Understanding Creative Unity through the Arts By Lubna Marium Introduction In July 1936 Tagore writes, ‘It is not

just through sports that the students of our Asrama get the proximity of this pulsating Nature, it is also through music that I have directed their hearts towards it’s stage’1. Why was the realization of Nature essential to Tagore’s philosophy of education, and that too through the arts? Time and time again, Tagore has written about Unity within Nature which is achieved through the ‘faculty of creativity’ which is Nature’s most essential trait. Unity for him is a harmony between parts and a harmony with surroundings. This is achieved by nature’s innate ‘creative’ ability to establish relationships. Rabindranath writes: When the science of meteorology knows the earth’s atmosphere as continuously one, affecting the different parts of the world differently, but in a harmony of adjustments, it knows and attains truth. And so too, we must know that the great mind of man is one, working through the many differences which are needed to ensure the full result of its fundamental unity. When we understand this truth in a disinterested spirit, it teaches us to respect all the differences in man that are real, yet remains conscious of our oneness; and to know that perfection of unity is not in uniformity, but in harmony.2 The operative words here are ‘a harmony of adjustments’ achieved through the ‘faculty of creativity’. Tagore often speaks of this same creative nature of man – bhetorkar srijon shokti – which enables him to wreathe a garland of unity from his disparate experiences. Experiencing Unity through creativity In the introduction to ‘Creative Unity’ Tagore elaborates – It is some untold mystery of unity in me that has the simplicity of the Infinite and reduces the immense mass of multitude to a single point. This One in me knows the universe of the many. But, in whatever it knows, it knows the One in different aspects. It knows this room only because this room is One to it, in spite of the seeming contradiction of the endless facts contained in the single fact of the room. Its knowledge of a tree is the knowledge of a
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‘Asramer Shikkha’, Tagore, Probashi, Ashar, 1343. ‘An Eastern University’; ‘Creative Unity’, Rabindranath Tagore.

Worldly emotions need to be acted upon. Rabindranath Tagore.’5 However. which appears in the aspect of a tree.4 He explains that the Nature of man is such that he is ‘constructive’ when he needs to fulfill his bodily needs. 1916. instead. Creativity and creation. ‘Creative Unity’. not simply an emotional response to artistic stimuli but the inner organizing principle of a distinct mode of apperception (anuvyavasaya). and experience the Unity of Nature. This One in me is creative. Rasa is. Indian aesthetics corroborates Tagore’s beliefs. ‘Creative Unity’. 1922 5 ‘What is art?’. becomes creative. ‘The joy of unity within ourselves. Then there is man’s ‘intellectual’ need to ‘not only find facts. or self-awareness. is in understanding these emotions by supplying relevant emotional motivations from our own store of latent memories. Its creations are a pastime. One may go further and state that Rasa is a specific non-mundane (alaukika) mode of cognition. but also some laws which will lighten the burden of mere number and quantity. it is the ‘personal man’ with whom Tagore is most concerned because it is this personal man in whom creativity finds expression. while theatrical emotions. the focus. inspired by works of art. 3 4 Introduction.’ This personality of man needs to be expressive and this is where he reveals himself through his faculty of creativity. thus.3 He goes on to say. ‘Lectures delivered in America’. above the expedient and useful. . Tagore. or Rasa. have no purpose but to inspire reflexivity. ‘Rasa’ as a mode of cognizing Unity Indian aesthetics firmly believes that the Experience of Art is neither subjective nor objective. Instead of ‘responding’ behaviorally to the transposed psychological casuses. whereas our desire for the fulfillment of our needs is constructive’. In fact. take men a step closer to understanding differences and working towards a consciousness of oneness. It is the highest in man. It is the ‘creative’ man. who can look beyond fragmentary events. seeking expression.above the needs. therefore. Tagore explains that the personal man is ‘found in the region where we are free from all necessity. both of body and mind. . which allows a greater understanding of the other. Rabindranath Tagore.unity. This causes a ‘generalization’ or ‘universalization’ of emotions. it is an ‘extra-empirical’ experience. through which it gives expression to an ideal of unity in its endless show of variety. 1922 ‘The Poet’s Religion’.

disgust) rooted in the genetically programmed propensity of an animate being to preserve and perpetuate itself. supports the fact that men have the faculty to ‘reflect’ on their own emotion. for the most part. metaphor. nervous) changes engendered by the operation of such instincts in response to an immediate context and to maintain an internal equilibrium." How we make sense of things is cognitive science.Modern day ‘Behavioral Neuroscience’. we understand more abstract and less structured domains (such as our concepts of reason. we find a recent study by Mark Johnson: ‘Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics. Recognition has to do with resemblance. fear. the fact that imagination is fundamental to moral reasoning. Instinct would refer to the biological reflexes (aggression. Therfore.. It is. It recognizes. Our conceptual system is. 2003 . and narrative. though. now distinguishes between instinct. where such cognitive autonomy is mirrored in language. finding its culmination in the subjective human consciousness. in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb. structured by systematic metaphorical mappings. Prototype theory holds that we recognize objects around us by comparing them to mental constructions derived from experience. It holds that we structure our world not deductively. emotion and sentiment6. must imagine intensively and comprehensively. too. an idea with a heritage..’ Johnson writes that Cognitive science recognizes the fact that art and ethics are both imaginative experiences. knowledge. belief) via mappings from more concrete and highly structured domains of 6 António Damásio's Lecture. neuroscience. but through means such as prototype recognition. Percy Shelley says in his Essay on the Defence of Poetry: "A man. and Social Behavior: The Brain Perspective".Poetry strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man. in this evolutionist perspective. sex. to be greatly good. Sentiment is distinguished. Sentiment is hence characterized by ‘self-awareness’ and implies an increasing degree of ‘freedom’ from the automatism of the body. by the integrated mapping of the experience of such emotions in relation to their external causes – emoting the memory of past patterns and future projections – onto the general psycho-somatic state as a whole. Emotion would refer to the various corporeal (chemical.. Feeling. "Emotion. Art and imagination In an attempt to look at other studies which link creativity to the human ability to unify experiences. too. and look beyond a selfseeking response to emotional stimuli. So.

Philosophy of Education Society. eating. New York: Oxford University Press. USA 8 . A bird learns to fly and 7 ‘Art and Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Moral Education’.. Rethorst's defense of the imagination echoes Martha Nussbaum who writes: Moral knowledge.experience (such as our bodily experience of vision. Martha Nussbaum.. the 'problem' of the relation of art and morals would not exist. with imagination and feeling.. in turn. it is not even simply intellectual grasp of particular facts. The faculty of imagination. and the conceptual system that underlies it.. Conclusion Going back to Tagore. evident that the pursuit of the arts enhances the capacity to imagine. we can understand his personal apathy towards modern day education by his own comparison of learning as a natural faculty of living creatures and learning as it had become in his days One example is education of children.. through imagination.Were art an acknowledged power in human association and not treated as the pleasuring of an idle moment or as a means of ostentatious display. 1990. . in his book ‘Philosophy of Education’. John Rethorst.8 It is."7 Based on these concepts. There is no greater tragedy than that for the children of men. which includes concepts such as the Unity of Creation.. movement. Illinois. says in Art as Experience: The imagination is the great instrument of moral good. does not give us a literal core of terms capable of mapping directly onto experience.. Language. the American philosopher and psychologist. concrete reality in a highly lucid and richly responsive way. Love's Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature. The central claim is that "human moral understanding is fundamentally imaginative [and that] metaphor is one of the principal mechanisms of imaginative cognition. empowers moral reasoning. including moral obligation. Instead. we map the world.It is seeing a complex. John Rethorst.is not simply intellectual grasp of propositions.. Yearbook 1997. or manipulating objects). John Dewey. states that moral imagination is stimulated by aesthetic experience. and were morals understood to be identical with every aspect of value that is shared in experience. it is taking in what is there..the ideal factors in every moral outlook and human loyalty are imaginative. therefore.

Wisdom.10 Thank you. . in Santiniketan. I conclude by quoting a letter dated December 19. Ashwin. We must never allow our enjoyment to gather wrong associations by detachment from educational life. it is learning disguised as play. 1940 wherein Tagore writes.to sing by imitating and practicing the ways of its parents. It seems as if the mere act of being born in the household of men is a crime for which one must serve twenty years of penance. Just imagine how this contrasts with the preceptors and teaching institutes of today. it is easy to understand the emphasis he places in the teaching of the arts in the educational institutions that he established. His band of workers sing aloud – ‘O Brother! Don’t you know. Tagore. therefore. 9 10 ‘Kobir Koifiyot’.’9 Given Tagore’s heartfelt belief in the fact that creativity and creation can take men a step closer to understanding differences and working towards a consciousness of oneness. Instead of arguing on this point. is the pursuit of completeness. January 1941. Personal letter to H. The Modern Review. of work never are we fearful. just as we play. 1343. So. ‘Shahityer Pothe’. In the halls of the Creator.E. and we consider it a part of education to collaborate in perfecting beauty. VisvaBharati. so we work. This way of learning is entirely through play. this is a great wrong.President Tai Chi-Tao. it is in blending life's diverse work with the joy of living. I say through poetry. we provide our own entertainment. you will agree. It is part of life’s play – there is no tussle between learning and joy. Rabindranath Tagore.

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