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At TED this year, author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) took the audience into strange territory in her talk about creativity, expectation and the killing of genius. Unbelievably, Gilbert managed to receive a standing ovation from the scientifically-minded TED crowd after a monologue in which she asked whether we should embrace the ancient conception of genius and creativity being external and separate to us. Basically, she suggested we return to the idea that gods and daimons possess us at times – at least as a psychological crutch. Here’s the talk in its entirety:

It really is a breath of fresh air to see this sort of talk getting a positive response from the upper echelons of science and technology. In this post-Dawkins era, when someone like Phil Plait feels he needs to add a caveat just for typing the descriptive word ‘magical’, I get rather frustrated with the worship of literal thought to the exclusion of metaphor and myth. It’s good to see someone standing up for the ‘real’, everyday human mind like this.

For those who are interested in Gilbert’s discussion of daimons and the like, check out Patrick Harpur’s Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld. Harpur ties this sort of creative inspiration as the internal manifestation of ‘contact’ with this ‘daimonic reality’, and suggests many paranormal events are the outward manifestation:

The first of the great Neoplatonists, Plotinus (AD 204-70), maintained that the individual daimon was “not an anthropomorphic daemon, but an inner psychological principle, viz: the level above that on which we consciously live, and so is both within us and yet transcendent” (author’s emphasis). Like Jung, he takes it as read that daimons are objective phenomena and thinks to emphasize only that, paradoxically, they manifest both inwardly (dreams, inspirations, thoughts, fantasies) and outwardly or transcendently (visions and apparitions).

A fascinating talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, and a great book by Patrick Harpur – check them both out if you get the chance.