Out the blue you came to me, and blew away life's misery, out the blue life's energy...
Where does it come from, the sudden idea, the crazy new way, the epiphany, the revelation? As artists we recognize its coming, we give it our attention, we act on it, because we must. It comes from beyond ourselves, beyond what we know, perhaps beyond what anyone knows. Where, then, is that?
Carl Jung proposes a collective unconscious, a great ocean of shared knowledge accessible only through its own surging over the boards of our tiny craft. It rises to meet us, transforming itself into archetypal forms, things that we are capable of recognizing and integrating. We (the artists) paint these forms on the walls of our dwellings, transforming our culture and ourselves.
Historian of religion Mircea Eliade coined the term "heirophany" for this event, a "superabundance of reality … an irruption of the sacred into the world...the archetype of every creative human gesture...". Eliade asserts that it is this "irruption" into our world that prompts us to commemorate the spot, to make something, to give the moment a lasting expression. This is the artistic impulse and the origin of all our monuments.
Leonard Cohen sings, "there is a crack...in everything, that's where the light gets in." Does this movement of the sacred find its way in through a crack, a crack in our carefully constructed conceptual universe? Is the crack formed by the lightning strike?
Without speculating on who or what might be outside our nursery walls flinging lightning bolts, it is possible to regard art as the result of an intrusion of the "spirit world." Moreover, as Professor of Religion and the Arts, Frank Burch Brown suggests, spiritual knowledge, of any kind, is transmitted exclusively through "media rich in aesthetic qualities" bearing "conspicuous aesthetic marks, as is evident in parable, apocalypse, liturgy, sacred song, spiritual exercises, the rhythms of ecclesial life." Brown continues, "in being good for religion, aesthetica give to it some of what they alone are good for in themselves. Religion, in return, gives to aesthetica what it alone can give, though even this is thereby changed." Thus art is inspired by visitations of spirit, and ideas of spirit are propagated through art.
Even the words of the prophets are in a literary form. Bahá'í Professor of English Literature, John Hatcher affirms, "Like the literary artist, the primary medium for the Manifestation is language. Furthermore, the words of the Manifestation are fundamentally artistic in form."
The word "inspiration" is derived from the act of breathing in. Where does this breath come from? What is the atmosphere that surrounds and enlivens us?