Howard Thurman is strong on the Via Creativa. His powerful book, Deep River and The Negro Spiritual Speaks of Life and Death, unveils the empowerment that music and poetry brought to slaves.
Thurman is talking about the prophetic path of art as meditation and how, when a man surrenders and has now a new center which takes the form of a central demand, then his powers are pooled, are focused, and may be directed to achieve impossible ends. With this surrender one “loses his life and finds it.”
The self is not lost in this process–rather there occurs an irradiation of the self that makes it alive with ‘Godness’ in various ways. There is awakened the desire to be Godlike. This is no vague pious wish, no moist-eyed sentimentality, but rather a robust affirmation of the whole spirit of the man. Thurman calls what happens an “integration” or “creative synthesis.”
One result is moving beyond the fear of death–“death no longer appears as the great fear or specter. The power of death over the individual life is broken.” When we truly resurrect and lose our fear of death, we enter into commitment.
There is no more searching question than this: Under what circumstances would you yield your life with enthusiasm?…That to which man is committed must be of such importance and of such supreme worth to him that in exchange for this sharing his life, his physical existence is of no consequence.
A deeper and more integrated action results from this surrender to the creative God.
The surrender of the self at its center gives to the life a new basis for action. It provides an integrated basis for action. Here at last man has a core of purpose for his life and for his living. [Here one finds a] robust vitality that quickens the roots of personality creating an unfolding of the self that defines, reshapes and makes all things new…. The individual knows that what is happening to him can outlast all things without itself being dissipated or lost.
The surrender carries us beyond our personal agendas to being prophets (Thurman uses the word “martyr”) on behalf of social transformation.
Eckhart too endorses art as meditation.
Whatever can be truly expressed in its proper meaning must emerge from inside a person and pass through the inner form. It cannot come from outside to inside of a person, but must emerge from within.
We all carry this capacity within us. And when we give birth, it is nothing less than giving birth to the son/daughter of God–to the Christ therefore.
Eckhart compares the work of the Holy Spirit, the work of creativity, with the Holy Spirit ‘s work accomplishing Mary’s birthing Jesus. He says every artist must make what is “above” be “within.” Let the work that is above happen “in accordance with the verse ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee’ (Lk. 1:35), that is, so that the ‘above’ may become ‘in.’”
Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Howard Thurman: A Creation-Centered Mystic,” in Creation Spirituality magazine, March/April,1991, pp. 8f.
And Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 407, 409.
Banner Image: Mural, Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, Cambridge, MD. Photo by Kirt Morris on Unsplash
Do you find empowerment through the creativity you bring to life and to work? Can you see this empowerment as birthing the divine or Christ or image of God or Buddha nature in you and into the world?