Creativity and wisdom go hand in hand.  As Hildegard puts it, “there is wisdom in all creative works.”  In medieval Europe, when the university was invented, Wisdom was named Queen of the Sciences and Queen of the University.  All science was to direct itself to wisdom. 

Wisdom, with David and Abraham beside her, supports the Creator. Artist unknown; from the Stammheim Missal, c. 1160-1170 CE. Public Domain under the Getty’s Open Content Program. On Wikimedia Commons.

When Thomas Aquinas, received his chair in theology at the University of Paris, it was the practice at the time that a new master deliver a formal inaugural lecture.  He chose as his topic: Wisdom.

Wisdom, Aquinas teaches, “is manifest in creatures” and rules the cosmos.  Wisdom has four tasks to perform including revealing the mysteries of the Source of all things; producing creation “like an artist births art”; restoring creation; and perfecting creation. 

Wisdom is “of the heart” and is given us “on loan”—no one owns or possesses it and no one culture owns or possesses wisdom.  Wisdom comes from the prophets and accompanies justice and while hidden and mysterious, nevertheless we all participate in it.

Years ago, I was asked to give a series of four lectures at the University of Vancouver and while I was free to choose the subjects of three of the lectures my opening topic was assigned: “Wisdom and the University.”  I sweated over that talk until the last minute when I decided to tell the truth. 

The Fountain of Wisdom, on the left of the Arch of the Centuries honoring Thomas Aquinas. University of Santo Tomas, Sampaloc, Manila, The Philippines. Photo by Kris Carillo on Flickr

My opening line was this: “Talking about wisdom in the university today is like talking about chastity in a brothel.”  With that I analyzed just why the modern university has banished wisdom—the banishment of the cosmos due to mechanistic science, the banishment of the feminine, the banishment of the heart and of creativity and more.  A lively discussion ensued.

Wisdom cares about the cosmos and justice—she is a “friend of the prophets.”  But she is also about joy—the Book of Wisdom says: “Once you have grasped her, never let her go.  In the end, she will transform herself into pure joy.” 

Creativity brings joy with it.  That is my experience in working with inner city teenagers making their movies and rap and poetry.  Joy ensues.

If You Give a Child a Word— spoken art | Brandon Sanders and Mikeala Miller performed an original poem around a single word they each chose that represented their own spirit, their hopes, dreams and vision for their future. | TEDxYouth@FtWorth Uploaded to YouTube by TEDx Talks

The Chandogya Upanishad of Hinduism teaches:

Where there is creating, there is progress.  Where there is no creating, there is no progress; Know the nature of creating.  Where there is joy, there is creating.  Know the nature of joy.  Where there is the Infinite, there is joy.

Eckhart says:

Human beings should be communicative and emanative with all the gifts they have received from God….People who do not bestow on others spiritual things and whatever bliss that is in them have never been spiritual.

“Dancers, Itinga, Brazil.” Photo by Vinicius Vilela from Pexels 

This is strong language demanding we honor our creativity—and encourage others to. He goes on:

People are not to receive and keep them for themselves alone, but they should share themselves and pour fourth everything they possess in their bodies and souls as far as possible, and whatever others desire of them.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 245, 247

Banner Image: “I’ve been driving all over Los Angeles…and stumbled upon a parking garage…that was floor to ceiling covered in murals. A variety of styles, a variety of artists, and a variety of emotions. I love how a dark place can be transformed by the use of bright colors and that this shot represents people of different styles and backgrounds coming together.” Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Do you see your creativity as a mandate, as Eckhart does, to give your gifts to others?  Do you also see the joy in creativity that both Eckhart and the Upanishads promise?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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3 thoughts on “Creativity, Wisdom and Joy”

  1. Avatar

    I just love the upanishads
    In Sanskrit,
    We have two selves
    these two selves are called jiva and Purusha.
    Jiva is the individual ego, the whole bundle of samskaras that we call our personality”
    “Purusha is our real Self, simply another name for the Atman.”
    “Purusha, “greater than the greatest”: no longer the self-centered, transient ego-process, but a powerful force from which all life benefits. This is the real meaning of the title which an adoring India gave to Mahatma Gandhi”
    : maha means great, Atman is the Self.”
    “To try and discover this Self, we have to take up a kind of inward (spelunking) ie the exploration of caves,) and make our way into the “secret cave of the heart”: the regions of the mind.”
    “Descending into the unconscious in meditation” perhaps takes many lifetimes ?
    “In fact, all of life springs from the same root. The Self in each of us is one and the same. For this Self, different names are given in different traditions. Christian mystics call it the Christ within. When a person ceases to identify with his perishable self, they say he has become Christ-conscious. Saint Paul says, “I was dead, and yet I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Saint Catherine of Siena says daringly, “My ‘I’ is Christ, nor do I recognize any other ‘I’ than He.” In the same way, Hindu mystics often speak of Krishna-consciousness, or say simply that such a person has attained moksha, complete freedom from the conditioning of time, space, and circumstance. The Buddhists call the same state nirvana, from nir “out” and vana “to blow.” The ego has been extinguished; there is no more shadow to be mistaken for the real. But nothing appeals to me more deeply than the terms Atman and Purusha – the Self, the Person within.”


  2. Avatar

    “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.” Albert Einstein

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