On Universities Teaching Art & Creativity

On Universities Teaching Art & Creativity

It is interesting, and somewhat ridiculous, that in this society it is—for the most part—expected of an artist (please see my definition of this kind of artist in my previous article, The Vital Role Artists Play in Our Society) or writer to study that which they do—are called to do1.

Writing, in my opinion, must only be taught to the extent that one can indeed read and write, preform common grammar (. , ; ! ? ‘ “” ( )) and (for the most part) use correct spelling. In technical essays, lab reports, analysis and such I can see why certain standards are maintained—however these fields are more about the information contained within, rather than the method of delivery and are thus, more often than not, rather dry. But they preform their purpose, and it is an effective way that they and those familiar with it will understand (although hopefully not beyond constructive development).

But creative writing, however, or criticism, blogging, and review—why should any of these have any preferred method of delivery at all, so long as they get the point across? I always thought the idea of going to University (or indeed, even school) to learn art or creative writing was ridiculous.

But then I looked at it how it is, which links back into my last article of, I suppose, disconnecting artists—and, indeed, humanity—from their / our inherent selves, for the sake of stability in society. Art is a very powerful thing; it deals with, sometimes bitter, reflections, insights, and indeed the very primal forces of the subconscious (I write this as someone still learning, mind you).

I write this today because a friend, of a kind heart, has gifted me some of her (professional editing) course materials on Myths and Symbolism in Literature. And, as much as I can see her side of the story (believe me, I can), I can’t help but find the idea of artists having to study and interpret that which is already known to them, stupid.

The whole point of the archetypal mind (or primal subconscious) is that it is known to all of us, inherent in all of us, and thus by only listening to ourselves will we know ourselves, and indeed our work. Symbols cannot be typed down to one meaning or the other—though they may hold ones which are more or less likely linked. They do not need to be consciously explained, dissected, or used traditionally in order to be effective—each symbol is unique to their creator, and while knowledge of myth aids their interpretation, they cannot be interpreted without the light of the greater whole, i. e the individual from which they sprung2.

Though knowledge is good, symbols will have many meanings, particularly to the author of the work. And they may or will not be fully revealed until the piece is finished, if indeed the meaning of a piece may be predicted or understood. It may only be years later that, looking back, everything falls into place.

Art is as much a mechanism for the soul of the individual as much as it is of society as a whole. It holds an imperative purpose as growth and personal development for the former, as equally if not more so than it’s message for the world—which may or may not be known to the creator.

Art is, by it’s very nature, unpredictable. There is no end but the journey it represents in the creator, and how it is reflected in the minds of those who behold it—which is unique to everyone. Some are unmoved, others deeply touched, thoughtful, or feeling.

I am open to other opinions, but while having a thorough background in symbols, mythology, and history can all work to the aid of the interpreter or artist in understanding it’s (the archetype’s) communications, one must learn how not to let conscious knowledge get in the way of the creation of art, as it is all too apt to do in the way it is being taught.

Unfortunately, my opinion at the moment is a rather cynical one, and one might say machiavellian. This is because I believe the reason art and writing is taught in universities and other educational structures is so that artists—true artists—are disempowered. They conform to rules, common practices, and originality / meaning is lost.

Again (as explored in my prior two articles), controlled artistic expression leads to an almost substituted function for an artificial, though greater, stability in society. But my intuition tells me that this is unhealthy, as treating only the symptoms is in medicine. The signs of a problem may be gone, and the body may seem to continue functioning as usual, but eventually, if left untreated (and indeed, it’s healing suppressed as by Betamethasone) something will go drastically wrong (i.e candida overgrowth, which in my experience seems to be the cause of the eczema such steroids are given to treat3).

Perhaps it is being used as a temporary point of stability while greater changes are, more peacefully, addressed—but I do not know, and thus cannot say. I only write what I see, and what my current perception of Roman and our previous (Western) ages of history were. But admittedly, I have not researched these myself, and cannot trust this impression. For all I know, it is a rather recent and temporary state, reflected to be tolerable and “always been” through modern media.

Again, further research is needed.

The point of this? Rationally, being looked upon from the view of what I now see to be the sugar-coating of the bitter truth, editing, knowledge, and technique all make sense for greater sales, ease of understanding, and general commercial and (at least claimed) literary success in art. Because, hey, if no-one understands your work, what’s the point of putting it out there, right?!

But now I can see it as nothing other than that; the sugar-coating of what otherwise is a bitter and rather machiavellian truth, in a society who’s control mechanisms haven’t much changed, as even human nature hasn’t. If it has been done in the past, why is it suddenly so exempt now? Is it not the purpose of history to learn from it’s lessons—indeed, all it’s lessons? It is an odd and rather marvellous balance we have achieved through our educational systems to teach so many, and yet we, as masses, remain uneducated, detached, and controlled. We are liberated only insofar that we may function as a productive organ of society, and yet by specialisation remain blind to the greater whole.

I ask you now to truly consider, analyse, and think in depth (if it be your nature) upon your common associations. It is easy to make the “education” we have now seem a great gift if all we know of the past comes from the media (propaganda) about how uneducated we / they were. But who has greater incentive to teach? A concerned parent, brother, or son—or a paid teacher, dealing in classes of 20, year in, year out? Their specialty might lend them edge, yes, but their experience cannot have so much personal investment as the majority of parents I have known and experienced (and indeed, how many with knowledge of physics, bio-chemistry, etc… know how to navigate daily life, accounting, human rights, laws, etc…? This might come down to iNtuitive V.S Sensing, but again, over-specialisation leads to blindness and thus easy manipulation).

It can be further argued that, if emotive and personal traits of character are largely influenced by genetics, inherited symbiotic creatures (bacteria, yeasts, fungi and certain beneficial viruses), and nutritional development (usually passed down through local tradition and / or culture), might parents not have a better chance of communicating and understanding their children through association that another may not? And in the rare instance where this wasn’t possible, I would imagine a tribe or communal structure dealt with this problem as I have seen in my own ducks; they exchange the rearing and love of the children between them.

Human society has functioned and created marvels, my studies are leading me to believe, for over 10,000 years, without the current educational structures we have in present times. And thus, the seemingly uneducated have at least appeared to be as educated as we are now (technology aside, but it can even be argued that the water wheel is still our most efficient invention4), only their knowledge was taught through apprenticeships, passed down from grandfather to grandson, grandmother to granddaughter, and held through myth, and song, and charts of the stars…

I believe that if you paid experts, one on one, for the entirety of your child’s education, the results would be magnificent. But what we teach now, and what is commonly known, and indeed the masses of books I see, are not knowledge. There is not wisdom in the words, nor sense. For the most part, they are enough to get by, while remaining asleep and under the beautiful spell society weaves for you.

True knowledge speaks of the dissimulation of governments, and the construct of societies, cultures, worlds. It causes change, insight, a clarity of vision unrivalled in unquestioning minds—and I only wonder what we as a world would be capable of where we allowed to truly build upon our natural virtues. It is easy to see why rulers must be well educated, and that those over which they rule must know enough to maintain a functioning society, yet not enough to destabilize what has been a consistent and effective recipe over the last 5000 years of long and, relatively peaceful, rule.

As I cannot understand their choices, and indeed know what they know, perhaps they are doing the best they can.

I hope so.

Ah, but the point of this, the point my good sir (for there was a point)! (and what is knowledge without fun 😉 ). The teaching of art and creativity is something easily rationalised in a society which wishes to be stable. To see beyond this you must question the very purpose and foundation of art, and what you (or it) means by it. Again, it is my belief that the only way a society can succeed and truly be stable (this is by instinct, or intuition, as I have not had access to this knowledge as I imagine others might) is by listening to society’s needs as even one does the individual, for I believe in the perfection of a greater whole. As in Gaia, and the subconscious guiding the conscious mind, I believe society can flourish as the inspirations of the individuals do.

At least, such is my hope. I have still much to learn, and experience of life. However, I hope that these musings will at least have provided some food for thought! 🙂

The Dreaming Sentinel


1Though I will note my exception for the sciences, etc., when risk management should taken into account with foundational education—though this can be self taught. But for painting and writing? What the hell, it’s not going to kill anyone! 😛 (again, the only logical explanation is the power art and storytelling hold in society, by its force for change. You cannot bypass and force a creative mind to learn through theory what would take years of practice and refinement).

2The interpretation of dreams and symbols demands intelligence. It cannot be turned into a mechanical system and then crammed into unimaginative brains… When we attempt to understand symbols, we are not only confronted with the symbol itself, but we are brought up against the wholeness of his [the individual’s] cultural background, and in the process one finds many gaps in one’s own education.

Routine responses may be practical and useful while one is dealing with the surface, but as soon as one gets in touch with the vital problems, life itself takes over and even the most brilliant theoretical promises become ineffectual words.” C. G. Jung, Man and His Symbols, pg. 92

3Steroid drugs, like Prednisolone, Hydrocortisone, Betamethasone, Dexamethasone, etc., all damage gut flora. In addition, they have a strong immunosuppressing ability, which makes the body vulnerable to all sorts of infection. For example, it is known that a course of steroids is almost invariably associated with fungal overgrowth in the body, particularly of Candida species.” Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, pg. 36 paragraph 3.

4I can’t find the reference for this, but Bill Mollison talks about it on his Permaculture Design Course in Melbourne (which is featured on Tagari’s DVD box-set). It had something like a 92-98% efficiency V.S energy bleed-off over time.

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