CREATION: The Bridge Between Worlds

Statue with Sturgeon K. Ross 2018

CREATION: The Bridge Between Worlds
Reflection on Theology in Art 
by Katrina Ross


It was a miracle. First there was nothing and then out of nowhere-- there was something. A light came in from all sides, and created shadows. Edges were formed and then shapes. A pit that felt empty and then a filling up. A clarity and then a void. The flow of light and shadow moved in and out and all around. 

And then there was mind.

When asked about the concept of God, my friend who is a chemist said, "The world comes into being by the creator through science everyday." I think she’s right.

I’ve been reading about psychoanalysis and object relations for graduate school. Holy mackerel are we complicated. Many of the theories suggest that a willingness to let things arise from the unconscious can restore a sense of wholeness in people. Fragmented parts emerge from the depths and are integrated back into the whole. 
The experience of a bounded, continuous self is how we are re-formed out of a state of fragmentation, and it is what allows us to feel that we’re one person. Ideally the child is provided an environment in which they develop a self that is intact and not dis-integrated. Parents have so many opportunities to mess this up, but what I find truly miraculous is all the creative ways that humanity is able to bring these shattered pieces back together again--- as seen in every wonder that we conceive of from poetry to mathematics. I guess that’s why I wanted to go to seminary.
Many artists, as the interpersonal psychoanalyst Donnel Stern points out, perceive their process for making art as coming from somewhere beyond themselves. Mozart described it as “merely copying onto the page a piece of music which already existed in its entirety in his mind. About his ideas he wrote, ‘whence and how they come I do not know; nor can I force them’” [1]  In Stern's theory, these ideas that seem to arise out of nowhere are "unformulated experiences" which could not be integrated in the past, and which start to take shape in the artist’s conscious mind because of a willingness to let them arise from the unconscious.

Artists are amazingly capable of addressing their own emotional needs-- recreating the world when necessary. This remarkable aptitude may be commensurate with one's curiosity and openness to uncertainty. As Stern writes, “The ideal patient is curious about everything. To be this curious requires the tolerance of enormous uncertainty, almost constantly.” [1] Curiosity is a type of allowing, similar to the process of free association in classical psychoanalysis. The patient (or artist) allows things to bubble up from beyond the conscious mind, and those things can then be examined in a semi-conscious way.

This practice (both psychoanalytic and artistic) involves noticing mundane thoughts, feelings, ruminations, preoccupations, daydreams etc. and then allowing symbols or metaphors to be created, giving form to the experience of the unconscious dimension. It is not a fully articulated process, but a kind of emotional compass which provides insights about what's happening below the surface. [1]
“The whole universe story has come into being because God is a hidden treasure who longs to be known. And the way—the only way—this knowing can be released is in the dance of unity-in-differentiation which is the native language of love.”
-Cynthia Bourgeault [2]

A friend of mine who is an artist said the other day that, in her process, something “wants” to be made real through her. Using mainly found and recycled materials, she says it doesn’t work to consciously manipulate the work herself. In her experience, the materials “tell” her they want to be together, and what they want to become. 

As many artists say that the art they make is just the transcribing of ideas that come to them from somewhere beyond themselves, I think the creative drive is a kind of medium for the idea. The artist is the one the idea chooses to carry it into the formulated world. These ideas are non-verbal recollections of experiences we need to examine, bubbling up as symbols that want to be reconfigured-- hoping to cross a bridge from the realm of ideas into the realm of the articulated.





[1] Lewis Aron and Stephen A. Mitchell, Relational Psychoanalysis: The Emergence of a Tradition (Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1999), 77-180 and 459-492.
[2] Cynthia Bourgeault, Love Is the Answer. What Is the Question?: Selected Writings and Talks 2016-2018 (Northeast Wisdom: 2018), 4-6.

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