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I C U: Intrinsic Creative Universality

Abstract:

This research topic began with a broad interest in how ontology (the nature of being and metaphysical relationships) and epistemology (theories of knowledge and truth) relate to current day pedagogy: essentially how we embody and impart knowledge, learn, and expand our individual and collective understanding of being in the world.


Over the course of study, an overview of various learning behaviors and theories led to a more distilled focus into three key areas: that which can be identified as ‘intrinsic’ to an individual, how an authentically ‘individuated’ Self benefits a collective, and the importance of creative potential in the well-being and ultimate survival of Homo Sapiens. I therefore investigate how inner meets and shapes outer in reciprocal relationship, and why creativity emerges as a key element in sustaining the inseparable polarities of ‘I’ and ‘Other’ in successful ecosystems.


Introduction:

After raising three kids and witnessing various aspects of human development as it relates to education and curriculums, it became evident over time that the older a child became, the less creativity they enjoyed in their studies. This had a direct correlation with students’ wellbeing as they slowly lost enthusiasm, stamina, and ultimately emerged from high school like babes in the wood, unsure about who they were and what to do next in the ‘real world’. In my own experience as a ‘creative’, I have seen how easy it is to be steered away from one’s true, authentic self under the conformist pressures of a pro-logic society.


Creativity appears to go hand in hand with well-being, not only because of its direct relationship with personal authenticity and expression, but because it is the ‘crux’ of potentiality. It is the necessary disruptor, catalyst of tipping points, and the asymmetrical ingredient required for sustainable symmetry in all of life’s ecosystems. Oppression or suppression of an individual’s unique selfhood cannot extinguish innate qualities, according to Jung, it can only postpone or transfer what is ultimately inevitable and will seek expression elsewhere regardless of the forces working against it (Mayes, 2005, p. 53). Hence the many people out there experiencing (or causing) depression, abuse, delusion, and other ailments. The well-being of an individual translates to collective well-being by extension because individual lives are not singular, they are integral, interconnected, and consequential. My direct observations as both a parent and throughout my career as an art-maker and arts manager has seen creativity severely undervalued and under-represented in society despite the ever-mounting research going on in the world about the benefits, importance, and increasing relevance of creativity in education systems, thriving communities, and effective economies by the likes of Daniel Pink (A Whole New Mind, 2005), Richard Florida (The Rise of the Creative Class, 2002), Henri Lefebvre (The Production of Space, 1974), and Jonah Lehrer (Imagine: How Creativity Works, 2012). I feel well positioned to identify ways in which to integrate more creativity into crucially organised, albeit too often problematically entrenched systems like schools and corporations.


Instead of having young adults exit senior college feeling lost and overwhelmed at the prospect of a spirit-squashing, capitalist 2 future of conformity, work, and bills, my wish is to see their intrinsic passions ignited and authentic selves emergent as they step out into a world that values and scaffolds creativity and authenticity wholeheartedly. And equally, to see people of all ages given the permission and tools they need to access and understand their unique selfhood at the coal face of the daily grind.


Being somewhat of a circular subject spanning broad areas of interiority, exteriority, and simultaneity within a moving ecosystem, a number of subjects have informed this essay – from phenomenology and interworlds (Merleau-Ponty, Husserl) to ideas of Buddhism in contemporary art practice (Baas, Jacob), to sociology and Primitivism (Goldwater), to the psychology and physiology of art, education, and imagination (Jung, Mather, Lehrer, Martin, McLellan, Laing, Harari), to concepts of chaosmosis, the abstract machine, ecosophy and the rhizome (Næss, Deleuze, Guattari).


My coinciding art practice has spanned a similarly eclectic range of media including bronze, plasticine, clay, wax, candy, expanding foam, and yarn in a playful exploration of subject/object simultaneity where the inherent properties of a medium act as both the ‘is’ and ‘of’ in its creation, celebrating authentic process and properties as they move from idea to becoming to being to idea. I am drawn to implicit recognition – when information is a felt experience, the way story helps anchor a memory better than raw data or facts. A story is actioned through its own making and is free to continue becoming in its ongoing relationships and contexts. I love the evocative syntheses between the materiality of a medium and the mystery of figment. Like Merleau-Ponty’s ‘flesh of all things’, there is always more than meets the eye, and this must be proactively considered to evade the easy-default tendencies and pre-conditionings of the brain.


Originally, I would’ve claimed all artists of all time are represented in this research as examples of “the antennae of the human race” (Pound, 2010, p. 81), but I’ve realized that creativity is an unbiased human trait and that even within the category or label of ‘artist’ lies a broad spectrum of individuals. Instead, I was enlightened to ways in which humanity’s native language of symbol and metaphor (of which art and the poetic realm are mere obvious examples) manifests in the world in general, and the types of art and artists that embody the particularly disruptive qualities of creative potential outlined in this essay. Politically influential (e.g., Shakespeare, Ai Wei Wei), socially risquè (e.g., Goya, Courbet, Manet), blasphemous (e.g., Ofili, Serrano, Ferrari), audaciously abstract (e.g., Nevelson, Duchamp, Cage), affectively interactive (e.g., Ming Wei, Hamilton, Abramović), and reframing the ‘real’ (e.g., Bacon, Whistler, Monet): these differ greatly from representational landscape paintings, royal portraits, or religious icons for example (although arguably such things are still manifestations of figment).


Looking more broadly at art movements throughout history also reveals evidence of Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’ at work and the concept of creative potential as an enigma of inseparable polarities on a mass scale, where inner landscapes shape, and are shaped by, the social, political, cultural, and contextual.


I.

Putting pedagogy and entrenched systems aside, I want to pull the curtain back on self – the receptacle or entity that is doing the learning, growing, interacting, and teaching. Alan Watts, a spiritually enlightened 21st century British academic, asserted the the Eastern philosophical view that there is no such thing as an individual, we are all ‘I’ and we all require ‘Other’ in order to be (Watts A. , 1.1.1. – Not What Should Be – Pt. 1, 2019). Every single individual is essential, meaning humankind is wholly integrated and interconnected with the natural world in both body (matter) and spirit (energy). We did not arrive on Earth, we grew out of her, we are related – as are our intrinsic governing instincts, patterns, and systems. Or as James Hurd Nixon puts it “we are pieces of the Earth that maintain a bodily form for a while” (Nixon, 2020, p. 4).


Self, with a capital ‘S’, indicates a ‘higher self’, or the self-regulating force that drives us toward our full potential (Mayes, 2005, p. 73). It is an ecosystem of its own, with moving components, complexes, and personifications in relationship with both internal and external, conscious and unconscious stimuli, but with universal patterns that can be broken down into four basic (but unfixed) archetypes: ego, persona, shadow, and animus/anima. In order for an individual to thrive, they must move in healthy relationship with both these inner aspects and the outer environment/other – ideally with both effect and a meta-awareness of effect, or the ability to sense beyond the body and mind’s limiting physiological and habitual mechanisms (e.g., being conscious of the unconscious without needing power over it; understanding the protective mechanism of ego without fusing with it; and holding in balance instinct, intuition, and intellect).


It is important to note that my position does not favour a typically Eastern or Pacifica cultural worldview that puts the collective before Self, nor does it heroicise a Western version of individualism or “socio-culturally endorsed reification and privileging of the singular perspective” (McLellan & Martin, 2013, p. 87), but rather posits a kind of ‘Neo-humanism’ that links Jung’s concept of the six-jointed relationship, with Laing’s refractory self as I-meshe-he-you-we-them (Laing, 1966, p. 3), with Deleuze and Guattari’s simulacrum, chaosmosis, and ecosophy, with complex dynamical systems6 and Gestalt theories of Deep Ecology where healthy sustainability is recognized as a continuous and simultaneous dynamic between micro and macro: within self (mind/body), between self and other, between self and collective, and between self/collective and the broader ancestry of Earth’s ecosystems.


“Difference must become the element, the ultimate unity. Every object, every thing must see its own identity swallowed up in difference, each being no more than a difference between differences. Difference must show itself to be differing” (Deleuze, cited in Zepke, 2005, p. 35).


It is a universal truth that sustainable ecosystems require diversity, tension, and interconnection. Evolution favours these qualities. ‘Other’ is essential to ‘I’, as are the individualistic survival instincts of ‘I’ that can sometimes clash with Other. Authentic individuation is as essential to collective sustainability as a sense of belonging is to collective Humanism typically implies a narcissistic superiority over other beings: Liberal Humanism favours equal human rights for individuals, Socialist Humanism favours the collective voice, and Evolutionary Humanism favours racial ‘cleansing’ such as that attempted by the Nazi regime. Neo-Humanism proposes an evolved idea of ‘supreme beings’ as having consciousness of our consciousness and our inferiority as a species in the Earth’s natural ecosystems as well as the enormous responsibility over the power of this consciousness. Jung’s one plus one equals six theory denotes the levels of interactions taking place between two subjects: conscious and unconscious activity between subject and other (each), plus transferential dynamics occurring within each subject (Mayes, 2005, p. 36).


Authenticity, or that which differentiates us, emerges as the extent to which a person can align with their own infinitely unique ratios of archetypal selfhood within a shared identity, and ideally uphold an ability to consciously observe how these qualities can affect and are affected by dynamic relationships with multifarious others. It is the unencumbered process of individuation that echoes the inherent striving for balance in the natural world. And it is not without pain and struggle.


Described by Jung as the ‘tension of opposites’, this struggle is essential for growth. It is also represented in ancient Eastern principles such as Taoism (yin yang) and Buddhism (anatta/non-self, dukkha/suffering, anicca/impermanence) where there is unity in the dualistic nature of the universe, and enlightenment to be found at the impersonal and intrinsically impermanent centre of polarities (Pircher, 2019). In other words, there must be an opposing force in order to ‘be’, and a disruptive element in a continuum to avoid stagnation. This crux is creative potential.


What is arguably even more important than this is the affirmation of creative potential. According to Guattari, affirmation is “the blind trust in movement” (Zepke, 2005, p. 227) or the faith we must uphold in things like imagination, experimentation, discomfort, and the unfamiliar. Deleuze and Guattari may not have consciously aligned themselves with Jung, but I can see several parallels in the object-relations theories at the heart of both their thinking. Deleuze and Guattari were “avowedly atheist, utterly materialist, and ecstatically inhuman” (Zepke, 2005, p. 227) yet arrived at the absolute importance of belief as “the necessary condition of its sensation” and “precisely what cannot be thought or represented, yet also that which our deranged senses are forever feeling”. Jung ultimately denounced religion but, as an unparalleled scholar of ancient civilisations, believed in the universal patterns and mystical nature of Psyche’s symbolic language. Both lines of logic lead to an acceptance, and indeed necessity of the ambiguous as the ultimate ‘divine truth’. Deleuze and Guattari’s autopoietic nature of the so called ‘machine’ as a rhizome with no head or tail, only constant ‘middling’ is shared by Jung: “Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives upon its rhizome. The part that appears above the ground lasts only a single summer – an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilisations, we cannot escape the impression of an absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. We see the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains” (Mayes, 2005, p. 103).


Similarly, Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of chaosmosis; the abstract machine that “is what it does” (Zepke, 2005, p. 26); and the simulacrum that “denies the original and the copy” (Zepke, 2005, p. 30), represent “the continual creation of the world” (Zepke, 2005, p. 192) which echoes Jung’s concept of universal archetypes as “the stock of inherited possibilities of representation born anew in every individual” (Mayes, 2005, p. 22). Jung also argues that consciousness itself is both the “organ” with which we can comprehend our own instincts – or “transform the image”– but also its transformer. It’s as though they are arguing the same primal perspective from opposite ends of the archetypal poles.


C.

“There is a necessary joy in creation. Art is necessarily a liberation that explodes everything” (Deleuze, cited in Zepke, 2005, p. 2).


Creativity is a somewhat contentious term these days because of its exaggerated association with the arts but emerges here as the necessary force in the world that helps keep us located at the sweet spot of this dualistic tension. It is an innate human capacity that goes well beyond the arts and is reflected back on humankind in every construct imaginable.


Creative potential enables conditions for interpersonal growth because to nurture creativity is to make friends with discomfort and investigate life’s symbolic nature with curiosity. In my view, it is humanity’s tool for ensuring an authentic and balanced approach to life, and therefore an essential aspect to incorporate into our organizational systems. Recognizing creative potential and putting it into practice does not mean, however, that we must all make art.


Creativity is potentially exercised more rigorously by artists but is by no means limited to them. Small individual acts of creativity are firing in many unacknowledged ways every day in every type of person, whether it is in the meals we cook, the stories we tell, the persona we present, the science we gather, the daydream we had, or the different route we might choose to take home. An idea appears in our minds and is actioned (or not) into the world. Although creativity is often attributed to ‘original’ or previously unthought of ideas, it is arguable that almost nothing is an original idea since we are in constant relationship with inner and outer influences, in both an unconscious and conscious way (Husserl, cited in Matthews, 2006, p. 6).


One could also argue, however, that based on the constant regenerative ‘beingness’ of the simulacrum, rhizome, or abstract machine, every idea is original anew. I think it is both/and. Many great inventions were arrived at by a long series of smaller ideas, influences, variables, and intersections (Lehrer, 2012, p. 39). Creativity is a problem-solving ability. An art-ist is merely someone who makes art, but there exists just as much division and ‘tension of opposites’ within the world of art-making as there does between the art world and other worlds. Artists may be linked by a strong archetypal desire to express how they ascribe to, or revolt against, outer collective conditions or forces through various tactile methods and media, but they are not necessarily united in their practices and intentions. The differences between Social Realism and Socialist Realism, for example, are far greater than their geographical locations: the former a socially conscious call for ‘eyes wide open’ depictions of the realities of people during the Great Depression in the West, the latter a fascist ‘eyes straight ahead’ idealised grip on peoples’ freedom of expression by the Soviet government (Dempsey, 2005, pp. 167-168). Likewise, the differences between the disciplined methods of Pointillism and the more ad hoc practice of Abstract Expressionism can be enormous and reveal a great deal about the human ‘type’ creating the work. This is similar to the range of beliefs that exist in other areas of life, like theism – a Polish Jewish rabbi won’t share much in common with an American Puritan, except for the fact that they are both human ‘theists’ sharing in different-but-similar common myths born out of their inherent ability to create (Harari, 2011, p. 55).


Taking Gestalt theory into the territory of the brain, “one cannot separate the nerve cells from the final symphony. Creativity is not an otherworldly power reserved for artists and inventors, but a hard-wired impulse” (Lehrer, 2012, p. xix). Similarly, the left and right hemispheres of the brain are not clearly divided physiologically or otherwise (McGilchrist, 2010, p. xvi). In other words, we are innately creative beings with complicated systems of inter-relational ‘sense-making’ abilities that encompass logic/somatic and fantasy/intuitive realms. Nothing is separate, but rather linked by an ‘ecosophy’ of inseparable polarities both inside and out. In the words of Rousseau, our social, physical, and mental experiences are so interconnected that oppressive environments, ideologies, and inequities can “rob individuals of their naturally good and transparent self-love, replacing it with inauthentic and self-destructive self-regard” and rendering true subjectivity impossible (McLellan & Martin, 2013, p. 27).


Some aspects of art-making can indeed help us to see through and not with the eye, as poeticized by William Blake, but so can a great many other experiences, such as clever pedagogies, immersive education policies, and meaningful mentorships. Collective permission for creative potentiality and affirmation of authentic selfhood become the maintenance methods required to keep checks and balances on a sustainable and healthy human ecosystem. Without an awareness of Self, human beings are at the mercy of the brain’s reactionary functions which are, at a primitive level, designed out of fear.


We are to this day governed to a large degree by our unconscious protective mechanisms, latent shadow aspects, and chemical-inducing emotions. Meta-awareness about what we are experiencing makes a difference to an individual’s process because it can give context and consciousness to difficult feelings, value to discomfort, and insight to joy. We become the observing skies of our own weather systems and by extension, empathetically positioned to perceive similar behaviours in fellow Others. Much like declaring a research position where one must first learn about various views and philosophies before knowing which of them we identify with, human beings would do well to better understand the full spectrum of ‘types’ in our species and how they function in relationship to the world. ‘Types’ span all cultures, races, and class structures, and must be understood as unfixed and rhizomic so as to avoid dangerous labeling and absolutes. Similar to Arts Management models, it is possible to find ways of working with adaptable structures and processes that move and change around a chaotic core. Like the body of Dionysus – a complex and organised physical structure that contains, and is driven by, a passionate heart and playful spirit, for better or for worse. Having structure, or to use Deleuze and Guattari’s term ‘strata’ is not a bad thing “how would unformed matter, anorganic life, non-human becoming be anything other than pure and simple chaos?” (Deleuze, Guattari, & Stivale, 1984, p. 8). They argue that ‘organic strata’ provides the necessary tension of opposites that life requires. In this sense, structure is more of an articulation, or a pinch point that builds the necessary potency which begs the disruptive element. James Hurd Nixon’s philosophy of the weaving web outlines structure and process as intimately connected: “Structure may appear to be a limitation, but it is ironically the constraint which provides processes their freedom” (Nixon, 2020, p. 2). Like how language allows people to freely communicate, or the rules of sport makes it possible to play a game. Complex dynamical systems are also echoed in the human brain in its left and right hemispherical interaction, in the human psyche on its self-perpetuating journey toward individuation, and in the yin yang principle of a divided whole: dynamic patterns form the essence of all life. It becomes problematic when we let structure constrict process because we are afraid to lose control. 7 Fear and control are different things, but often go together. Human beings do need a sense of autonomy and control in order to be healthy (hence the evolution of psyche), indeed it is one of the driving forces in the individuation process, alongside letting go. In primitive times, having some control over our environment meant surviving to see another day, for example securing shelter, tools, and food. This was achieved as a communal effort because, as a vulnerable species, safety was only to be found in numbers. In more recent times, these primitive fears present collectively as things like class power structures, colonialism, racism, patriarchal domination, organized religion and capitalism. And on an individual basis, as daily routines, habits, vices, opinions, addictions and attachments, tempered only by either a hard-earned level of self-awareness or blissful ignorance (which brings its own selfperpetuating consequences). Too often our outward opinions and beliefs are mere unconscious ego-protected fears that ‘leak out’ in our actions and behaviours because they are unable – or lack permission – to be expressed or integrated honestly. It is arguable that humankind clings so tightly to conformity and structure because unconsciously we know that creative potential is absolutely essential for life on earth and would cease to exist if not for a firm and constant grip (tension). According to Jung, an unconscious need for control is often measurable by the extent of its relative absolutes (Jung, 1969, pp. 220-221), which, to me, makes it quite easily locatable in the history books, and in the many problematic constructs we still collectively ascribe to. It is something to be aware of in the major ideology-shaping processes like politics and education to be sure, but also in the subjective and phenomenological realms of philosophy and psychology.


U.

Historically, it has been acts of creativity – very often, but not always via the arts – that have provided the necessary counterweight, or disruptive element to the dangers of stagnation. “Art is, before all else, a sensation which restores us to our constitutive infinity by creating the world anew. To reconnect wo/man to what s/he sees and hears, is nothing less than the project of art” (Deleuze, cited in Zepke, 2005, pp. 8, gender adjusted).


Creativity is a state of immanence, or becoming, that perpetuates a feedback loop of destruction and renewal that is necessary for sustainable regeneration. Human beings differ from other organisms because of our ability to not only imagine, but to know this about ourselves and action it (Lehrer, 2012). This is special but also dangerous when we blindly refuse to ‘know’ it. Harari posits “there are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings” (Harari, 2011, p. 32).


In other words, everything is a construct, including the ideas in this essay, the words I use to convey them, and the letters that make up the words. But he goes on to say that an imagined reality is not a lie. It is something that can exert real force in the world. Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully under common myths like ideologies and cultures, and people absolutely needed to do this following the Agricultural Age and the formation of cities and empires. Even the Scientific Revolution which undoubtedly has broadened the minds of humankind “has only replaced medieval one-sidedness” (Jung, 1969, p. 220), or as Harari puts it “has not been a revolution of knowledge, but a revolution of ignorance” (Harari, 2011, p. 251). Meaning the more we learn, the more we discover what we don’t understand, and the more we can expand meta-cognitively on how and why we function in our need for meaning-making to begin with. The problem is when large numbers of strangers become trapped by an imagined reality that does not easily permit change or difference and hurts the natural operations of the abstract machine of chaosmosis, threatening the ultimate survival of an entire ecosystem. Today, “the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as gods, nations, and corporations” (Harari, 2011, p. 32).


The patterns that have emerged from the collective unconscious through creative practice can be seen in the first signs of personal expression found in primitive ‘art’ and on through the ages of richly decorated ancient civilisations such as Egypt or the Mayans, to medieval Europe, to more recent First Nations and indigenous cultures, to today’s canon of modern art. I would argue that art (although not always labeled as such) could be described as a ritual uniting the deep inner self and the outer world, whether in response to a belief or a god, a political climate, a dominant ideology, or just for the experience of material pleasure, exploration, and affirmation of expression. In my view, art history is one of the most important historical records of the banished inner self in relationship to external events in the world. I feel it echoes the words of Hippocrates “ars longa, vita brevis” (art is long, life is short), not necessarily his original meaning, but reveals something of the inner landscapes of individuals past.


Art history is like a more personal message to future Others that has not been passed through the formal empirical sieve by ruling elites onto the pages of history’s so-called ‘official’ account. To me, it is a look under the hood at what really happened. For example, Tonalism emerged out of post-civil war in the USA as a result of individuals needing to reclaim their emotional selves and connect with the ‘unseen’ through the profound beauty in nature following an age of heroism, trauma, scientific glorification, and phony Victorian sentimentality (Corn, 1972). Highly accomplished artists like James Whistler broke with conformity and began creating art as a ‘response’ rather than a ‘depiction’, opting for more instinctive and simplified mood, tone, and stroke. He was later taken to court for having the audacity to charge money for it! (Simpson, 2008, p. 36).


Once a movement gains some collective permission (not by society necessarily, but by even just a few Others) it can signal a collective shift, like the psyche re-correcting itself through the inevitable individuation journey of individuals. This is echoed time and time again with Dadaism following WW1 and Existentialism following WW2 (Dempsey, 2005). Art movements are constantly morphing, changing and over-lapping each other across various times, places, and cultures as collectively humans react individually in relationship to Other and Collective, each with a dizzying array of unique archetype, shadow, animus, ego, and persona in play: a real chaosmosis of inner meeting outer.


With each movement comes a re-emergence (echoes of a pattern) as an entirely new phenomenon, like the ‘middleness’ of Deleuze and Guattari’s abstract machine: the construction of construction itself, with no end or beginning. A continuous cycle of polyrelational aspects of Self + Other = Collective/Self. A constant collective actioning-reactioning taking place as people of varying dominant typologies gain and lose leads, affecting change, yielding and conquering in an endless ecosophy of disruptions and tipping points on a vast plane of existence over centuries. All from the same species, exercising different ratios of individual archetypal patterns (micro) and collectively shared patterns of consciousness and unconsciousness (macro). And with each generation, compounding anew into subsequent collective environments shaping new events with differently natured and nurtured individuals imbibed with left-over learnings from previous times, now displaced (rhizome). The variables are seemingly infinite, but with a universal sameness and unpredictable complex dynamical patterning.


So why then, if creativity in all its ambiguous, disruptive glory is so important to survival, does society tend to favour conformity and order? Because it requires less energy, and because people need a sense of control, identity and community to thrive. “As a rule, collective consciousness wins hands down with its ‘reasonable’ generalisations that cause the average intelligence no difficulty whatsoever” (Jung, 1969, p. 218). Subjectivity takes energy to hold in balance within oneself let alone in relationship with others.


Similar to Jung’s six-sided relationship between two people, Harari states that in a group of 50 individuals there can be up to 1,225 one-on-one relationships and countless more complex social combinations (Harari, 2011, p. 23 & 27). Beyond this a critical threshold of around 150 means that effective cooperation requires shared overarching myths like economies and ideologies. These things help to give meaningful context and security to peoples’ lives, but can also put us in danger of becoming a less adaptable mass-mentality with potentially fanatical tendencies and “ever-ready victims of ‘isms’” (Jung, 1969, p. 219).


Summary:

In my view, humans need to be taught the practices and methods of discovery that enable them to see both inwards and outwards. By bringing structure and chaos together in our governing systems, intrinsic ‘logic’ can be discovered anew through ambiguous methods like play, exploration, and lived experiences. Without going too far in either direction of stiflingly structured lessons nor constructivist ad hoc free-play that lacks cohesion, it is possible to apply adaptable, unfixed models that works with and not against the heartbeat of a place, a culture, an individual using tools that nurture an authentic sense of Self/Collective in, and as, abstract machine.


“Do not segregate and specialize but combine, how do mind and body cooperate?” (Virginia Woolf cited in F.Allen, pp. 32). This is one of the ideal learning principles in Virginia Woolf’s essay Three Guineas from nearly a century ago. In it she makes direct connections between the patriarchal system and war, fascism, and the exclusion of women from learning and personal autonomy. She advocates not only for music, painting, and literature, but also medicine and mathematics as “the arts of human intercourse, of understanding other people’s lives and minds”. She notes even the contexts in which learning takes place as important to the ‘message’ of discovery, newness, and change. For example, instead of dusty permanent stone and glass structures that ‘perpetuate tradition’, learning could happen in nature or in some form of ‘cheap easily destructible material’ and include the ‘little arts’ of everyday social acts. This ethos has been reflected in some of the world’s most innovative and socially progressive art schools in history, such as the Bauhaus (Germany 1919) which was extinguished under the rise of Nazi rule and from which several of its artist/teachers fled to the USA, some joining the Black Mountain College and other institutions like Harvard and the New Bauhaus in Chicago – now the Chicago Institute of Design (Dempsey, 2005, p. 133).


Clearly this concept is not new. There are dozens of references to similar lines of thought around education systems throughout history dating as far back as at least the 17th century. Even Plato’s theory of education assumed a principle of freedom and play: “let your children’s lessons take the form of play – this will help you see what they are naturally fitted for” (Allen, 2011, p. 32). Read explains how freedom was the guiding principle of learning theories proposed by Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel and Montessori, and later by John Dewey and Edmond Holmes in the form of ‘aesthetic education’ where the “inner senses are 10 brought into harmonious and habitual relationship with the external world to create an integrated personality” (Allen, 2011, p. 32) – integration being the essence of Jung’s lifelong process of individuation as its own self-perpetuating ecosystem, reminding us that it starts in the formation of young minds, but certainly doesn’t end at graduation.


Unfortunately, achieving harmonious integration has not been the goal of education systems historically. Despite the good intentions of Adam Smith’s 18th century ‘moral’ economy ideals, financing education institutions and research studies aimed at uncovering the nature of the universe and new technologies was less lucrative for political leaders than keeping the status quo and existing order. Until fairly recently, new technologies were usually created “either by accident or by uneducated craftsmen using trial and error” (Harari, 2011, p. 260) – noting once again the creative potential of intrinsic discovery. And according to Walter Ong, it wasn’t until the Romantic Age (another collective tipping point) that academic education made a shift from being purely a male-centric ‘art of rhetoric’ who’s sole purpose was either defending a position or attacking another person’s position. It was not learning for learning’s sake, or for the betterment of society, but “the race of men against each other” and protecting the dominant patriarchal ideal (Allen, 2011, p. 57).


Following this came another counterpoint with the introduction of psychological enquiry in the classroom throughout the latter half of the 20th century. A promising step but fraught with a somewhat fragmented and counter-intuitive mandate that lost sight of the communal whole by focusing too much on the scientific enquiry of the parts. The result was a generation of borderline mass-narcissism in Western culture, and the ‘triple-E student’ – expressive, enterprising, entitled (McLellan & Martin, 2013, p. 156). While this has now completely transformed contemporary teaching practice and policy-making, McLellan and Martin argue that the Triple-E concept is not without educational and social value if it can be reconceptualized into a more collectively-minded ‘virtue’.


Like the Buddhist analogy of a symphony being constructed of, but also indivisible by its individual notes, the Triple-E student offers an important voice in the collective choir. But without a primary goal of collective harmony, we devolve into cacophony. Personal expression not only helps locate one’s personhood in an evolving Self, but shapes identities in relationship to Other/Collective. An enterprising individual embodies a self-propelled creative potentiality and an ability to adapt and take responsibility when forging into risky unknowns. Being entitled, despite having negative connotations, actually speaks to healthy confidence and an impersonal deservedness of ‘I’ as much as that of fellow Others.


What is missing from this pedagogical ‘framework’ is what McLellan and Martin describe as the managerial self – or pro-actively developing self-awareness:


“The central concern is the development and promotion of a self-confident individual agent capable of simultaneous action and reflection on this action. Whether engaged in unique creative expression or strategic goal-oriented action, these selves operate from a highly personal inner core of being. Both expressive and managerial selves are Cartesian selves isolated from – though highly interactive with – their surrounds. Both embrace Enlightenment and/or modern forms of dualism marked by strong divides between inner and outer, mind and world, and personal and social” (McLellan & Martin, 2013, p. 54).


Like Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome that can modify and regenerate as necessary based on relationships that branch, end, and middle, I envision potential models, or modifications that could begin a new process of regeneration both in education systems and the corporate culture. Using not dissimilar arts management theories where adaptable ‘structures’ are informed by a chaotic and passionate ‘organism’, change can encompass the inseparable polarities of organised freedom. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach but does embody an underlying universal pattern that encourages authenticity in the individuals that make up the whole.


“Genius resides in instinct; goodness likewise” (Nietzsche, cited in Gordon, 1951/87, pp. 1).


Sue Nelson, PGDip FA (2021)/MA AM (2010)



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*The term ‘simulacrum’ was first recorded in the 16th century as meaning ‘likeness’ or ‘similarity’ (Allen, 2011, p. 66) and later interpreted by Deleuze and Guattari as the “continual creation of the world, the becoming of a world constructed into mobile series, differentiating and differentiated” (Zepke, 2005, p. 30). Chaosmosis: creation that emerges from destruction Ecosophy: a combination of The Three Ecologies (environmental, social, and mental) that are inextricably linked to shaping subjectivity (Guattari, The Three Ecologies, 1989, p. 41). A complex dynamical system is the study of the nonlinear, unpredictable behaviour of complex systems over time such as living organisms and their social structures, climate, and economies (Nixon, 2020). 7 The term Deep Ecology was coined by Arne Naess in 1973 and refers to a kind of Neo-humanism that gives equal living rights to all entities in life’s ecosystems. It advocates for deeper wisdom and humanity over detached logic and science. 4 unity.

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