Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Modes of Development (6)

Let us now return to "musical" which as we have of seen is one of the seven multiple intelligences referred to by Gardner.

I am somewhat puzzled by the nature of this inclusion. Clearly music is very important in many people's lives (both in terms of performance and appreciation). But it refers to just one of many possible artistic talents. For example one could have a special gift e.g. as a painter, an actor, for fashion or interior design, for writing (e.g. plays, novels or poetry). And this by no means exhausts the possible list of artistic fields.

So clearly though music does indeed represent one important artistic domain, there are of course many others, where individuals can demonstrate a special ability.

Though one could perhaps, at a stretch provide a full spectrum model, especially in terms of different levels of appreciation of - say - a Wagner symphony, this perhaps remains a bit exaggerated.

Certainly the appreciation of music entails the affective dimension of sense and feelings. and as these can potentially undergo ever more refined development throughout the entire spectrum, then in a sense one would inevitably bring such enhanced affective development to one's appreciation of all music.

However this would not equally apply with respect to the great creators of music who - as history amply demonstrates -  often are full of human frailties, demonstrating considerable psychological immaturity.

Therefore though considerable work and dedication may be required to properly nurture an inherent musical gift, this may not require mature development beyond the customary levels normally applicable to human development (i.e. Bands 1 and Band 2).

However, this is where a true dynamic appreciation of the vertical nature of stage development is required to properly appreciate what is involved.

I have just finished an excellent biography of Johnny Cash (written by Robert Hilburn). Clearly Johnny Cash has had a great influence on 20th century popular music especially with respect to his unique blending of rock, country, folk and gospel influences.

Now I have mentioned many times before the dynamic manner in which both prepersonal and transpersonal aspects are related in experience!

What happens with many gifted musicians - and Johnny Cash is an excellent example here - is that they use the talent with which they are gifted,  as a vehicle to reach out for transcendent meaning in their lives.

Such a musician, when then successful is likely to be exposed to the experience of frequent "highs" where this desire for transcendence is momentarily fulfilled. This can come for example from the creative thrill of writing a new song, from the love and support of devoted fans, the magical rapport with an audience at a concert and so on. However this can all happen very suddenly, without the prolonged and disciplined spiritual preparation that mature transcendence requires.
Such "highs" then inevitably trigger conflict with the unreformed  shadow personality threatening corresponding  "lows".  However because of the many demands of this new successful lifestyle, the star is now induced to flee the "shadow" by attempting to convert these "lows" into the more acceptable "highs".

So quite early on, Cash resorted to amphetamines as the means for sustaining energy and dispelling tiredness and depression. Of course as the use of these pills reached epidemic proportions, he became more and more exposed to his unrecognised shadow with his life fast spinning out of control. And this is a pattern that we see repeated again and again in the lives of so many successful musical stars.


Thus what we are really seeing in such behaviour is an experience which, by its very nature, increasingly swings as between "higher" (trans) and "lower" (pre) stages of development.

In a way the very success which these artists initially experience opens up in a dramatic way the desire for  transcendental meaning (even though its true nature may not be properly realised).

However because they are not prepared to undergo the strict spiritual discipline that is required for permanent realisation, inevitably they become increasingly exposed to the unreformed shadow side of their personalities. However the very demands of their new success set severe limits on the extent to which this shadow can be faced. So typically we see an attempt to escape this shadow, e.g. through drugs, sex, overweening ambition and the increasing desire for power and control over everything in their lives.

So in psychological terms - instead of the stable experience of the middle stages of the spectrum - we have by contrast the increasingly unstable oscillation as between  "higher" and "lower" stages.

In other words such stars can become addicted to transcendent "peaks", which however because of gross identification with material phenomena, can only be sustained for very short periods.

Unfortunately they then unfortunately can become likewise addicted to avoiding painful "valleys" (through escaping recognition of the unreformed shadow).

Therefore this is a recipe for increasing instability, which can  lead to early death, or in more fortunate circumstances, a key crisis moment that finally enables a true "conversion" experience.


However this is a pattern that is likely to be repeated to a lesser degree by people who are born with a special talent.

In is only natural in such circumstances to seek to express one's personality through developing this talent thereby offering one the best route to success in life and recognition from others.

In effect one then often attempts to use one's gift as a means of achieving premature "peak" experience of meaning (which ultimately is of a transcendental nature).

However, easy success can lead to a postponement in developing other important abilities. Also the recognition achieved can then temporarily blind one as to the inevitable shadow side of one's personality.

Thus there is a danger that development - for people with special talents - may become unbalanced in many ways. In other words a significant task for anyone endowed with a unique gift is to learn how best to integrate this with overall development.

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