Thursday, February 25, 2016

Serendipitous creativity

Twentieth century American theologian Gordon Kaufman has suggested thinking about God as serendipitous creativity ("On Thinking of God as Serendipitous Creativity," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 69, No. 2 (June 2001), 409-425).

Psychiatrist William Meissner has observed:
Man needs to create, to shape and transform his environment, find vehicles for expressing his inner life, or rather the constant commerce between the ongoing worlds of his external experience and his inner psychic reality…. It is through illusion, then, that the human spirit is nourished…. The man without imagination, without the capacity for play or for creative illusion, is condemned to a sterile world of harsh facts without color or variety, without the continual enrichment of man's creative capacities. (William Meissner, Psychoanalysis and Religious Experience, p. 177, quoted in John Cottingham, The Spiritual Dimension: Religion, Philosophy and Human Value (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 69-70)

Meissner's observation, in the context of Kaufman's suggestion of serendipitous creativity as a metaphor for God, coheres with my view that the creativity is an aspect of the human spirit and thus part of the imago dei, the image of God in humans.

Carl Jung first promoted the idea of synchronicity, coincidences in which seemingly unrelated events are linked by causation or meaning. Jung and a broad circle of followers often discerned God at working in synchronicity's seemingly serendipitous happenings.

Can you identify examples or experiences of serendipitous creativity in your life, that is, can you identify examples or experiences of moments in which you have encountered the creator/ultimate reality/God?


Describing examples or experiences of serendipitous creativity as moments of divine-human interaction underscores that a naturalistic understanding of the human spirit (i.e., a concept of the human spirit that neither includes nor precludes an eternal or ephemeral element) is compatible with a variety of post-theisms, e.g., Kaufman's historicism and process theology. Furthermore, the process of trying to answer involves at least three aspects of the human spirit: creativity (discussed in the previous Ethical Musings post), self-awareness (explored in the next Ethical Musings post), and linguistic capacity (to be examined in the final Ethical Musings post in this series on the human spirit).

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