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Creativity and originality: muses and rasas


Hyperspace Clues to the Psychology of the Pattern that Connects in the light of 81 Tao Te Ching insights (Part #11)


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The 9-fold organization of the Tao Te Ching was explored in terms of magic squares (in the accompanying commentary). It might be asked whether there is any possibility that it may also have a 9-fold organization, from an aesthetic perspective, that might in some way be consonant with the mathematical ordering. For a creative person, especially in the arts, the psychological significance of an inner "muse" may well be perceived as essential. A muse might be understood as a catalyst for the connectivity of the "pattern that connects". There is a case therefore for looking at the variety of muses -- presumably eliciting different kinds or qualities of connectivity. In classical Greece and Rome, 9 such goddesses were identified as sources of inspiration in the arts and sciences (see Angeles Arrien. The Nine Muses: a mythological path to creativity. 2000).

Muses and their domains
Muse name Muse domain
Calliope Epic Poetry
Clio History
Erato Love Poetry
Euterpe Music
Melpomene Tragedy
Polyhymnia Sacred Poetry
Terpsichore Dancing
Thalia Comedy
Urania Astronomy

Whilst the nine muses are identified here in terms of aesthetic form, a classical Indian analogue, the nava rasa (or nine sentiments), emphasizes the aesthetic quality in the performing arts (music, dance, drama or poetry) that colour the mind with a particular feeling, sentiment, passion or emotion.

Nava rase and their domains
Rasa name Rasa domain
shringara love, sensual, romantic, erotic
hasya humour, happiness
karuna sympathy, compassion, sadness
raudra / krodha anger, fury
veera / viraam heroism, courage, majesty
bhayanaka / bhaya fear, terror
vibhatsaya / bhibasta disgust
adabhuta wonder, amazement, surprise
shanta peace, serenity, tranquility

Presumably, in some way, such qualities are essential to the experience of the field of consciousness for which the Tao Te Ching supplies marker insights. In music, for example, the structure of each raga -- the main form of Indian classical music -- and the melodic movement within its framework, are governed by definite and extensive rules. The technique of a raga consists in the use of certain fixed notes and microtones to the deliberate exclusion of others. Within this fixed framework, however, there is unlimited scope for improvisation. Rasa literally means juice (recalling the concern with the flow of "creative juices" along certain pathways), but in a musical context, it refers to the mood or sentiment created by a raga. In theory, if every permissible permutation and combination of notes was exploited, it would yield 38,000 ragas -- as it is only about 200 are common [more].

Ramanujan articulated the influences on his thinking explicitly in terms of a goddess, Namakkal, that was the source of his "dreams". Ramanujan's sense of self-identity cannot be usefully said to be centered in four-dimensional space, when his life's preoccupations were of higher dimensionality. In his case, the muse is the catalyst for access to the "music of the spheres". It is the artist's muse that sustains the pattern of connectivity -- the "semantic music" -- essential to creativity. In its absence, the artist is left bereft. Connectivity may in this sense be understood as coming and going -- rising and falling like a tide -- as access to higher dimensionality is gained or lost. One of the charms of learning is acquiring access to such connectivity -- enculturation -- later to be followed by the tragedy of its dissolution ("losing it") with loss of memory and senility.

What indeed is creativity in this context? How might it be defined in terms of mathematical discovery of new patterns of associations -- engendering "semantic flowers" as attractors? From where do they emerge? The term "originality" can also usefully imply a return to an "origin" -- suggesting a sense in which this might, in some measure, be a return to the perspective of 10-dimensional integrity from which perceptible patterns of symmetry emerged.

An aesthetic perspective opens the possibility of the different rasas (or muses) being evoked in various combinations. In the case of the Indian tradition -- through the legend of the Vastu Purusha Mandala -- the 9-fold organization of aesthetic quality is fundamental to marking out a space of 9x9 squares that is the basis of Vastu Vedic architecture and design, notably in defining a courtyard. This might be understood as the projection of a higher dimensional order onto a two-dimensional pattern open to experience. Other square patterns are also used [more] to optimize "energy" distribution according to what is effectively the Vedic equivalent of feng shui (see also B B Puri. Vastu Science for 21 Century, 2003). Such spaces may be walked and experienced in ways that recall early western use of mnemonic architecture (see Frances Yates. The Art of Memory, 1966).

Aesthetically, an individual ("X" in the table below) might then be understood as subject to a confluence (or configuration) of influences in exploring the squares of the space (as indicated, at one moment, by an assumed combination of rasa "mind colourings" in the table below). A given influence might be reinforced if it was conveyed directly through contiguous squares (whether vertically, horizontally, or along a diagonal) and inhibited in the absence of any such direct connectivity -- as illustrated by the coloured squares below. Any "magic square" properties to the confluence would then enhance such influences -- through bringing to bear secondary aesthetic associations (not shown). The space may of course be 2-dimensional in a physical walk, or multi-dimensional in the case of a mind-walk.

Speculative configuration of influences
. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 . . . . . . . . .
2 . . . . . . . . .
3 . . . . . . . . .
4 . . . . . . . . .
5 . . . . . . . . .
6 . . X . . . . . .
7 . . . . . . . . .
8 . . . . . . . . .
9 . . . . . . . . .

In David Engwicht's study of The connection between religion and urban planning, he notes the recognition that in India:

...the vastu-purusha mandala is an image of the laws governing the cosmos, to which men are just as subject as is the earth on which they build. In their activities as builders men order their environment in the same way as once in the past Brahama forced the undefined purusha into a geometric form.... building is an act of bringing disordered existence into conformity with the basic laws that govern it. This can only be achieved by making each monument, from the hermit's retreat to the layout of a city, follow exactly the magic diagram of the vastu-purusha mandala.

A pattern of associations, whether in a conceptual scheme alone or embodied in architecture, might usefully be understood as a receiver of energy -- functioning like an aerial array in response to vibrations of higher dimensionality -- whether spiritual inspiration or the insights received by Ramanujan. The vibrations of music and song may in this way act as a source of invigorating energy, nourishment and coherence.


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