.
That is why your first lesson in creative power focuses on this "other" mind, which exists in the absence of all thoughts and which can be called the first element of creative power. Everything you will learn about your creative power in this book begins with a recognition of the limitless power source to which you have access; just knowing it exists will open up new doors for you. Before we look at its role in the creative process, let’s get a better sense of what this mind is and of how it differs from the thinking mind:
Finite Mind, Infinite Mind
A poster popular with college kids in the 1980’s had a black-and-white photograph of Albert Einstein and the quotation: "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." Einstein may or may not have said these exact words; several versions of the quote still circulate. The wording of this particular version, however, suggests he was describing an internal struggle rather than an external one. Einstein recognized that a part of himself existed outside the scope of his thoughts and his extraordinary capacity to reason. In fact, he attributed much of his genius to something other than his rational mind. "The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery," he noted.
Quite possibly, Einstein used the term "great spirit" to refer to this other side of himself--the side that penetrates mysteries in a way the thinking mind never can. Einstein understood that the thinking mind is "mediocre" in this sense—limited in scope and abilityand that the thinking process can severely limit one’s experience of the world as well as one’s creative capacity.
Einstein was exceptionally fond of generating thought experiments--the kinds of mental exercises that begin with words like "Suppose that..." or "Imagine if..." In keeping with Einstein’s affinity for such exercises, here is a thought experiment dealing with the topic of thought and thinking: Suppose that you could momentarily stop the mind from thinking. What, if anything, would you have left? Would you even continue to exist at that point? Is the cessation of thought the same as death?
Several of the visionaries to whom I presented this thought experiment came up with an answer that you might not expect. A mind without thoughts, they claimed, would be limitlessbecause thoughts limit the mind, as well as all of reality. How? By imposing boundaries on everything. Consider for a moment exactly what a thought does. Its primary function is to split reality apart so that we can distinguish one thing from another. A thought is like the chalk lines that separate a baseball field into fair and foul territory. Without the chalk lines you wouldn’t have a baseball field, but it would still be a field of some kind. But imagine the field’s possibilities if you erased the lines: You could fly a kite, have a picnic, or take a nap. In the same way, a mind freed of all thoughts would be open to a wide range of experiences that don’t fit any particular label or expectation about how things should be.
The mind that engages in thinking is called the finite mind (Einstein’s "mediocre mind"). It uses thoughts as a way of cutting the world into pieces. Each thought generated by the finite mind makes a distinction of some kind: yes and no, this and that, good and bad. The game "Twenty Questions" is a perfect example of how the finite mind works. Your opponent thinks of an object and you guess what it is by asking a series of "yes" and "no" questions. Each question splits the universe of likely objects in half. For instance, the classic question, "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" divides all objects into two categories: those that are bigger than a breadbox and those that are not.
If you put the finite mind on pause temporarily so that no thoughts entered your awareness, you would come in contact with another part of yourself, called the infinite mind (Einstein’s "great spirit"). During such moments, you would become aware of a pure experience free of all concepts, inferences, assumptions, and interpretations. You would also gain freedom from being tied down to a particular way of thinking. This is the ultimate creative experience: when you have direct access to what one visionary calls "the place of all possibility" (see "Visionary Voices" below).
The infinite mind puts you in intimate contact with a level of reality having no limits or boundaries. Because this mind makes no distinctions of any kind, it only knows wholeness. In fact, the infinite mind is wholeness itself; some have called it a microcosm, or miniature universe. By its very lack of boundaries, the infinite mind is able to encompass all things.
You may find this hard to believe at first. The idea that some aspect of your mind is infinite seems inconceivable. Yet, at some level, you know it to be true. The infinite mind is like having a deep well on your property. If you look into the well, you will not get a clear sense of how far down it goes. But if you could dive into it, you would soon discover that the well connects to a vast underground aquifer, and that all of your neighbors’ wells are tied into the same source.
The boundaries separating your well from that of your neighbor exists only at ground level. Below the surface, both wells tap into the same aquifer, so that there is no way of knowing where your well ends and your neighbor’s begins. The aquifer itself never dries up, in spite of all the wells that draw upon its reserves, because it is constantly being replenished by a number of different sources. When you draw water from your well, you gain access to all of these sources. No matter how small your own well may seem, the water supply it taps into is expansive.
This analogy captures two inherent qualities of the infinite mind: its boundless nature and the fact that it transcends personal experience. Each of us has equal access to the infinite mind as part of our basic birthright, and we all tap into the exact same source. In this regard, the infinite mind resembles the concept of the collective unconscious as originally described by psychologist Carl Jung. According to Jung, the collective unconscious is an aspect of ourselves shared by people of all time periods and all cultures. The same can be said of the infinite mind. But there are two important differences: Firstly, the infinite mind does not deal in concepts and images the way the collective unconscious does because it transcends all thought. More significantly, however, is the fact that the infinite mind is not really "unconscious." Rather, it serves as the ultimate source of all our conscious experience and provides an ongoing backdrop to this experience. If the infinite mind seems hidden to us, this is only because our finite minds are incapable of grasping its transcendent nature.
Nonetheless, scholars from virtually every culture and epoch in human history have tried to describe it. Here is what they have written:
Utterly open, free, and limitless, it is fundamentally so simple and so natural that it can never be complicated, corrupted, or stained, so pure that it is beyond even the concept of purity and impurity...At present it is hidden within our ownmind, enveloped and obscured by the mental scurry of our thoughts and emotions. Just as clouds can be shifted by a strong gust of wind to reveal the shining sun and wide-open sky, so, under certain special circumstances, some inspiration may uncover for us glimpses of this nature of mind.
(Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying)
The True Mind is not divided--
When a direct identification is asked for,
We can only say, "Not two."
(Seng-tsan, quoted in D. T. Suzuki’s Essays in Zen Buddhism)
Inconceivable as it seems to ordinary reason, you—and all other conscious beings as such—are all in all. Hence this life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is in a certain sense the whole.
(Erwin Schroedinger, My View of the World)
It is unseen, unrelated, inconceivable,
uninferable, unimaginable, indescribable.
It is the essence of the one self-cognition
common to all states of consciousness.
All phenomena cease in it.
It is peace, it is bliss, it is nonduality.
From these accounts, you may get a sense of why such an integral part of ourselves remains so well-hidden from us. The infinite mind transcends language and concepts, which means we have no adequate way of thinking about it, imagining it, or describing it to others. In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, author Sogyal Rinpoche identifies four challenges that keep most of us from discovering our infinite mind:
"1. The nature of mind is just too close to be recognized. Just as we are unable to see our own face, mind finds it difficult to look into its own nature.
2. It is too profound for us to fathom. We have no idea how deep it could be; if we did, we would have already, to a certain extent, realized it.
3. It is too easy for us to believe. In reality, all we need do is simply to rest in the naked, pure awareness of the nature of mind, which is always present.
4. It is too wonderful for us to accommodate. The sheer immensity of it is too vast to fit into our narrow way of thinking. We just can’t believe it."
How the Infinite Mind Works
In 1890, Harvard psychologist William James described human consciousness in terms of five basic principles. When he wrote his classic textbook, Principles of Psychology, in which he introduced these five principles, James had not yet discovered the infinite mind. Only towards the end of his life did he acknowledged that there was much more to human consciousness than the finite mind. In one of his last works, he wrote: "I have no doubt whatever that most people live, whether physically, intellectually, or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness...much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger." James added that "we all have reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream."
When he first developed his principles, however, James was operating
under the assumption that the finite mind represents the whole of human consciousness.
It is not surprising, then, that his principles set forth in 1890 describe
only the workings of the finite mind. Had he been able to continue the line
of investigation that occupied his later years, James eventually would have
questioned how well these five principles describe the infinite mind. He
would have discovered that the infinite mind operates so differently from
the finite mind that none of his five principles pertain to it. By default,
then, James’s principles tell us a great deal about the way the infinite
mind works by describing how it does not work. Let’s compare the infinite
mind and the finite mind with respect to each of these five principles:
1) Subjectivity. According to James, your finite mind is subjective, meaning that it has two distinct qualities that make it personal to you:
a) It belongs uniquely to you. Nobody else could ever share your exact experience, even if they could be in the same place at the same time as you.
b) You are the subject of your conscious experience . In other words, you are conscious of objects and events only as they appear in relation to yourself.
James wrote about subjectivity: "The universal conscious fact is not ‘feelings and thoughts exist,’ but ‘I think’ and ‘I feel’." In other words, the finite mind is personal because the concept of I plays an integral role in your conscious experience.
The infinite mind, however, exists in the absence of all concepts--even the concept of I. Once the I is removed, your conscious experience stops being subjective. The infinite mode is impersonal in the sense that it fails to make a distinction between you and me, us and them, subject and object, and so on. According to Sogyal Rinpoche, the absence of these distinctions in the infinite mind allows you to get "a sense of inner expansiveness, a direct knowledge of the...interdependence of all things, and that vivid and generous humor that is the hallmark of freedom."
2) Change. When consciousness functions at the level of thoughts as it does in the finite mind, it undergoes constant change as the filtering mechanism we call attention wanders from one thought to the next. "Within each personal consciousness, thought is always changing," wrote James. "No state [of consciousness] once gone can recur and be identical with what it was before." The Buddhist term impermanence aptly describes the condition of constant fluctuation that happens in the finite mind.
The finite mind is impermanent in that individual thoughts rush by our attention and appear fleetingly in the spotlight of our conscious experience, only to be replaced by the next thought in this never-ending dance. The finite mind’s contents are continuously changing as certain thoughts move out of consciousness and others replace them. According to Sogyal Rinpoche, this constant flow of thoughts raises some interesting questions: "If everything...changes, then what is really true? Is there something behind the appearances, something boundless and infinitely spacious, in which the dance of change and impermanence takes place?"
In the infinite mind, there is no flow of thoughts because individual thoughts do not exist. This mind is a pure experience of wholeness that can be described as constant, timeless, and unlimited. The principle of change that drives our conscious experience in the finite mind simply has no place in the infinite mind.
Sogyal Rinpoche draws an analogy in which the infinite mind is like the sky and the finite mind is like clouds. Although clouds are in constant motion, the sky itself never changes. This is obvious when you take a plane ride. Even the thickest blanket of storm clouds is easily transcended, and up above these clouds is nothing but clear blue sky. "Like the empty sky it has no boundaries/Yet it is right here, ever serene and clear" writes poet Yung-chia.
3) Continuity. Although James identified continuity as a characteristic of the finite mind, he also recognized that this mind is not truly continuous; its activity can be interrupted by sleep, coma and other changes in consciousness. From an internal perspective, however, the experience appears to be continuous. For instance, when you wake up in the morning, you are still the same person, with the same identity and memories you had when you went to sleep the night before. Your conscious experience in the finite mode picks up pretty much where it left off, and so you have a feeling of continuity, even though there is presumably a time-gap in between. "Even where there is a time-gap," wrote James, "the consciousness after it feels as if it belonged together with the consciousness before it, as another part of the same self."
In this respect, the infinite mind is very different; there are no time-gaps because it is perfectly continuous and cannot be disrupted by any occurrence. The infinite mind is not a condition of consciousness that can be entered or exited. Rather, it exists as an ongoing backdrop to all of our conscious experience. As Alan Watts explains, "knowledge of the infinite may be compatible with all possible states of mind, feeling and sensation; [such] knowledge is an inclusive, not an exclusive, state of consciousness."
4) Intentionality. One of the more obscure meanings of the word intend is "to point to something." In this sense, the finite mind is intentional because it uses thoughts to point to or refer to something--either objects or events. James stated that consciousness "appears to deal with objects independent of itself." Nobody can be conscious, wrote James, without being conscious of something.
By the end of his life, James had changed his mind on this point quite dramatically, concluding that not all forms of consciousness require contents. In his later works, he wrote, "There are two ways of knowing things, knowing them immediately or intuitively, and knowing them conceptually or representatively." Of these two ways of knowing, he added, only the latter deals with mental content in the form of thought. "To know immediately, then, or intuitively," James stated, "is for mental content and object to be identical."
Here, James acknowledges a way of knowing that does not involve thoughts or thinking. This is the knowledge of the infinite mind. Since there are no thoughts in the infinite mind, there are no distinctions to be made between subject and object, knower and known. The only knowledge that can be found in this mind is a direct experience of wholeness. And wholeness cannot be known as an object independent of anything else because by its very nature it is completely and absolutely indivisible. As hard as you may try, you cannot break it down or compare it to anything else because wholeness encompasses all things. In the words of the Indian master Shankara:
It cannot...be denoted by words which signify a category of things. Nor can it be denoted by quality, for it is without qualities: nor yet by activity because it is without activity...Neither can it be denoted by relationship for it is "without a second" and is not the object of anything but is own self. Therefore it cannot be defined by word or idea.
Intentionality does not apply to the infinite mind because our conscious experience of this mind cannot be about anything--especially not about wholeness--because we can only know about objects that are distinct or apart from ourselves . For us to be conscious of wholeness in the same way that we are conscious of a thought, we would have to draw a boundary around wholeness, which is impossible.
5) Selectivity. When it comes to the finite mind, our consciousness is pretty limited. We can only keep track of so many thoughts at the same time. In fact, some psychologists say that we can only be aware of one thought at a time. Because of this limitation, we set priorities to determine which thoughts are worthy of consciousness and which ones we can ignore. That’s the selective function of attention: it filters out irrelevant information and only allows the most important or salient thoughts to enter our awareness. "But we do far more than emphasize things, and unite some, and keep others apart," James observed. "We actually ignore most of the things before us."
The infinite mind does not have any kind of selective mechanism that decides which thoughts to ignore because there are no thoughts to ignore. In the infinite mind, the selective function of attention is replaced by a receptive function. This receptivity, according to Arthur Deikman of the University of San Francisco, emphasizes "intake of the environment rather than manipulation." Deikman points out that receptivity is not necessarily passive: "‘Letting it’ is an activity, but a different activity than ‘making it’."
The Creative Power of the Infinite Mind
All this talk about the infinite mind may sound like the kind of esoteric stuff that a mystic might contemplate while sitting on a mountain top. But make no mistake about it; the infinite mind has enormous relevance to our everyday lives. In fact, knowing how the infinite mind works may be one of the most practical things you will ever learn, because this knowledge can give you access to a tremendous amount of creative power. By creative power, I mean the capacity not just to create great works of art or scientific theories, but also to bring about positive changes in your life. This power begins with the ability to form new thoughts--ideas and insights that can be turned into a tangible course of action leading to the results you want.
Scientists who study the creative process claim that all creativity stems from the finite mind, and that this mind generates new thoughts simply by combining and arranging existing thoughts in new ways. According to this view, the finite mind is like a recycling plant where old thoughts become the raw material for new ideas and insights. But there is a basic flaw in this way of thinking, since it doesn’t really tell us where creativity comes from. Even if new thoughts do arise from old ones, at some point in the distant past there had to have been an original thought in someone’s mind. Even if there has been only one original thought in human history from which all other thoughts emerged, we are still left pondering how this first thought came into being.
The answer has been known for thousands of years. If you look back to the creation myths of ancient civilizations, you will find detailed descriptions of the the universe’s creation process. These myths are not simply stories of events that may have happenned sometime in the distant past; they are actually a roadmap of the creative process that is taking place right now within our own minds.
Virtually all creation myths describe a series of events through which the finite emerges from the infinite. In his classic work on comparative mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell gives several examples of such myths, including: a Maori creation chant depicting the process by which formlessness takes form; the Kabbalistic notion that the creation occurs as a series of nine emanations from the face of the divine; and the view set forth by ancient Indian philosophers that an infinite void condenses into the five elements of the universe, each of which gives rise to one of the five senses.
Campbell writes that "all the visible structures of the world--all things and beings--are the effects of a ubiquitous power out of which they rise, which supports and fills them during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must ultimately dissolve." The important point in this statement is that all of creation, including human creativity, arises from the same source. Campbell calls it a "ubiquitous power" and describes it as limitless, immeasurable, undefinable and indivisible. As he explains, the real source of creative power must be infinite, because finite things cannot give rise to each other.
Scientists and Zen masters alike have expressed this idea that human creativity comes from an infinite source. For instance, physicist David Bohm refers to this source as "the immeasurable" and explains why anything measurable or definable, including all of human thought, has to emerge from this source. "Original and creative insight within the whole field of measure is the action of the immeasurable," writes Bohm in Wholeness and the Implicate Order . "For when such insight occurs, the source cannot be within ideas already contained in the field of measure but rather in the immeasurable, which contains the essential formative cause of all that happens in the field of measure."
Sogyal Rinpoche refers to the source of creative power as "mysterious" because it exists beyond the scope of thought: "Each individual act and manifestation of creativity, whether it is in music, art, or poetry, or indeed in the moments and unfoldings of scientific discovery, as many scientists have described, arises from a mysterious ground of inspiration and is mediated into form by a translating and communicating energy."
D. T. Suzuki observes that the process described in creation myths "is not historical, not accidental, not at all measurable. It goes on continuously without cessation, with no beginning, with no end. It is not an event of yesterday or today or tomorrow, it comes out of timelessness, of nothingness, of Absolute Void...in an absolute present."
When visionaries talk about the creative process, they invariably describe the role that the infinite mind plays in it. Some speak of the infinite mind as a basic or essential part of themselves. "During the process of artistic creation, man descends into the primordial elements of life," observed Mary Wigman, a pioneer of modern expressive dance. "He reverts to himself to become lost in something greater than himself, in the immediate, indivisible essence of life."
Others refer to the infinite mind as unknown or mysterious. William Zorach, the traditionalist sculptor and author of Art is My Life, viewed his own creative process as a "journey into the unknown regions." French poet and adventurer Arthur Rimbaud used similar language: "I want to be a poet, and I am working to make myself a visionary...to arrive at the unknown ...through a long, a prodigious and rational disordering of all my senses." For D. H. Lawrence, the creative process that gave rise to his prose and his poetry involved "touching the unknown, the real unknown, the unknown unknown."
Albert Einstein saw the infinite mind as an impenetrable mystery and insisted that it was the source of his greatest ideas and discoveries. "The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious," he claimed. "It was the experience of mystery--even if mixed with fear--that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms--it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this sense alone, I am a deeply religious man."
Religious themes appear consistently in visionaries’ accounts of the creative process. This is not surprising, given that they recognize the infinite mind as the source of their creative power and also as a level of reality transcending all boundaries and all thoughts. Consider, for example, the language used by two great artists to describe their creative experiences. Henri Matisse, whose expressive and colorful paintings made him one of the most influential painters of the Twentieth Century wrote, "An emptiness appears--and I become no more than the spectator of what I’m doing." And abstract painter Kasimir Malevich is quoted as saying, "Empty space is a place where man wishes to find asylum and save himself from things and instruments...In this empty space he wishes to stand outside views, images, and conceptions, outside struggle and existence which has shattered into little pieces like ice that hinders his movements, pushing him in different directions...He seeks spaciousness...he will find a location that is without path..."
Both men refer to the infinite mind in terms of emptiness--a fundamental notion of Tibetan Buddhism--although neither of them lived in an era when the spiritual ideas and practices of Tibet would have had any influence on them. Their descriptions of emptiness bear a striking resemblance to traditional Buddhist teachings such as the following passage by the Dalai Lama:
"There are two levels of reality. One level is the empirical, phenomenal and relative level that appears to us, where functions such as causes and conditions, names and labels, and so on can be validly understood. The other is a deeper level of existence...which is often technically referred to as ‘emptiness’...Emptiness is the ultimate nature of reality in the sense that it is the mere absence of the inherent nature, or reified projection, that we impute on reality."
The infinite mind gives us access to this deeper level of existence by allowing us to movement beyond the limits imposed on our experiences by our finite minds. Visionaries see the ability to transcend these limitations as a key ingredient of creative power. In his 1914 treatise, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky wrote that artistic expression is "a complex but definitive movement above and beyond" all restrictions associated with thought and the act of thinking. To create inspired works of art, Kandinsky claimed, "It must become possible to hear the whole world as it is without representational interpretation."
Of all the thoughts that occupy our awareness, our self-concept is the biggest obstacle preventing each of us from accessing our creative power. The reason is simple: We have expectations for ourselves, based on our self-concept, that define who we are and what we do. Sometimes we define ourselves too narrowly, not leaving room for the exploration of new talents and achievements. Visionaries argue that one of the most important functions of the infinite mind is to help us transcend these self-imposed limitations. For instance, Kandinsky maintained that the infinite mind was the source of his creative power because it "allowed [him] to live outside of space and time so that [he] was no longer aware of [himself]." Andrew Wyeth, whose paintings have been described by art critics as having "an unreal, visionary quality," agreed that self-transcendence is a key ingredient of creative power. "When I paint," he said, "I try to obliterate Andy Wyeth."
Through the infinite mind, we are also able to transcend the beliefs and expectations that limit our sense of what is possible. Italian philosopher and historian Benedetto Croce, who is known for his philosophy of the spirit, believed creative power requires "the absence of distinction between reality and unreality." This absence allows new possibilities to unfold--even those that oppose our most basic ideas of how the world works. According to psychologist Carl Jung, the infinite mind can free us not only of our most firmly-held beliefs but also of our judgments of what is good or desirable. The tendency to evaluate and criticize leads us to close doors prematurely on new ideas rather than giving them a fair shot. The reason the infinite mind is critical to our creative power, says Jung, is that it places no expectations of any kind on how things are supposed to be. Jung, who introduced the notion of a collective unconscious to the field of psychology, viewed the infinite mind as "a boundless expanse full of unpredictable uncertainty, with no apparent inside and no outside, no here and no there, no mine or thine, no good and no bad." In this boundless expanse, all things are possible, and they are also accepted without judgment.
The basic message shared by each of these visionaries is that creative power originates in the infinite mind because this is the one part of ourselves that transcends all thoughts, expectations, belief, and judgments. The creative process, as visionaries describe it, begins with an act of transcendence. There is no way to create something new, they claim, without leaving the old ways of thinking behind. The ancient Roman philosopher, Plotinus, conveyed this idea when he described the creative process as "the liberation of your mind from its finite consciousness." When this liberation occurs, we gain entry into a realm where all things are possible. This is the realm of the infinite mind.
One of the great Romantic poets, William Wordsworth, paints a verbal picture of the infinite mind that captures its creative power as well as anyone has ever been able to do. He wrote:
There I beheld the emblem of a mind
That feeds upon infinity, that broods
Over the dark abyss, intent to hear
Its voice issuing forth to silent light,
In one continuous stream; a mind sustained
By recognitions of transcendent power.
In this verse, the poet describes a mind that "feeds upon infinity" and that issues forth a "continuous stream" of creative energy. This energy stream is interpreted by the finite mind as a flow of thoughts, although the infinite mind does not make such distinctions. The flow of energy within the infinite mind has never been disrupted by thoughts and never will be. As Wordsworth observes, this mind remains fully immersed in its own "transcendent power"--the power that comes from formlessness and that gives rise to all form, including the thoughts that make change possible.
The Not-So-Hidden Creator
My high school English teacher was a former stage actress who had a penchant for the dramatic. When I turned in an essay that apparently pleased her, she wrote across my paper in bold red letters, "You have been hiding your light under a bush!" These words have stayed with me throughout the years, perhaps because of how accurately they capture the human condition. It does seem that many of us hide our light under a bush—especially when it comes to our creative power.
The visionaries you’ve heard from in this chapter have described the infinite mind as a limitless source of power that exists within each of us. You may find it hard to believe that such a thing even exists. After all, how could something as vast as the infinite mind be so well-hidden that you could have missed it? If this source of creative power is really there, then why aren’t you able to use it at will? Where is the infinite mind hiding?
In reality, the infinite mind is no more hidden from us than a lighthouse beacon would be if it were tucked away under a tiny shrub. Our inability to detect it in ourselves is most likely a function of the way we are conducting the search. If our attention is constantly jumping from one thought to the next, then of course it won’t allow us to notice something that exists beyond the scope of our thoughts. The infinite mind is only hidden to the extent that the finite mind prevents us from looking beyond our limited thoughts and from "seeing the forest for the trees." Only an illusion keeps us from recognizing the infinite mind and feeling its power. The activity of the finite mind creates a constant smoke screeen that distracts us from our own limitless nature.
This is why we may feel we are unable to access the infinite mind. But this feeling does not reflect what is really going on inside of us, because we all have constant, uninterrupted access to the infinite mind and its creative power. In fact, the infinite mind is impossible to turn off; it’s an ongoing part of all our conscious experience. We seem to be unaware of its presence simply because our thoughts cannot penetrate it. The infinite mind remains outside the scope of our thinking and our language "not because it is too mysterious or sublime or too complex for words," writes Ken Wilber, "but rather because it is too simple, too obvious, too close to be caught in the net of symbols and signs."
The infinite mind is a fundamental fact of our existence. We can’t turn it on or off. Neither can we enter it nor leave it behind. During every single moment of our lives, whether we are awake or asleep, the infinite mind is doing its thing. Alan Watts explains: "Contrary to widespread belief, the knowledge and contemplation of the infinite is not a state of trance, for because of the truth that there is no opposition between the infinite and the finite, knowledge of the infinite may be compatible with all possible states of mind, feeling, and sensation. [This] knowledge is an inclusive, not an exclusive, state of consciousness."
Given that the infinite mind is the source of all our creative power and that it never stops—not even for a moment—we wonder why so few of us are really able to make full use of this power. The problem is really a simple one: Our creative power is decided, in the end, by our ability to generate new thoughts that affect our lives and the lives of those around us. But the infinite mind does not give us thoughts; it produces an undifferentiated stream of energy that we have to break down and interpret. The finite mind’s job is to translate this energy into thought forms, but the finite mind is often too occupied with existing thoughts to process anything new. The finite mind has to be receptive to the output of the infinite mind in order for new thoughts to be generated. Here is where the challenge lies: Timing must be perfect for the finite mind to be able to receive what the infinite mind has to offer. Only when the proper link is established between our two minds can we really tap into our creative power.
Visionary Voices: Richard Utt
Over the past twenty years, Richard Utt has developed and perfected an extraordinary system for identifying and correcting imbalances in the body. This system, which he calls Applied Physiology, integrates ideas from kinesiology, Chinese medicine and electrical theory with impressive results. Richard has used Applied Physiology with clients who are paralyzed with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and spinal injuries; in a majority of these cases, he has restored at least partial mobility in muscles that appeared permanently damaged. Every now and then, a client who was never supposed to walk again, according to doctors, will get up out of a wheelchair and walk out of the room after a session with Richard.
The discoveries that allowed Richard to develop his system of Applied Physiology did not come easily. It all began when he was stationed in Thailand, working as an electrical technician in the Air Force. "I hated being in the Air Force, I was unhappy in my marriage, and I really didn't want to be in Thailand," he recalls. "Then I started getting sick." First, Richard developed what appeared to be severe arthritis. Then, he began to show a variety of other symptoms that were diagnosed as Behcet's syndrome. As his condition worsened, he was given a medical discharge. His doctors prescribed medications to help regulate his blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels, and the intense pain he endured on a daily basis. Eventually, Richard became addicted to these drugs, especially the codeine he took every day to manage the pain.
In December of 1978, Richard was rushed to the hospital after the left side of his body became paralyzed. The doctors monitored his condition for a few days and then released him. After he returned home, Richard took a turn for the worse, and one night he felt his life slipping away. "I called the hospital about three o'clock in the morning," he recalls, "and in sheer, total, and complete panic, I said to the doctor, ‘Help me, help me, I think I'm dying.’ He said, ‘You are dying. Just make arrangements for someone to dispose of your body.’"
The doctor’s lack of compassion infuriated Richard. With his last bit of strength, he pulled the phone out of the wall and threw it across the room. Then he collapsed. "I died that night," Richard maintains. "I went to the other side, saw the white light, and it was the most serene, most peaceful safe place you can imagine. Somehow I came back, even though I would have been happy to die. The next day I woke up and had this peaceful feeling."
He began to notice a change in himself. "When I was a little kid, I had this feeling that I was going to be the best in the world at something. I forgot all about that feeling as an adult, but then the morning after I died, that feeling came back to me and I asked myself, ‘How did I lose this?’ It was the first time in many years that I had felt that way."
Also, Richard sensed himself becoming more open to new opportunities, which quite literally began to knock on his door. "Answers started appearing. I didn't even have to look for them; they were just there." A neighbor who had heard of Richard’s illness dropped off a brochure about naturopathic medicine. After reading it, Richard knew this was something that could help him. He got in touch with a naturopathic doctor who also practiced kinesiology. Over the next three years, Richard had three treatment sessions a day with this doctor, five days a week. He began his own self-directed course in kinesiology, reading the doctor's books while sitting in the waiting room and using each treatment session as an opportunity to ask questions about kinesiology.
At the same time, Richard was working to overcome the addictions he had developed to prescription drugs. "A fellow who worked at the VA hospital made these autogenics (self-hypnosis) tapes for me. I was supposed to listen to them two or three times a day, but partly because I was going through such heavy withdrawals, I was listening to the tapes all the time. In my anger with my doctor, I had gone cold turkey off the codeine and the other medications I was taking. The tapes helped me through my withdrawals."
Richard played the tapes 10-12 hours a day for the next six months. "As I listened to these tapes, more and more realizations started to take place. This was the key that helped me understand about going into that place of nothingness, of all possibility, where all knowledge is."
Richard had made his first discovery of the infinite mind. "I stumbled upon it accidentally. But the more I learned to let go, the more this place of all possibility became available to me. That's what the great Eastern masters are talking about: letting go of thought. When I think of the state of mind I was in back then, it was so mellow, not attached to anything, and my mind was totally relaxed."
The more time Richard spent in this state of mind, the more he was able to attain positive results in his life. His health improved, he was able to rid himself of his drug addiction, and he started having important realizations about the body’s capacity for healing--realizations that eventually led him to develop his system of Applied Physiology. When Richard noticed that the intense experiences he was having were also putting him in touch with his own creative power, he decided that he to find a way to make the most of that power. Each time Richard surrendered his thoughts and immersed himself in the infinite, he would treat the experience as an opportunity to be creative. "The key to doing that," he explains, "is that you need to have a question in mind when you go that place of all possibility. If you go there with no question, you get this frustrating sense that you had access to all the answers in the world but you couldn't do anything about it. If you don't have something specific to ask for, you will come out of it with nothing."
As well as anyone I have ever met, Richard Utt understands the infinite mind and its role in the creative process. Although he had to undergo serious hardship to get there, Richard managed to discover the source of his creative power and to realize the importance of surrender as a means of accessing this source. The results he has attained have been impressive. "Over the years," he says, "many things have come to me in these states, which I can get to by daydreaming, or when I'm just getting up in the morning, or even when I'm going to the bathroom. At those moments, when I surrender, ideas come to me completely intact." In the next chapter, you will learn exactly what it takes to gain access to your infinite mind.