The Inability of the Critical Intellect to Guide the Creative Process

Whenever the intellectual faculty becomes active in the appreciation of art, it remains bound by its own limitations.  These are the development of rules or guidelines appeal to the intellect, which in itself is not the creative factor, but more of a critic trying to evaluate something that it cannot quite grasp with a set of criteria that it has developed, but which has no other inherent reality or truth to it.  This is not to say that the creative energy should simply act in an untrammeled manner or without any reference to fitness or adherence of the form of the artwork to the inner spirit of the work.  On the contrary, there is and should be a power of insight in artistic creation that harmonizes the inner and the outer, the spirit and the form, in a way that is balanced and true to the inner values being expressed.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “All artistic work in order to be perfect must indeed have in the very act of creation the guidance of an inner power of discrimination constantly selecting and rejecting in accordance with a principle of truth and beauty which remains always faithful to a harmony, a proportion, an intimate relation of the form to the idea; there is at the same time an exact fidelity of the idea to the spirit, nature and inner body of the thing of beauty which has been revealed to the soul and the mind, its svarupa and svabhava.  Therefore this discriminating inner sense rejects all that is foreign, superfluous, otiose, all that is a mere diversion distractive and deformative, excessive or defective, while it selects and finds sovereignly all that can bring out the full truth, the utter beauty, the inmost power.  But this discrimination is not that of the critical intellect, nor is the harmony, proportion, relation it observes that which can be fixed by any set law of the critical reason; it exists in the very nature and truth of the thing itself, the creation itself, in its secret inner law of beauty and harmony which can be seized by vision, not by intellectual analysis.  The discrimination which works int he creator is therefore not an intellectual self-criticism or an obedience to rules imposed on him from outside by any intellectual canons, but itself creative, intuitive, a part of the vision, involved in and inseparable from the act of creation.  It comes as part of that influx of power and light from above which by its divine enthusiasm lifts the faculties into their intense suprarational working.  When it fails, when it is betrayed by the lower executive instruments rational or infrarational, — and this happens when these cease to be passive and insist on obtruding their own demands or vagaries, — the work is flawed and a subsequent act of self-criticism becomes necessary.  But in correcting his work the artist who attempts to do it by rule and intellectual process, uses a false or at any rate an inferior method and cannot do his best.  He ought rather to call to his aid the intuitive critical vision and embody it in a fresh act of inspired creation or recreation after bringing himself back by its means into harmony with the light and law of his original creative initiation.  The critical intellect has no direct or independent part in the means of the inspired creator of beauty.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 14,  The Suprarational Beauty, pp. 140-141