A psychic state in which one becomes susceptible to creative
spiritual influence or unwittingly lends oneself as an instrument
for through-flowing ideas. It is the creative state of the
artist, poet, and author, traditionally believed to be amenable
to the wisdom of the muses or inspiring gods. In a state of inspiration,
the prophets of various religions dictated scriptures or
predicted future events. The term inspiration denotes a breathing
in of the divine creative spirit, bringing perception of truth.
Numerous thinkers and artists have noted their own experience
of inspiration. They describe states of outward passivity in
which the mind becomes receptive to information that they
cannot ascribe to their own intelligence. The inspiration of the
muse in poets, painters, and musicians, when considered universally,
resembles the experiences of mediums, channels, and
The philosopher Ferdinand Schiller wondered where his
thoughts came from; they frequently flowed through him ‘‘independent
of the action of his own mind.’’ Mozart stated,
‘‘When all goes well with me, when I am in a carriage, or walking,
or when I cannot sleep at night, the thoughts come streaming
in upon me most fluently; whence or how is more than I can
tell.’’ Beethoven said, ‘‘Inspiration is for me that mysterious
state in which the entire world seems to form a vast harmony,
when every sentiment, every thought re-echoes within me,
when all the forces of nature become instruments for me, when
my whole body shivers and my hair stands on end.’’
Lord Beaconsfield, British statesman and novelist, admitted,
‘‘I often feel that there is only a step from intense mental
concentration to madness. I should hardly be able to describe
what I feel at the moment when my sensations are so strangely
acute and intense. Every object seems to be animated. I feel
that my senses are wild and extravagant. I am no longer sure
of my own existence and often look back to see my name written
there and thus be assured of my existence.’’
The two satellites of Mars were discovered in 1877 by Professor
A. Hall. One hundred seventy-five years earlier, Jonathan
Swift wrote in Gulliver’s Travels of the astronomers of Laputa
‘‘They have discovered two small stars, or satellites, which revolve
round Mars. The inner one is three diameters distant
from the centre of the planet, the outer one five diameters; the
first makes its revolution in ten hours, the second in twenty
hours and a half.’’ These figures, cited at the time as a proof
of Swift’s ignorance of astronomy, show a striking agreement
with the later findings of Hall.
W. M. Thackeray in one of his ‘‘Roundabout Papers’’ (Cornhill
Magazine, August 1862) ‘‘I have been surprised at the observations
made by some of my characters. It seems as if an occult
power was moving the pen. The personage does or says
something and I ask ‘How did he come to think of that’&43’’
Lafcadio Hearn (1850–1904) said his writing was done in
‘‘periods of hysterical trance.’’ He said he saw and heard things
that were not real.
Of the inception of the chapter ‘‘The Death of Uncle Tom’’
in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one biographer of Harriet Beecher Stowe
stated, ‘‘It seemed to her as though what she wrote was blown
through her mind as with the rushing of a mighty wind.’’
Bogdan Hasdeu, the great Romanian writer, became a convinced
Spiritualist after he automatically obtained messages
from his deceased daughter. His father had been a distinguished
linguist and was planning a standard dictionary of the
Romanian language at the time of his death. Bogdan himself
was a historian. When half through his History of the Romanian
People, he suddenly plunged into the compilation of a vast dictionary,
saying he felt that he was forced to do so. It is difficult
to explain this case by ordinary psychological processes, since
in a séance Bogdan later atteneded the medium (who could not
speak Russian) passed into trance and wrote messages from his
father in Russian urging him to complete the work.
The popular novelist and playwright Edgar Wallace wrote in
the London Daily Express (June 4, 1928) ‘‘Are we wildly absurd
in supposing that human thought has an indestructible substance,
and that men leave behind them, when their bodies are
dead, a wealth of mind that finds employment in a new host
I personally do not think we are. I am perfectly satisfied in my
mind that I have received an immense amount of help from the
so-called dead. I have succeeded far beyond the point my natural
talents justified. And so have you—and you. I believe that
my mind is furnished with oddments of intellectual equipment
that have been acquired I know not how.’’
Sitting with W. T. Stead and Ada Goodrich-Freer, the medium
David Anderson went into trance and gave the name of
the hero and some incidents from a story that Goodrich-Freer
had written but never published. A similar occurrence is recorded
in H. Travers Smith’s Voices from the Void (1919).
Hannen Swaffer interviewed a number of distinguished artists
and writers on the method by which their work was produced.
The majority of their statements, recorded in Swaffer’s
book Adventures with Inspiration (1929) attribute the imparting
of creativity to a supernormal source.
According to ancient Hindu mysticism, there is a psychophysiological
mechanism in human beings by which a condition
of higher consciousness may be brought about by meditation
or yoga practice, and in modern times there is some
evidence that this condition—the raising of the kundalini—has
occurred spontaneously in inventors and men of genius.
Bucke, Richard Maurice. Cosmic Consciousness A Study in the
Evolution of the Human Mind. Innes & Sons, 1901. Reprint, New
Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1961.
Clissold, Augustus. The Prophetic Spirit in its Relation to Wisdom
and Madness. London, 1870.
Duchesneau, Louise. The Voice of the Muse. Frankfurt, Germany
P. Lang, 1986.
Gopi Krishna. The Biological Basis of Religion and Genius. New
York Harper & Row, 1972.
Graves, Robert. The White Goddess. London Faber & Faber,
James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience. London
Longmans Green, 1902.
Kast, Verena. Joy, Inspiration, and Hope. College Station
Texas A & M University Press, 1991.
Kennard, Nina H. Lafcadio Hearn, His Life and Work. New
York D. Appleton and Co., 1912.