Creativity – Origins

The English word creativity comes from the Latin term creare, “to create, make”: its derivational suffixes also come from Latin. The word “create” appeared in English as early as the 14th century. The word had divine overtones.

However, its modern meaning as an act of human creation did not emerge until after the Enlightenment. The concept of genius that was originally associated with mystical powers of protection and good fortune. It is when the Greeks placed emphasis on an individual’s daimon (guardian spirit) that the idea of genius became mundane…

Roman view of genius had two additional characteristics given to it: It was seen as an illustrious male’s creative power, and it could be passed on to his children. For the Hindus (1500–900 BC), Confucius (c. 551–479 BC), and the Taoists and Buddhists, creation was at most a kind of discovery or mimicry. Apparently, the early Buddhists emphasized natural cycles, and thus “the idea of the creation of something ex nihilo (from nothing) had no place in a universe of the yin and yang” (Boorstin, 1992, p. 17).

– Excerpts from Creativity Research – A Historical View Mark A. Runco and Robert S. Albert.

In India, creativity was abundant in mythology. As in ‘Ka’ Roberto Calasso’s classic on Hindu mythology. (The NYT Book Review said it was “A giddy invasion of stories–brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful.”)

What happened to Indian creativity after the initial burst of fecundity? Why did it become ‘at most a kind of discovery or mimicry? Did it morph and take new avatars?

It would be interesting to revisit the years between the brilliant mythic creations and the present and trace the history of creativity in India. We will try to do that in the following articles.