Consciousness and Literary Creativity

© Hermann Hendrich

It is for this reason (representing the true character of objects) that I hold the somewhat unusual view that artists are neurologists, study- ing the brain with techniques that are unique to them and reaching interesting but unspecified conclusions about the organization of the brain.

Semir Zeki in (Seki 1999a), p80


Before we can discuss various aspects of my thesis I would like to offer a general survey of the concept of creativity as it is generally understood in the German speaking areas where I come from.
Creativity is the name for an inspired and constructive ability, which is triggered in human actions and thinking, and which is identified on the one hand by novelty or originality, on the other hand there must be a meaningful and discernible connection with a solution to various problems. Moreover, creativity is also being used in artistic productions in many areas of human inventions. The area of problem solving of artistic creativity can be found in the processing of emotional conflicts or in the communicative orientation of the artist. Only after acceptance of creative ideas or products by society do they receive their significance. Creative human beings are characterized in an increased likelihood by the following personality traits: energy or activity potential (vitality, initiative, stamina), curiosity, tolerance to conflicts and frustrations, independence and nonconformity. Also a number of intellectual faculties are rather beneficial to achieving creative performances such as sensitivity to problems, flexibility, independence and a way of thinking, which looks for beginnings in many directions. Additionally the readiness to reshape perception and thought contents towards new structures can be found helpful.

The creative process consists of the following phases: 1) examination of the environment, 2) awareness and analysis of problems, 3) collection of information, 4) systematic or unconscious formation of hypothesis, 5) notions, brain-waves, ideas, inspirations, 6) consideration and elaboration of the details, 7) exchange, communication, 8) accomplishment, realization.

My thesis will be centered on the unconscious formation of hypothesis or ideas, and the above mentioned point with brain-waves, imaginative ideas, ingenious notions and inspirations in general. In prose and poetry we have to deal with the organization of rhythm, the row of metaphors arranged to follow the sequence of ideas and the description of small stretches of reality, of a synopsis of life.


S. Zeki says in his "Neural concept Formation and Art" (Zeki 2002):
..But I believe that there is a formal contribution that is made repetitively by the brain, in every area of the cerebral cortex, and that contribution - abstraction - is not acquired through experience but is innate (Zeki, 1999b; 2002). Thus, contrary to the supposition of Plato, who believed that things are derived from abstractions, most today would probably agree that it is the other way round, and that sensory data are submitted to the innately acquired abstractive processes of the brain. By abstraction I here mean the process by which the particular is subordinated to the general, so that what is represented is applicable to many particulars. I would like to propose not only that all brain systems, however they differ in their functions, are engaged in abstraction and concept formation, because they are all somehow involved in the acquisition of knowledge, but also that a basically similar neural process governs the generation of different ideals by the brain. Art is basically a by-product of this abstracting, concept forming, knowledge acquiring system of the brain and can only be understood biologically in that context.

I want to show within the field of some literary movements and within the vast body of knowledge covering the mentally disturbed, who have demonstrated their creative abilities, that intuition and the capacity for invention can be achieved when the borders of the ordinary and the average have been broken or are no longer accepted by the individual. I have to exclude the effects of various drugs from alcohol to peyotl, since their use and abuse is a separate chapter not to be dealt with at this time. I shall, however, discuss achievements in creativity under various normal (forgive me if I use this term without a detailed definition) states of consciousness and mania, using appropriate examples.

I believe, that these states of consciousness further our indulgence toward new combinations of ideas and concepts and bring with them an offset to established ways to express oneself. Let us now turn towards a closer look at some states of consciousness and ideas and how creativity could benefit from these states.


Already in the late forties of the last century Andreas Okopenko, an Austrian poet and writer, started to take notes on a certain state of consciousness , which he experienced often. Later he began to call this state 'Fluidum'. His first publication about his self observations appeared in an Austrian literary magazine in 1977 (Okopenko 1977)), much later a version with more examples and additional comments by the author himself can be found in the two volumes of his selected writings (Okopenko 2000/2001).

Okopenko tried very hard to give us a good description of his 'fluidum' as well as some definitions, a few of which I am presenting in an English translation. "But the essential cannot be found in these encirclements, which do not sensually exceed thoughts or feelings, but something similarly elementary or irreducible to the experience of the five senses." "An important component of the fluidum is the affected one. The feeling of a fluidum comes most often as a shock."

"The fluidum is unique and mirrors subjectively the uniqueness of the moment. It hits like lightning. It exists in the moment when it is perceived. During a fluidum the constituents of the moment are felt as a whole and not as a collection of particular elements. The fluidum is an integral for experience within a time differential."

"The experience ( e.g. of a fluidum) is functional: recognizing (perceiving, reflecting), but also always dynamic: as seizure , enlightenment, lightning. The whole of the concept 'fluidum' is an undivisible complex of objective content and excitement." "The fluidum is not exhausted in the optical realm on one hand, and on the other hand much conscious scanning does not lead to any fluidic experiences." "The fluidum is also one of the phenomena of pre-language thinking which is sometimes disparaged by the philosophers. "The experience of a fluidum has similarities with spontaneous or provoked states of enlightenment or mystical intimacy, without a faith however in the fluidum." "The clear sight in its meta-wordly aspect is the 'direct experience' …and one day the flash of the highest insight, the clarity, happens and with it the sight of the true reality." In order to differentiate his fluidum experiences from the Eastern philosophy Okopenko mentions: "In my fluidum experience I wander ….beyond the limits of the subject, this tragic bearer of 'the eternal opponent' (Rainer Maria Rilke); until the confluence of the subject into the world of objects: into the midst within, at the suspension of contrast…."

In 1963 Andreas stated: "You realize that everything you tried to say remains incommunicable. It can not be said with all the painstaking images of reality. It clings to the images but has its own nature." If these last two sentences give way to a feeling, which (I believe) many of us in the writing business experience from time to time, Okopenko certainly points to the problem of communicating consciously experienced phenomena. Especially states of consciousness apart from any mood may be very difficult to describe in a way accessible to the layperson or the student. During a recent personal meeting with Okopenko I received another very fine description of his 'Fluidum', which I would like to enclose in translation

"Theoretically the course of the world should consist really only by potential fluidic moments. It belongs to the subject, which moments we select to be fluidic experiences (we = some mechanisms within us, including the the possibility to concentrate consciously in one, maybe just the present moment, and indulge ourselves into it). This indulgence was tested oftener by myself with good results, especially being half asleep, when I could experience long sequences of fluidic scenes, and also could manipulate them - not too much consciously, otherwise I would have awaken. Also standing in a tram I could experience minute long sequences of fluidic awareness of my surroundings ."

Noting the additionally provided examples of Okopenko's own poems or prose lines I suggest that his honest self-observations fall into two categories, one characterized by this spontaneous enlightenment, and the other by a certain revelation, a heightened awareness, especially in the direction of an aesthetic experience, but also of nature poetry. I would like to add some further descriptions of Okopenko's fluidum "Fluidum is an emotional state with existential resonance, or before an infinite horizon, basically it can always happen ...."
"Maybe a great calm and a feeling of clarity comes over us." "The Fluidum is unique and subjectively mirrors the uniqueness of the moment. It hits. It is complete in the very moment it is experienced. The elements of the moment are felt as a unit and not as a cluster of individual items. The fluidum is an experience integral in a time differential. Despite the uniqueness of a fluidum all of one's own fluidi are similar to each other, and one's own and someone else's fluidi are also similar to each other, since each unique moment is similar to each , and each psyche resembles another one. Artistic, fluidic communication: one zest for life alarms the other one."

Okopenko's important theory regarding poetry can be formulated as follows: The fluidic state of an author (poet) supports the development of new ways to write and to form poems. He cites a number of poets like Ezra Pound, James Joyce and T.S. Eliot 8), whose poetic works show an influence by fluidic states of consciousness. Especially Pound's imagery seems to confirm Okopenko's theory. He believes very strongly that in writing poetry one tries to communicate one's own fluidic experiences.

Now the various depths are being separated
Now you don't eat cut up flowers in the best way
They do have their own scent, not a good one,
Now you eat bread from last year's harvest or drill sharply
Into a tin can and cut around
The first slice of a canned piece.
As fast as possible you harness yourself before the rest of the country coaches
Breathe the yellow shaft
Pant the song in the yellow brown stubble field
From pursuing gray under the spread out gray
And then the sky rushes down.
You can only see a few steps ahead
The earth receives an adverse play explosions
Fountains of upwards pelting rain bundles
And sloping downwards, broken
And overlapping circles everywhere all the time.
Soaked man,
Man of the three thousand steps!

(From "Zu Herbstbeginn" (At the beginning of fall) in (Okopenko 1980.) In my view: there is still a story, and the poem is full of surrealistic influences 9), but when we disregard these something which may correspond to the fluidic experience: a certain stop in individual time, an expanded state of consciousness , which is able to observe many different events simultaneously on more than one sensual plane.
Let's take a few lines by T.S. Eliot for closer scrutiny:
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.

Time past and time future

Allows but a little consciousness,
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.
(T.S. Eliot 1963)

This part of a longer poem (Burnt Norton) really has the "fluidic" quality Okopenko tries to demonstrate in his essay, despite some contents which lead us to a later discussion in my paper.
"Fluidum is a feeling with existential resonance, in front of an unending horizon, basically always possible, to be caught up with a given narrow emotion…… A great silence and a feeling of clarity overcomes us."
It seems to me, that writing in this sense means re-living those episodes of unusual states of consciousness. Okopenko has, however, scanned modern literature for traces and hints of fluidic experiences, appearing in writing. For details see (Okopenko 2000/2002).

Let us take a short look at Zazen or Zen

J.A.Goguen in "Editorial Introduction -Art and the Brain" (Goguen 1999)
"In a different kind of connection between art and religion, many have been surprised to learn that the recently discovered and much debated delay between perception and consciousness was noticed and explained centuries ago by Buddhist meditators, who further noticed that an emotional evaluation proceeds conscious experience; (see for example the lucid discussion of the five skhandas (form, feeling, perception, concept and consciousness) in Varela 1999). This tradition also recognized, that we do not perceive an 'objective world' that is 'out there', but rather, we construct our own world, based on our values and expectations. When that 'world' is transformed through the practice of meditation, it becomes 'pure appearance', also called mahamudra, which is experience liberated as 'self symbolic', luminous and transparent, without our usual overlays of projection and attachment; in this way, all experience can become heightened aesthetic experience. (Meister Eckhart)."

'Zen' is a translation of the Indian Sanskrit word for meditation. Meditation has been passed down as one of the three facets of Buddhist practice (i.e. morality, meditation and wisdom). It is the most essential of the practices taught by Sakyamuni Buddha who himself attained supreme enlightenment by singlemindedly penetrating zazen.
In his Fukan Zazengi (The Universal Promotion of the principles of Zazen). Dögen says, that the crux of zazen is "non-thinking; that is the essential of zazen." This non-thinking is impossible to explain. If it could be explained, then it would not be non-thinking. Non-thinking is just non-thinking and there is no other way for you to experience yourself in zazen.

During this experience one becomes completely free of thought and perception. Thus this state of consciousness, also called sunyata, desired or sought in most religious traditions, leaves the poet after experiencing it without the limits reality throws around him at other times. He suddenly sees another kind of 'wirklichkeit' and becomes able to communicate it with his poetic tools.
You can't grasp it with your brain. If you practice zazen, on the other hand, you can experience satori unconsciously. The posture of zazen itself is satori. Satori is the return to the normal, original condition. It is the consciousness of the newborn baby. Unlike what many people think, satori is not some special state, but simply a return to the original condition. Through the practice of Zazen one achieves peace. Through one's body one can discover the consciousness of satori. So posture is very important. You can't discover satori with your head in your hands like Rodin's thinker. That is why people in the East respect the posture of the Buddha. It is the highest posture of the human body. Chimpanzees and babies cannot experience satori. Babies are in their original condition, but then karma obscures it, and we must try to regain that condition. Chimpanzees don't need to; they are always in their original condition. Only human beings have lost it and become complicated and so they must try to regain it.
Zazen clears up the human mind immediately and lets man dwell in his true essence. Zazen transcends both the unenlightened and the sage, rises above the dualism of delusion and enlightenment. Through zazen we break free from all things, forsake myriad relations, do nothing and stop the working of the six senses.
Awareness is the ontological ground for phenomenal appearance, which only has reality as manifestations of Nature.
From these statements (See also "Lecture on Zen" by Alan Watts) it seems plausible to compare 'freeze' (see the discussion on the following pages) with zen. When we forget the name of an object do we forget the object too? Patches of colour, sounds without meaning remain.
Andreas Okpenko writes about 'direktes Erkennen' and satori and believes that Haiku or Zenrin are very close to a fluidic kind of poetry.

Some aspects in Okopenko's description of his fluidum lead to the discussion on whether synaesthesia has some elements in common with fluidum. Usually synaesthetic experiences are defined as the production of mental sense impression relating to one sense by the stimulation of another sense.
"A Review of Current Knowledge" was written by Richard E. Cytowic. In his ABSTRACT he summarizes very clearly all aspects, which are interesting to neurology and art & consciousness. (Cytowic 1995)
Under 2.8 he writes "…The spatial location of objects is also strikingly remembered, such as the precise location of kitchen utensils, furniture arrangements and floor plan, books on shelves, or text blocks in a specific book…."
A descriptive passage from Andreas Okopenko: "Suddenly - be it spontaneous or provoked, a faucet which has been indifferently looked at before, becomes of enormous importance to us. Or a room appears to begin to move around us and becomes exciting. Particularly alienation (Verfremdung) does much for a fluidic movement in the present."
"A whole landscape including the smallish human beings, little houses, vehicles, their perspectives, flowers, closeness, distances, the weather, fragments of conversation, manifest values and no values, their tragedy, their humour, youth, age, water, heat, wind, single movements constantly everywhere, embedded in the nearest and the farthest environment, sucking in everything from pre-history to the future of the world, in addition superpositioning with my own small and large history, my appetite, my clothes, my health, working plan, with hopes, resentments, sexual life, this fitted into the world and this observing one self that all may become enchanting in the simultaneous experience (and not in remembering it)." This poetic recollection of a fluidic experience seems to me to be the only overlap between Okopenko's concept and the general acceptance of synaesthetic ones. In this regard I would like to mention Cytowic's paragraph 3. "History Of Synesthesia" as well as Braddock's paragraph "Synaesthesia: A Case Study in Phenomenology through Vicarious Experience" in (Braddock 2001) and to the section "Artists, Poets and Synaesthesia" by Ramachandran and Hubbard in (R & H 2001).

Apart from the fact that Okopenko mentions a number of poets, whom he suspects of having had "fluidic" experiences, and whose names we find again in the articles mentioned above there is little evidence, that "fluidum" could really be listed among the scope of synaesthetic experiences.9)

The discussion about synaesthesia leads to very interesting speculations, which should be noted by writers and literary reviewers, as "..Second, we propose the existence of a kind of sensory to motor synaesthesia, which may have played a pivotal role in the evolution of language." (Ramachandran and Hubbard in "Synaesthesia - A Window into Perception, Thought and Language" in (R & H 2001). A similar view on the evolution of language is expressed by Harry van der Hulst in Hulst 1999.

Reviewing the above mentioned sources I am inclined to think that Okopenko's fluidum has very little connection with anything being discussed within the realm of synaesthesia. There is one point which should be mentioned, however. Its literature points to a fact, that the number of synaesthetes within the group of poets, writers and artists in the wider sense of the word is unproportionally larger than compared with a more general group.
I am no synaesthete: music recalls emotions in my mind, but not colours, and paintings are just paintings to me. Understanding the main feelings of a synaesthete I do still find a phenomenological problem within this area.

Maybe the following sentence by G. Braddock in his "Beyond Reflection in Naturalized Phenomenology" will support my ideas: "In short, our phenomenological verdict about synaesthesia and its role in normal perception will be directed by all of the above information, and, in fact by any other information that might push our account of the phenomena in one direction or another."
It may be interesting to note, that the German term 'Doppelbegabung', intended to describe artists creating original works in at least two different art provinces, such as poetry and music, or painting and theatrical productions, may only be trying to group them as synaesthetes. To own this heightened awareness in perception in form and intensity of sound, colour, bodily movement or rhapsodic prose may sometimes have been an advantage for the individual, leading her to achieve a carrier as shaman, sorceress, cave painter, rock scratcher, and later into the roles of bards and clowns. It can be summed up by two sentences by Robert Allott: "The process of art production as a biological reality presents problems for a number of aspects of evolutionary theory (e.g. fitness, altruism, gene determination of behaviour, gene selection) which may best be solved by defining or amending the theories rather than by ejecting the art process from the realm of biology. If the arts are correctly treated as biological in origin and in the process of artistic creation, the issue that matters, on the analysis in the preceding section, is not the node of transmission of cultural pattern (via hypothetical memes, culturegenes, etc.) but the origination of the cultural patterns, artistic or cultural 'creation'." (Allott 2002)


From my own conscious experience I would like to describe a state of consciousness which I call a 'freeze'.(Hendrich 1999)
I happened to be riding a tram in the beginning twilight and the buildings flashing past my wide open eyes remained sharply focussed: windows, doors, shops and intermittent billboards. The passengers are perceived as precisely outlined shapes throughout the field of vision, especially if one moves. Familiar faces dissolve into strange features. (The way of per-ception, the representation of the surrounding objects must have been expanded.) The written signs on the shop portals are perceived as such, but the meaning of the agglomeration of letters cannot be recognized.

The colours and shapes on each poster appear extremely clear, but cannot be combined into a picture. Mirror-like glass surfaces surrounded by dark brown wooden frames, the phenomena themselves start to gain significance, and those concepts which regulate the representation of objects are not involved.
In a way Jennifer Church gives us some explanation when she writes in her article "'Seeing As' and the Double Bind of Consciousness" (Church 2000): "Central to aesthetic experience, but also to experience in general, is the phenomenon of 'seeing as'. We see a painting as a landscape, we hear sequence of sounds as a melody, we see a wooden contraption as a boat, and we hear a comment as an insult."
Back to my 'inside' report:

No effort is felt by keeping the eyes straight ahead even for many minutes at a time. After these minutes the visual attention expands to the total field of vision, no difference between foreground and background can be made anymore, the movement of single elements against each other, the shifts and fade-ins can be observed, without moving the direction of the gaze, all things happen simultaneously. During this time acoustic phenomena can also be taken in and in contrast to the visual experience the meaning of utterances, even when more then one persons speaks at the same time, can be understood.
Thinking in a certain respect has actually ceased, since stimuli or analogous chains are no longer followed at all. The capacity of conscious perception is just large enough to accept the huge abundance of visual and auditory details. The progressive loss of significance leads one to indulge in a strong feeling of strangeness. The normal atmosphere of feelings and emotions vanishes. The self is no longer included in the reality around it.

Another quote from Church's above mentioned article, following Kant's insight: "although seeing seems to be a twoplace relation between the seer and the seen, and thinking appears to be a twoplace relation between the thinker, the object of thought, and what is thought about that object, conscious thinking also requires one to merge an object with the way it is presented. " And later on page 105: "This is not to say, that all thinking must be accompanied by images; sometimes thinking amounts to little more than the syntactical manipulation of symbols."
Without being able to compare my 'freeze' experience with those of others I can only speculate that there are certain ways to loosen the 'double binding' in conscious space. Since introspection does not give me any hints, how I really manage to click on freeze, I must leave this state of consciousness open to further investigations.
Moreover, it seems that Eastern meditative practices lead to an analogous state.

Literary creativity is a wide area, where new imagery, new forms of poetry or prose and new philosophical thoughts or recombinations are tried out and performed. Throughout our writing history stimulations have been sought by poets and writers in general to stimulate creativity. Heavy smoking seems to be the most often used ancillary, but alcohol from beer to whisky served some as well. In modern literary history the use of many kinds of substances with mind expanding or mind changing qualities have been in use.
So it is obvious that specific states of consciousness, reached without the intake of any chemical substance at all, could serve this purpose as well.
From the various descriptions of poets, especially Andreas Okopenko's "fluidum" , one receives the impression, however, that the fluidum or synaesthetic experiences serve as indirect means for literary creativity. It is the impact of these experiences which the poet tries to describe or bring into a complex arrangement of words, unusual metaphors and the evocation of forgotten feelings.

Synaesthetic experiences lead to somewhat different examples, many of those cited in the mentioned literature. A large number of poets used metaphors including colour references, and painters like Wassilij Kandinsky (The Yellow Sound Kandinsky 1912) worked from the synaesthetic experience of music and colour. We can state that synaesthetic poets and writers have an internal source of creativity in their poetic work.
'Freeze' and zen - if I may combine my intentions here - can also not be used for writing while you are in a freeze or enlightened. Remembering those states of consciousness, however, should spur the effort of writing, repeatedly described as a 'hot point' within myself, in finding the opening lines of some emotionally moving poems.

Let me proceed to the second chapter of my examples.
Mania, faked or self-indulged, and incurable mental disturbances are similar fields to analyze ways of creative behaviour or openings to finding new ways of expression. We shall, therefore, concentrate on a small number of cases only, in order to demonstrate the peculiar thought formations found in individuals capable of poetic expression.
One of the most interesting diseases is schizophrenia, in the wide area of its appearances.


In psychology a class of severe mental disorders, characterized by reality distortions resulting in unusual thought patterns and behaviors is called schizophrenia. In 1896, the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin grouped what where previously considered unrelated mental diseases under the term of dementia praecox. It was not until 1908, however, that an influential essay by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler corrected Kraepelin's theory that the disease was an organic brain deterioration, and thus incurable. Bleuler introduced the term schizophrenia to replace dementia praecox, emphasizing the dissociative phenomena in the mind and avoiding the implications of early onset and progressive brain deterioriation. Schizophrenic disorders generally begin in the late teenage years or early adulthood, and tend to occur in withdrawn, seclusive individuals. Symptoms include disturbances of thought, both in form and content (as in delusions) and disturbances of perception, most commonly appearing as visual or aural hallucinations. Biochemical research suggests that high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, or excessive numbers of receptors for dopamine, may be at the root of schizophrenia. Many researchers maintain that a combination of factors produce schizophrenia. Antipsychotic drugs, occasionally in conjunction with psychotherapy, have been helpful in the treatment of schizophrenia, and the outlook for remission is becoming more hopeful.

In Austria the case of Ernst Herbeck has become very famous. Born in 1920 near Vienna he suffered from a heavy deformation of his mouth and lips, so that despite several operations he never could speak well. His schooling was very simple, and he became schizophrenic at the age of 20, being hospitalized thereafter until his death in 1991. Leo Navratil, the psychiatrist, who has done so much for the creativity and artistic output of those we call insane, induced Herbeck to write poems as a means of expression, calling him into his office and giving him some words, meant as titles for his poems:


In the fall the wraithwind
turns out
for in the snow
manes are colliding.
Blackbirds pipe up a horde
in the wind and feed.
(Herbeck 2002)

Roger Cardinal writes in "Eine Abneigung zur Wirklichkeit" (Cardinal 1976) "The comparison with the poetic experiments of the French surrealists cannot be wrong at this stage. The young André Breton spoke of his "Love for the improbable" and his "Longing for the irrational". Especially remarkable is the parallel to the écriture automatique of the early surrealists: recently (Thomas M. Scheerer) it has been proved by detailed analysis of "automatically written" texts, that the principle of a writing method "without aesthetic or moral assumptions" - as Breton wanted it - generally tends to create a model of an impossible reality. We find in Herbeck's automatic products the same tendency to avoid realism that is to be found in the works of the surrealists." 11)


I'm not just homesick,
but even more. Homesickness
is a torture out of place.
The outwardness is
unbearable. I
want to go home .

Further on in the above mentioned article Cardinal writes as follows:
"On the other hand Herbeck achieves amazing effects with avoiding reality when he manipulates alienating colours. "Blue is the sun" Blue is a purely surreal notion (see P.Eluard: "The earth is blue like an orange".) Even abstract colours are attributed, where "the grey foreboding" reminds one rather of symbolism (Mallarmé). Totally in the vein of the surrealists or other contemporary poets like Karl Krolow Herbeck's metaphors work against the normal mind. They present the effect of alienation in the most concise way: " Like an eagle the smoke of cigarettes flees" points to an abrupt exacerbation into the surreal. The same can be presumed for the poem "The Dream", which contains a veritable litany of bizarre metaphors: "The dream is a paper/ (…) / the dream is a clear light / (…) the day is the dream/ and the room is the dream." (In German room (Raum) and dream (Traum) rhymes). With a little effort one can identify the associative meaning of such lines ...

The Dream

The dream was at midnight -.
while I was deep in sleep,
dream and the space is the dream
I drove with 2 steeds at a trot up a
street. The horses panting.
In the avenue I met some
boys. Quickly the houses flew
by. And one was near me
he shoved my sight against
my soul. The sun was shining.
That quick turned back
into calm and I awoke.

Fritz Rumler in "Ich kann mich nicht einordnen" (Rumler 1977)
"For more than 30 years Hoelderlin, suffering from schizophrenia, lived semi-consciously ("struck down by Apollo") in his tower at Tübingen, stammering dark sentences. For more than 30 years Adolf Wölffli painted and wrote his fantastic, cosmic trips, the funeral march of his soul. In contrast with these psychotic grandmasters Herbeck produced nothing on his own. Dr. Navratil, his psychiatrist and mentor suggested themes to him, to which he responded with automatic writing without much hesitation or subsequent changes to the text."

In July 1802 Friedrich Hoelderlin returned from an extended trip through France in a completely deranged condition to Nuertingen, to the house of his mother. He showed all signs of a serious outbreak of schizophrenia (as we now know it) with charging about, shouting at his family and absolutely negligent about his clothes and body. A few days later he received the news, that his only love had died of the German measles.
From this time on Hoelderlin's life was characterized by alternating periods of hyperactivity and incoherent speech and quieter ones, when he worked on his long cantos or translations from the Greek. This was also the time, when he wrote some of his most outstanding poems. He often wrote about the role of the poet in his cantos, I will quote just one example, written in the time between 1802 and 1803:

Much is revealed by God
Since long the clouds
Operate down
And holy wilderness takes root preparing a lot.
Wealth is hot. Since the song
Is missing, which loosens the mind.
He would consume
And even if it would be against himself,
Then, the heavenly fire never bears

(Hölderlin 1843)
The difficulty in understanding these poems (even in German) is the use of transitive verbs leaving out the objects.
But the main idea that the mind cannot be hemmed in and holds an eternal fire is close to the various surrealist pamphlets more than one hundred years later.
But with regard to my theory let us look more closely at other Hoelderlin lines:

Half of Life

With yellow pears and full
Of wild roses
The land hangs into the lake,
Oh fair swans,
And drunken from kisses
You dip your heads
Into the sacred sober water.

Woe is me, where can I find,
When winter comes, the flowers, and where
The sunshine
And shadow of the earth?
The walls stand
Speechless and cold, in the wind
Flags are clinking..

In this poem from the early years of his schizophrenia the absolutely new use of rhythmic speech and the exchange of classical metaphoric use of ideas for a positive thrust into the vast meaning of each word, lead us to presume, that the terrible mental sickness, which caused in the end the loss of a life, a life previously designed by his own decisions, removed most of the traditional usage and corsets of his education. For a short time in his life Hoelderlin could apply his entire creative powers to organizing his ideas and emotions through language into poetry. His transgression of the metaphoric language as used in contemporary poetry into using words as sound engrammes and bearers of a world of meaning has been followed only in modern poetry, from DADA to Karl Krolow or Celan, and to some extent, by the Austrian Ernst Jandl

But one thing must be said….

But one thing must
Be said. For almost
Too suddenly happiness
Came to me,
The solitary one, so that I ignorant
In matters of property
Turned to the shadows,
Hence, because, tempting us,
You gave us mortals
The shape of gods,
What are words for? And melancholy would have
Taken away the song
from my lips. Indeed,
in ages past the poets
themselves revealed how
they had taken away the power of the gods.
We, however, force misfortunes
To yield and raise the flags
To the god of victory, the liberating one. That is why
You have sent enigmas. Holy are they,
The shining ones, but if the divine ones
Become commonplace and the miracles
Appear to be vulgar; and when
The titanic princes ravage the gifts
Of the Mother, a higher one will come to her aid.

After long periods of living in the care of friends finally there was no other way than to leave him with a humble family, who could offer a room in a so-called tower, having a lovely view over the Neckar landscape. There he stayed until his death in 1843. His mood became rather quiet, and he did not remember his former intellectual life. He still, however, wrote short rhyming poems for friends and occasional visitors, which show a strange similarity with the work of Herbeck. There is not enough time to really go into comparisons at length, so two examples may suffice.


Of man I would say, if he be good
and wise, does he need more? and is there anything
That would give satisfaction to the soul? Is there a blade of grass,
A fully ripened vine on earth

Growing which would sate him? The meaning of it is
Therefore. A friend is often the beloved one, much
Is art. Oh, dear friend, I'll tell you the truth.
The spirit of Daedalus and of the woods is yours.

Later in his very simple life in the " tower " he used to write down little poems for his visitors, which he signed such as the following one:


Splendid as are the people, is the life
And often are they in command of nature,
The splendid country is not lost on them
Evenings and mornings come with charm.
The fields lie open as at harvest time
Spirituality surrounds old legends,
And once again humanity spawns life,
Thus in tranquility the year declines.

On May 24, 1748< your most obedend Scardanelli

We see here patches of expressions Hoelderlin used in his former life, put together seemingly by chance, and using the corset of rhyme. But there is a similarity with the poems of Ernst Herbeck in so far as the chain of concepts and words, apparently arranged without conscious control, leads to a similar expression.

One of the most outstanding cases of a poet, writer, actor and theater director who suffered his whole life from his teens on from a mental illness, was Antonin Artaud. After a slow recovery from meningitis as a boy, awful headaches remained, for which he took opiates. (Antonin Artaud 'L'Art et la Mort' 1929, ed. Robert Denoel, Paris ):

A wrong diagnosis (hereditary Syphilis) led to a treatment in the twenties of the last century with organic mercury and arsenic compounds, which increased Artaud's symptoms. It is more than likely that his extraordinary creativity was set free by his illness, and his suffering caused his increasing reputation within the last twenty years or so as a modern saint.

A Cry

The little celestial poet
Opens the shutters of his heart
The heavens clash. Oblivion
Uproots the symphony.

Stableman the wild house
That has you guard wolves
Does not suspect the wraths
Smouldering beneath the big alcove
Of the vault that hangs above us.

Hence silence and darkness
Muzzle all impurity
The sky strides forward
At the crossroad of sounds

The star is eating. The oblique sky
Is opening its flight towards the heights
Night sweeps away the scraps
Of the meal that contented us.

On earth walks a slug
Which is greeted by ten thousand white hands
A slug is crawling
There where the earth vanished.

Angels whom no obscenity summons
Were homeward bound in peace
When rose the real voice
Of the spirit that called them.

The sun lower than the daylight
Volatilized all the sea.
A strange but clear dream
Was born on the clean earth.

The lost little poet
Leaves his heavenly post
With an unearthly idea
Pressed upon his hairy heart.

Two traditions met.
But our padlocked thoughts
Lacked the place required,
Experiment to be tried again.
(Artaud 1965)
There is a strong connection between Artaud and Mexico, since he spent many months in 1936 in Mexico, living in poverty with the help of friends and occasional articles in newspapers and magazines. He also gave three lectures at the UNAM, and there is a book called "Mexico" (Cardoza y Aragón, 1962) with texts by Artaud, published by UNAM.

Remembering his experiences in Mexico Artaud wrote a number of texts in the course of many years after his return to France, such as the following very strange "tale":

The Tale of Popocatepel

When I think: man, I think
Idiot, popo, caca, head, papa
And of the wing of the little breath which is exhaled to animate all that.
Idiot, necessity of the pot of being, which perhaps will have its potful.
And after idiot, caca, breath of the double-you sea if you please, these dungeons of necessity.

The man they can bust and bury when they haven't incinerated him in the baptismal fonts of being.

For to baptize is to cook a being against his will.
Naked by being born and naked by having died, this man whom they've cooked, strangled, hanged, grilled, baptized, shot and incarcerated, slandered and guillotined 'on the SCAFFOLD of existence,
This man eats three times a day baby.
When can he eat in peace?
I mean without a larval vampire in the grooves of his teeth,
For who eats without god and all alone ?
For a simple plate of lentils is worth much more than the Vedas, the Paranas, the Brahma.Sutras, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Kama-Rupas, or the Tarakyan in terms of attaining the bassoon sunk back in the shadows of the deepmost chamber where man the actor belches canons chewing the ocular lentil of the eye off the plate of his suffering - or barks curses when his fibers are dislocated under the scalpel.
When I say:
Shit, fart of my prick
(this fart let go in the grand imprecatory style, while belching under the boots of the police),
when I say: the terrors of life, solitude of my whole life,
caca, solitary confinement, poison, death breed,
scurvy of thirst,
plague of urgency,
god responds on the Himalaya with:
Dialectic of science,
Arithmetic of your usufruct, existence, suffering, grated bone of the skeleton of life turning against ATZILUTH,
To whom,
I say ZUT
(Artaud 1965)

In the mid-twenties Artaud met with the leading surrealists in painters' ateliers, and was finally invited to join the club. This was when he wrote the following sentences: Artaud in "Le Pése-Nerfs", 1925 (Artaud 1983):
" I have often put myself into this condition of absurd impossibility in order to try to fecundate my thinking . There are a few of us at this time who are trying to grope our way to discovering things which could create room in us for life, room which did not exist and which apparently was not meant to find a place in space. I have always been aware of this obstinacy of the mind, wanting to think in certain dimensions and along certain lines, and restricting itself to random conditions in order to think; it thinks in segments, in crystalloids and each way of life clings desperately to a beginning. Thinking is not instantly and constantly connected with things, but this fixation and this frost, this waz of turning the soul into a monument, occurs so to speak BEFORE THINKING starts. This is obviously a fitting condition for creativity."

Certain trends in Artaud's expression remind me of those of autistic children, so I enclose the following: Nicholas Humphrey gives us a pretty good description about someone autistic in "Cave Art, Autism and the Human Mind" (Humphrey 1999)
"In Nadia's case, this apparent obliviousness to overlap - with the messy superimpositions that resulted - may in fact have been a positive feature of her autism. Autistic children have often been noted to be unusually attentive to detail in a sensory array, while being relatively uninfluenced - and even maybe unaware of - the larger context (see the discussion by Frith & Happé, 1994), Indeed such is their tendency to focus on parts rather than wholes that, if and when the surrounding context of a figure is potentially misleading or confusing, they may actually find it easier than normal people to ignore the context and see through it."

J.A. Goguen in "Editorial Introduction" (Goguen 1999), describes an article by Ellis in the same publication: "Ellis also takes a cognitive approach, suggesting that art plays with our expectations, which are based in efferent brain activity, by offering a variety of Gibsonian emotional 'affordances'. Meaning is then created in the context of a total ongoing dynamic life process; hence, for Ellis, meaning is far from being the causal result of simple stimuli." The final evocation of creativity by Artaud in " A Table " : Révolution Surrealiste 3, is dated 15.4.1925 : "Leave the caves of being. Come. The mind blows outside of the mind. It is time to leave your dwellings. Surrender to the all-thinkable. The miraculous stays at the origin of the spirit. We come from deep inside the spirit, from the inside of the brain. Ideas, logic, order, truth, reason: all this will be relinquished to the nothingness of death. Take care of your logic, gentlemen, take care of your logic; you don't know where our hatred of logic could lead us.
Only by a diversion of life, only by a standstill imposed on the mind, can life be grasped in the physiognomy we consider real, but reality cannot be found behind it. ……. Whoever pronounces a judgment on us has not yet been woken to the spirit, to that spirit to whom we intend to devote our life and who lies beyond what you call spirit. It isn' t wise to pay too much attention to the fetters that chain us to the petrified stupidity of the mind."
(Artaud 1996)

Surrealism (Columbia Encyclopedia)

Literary and art movement influenced by Freudianism and dedicated to the expression of imagination as revealed in dreams, free of the conscious control of reason and free of convention. The movement was founded (1924) in Paris by André Breton, with his Manifeste du surréalisme, but its ancestry is traced to the French poets Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Apollinaire. Many of its adherents had belonged to the DADA movement. Surrealist writers were interested in the associations and implications of words rather than their literal meaning. Among the leading surrealist writers were Louis Aragon, Paul Eluard, Robert Desnos, Henri Michaux and Jean Cocteau.

Within the early surrealist movement processes were looked for, which would lead to the creation of texts or poems, free from the tradition of literature and society. Some were already begun in DADA times in Zurich and Berlin. One of the most effective ones was the Ecriture automatique, a way of automatic text creation, be it alone or working in a small group. Ecriture automatique was theoretically based by André Breton in 1925, and practised by P. Soupault, A. Breton, P. Eluard and others. E.a. should have immediately shown the concrete passing of thoughts, the sequence of ideas. E.a was developped under the influence of P. Janets studies (L'automatisme psychologique, 1889) and the dream interpretation of S. Freud ('Die Traumdeutung' , 1900). Both speed of writing and chance as well as the questioning of language as a communication medium are important in using the methods of E.A. Some of those principles have been applied somewhat later by other surrealist artists in drawing and music.

From "L'Immaculée Conception" (The Immaculate Conception) by André Breton and Paul Eluard a few lines from 'The Life in the Intra-Uterine":
"Nothing to be. From all species of sun flowers to love the light is grief the nicest shadow on the sundial. Crossed bones, crossed words, volumes about volumes full with ignorance and wisdom. Where should one begin? The fish is being born out of a thorn, the ape out of nut. The shadow of Christopher Columbus turns itself around Tierra del Fuego, but it is no more difficult than an egg." (Breton & Eluard 1974)
In this book, which appeared first in 1930 in Paris, Breton and Éluard experimented for the first time with writing under a simulation of mania conditions. If the First and Second manifesto of Surrealism displayed the actual contents of dreams the L'immaculée Conception is the representation of their latent content. The simulation of mania, whether scientifically systematized or not, should not only create unforeseen and completely new forms of poetry, it should also point towards the free possibilities of thinking during manic states.
In addition to the above mentioned description of schizophrenia Louis A. Sass (Sass 1998) writes "…a strange oscillation, or even coexistence, between two opposite experiences of self: between the loss of fragmentation of self and its apotheosis in moments of solipsistic grandeur…..the self may be dispersed outward, where it fragments into parts that float among the things of the world; even one's most intimate thoughts and inclinations may appear to emanate from some external source or mysterious foreign soul." (See for instance Paul Schreber "Erinnerungen eines Geisteskranken").

An example from the text of Breton and Éluard, written under the experiment of simulating schizophrenia: "..When I was young, I tucked away Hercules in the pocket of my sailor's suit, when I was old, I gave him his freedom again, when I fastened his ransom with flat throws to my gravestone. He laughed during my yawning, an ivy laugh. Later, when I had developed myself, I let sprout a myriad toad eggs, a crossbreed product of crossroads of kangaroo stars in Napoleon's drawer hat of my chest of drawers with leafless cloverleaf legs. My great grandchild is Cléo de Mérode, my great grandmother, who travels sitting astride on a soft backside together with Charles the Bold. I won billionfold the great lot at roulette: I gambled throughout nine months of the year."

Helmut Heißenbüttel writes in "Über Henri Michaux" (Heißenbüttel 1962): "This sentence has no parallel in the real world. Nor in any fantastic, imagined, unreal world. The appearance that it would be so is deceptive and must be re-examined.. One has to make this very clear to oneself and will then recognize the difference between those sentences from the literature of surrealism, which again and again conjured up a newly built world in a certain inner space of fantasy."

While checking many items in the literatur about creativity I came across the ideas of Pek van Andel from the Netherlands, who has workwed intensively in what he call 'serendipity', the gift of making unsought findings. Certain discoveries, inventions or creations in science and art have been called accidental, but, as Cl. Bernard said about 140 years ago, "Nothing is accidental, and what seems to us accident is only an unkown fact, whose explanation may furnish the occasion for a more or less important discovery." These explanations van Andel tries to provide. He collected a large mass of such creations, inventions or discoveries, which enabled him to order them into thirty serendipity patterns. Some of these patterns may have been used by the poets a s described in the following.

Here I would like mention the rather recent poetic movement, called inventionism (Adrian 1980), which based its theory on a model whereby anybody could write well articulated and innovative prose or poetry. One of the centers of this development was Vienna in the mid-fifties of the last the century, where some Austrian poets and artists - let me name a few: Marc Adrian, Hans Carl Artmann and Gerhard Rühm - met with young Chilenean anarchists, the most prominent one Ivan Contreras Brunet, born 1927 in Santiago de Chile. According to a story told by Rühm (Rühm 1980) inventionism was to be a poetic recipe, which should enable anybody to write poems of high aesthetic value. The main process consisted of looking up words and ideas in diverse encyclopaedias, using different heuristic strategies and completing the lines with conventional fill-ins. In "publikationen" 1957, No 2, we find the following poem by Contreras:

el conac de coral es la investigación
sobre una raiz de cromo entibiada de rocío
en irónica fragancia de piedra ficticia;
de fragatas de conchas y climas,
para época obligatoriamente filatélica.
así como el delicado asteroide sin economía
de nalgas.
o la piscina anaranjada
de microscopio.
que no combinen lo inherente
con lo estrellado.

For many years my friend Marc Adrian (Adrian 1980) developed texts on the basis of permutations and serial selection of words and passages of other written material. To some extent I have followed this line in my own writing (Hendrich 2000), using complex mathematical series.

In conclusion I would like to say if we try to express ourselves in poetry or in writing, we must go beyond merely collecting facts and stories, we must find a personal way of avoiding conformity and conventionality. I am convinced that with the necessary perseverance most of us will succeed in finding an adequate way to express their thoughts and emotions in writing, which is not a copy of someones else expression.

I would like to thank Andreas Okopenko for his numerous advices and Mrs Henriette Mandl for her translations and close scrutiny in my English text. Translations should be credited to those ones mentioned in the literature, all other ones have been done by H. Hendrich/H. Mandl.
© 2002 Hermann J. Hendrich, Vienna

General Literature:

Blackmore, Susan 1999 "The Meme Machine" Oxford, Oxford University Press
Beckett, Samuel 1961 "Poems in English" New York, Grove Press
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Columbia University Press 1993
Dennett, Daniel C. 1996 "Kinds of Minds" New York, BasicBooks
Greenfield, Susan A. 1995 "Journey to the Centers of the Mind" New York, W.H.Freeman & Company
Hobson, Allan J, 1999 "Consciousness" New York, W.H.Freeman and Company
Kapralik Elena, 1977 "Antonin Artaud, Leben und Werk des Schauspielers, Dichters und Regisseurs" Munich, Matthes & Seitz
Kerouac, Jack 1961 "Book of Dreams" San Francisco, City Lights Books
Kerouac, Jack 1958 "The Dharma Bums" Penguin Books
Gregory Peter N. 1985 "Tsung-Mi and the single word "awareness" (chih) in Philosophy East and West Vol 35 No 3 July
Joyce, James 1927 "Pomes Penyeach" Paris, Shakespeare & Co
Metzinger, Thomas 1995 ed. "Conscious Experience" Thorverton, Schöningh/Imprint Academic
Pinker, Steven 1997 "How the Mind Works" New York, W.W.Norton & Company
Pound, Ezra 1949 "The Pisan Cantos" Lonfon, Faber & Faber
Pound, Ezra 1934 "ABC of Reading" New York, New Directions
Priessnitz, Reinhard 1978 "vierundvierzig gedichte" Linz, edition neue texte
Scott, Alwyn 1995 "Stairway to the Mind" New York, Springer-Verlag
Wilson, Edward O. 1998 "Consilience" New York, Alfred A. Knopf

Quoted Literature:

Adrian Marc 1980 'marc adrian inventionen' Linz, edition neue texte
Allott, Robert 2002, homepage
Artaud Antonin 1965 'Antonin Artaud Anthology' San Francisco, City Lights Books
Artaud Antonin 1983 'Antonin Artaud Frühe Schriften' Munich, Matthes & Seitz 1983
Artaud Antonin 1996 ‚Antonin Artaud Surrealistische Texte' Munich, Matthes & Seitz 1996
Braddock Glenn 2001 'Beyond Reflection in Naturalized Phenomenology' JCS Vol 8, No 11, November 2001
Breton & Eluard 1974 'L'Immaculée Conception' Munich, Rogner & Bernhard 1974
Cardinal Roger 1976 'Eine Abneigung zur Wirklichkeit' Die Sprache des Anderen, Bibliotheca Psychiatrica No 15, Basel, Karger 1976
Church Jennifer 2000 ''Seeing As' and the Double Bind of Consciousness' JCS Vol 7, No 8/9 (2000)
Cytowic, Richard E. 1995 'A Review of Current Knowledge' PSYCHE, 2 (10) July 1995
Eliot, T.S. 1963 'Collected Poems 1909-1962' London, Faber & Faber
Goguen J.A. 1999 ‚Art and the Brain, Editorial Introduction' JCS Vol 6 (1999) June/July
Heißenbüttel Helmut 1966 ‚Über Henri Michaux' Merkur No 169 (1962)
Hendrich Hermann J. 1999 "in der strassenbahn - über nichtlineare bewusstseinszustände" Electronic Journal Literatur Primär, Wien 1999
Hendrich Hermann J. 2000 ‚fern schwarz, eine versammlung struktureller texte' Academic Publishers Graz 2000
Herbeck Ernst 2002 ‚Die Vergangenheit ist klar vorbei' ed. By Carl Aigner und Leo Navratil, Wien, Christian Brandstätter 2002
Hölderlin Friedrich 1943 'Sämtliche Werke, Historisch-Kritische Ausgabe', Berlin Propyläen-Verlag 1943
Hulst Harry van der 1999, 'So How did Language Emerge?' Second fall Lecture Skidmore College
Humphrey Nicholas 'Cave Art, Autism, and the Evolution of the Human Mind' JCS Vol 6, No 6-7, June/July 1999
Kandinsky Wassily 1912 ‚Über Bühnenkomposition' in Der Blaue Reiter München, R. Piper & Co
Kandinsky Wassily 1912 ‚Der Gelbe Klang' in Der Blaue Reiter (as above)
Miller Matt 2002 'Jack Kerouac and the Satori Highway' in Literary Traveler
Okopenko Andreas 1977 ‚FLUIDUM, Bericht von einer außergewöhnlichen Erlebnisart' Protokolle No2 (1977) Wien, Jugend & Volk
Okopenko Andreas 1980 ‚Gesammelte Lyrik' Wien, Jugend und Volk
Okopenko Andreas 2000/2001 ‚Gesammelte Aufsätze' Vol I & II, Klagenfurt, Ritter
Rühm Gerhard 1980 ‚nachwort; über den inventionismus' in ‚marc adrian inventionen' Linz, edition neue texte 1980
Rumler Fritz 1977 'ich kann mich nicht einordnen' Der Spiegel, No 49, 1977
Sass Louis A. 1998 'Schizophrenia, Self-Consciousness and the Modern Mind' JCS Vol 5, No 5-6, 1998
Zeki S, 1999a 'Art and the Brain' JCS Vol 6 (1999) June/July
Zeki S. 1999b ‚Splendours and Miseries of the Brain' Philosophical Transactions, The Royal Society of London B, 354, 1999
Zeki S, 2002 'Neural Concept Formation and Art' in JCS Vol 9, No3 (2002)

JCS = Journal of Consciousness Studies