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Simple Settings for Spiritual Growth – Part 4: Creativity & Mystery

This is part 4 of 4! Click here for Part 1, here for Part 2, here for Part 3!

  • The last post I shared was about the Soul, which is one of the main subjects we’ll address in my upcoming class about the “Soul and subconscious.” So what exactly is the subconscious? And why explore it?

  • This is another fascinating topic I encounter daily as a spiritual guide and writer. Here’s a blog post about 2 places where we can learn about our subconscious: exploring our creativity and exploring the mysteries of our world

  • And to do a deeper dive into your subconscious mind, and learn how it’s nudging you toward your Soul’s callings, join us at my upcoming class... and bring a friend!

  • Our Wildest Dreams: The Transformative Power of Your Soul and Subconscious

  • Fri, March 17, 6:30 - 8:00 pm CST, hosted by Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality (and online)

  • In this introductory class, you'll get to explore the meaning in dreams and other numinous experiences you've had. And I’ll share about my approach to this art of interpretation, so you can keep practicing this yourself!


hedge maze that looks like the cortex of the brain

Everyone has the capacity for creativity. This is not some cliché here about everyone being an artist or craftsperson (which is also true, but this was covered under Calling & Vocation). Creativity is about so much more than art, craft, and the tangible outputs we associate with these.

I’d argue creativity is doing or learning anything that is spontaneous, novel, playful, or immersive. Whenever our hearts, minds, and bodies are engaged in unpredictability, curiosity, ideation, or problem-solving, that’s creativity. We don’t need to be creating any thing in particular, as long as we’re creating connections of some kind, even if just between our own neurons.

By that definition we’re all already engaging in creativity! Anytime we play some kind of game. Anytime we make a new friend. Anytime we have to figure out in some activity how to get from A to B. Anytime we study something. Anytime we try something new. These are the simple things we can do to continue lifelong growth, and each one is an act of gratitude for the unbelievable gift that is our human intelligence.

two people shaping and painting a clay pot, a metaphor for creativity

All that said, I still encourage all people to pursue something traditionally labeled as an art or craft. In our sedentary society, it’s only too easy to confine our astounding intelligence to interactions with mere screens and furniture.

Our brains have evolved in tandem with our dexterous hands, intricate sense organs, and the rest of our restless bodies, and to stay healthy they all need to keep evolving together. Besides, there’s an immense and irreplaceable satisfaction that comes from handling, making, and transforming physical things, whether durable – like a bicycle or drawing – or ephemeral – like music or a meal.

On top of it all, by exercising our capacity to create, we are participating in the Divine act of Creation itself – bringing into being something real and beautiful.

Whatever you do, it’s OK to feel inhibitions or feel like a novice – in fact, according to our expanded definition, that might make the act of creating all the more creative, considering all the new connections you’ll be making!

kid painting a picture, a metaphor for creativity

If you struggle to think of something to pursue, a helpful step can be reflecting on activities you enjoyed when you were younger. Your younger self was so creative that you were able to embrace the learning adventure that comes with being a novice!

Another option is to pick something to study – dive deep on a topic you find interesting, become an amateur expert, and see where it leads. Pretty soon you might find a desire to connect the theoretical with the practical, which is often how people become collectors, restorers, and patrons of creative works.

Another suggestion is to pay attention to the edge of your consciousness, which is the topic of the next and final simple setting…


Skeptics, I invite you to bear with me.

entering a wormhole, a metaphor for the mystery of consciousness

Though science has helped us gain knowledge about many aspects of our universe, much of it remains mysterious and wide open to spiritual wondering.

Consider the question, “Why are we here?” It seems there must be a Being or Consciousness, a Someone or Something – a Spirit – which created our reality, is bigger than anything, and is beyond understanding. It seems too that this Spirit inhabits each being and thing to some degree, constituting our Souls and Sacredness. We could leave it simply at that static characterization. Except for the fact that we and our world are anything but static.

Our reality is profoundly dynamic, rife with change and movement and conversation between the various inhabitants of it, not all of which can be easily explained. Maybe somehow:

  • Spirit, Soul, and the Sacred communicates with and acts on us beneath our awareness...?

  • Between our human intelligence and Spirit’s cosmic intelligence, there are others intelligences at work...?

  • There are languages and forces that influence reality subtly yet potently...?

Flammarion Woodcut, transiting the earth and heavens, a metaphor for the mystery of consciousness

As you may have guessed, I am not someone who dismisses the possibility of the “supernatural,” e.g. magic, prayer, ghosts, miracles, angels, spirits, “energy,” etc. To my mind there have been, across too many cultures and too many ages, too many common experiences reported – including from me and of other credible people – that defy apparent materialist, “natural” explanation. But for the sake of argument, I will offer to meet skeptics in the middle.


In any case, therein lies mystery, ever-open to our wondering.

Keeping our conversation met in the middle – we may ask questions like, “What’s the deal with dreams?” How come they’re so weird and surreal, yet sometimes movingly symbolic and emotional, and sometimes spookily revelatory or predictive? It almost seems like our consciousnesses are speaking a language or accessing a force beyond our waking control!

Same goes for daydreams and imagination – even our lucid minds have such wacky and amazing thoughts, it’s like they can visit another world! And how many of us have started out dubious of something like the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs typology, tarot, astrology, the zodiac, or the chakras? Only to one day actually give them a shot, and then find they make a lot of sense! In a compelling, I’ve-found-a-new-hobby kind of way!

photo of the Gua Tewet Tree of Life, cave art of hand outlines in shape of tree

Is it all just nonsense? Just an overindulgence of some evolutionary predisposition to pattern-recognition, just the placebo effect run off the rails?

Or are we really subject to the mystical push and pull of fate and phantoms, other planets and planes? Or, what if, again, we meet in the middle?

What if we all actually understand the world through a shared, subconscious constellation of patterns, originally based on patterns in Nature, inherited and reinforced by our ancestors over millions of years? What if we all know an ancient, common meaning-making language – the language of archetypes?

What is an archetype? It’s an entity or idea so primal that we all recognize it to some degree, bringing up related associations.

amphora Greek pottery with Athena and Hermes

For example, let’s do a thought experiment: Imagine we were to ask everyone around the world to draw two pictures, one for each of the categories “traveler” and “resident.”

When we aggregated all the billions of pictures, we’d maybe see some overlap between the two categories (like both figures being human), but for the most part people would associate specific images with the traveler (like baggage) and other images with the resident (like a home). And there’d be a lot of similarities between people’s responses under each category (lots of folks would draw a home for the resident), no matter who the respondent was or where they live.

That’s because these characters have made similar kinds of appearances in our lives, stories, and art for millions of years. In that sense they are somewhat universal, and thus archetypes. And they’re part of a larger mental and social web of archetypes, which includes every other somewhat-universal category, from the color “red” to number “three” to the idea of “spirituality.”

In a way, our dreams and imaginations (and our art and stories by extension) are drawing from this web to help us understand and influence the world. And the Enneagram, tarot, astrology, and other symbolic systems are attempts – created from our associations with numbers, animals, social roles, astral bodies, parts of the human body, pantheons, etc. – to do the same thing by systematizing aspects of the web of archetypes.

crystal ball on the beach, showing upside-down perspective of sunset and ocean

To the extent that we have qualms with any of these venues for mystery-exploration, we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

We can simply treat them as we would art or a story: not as a quack fortune-telling device or vibration-signal from the heavens, but as something interesting we can curiously interpret ourselves. Less as a claim to “truth,” more as an expression of beauty.

Maybe, like a good movie or painting, one of these archetypes is simply inviting you to look at your world through a different lens, to expand your perspective on life. If you stay open, you might not gain third-eye omniscience, but you might learn something.

If you’re looking for more inspiration around how to integrate creativity and mystery into your life, you can find more resources here on the InVocation blog!

As always, I offer you some reflection questions:

  • How have you been engaging spontaneity, novelty, playfulness, unpredictability, ideation, or problem-solving?

  • How have you been participating in the Divine act of Creation?

  • How have you been remaining open to mystery and wonder?

  • How have you been appreciating our universe as dynamic, our consciousness as wild and complex?

  • How have you been exploring dreams, imagination, archetypes, art, and stories?

  • How would you like to?

Image credits: #1; #2; #3; #4; #5; #6; #7; #8



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