In this chapter, I look more specifically at creativity or artistic practice and its relationship to spiritual experience. I will begin by exploring the connection between creative and spiritual experience, between the mystic and the artist, between art and religion, as well as an introduction to the understanding of creativity as a spiritual practice. I will end this section by looking at creativity as seen within the spiritual traditions, focusing particularly on creative activity as a spiritual practice.
What is spiritual experience? My own understanding is that the spiritual is an experience of connection with a power greater than one’s personal self, which brings a shift in ordinary awareness. With this shift can come feelings of unity, of oneness, stillness, ecstasy, or bliss. This understanding is echoed by Deikman when he writes, spiritual experience is “an intuitive perception of oneness with the universe, often accompanied by feelings of reverence and awe.” [cited in Starker, 1985: 134]
Understanding the spiritual as an experience rather than as a religious or metaphysical belief system, is explored by Rudolf Otto in his 1923 classic, The Idea of the Holy. Otto states that throughout various religious traditions personal accounts of spiritual experience share common features; these experiences are
the reflection in human feeling of this awareness, as it changes and grows richer and
more unmistakable; a response … to the impact upon the human mind of the divine