This page includes additional short written bits, essays, articles, book excerpts, diagrams, and links to other sources pertinent to the use of CSPT. Additional theoretical resources can be found on the CST Web site www.CSTHome.org.
Formative Process: Thinking in the language of formative process is new for most people. Below is a chart from The Creative Imperative that ties together creative stages and how they manifest in different kinds of formative processes.
The Creative Cycle
Multiple Intelligences: We aren’t used to thinking in terms of multiple intelligences, and we certainly aren’t used to tying intelligences to stages in creative process. The three pieces below expand on this dynamic picture of cognition. The first piece is a chart that describes how each intelligence takes a unique form with each creative stage and at one particular stage is dominant. The second, excerpted from Hope and the Future, links creative stages, intelligences, and the creative process of writing a book. The third piece, excerpted from The Creative Imperative, looks at the evolution of body intelligence as one example of the unique forms intelligences take with each creative stage (body intelligence is chosen because it is the intelligence we least think of as an intelligence.
Multiple Intelligence Chart
Creative Stages and the book Writing Process
(From Hope and the Future)
Before beginning to write, my sense of the book was murky at best. Creative processes begin in darkness. I was aware that I had ideas I wanted to communicate. But I had only the most beginning sense of just what ideas I wanted to include or how I wanted to address them.
This is creativity’s “incubation” stage. The dominant intelligence is the kinesthetic, body intelligence if you will. It is like I am pregnant, but don’t yet know with quite what. What I do know takes the form of “inklings” and faint “glimmerings,” inner sensings. If I want to feed this part of the creative process, I do things that help me be reflective and connected in my body. I take a long walk in the woods, draw a warm bath, build a fire in the fireplace.
Generativity’s second stage propels the new thing created out of darkness into first light. With the book, I begin to have “insights”—my mind floods with notions about what I might express and possible approaches for expression. Some of these insights take the form of thoughts. Others manifest more as images or metaphors.
In this “inspiration” stage, the dominant intelligence is the imaginal—that which most defines art, myth, and the let’s pretend world of young children. The products of this period in the creative process may appear suddenly—as an “ah-ha,” Archimedes’ “eureka.” Or they may come more subtly and gradually. It is this stage, and this part of our larger sensibility, that we tend to most traditionally associate with things creative.
The next stage leaves behind the realm of first possibilities and takes us into the world of manifest form. With the book, I try out specific structural approaches. And I get down to the hard work of writing, and revising—and writing and revising some more.
This is creation’s “perspiration” stage. The dominant intelligence is different still, more emotional and visceral—the intelligence of heart and guts. It ushers a new tenacity onto creation’s stage. It is here that we confront the hard work of finding right approach and satisfying means of expression. We also confront limits to our skills and are challenged to push beyond them. The perspiration stage tends to bring a new moral commitment and emotional edginess. We must compassionately but unswervingly confront what we have created if it is to stand the test of time.
Generativity’s fourth stage is more concerned with detail and refinement. The book’s basic form is established. But much yet remains to do. Both the book’s ideas and how they are expressed need a more fine-toothed examination.
Rational/material intelligence orders this “finishing and polishing” stage. This period is more conscious and more concerned with esthetic precision than periods previous. It is also more concerned with audience and outcome. It brings final focus to the creative work, offers the clarity of thought and nuances of style needed for effective communication.
Creative expression is often placed in the world at this point. But a further stage (or more accurately, an additional series of stages) remains. It is as important as any of the others—and of particular significance with mature creative process. It varies greatly in length and intensity.
Creative Systems Theory calls this further generative sequence Creative Integration. The process of refinement complete, we can now step back from the work, appreciate it with new perspective. We become better able to recognize the relationship of one part to another. And we become more able to appreciate the relationship of the work to its creative contexts, to ourselves and to the time and place in which is was created. We might call creativity’s integrative stages the seasoning or ripening stages.
Creative Integration forms a complement to the more differentiation-defined tasks of other stages—a second half to the creative process. Creative Integration is about our diverse ways of knowing more consciously working together. It is about learning to apply our intelligences in various combinations and balances as time and situation warrant, and about a growing ability not just to engage the work as a whole, but ourselves as a whole in relationship to it. As wholeness is where we started—before the disruptive birth of new creation—in a certain sense creative integration returns us to where we began. But because change that matters changes everything, this is a point of beginning that has not been before
Try the following:
Play for a moment with the experience of being a young infant suckling at mother’s breast. How do you feel the bodily reality of this? We tend to experience pre-axial reality in two ways, as a connecting into a place deep in the center of us, or if we immerse ourselves deeply in that experience, as a fluidly undifferentiated creatureness that infuses both our own tissues and our experience of the world around us.
Now try being a five or six year old child. When you recapture the living sense of that age, where does your aliveness focus from? In the magical, child-reality of early-axis, aliveness organizes most as a dance along the core of one’s being. There is some separation now, a sparkling curiosity in the eyes set in relation to deeper connecting from the belly, but distinction is still as yet diffuse. Interfaces have a playful permeability.
Then imagine being an adolescent; see how your bodily reality changes. With middle-axis dynamics, our aliveness organizes one layer further out, in the soft tissues and musculature, in the “heart and guts” of things. A clearer differentiation of “Above” from “Below” also takes form; we feel the upper pole of middle-axis reality most in the facial musculature, in the chest, and in the shoulders (“shouldering a burden”), and the lower pole in the intestines and abdominal musculature (“having guts”).
Then try walking around the room as a young adult, and see how both your body, and the room and its contents, change. In late-axis, aliveness organizes even closer to the surface. In addition, the center of balance in the body shifts upward. This is the finishing and polishing stage: appearance becomes ever more important. And truth becomes more and more our ideas about things and the fact of physical objects around us.
If it is part of your experience, you might also explore the body experience of mature adulthood and elderdom. While from the isolated perspective of late-axis culture we often find it hard to think of these parts of one’s life bodily in terms other than loss, in fact, if we live them vitally that are times of rich bodily connection. Here we begin to make room for all these layerings of bodily experience. One aspect of the acceptance that increasingly permeates later years is this process of reintegration.
“I wish you to consider, finally, that all the functions which I attribute to this machine, such as…waking
and sleeping; the reception of light, sounds, odors… the impression of ideas in the memory; the inferior
movements of the appetites and passions…;I desire, I say, that you consider that these functions occur
naturally in this machine solely by the disposition of its organs, not less than the movements of a clock.”
– Rene Descartes Discourse on Method
“…the soul is not more than the body…and the body is not more than the soul.”
At the most basic level, we can think of the bodily aspect of the stages of creative rhythm as simply a progression through a series of psychophysical locales. Btu this is just a first step in understanding. If you were sensitive in doing the preceding exercise, you will have noticed that each stage involved not just different locations of bodily organization, but different feeling qualities in the body and different senses really of what a body is.
Each stage in creative rhythm defines a specific experience of self and world. One part of that experience is who we are as bodies. At different points in the creative cycle we experience who we are bodily in markedly different ways. As I see it, the body in its largest sense, the four-dimensional living body, is the greater whole of these more time-specific bodily realities.
How different these “bodies” are can at first be hard to fathom. When we are alive in a particular layer of our bodily selves, that layer defines our experience of our bodies as a whole. This, living within the late-axis/transitional body of present cultural times, we think of all of the body, not just the surface layers, in the language of anatomy and physiology. Even though we pass briefly through the other realities in any creative cycle, it is hard for us to think about them. The cultural body imposes a necessary amnesia.
I fist began to grapple with these differences when, as a psychiatric resident, I invited a Chinese acupuncturist to come and speak to our resident group. Traditional Chinese medicine is fascinating in that what the healer “sees” is so different from what we Western doctors are trained to observe. To conventional anatomy and physiology, acupuncture meridians make no sense; there is nothing there to dissect, and no obvious relationship to the structure of the nervous system. The only “physical” evidence we can come up with is small conductance changes at the skin surface. Yet acupuncture has very specific effects, and not just in the context of Chinese culture.
At one point in our talking, the Chinese doctor turned to one of the residents-who by now had several large needles stuck in different parts of his body-and commented that the resident had a severe imbalance in his liver. We asked questions about this and a significant thing became apparent. The Chinese doctor was not talking about the liver, as we know it-this largish organ that we evaluate by palpation and liver function tests. The resident’s liver functions values were perfectly normal. But the doctor was clearly concerned about something in the same general locale, and the comments he made about symptoms made sense to the resident. Interestingly, when we talked about he liver in anatomical terms, it seemed as puzzling to the Oriental doctor as his energy notions did to us. It was not just that we had different; in an important sense we were looking at different bodies.
Understanding the early bodily stages with any completeness requires a significant transcendence of our cultural amnesia, but at this point in-depth understanding is less important than a general appreciation for the overall fact of sequence in bodily evolution. Here then let me outline briefly the bodily realities of the creative stages as I understand them, and as words can describe them.
The body of the pre-axial reality we could call variously the creature body, the body as nature, the body as mystery, and the body as oneness. This is the body of the child in the womb, or the infant held close in its mother’s arms. It is the body of the tribes person – hunting, gathering roots, ritually dancing to images of creature deities. The feelings are ancient, diffuse, animistic, instinctual.
The body of early-axis reality we could again call by a number of names: the body as essence, the spirit body, the meditative body, the magical body. In culture, this is the energy body of the acupuncturist or that of the yogi with his prana and chakras. It is the subtle body of the mystic. In the cycle of a lifetime, it is the dream-body experience of the child’s world of symbol and make-believe.
The middle-axis body is the emotional body or visceral/muscular body, what I have referred to s the body of “heart and guts.” Here we are outside the body as essence; this reality is much more personal, impassioned. But it is clearly not the body of anatomy. Neither “heart “ nor “guts” can be found by dissection. This is the body of medieval medicine. Health then was defined by the movement of visceral humors-black bile, blood, phlegm-each with a specific emotional coloring. Words like “phlegmatic and “choleric” are remnants from that time in the cultural body. This is as well the body of adolescence, torn in its passions and emotional allegiances.
The body of late-axis is that with which we are most familiar. This is the body of the assurance of young adulthood. It is the body as a thing; something we try to keep from getting old, that we feed, clothe and exercise. It is the body of “looking good.” From a more upper pole perspective it becomes the body of medical textbooks, Descartes’ body as machine.
And we can speak of a further kind of bodily reality, the integral body. At the midpoint of any cycle we begin to embrace the larger whole of these bodily realities. At midlife, if we have the courage to leave behind the dream of perpetual youth, we find that we begin to “listen” to our bodies in new ways. Often at first it is just a grudging resignation to the fact that we are getting older: if we don’t listen to what our bodies say we hurt ourselves. But, if we move very far into rhythm’s second half, this listening becomes much richer. We begin to notice that when we listen, what we hear is much more than just physicality. More and more it speaks of the whole of us: increasingly, the body is also the soul; we discover that wisdom is simply the ability to hear the body in its full sense, to recognize when responsiveness embraces all the parts of who we are.
In theory, in this era we should be seeing the beginnings of a similarly more integral understanding of the body in the cultural sphere. And this is clearly happening. In this century we have seen the rigid morality of Victorian ties give way to a much less stern posture toward bodily pleasure. More recently we have seen a growing movement in health care toward people being more knowledgeable about their bodies and responsible in their well-being. We have seen growing curiosity about approaching the body in other than just physical ways; interest in Eastern body disciplines, in psychotherapy that acknowledges the body, in the psychology of illness. And we find growing interest in physical activities such as athletics and dance, with and increasing awareness of the richness to be found in approaching them not just as achievement- using the body-but as renewal and communion-things done in, and as, the living body.
ERECT BEING AND THE HEALING
I always wanted,
to the body
where I was born.”