How does talent become passion?
“The presence of talent is not sufficient. Many people have more than one talent, and wonder what to do with them.”
Jane Piirto, Ph.D. continues in her book Talented Children and Adults, “What is the impetus, what is the reason, for one talent taking over and capturing the passion and commitment of the person who has the talent?
“A useful explanation comes from Socrates, who described the inspiration of the Muse… Carl Jung (1965) described the passion that engrosses; depth psychologist James Hillman described the presence of the daimon in creative lives.”
She considers this passion and inspiration “the thorn, because it bothers, it pricks, it causes obsession until it has its way, until the person with the talent begins to work on developing that talent.”
The idea of the daimonic has multiple meanings, “from befitting a demon and fiendish, to motivated by a spiritual force or genius and inspired.
It can also mean (as a literary term) the unrest that exists in us all which forces us into the unknown, leading to self-destruction and/or self-discovery.” [From the Wikipedia page on the Daimonic.]
A calling from the daimonic
James Hillman talks about the importance of this “unrest” – and writes “We hunger for that… it’s only American psychology that hasn’t got that myth, the myth of calling, destiny. As I say, Mormons, West Africans, Buddhists, Hindus, Kabbalists all have that.
“The shamanistic cultures, the American Indian cultures all had this idea that you have a reason to be here. You are a unique creature and this is not just genetic, or where you are in your family, first son or third daughter, or something, all that kind of causal thinking drops away. I think it’s something people can feel as — I hate the word — empowering, but at least affirming.”
James Hillman is author of The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling.
Potential can overwhelm
But on the way to being affirming, the daimonic may be overwhelming, as Carl Gustav Jung commented:
“There was a daimon in me, and in the end its presence proved decisive. It overpowered me, and if I was at times ruthless it was because I was in the grip of the daimon… A creative person has little power over their own life. They are not free, but captive and driven by their daimon.” [paraphrased]
Psychologist Rollo May noted “the daimonic (unlike the demonic, which is merely destructive) is as much concerned with creativity as with negative reactions… constructiveness and destructiveness have the same source in human personality. The source is simply human potential.”
Gifted women and the lost daimon
Jean Houston thinks “Essence is neither a place nor a time, an insight or a state of mind. It is the deepest part of our nature, an actual presence that is innate and inborn. Sometimes it wears a personal face and a form and manifests as an image to our mind’s eye. When it does, some call it a daimon; others an angel. In its incorporeal form, still others think of it as the soul.”
[From essay Of Butterflies and Essence.]
Dr. Houston also commented in our interview about blocking talent in high ability, gifted women: “Often what happens is that they do a lot of things very well, and their essential self, what I call the daimon, the essence of who and what they are, gets lost in the process… they lose their essential nature, and their entelechy.. the dynamic purposiveness in their life.”
The impersonal daimon
In his article Angels and Daimons, Patrick Harpur writes, “while the personal daimon is exactly that – personal – it is also always grounded in the impersonal and unknowable depths of the psyche. It is also, in other words, a manifestation of the Anima Mundi, or Soul of the World – as the case of Plotinus, the first and greatest of the Neoplatonic philosophers, makes clear.”
Patrick Harpur is author of Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld.
Resisting society’s pull
Being inspired by a muse or daimon, to realize our talents has personal meaning and value of course – but also social.
An editorial review of the book The Undiscovered Self by Carl Jung says the author “argues that the future depends on our ability to resist society’s mass movements. Only by understanding our unconscious inner nature – ‘the undiscovered self’ – can we gain the self-knowledge that is antithetical to ideological fanaticism. But this requires facing the duality of the human psyche – the existence of good and evil in us all.”
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Painting at top: Kiss of the Muse by Paul Cezanne, also used in my post Creative talent: genetics, a muse, or hard work?
The other image is from Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture, #70 Muses
Books by Jane Piirto:
Article: In Praise of Positive Obsessions, by Eric Maisel, PhD
Page: Depth psychology