A Balance between Eros and Logos

The creative process, when it blossoms into its most fruitful expression, will always be a play between the conscious and unconscious mind. We need both when we create. We cannot force creativity into being by pure conscious force—just as we cannot solely depend on the unconscious mind when we want to express whatever we envision.

The conscious mind helps us with the craftsmanship, with planning, with execution of the idea, with knowledge, and, yes, at times also with forcing the creative process into its initial stages. But the conscious mind will never spring into life the new idea, the new expression, the complete new vision; it will not be the creative force as such. That’s where the unconscious mind comes into play. The unconscious mind will suddenly make us see things in a different light, it will act through our instincts and make us do something we otherwise wouldn’t have done, it will make us do errors that might turn into expressive and complete new work of art; the unconscious mind is the creator within us, but it needs the conscious mind to bring the idea into life.

We have all experienced how our unconscious mind can help us solve a problem we have been struggling with. We can bend our mind over without finding the solution, but then when we give up and go to sleep, next morning the solution suddenly appears out of nowhere. That’s when the unconscious mind has done the work for us—while we were sleeping. First time it happens it’s quite a revelation—and a delightful such.

As artists or creative beings we need to find a balance between these two paired processes. And we need to acknowledge both as inseparable elements of the creative process. For me this is another example of the polarity between Eros and Logos from the Greek mythology. I have previous used these terms to describe the creative process; such as in the posts Like Roots to a Plant and A Tool for Our Heart and Soul. Here and now I use Eros and Logos more in a Jungian understanding, although the first Greek origin is still valid. According to Platon Eros motivates all living beings to act upon their desires. The original understanding of Eros is «love» although Eros has also been used in philosophy and psychology in a much wider sense, almost as an equivalent to «life energy». Logos on the other hand was by Greek philosophers, especially Heraclitus and Plato, used to mean something akin to the rational structure and order of the universe. In the psychologist Carl Jung’s approach, Logos vs. Eros was represented as «science vs. mysticism», or «reason vs. imagination» or—as I use it here—«conscious activity vs. the unconscious».

In his book «Widening the Stream» David Ulrich view Eros as passion and Logos as the discipline required to cleanly embody our insights. He writes; «as soon as our attention can expand to embrace these opposing, alternating forces—our passionate longing and our disciplined intent—we come into a greater alignment, activating our creative energies and attracting a new quality of heightening being».

59 thoughts on “A Balance between Eros and Logos

  1. i used to have a bust of some greek god that said ‘Eros’ at the base…
    hey, you remember how i told you that i take a ton of pics and then look at their thumbnails to choose the right one? that is one way i let my subconscious or unconscious mind speak clearly about the right pic to choose.. it works like a charm 🙂

      1. it really works most of the time… i would say 90% of the time… the rest of the time there is something in the picture that interferes… i don’t do that so much anymore, not since selling my OM-D….

  2. Another thoughtful, thought-provoking post, Otto. The dance between conscious and subconscious realities can be fruitful and fascinating. And sometimes when stuck in the former, I have found that verbalising the problem/asking out loud what happens next, or why can prompt the subconscious to come up with just what was needed. Somewhat weirdly (at least to me) it often responds better to the spoken question than to the merely thought question. The first is perhaps more directly framed than the second. But remembering to do this asking aloud is the problem I have. You can tend to believe that the intellectual mind is the only place where all is solved and arranged.

    1. I think formulating a question and speaking it out loudly is a way for the brain to organize the approach and makes it easier for the subconsciousness to pick up on the problem. It’s well within the understanding of how the brain works. So a good tips for anyone wanting to stimulate unconscious thinking.

  3. Very nice winter scene picture! That is amazing isn’t it that sometime we just need to do is let go and the problem is solved for us. I like the passion and discipline analogy.

  4. You know, I think it is very difficult to get those two to play nicely with each other. It seems Eros visits when we are someplace where Logos is useless…like in the shower! I guess that’s what makes real beauty and art…when we can actually introduce the two to each other and get them to play together at the same time.

    1. I think you are right. The trick then is to play with whatever is working you brain at any given moment – and making sure you are prepared with something happen. Like when the best ideas happens in the shower, make sure you have something to write them down on, right there. 🙂

  5. I absolutely agree with you. There are two aspects to artistic creativity – the craft and the vision. The first we can largely develop, control and master through structured hard work. The second is much more illusive and cannot be forced. (This is really what I was trying to say in response to your earlier post!)

  6. i guess i can’t separate the words eros and logos from the Biblical meanings, eros being defined as a sensual love and logos being defined as the Word of God

    so trying to wrap my head around greek philosophy which i find to be contrary to the Bible which I believe to be the literal Word of God is quite impossible for me

    however, i do think our creative side stems from our sensual side and not our spiritual side. when i am creative it’s my humanity and when i focus on God, He is all in all

    i hope you won’t be offended at my rejection of greek philosophy and my complete acceptance of the Word of God

    is that a flowering bush against snow ? if so, it would be a juxtaposition of two things contrary to one another just as Eros and Logos

    1. I have nothing against your acceptance of the biblical meaning of eros and logos. Of course not. Anyone should be entitled to believe and feel free accept whatever feels right to oneself. I also have to admit I don’t know much about the biblical interpretasjon of the two words – besides what you write here. 🙂

  7. I have really enjoyed your e-book, Otto, and I refer to it frequently for creative inspiration as well as a boost to my logical, technical understanding. Because you emphasize the balance between technical skill and the freedom to explore and experiment creatively, I feel like it’s possible to continually grow as an amateur. I always learn from you, so than you! 🙂

  8. I liked this phrase particularly Otto: ‘the unconscious mind is the creator within us, but it needs the conscious mind to bring the idea into life.’ I’ve been reading David Ulrich’s book for the second time recently. A great book that is packed with creative thinking. I also discovered David duChemin’s quotation about the four stages of photography that culminate in the fourth stage of ‘unconscious competence’ as he describes it. Your words add meaning to that concept. As always, a great post on this complex subject.

    1. I have also read the duChemin’s quote about the four stages of learning, and find it very valuable. I believe it was first put forward by Gordon Training International. Thanks for adding to the discourse, Andy.

  9. Hello Otto, such an interesting new post where you include some Greek philosophy. A very well written and educative piece of work. Thank you. Opposites are part of the laws of nature indeed and they complement each other well…💐

  10. What a thought-provoking and resonant post, Otto! I agree about needing both sides – the urge to create and explore, and the structure that gives it direction and shape. You said it beautifully.

  11. Unfortunately, my unconscious mind never waits until morning. It always wakes me in the middle of the night with the solution. Of course it isn’t always easy to act on it in the middle of the night. 😉

    1. The solution might to have a piece of paper next to the bed to write down the solution in the middle of the night, then continue to sleep and only when you wake up again act on it. 🙂

  12. Very well and beautifully expressed about being aware and unaware of our creative thinking and doing. I also thought of Yin and Yang, two opposites that can not exist without each other, but it is not quite the same as what you imply here. You have also placed a beautiful photo here! Have a nice weekend…
    Kind regards, Heidi

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